Kings Under the LJS Microscope

wheeler ljsThe Lincoln Journal-Star has quite a lot of coverage on my new novel Kings of Broken Things on the front of its (402) lifestyle section this Sunday, with a book review and an interview. Be sure to pick up a copy of the paper if you’re in the Lincoln area and check out for yourself the two photos of my giant head. (May not be to scale.)

Thanks so much to features editor Jeff Korbelik for interviewing me, and Andrew Willis for his well-considered review. I especially like how the review mentions that Kings of Broken Things briefly features a Nebraska-Notre Dame football game from 1918, when Knute Rockne brought his Irishmen to Lincoln for a Thanksgiving Day game and my character Jake Strauss was in the crowd.

Be sure to check out the interview and I’ll post a link to the review if it goes online. In the meantime, here’s a little taste:

Theodore Wheeler’s nearly 10-year journey ends Tuesday when publisher Little A releases the Omaha author’s first novel, “Kings of Broken Things.” Wheeler, 35, admitted he’s anxious, having spent seven to eight years writing the book and another year and half to two years working through the publishing process. “I have a 9-year-old daughter, so when I started working on it she was still a baby and now she’s going to fourth grade,” Wheeler said in a phone interview to discuss the novel’s release. “It kind of puts it in a little more perspective.”

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Kings of Broken Things Cover Reveal!!!

I’m so excited to share with you the front cover of my new novel Kings of Broken Things, out from Little A on August 1!wheeler-kings-of-broken-things-final-front-cover

The cover turned out so well, I couldn’t be more pleased and excited to share the book with you all this summer. Thanks are due to Christina Chung, who did the illustration, and Vivian Lee, my editor at Little A, who painstakingly worked through many versions until this was just right. Their hard work paid off big time, in my opinion. What do you all think?

The book is now available for pre-order in hardcover, paperback, Kindle, and audio editions. The audio edition is a new addition, for all you road warriors and commuters out there. If you’re so inclined, put in your order now and have the book arrive on August 1.

 

Solid Jackson Reading on Nov 4; More News

14606434_2126155184276951_2120107325737057729_nHi, all. A few notes to update, including that I’ll be reading on Friday November 4 at the new Solid Jackson Books location at 3925 Farnam Street in Omaha, starting at 7pm sharp. (See here for more info.) Joining me on the bill are poets Trey Moody (author of Thought That Nature) and Jeff Alessandrelli (author of This Last Time Will Be the First). The three of us were senior readers together for Prairie Schooner a few years back–more than a few now, I guess–so it will be great to share work from our first books and a special night all around, as Jeff and Trey recently moved back to Nebraska, and are new to Omaha.

In other Bad Faith news, a strong review of the book recently appeared on Necessary Fiction. Many thanks to Greg Walklin for his analysis here and excellent riffs off of the Nebraska Nice ad campaign. “Most of the characters in Bad Faith aren’t nice, and Wheeler plumbs that not-niceness throughout. The Pythagoreans talked of good as definite and finite, and evil and indefinite and infinite. Niceness may make for a slogan, and a friendly face to provide directions, but it is often just a veneer.”

Check out the Bad Faith book page here on the site for links to all the reviews and press the collection has received to date. I’ve been pleased with the reception the book has received, especially as a small press book, and am very grateful for the coverage. The book has been out for three months now, with a couple events still on the agenda. In addition to the November 4 Solid Jackson reading, I’ll also be reading at East City Books in Washington DC on Wednesday February 8, 2017, an off-site during the AWP Conference. This is the Key West Literary Seminar Workshop Alumni reading with Amina Gautier, Paula Whyman, Jay Desphande, and Sam Slaughter, something I’m thrilled to be a part of.

Also, if you check out my events page you’ll notice that I’ve already booked the first appearance to help launch my debut novel next year, as I’m scheduled to read from Kings of Broken Things on Friday, September 15, 2017, at the Writers Place in Kansas City.

Speaking of Kings of Broken Things, there’s been a lot of activity behind the scenes to get the book ready for publication next year. You can pre-order the Kindle edition for one thing, if you’re so inclined, with the bones of the page coming along over there. The publication date is set for mid August, and an audio edition of the novel is going into production too. How cool is that?! Copyedits were finished up last week and the process is moving along apace, with a cover and galley editions not too far off. !!! !!!

Wheeler’s Debut Novel Sold to Little A

The last week has been pretty exciting around here.

First off, the announcement from Publishers Marketplace:

Creighton MFA Theodore Wheeler’s KINGS OF BROKEN THINGS, that follows two young immigrants to and through the Omaha Race Riot of 1919, shedding light on a tragic period in American history, to Vivian Lee at Little A, for publication in spring 2017, by Stephanie Delman at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.

