Gargoyle 62 (with “Shame Cycle”) is Out Now!

My contributor's copy of Gargoyle 62, along with some cool postcards that came along for the ride.
My contributor’s copy of Gargoyle 62, along with some cool postcards that came along for the ride.

The new issue of Gargoyle is out and features my short story “Shame Cycle.”

Order the issue for $19.95 from the publisher at GargoyleMagazine.com.

“Shame Cycle” is a piece I put a lot of time into, in a roundabout way. A distillation of my first attempt at a novel, the story is a Best of that defunct project and features a fictionalized version of the 49’r Lounge, a fact that may interest a few locals here in Omaha.

Here’s an excerpt:

Anna was sixteen when she approached you at a downtown record store and you began seeing her not long after that. This was the summer before your freshman year of college, when she invited you out and claimed possession of your body. She paraded you around the smoky rooms of parties. You considered it a move up in social scene from the part-time Nu Metal rebels you knew in high school to this career class of punks. The hard-drinkers, veteran sludge rockers and sometimes transients who pocked the city so visibly in those days. These were people Anna exposed you to, her friends. Hipsters who spoke of NYC so constantly and fluently that, besides the fact that they were born here and lived here, they seemed to have never heard of Nebraska. Their mouths were always full of Brooklyn. They hitchhiked to Williamsburg and ran drugs from the Mexican border for South Omaha gangs; they bought their own tattoo guns; they had shaved-in mullets and handlebar mustaches; they screamed swear words into ice cream parlors as protests against capitalism. These people were the real deal as far as you were concerned—or as close to it as one could get in Omaha.

It was all so blinding. You were an honest, unable-to-hide-it geek; Anna was stylish and sexy in a way you couldn’t comprehend. She wasn’t like the athletic blonde girls from high school or the sweat-shirted young ladies at college pre-registration events. Anna had her own system of gravity, an atmosphere of nitrogen. The grim reaper tattoo had been her idea—the ink that runs from the inside of your wrist to the vein-popping crook of your elbow, a black robe draped half-off its skeleton body—just as wardrobe changes and haircuts were before that. You were desperate to keep her, that’s why you were marked so shamefully. Even after she left, you still took a lot of pride in your appearance, because it was something Anna gave you. You followed her around like a puppy and she made a mockery of your affection. You had fun that summer, though, you certainly remember that. Hard liquor parties and hand-rolled cigarettes, house shows in boiling hot basements, nights drinking underage. It was a renaissance of delinquency, a rebellion against the kind of common sense embodied by the men of your family. You are different from them now, because Anna changed you.

Different versions of this story were previously finalists in Matrix/Pop Montreal’s 2010 LitPop contest and PRISM international’s 2012 contest. So Canadians (and Canadiens, for that matter) like the story; you probably will too.

Go check it out!

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!

Publication Updates–Cosmonauts Avenue, Heavy Feather Review & Gargoyle

A few updates on stories that will be coming out in journals in short order.

“Forget Me” has been ticketed for the the February issue of Cosmonauts Avenue. Judging by their first few issues, I’d guess this should drop around the middle of the month.

I sent off the galleys for my story “Attend the Way” late last year and it appears that the proofs are in. It won’t be long before Heavy Feather Review‘s “Vacancies” issue finds it way out into the world. Pre-order the anthology here.

Finally, Gargoyle #62 has gone off to the printers and will include my story “Shame Cycle.” Look for that soon as well. (In the meantime, Gargoyle has reopened for their notoriously short submission period. If you’re interested, hurry.)

I’ll have some updates on the release of my chapbook (On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown) very soon, which will also be published this February by Edition Solitude. Everything just sort of fell together this way, but it looks like I’m going to be blessed with a couple busy months to begin 2015.

Spring in Review (2013)

Anna Wilson house in 1920s
This the building that housed Anna Wilson’s notorious Omaha brothel. Pictured here in the 1920s. After Wilson’s death, the building was converted into a hospital, per her wishes. (Courtesy of Wilson & Washburn, a new bar downtown that’s named after Anna and Josie Washburn, a prostitute turned reformer who makes a cameo in my novel.)

