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!

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.

Pub Updates–Gargoyle, Heavy Feather Review

A couple publication updates from the last week to share.

First, you can now preorder the summer 2014 double-issue of Heavy Feather Review, themed “Vacancies.” The issue will feature my story “Attend the Way,” along with work by a bunch of others. Check out the full roster here.

Second, because of an overload of work, and a switch from being an annual to a bi-annual, my story “Shame Cycle” has been moved to issue 62 of Gargoyle, which should arrive around Christmastime.

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.

March in Review (2012)

Maddie holding Clara.

This is going to be short and late. He’s a recap of what went down here on The Uninitiated in March. It was eventful. Still recovering.

-“On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” was published in Boulevard! Read the recap here.

-“Shame Cycle” was short-listed for the PRISM Fiction Contest. Final word should be coming down any time now. Eagerly awaiting the results.

-My review of David Philip Mullins’ Greetings from Below was published in the new Prairie Schooner.

-I interviewed Sigrid Nunez for the Prairie Schooner blog.

-We had a baby! More photos of Clara Lynne Wheeler and family can be found here.

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

Five Points for “Forget Me”; Massachusetts Review for “Attend the Way”; One Story for “Impertinent, Triumphant”; and, of course, “Shame Cycle” is a finalist for the PRISM Fiction Contest.

Just Finished

The Sojourn by Andrew Krivek. Pretty good. Character deaths seemed to occur at very convenient times, plot-wise. A small thing that is quite common, but it wore on me in this novel. Maybe because death was so frequent.

Signed, Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy.

Now Reading

The Missing of the Somme by Geoff DyerA fascinating examination of the mechanisms of remembrance in relation to war.

Up Next

Flatscreen by Adam Wilson.

Shame Cycle Short-Listed for PRISM Fiction Contest

Out of more than 300 submissions, my short story “Shame Cycle” has been selected as one of ten finalists for PRISM international‘s 2012 Short Fiction Contest! Read PRISM‘s news release here. Jessica Grant will judge the finalists. Final results are expected within a couple weeks.

This is the second time “Shame Cycle” has been short-listed for a Canadian fiction prize. The story received finalist consideration in Matrix Magazine‘s (Montreal) LitPop contest. PRISM international is based out of Vancouver and published by the Creative Writing Program of the University of British Columbia. Apparently Canucks enjoy my tale of shame and transgression. God love ’em for it.

Wish me luck!

October in Review (2011)

The big news in what turned out to be a busy month—and this is unannounced news at that, which I hope is okay to make public—is that I’ve been appointed Blog and Social Networking Editor at Prairie Schooner! This is a new editorial position in which I’ve been commissioned to take an active role in the PS blog, social media presence, and other communications with subscribers and contributors. It’s a pretty cool opportunity and I’m excited to move up to the editorial staff. Sadly, I’ll be giving up my Senior Fiction Reader duties, although I doubt anyone would stop me from reading as many slush submissions as I care to.

More to come on this.

In other news:

Boulevard nominated my story “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” for a Pushcart Prize, and for inclusion in a Best of the Midwest anthology. I’m usually a little wary of touting nominations, but this is awesome news, especially since the story won’t even run in Boulevard until March of next year. Wish me luck!

-“These Things That Save Us” was published in the debut issue of Conversations Across Borders. Here’s what I had to say about writing the story and Cab in October.

-My review of Rahul Mehta’s short story collection, Quarantine, appeared on The Iowa Review Online, just in case you missed it. The review is pretty good, I think. Plus, this marked the first time I’d been paid for a book review, which is something.

The Kenyon Review is offering a new fellowship opportunity to post-MFA/post-PhD writers. It’s pretty awesome. $32,000 a year, for two years, both teaching and editorial opportunities. Plus time to pursue a significant project. Some good stuff is surely going to come out of this; I’m fully prepared to be jealous of whoever receives the first fellowship.

-I got a little love from The Cincinnati Review on their blog recently, in this post by staff member Dietrik Vanderhill about “The Burn” by Craig Davidson. Here’s what Vanderhill had to say, as an aside, about my recent work in TCR:

I’m tempted to write a recommendation for “The Current State of the Universe,” winner of the Robert and Adele Schiff Award in Prose (in the latest issue of CR). This romping story by Theodore Wheeler follows one employee of a company called Make Things Right, Inc., a sort of karmic revenge business. […] a story with passages like this—along with such a provocative concept—can easily sell itself. It provides a direct, satisfying approach to “fixing” the world’s ills, albeit on a small scale.

“The Current State of the Universe” appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of The Cincinnati Review.

-I wrote a long post on this blog about Sherwood Anderson’s connection to the real Winesburg, Ohio–and how a similarly uncomfortable thing happened with my won writing of a fictional small town that turned out to have the same name as a real small town.

-And, finally, let’s not forget that October began with an awesome crossover blogger event, as Adam Peterson and I wrapped up the Royals 2011 season and, mainly, looked ahead to 2012.

