Category: Writing

This Jealous Earth

Midwestern Gothic’s latest venture, This Jealous Earth by Scott Dominic Carpenter, is here and ready for you to read. Even though you could make a strong argument that I’m biased, I loved this collection of short stories. (if I didn’t, why would I be publishing it?)

When Rob and I first talked about starting MG Press, the imprint putting out this book, we wanted to find a piece of work that reflected all the values of Midwestern Gothic, one that really showcased not just the region, but the talent residing here. Scott’s book fit the bill perfectly. It blew away the bill. We couldn’t have hoped for a better submission.

It’s been a lot of hard work to get to here – but it’s been worth it. And there’s a lot more ahead, as we try to bring this collection of 16 short fictions to readers. But we’re extremely thrilled to share this with the world and hear what people think.

Pick up a paperback or eBook of This Jealous Earth

Midwestern Gothic Issue 8

A new year, and that means a new issue of Midwestern Gothic.

Issue 8 (Winter 2013) of Midwestern Gothic might just have my favorite cover so far – the image of the Cornfield Horses from David J. Thomspon is one of those unique shots that we just couldn’t ignore. It’s a little bit whimsical, and a lot weird, but that’s what makes us love it – just like we love the Midwest. Once you get past that and into the guts of the issue, there’s still plenty of whimsy, weird and stuff you won’t find anywhere else but the Midwest.

One of the pieces that stuck with me the most in this particular collection was Michelle Webster-Hein’s “Pictures of Pictures.” In it, Helen takes photos of the memories of her friends who all live far more interesting lives than she does. It catches up to her when she tries to win the affection of the man who develops her photos. Webster-Hein’s Helen is pathetic, but there’s a bit of her in myself, or anyone who’s lived vicariously through another’s experiences rather making something happen for themselves. The endearing characterization brings to life a common thread among Midwesterners, who often find themselves stuck in place with no first-hand knowledge of what lies beyond the outer borders of their personal purview. Here’s an excerpt:

The next day Helen purchased a mini tape recorder and a package of mini tapes and stopped by Gertrude’s house.

“Tell me about Europe,” Helen said, and she turned on the tape recorder.

“What do you want to know?” Gertrude said.

Helen shrugged. “Where you’ve been, what you did there, how it felt.”

Gertrude eyed the tape recorder questioningly.

“I just want to remember,” Helen said.

After she left Gertrude’s with two full tapes, Helen stopped by to see Miriam, who had lived in France, and then dropped in on Jeanette, who had spent some time in Italy.

Over the next three days, Helen replayed each tape over and over and jotted down key notes on a pad of paper. In front of the mirror, she practiced certain
phrases and retold favorite anecdotes, replacing husbands with friends.

“A few years ago in Paris,” she would say and would then flip her wrist in what she hoped was a nonchalant gesture. These introductory phrases she practiced over and over until they sounded matter-of-fact. “The last time I was in Italy,” she’d say, or, “When I first spotted Tallinn from a distance.”

Get a copy of Issue 8 and discover more great voices in Midwestern literature

The Lantern Guard

The fine folks over at Fiction on the Web, one of the oldest purveyors of online fiction, have published my short story, The Lantern Guard. It falls within the fantasy (swords, not sorcery) genre, and examines what happens when a king disarms his elite fighting guard after a hard won period of peace, leaving nothing but uncertain futures for the soldiers.

The door yawned – Culverin needed only break free of a handful of men locked in hand-to-hand combat before he’d vanish into the city. Arbalest hesitated, and let instinct take over. His heart calmed, his feet grew light and fleet. The hitching post, seven stairs and standard pole became tools in his hands. Arbalest flowed over them and alighted atop a pedestal, arm circled around the stone stag crowning it for balance.

Culverin and the king emerged from the seething mass, Imes’ face red and pained, Culverin glancing over his shoulder at a pursuit that might never come. Arbalest steeled himself and leapt, air rushing through his hair and salty beard, heart swelling in the moment before impact.

Read the rest of the story at Fiction on the Web

This Jealous Earth

Whew! After some long months of hard work I can finally talk about this awesome project!

