Tag Archives: human services

My Writing Process Blog Tour: Bro, Do You Even Write?!

Hungary Toxic WasteBig thanks for Nate Tower for tagging me to join this literary blog tour about the writing process. Basically/ostensibly, I answer four questions and then pass those same four questions to a few more writers. We do this until every writer in the known cosmos and at least four contiguous parallel universes has had a turn (past four and the rules of spacetime get a little dicey*).

Nate Tower is the managing and founding editor of Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and Press. His short fiction has appeared in over 200 online and print publications. In 2014, Martian Lit released his first short story collection, Nagging Wives, Foolish Husbands. He is a former high school English teacher and the former world record holder for the fastest mile running backwards while juggling. He currently lives in Minneapolis with his wife and daughter. Visit him at nathanieltower.wordpress.com.

As for me, well, here we go:

1. What are you working on?

Like Nate who went before me, I currently have three main projects I’m working on right now.

The first thing is a novel called Human Services. It’s a sort of spin-off of Benji Palko’s character in my story collection, Shenanigans! where it focuses on the people who work at The Agency and all of the insanity that occurs in a professional office setting. I would say it’s pretty much solidly in the literary fiction camp. I’m still in the earlier stages of this project, sitting at around 16,000 words (as of typing this). Other pieces of Human Services have appeared online though, like this chapter over at InDigest called “Mr. Twitchy.”

The second project is more genre-flavored, and it’s sort of . . . massive. I’ve been kicking it around in my mind for a few years now, which is a sort of literary epic sci-fi/fantasy novel tentatively called Deorum et Viri: “Of Gods and Men.” I grew up reading lots of sci-fi and fantasy—especially the latter—and always kind of wanted to do something in the genre that originally inspired me to be a writer. It wasn’t until recently, with the popularity of the A Song and Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) that I sort of realized that this was a viable option for me, like, right now. That is to say, I’d really been wanting to use the skills I’d picked up writing literary fiction the past seven or eight years and apply it to something more genre-related. Perhaps the work most responsible for this epiphany, even more so than Game of Thrones, is M. John Harrison’s unbelievably impressive Viriconium omnibus. The prose is awe-inspiring and the way he includes elements of surrealism tinged with bits of magical realism is something I can’t begin to do justice here. You’d simply have to read it yourself.

The final project is a new short story collection called Irrational Attachments to Inanimate Objects. You can actually read the first story from this collection called “Now You See Me” over at Bartleby Snopes! There isn’t a whole lot to say about this collection yet other than the title will be a running theme throughout the book; I think the first story sort of gives that impression, or at least I hope it does!

2. How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

Genre is so hard to talk about when you really don’t want to be constrained by it. Just ask one of my all time favorite writers, Ursula K. Le Guin. I just want to write books that at least a few people really like. It’s an incredibly humbling thing when someone tells you that your work really resonated with him/her. It makes you want to write a special book just for that person because he or she took the time to read your work that they could’ve spent doing any number of other things. Perhaps that’s what’s different about my work, how personal I want it to be for a select few. Or maybe it’s just that I want to write the stories that are in my head without thinking about what genre they are or should be. I’m probably not the best person to ask since I’m honestly not sure; it seems like a discerning reader could give a better answer here!

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My 2013 is Going Out With a Bang!

awesome

Well, this has certainly been a pretty kickass year overall for Cat13, despite not writing too many new things — especially when factoring in the second half of the year! Is it a coincidence w/r/t the number 13 and its sheer awesomeness? The moon’s gravitational pull on the tides? Swamp gas? You’ll have to decide. . . .

I found out around June that my “collectio[novel]la” Shenanigans! was a Finalist for a Next Generation Indie Book Award.

My newest short story, “Now You See Me” was published over at Bartleby Snopes, which then managed to snag “Story of the Month” honors for October!

InDigest Magazine had a killer relaunch recently and “Mr. Twitchy,” a chapter excerpt from my forthcoming novel Human Services is featured in the latest issue (and live online).

There rumblings on the music front too. Without too much build up, here we go guys/gals: some remixes I did a long time ago (1999*) before it was easy to do using Traktor or Serato [yes, I know I’m old]: A Gravitaas Playlist: “SDK Sampler Ninety-Nine,” in all its (pseudo-)glory!

