TW’s Debut Book to be Published by Queen’s Ferry Press!!!

After a couple weeks of keeping this under my hat, I’m thrilled to share some superlative news today.

This week I signed a book deal with Queen’s Ferry Press to publish my debut collection of short fiction, Bad Faith, in July 2016!

I’m not sure what else to add. This feels like a commencement moment–a capstone of sorts, but more than anything a hopeful start for bigger and better things.

Check out the press release here. Also, here’s a great profile with Editor Erin McKnight on the Ploughshares blog. Queen’s Ferry Press was founded in 2011 in Plano, Texas, and releases 6-12 collections of literary fiction a year. In only four years they’ve already attracted talents like Phong Nguyen, Ethel RohanKristine Ong Muslim, and Michael Nye, with books forthcoming from writers like Sherrie Flick and Tyrone Jaeger, among others. That this caliber of author is being published by QFP was the big appeal of the press. I’m ecstatic that Bad Faith will find itself among this company. Thanks so much to Erin McKnight for the opportunity. (Thanks as well to the editors and journals who helped make this possible by making a home for my work: Boulevard, The Kenyon Review, Five Chapters, The Southern Review, Midwestern Gothic, The Cincinnati Review, Gargoyle, Confrontation, Weekday, Fogged Clarity.)

Obviously there’s a lot of work yet to be done before Bad Faith hits shelves, and then that’s just the beginning of evangelizing to put the book into the hands of new readers. I’ve enjoyed the support of so many of you to get to this point, something I’m truly thankful for, and will need to continue to earn that support to make this book a success.

All right. Enough politicking. Cheers and thanks! I hope to see many of you soon so we can celebrate properly!

“Mercy Killing” to Appear in Midwestern Gothic!

I’m pleased to announce that my short story “The Mercy Killing of Harry Kleinhardt” was accepted for publication in the great, and newish, literary journal Midwestern Gothic! The story will appear in their next issue, which I believe will be Issue 8, Winter 2013. More specifics will be forthcoming, no doubt.

Here’s an excerpt from “The Mercy Killing of Harry Kleinhardt”:

Aaron never actually knew his mother, not in any real way. When he was a boy he fantasized about her coming back to rescue him from Nebraska, to take him with her to LA, New York, Chicago, wherever she’d landed. Aaron knew so little about her that these dreams seemed like they could be real. His dad never told him what really happened to her. Harry would say, “She’s alive,” if Aaron pestered him enough. “That’s all you need to know. That woman you like to call your mom is still breathing somewhere.”

Aaron didn’t learn much about the world outside Jackson until later, but even as a boy it seemed pretty obvious that things were better elsewhere—and that this was the reason his mother left. There was an old joke about how Jackson was the only town in this free Union state to be named after a Confederate general, and that about summed up how out of step Jackson was with the rest of the planet, Aaron thought.

More than likely his mother met some men in Sioux City and took off from there. Maybe another woman hooked her into a hot lead for some quick money, some liquor or drugs, or a chance to work a back room at a horse track. Over the years, Aaron convinced himself of a thousand scenarios other than those that were likely. He dreamed, at different times, that she was a nomadic bounty-hunter in Texas, a piano teacher in Vienna, a pilot for the US Navy, an Amazon explorer, an African missionary. There was a long string of them. That she was the wife of an extraordinarily rich man was a recurring theme. They were ridiculous dreams. Aaron didn’t have much to work with in creating them.

There is plenty of overlap in this story with my other work. That’s always fun. For starters, the story is set in Jackson, Nebraska; the same Jackson County as is featured in my novel, The Uninitiated. (Read here for an explanation of how my Jackson, Neb. is different from the real Jackson, Neb; and how Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, OH differed from the real Winesburg, OH in similar ways.)

Most of the crossover, however, stems from the fact that “The Mercy Killing of Harry Kleinhardt” is part of my Bad Faith series of stories, all of which have been published now. The Aaron Kleinhardt of “Mercy Killing” is the same from “Kleinhardt’s Women” (Fogged Clarity, Dec 2010) and “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” (Boulevard, Spring 2012), which shares characters with “The First Night of My Down-and-Out Sex Life” (Confrontation, Fall 2011) and “The Man Who Never Was” (Weekday, Summer 2010).

This is the first time I’ve written a series of connected stories so long–maybe testing my stamina before writing a novel?–and it’s exciting to see all of the stories find a home. But with so much murder, sex, drugs, alcoholism, adultery, betrayal, and deception in the cycle, it’s little wonder they’ve found an audience. Midwestern Gothic is a fitting end to this stage of the stories’ publishing life, and an apt home for “Mercy Killing.” I’m glad to have the story picked up, of course, and particularly glad that it was Midwestern Gothic who laid claim to it. Cheers!

Confrontation is Out! The First Night of My Down-and-Out Sex Life Published!

Confrontation (No. 110, Fall 2011) arrived in our mailbox today! The issue features my short story “The First Night of My Down-and-Out Sex Life,” among many other pieces.