As you may know, I co-founded Midwestern Gothic because I think the Midwest is gorgeous, but overlooked. I get to meet and read all sorts of phenomenal work from people around the region through the literary journal.

And now, we’re expanding! MG Press is a micro-press devoted to publishing a small number of titles each year. An extension of the literary journal Midwestern Gothic, MG Press retains the same core values: shining a spotlight on Midwest authors by focusing on works that showcase all aspects of life—good, bad, or ugly.

This Jealous Earth by Scott Dominic Carpenter
AND, to double down on the awesome news, we’re announcing our first book! This Jealous Earth from Scott Dominic Carpenter. I can honestly say, out of all the submissions we got, this was one of two collections that really grabbed me – every single story took me for a ride. At the end of the day, I knew if MG Press didn’t put it out – I’d regret it. I’m so happy we and Scott could unleash this on the world. There’s plenty more information here, so go check it out!

Midwestern Gothic Summer Issue

Kick back in a hammock and chill with the latest issue of Midwestern Gothic.

Honestly, this is probably my favorite cover. I can hear those dogs whining and howling in my head – awesome. The guts of the book are pretty sweet too. The story that stood out most to me in this issue was Makeup by Hadley Moore. It’s about a woman, marred with a wine stain birth mark, and a gift of cover up makeup from her well-intentioned mother.

Anne Marie hadn’t worn makeup in nearly thirty years. The last time, she was ten and had filched some cheap drugstore stuff from her parents’ bathroom. She’d glopped it on and walked down the street to the playground. She wanted to see what it was like to be out in public as a different girl, a regular girl.

A boy from her class was sitting alone on a swing, and Anne Marie sat down next to him. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Laura.”

He looked at her. “You’re Anne Marie.” He paused. “And you’re still ugly.”

Since then that was the only kind of attention she could expect from boys— and now men—not cruelty, just this matter-of-fact disregard.

You’re still ugly, Anne Marie told her reflection. You’re still ugly.

The story explores a lifetime of layered judgements upon the main character, to the point where it stifles her, and deftly introduces a new layer in a way that forces her to see herself in a new light. All in all, loved it.

See who else contributed to the issue and pick up a copy or eBook for yourself. Go to the book’s page on Midwestern Gothic

Review of Sea of Trees

Sea of Trees, Robert James Russell’s inaugural novella from Winter Goose Publishing needles at one of the darkest moments in the human experience – when a person decides to commit suicide. But the prose refuses to be bogged down by the weight of the subject matter, instead forging relentlessly through an ever-darkening forest with the promise of thinning on the other side.

Sea of Trees by Robert James Russell
Sea of Trees by Robert James Russell

The novella covers one main story arc, that of Bill and Junko as they walk in the footsteps of Izumi, Junko’s troubled sister, who came before. Interspersed within are self-contained vignettes that focus on a different suicide in the Aokigahara Forest in Japan, one of the world’s most notorious suicide locations and the backdrop of the main arc. Each vignette pushes you deeper into the darkness of Aokigahara, until you look around and realize there is no way back.

Bill, playing the role of the naïve narrator, serves as a fine point of view as Russell leads us through what is truly Junko’s journey. He’s American, fails to fully grasp the Japanese culture and sees their trek through the forest as something he can return from unchanged. The fact that his focus is mostly on Junko’s physical beauty and the potential for a liaison underscores how oblivious he is to the dark path she is leading him down.

The intertwining of the narratives, the naiveté of the narrator and the increasingly frantic Junko all spiral towards an inevitable conclusion, like a tightly controlled whirlpool from which there is no escape. Bottom line – read this book, however you can get your hands on it.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find here

You can also find the indomitable Robert James Russell on the web, and on twitter.

Love. Sci-Fi. Homosexuality.

Leah Petersen’s debut novel from Dragon Moon Press, Fighting Gravity is a phenomenal love story set against an epic sci-fi universe where interplanetary travel, ground-breaking scientific innovations and opulent riches are commonplace.

Oh, and that love story? It’s a gay love story.

