“Violate the Leaves” Published in Boulevard

tumblr_o59mwifpuo1tx58ago1_1280According to the Internet, the new issue of Boulevard has arrived from the printers and is headed out to subscribers as we speak! In addition to my story “Violate the Leaves” the Spring 2016 edition features new work from Stephen Dixon, Amit Majmudar, Miriam Kotzin, Adrian Matejka, Phong Nguyen, Joyce Carol Oates, William Trowbridge, and Mary Troy, and a symposium on the future of literary publishing.

To get the issue, head to the Boulevard web site, where you can get a three issue subscription for $15. If you want a real steal, go for the three-year subscription, 9 issues for $30.

“Violate the Leaves” is a story I kicked around for a long time, with the original pages written circa 2003 when I was an undergrad at the University of Nebraska. It’s something I picked at every once in a while until the right elements finally came together during the summer of 2014 when I was at Akademie Schloss Solitude. It’s a father-and-son story about how the two deal with each other during a summer when the boy’s mother is overseas in Iraq. A spare, reticent voice has almost always been a hallmark of my work and this story pushes things even further in that direction. Also, it seems notable that this was the first thing I worked on while a resident of Schloss Solitude. It should come as no surprise that the major features include: 1) a parent who leaves his/her family for an extended period, 2) a central character who is nearly incapable of expressing himself verbally, 3) an examination of nationality, and what it means to be a an American, if anything. There you have it, autobiographical fiction!

This is the fifth time I’ve had a story published in Boulevard, something of a milestone, I guess. I can’t wait to get my copy.

Here’s an excerpt from “Violate the Leaves”:

In the evening there were video calls with Mom. She was just getting up. Or just going to bed. I don’t remember what time it would have been over there. She was tired. My father dialed in the PC that sat on the floor next to the television, but he went outside before she answered. I brought the fishbowl downstairs to brag how I was keeping my goldfish alive.

She talked about the food she ate, once the PC was dialed in, the kinds of equipment she had around her neck and in the pockets of her med kit. Her stethoscope, her thermometer. Rubber gloves. Her voice digitized, sometimes doubling over itself in echoes. She always wore her hair up, over there, wore khaki tee shirts that fit tight around her. She smiled big when she saw me. So big the video broke up in pixilation. She asked how my day went and told me about her day. She tried to tell me about the people she worked with, or the bunker she rushed to if the Sense & Warn detected incoming, she said; and the geography, the mounds of desert that blew in under the doorways; and on the airplane going over, watching the sunset and sunrise only three hours apart over the Arctic Ocean.

I didn’t hear any of that. 

If she told me to shut up about asking when she was coming home, I would.

January Pub Updates

ptl back doorSince it’s been a while since I offered a general state of the blog type post, here’s the latest in the world of the uninitiated.

-A pub date has been set for Bad Faith! My short story collection will drop on July 12, 2016. And while you’re hurriedly marking your calendars, I’ve also set up a pre-release party at Pageturners Lounge for Thursday, June 30, which will the first opportunity to purchase the book, have it signed, and toast with the author.

Between working through final edits on the book, the first blurbs coming in, and setting up events for later this year, it’s been an exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking experience. There will even be a cover before long. It’s happening!

-A few of my short stories will be coming out in the next couple months. “Violate the Leaves” in the spring issue of Boulevard, in March; “The Hyphenates of Jackson County” in Artful Dodge, by the end of February; and “On a Train from the Place Called Valentine” in New Stories form the Midwest.

-You may have noticed a few updates around the site. The last year I’ve slowly been transitioning this space from its blog roots to more of a proper web site befitting a published author with multiple books to his name. Or something. The process should be finished shortly, with a static front page and all that. I’ll still be blogging here every once in a while, maybe even a little more frequently. The whole “travel” part of the blog kind of took a backseat the last couple years, as I wasn’t traveling much, saving up money for potential book tours and bigger trips. Posting the same photos of me at Royals games over and over didn’t quite have the same panache as the posts from my summer touring Europe.

