Author Archives: Fiction Advocate

Before the Crash

Bright Shards of Someplace Else

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I mean this in the kindest and most kinetic way: the stories in Monica McFawn’s debut collection, Bright Shards of Someplace Else, remind me of that moment before a car accident. Split seconds elongate to a prolonged nowhere-time when you have a few languorous moments to notice the oddest details—why did I buy that dumb hanging air freshener, who the hell would still have a McCain/Palin bumper sticker, and by the way, what’s with gravity?—before the inevitable crunch and whimper. Not that these stories ever end in high drama. Characters spin slightly out of control, and rarely do McFawn’s stories click neatly shut; instead, we’re hanging on with them in that slow revolution before impact, often more aware than they are of what set these bodies in motion.

The “shards” in the title refer to one character’s memory of the sparks behind her closed eyelids after her stepfather struck her as a child. What she felt then was an unexpected and sudden release; the Technicolor vision behind her eyes was “evidence of another world seeping through.” To me, the “shards” refer to the well-articulated characters in this collection. They have no idea just how broken they are.

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Edition Wars

5e

5e

Dungeons & Dragons is supposed to be a fantasy game. You might descend an ancient staircase to an abandoned wizard’s chamber and ambush the slobbering goblins who lurk there. But when the game ends, the adventure stops.

Fearing that the fantasy might creep into the real world, a number of Christian groups and concerned parents have opposed D&D over the years, including my own seventh-grade teacher, Mrs. Bueckman, who forbid us from playing D&D because it would invite Satan into our lives and make us run away to the woods and hack each other’s heads off. But in the 40 years that D&D has been around, most players have kept their heads. The fears have been unfounded. What happens in the dragon’s lair stays in the dragon’s lair.

Until now.

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The Honeymoon

The Honeymoon

Harvey was reminded of miniature golf courses. The large, cartoonish figures scattered around the courtyard were separated by three or four types of shrubbery and a thin chicken-wire barrier to keep out vandals and pests. Small paths branched off in different directions leading to one plaster sculpture or another. He wondered for a moment if he should feel guilty. They were gods, after all. His mind did something like a shrug.

Pearl straightened her hair in the bathroom mirror. She carefully rearranged the pieces of metal holding it in place and thought about pistons. She didn’t know much about pistons, but she imagined infinite rows of them efficiently doing their job, whatever that is.

Between Pearl and Harvey was a sign that said “Do Not Pluck Flowers.” There were no flowers to pluck, but the couple immediately thought of chickens. They did not consult one another, but they may have felt a warm camaraderie if they had.

Over a loudspeaker someone prayed in monotone in a language they didn’t understand. They’d learned only important words, like the names of a few common menu items and a polite way to say hello, but none of these words were used in the prayer, and they were not moved by the lyrics about goodness and equality, even though those subjects were exactly the kinds of things they cared about.

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Hitting Shelves #10: Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg

Gangsterland

Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg comes out today!

It’s the story of Sal Cupertine, a hit man for the Chicago Mafia who kills three FBI agents, runs away to Las Vegas, and changes his identity… to Rabbi David Cohen, the surprisingly capable leader of a Jewish community in the desert. But the FBI won’t let him go. Goldberg is a widely accomplished writer: he is the director of the MFA Program at UC Riverside, and the author of 12 books, including original novels based on the TV show Burn Notice.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of Gangsterland?

Tod Goldberg: When my first book came out – this was almost fifteen years ago now – I had a book signing that very same day at the Barnes & Noble in Las Vegas, where I was living at the time. I arrived fifteen minutes early and saw people flooding into the store. Well, I thought, this is going to be awesome. It turns out that my book was coming out on the same day a little book called Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire was also being released – something no one bothered to tell me, nor something I would have thought mattered, anyway, because I was 29 and knew everything – and, well, it ended up being a fairly anti-climactic day, though we do have a nice first edition of Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire.

