The Housekeeper Joins Mixer Countdown

For Day 8 of Mixer Publishing’s countdown to the launch of their web site, they released my short story “The Housekeeper” via Amazon.com in Kindle format. This is pretty cool. I love the art they are using (see right) which I believe is the cover for their forthcoming anthology of Love and Death: heartburn, headaches & hangovers.

Mixer calls the story a “dark Chekhovian gem.” Here’s what else they have to say:

In “The Housekeeper,” Scott Ritter is haunted by the embarrassing memory of his father Frank, an author of seedy pulp novels. Does he struggle with his father’s ambiguous sexual preferences, or his own? Like Chekhov, Theodore Wheeler paints a devastating psychological portrait of denial, and refuses to wrap the answers up with a pretty bow.

Thanks so much to Steve Owen, Rebekah Hall, and everyone involved with Mixer. It all seems to be coming together very nicely for them as they launch the venture. The aesthetic is sharp and some great writers are on board. I’m excited to be a part of it. As you may remember, “The Housekeeper” was originally slated to appear in Flatmancrooked 4, but that didn’t happen, of course, once FMC shuttered. Steve, formerly an editor there, stepped up and saved the anthology, reviving it for Mixer. I’m so happy he did, as it looks to be an excellent compilation.

You can find links to the other stories featured in Mixer’s launch countdown here, on their Facebook page, and on Amazon. There’s work by Myfanwy Collins, Kate Braverman, Daniel Grandbois, R. Neal Bonser, and more.  You will also be able to find them at mixerpublishing.com very soon.

Flatmancrooked Calls It Quits

So word officially came out this week that Sacramento-based independent publisher Flatmancrooked is no more. This is really too bad, as FMC did quite a few innovative projects in their three years of existence. They’re probably best known for the Zero Emission Book Project, what with the front page coverage provided by Poets & Writers. It was a nice bit of success that took on a life of its own, although the excitement seemed to fizzle a bit once the book actually came out, and to not so great reviews. The LAUNCH program was, and is, a good idea, and excelled at hooking talented young writers into FMC’s effective promotions network. Their off-site events at AWPs Denver and Washington DC were very well done and were highlights for me both years. The Literati Gong Show this February was particularly awesome.

You can read Elijah Jenkins’ farewell note here. Here’s the main thrust of it:

You’ve might’ve heard the rumors by now and, unfortunately, the rumors are true. Flatmancrooked is closing its doors. The reasons for this are varied but are largely due to my decision to leave publishing in order to focus on my family and health. Various editors, including our illustrious Senior Editor Deena Drewis and Associate Editor Steve Owen shall remain in the game, producing good work with new entities. Deena will be continuing with a novella press much in keeping with LAUNCH and the novellas we put out at FMC–stay tuned here: nouvellabooks.com; Steve is starting a journal and press called Mixer, which promises all the whimsy and brains of a mixed-genre, experimental endeavor; details TBA, so keep your eyes peeled.

I’m glad Deena is keeping LAUNCH going. It’s a worthwhile venture and something that will fill a need in the marketplace. In my experience at conferences, there always seem to be a really good fiction writer who writes very long stories, and subsequently has trouble getting them published in large part because of their length. Nouvella Books would seem to be perfect for folks like this. So be sure to mention it if the opportunity arises.

Two of my short stories were published by FMC. Impatiens (Pt. 1 & Pt. 2) was featured on their website and in Flatmancrooked’s Anthology of Great Writing Done During an Economic Depression. The anthology is for sale at a deep discount ($3) at their online store. If anyone’s interested, you can find it here. (The saucy cover art is featured above.) A second story, The Housekeeper, was on the website in January and was slated to appear in Flatmancrooked 4, but that isn’t going to happen now. Steve Owen (Mixer Publishing) is trying to keep the anthology together and publish it as Mixer’s first offering. I hope he can work it out, as it was something a lot of us were looking forward to.

I mentioned this on Facebook, but it bears repeating. I feel very blessed to have been able to work with Flatmancrooked these past few years, and am saddened that they won’t be able to continue on. Everyone knows that independent publishing is a particularly difficult endeavor and no excuse is required for hanging it up when the time comes. I wish nothing but the best for Elijah, Deena, and all the others.

Pub Updates (and an Update to the Updates)

UPDATE: My review of Nadifa Mohamed’s novel Black Mamba Boy has been scheduled for the Summer 2011 issue of Prairie Schooner! This will be my second published review with PS.

It sounds like Flatmancrooked will be running my story “The Housekeeper” in their web journal next Wednesday, January 19.The story will also be featured in their upcoming print fiction anthology, Flatmancrooked 4, which is currently at the printers and should be hitting mailboxes before winter ends.

