Friday, February 22, 2019

Five brief examples in support of evidence that William T. Vollmann is a better writer than you and me and that is okay.


So I'm still working through Vollmann's The Atlas and here are some examples of amazing moments when this guy is on magic writing dust he may have stolen from the tomb of William Shakespeare.


Example 1:

"In this town, we answer a question only by I don’t know and probably."


Example 2:

"...behind which occasional lights burned weakly like failures."


Example 3:

"...but the hair of the one he danced with was as flowery ricefields under hot purple clouds."


Example 4:

"...whose trees spread lushly pubic shadows..."


Example 5: 

"Since Heaven and forever are both beyond time, whoever is meant to be in Heaven must already be in Heaven now."



Titles and details of my books-in-progress.


I'm working to finish the initial draft of my first nonfiction book, The Orchard Is Full of Sound, for West Virginia University Press. I've got a September 1 deadline and I think I'll be able to come in under that date at the rate I'm writing. Also, having a set, working title is great right now. The full title will be The Orchard Is Full of Sound: On Breece D'J Pancake and Appalachia.

Also on the worktable these days is a short story I'm reworking to send to Ben Drevlow at BULL: Men's Fiction. The short story is called "To the Cherokee Strip." Ben offered several amazing points in a generous response to the story some months back and I'm just now able to get to applying his suggestions. It will be my second western story and one of many I'm planning to collect together as a western collection. I also already have a title for that book: Seven Drums: The Western Stories. Yep, I've been that way since I was a 12-year-old writer wannabe, coming up with titles and then writing toward a goal of having them make sense. Go figure, but I love doing that.

More already-titled books I'm now working on or have finished:


* DYSPHORIA: AN APPALACHIAN GOTHIC — Finished novel that will be published this spring by Cowboy Jamboree Press. It's probably the darkest novel I've written (published or unpublished) and deals in large part with trauma and generational trauma.

SWAY — A new collection of Appalachian short stories set in eastern Kentucky. It is in final draft and ready for publication.

THE ORCHARD IS FULL OF SOUND: ON BREECE D'J PANCAKE AND APPALACHIA —  My first nonfiction book that is in part about the West Virginia writer Breece Pancake. It will my first book published at a university press, thanks to Derek Krissoff and WVU Press.

* RECENT STORIES — A collection of Appalachian short stories. This book will be set in the same places of eastern Kentucky as Sway and my first collection The Same Terrible Storm but the form has changed considerably since that time. I'm incredibly excited to see how this one will turn out because it blends experimentation with form and structure and the area I know so well. I have high hopes. Several of these stories can also be found in the "Selected Writing" section here at Bent Country.

* ABSOLUTE INVENTION — An in-progress collection of strange stories dealing mostly with magic realism but also horror, fantasy, and surrealism. Many of these stories will have appeared before in various journals such as Lost Balloon, Occulum, gobbet, The Cabal, Change Seven Magazine, and others. Links to many of these stories can be found in the "Selected Writing" section here at Bent Country.

SEVEN DRUMS: THE WESTERN STORIES — The aforementioned western collection. I've been gathering together stories of mine set in the Old West since finishing my first one, a story called "Seven Drums" that can be read at BULL: Men's Fiction, thanks again to Ben Drevlow.

* EVERGREEN — This novel-in-progress was going to be the second book of a novel I published last year called Alice and the Wendigo. But I ultimately cut it from that final draft and starting writing anew on a separate story. It's straight fantasy/horror and about four immortal siblings who were the first beings created on the planet, originally as four stones, but eventually able to take human and many other forms. It's about family and how family can almost kill you but also be your only form of true stability.

* THE OBLIVION ANGELS — Straight up Kentucky novel about a family made up of an absent/on and off again mother, a loan shark father, and three daughters, all of whom are destructive and dangerous in their own ways. To get a taste of this one, read my short story "More Sideways Than Up," published at Rusty Barnes's website Fried Chicken and Coffee. The story is essentially the first chapter of the book and revolves around one of the three sisters living in Ashland, Kentucky, too far from home, as it turns out.

* THE OMEGA PROBLEM — A detective novel featuring my Kentucky private eye Bishop Ford. Ford's first case involves a female serial killer who believes she is a werewolf. It's my attempt at the hard boiled, noir-type genre novel set in my home state and involving some pseudo-supernatural elements. I'm going to have a lot of fun with this one. I already am.

