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Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’


Sentiments of Blue book cover‘Gutsy’ was the first adjective that sprang to mind when I first received Sentiments of Blue. An even mix of five poems and five short stories is, in my experience, pretty unconventional. Despite the book’s brevity Garasamo Maccagnone manages to blend the ingredients together into a surprising course of appetizers and main dishes.

Key to any reading experience is the ability of the author to connect with the reader, regardless of the form presented. I am not much of a poet, mostly because I don’t understand the esoteric complexities of a properly written poem—that’s not to say I haven’t written a few of my own, but they are, by my definition, more aptly described as exposition in short form, thoughts or emotions expressed in a deeply personal, first-person scheme. More succinctly, I have simply tried to put the right words in the right order, but that’s what writing is all about. If I connect with a reader because the content was meaningful then I see my efforts as successful; Maccagnone starts his collection off with the same approach.

The Careers of my Mother is a wrenching paean to his mother, a laser of a Mothers Day card, one which at once tugs and rends the maternal instinct. Uncle Nardo’s Store is evocative in its solemnity, a haunting reflection of our current economical state-of-affairs. Drives with Dad and My Father’s Foot swing the pendulum hard in the opposite direction, both capable of eliciting a laugh and grimace—a little something in both these poems for the little boy in all of us.

Maccagnone can certainly tell a story. The sooty, unscrupulous confines of night shift in a blue-collar Michigan factory are conveyed in the story that gives the book its title, Sentiments of Blue. This one is a bit of a bumpy ride, as the storyline banks left then right. He presents a couple of truly intriguing characters in the narrator and Little Ricky, dresses them up and then doesn’t do much at all with Ricky until the end of the story, even then in an almost disappointingly passive manner. Little Ricky is so well presented initially that I felt the story would have been stronger with him as a larger figure in it. Of course the story isn’t about Little Ricky, it’s about the narrator, and as such the author does a nice job of bringing his story around.

The Conversion begins as a fun, character and dialogue driven story revolving around a couple of minor league hockey players being sent up to the majors. Again, Maccagnone does a wonderful job of letting us be a fly on the wall, and sets up what promises to be some real testosterone-fueled action—somebody’s going to get their a** kicked! I’d taken the bait and the author’s hook dangled free in my mouth, and just when I expected a tug to set the hook the line went slack. The story changes tack and, while still about the secondary character Animal, it suddenly moves into a different direction, a surprising one at that. Great banter and dialogue rev up the characters again until the end comes up and hits you in the face like a brick.

The Note Giver and Holy Thursday provide more evidence of Maccagnone’s ability to move a first-person story along with ease. But I believe the overall best told story is The Perfect Game—it’s fun, engaging, compelling all the way through, and there is a true satisfaction to the ending. I took particular delight in the cleverness of the title.

As a lover of words I am sensitive to the pitfalls and hurdles which any writer must be ever vigilant of. No one persons style will be appreciated by everyone; such matters are gilded in subjectivity and should be expected—that’s just the way things are. Mechanics and editing are concerns of crucial importance because they objectively impact the reading experience. I found a few of these while on my way through the book, and I believe any honest review needs to include mention of such instances. These things have the potential to completely derail me as a reader; if I have to back up and reread a passage two or three times then the author is in danger of losing my interest, of having me close the book and reshelve it. This is why editing should be done with a fine-toothed comb and not a garden rake.

A mixed metaphor caught my eye almost from the beginning of the title story, an instance where a breakroom is described as having “dirty yellow tile dripping with soot.” That slowed me to a crawl as I tried to rationalize the description in my head. I knew what was being implied, but dripping soot—the mere action of a dry particulate dripping as water from a leaky faucet—shook me from the developing storyline. In The Note Giver appears this line: “The image of those woman . . .” Another item I tripped over. These occurrences were not many, but given the quality of the author’s storytelling I, frankly, felt bad that these types of inconsistencies hadn’t been caught.

Conversely, I am resolute in my conviction that Maccagnone indeed has the literary chops to fashion an engaging story and keep a reader attached to his characters. He provides an almost visceral desire to interact with his characters, to pry yet more nuggets of color from their hard-lived circumstances. These stories are not about celebrity or heroism in their most contemptible sense, rather they’re about the roughness of being an individual, of being accountable for our own actions.

The world his characters inhabit is unabashedly male-centric, earthy, without the least whiff of romantic pretense. Relations between male and female characters are drawn so as to expose the gritty, even violent, nature of masculinity, the tacit foundation upon which their atmosphere coalesces—ultimately closer to Hemingway than Twain or Steinbeck. The copy on the back of the book nails it, describing the contents as “intended for mature audiences”, which contain “scenes that convey the fear, violence, lust and joy of real people living imperfect lives.”

Could there be a more plausible expression of what it means to be human?


Review copy of this book was provided by Pump Up Your Book/Cheryl Malandrinos and Garasamo Maccagnone — my genuine thanks to both!

If the review piqued your interest you can get the book online at:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

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Apparition on a staircaseA few nights ago I attended a chat hosted by Pump Up Your Book, a virtual tour company that helps authors get their names and books into the virtual world we all know as the internet—you remember, that thing invented by Al Gore.

Indulge me in a quick Stream-of-Thought Aside: You know what bothers me about that prior statement . . . that, God willing, all this data will survive far into the future—well after all of us have shuffled off to greener pastures—and whatever form of intelligence that is scouring this data may actually take as edict that Gore is the one responsible for the internet. How messed up would lhat be?