“First Night” is part of a series of stories I’ve been working on the past couple years. The other stories include “The Man Who Never Was” (published in Weekday), “Kleinhardt’s Women” (on Fogged Clarity last December), “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” (forthcoming in Spring 2012 from Boulevard) and a story I’ve rewritten more than a handful of times and only recently seem to have a handle on, “The Mercy Killing of Harrison Kleinhardt.” All four stories are in my unpublished collection of short fiction, How to Die Young in Nebraska. “First Night” is my first published work that’s written from the point-of-view of a woman.

Here’s an excerpt:

It was after a show at Sokol Underground. I’d been driving up to Omaha once or twice a week that semester and having a few drinks near the back of the room while the bands played. Nothing serious. Not like some girls. Just a g-and-t or two in that smoky basement venue under the gymnastics club, listening to the bands. I bought their albums, stuck their pins to the strap of my bag then drove back to Lincoln when the show was over. Things changed when I saw the Zapruder Films.

Information for ordering the issue can be found on Confrontation’s web site. The current issue is $12, a steal for the nearly 300-page journal.

Also, I’d like to issue a huge Thanksgiving salutation to the readers and commentators who helped revise this story and the others in the cycle–Amber Haschenburger, Lucas Schwaller, and Travis Thieszen. Thanks so much! And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Jonna Semeiks (Editor of Confrontation) and her staff for putting together a great issue, and allowing me to be a part of it.

“On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” to Appear in Boulevard

Some excellent news today, as I learned that my short story “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” will run in the Spring 2012 issue of Boulevard!

This will be my sixteenth published short story, and the third of mine to appear in Boulevard. My work has found a home in the journal, and I’m grateful for the support of its staff, especially editor Richard Burgin. It’s a real privilege to connect with a prestigious journal multiple times like this. Previously, “Welcome Home” ran in the Spring 2008 issue of Boulevard–as winner of their Short Fiction Contest for Emerging Writers–and “The Approximate End of the World” ran in the Spring 2010 issue.

Similar to when I mentioned that “The First Night of My Down-and-Out Sex Life” was selected by Confrontation earlier this year, “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” is part of a series of short stories that I’ve been working on the past couple years–which combine in my short story collection (How to Die Young in Nebraska) as the novella “Bad Faith.” The other stories include “The Man Who Never Was,” which was in Weekday a year ago, and “Kleinhardt’s Women,” which was on Fogged Clarity in December. “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” is a psychological thriller that follows heroine Amy Gutschow after she jumps a freight train outside Aurora, Nebraska and through her confrontation with a pathetic but effective ladies man, Aaron Kleinhardt, after she hops off the train in Valentine, Neb. This story is one I’m very proud of, and I’m ecstatic to know that it will be taken care of by a stalwart like Boulevard. Cheers!

First Night … Sex Life to be in Confrontation!

More news this week:

Late yesterday evening “The First Night of My Down-and-Out Sex Life” was accepted for publication by noted literary journal Confrontation! Based out of Long Island, Confrontation has been running since 1968 and has published seven Nobel laureates and helped launch numerous careers over this span. And now they’ll be putting out my work too!

“The First Night of My Down-and-Out Sex Life” is part of a series of short stories that I’ve been working on the past couple years. The story is set in popular local tour spots like Sokol Underground and a dorm at UNL, and features a band called The Zapruder Films. It is not autobiographical, however, for anyone who might be wondering. The other stories in the cycle include “The Man Who Never Was,” which was in Weekday last summer, “Kleinhardt’s Women,” which was on Fogged Clarity in December, the currently available “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine,” and a story I’ve rewritten more than a handful of times but have never made work called, at present, “The Mercy Killing of Harrison Kleinhardt.” It’s been a lot of fun to work on these stories, to reference and overlap them, and I’m glad that now two of them have found good homes. Also, “First Night” will be my first published work that’s written from the point-of-view of a woman.

As for the numbers, this is my 14th story accepted for publication, and will be the 17th short story publication overall, counting stories that were anthologized. My first pub was in the spring of 2007, so that’s not a bad four-year stretch to begin with.

“Kleinhardt’s Women” Goes Up

Fogged Clarity is now featuring my piece “Kleinhardt’s Women” in their current December 2010 issue! And as mentioned before, you can hear me reading the piece on the site as well. It’s pretty cool. I like the format, with the podcasting option.

There’s also an interview with Andre Dubus III in the issue, in which he discusses watching Batman with Kurt Vonnegut. It’s a pretty great interview on writing about dark characters and understanding “bad” people through fiction.

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.

More Hot Pub Action!

My nice run continues, as my short story “Kleinhardt’s Women” has been accepted for publication by Fogged Clarity!

Fogged Clarity is a mostly online journal that features work by musicians, artists, and scholars in addition to fiction and poetry. They have some pretty cool stuff–including, this month, an acoustic session with matt pond PA–and I’m very excited that my work will be included.

They also include audio files of the literary work published on the site, so you all can read along with the story when it’s published. I’ll be headed over to my friend J.J. Idt’s this week to record a performance of “Kleinhardt’s Women.” It’s been a long time since I’ve read to an audience–and even longer since J.J. has recorded me, filming zapruder fans, are you out there?–so wish me luck. It will be an interesting format for this piece especially.