The first half of 2011 is shaping up nicely. My story “How to Die Young in a Nebraska Winter” will be in the spring issue of The Kenyon Review, in the next couple months I’d wager–no matter what Unadilla Bill has to say–and “The Current State of the Universe” will be published by The Cincinnati Review in May.

Weeks of Nov 8 – Dec 5, 2010

So, as of my last post, “The Housekeeper” was a finalist for the 2010 Flatmancrooked Fiction Prize, but I hadn’t yet learned if it had won or not. It did not win, but the story will be featured as an online feature and in the forthcoming anthology Flatmancrooked 4. With this acceptance and with “Kleinhardt’s Women” appearing soon on Fogged Clarity, I’m up to thirteen short stories that have been published or are forthcoming. Pretty sweet! It’s also the sixth time I’ve received honorable mention in a contest.

The seed for this story came from reading about how famous B-move director Ed Wood died. I’d seen the Tim Burton biopic many times and, wanting to learn more, came across the story of how Ed died, in which he supposedly lay in bed screaming for help for ninety minutes before his wife came and found him dead. (Of course, he’d been known to fake heart attacks on many occasions before, so it makes all the sense in the world that his wife would doubt him, tragically.) Anyway, this interested me and I tucked the idea away that I could use this in a story some day—a writer of lurid outré novels and other kinds of smut who ends up so isolated from his loved ones that he would die in a similar fashion as Ed Wood did. Nearly a year later Nicole brought to my attention a series of classified ads that was running in the Omaha World-Herald, all placed by a woman who was trying to start up this giant Christian charity based out of her house. She was advertising things like petting zoos, silent auctions, cherub choirs, parades. It was all very bizarre. She created her own system of currency for her enterprise (CC Bucks) and ultimately wanted to host a rally at the Qwest Center that would feature Sly Stallone. God told her to do all this in a vision. Once I saw these ads, I knew that I’d found a match for the Ed Wood character that I’d already sketched out.

-Also, do take a listen to Myfanwy Collins receiving the good news from FMC editor Elijah Jenkins. It’s always tricky accepting good news over the phone, I think, but Myfanwy does it exceptionally well. I always sound like a phony in those situations, unable verbalize my excitement and gratitude. Myfanwy and I have known each other, in an internet sense, for a number of years now. As an undergrad I often participated in the Zoetrope Virtual Studio, and had the pleasure of trading reviews with Myfanwy on several occasions. We both had stories in FMC’s 2009 anthology, Great New Writing Done During an Economic Depression, and our nominated stories will both be in the upcoming Flatmancrooked 4, due out late in 2011. Anyway, there are few people out there more deserving than Myfanwy Collins and I’m very excited for her victory here. If anyone was going to take the prize over me, I’m glad it’s her.

Dispatch from “The Housekeeper”

“Scott was a rational person, after all. It was just that being home made him panic. He’d moved on, he’d left the weirdness of his youth behind. It wasn’t fair that his co-workers might discover these things about him in the newspaper. If they knew his mother claimed to have visions of God it would ruin all of the cachet Scott had built in life, in his real life, the one that started the very second he moved out of this house. And if his friends knew about Peggy, it would only be a matter of time before they found out about Frank, the weirdo writer, the dishonorably discharged fairy who spent most of his bizarre life locked in an upstairs bedroom committing his wet dreams to paper. And if his friends at work knew about his father—if his church somehow found out—then it would be all over for Scott. All he wanted was to have his own life, to go on without being weighed down by the oddity of others, to be of and from nothing and no one.”

Personal Rejection Notes, Requests for More, and Other Nice Versions of No Thanks

Michigan Quarterly Review for “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” and Alaska Quarterly Review for “The First Night of My Down-and-Out Sex Life.”

Now Reading

Rivers Last Longer by Richard Burgin.

Weeks of Oct 10 – Nov 7, 2010

-For my birthday this week, Nicole took me to the National World War I Museum in Kansas City. We had a pretty engaging afternoon there and really enjoyed the experience. None of the exhibits had a ton of specific relevancy to the novel I’m working on—besides general period details—but it’s always nice to be immersed in the subjects and obsessions of the era. And for someone who loves history, it’s an awesome way to spend an afternoon.

Prussian field helmets and swords. The skull-and-crossbones one is pretty badass. A model of it was not, unfortunately, available for purchase in the museum gift shop.

