Monday, October 20, 2014
Title: Washed Hands
Author: Jonathan Charles Bruce (http://www.jonathancharlesbruce.com)
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing (http://booktrope.com)
Price: $13.95 (paperback)
Breaking up can be one of the hardest things a person can do, something that the dedicated team at Washed Hands, Inc. thoroughly understands. Whether one’s soon-to-be-ex is manipulative, violent, or anything else that makes a clean break difficult, the company’s rejection counselors ensure that the split is established and maintained in no uncertain terms. And in the toughest cases, no one’s better at this than Monica Deimos. Brought in on what appeared to be a relatively straight-forward domestic nightmare, Monica realizes all-too-late that she has been set up to take the fall for the murder of a wealthy socialite. As the police close in, Monica needs to discover who she can trust, who wants her out of the way, and why she was framed. She’s no fool, though. The best case scenario ends in a jail cell… the worst in a body bag.
Jonathan Bruce began writing what amounted to terrible Star Trek: The Next Generation fan fiction when he was four. Although the original manuscripts are lost (or perhaps destroyed), we can rest assured that his prose has improved significantly since then. After high school, he began writing and directing plays which gradually improved depending on whom you ask. He discovered his love of a good fight scene after writing a Dracula knock-off which took a 19th century classic and made it less about Victorian yearning and 300% more about stabbing things in the jugular.
And yes, this means he wrote vampire fiction before Stephanie Meyer made it cool to sparkle in the sun.
He has a Master’s Degree in History, thanks largely to his thesis focusing on MUSIC, a Milwaukee-based school desegregation campaign during the 1960′s. He also enjoys discussing/making fun of pop culture of the 20th century and reading books of a non-historical nature. In his off moments, you can catch him writing for fun or making inane movies about nothing in particular. He also occasionally provides work for Twenty Four Pages a Second, a pretty keen website you should totally check out.
It’s hard coming up with something to write today that isn’t going to be a bit on the sullen side. I apologize for that. I blame the slow shamble toward winter for the somber tone.
Washed Hands had started life as a one-off gag post for my blog. The central idea behind it was no joke however—an agency created for the sole purpose of assisting people with their breakups is something that I think would make things a lot easier all around. It sounds tremendously impersonal, I’m sure, but I’ve been through breakups where I’ve turned into an awful person, desperate to maintain a hold on something that had long since died. It’s sobering (and honestly embarrassing) to realize the kind of darkness and general pettiness that we’re capable of. And it’s not just me; I’ve seen friends deal with their significant others as the latter devolve into selfish, angry monsters, professing love one moment before lashing out the next.
Washed Hands mission, to preserve a client’s day-to-day life as much as possible, will probably strike some as callous and outright cold. I see it as a sad, but logical, extension of the world we live in. Toxic relationships are all around us—our Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with drama that we divert our eyes from because we know that it’s better to stand by and watch the meltdown than get involved.
I’m not saying that it’s a solution, of course. What we’d need is a complete re-education process. Teach people to define themselves as single entities that partner with people rather than engage in some kind of abstract contract that confers companionship at the cost of autonomy and individuality. Stop writing stories that put heroes and heroines meeting the one when they’re barely old enough to vote. Admit that it’s totally fine to not have everything figured out when you’re in your 20’s. And maybe, just maybe, that respect—not jealousy, or attractiveness, or sexual compatibility, or any of the other superficial motes of advice profound idiots hand out—is something you absolutely need before getting involved with another person.
Washed Hands, fictional business that it is, is dedicated to basically providing a barrier between exes. And, since it’s a business, it costs money for the service. Some would see the triumph of capitalism. I see something that, at best, is a band-aid on a tumor. Sure, it helps people that may not have the means—emotional or otherwise—of affecting a breakup in a safe and secure manner. But wouldn’t it be better all-around if it didn’t have to exist at all?
And even then, there would be those that fall through the cracks—those that couldn’t afford the service, those trapped in an all-controlling abusive relationship, those who normalize their suffering as “just something couples go through”, those who blame themselves… I made the business from the ground up when writing it, and even as I typed I was all too aware of the holes, the gaps, the bleakness of something like that even existing in our world would mean.
I’m not trying to say that I don’t love Washed Hands—I certainly do. It’s just a lot heavier on a philosophical level than I was really anticipating. That’s pretty cool. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I write to figure out who I am and how I fit into this crazy world of ours, and Washed Hands is no different. It took me to some interesting places, and at the very least, I hope you get to see some of them, too.
