Come help us celebrate–all you whack-job girls and short-fuse dudes–the release of The Whack-Job Girls, a collection of flash fiction, very short stories, at a party given by Judy Reeves and Shayna Roberts for Bonnie ZoBell. This chapbook is now available as an e-book or in print at Monkey Puzzle Pressand at Amazon.
The Whack-Job Girls portrays a posse of women who either don’t fit in or are deeply disconnected from society. The title story is set in a whacky beauty shop, not unlike The House of Imago where the party is being held! The singer with those luscious red lips in the book trailer on your upper right is a rockin’ Shayna Roberts herself, a younger version of Kitty in the story, singing “Love Is Like Bad Noodles.”
Dark humor creeps through these quirky tales as one character thinks she sees the Virgin Mary on her living room wall, another losing her eyesight refuses to the end to quit her rock’n'roll parade, still another must clean mysteriously revolting mishaps as a hotel maid working graveyard.
Document this whacky night with lots of your best photos and videos and win Best Picture, which earns you a free haircut of the male or female persuasion. Use #thewhackjobgirls on Twitter or Instagram, or post on my Facebook wall to win.
- Live music by The Blue Jazz Trio, featuring Claude ZoBell
- Brief reading by Bonnie ZoBell
- Complimentary nail art
- Wine and appetizers
Raffle Ticket Giveaways
- Imago Sugar Scrub
- The Whack-Job Girls chapbook
- Writing workshop certificate with writer and teacher extraordinaire Judy Reeves
- Blow-out party at House of Imago
- The Whack-Job Girls journals
- Social media certificate for an hour of instruction with media guru Melanie Peters of Melanie Peters Productions
Hope to see you there!
Great news! The book is here!
Please help me celebrate with my other online friends the release of my fiction chapbook, The Whack-Job Girls, from today through Saturday, March 2, 9:00 p.m. PST. Reply to this blog with a comment about my cover above, my sneak preview here, or my book trailer below, and you will automatically be entered to win a giveaway. Twice a day from today through Saturday I will be giving away a chapbook and literary swag. One entry per person. The book can be purchased at Amazon or at Monkey Puzzle Press. And if you’ll like my FB page, we’ll be best friends forever.
- The AWP HEAT Flash Contest is run in conjunction with AWP HEAT, a reading on Friday, March 8, at Dillon’s Restaurant & Bar, Boston, 955 Boylston Street, one block from Hynes Convention Center. Free. 2:30 – 6:30 p.m.
- Winners of contest announced at 4:00 p.m. at AWP HEAT.
- Respond to this prompt: “Fire”
- Anyone may enter the contest, whether attending AWP or not.
- One entry per person, previously unpublished.
- Entries must be 1,000 words or less.
- Email entries to email@example.com as a doc, docx, or rtf file.
- Stories may be submitted anytime between now and midnight March 1st EST.
- Up to three winning stories will be published by JMWW, Prime Number, and Corium.
Why isn’t “Rusty Barnes” a household name? Is it because he doesn’t schmooze the right people or because he isn’t semi-nude in his author’s photo? Or maybe it’s because he doesn’t write about the beautiful people.
The characters in Rusty Barnes’ outrageously good story collection Mostly Redneck (Sunnyoutside Press) wouldn’t be caught dead in a New Yorker story. They’re just a little too raw, a little too earthy, a little too human. I confess to fearing I might find the likes of Honey Boo Boo in these pages what with the Redneck title, but nothing could be further from the truth. Barnes’ characters are genuine, down-to-earth, blue collarfolk, some out of work, all suffering like everyone else in this hideous economy, probably more so. They’re wonderfully compelling and real, so much so it’s hard to stop reading. These characters have no pretenses, they don’t put on airs, they’re just trying to get by with what little they have, and each other. Barnes illustrates this wonderful community with amazing insight, candor, and beautiful prose.