I couldn’t be happier that Kings of Broken Things has found a home with Little A, and I’m thrilled to be working with Vivian Lee. After spending eight years researching the history and creating characters who could not only live within the existing history, but also bring out the events in a compelling way, I’m finding great comfort that Kings has found a home with a publisher who can both push the work further artistically and find a wider audience to expand its reach. (Check out The Hundred-Year Flood by Matthew Salesses for a standout example of a book Vivian edited.) If you’ve followed this blog over the years, you’re with me. From the first drafts of The Hyphenates of Jackson County to the middle stages of The Uninitiated and the brief term of Red Summer and now Kings of Broken Things, a lot of well-meaning words met their ultimate demise to make this possible.

Friday happened to be my birthday. Receiving an offer to publish my novel was quite the way to celebrate! (Publishing this post from the press file room at the DNC debate is kind of cool too.)

Really, it’s been quite a year. A second trip to Germany to perform Omaha Uninitiated: Stateside Race Riots & Lynching in the Aftermath of World War I, which coincided with the publication of my chapbook, On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown, by Edition Solitude; Queen’s Ferry Press accepting my short story collection Bad Faith for publication (in July 2016, it’s coming up!); a string of publications highlighted by my first story to be featured in The Southern Review and more of my historically-based “hyphenates” fiction about German-Nebraskans winning an AWP Intro Journals Award; some amazing travels in Europe, New York, Chicago, Kansas City; the Royals winning the World Series; Notre Dame in the hunt for a national championship. I’m one lucky dude, obviously.

The success I’ve had the last couple years in getting this story about the Omaha Race Riot and these old immigrant communities has been very encouraging. The three months I spent at Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2014 were instrumental to refining Kings of Broken Things in a way I couldn’t have done otherwise. My experiencing Esprit Solitude really did wonders for this novel, and for my next novel, which was largely written while I was in Germany. Beyond that, Akademie Schloss Solitude helped create a wonderful platform to gain exposure for this historical project of mine, this redemptive art, as we called it, by publishing an excerpt of the novel in chapbook form and supporting a multi-media performance (Omaha Uninitiated) that focused on historical and cultural documents as objects of creation. Thanks to Director Jean-Baptiste Joly and literature juror Maxi Obexer for bringing me to Stuttgart and facilitating my work in such a generous way.

This is about to get sappy, but there are so many people to thank for their help reading, critiquing, and talking about the manuscript, and their sticking with me through the grueling process of writing a novel. Obviously this is far from over. But I should take this opportunity to thank my wife Nicole. She puts up with a lot, being married to a writer. I don’t know what I had to endure in a previous life to deserve her generous and enthusiastic love, but I’ll take it. My mother-in-law Karen West was instrumental in my writing process, tending to our girls during the day when they were little and understanding that time is something very precious to a writer. My own mom too, Marta, for being there and helping out whenever help is needed, and for teaching me to read and write, and for imparting the belief in storytelling as something sacred. My grandmother, Cleo (Blankenfeld) Croson, for all the work she’s done passing on a rich family history, and for her openness and honesty when discussing the finer, sometimes tawdry, elements of our history, a rare quality. My agent Stephanie Delman for championing the book and her tireless work in finding a great home with Vivian Lee and Little A. Also, “Country Club” Bill Sedlak, Amber Haschenburger, Ryan Borchers, Drew Justice, Sam Slaughter, Gregory Henry, Nabina Das, Mary Helen Stefaniak, Brent Spencer, Susan Aizenberg, Dave Mullins, Jonis Agee, Kwakiutl Dreher, Bob Bergstrom, Shannon Youngman, Jenn Ladino, Dave Green, Devin Murphy, Doug Rice, Darren Keen, Timothy Schaffert, Nicole Steen, Travis Thieszen, Miles Frieden, Arlo Haskell, Mary Morris, Richard Burgin, Lee Martin, Robert Stone, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Key West Literary Seminar. I’m sure I’m forgetting to include some vital people in this cloud of gratitude, but this is just the pre-acknowledgement acknowledgments.

So I’ll stop with this: It feels pretty great to be able to remove the aspiring part from aspiring-novelist. I can’t wait to bring this book to you in Spring 2017!

More soon. For now, cheers!

Pub Updates: Southern Review, Artful Dodge, Boulevard

Since we’re on the backside of summer and the days again are speeding up, a quick update on my forthcoming publications.

The Southern Review will publish “The Missing” in their autumn issue. I recently went through some edits with editor extraordinaire Emily Nemens and am really excited about how the story came out on the other side. Not that I wasn’t super excited about this before, but to have a journal editor spend two weeks working over every detail with me is pretty special. I appreciate all the hard work and can’t wait to share this one. Be sure to subscribe now to get the issue featuring my story delivered to your doorstep later on this year.