And then there’s the whole “reading it for enjoyment” thing. I hope it’s entertaining. It’d be really terrible if it wasn’t.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
His name is Jonathan Stuart, and he’s just an ornery post-alcoholic bookstore owner from Pasadena with a mania for fencing and a bad habit of disappointing his girlfriend. He doesn’t want to be in the Neverland, impossibly trapped aboard the with a horde of greedy stinking pirates. He was tricked there by Peter Pan.
The following author bio is taken from the author's web site http://www.weisswriters.com/
Hi! Bobbi here!
David and I like to say that we’ve sold just about every form of writing there is, from James Bond collector cards to LensCrafter ads, from Disney’s MMO to the silly little comic strips that used to be printed on Donald Duck Orange Juice containers. Now we've entered the wild world of self-publishing. It's about doggone time we write our own stuff, woot!t Captain Hook.
HOOKED: Setting and Point-of-View
This article contains spoilers!
The various settings I use in Hooked aren't arbitrary locations — they are the plot, they define the plot. The settings form the basis of the whole story. The protagonist, Jonathan Stuart, starts out in the real world, which is already giving him problems, and he ends up in a fantasy world that's worse. Much much worse. And he wants out. So setting is everything in Hooked.
I opened the story in 1989 because 1) I wanted to use the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and 2) I wanted Stuart to live in an area of upheaval. Hooked is a story about one of the worst upheavals a person can experience — abduction — so I wanted to foreshadow it in a clear, almost obvious, way. I decided on Pasadena because, in 1989, the downtown area was a mass of construction (I know what it was like, I lived nearby!).
In any major city, construction areas create a feeling of environmental change-by-force, and they bring inconvenience and stress, especially in downtown locations. Downtown Pasadena in 1989 was a mess, and this reflects Stuart's own life before the story even begins. Also, construction implies an architect in charge, someone who is changing things, even rebuilding things from the ground up, for a pre-determined purpose. That's the plot of Hooked in a nutshell! (Side note: I also just love the word Pasadena. It's intrinsically funny, as when Stuart says, “I’m just a bookstore owner from Pasadena!” Yeah, yeah, it's like "the little old lady from Pasadena..." Not quite as good as Cucamonga, but close.)
Another setting in Stuart's reality is his bookstore. I made him own a bookstore because I wanted him to have one foot out of reality from the start. He loves to read. He loves just being around books because stories are a way for him to escape the tragic aspects of his life. His house is also full of books, by the way. The fact that his ultimate Hell becomes the Neverland, one of the most beloved of all storybook worlds, is therefore made all the more ironic.
Once in the Neverland, setting is everything — not because Stuart is now in a fantasy world that’s really cool, but because his goal is the opposite of what most people would think. He wants to get out. Everything he does from the moment he arrives is an attempt to get back home. Sure, he can see how beautiful the Neverland is, and he wishes he could have been there as a child, but he's an adult, and that makes the place Hell. No, even worse than that — it's a Hell designed specifically for him (I did mention an architect earlier, right?).
The Neverland is a place of beauty. The verdant greenery of Pan’s island serves as a symbol of newness, of growth, of potential. The place is full of life and practically humming with glorious magic. It's designed to please children so, naturally, Stuart can't experience it that way. That aspect is not for him. He has to sit there and yearn for all the goodness but not be allowed to partake of it. All he gets is the bad stuff, and there's plenty of bad stuff there!
I want Peter Pan fans to know that I have not turned Barrie’s amazing creation dark. That is to say, I have not written a story where Peter Pan is evil and the Neverland is a scary place full of evil magic and monsters or something. I admire Barrie too much to do that, and I love the original story of Peter Pan too much to even think of doing it. The Neverland of Hooked is the same wonderful magical place that Barrie created, and Peter Pan is the same wonderful child hero. But to adults, well… that's another matter. Stuart’s predicament takes nothing away from Barrie’s original setting. It’s all still there. It just depends on your point of view, that of a child or that of an adult. Even in Barrie's novel, the adults (pirates) had a pretty rotten time in the Neverland. That's where much of the idea for Hooked came from.
Our real world seems to operate the same, don't you think? As kids our planet is a wonderful adventurous place. But the older we get, the more dangers we recognize, the more worries we develop, the more we experience how things can go wrong and hurt us. Yes, the wonder of the world remains (hopefully), but adults have been through too much to just leap around and laugh all day. Adults have to face the dark aspects of reality because we must take care of the little ones. It's sort of a vicious circle.