How did he learn to write so well from a female point of view? In “What the Body Says,” two freshman roommates couldn’t be more opposite. Stella, the narrator, walks in on her roommate Kate having sex one night with “a skinny, dread-locked art student,” Kate who “never went home alone on a Friday night. . . . ‘Stella. Great timing,’ Kate says, then continues, ‘He might as well have been a pile driver. I’m going to bruise.’ She pulled her leggings partway down and arched her knee outward, revealing reddish-dark marks on her inner thigh, almost like smudges.”
Stella notes “the smooth muscle in her legs, how tanned she was, the way her black hair fell around her shoulders, and how she could screw a man on the greenhouse floor while I couldn’t get a firm coffee date.” And if you think that’s complicated, just read on to discover Kate’s mind-boggling reactions when Stella finally does hook up with “a long-haired Asian-looking man” who “radiated energy” and who looked “good, smooth and brown arms, long fingers, and already I imagined him rocking into me, feeling that aura of strength on my body. He wasn’t handsome, but beautiful, in that way that confident men are, a smooth amalgam: skin, bone, energy, quiet with his own power.”
And how does Rusty Barnes know enough about the world in “Rick’s Song” to be so insightful about it? Jimmy has quite a past, and he’d like to lose it, but it follows him everywhere. “Pride was a sin, Jimmy thought to himself, and there wasn’t much to be proud of working in a Chinese restaurant, run by Vietnamese, in a city that had no other Asians, either. . . . He’d turned the corner one day from the weekly trip to the unemployment office and walked past The Little Gold Dragon Delicatessen and its yellow laminated “Help Wanted” sign.
“‘You get two dollar hour and tip.’ Rick Andelman ran the place, and never washed his apron, which was now stained nearly black on the front.”
Rick isn’t his real name. “Li’s my name. Rick is for America. The new start,” Jimmy finds out soon enough as “Rick expelled smoke from his nose. ‘You’ll be maître d’ as of tomorrow.’”
Within days, Jimmy knows all about Binh and Song, who may not exactly be Rick’s son and daughter, and that there are people in the world with far more complex pasts than his own.
Maybe it’s the complexity of the characters and lives in Mostly Redneck that makes Rusty Barnes’ writing so enthralling and memorable. These lives are tense and full of what makes all of our lives tense.
A must-read if there ever was one. Buy it here.
I‘m on a secret island in Mexico reading proofs for The Whack-Job Girls, my fiction chapbook due out from Monkey Puzzle Press in spring 2013. Nope, don’t even try to divine where in Mexico. I’m not about to have every relative and “friend” from the last three decades chase me down, though the IRS has already found me. Here’s what’s what: After The New Yorker bribed my editor to read The Whack-Job Girls pre-pub, the magazine sent two of their best women to birddog me, demanding to see more of my work. Ultimately, they bought twenty-seven of my short stories, I quit my day job right in the middle of finals, and got myself on the next plane. The IRS says they want their cut, but I say they can’t have a peso, at least not while I’m on this side of the border.
After years of hard work, I’m drifting in tranquility in the pool, dozing to Adele, drinking Funky Monkeys. After a bit of sun, I rotate back to my poolside cabana and gaze out at the ocean. But these pesky tax men hover. It’s not exactly a free country down here, but they can’t stop me from my siesta. They perch on poolside lounges, but the dark suits, the sunglasses, and the white socks don’t exactly help them blend in. They want more info about my writing life, think they’ll turn up taxable income from years past. Boy, will they be disappointed.
Anywho, forgive, but here are their questions:
Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing
(These tax guys think I’m the next big thing in their lives. They envision big old bonuses, taking their wives to The Palm once they uncover all my secret money. Would I be living in this tiny Spanish cottage and driving a twelve-year old car if there were secret money? Where do they recruit these guys?)
What is your working title of your book (or story)?
I actually have two books forthcoming—The Whack-Job Girls, a fiction chapbook, is coming out in March 2013 with Monkey Puzzle Press. What Happened Here, a linked short story collection, is coming out in spring 2014 with Press 53. I’ll focus on my chapbook since it’s coming out first.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I noticed that a lot of the women I was writing about were alienated, ostracized in some way—and, well, whacky. I decided they might like to be in a collection together.