Summer is here in just about every way imaginable, so it’s time to recap what’s gone down the past few months.

First, some news about Tom Dennison’s house at 7510 Military Ave was passed on to me by a reliable source who wishes to remain anonymous. (Previous posts about the Dennison house can be found here and here.) There was some confusion about which side of Military the house was actually located, and my source let me know that the address of the house would have changed at some point after Dennison died. So while it was originally 7510 Military, it would have been on the 7300 block of Graceland Drive for most of the time it was standing, putting it south of Military, on the property of Skyline Retirement Community rather than on Marian’s side like I thought. That the address changed clears everything up.

Some more info from the source:

From the 1960s until it was torn down in 2006, the house was used as a guest house by Skyline Manor, and later as administrative offices. There was an effort to remodel the home before the decision to raze it was finalized, but the cost of a new roof, structural repairs, asbestos removal, etc, etc, was deemed too great. Skyline also offered the house free to anyone who wanted to relocate it to a new property, but, again, the cost of moving the house vastly exceeded its monetary value. The spot where the house stood is now a parking lot.

Other news from what was a pretty busy season:

-I was awarded a fellowship and residency by Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. (Get the whole story here and here.) Summer of 2014 can’t come soon enough. We’ve been busy planning out the trip and addressing all sorts of logistical issues. I thought Maddie would be a little more nervous, but she’s still very excited about the whole thing, just so long as she gets to watch movies on the airplane and have torte for dessert every meal. Not such unreasonable demands.

-Some more good news for my novel came in June when The Uninitiated was announced as a long-list finalist for Inkubate’s Literary Blockbuster Challenge. News of the winners will come later this summer.

-My short story “Shame Cycle” was selected for publication in Gargoyle!

-The College of Arts & Sciences at Creighton University was nice enough to interview me for an alumni profile. I also offered up some summer reading recommendations for The Kenyon Review.

-“The Hyphenates of Jackson County,” an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, was short-listed as a finalist for the Summer Literary Seminars Unified Literary Contest. It did not win.

New Stories from the Midwest 2012 was released, with my story “The Approximate End of the World” garnering an Honorable Mention.

-Not a lot of travel lately, although we did spend a few days in Los Angeles in April, which was really nice. On the docket for this summer: the Ozarks, Kansas City, and a family trip to Chicago to give the girls a little more flight experience before crossing over to Germany next summer. Tentative plans call for a little jaunt to New York this fall to retrace and expand last year’s bratwurst tour of Manhattan.

 

Madchen.

Dispatch from The Uninitiated

Tom hadn’t exactly been feeling fit, but he didn’t feel any worse than he had the month before, and maybe he was a little better than the month before that. His daughter had him doing all sorts of things to feel better. Morning ablutions. Evening exercises. A Bulgarian hulk came to stretch his legs with a rubber strap and burn his back with rocks. He had a steambath installed in the back lawn. Tom submitted because she begged him to. Ada had him consuming all sorts of herbs and minerals too, he didn’t even ask what the names of her magic were. Selzter water mixed with salts from the Dead Sea, she claimed anyway. Now why he wanted to drink Dead Sea saltwater he didn’t know. Wasn’t dead the very thing he was trying to avoid? All it did was keep him in the bathroom all morning, and he suspected more than once that maybe this was Ada’s way of getting him to spend less time at work. It surely kept him occupied.

 

Just Finished

Woes of the True Policeman by Roberto Bolaño. Supposedly this is Bolaño’s final unfinished novel, what he was working on when he died, I guess, and it’s writing that ranks up with his best. A lot of it reads like stuff that was cut out of 2666, which is fine by me. The focus on Óscar and Rosa Amalfitano yields quite a few wonderful stories.

In a German Pension by Katherine Mansfield. A series of sketches about the guests of a German health resort. Mansfield is vastly underappreciated, and this is yet more great work from her. (The Kindle version of this is now free, fyi.)

Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov. I’d never heard of this novel before, but picked it up on a recommendation while at Book Soup in Los Angeles, and I’m glad I did. A comedy of manners that romps through Berlin and Italy.

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. I’ve been meaning to read this for years and finally got to it now that I’m trying to get a feel for the German canon before I’m over there next summer. A masterpiece. Maddie kept asking me to read it aloud for her–a little uncomfortable given the subject matter–because it’s so beautiful. I’m pretty sure she didn’t understand many of the words…hoping anyway.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. After all the controversy and hoopla surrounding this book when it came out a few years ago, I decided to give myself some space before reading it. I’m big fan of Franzen, but not so much this book.

The Slippage by Ben Greenman. A solid offering, but not quite on the level of his short fiction.

 

Now Reading

The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek. Really digging this. I’d been meaning to read this for a while too–being how I’m a fan of the Michael Haneke film based on the novel–and am glad I got to it.

 

Up Next

Amerika by Franz Kafka.

Gargoyle to Publish Shame Cycle

The good news continues this month as Gargoyle has agreed to publish a short story I’ve written called “Shame Cycle”!

The story will appear in Gargoyle #61 during the summer of 2014.

“Shame Cycle” is something I’ve been working on for a while. In fact, it’s a distillation of my first attempt at a novel, a Best of that defunct project in a way. In that context, it’s especially nice to see this work come to light.

The story also features a fictionalized version of the 49’r Lounge, which was torn down to make way for a CVS a couple years ago–a fact that may interest a few locals here in Omaha.

Here’s an excerpt:

Anna was sixteen when she approached you at a downtown record store and you began seeing her not long after that. This was the summer before your freshman year of college, when she invited you out and claimed possession of your body. She paraded you around the smoky rooms of parties. You considered it a move up in social scene from the part-time Nu Metal rebels you knew in high school to this career class of punks. The hard-drinkers, veteran sludge rockers and sometimes transients who pocked the city so visibly in those days. These were people Anna exposed you to, her friends. Hipsters who spoke of NYC so constantly and fluently that, besides the fact that they were born here and lived here, they seemed to have never heard of Nebraska. Their mouths were always full of Brooklyn. They hitchhiked to Williamsburg and ran drugs from the Mexican border for South Omaha gangs; they bought their own tattoo guns; they had shaved-in mullets and handlebar mustaches; they screamed swear words into ice cream parlors as protests against capitalism. These people were the real deal as far as you were concerned—or as close to it as one could get in Omaha.

It was all so blinding. You were an honest, unable-to-hide-it geek; Anna was stylish and sexy in a way you couldn’t comprehend. She wasn’t like the athletic blonde girls from high school or the sweat-shirted young ladies at college pre-registration events. Anna had her own system of gravity, an atmosphere of nitrogen. The grim reaper tattoo had been her idea—the ink that runs from the inside of your wrist to the vein-popping crook of your elbow, a black robe draped half-off its skeleton body—just as wardrobe changes and haircuts were before that. You were desperate to keep her, that’s why you were marked so shamefully. Even after she left, you still took a lot of pride in your appearance, because it was something Anna gave you. You followed her around like a puppy and she made a mockery of your affection. You had fun that summer, though, you certainly remember that. Hard liquor parties and hand-rolled cigarettes, house shows in boiling hot basements, nights drinking underage. It was a renaissance of delinquency, a rebellion against the kind of common sense embodied by the men of your family. You are different from them now, because Anna changed you.

This will be my twenty-first short fiction publication. Different versions of this story were previously finalists in Matrix/Pop Montreal’s 2010 LitPop contest and PRISM international’s 2012 contest. So Canadians (and Canadiens, for that matter) like the story; you probably will too.

Thanks so much to Richard Peabody and the other editors at Gargoyle for accepting the piece. This is a place I’ve been trying since I starting sending out stories to lit mags, so it’s pretty exciting to break through. The summer of 2014 is shaping up nicely.