Artful Dodge will publish “The Hyphenates of Jackson County” in their autumn issue. This story won an AWP Intro Journals Project award earlier this year, a series that honors the best work coming out of MFA and other writing programs each year. Erin McGraw selected the story as a winner. I wrote a longish post here in April when the announcement was made, noting in particular how this piece was the opening chapter of a former iteration of my novel-in-progress, and expressed my gratitude and relief that this story brought home some hardware. I’ve still been playing around with this material now and again (the Strauss family in Jackson County, 1910-1917) and can easily see a novel coming out of what I have started and outlined. (Not that a novel ever comes easy.) Maybe if the first novel is published and does well The Hyphenates of Jackson County could be a followup book. Something to dream on anyway. Anyway, be sure to subscribe to Artful Dodge now and get in on the ground floor of this story.

-As announced last week, Boulevard will be publishing my story “Violate the Leaves” in their spring 2016 issue. I won’t repeat myself too much. If you’re interested in subscribing to Boulevard (and, yes, go for the trifecta) you can do so here.

Other than that, I’d just like to remind that my chapbook On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown is still available in Kindle and bound form from Amazon, and from my publisher Edition Solitude (if you get giddy about receiving mail from overseas, this option is for you!), and from the following fine booksellers. If you happen to be in Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines, ChicagoFruita, Seattle, Vancouver, Montreal, or Paris, please stop in at one of the stores that I’ve linked here and pick up a copy. They’re wonderful venues, so be sure to check them out.

Hanging out with my chapbook at Quimby's, an essential stop for fans of counterculture books in Chicago's Wicker Park.
Hanging out with my chapbook at Quimby’s, an essential stop for fans of counterculture books in Chicago’s Wicker Park.

Keep an eye on the Books page here for an updated list of where to find my work. I recently had to do a second printing of the chapbook to replenish my stock and have been thrilled with the response. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from having a chapbook published, but getting to do three big events (with at least one more coming this fall) and to find a high level of interest in the subject and my treatment of it, this has been a lot of fun. I’m really excited to get out next summer and promote my book of short stories (Bad Faith, Queen’s Ferry Press, July 2016) after learning a lot about presenting myself and my work to audiences both live and in cyberspace.

Cheers!

A Few Updates Regarding On the River: Photos, Bookstores, Goodreads Giveaway, a Review

I’d like to post a few updates regarding my chapbook On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown (order in print or Kindle) as it has been out in the world for about three months now. The response has been great so far. When we first put in the order to have these printed I was pretty sure that I’d end up with a box of chapbooks in my office closet for the next few decades. But, three months in, I’m ordering a second batch from the printers. Combine that with some healthy action early on with Kindle sales and it shows that there’s some public interest in this story, along with my ability to write it, I hope. I’ve been hard at work on some edits to the novel that On the River is excerpted from and am pretty pleased to have this as another bit of evidence as to why a publisher should get behind this project. All in due time, of course. After more than more than a half-decade working on this book and developing these characters and the narrative voice, it’s nice to think that there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel. Or yet more crushing defeat. We’ll see.

Anyway, on to the new developments:

-First off, thanks to everybody who came out to Indigo Bridge Books in Lincoln last night. Presenting with Julie Iromuanya was a lot of fun, and the section she read from her novel Mr. and Mrs. Doctor was really, really good. This looks like yet another fascinating book among the many written by Nigerians and Nigerian-Americans the last few years.

Something my work shares with Julie’s is a playing around with perspective to show characters who are interested, but ultimately limited, in understanding what life is like for those around them. A couple questions came up in the Q&A session after the reading about this interesting strategy, what I see as exploring the limitations of the form we’re engaged in.

A fun night with a great conversation with Julie, moderator Jeff Moscaritolo, and the audience. Thanks so much to Jeff and Indigo Bridge for setting up the event, and to Julie for attracting an attentive, intelligent crowd.

-Check out this review of On the River by Sam Slaughter posted today on Small Press Book Review: “Tensions That Never Change.” My favorite part:

The distance created by the narrator is the most interesting part of this chapbook. At once, you are both part of the mob and hovering above them, taking it all in, watching the chaos that ensues, cringing at their choices and the injustice that takes place. You know that the narrator is one of the German immigrants—the prose is speckled with Deutsch—but you never know who it is. At best, you can guess that it’s one of Miihlstein’s lackeys, though a lackey with prescience unknown to his comrades. There is little emotional involvement on the part of the narrator. Very much as Lewis Nordan does in Wolfwhistle, Wheeler shows the thoughts of the mob in front of you and lets you decide what to make of it.