What genre does your book fall under?
Flash fiction. (No, you don’t get paid extra for flash!)
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Nonnie – Tina Fey
Robin – Natalie Portman
Woman who just moved to NYC from Spokane - Ziyi Zhang
Sharla – Jennifer Hudson
Kitty – Kathy Bates
Jill – Rooney Mara
Pia - Viola Davis
Woman watching serial killer tv show – Snooki
Writer at an artists’ colony - Salma Hayek
Hotel maid - Kirsten Dunst
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Whack-Job Girls & other stories is a collection of very short tales about women of all ages who are not acceptable to society because they are either a little odd or considerably odd.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither. Agents aren’t interested in chapbooks. A small press, Monkey Puzzle Press, will publish it. (Go ahead and ask Nate—he has no receipt for a million dollars because it didn’t cost him quite that much.)
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
These are stories I wrote when I was inspired and when I was also writing longer works over the last four years.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Four writers whose work inspired me to start writing flash would be Kathy Fish (Wild Life), Kyle Hemmings (Void & Sky: A Collection of Prose & Poems), Kim Chinquee (Oh Baby), and Randall Brown (Mad to Live).
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I love the form of flash fiction, the poetry of the language. It was a relief to write it after many years of writing longer fiction.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The IRS took one look at it, opened the centerfold, and stole the whole first print run and smuggled them back into the U.S. because they know how easy it’ll be to sell them.
And now I will pass la antorcha on to some truly gifted writers who will be posting about their works in the upcoming weeks. Here they are in reverse alphabetical order—as all people with “Z” last names like to see.
“The dazzling Susan Tepper will guest blog on JULES JUST WRITE, Jules Archer’s site, on December 21 about From the Umberplatzen, a quirky love story told in flash and set in Germany. Read more about Susan here.
The brilliant Cynthia Reeser will illuminate on Tales from the Hillbilly Underground: Stories from a Coal Miner’s, the working title of her short story collection. Her post will go live after the holidays on January 4 on her blog to http://cynthiareeser.blogspot.com/.
Michelle Reale, writer splendente, will enlighten us about her new book This is Not a Situation in Which You Should Remain Calm, coming out very soon with Cervena Barva Press on December 18 on her blog Sempre Sicilia.
The artistically endowed Meg Pokrass will dissertate on her blog http://www.flash-fiction.com on December 21st about Happy Upside Down, a new collection of flash due out in fall 2013 with Press 53.
Rae Bryant, artiste effulgent, will be cultivating a variety of resplendent writers at Eckleburg on December 17th. To read more about Ms. Bryant, see her blog here. She is working on a new novel, ms. MARROW, and you can read her recent story “Leopard. Lion. She-Wolf.” published in Issue 13, Winter 2012, in Wag’s Revue here.
Tara Laskowski is interviewed by, ahem, James Bond for The Next Big Thing about her brilliant new book Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons.
See interview here.
See what James Bond is looking like these days here.
Imagine being able to slip through a passageway in own your laundry room and arrive in a whole different life when yours isn’t going so well. Personally, I wish I’d heard of this a long time ago and will be contacting Ellen Meister immediately for tips since this is exactly what happens in her stunning novel, THE OTHER LIFE. This stellar book is full of just this kind of imagination. It’s a tale that will force you to stay up way too late at night and be cranky the next day at work because you keep thinking you’ll read just another page or two, but then there goes Quinn again through that portal, and if you just read a few more pages to see what’s going to happen on the other side, you’ll be able to relax. Suddenly, several more hours have gone by.
Depressed by possible health issues of her unborn child, Quinn longs to talk to her deceased mother about the pregnancy, and she’s always wondered whether she made the right decision in leaving her ex-husband. She discovers just such a portal and crosses over to a past chapter from her life. Now she can visit with her mother whenever she likes and enjoy the brilliant colors in her mother’s paintings like she used to. Quinn learns to forgive her mother’s betrayal.