The nice thing about her book is that it focuses on those elements, in that order. In fact, I wouldn’t even say the fact that the two main characters are both men is the third most important element she’s woven into this rich story. Class stratification, coming of age and realizing potential are all part of the journey of Jacob Dawes, a too-intelligent-for-his-station kid plucked from the slums of Earth to attend an exclusive academy for the Empire’s best and brightest. Sexuality is merely a detail.

It’s refreshing to read about a world where who someone chooses to love doesn’t matter, but rather focuses on why and how Jacob’s character comes to fall for Emperor himself.

And it’s the twists and turns, the imperfections and the messiness, of that relationship that’s the strength of the novel. Jacob and Pete are different people, but the magnetism binding them together forces those rough, jutting edges to rub against each other. It truly is a love story about a real relationship.

While Fighting Gravity is set in a sci-fi universe, it’s not about the tech or the fancy do-hickey that blasts plasma into antimatter. Rather, it provides a rich backdrop for the characters to populate. Her depictions of things new and wondrous to Jacob are appropriately breathtaking, but not once does this futuristic world get in the way of the flow of the story. The world of Fighting Gravity feels like a place that exists somewhere down the road, and Petersen is merely returning from a trip to a future, our future, and has chosen to tell us about it through this story of love.

Go devour Fighting Gravity from Dragon Moon Press

Leah is one of my favorite follows on Twitter, and you can find her blogging and knitting away at leahpetersen.com.

29 Days of Fantasy

Now that I’ve got you here, I’m going to send you somewhere else. I’m part of a very cool project Thomas A. Knight is running over on his blog, 29 Days of Fantasy. He’s lined up all sorts of authors to delve into the different facets of my favorite literary genre, fantasy.

My post went up today, and I wrote about something light and airy – death! More specifically, why killing your primary characters, especially in a fantasy novel, is a good idea. Here’s an excerpt from Kill Your Darlings – Why Primary Characters Deserve to Die:

Death is a powerful tool to make that connection. Everyone has had an experience with a loved one or friend dying. And even if they haven’t, they’ve worried about it. There are countless, complex emotions attached to death. Fear, regret, longing, relief and anger are just some of the ripe areas to explore.

But it has to be a major character to have an impact. Think about your own life. How would you feel if a secondary character in your own life died? A distant cousin, or a friend you see three times a year? What about your father? Or your daughter?

I won’t give it all away here – go check it out! While you’re at it, browse around the other awesome posts and bookmark this page, so you can come back and read what hasn’t been posted yet.

Read Kill Your Darlings – Why Primary Characters Deserve to Die

Midwestern Gothic Turns Four

Around this time last year, Robert James Rusell and I started talking about starting a literary journal focused on the Midwest. Neither one of us were quite sure how it’d turn out, whether or not we’d even get people to submit, or if we’d even manage to convince someone to read an issue.

Fast-forward to a year later, and I think the journal has exceeded both our expectations. Every time we open submissions, I’m constantly surprised not just by the quantity of stories and poetry we get, but the quality. Every issue we have to make the tough decision of where to draw the line in the sand, and every time we leave excellent works on the cutting room floor.

The Winter 2012 (#4) Issue is our biggest, and I won’t risk the old cliché of trying to claim it’s our best. But now that we’ve got a full year under our belt, I think we have found something that only a handful of other literary journals have – an identity. Each story, character and setting feels uniquely Midwestern, yet still resonates outside the region.

Midwestern Gothic Stats:
4 Issues
121 Contributors
253,279 Words
84 Stories
42 Poems
413 Tweets

I can’t share all the details, but the next year has plenty to be excited about. I can’t say what exactly just yet – you’ll just have to take my word for it.

In the meantime, head over to the site, browse the photography, meet a few of our contributors and maybe pick up an issue or two.

Midwestern Gothic

Win Fabulous Prizes from Leah Petersen

Everyone loves free stuff, right?

If you don’t, this post is not for you. Right now over at leahpetersen.com there’s a little contest going on where you can enter to win books or hand-crafted knitted items – which is perfect because snowpocalypse is about to hit Chicago.

So if you’ve got a few head over there, follow her blog and twitter feed (because the best thing she has to give away for free are her online words)