Willy Brown is over almost as soon as it starts, and that’s a shame. The prose carries you along until the inevitably sad end. Like with any good work of literature, you are left wanting more.

-Nine days remain on the Goodreads Giveaway for a signed-copy of On the River. It’s free to enter, so long as you have a free Goodreads account. So far, 102 people have said they’d be willing to accept a free copy of my chapbook. I don’t know if that’s a good number or not, but it’s more than three, so I’m happy.

-If you haven’t seen the list of bookstores that are now selling On the River, check it out. Particularly the number of shops where I’m not a local author that are taking a chance by stocking my book. In addition to Solid Jackson, Jackson Street Booksellers, and Prevue Salon here in Omaha, and Indigo Bridge Books in Lincoln, I’ve added Lithic Bookstore in Fruita, Colorado, Left Bank Books in Seattle, Argo Bookshop in Montreal, and Shakespeare & Company in Paris.

-And, finally, a few photos of the chapbook in bookstores and other places. If you happen to have a copy of On the River and feel like snapping a photo of it in your neighborhood, I’d love it if you’d send it to me. It’s kind of corny and self-congratulatory, but whatever. I like them. I’m corny. I like congratulating myself for trivial accomplishments.

Appearance on Platte River Sampler to Air this Thursday (4/23) at 6pm

Have you lately been curious what my voice sounds like? Do you want to hear me answer questions about my latest work? Well, you’re in luck, as I’ll be reading from my chapbook On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown this Thursday, April 23 on The Platte River Sampler radio program. The segment will air between 6 and 7 pm.

If you live in the Lincoln/Lancaster County area you can listen on KZUM community radio, 89.3 on the FM dial. The station can also be streamed live here (http://www.kzum.org/) by clicking on the player at the top left of the page.

The Platte River Sampler is “a weekly exploration of original prose, poetry, drama, songwriting and more, all from Nebraska.”

Be sure to listen live if you can. But if you can’t, a podcast version should be online within a couple weeks.

Thanks so much to producer and host Phil Schupbach for putting this together.

May 12 Reading at Lincoln’s Indigo Bridge Books Added to Events

Another date has been added to the whirlwind 4-month, 3-city world tour to promote my debut chapbook On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown, with a third stop booked for Tuesday, May 12 in Lincoln, Nebraska, at Indigo Bridge Books (701 P Street, in The Creamery Building).

After doing the big Omaha Uninitiated performance at the first two stops in Stuttgart and Omaha, this will be a more traditional, straight-forward reading without the A/V component.

The exciting part of this event–besides reading in my hometown for the first time in five years–is that I’ll be opening for Julie Iromuanya as she presents her debut novel Mr. and Mrs. Doctor. (Available for pre-order now, btw.) It will be great to share the stage with Julie.

Our paths briefly crossed when were both readers with Prairie Schooner earlier this decade (and were both published by The Kenyon Review around the same time–hers and mine) so I’m excited to see her first novel come out with a great publisher like Coffee House Press. Julie is a young author to watch, and what better way than by coming to the reading on May 12!

Here again are the details:

Tuesday, May 12 @ 7pm  /  Indigo Bridge Books  /  701 P St. Lincoln, NE 

On the River Launch Party Tonight at PTL

Pageturners Flyer
Click to view bigger.

Just a reminder that the launch party for my chapbook On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown is tonight at 7pm at Pageturner’s Lounge (5004 Dodge Street, parking in rear). This is the last time that the whole mutli-media performance with Darren Keen is scheduled to be put on, what was previously performed at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany. The show mixes readings from the chapbook with photographs of World War I-era Omaha, popular films from the era (Charlie Chaplin, Krazy Kat, Katzenjammer Kids, Sinking of the Lusitania) and a cross-fertilization of some pretty interesting music. The songs include ragtime, Louis Armstrong, Enrique Caruso, Woody Guthrie, and propaganda music from the war, mixed in with Ideal Cleaners, Bright Calm Blue, Spring Gun, Rent Money Big, Her Flyaway Manner, and other important music from Nebraska in the last decade. It’s really cool. A great melange of elements that inspired the chapbook.

In other news, I’ve been working on getting On the River into a few bookstores around the area. So far I’ve worked out an arrangement with Jackson Street Booksellers (Old Market, 1119 Jackson St.) and their satellite Solid Jackson Books (Benson, 6571 Maple St), both in Omaha. More news to come on this as it develops. Oh, and if you know of any bookstores that specialize in chapbooks or any store that might be a good fit, drop me a line about it, I’d appreciate the lead.