But then there’s that ex-husband of hers. She remembers there were plenty of good times with him, too. The two remember a little too well until the attraction is so strong Quinn has to extricate herself from some pretty seductive situations and decide just which life she’s going to live—the one with her new man or her old one. Besides loving her current husband, there’s her young son whom she misses desperately whenever she visits her old life.
Back and forth she goes. When tension rises in one of the worlds, she slides on back to the other, and she finds it hard to resolve all the issues at once.
A delicious read, optioned by HBO, you can purchase The Other World here.
Ellen Meister’s highly-anticipated novel, Farewell, Dorothy Parker, will be out on with Putnam in February 2013 and promises to be every bit as brilliant and inventive, not to mention hysterical in that dry and infamous Dorothy-Parker-kind-of way.
Violet Epps, a mousy movie critic, suddenly develops a commanding voice in the review world mainly because she learns to be a conduit for Dorothy Parker’s cantankerous spirit, who refuses to leave this earth. Using her literary idol’s scorching wit, Violet excels in her field but wishes deeply that she had the same kind of power over her personal life. She even visits the Algonquin Hotel to try to garner the kind of strength Dorothy Parker was celebrated for, only to get more entangled than she meant to with the literary lioness’s own unique, other-worldly complications.
Open the cover, turn to the first page, and you are in a time capsule–China before Mao; France, Germany, Italy and Poland during World War II; San Francisco in a time when private eyes spoke strangled English to shapely, fawning, double-dealing babes; San Quentin prison when the death penalty was carried out by dropping a potassium cyanide pellet into a pail of sulfuric acid.
A powerful stream of tradition runs through these stories wherever and whenever they are set. But the stronger current is their persistent moral tone. What is True? What is right? Who raises above the weight of convention to choose good above evil? Who fails, and why? That is where these stories take us, no matter how diverse their topic, tone or setting. The reader is transported to the brink of a moral cliff, peers over the edge into the abyss, and is pulled back by love or logic or laughter. It is an exhilarating experience from beginning to end.
My favorite Lester Gorn story: Spanish Lesson. My favorite James N. Frey story: Where True Love Can Take you.
Nate Jordon’s extraordinary new chapbook The Weekender holds nothing back but takes us right inside a jail and fairly slams us—no, not up against the wall—but with truths about what’s going on in our jail system these days. The tone of absurdity is wonderfully well-wrought through this memoir as our narrator mentions to one person after another as he wanders through the system that, yes, he’s here for the weekend, “Unless somebody’s made some kind of clerical error.” The language is striking, and our narrator’s demeanor is caught up in an understandable chill state until he can get this sentence over with.
Nothing is held back inside the Merced County Corrections Facility. Sure, there is the cheek spread and full cavity search we’ve all heard about, but here we’re told in a human tone and in a voice every bit as angry as we’d be. And there are some other rather nasty searches of personal areas as well. Can you imagine sixty men in one locked cell filled with almost nothing but bunk beds, only a few inches to even walk to the door? Bad enough if it were just regular folk, but with some of the crazed and pent-up men described here, scary is putting it mildly.
If you’ve always wondered what it would be like inside, this is the book for you, especially since the writing is so elegant and spare. Jordon’s not going to flower things up for you. The book is full of compelling details that paint a very clear picture.
There is plenty of irony. Take, for instance, the fact that some of these inmates are only coming in for the weekend because they have forty-eight hour sentences or because they’re only serving weekends. Yes, they’re thrown right in there with the murderers and rapists waiting to be transferred to prison. So here they are, these weekenders, ready to do their duties, pay for what they’ve done. They arrive for their lock up in plenty of time—no one wants to anger The Man, then are forced to stand outside in the freezing cold for four hours until jail personnel has the time to bring them in.
Expertly conveyed in the book is that these guys may be rabble rousers, breakers of serious laws, men who may live by their own passionate moral codes—even some jerks who did something stupid—most of them have humbly turned themselves over to a higher authority and are here in earnestness to pay for what they’ve done and get out. The ridiculous things they’re asked to do, the food they’re required to live on, makes even the more sedate among us truly fume.
Excellent book! Read it now. Read it here: The Weekender.