PODUNK LORE — A portion of this was published last year by Beasley Barrenton at Dog On A Chain Press as part of a collaborative chapbook of poetry. My only book of poetry, this one is not finished but it's close. Some other writers say that I'm a shit-terrible poet and should never write it. One guy even wrote in a hilarious hate piece about me, "Please, though, no more occasional tries at modernist stanzas, you gumpy trinity of names, or Jean Toomer’s coffin will bench press you." Yeah, you guessed it: I'm going to write a poetry collection anyway. (NOTE: Remember to write a separate post including all the amazing put-downs this guy laid on you in that venomous piece.)


Well, what I've realized is that I have a lot of books going at once. Of course, I don't get to give all of them the same amount of attention, obviously. Right now, the focus is on final-final draft of Dysphoria and getting that final first draft of The Orchard Is Full of Sound.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

In which I gush some more about William T. Vollmann.


This is one of those posts I sometimes write because I start getting the feeling that Bent Country has converted back to its original form—a mostly unfurnished room where the sound of my own voice becomes more interesting than usual.

I'm reading William T. Vollmann again, which is always dangerous. He writes so fluidly and so well, like a water hose of perfectly combined words that is stuck and sort of spraying all over the yard of literature. Not to mention if you look up the prolific in the dictionary there's an awesome picture of William T. Vollmann with an amazing bowl haircut.

The book of his I'm reading is called The Atlas. I saw somewhere about a month back that someone cited it as their favorite book. A writer, which, let's be honest, carries far more weight than, well, more average readers, for lack of a better term.

It is for sure all it's cracked up to be, though. Vollmann can stop a reader in their tracks about as good as anybody working. Browse THE ATLAS at Goodreads.

The People in the Trees is my favorite book so far this year. It'll take a lot to knock it down.


Just finished reading The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara and so far it's my favorite read of this year. I'm only eight books deep at this point, but I feel like this one's going to be hard to beat.

Last year my favorite was The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson and I read 42 more books after that one with none topping DJ's magnificent farewell collection.

I've seen reviews saying The People in the Trees is difficult to read because of the depictions of child sexual abuse, but don't buy into that. There are certainly difficult scenes but everything feeds the narrative. In other words, there's nothing that's disturbing for the sake of being disturbing. Besides, the central theme of the book - immortality and the discovery of immortality - will keep most readers pretty focused.

Monday, February 18, 2019

"Her Eulogy, Etc." is a beautiful homeless story of mine that found a beautiful home @ Vending Machine Press


Mike Lafontaine published a story of mine called "Her Eulogy, Etc." at Vending Machine Press this weekend. Mike has always supported my writing at VMP, and I'm so grateful he liked this story. So many other places turned it down...dozens and dozens, acutally.

Here's how the story starts:


    She saw the ghost of the old slave when she was sixteen. Ephemeral, a mustard-colored fog in his form. She figured him a ghost. There was no way knowing for sure that wasn’t wicked, like Tracy’s magic or taking up a ouija. She never considered the bourbon she drank or how she’d never see daylight again.”
    - from an Appalachian folktale, as told by Sister Hall

    I hope you go read this story. It's one I'm proud of and Mike liked enough to publish. In the indie lit, it's the most generous thing one can do for another.

    Again, here's a link to the story — HER EULOGY, ETC.



    Friday, February 15, 2019

    So I'm Reading The Overstory by Richard Powers






    Two nice quotes from the book and why they resonate with me:

    "A woman in the coda of life, raising her eyes and lifting her hands in that moment just before fear turns into knowledge."

    This one made me think of my heart attack. When they told me I was having a heart attack, I so distinctly remember the original and entirely unique fear that ran over me. A fear I had never experienced before, and I've had my share. I flatlined but was shocked back to life or I would have reached that point when the fear would have been turned into knowledge, entry into the largest mystery of all time. What's on the other side.


    "We don’t want to kill the golden goose, but it’s the only way around here to get to the eggs."

    This one drops me directly into my homeplace of Eastern Kentucky. I could be peeling potatoes in Belgium, read this, and be at once back at home. Home, a place where me and mine have no choice but to do what has to be done to survive. If that process, for instance, lands us with a credit score in the 400s, then that's the price that has to be paid for day-to-day existence. We don't have the luxury of working on something as abstract as a credit score. We have to get the eggs.

    Monday, February 4, 2019

    New World Writing publishes my short story "Almost Alone in Dark Valleys"

    I'm thankful to have new work published yesterday at New World Writing. This is the fourth story of mine they have put out into the world, for which I owe editor Kim Chinquee and founding editor Rick Barthelme a huge, huge thanks.

    The story is called "Almost Alone in Dark Valleys" and it's one I'm particularly proud of, which is something I don't always have the courage to say about my work. I hope you'll read it and let me know what you think.

    READ "Almost Alone in Dark Valleys"


    Yes, I googled myself. But look what I found!

    I googled myself yesterday. It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last. I have a busy online life and so I like to see what...