Anyhoo, the guest author at this chat was Susan Kronick, who came in to discuss the subject matter central to her novel Sarah, They’re Coming For You—specifically, ghosts.Susan Kronick's novel Sarah, They're Coming For You

Apparitions can be somewhat polarizing—some believe and some don’t. It’s fun to see how people react to someone who is in tune with the spiritual world, as it were. This chat was no different.

Early on, someone asked Susan what her first encounter with the incorporeal was like. She quickly responded that she was very young when it happened; she apparently was lying in bed, surrounded by these entities. So I swiftly asked if she was scared or calm. She had already been typing to finish her prior thought, because she answered my question, it seemed, the instant I hit ‘Send’.

“I was scared sh**less!” she typed.

Understand, if you’ve never attended a chat seesion like this (or chatted at all), things move pretty quick. Lots of side discussions and folks bantering back and forth—that’s ancillary to the actual topic of the moment. Sometimes, no matter how fast you type your continuation of a thread of conversation can get lost in the mix.

Well, based on Susan’s professions of paralytic anxiety I thought perhaps that was a good time to inject a tiny bit of absurdity into the fray, some balance.

“So you’re saying ghosts are a fantastic colonic?” I replied.

One person caught it (I think perhaps the only person) and said “Great question J.W.!”, followed about ten seconds later by “Oh, it was a joke. DUH!”

I don’t care who you are, that’s funny right there!

The session went on with lots of questions about how someone can see ghosts, their reason for being here, do they select only certain people to approach, and so forth. I resisted the urge to wax nostalgic about Casper, but was demonically tempted to ask if she ever pulled the mask off a ghost only to find out it was Avery, the town sheriff who said “I would have got away with it too if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!”

No, I didn’t do it.

We get to the end and the moderator tells us all that Susan has agreed to provide each of the chat participants an eBook copy of Sarah. Pretty cool, I thought. “But, there’s a catch . . .” she adds.

My fingers flew over the keys. “A catch?” I asked. “Do I have to watch Gigli?” I quickly added.

“Yes,” was Susan’s answer.

Myself and another guy in the ‘room’ sent simultaneously “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Some ghosts are best left alone.

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So today winds up another fun and interesting virtual blog tour. Doing the writing for the guest posts and interviews is work, assuredly, but it’s also enjoyable. But the stops I really look forward to are the book reviews. They are a source of minor anxiety for any author, but the whole reason we share our stories is because we’re curious as to how they make someone feel or think.

In that regard, I got a three-fold return today. In no particular order, I’d be very pleased indeed if you would take a few moments and read each of the reviews below:

• At Cafe of Dreams, by a woman who has guest-posted for me before, April Pohren.

• At Books, Books, The Magical Fruit—(interesting blog title, eh?)

• And a review from Ms. Dorothy Thompson, the woman who has helped steer me through two blog tours and get my name all over the search engines. Her thoughts on The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between can be read at Pump Up Your Book.

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Only three days left . . . not for shopping, but for my second tour. Today has two stops:

• A brand new review of The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between at Reading at the Beach. Two words come to mind: stocking stuffer.

• A guest post I wrote for Market My Novel about one of the ways I write when I’m not actually writing. Bewildered? Check out the post!

Stocking Stuffer, Stocking Stuffer, Stocking Stuffer, Stocking Stuffer . . . ;^)

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Hope you will make a little time to check out my two stops for today. This one is slightly different, because they are interviews in two different formats: The blog interview is hosted by a transplanted American in Australia named Jaime at The Hot Author Report. These were some fun questions!

Next will be a return to Blog Talk Radio with Barry Eva at A Book and a Chat. Show should air live at 9:00pm EST, 8:00pm Central, and 6:00pm MST. Listen in, even call-in and ask a question or two if you’d like!
UPDATE! – The host has had an urgent family matter arise, so the interview is postponed for now. I’ll certainly let you all know when we get a chance to do it again!

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An Interview plus

Today’s interview was done by the woman who has not only been my tour coordinator both times, but has, in the process, become a good friend and mentor. I had enjoyed the interview itself, but was very much surprised (pleasantly so) to see what she had to say in her introduction.

She has published this interview at the Virginia Beach Examiner and Broowaha.com. If you haven’t seen it yet, the book trailer is at the end of the interview.

I am most pleased to be introduced by, and to introduce to you, Ms. Dorothy Thompson.

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Yes indeed. It’s been in the air since October, that feeling of anticipation. The days and weeks have slipped by as they always do, and now the wait is over.

Oh, you thought I was talking about Christmas, didn’t you?

Everyone knows about Christmas, but until this moment I was one of only a handful in the world who knew that I was embarking on one more virtual blog tour this year. What with Christmas being a time of sharing I wanted to share the news with you! I ask for no gifts — really. But I would be delighted if you’d take a few moments each day for the next two weeks and follow me as I trip the bytes fantastic.

This tour is shorter than the last — call it a mini-tour, abbreviated, reduced, or perhaps digested. It will run from December 1 – 16. This time around the interviews are new so you may learn a few new things about me. There are also new reviews of The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between, and a healthy sprinkling of guest posts written by yours truly.

My goal is to have the link for each stop posted here and on my website so you can easily jump over and participate. I know each of us feels a little tighter pinch time-wise during the holiday season, but each post shouldn’t take much longer to peruse than any other would. Most bloggers I know who follow other blogs always read through, and some comment as well (a habit I need to work on, Joy, I know ;^) ).

I very much hope you’ll join me for the next two weeks. You’ll have a little fun along the way, I promise.

Last but not least, I wouldn’t be a true American opportunist if I didn’t mention that my book would make a great gift or stocking stuffer for the avid reader on your list! Get a copy from my website and I’ll even autograph it!

Wishing you and yours a peaceful and healthy holiday season . . .

Sincerely,
J.W. Nicklaus

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