More news on the music front, the extraordinarily- and multi-talented Peter Tieryas Liu used a few of my tracks in some new video reviews, which is both awesome and humbling! I’ve listed two below:

HTML Giant featured Peter’s review of The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting Improvised Men by Gabriel Blackwell.

— And inspired by his review for The Lit Pub, Peter created a video for Janice Lee’s Damnation.

I’m working on a collaboration essay for The Good Men Project. More details to follow!

There is also some big news/a possible killer opportunity brewing for something on the horizon — but even I have to wait ’til Monday for more news.

Stay tuned (and bring on 2014!)!!

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Year(s)-in-Review // Year-in-Preview

I’ve been feeling contemplative lately. I’ve been reminiscing about 2011 and 2012, to be specific. Truthfully, they were pretty damn good years (aside from an almost crippling case of writer’s block toward the end of 2012). They were pretty good, but I think I can top both of them in 2013.

In 2011, I became the blog editor at InDigest Magazine; I did a reading at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, MN; and I had a short story accepted in [PANK] Magazine, which was- and is- certainly one of the highlights of my writing career thus far. I also got to do an interview with the magazine, which was truthfully almost as cool/fun as getting a story published.

And as great as 2011 was, 2012 turned out to be even better!

My collectio[novella] Shenanigans! was published by Grey Sparrow Press on the 50th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite books, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; I became the blog editor at The Lit Pub; I got to do an interview with the lovely, talented, and wonderful J.E. Reich at Art Faccia; and I got to play the kickass literary text-based adventure game, EXITS ARE, with Best American Short Stories author, Mike Meginnis!

So how could I possibly top the past two years?

My ultra-top-secret epic collaboration project is finally gaining some traction.

I found a way to push through a prickly plateau in the novel I’d previously shelved in 2010 (Human Services).

But most importantly, I think I have a much firmer grasp on who I am as a writer and on what I’m capable of producing. I’m not making any unrealistic New Year’s resolutions, unless you count “read more” and “write more,” but I just look at those as rededicating myself to my craft.

It’s a prevailing sense of optimism I feel about 2013. The apocalypse happened and no one noticed. It probably just means we need to get our asses back to work.

That’s what I’ll be doing.

You know where to find me.

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A New Year & “The Next Big Thing” Blog Hop

dawn breakingSo, holy shit! It’s a new year already and the world didn’t end in 2012, much to the chagrin of a few Doomsday preppers. It’s a new year and my only resolution is to write more — to write well, often and, of course, like a motherfucker!

Also, there’s this thing going around the Internets, “The Next Big Thing” actually. It’s a blog hop where writers talk about what they’re currently working on and tag other writers to participate. I’m both incredibly humbled and excited to be tagged by Nate Tower, the man with the plan behind Bartleby Snopes (easily one of the best indie lit. mags on the web). Here’s Nate’s own post. Once you check it out, hop back over here (if you want, of course) and see what I’m working on!

What is your working title of your book (or story)?

I’m actually working on two totally different projects right now. One is a novel called Human Services populated with eccentric characters that work for a kooky social work agency.

The other is (ostensibly) an epic sci-fi/fantasy collaboration I dreamed up, of which my novel will be but one in a series tentatively titled Deorum et Viri (Of Gods and Men, working title). The project — at least as it’s sketched out on paper — is so big, I’d never be able to finish it on my own!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The driving idea behind Human Services more or less comes from my family’s eponymous business. The field of human services/social work can be pretty insane, and since the business started, I’ve seen countless — truly countless — situations play out that were almost too preposterous to believe, let alone describe . . . almost.

Deorum et Viri’s life was probably honestly (for better or worse) most inspired by Game of Thrones. I only just got into George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series this year (after watching season one of the HBO series), but suffice it to say, I’m all caught up through book five. The books were infectious, incapacitating. I felt like I couldn’t possibly function unless I knew what happened next. The series rekindled my long dormant love for the fantasy genre, as well as sci-fi by-proxy.

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Stan Manley is not a good driver | 12.23.11

I was having a bit of trouble getting productive earlier today. It’s been one of those days; what can I say? But @alananoel and @mensahdemary challenged me, over Twitter, to just write 750 words in about an hour. I thought it’d be tough given the amount of trouble I’d been having sticking with anything resembling work today, but I’m happy to report that I finished with 796 words and potentially another (start of a) chapter of my novel. All’s well that ends well!