When my second book came out a few years later, I determined it would be different. As happenstance, the book was released on my wedding anniversary, which seemed like good luck. So, what the hell, we planned an event that day. What could go wrong? That morning, I ran to answer the phone – this was in a time when a thing called “landlines” still existed and which, if not answered, would go to a thing called “the answering machine,” and that was an unreliable system, so one had to run when the phone rang – and ended up breaking three toes on my right foot. I played soccer as a kid so I was used to breaking my toes, so I just, you know, taped them up and pretended nothing was wrong and went about my day, pain shooting into my eyes every time I used my foot. Or breathed. Or someone else breathed. I mean, basically, I was in excruciating pain. And those toes still don’t work quite right. The event that night was great, what I remember of it, other than the burning white pain and how now, years later, when it rains, I walk with a slight limp. Continue reading

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Coming Soon: Mine is Clouds

Richard Brautigan 1084

Great god a’mighty!

We’re excited to announce that Fiction Advocate is publishing a new anthology of works inspired by Richard Brautigan.

This marvelous beast is edited by Shawn Andrew Mitchell, with an introduction by Ianthe Brautigan, and with contributions from ROCKSTAR WRITERS WHO SET OUR PRECIOUS HEARTS AFLUTTER including Jesse Ball, Aimee Bender, Pinckney Benedict, Christopher Boucher, Ryan Boudinot, Anisse Gross, Michael Hennessey, Ben Loory, Joe Meno, Theresa Ann Williams, and more to be announced. G’damn!

It’s called Mine is Clouds.

On sale March 2015.

You’re going to love it.

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Read Anything

Ex Libris

FA review tag

I picked up Ex Libris in a manner that its author would approve of: in a used bookstore. I’ve actually owned it for almost seven months, but I only got around to reading it now, because I wasn’t in love with reading for a while. If I had read it right away, I might have reconciled with it sooner.

The first collection from essayist and reporter Anne Fadiman, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is the chronicle of a life devoted to bibliophilia. Reading, words, and books are everywhere—as obsession, addiction, and pleasure.

But Fadiman does not fall into the trap of being overly precious about books as physical objects. Her extensive collection is largely categorized and alphabetized, she would not be caught dead sorting by color and size, and it took ten years of cohabitation before she was willing to merge shelves with her husband and toss the duplicates, but she revels in marginalia, inscriptions, and the wear on used editions. As she remarks in “Never Do That To A Book” after her brother leaves a book open face down on a family vacation and a maid bookmarks it, closes it, and leaves him a scandalized note:

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Unmistakable Bulge

Unmistakable Bulge

When it’s right, it’s right and you can feel it in the air, when your bodies brush together the sparks fly and the ozone cooks; she cannot take her eyes off you, you cannot take your eyes off her, and nobody has to say a thing. As the elevator rose lurching slowly two flights, I wanted to put my hands on her shoulders and turn her toward me and watch her face tilt up and her lips part, I knew it would happen that way, that she would come in against me and I would press her against the elevator wall, and the kiss would be so hot and filled with excitement that we could slide down to the floor unknowing and clutch each other melting into one soul.

Naturally, that’s not what happened.

I didn’t lay a glove on her in the elevator. We didn’t even talk, I just looked at all that honey-ginger hair and thought about the way it would feel against my skin. When the elevator door opened and I saw the maid’s cart parked in front of my open door I wasn’t even slightly phased, but touched Sonny with the tips of my fingers at the small of her back and she moved into the suite turning up to me and smiling. My knees almost buckled from the look in her eyes.

“Be done in a minute,” the maid called from the kitchen.

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ONLY $0.99 FOR THE BLACK CAT BY J.M. GEEVER

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HOLY SMACK YOU GUYS THE BLACK CAT BY J.M. GEEVER IS ON SALE AS AN E-BOOK!

If you hate killing trees or you’ve been too (ahem) thrifty to buy the paperback, then take a deep breath, shake out your index finger so it’s really loose and limber, and click on the button below. You’ll get the EPUB, MOBI, and PDF versions for a special price of $0.99.

The Black Cat is a terribly original novel about old families, expensive California wines, superstitions, obscure European wars, vengeance, and more wine. It’s like if Edgar Allan Poe tried to describe the plot of East of Eden while he was sloshed.

You can read excerpts here and here.

“J.M. Geever writes with an erudition, wit, and mystery reminiscent of The Crying of Lot 49 and the historical soul of Arc d’X. With The Black Cat, he perfectly captures the essence of California’s place in both the idealization and disintegration of the American dream.”

– Matthew Gallaway, author of The Metropolis Case

You are going to love The Black Cat. For only $0.99.

- Fiction Advocate

 

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