-One last thing, I want to include a note about the success we’ve seen with the literary pub quiz I’ve been putting on at Pageturners with buddies Ryan Borchers and Drew Justice. The turnout has been great, and it seems like the enthusiasm grows each month. The next edition is in a week, on February 3 with guest host Wendy Townley of the 1877 Society. We’re getting some great guest stars lined up for the spring/summer season, and I can’t wait to share the lineup. But I will wait, and hope to have that posted here soon. The series has been a lot of fun and I’m psyched to keep this going through the rest of the year. If you’re around Omaha the first Wednesday of the month, stop on in and talk some literature with a copacetic group of bookish folks.

The 1877 Society

A quick note of thanks here to The 1877 Society for awarding my short story “Violate the Leaves” the prize for Best Short Story in their inaugural writing contest!

Here’s what they had to say about “Violate the Leaves”: “Wheeler’s story digs into the psyche of a military family through the eyes of a child whose mother is deployed. He is left to experience life with his father; it’s one much more grown-up than he’s used to.” That’s pretty much it!

The 1877 Society is a group of library enthusiasts and advocates in their twenties and thirties who support the Omaha Public Library Foundation. Please consider joining, as I recently did, if you’re in Omaha. It’s a fun club with monthly book-related events and certainly benefits a good cause. (This event in particular looks especially.) To join or for more information, send an email to 1877society@omahalibrary.org or call (402) 444-4589.

Thanks again to The 1877 Society, the judges, and to my fellow winners, Kristine Mahler and Benjamin Simon!

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!

Boulevard Will Publish “Violate the Leaves” in Spring 2016 Issue

Boulevard No 81I’m pleased to share the news that my short story “Violate the Leaves” has been accepted for publication by Boulevard and will appear in their Spring 2016 issue!

This will be my fifth story with Boulevard. I’ve written a lot in this space about what the journal means to me, so I’ll keep it brief this time. Thanks to Editor Richard Burgin and Managing Editor Jessica Rogen for everything. (Subscriptions, which include the next three issues, start at $15, btw.) Also, a special thanks to CCB, Amber, and everyone in the winter workshop last December (Amy, Amy, Brian, Bob, Felicity, and Ryan) for their help working on the story. You guys are the best!

“Violate the Leaves” is a story I’ve been working on for quite some time, with parts of the original idea having been developed circa 2003 when I was in undergrad. It’s something I picked at every once in a while until the right elements finally came together last summer when I was at Akademie Schloss Solitude. It’s a father-and-son story about how the two deal with each other during a summer when the boy’s mother is overseas, in Iraq. The story is told in a fragmented voice, something I’ve been experimenting with a lot the past couple years. A spare, reticent voice has almost always been a hallmark of my work and I this story tries to push things further in that direction. This was the first thing I worked on while a resident of Schloss Solitude, so it should come as no surprise that the major features include: 1) a parent who leaves his/her family for an extended period, 2) a central character who is nearly incapable of expressing himself verbally, 3) an examination of nationality, and what it means to be a later generation German-American, if anything.

The story is also featured in my collection Bad Faith, forthcoming from Queen’s Ferry Press in July of 2016, and will be a good preview of the book for the dear readers of Boulevard. I have a couple stories coming out this fall and it’s nice to have next year’s calendar starting to fill in a bit as well.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the evening there were video calls with Mom. She was just getting up. Or just going to bed. I don’t remember what time it would have been over there. She was tired. My father dialed in the PC that sat on the floor next to the television, but he went outside before she answered. I brought the fishbowl downstairs to brag how I was keeping my goldfish alive.

She talked about the food she ate, once the PC was dialed in, the kinds of equipment she had around her neck and in the pockets of her med kit. Her stethoscope, her thermometer. Rubber gloves. Her voice digitized, sometimes doubling over itself in echoes. She always wore her hair up, over there, wore khaki tee shirts that fit tight around her. She smiled big when she saw me. So big the video broke up in pixilation. She asked how my day went and told me about her day. She tried to tell me about the people she worked with, or the bunker she rushed to if the Sense & Warn detected incoming, she said; and the geography, the mounds of desert that blew in under the doorways; and on the airplane going over, watching the sunset and sunrise only three hours apart over the Arctic Ocean.

I didn’t hear any of that. 

If she told me to shut up about asking when she was coming home, I would.