The museum itself is pretty interactive for what is still largely an objects-behind-glass arrangement. There are life-size models of multiple trench scenes, from a well-engineered German one of concrete and lumber, to a French one of mostly sticks collapsing in the mud; a steady soundtrack plays in the background of what it would sound like in the trenches; and a walk-through crater show the devastation caused after a 17-inch howitzer shell explodes on a French farmhouse. There is also a special exhibit on display now regarding the experience of German soldiers in the war, which was interesting. In general, the museum is noteworthy for presenting a more balanced perspective on the war years—rather than tilting too strongly toward an Allies-centric point of view—and this is something I really appreciated. For anyone interested in the era, I highly recommend visiting the museum. And for anyone interested in antique elevators, the ride up in the Liberty Memorial is not to be missed!

A military uniform for belligerent children.

-One of the more pleasantly surprising parts of the museum was finding the Willa Cather novel One of Ours (1922) in the gift shop. For a long time I’ve been looking for sources that depicted the time and place I’m writing about in my novel, and for the most part coming up empty. For some reason it never occurred to me that Cather would have given some treatment to the Great War in her writing. And not only did she write a novel about a family of Nebraskans during the war years, but the surname of the book’s protagonist is Wheeler! Beyond that, I feel pretty stupid for not knowing more about this novel, as Cather won a Pulitzer for it too. I’ve read a few Cather books and some of her short stories–but have always suspected that this wasn’t nearly enough, and that my ignorance would come back to haunt me some day. I better get to work rectifying that.

Nicole and I outside the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Mo. It was very bright.

Further: what other novels am I’m not thinking of that are set in Nebraska in the years 1916-1920?

-I’ve been meaning to post a reflective piece on here regarding my story “The Housekeeper” being selected for publication in the forthcoming Flatmancrooked 4 anthology. However, the story is still a finalist in their current fiction contest and I’m waiting on the results before posting anything more about it.

Dispatch from The Hyphenates of Jackson County

“Jacob knew all the stops would be pulled here on the River Ward in the pursuit of a margin big enough to overcome the rest of the city. They had to win by a landslide here because the other districts were going to swing the other way. There could be no parity in this district that Dennison controlled. Voters on the payroll of the Pendergast machine in Kansas City would arrive throughout the morning to cast their ballots, along with others recruited for this purpose from towns in Iowa like Red Oak, Glenwood, Griswold, and Walnut. Every barroom in the Ward was rented and stocked with liquor. Bootleggers who owed their survival to Dennison saw to these private parties. The booze was reserved for those who held both a slip that proved they’d voted and a card printed with the names of the Square Seven. It was all about mobilization and efficiency, making sure that each and every favor handed down over the past three years was called in during polling hours. If a family received coal over the winter, if their grocery bill or bar tab was covered, if they were granted leniency from a judge—then a car would appear outside their home on Election Day to shuttle them to a poll.

Maddie before pre-school one morning this fall. She wears all pink, as often as possible.

“It was up to Jacob to oversee the operation on Clandish from a polling station in the basement of Mecklenburg’s Saloon. When he returned from Iowa, the barroom was already half full of voters and more were coming in all the time. Mecklenburg’s would be packed by 6am; nickel beer was discounted down to a penny. It was an amazing operation to watch, its controlled chaos exhilarating. Trucks lined up at the curb, back from Iowa in the middle of the night with two dozen voters packed on their hay-strewn flatbeds. The street cars were running already too, full of Pendergast’s men from the train stations, recent arrivals from Kansas City. Johann and Reinhold lined them up inside and meted out the booze. His suitcase still in hand, Jacob stood back and watched it all until it was time to instruct the voters. In groups of ten, Reinhold escorted them to the basement of Mecklenburg’s. Jacob and Johann followed them down the steps, into the dug out space under the barroom. There were two rooms separated by a narrow doorway. The basement had been an afterthought, one dug out roughly and bricked in. Jacob recognized the work, a former tunneler himself. A light hung from a rafter, its wire snaked in from a hole drilled in the barroom floor above them.”

Personal Rejection Notes, Requests for More, and Other Nice Versions of No Thanks

Cream City Review for “Attend the Way”; Painted Bride for “The First Night of My Down-and-Out Sex Life”; n+1 for “Shame Cycle”; and Barnstorm and Camera Obscura for “You Know That I Loved You.” Florida Review and Harvard Review also sent nice notes along after I withdrew manuscripts that had been accepted elsewhere, which is very much appreciated. Plus, “The Housekeeper” was selected as a finalist in the Flatmancrooked Fiction Contest, and will appear in the anthology Flatmancrooked 4, and my review of Nadifa Mohamed’s debut novel Black Mamba Boy was selected to appear in a future edition of Prairie Schooner.

Just Finished

Death is Not an Option by Suzanne Rivecca. A very strong collection. I plan on writing a review of this very soon.

Now Reading

One of Ours by Willa Cather.

Up Next

Rivers Last Longer by Richard Burgin.