Dispatch from “These Things That Save Us”

“Walking the dog allowed me a kind of privacy, which is also why I enjoyed traveling so much. I yearned for the bustling lonesomeness of airport white noise, the freedom to be secluded in public—to appear deeply pensive without someone asking, ‘Whatcha thinking?’ This is also why I liked to walk, to indulge in the secret adventures of a man and his dog, cruising down the sidewalk with nothing in particular owed to anyone. Just a man and his dachshund. We were free to look in our neighbors’ windows from the sidewalk, their domestic projections lit up incandescent. We could kick and sniff at garbage left at the curb. A man walking his dog has a right to be there.”

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

Paris Review and Conjunctions for “Forget Me,” and Agni for “Shame Cycle.”

Now Reading

Shadow Traffic by Richard Burgin.

Best American Comics 2011, edited by Alison Bechdel.

Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott.

Up Next

The Marbled Swarm by Dennis Cooper.

September in Review (2011)

Here's where the novel draft stands now. There's a whole book in there somewhere.

Just in case you missed it, here’s what happened on here in September:

-I took a few weeks off from working on the novel–using the time to clean up a few new short stories for submission–but am now reading and editing my first complete draft. It’s a lot of fun to read so far, seeing how things come together, and where they don’t.

-The Uninitiated released its comprehensive and authoritative rankings of MFA and PhD programs in creative writing. The University of Texas at Austin took the top spot.

-My review of Rahul Mehta’s Quarantine was accepted for publication by The Iowa Review Online, and will appear shortly in the month of October.

-My review of David Philip Mullins’ Greetings from Below—previously accepted for publication by Prairie Schooner—has been scheduled to run in the Spring 2012.

Dispatch from The Hyphenates of Jackson County

“The noise was so frightening that Jacob couldn’t stand still. He had to move his feet, around in the crowd, or he felt like someone was going to take a shot at him. A block over there was a nervous cop who sprayed shotgun fire into the air whenever someone approached the car he guarded. The cascading noise of tumbling glass was punctuated by the fraught screams of woman in jeopardy. Or maybe that wasn’t it at all, what Jacob thought he heard. Maybe that was the sound of a woman’s prurient cheer as government windows were smashed to shards. There was the roar of voices, people fighting and being hurt. The flash of small arms erupting. The police sirens, their barking orders. The steam valve had been blown clean off and Jacob couldn’t stay where he was. He had to run into it, into the noise and fighting. He had to see everything, to document it in his mind. Speeding cars rushed into the crowds. Young men jumped on the sideboards of cars to swing around to where the action was. There were cars with Sicilians, Lithuanians, Greeks, Serbians. Once word of the melee spread, anyone who wanted to take a swing at a cop made a bee-line to Scandal Flats. A gang hijacked a streetcar and plowed into the mess, clanging the bell to announce their audacity. Teenage boys and musky husbands rushed out of houses with whatever hammer or club or bat they could lay hands on, and then hopped in a taxi to get there fast. A mechanical rumble filled the atmosphere. Roadsters and jalopies, homemade in Little Italy garages, swung recklessly around the blocks. They swerved to miss people and each other. Jacob couldn’t always see the cars but he could hear their pop-pop motors hammering at full throttle a block away, spreading echoes between buildings, echoes that bounced back from the high-rises of downtown. Trucks, commissioned or otherwise, hopped hot over the pavement to load up with furniture or produce or women’s clothes. Taxis slumped cockeyed and labored up the hills, packed full inside, passengers on the footboards.

Sixteenth & Harney Streets, circa 1919.

“People shouted out to groups of strangers any news they heard. There was lots of talk in the mob about the smutty details of the rape—conjecture about Will Brown’s body in relation to the girl’s. They made him out to be huge, a towering man, arms like a gorilla’s, legs like a mule’s. They talked about Agnes Loebeck as if she was a little girl, pious and pure, like she only ever wore little white Sunday dresses, like she picked berries in a pristine field, like she’d never even heard of anything like a dick before.”

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

Bomb for “Shame Cycle.”

Just Finished

Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen. Eh.

My Antonia by Willa Cather. I really enjoyed this book, and can see why it’s often noted as Cather’s finest. I was surprised at how Modernist this novel is, it’s really quite innovative, as I’d always thought it was more of a Victorian, continental-style book for young women than anything. I stand corrected. A masterful work.

Also, if you haven’t heard this NPR piece by Bradford Morrow on My Antonia, you should really check it out. Here’s part of what Morrow has to say:

What’s interesting about My Antonia is how it manages to function as a perfectly inviting story for young readers, and how an adult willing to revisit it with a more developed critical eye can appreciate it for the subtly sophisticated narrative it truly is. In this regard, it’s not unlike a wildly different book, Alice in Wonderland. Great fun for kids, psychologically captivating for grownups.

Now Reading

Shadow Traffic by Richard Burgin.

Up Next

Bohemian Girl by Terese Svoboda.