So that's how I approached setting in Hooked. The novel, obviously, goes into great detail about all I've mentioned above, and poor Jonathan Stuart must struggle with it all. But hey, it's a dark fantasy/horror. Stuart doesn't stand a chance. Or does he?
I'm not telling.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Title: The Baker’s Men Author: Donald Levin Publisher: Poison Toe Press Publication Date: April 20, 2014
Pages: 338 ISBN: 978-0615968568 Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction / Police Procedural
Format: Paperback, eBook, PDF
Easter, 2009. The nation is still reeling from the previous year’s financial crisis. Ferndale Police detective Martin Preuss is spending a quiet evening with his son when he’s called out to investigate a savage after-hours shooting at a bakery in his suburban Detroit community. Was it a random burglary gone bad? A cold-blooded execution linked to Detroit’s drug trade? Most frightening of all, is there a terrorist connection with the Iraqi War vets who work at the store? Struggling with these questions, frustrated by the dizzying uncertainties of the case and hindered by the treachery of his own colleagues who scheme against him, Preuss is drawn into a whirlwind of greed, violence, and revenge that spans generations across metropolitan Detroit.
Guest Post On Writing Fiction and Poetry
By Donald Levin
Are writing poetry and writing fiction different activities? On first blush, the answer seems obvious: of course! Poetry and fiction are two different genres, they don’t look the same, they don’t sound the same, they take very different amounts of time to read, and they have very different effects on the reader.
So case closed, right?
Well, not so fast. As someone who has published both poetry and fiction, I can tell you that writing poetry and writing fiction are more alike than you might think . . . maybe they even have more similarities than differences.
For example, a writer goes through the same processes when she writes a poem as when she writes a piece of fiction, whether short story or novel. Poets and fiction writers all wrestle with issues of form, structure, tone, diction, point of view, and message. Poems and pieces of fiction are all products of the intersection between our creative imaginations and the world around us. We might think fiction takes longer to write than poetry, but it’s not unusual for poets to work for months and even years to get a single poem “right.” I once published a short story, “Freewheelin’,” that I cranked out in a couple of days, yet I typically work over drafts of poems for months before I share them with anybody, let alone try to publish them.
Even the sources of inspiration for both genres are similar. People often think poets are inspired by going out and contemplating the moon or, as Wordsworth said, meditating on “emotion recollected in tranquility.” But my experience suggests we’re more inspired by what we read. As a poet I get inspired by reading other poems, just as I get inspired to write fiction by reading novels and short stories. Then too, sometimes reading a novel inspires a poem. Writing a poem might suggest an idea for a short story.
Poets and novels have the same kinds of impact on their readers. Both touch people’s minds and hearts, and both, when they’re good, enlarge our sympathies about the joys, sorrows, and possibilities of being human.
For a writer, a key question is, Does writing in one genre impact my writing in another? Mainly, I think writing outside your primary genre can increase what musicians call your “chops” . . . your technical skills. It increases your overall dexterity and versatility. Learning how to move a plot along in fiction teaches you how to stage the effects of your poetry; the increased attention to words that a poem requires makes you more sensitive to the power of language in your stories.
Bookshelves are full of works by people who wrote outside their customary genres . . . Poets like James Dickey and Margaret Atwood wrote novels, and even the novelist Ernest Hemingway published poetry. Maybe the entire notion of genres is something made up by critics to pin down the slippery genius of writers?
So what does all this mean for you? If you think of yourself as primarily a fiction writer, try your hand at poetry. If you’re a poet, take a crack at a short story or, if you’re ambitious, a novel. You don’t have to produce “The Waste Land” or War and Peace to grow as a writer in meaningful ways.
You might discover a knack for a kind of writing you never knew you had. And you’ll have given yourself a whole new literary world to explore.
An award-winning fiction writer and poet, Donald Levin is the author of The Baker’s Men, the second book in the Martin Preuss mystery series; Crimes of Love, the first Martin Preuss mystery; The House of Grins, a mainstream novel; and two books of poetry, In Praise of Old Photographs and New Year’s Tangerine. Widely published as a poet and with twenty-five years’ experience as a professional writer, he is dean of the faculty and professor of English at Marygrove College in Detroit. He lives in Ferndale, Michigan, the setting for his Martin Preuss mysteries. You can visit Donald Levin’s website at http://donaldlevin.wordpress.com.
Connect with Donald:
Author Website: http://donaldlevin.wordpress.com
Author Blog: http://donaldlevin.wordpress.com