Stan Manley is not a good driver. No one who knows Stan well would contradict this statement. Even Stan’s mother—a woman who believes Stan can basically do no wrong, ever—refuses to ride with Stan unless all other transportation options have been exhausted. Stan’s chief problem, at least where the operation of motor vehicles is concerned, is that he unfailingly tries to do what he thinks his passengers want him to do, which he does in the interest of pursuing the path of least resistance and maximum driving harmony for all passengers. However, someone as highly anxious as Stan tries to be, for lack of a better term, vehicularly utilitarian, he panics, and the situation quickly deteriorates into utter chaos.

Passengers experience abrupt, somewhat violent lane changes precipitated merely by a passenger’s wayward glance, i.e. if he or she turns his/her head too quickly—a sure sign, Stan thinks, that he’s managed to miss his exit. Jerky stop-and-go acceleration and braking ensues signaling Stan’s attempt to gauge his passenger’s desired speed—a circumstance greatly worsened when Stan finds himself operating a car with a manual transmission, whereby a clutch pedal is added to the whole driving dynamic. Friends also joke that traces of Stan’s childhood dyslexia rear its head when he puts on his left blinker for a right-hand turn.

As a consequence, most times when Stan is with a group of friends or coworkers who need transportation, he simply opts for riding along, as a passenger. Stan, however, is, himself, a model passenger, never uttering a word of criticism despite the inordinate amount of shit he personally gets for his own driving abilities (or lack thereof). However, in a city with a public transportation system that leaves as much to be desired as Omaha’s, it’s nearly impossible to get around efficiently without driving “there” yourself, or catching a ride with a friend. Unfortunately, even when Stan is navigating the grid-patterned streets solo, it’s a no less harrowing experience.

Arguably, Stan’s biggest problem with respect to driving is overthinking. Many people are horrible drivers because of overestimating their abilities where multitasking is concerned. This is not applicable to Stan. Stan does not text while driving, nor does he talk on his smartphone. The mere thought of rear-ending another vehicle at forty-some-miles-per-hour because he was looking down to correct the autocorrected version of whatever he might have been trying to type causes Stan symptoms that suggest imminent hyperventilation.

Stan does not have to worry about being distracted by manipulating the dials on his stereo either. He drives in complete silence. There’s always a chance someone will call him while he’s driving and a too-loud stereo would prevent him from hearing his smartphone’s ringer. In the event he does receive a call, Stan immediately pulls over to the side of the road to answer it. Stan is also worried that he’ll be unable to hear the approach of an emergency vehicle over his music and thus, be unable to react in an appropriate and defensive-type way he was taught in high school driver’s ed. classes—classes Stan personally found tremendously helpful and of which he could never understand the nearly universal scorn of his fellow classmates.

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Me reading in a video and stuff

I’ve meant to post this for a while but that’s really no excuse for how long it’s taken me! This is me reading chapter 1 of my novel-in-progress, Human Services (with a truly fantastic introduction given by the wonderful and talented, Amy Hassinger). Enjoy!

Joseph Michael Owens reading “Contemptibly, A Hair” – Graduating MFA Residency from Joseph Owens on Vimeo.

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“The New Thing” finally has an official title!

…and a (semi)sweet-ass plot synopsis to go with it! Here it is in a roughly sketched form, below:

HUMAN SERVICES is a novel about people. Flawed people. Damaged people. More specifically, it’s a novel about flawed and damaged people desperately trying to help other flawed and damaged people. Problems arise when the unnamed Midwestern state’s government decides to privatize its Department of Health and Human Services, giving lead contracts to large, out-of-state corporate entities.

Rumors of imminent bankruptcy now facing the Furlong & Associates Agency begin to run rampant. Human service workers begin jumping ship. Supervisors weigh employment options against an inevitable economic recession. Everyone involved with The Agency is on pins and needles.

The ultimate success or failure depends on the business savvy of the Furlong & Associates upper management and their employees coming together as a team—as a family, even—putting aside petty personal rivalries for the future survival of The Agency.

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