Tag Archives: InDigest

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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Getting Better; Moving On

welcomebackMy last post was April 28th. It’s so hard to believe it’s been that long already. I’d hoped to do a better job documenting how things were going, but honestly, I just haven’t felt up to it until recently. If good things come to those who wait, I should really be due some amazing stuff soon….

In my last post, I talked a little about my battle with ulcerative colitis. I’m still battling through the same flare up, but things are finally getting a little better. First of all, I finally had to switch doctors. I simply felt I wasn’t getting the care I needed and that’s the nice thing about having options: there’s always the possibility for second opinions.

The 6-MP still makes me nauseous, but not nearly to the extent it did when I first started taking it. I’m hoping to taper off that sooner rather than later. My new doctor, after countless screens, scopes, and tests, decided to bring out the big guns, medically speaking, and try some biologic medication. If you’ve seen ads on TV for Humira, you’ve at least heard of biologics before. I’m now taking something similar to Humira called Simponi, which I give myself via injections once a month (after this month; the first month, you have to give yourself two injections).

Humira and Simponi belong to a family of drugs called TNF-blockers that work by directly affecting your immune system. Since ulcerative colitis (like rheumatoid arthritis) is an autoimmune disease, these drugs go in and try to tame the immune system to get it to stop attacking the body. I gave myself my first injection on Wednesday. I’ll spare you the details, but it seems like the drug might already be working. Even if it’s just a coincidence, the small improvement in my symptoms is certainly welcome.

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My Top 10 Literary Websites: 2013 edition!

Best EverIn 2010, I wrote the most popular post on Category Thirteen, ever. I listed my Top 10 Literary Websites and, apparently, people really dug that topic — enough, at least, that they ended up on my site and must’ve told others about it. Well, it’s 2013 and I’ve realized something: I was a slacker for 2011 and 2012 (among many other things, obvi.). So, in the spirit of giving people what they want, I’ve updated my list and am pretty damn excited about it!

Let’s take a look my top 10 literary websites, and by 10, of course I mean 12!

1 ) The Rumpus – The more things change, the more they stay the same. This should really be no surprise. Not only has the Rumpus kept on doing what it does best (i.e. just about everything), they continue to up their game, which very few websites can claim. Isaac Fitzgerald and Stephen have a truly amazing thing going with The Rumpus with some great original ideas (e.g. “The Daily Rumpus,” “Letters in the Mail,” “The Last Book I Loved,” “Where I Write,” etc.), and it doesn’t hurt that they have some incredible talent backing them up, specifically their essays editor, Roxane Gay, and Dear Sugar herself, Cheryl Strayed. It seems incredible that I’ve actually written for this site given the level of talent surrounding it! Their book club is also stellar—you should join!

2 ) The Nervous BreakdownI really can’t say enough good things about Brad Listi and the work he puts into his Other People Podcast. Listi’s really on the bleeding edge of what’s hot in lit. right now and you needn’t look any further than his A+ guest list. The Nervous Breakdown serves as a truly wonderful compliment to the show with hilarious author self-interviews, fantastic essays, and kickass book club.

3) The MillionsThe Millions is still awesome. C. Max Magee’s site has been featured on NPR and noted by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Village Voice, among others. One of my favorite lit-related things in the universe is The Millions’ “A Year in Reading” where the editors ask a bunch of writers I really admire what their favorite books of the year were. The Millions’ “Top 10” and “Hall of Fame” are also can’t miss features.

4 ) HTMLGiant – Blake Butler & co. are still keeping lit. edgy at HTMLGiant. I’m a huge fan of their “25 Points” feature, as well as their giveaways, commentaries, and multi-part series (like “How to Be a Critic”). HTMLGiant also features a lot of writers I love reading like Jimmy Chen, Melissa Broder, Sean Lovelace, Lily Hoang, Adam Robinson, and Peter Tieryas Liu.

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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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2 Poems for the Apocalypse

I did a reading from the InDigest Magazine Apocalypse Bunker, special for today. You all probably don’t have Internet by now; blame the alien mayan death star only visible from the opposite side of the planet from which you currently sit. Anywhoozle, here are 2 poems!!

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Gene Wolfe’s Shadow & Claw: A Review

It’s no secret that I love me some Game of Thrones on HBO and A Song of Ice and Fire literature. There’s a sort of dead space right now with no new episodes of the show and the release of the 6th book still off in the indeterminate future somewhere. For many of us, this space needs to be filled, and as such, I’ve bravely taken it upon myself to venture out into the wilds of Powell’s Books‘ high-literary sci-fi/fantasy section to see just what the heck else is out there!

I should mention right away that I’m actually giving volumes 1 & 2 of Gene Wolfe’s 1980s The Book of the New Sun (Shadow & Claw) a 4.5 star rating — there were only a few small (but somewhat significant) details that kept me from giving this book 5 stars . . .

. . . Wolfe keeps his story fresh by using terms that jar the reader in their alien appearance to describe everyday things — especially the names of the flora and fauna — though never so much that it alienates the reader. Smilodons and other creatures that have or may have at one time lived on the reader’s own Earth inhabit Wolfe’s universe. He takes special care in keeping the reader guessing at which parts of his narrative might actually even be factual historic (Earth) record, though he weaves it into his plotting that it’s almost indistinguishable from his imagination.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It adds to the narrative’s mystique and builds the intricate story, and that’s what’s most important. . . .

Check out the rest of my review over at InDigest Magazine!!

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Hi there! Remember me?! | 06.30.12

To say it’s been a while would be a complete understatement! Life gets busy even when you wish it’d slow down. . . .

I don’t have a lot of new writing news, though I did land a sweet gig managing most of the visible web content for The Lit Pub, and I got to review Matt Bell’s truly excellent novel(la) Cataclysm Baby for [PANK] Magazine recently as well. If you haven’t read this book (or anything else written by Matt Bell) you should totally do so, ASAP!

HBO’s Game of Thrones just wrapped up its second season and it was honestly just as fantastic as its debut! Our crack reviews “team” (i.e. Dustin Luke Nelson and I) at InDigest Mag compiled a list of our likes and dislikes about the show’s deviations from the book. I was actually pretty happy with what we came up with when all was said and done!

Speaking of Game of Thrones, I recently finished reading book 5 of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, A Dance with Dragons, and it was simply epic — almost as good as book 3, A Storm of Swords (just ignore the middling Amazon reviews; trust me). Now the only real problem is waiting for G.R.R.M. to finish writing book 6. . . .

Though, problematically, finishing all five of the “Song of Ice and Fire” books in such quick succession has left a significant, nigh gaping sci-fi/fantasy-tinged hole in my reading life; a hole I’d forgotten existed since reading Tolkien in high school; a hole I’ve been trying desperately to fill for the past month. So like most anything I do, if I’m going to do it right (i.e. “all out”), I research the hell out of it and then hit the bookstore.

Here are some of my latest acquisitions:

I sort of went “no holds barred” on this venture. We’ve got series, standalone books, sci-fi, steampunk, fantasy, and everything in between. Lord of Light was recommended to me by my “go to” man with a plan, David Atkinson. As soon as he started describing it to me[1], I didn’t need any further coaxing — I was definitely sold. Acacia by David Anthony Durham[2] actually got some really great praise from George R.R. Martin, himself, which was good enough for me.

And American Gods was written by Neil Gaiman, which in and of itself should be fairly self-explanatory.

Moving down the stack is The Difference Engine,[3] a book by two more authors who probably need no introduction: William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. I highly recommend the 20th Anniversary Edition with a great intro by Cory Doctorow and some really interesting commentary at the end from the authors. Sandwiched in the middle of the four books that are part of their own series is Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic, called by many readers and critics alike “the best Russian sci-fi novel ever written” (and also spawned the STALKER movie(s) and video games).

See? I told you I did some research.

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So I Was Thinking…

…about this blog/website.

I was also thinking of the other bazillion social media feeds to which I’ve attached my name: Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

I’m trying to figure out how to keep things from becoming redundant. This is trickier than it sounds.

My thought is to keep the blog updated once a week, Tumblr once a day, and Twitter, well, if you follow me (@JoeMOwens) you know keeping up with that won’t be a problem. Facebook, I’m just saying whatever to. It’ll probably get updated close to every day but it might not. We’ll see.

I’ve got a problem when it comes to parsing out what I want to post where. It causes me anxiety and paralysis by analysis.

I have to make sure I’m creating my share of content for InDigest and Specter, while also posting stuff on Cat13. Tricky, tricky…

This would be an entirely less significant problem if only I were a more prolific writer. But I’m not.

So we’ll just have to see how it goes…

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Latest Cat13 Rumblings

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Specter Literary Magazine yet, you should! Oh, I should also mention that I’ve landed myself a gig there as a columnist– two posts so far! Click right here.

It feels weird being done with my MFA program. Now I’m attempting to find some sort of job in the real world which is… fun… I guess.

Oh, and definitely keep tabs on the InDigest blog. Lots of fun stuff going on there! I’ve been the blog editor there for a little over a month and really love it!

Also, I’ve had a couple book reviews for The Iguana Complex and Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate published on PANK‘s blog.

The last bit of news is that my promotion to Associate Editor at Grey Sparrow Press is going well. The new issue is fantastic and we’ve got a killer new site design in the works.

Stay tuned!

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