December’s Newsletter

Anticipating Christmas
Winter is my favorite time of year, especially when the Christmas lights go up and the house fills with colour and shadow, rosemary and fir, and good things baking in the kitchen.

I’m listening to Mannheim Streamroller’s Christmas Extraordinaire as I type these words, soon to be followed a mix of Diana Krall and traditional favorites.

The shadowy, almost palpable presence within the Christmas tree, the wreaths, and the great winter wood accentuates the lights and music and makes them more dear.

It’s a time of wonder, greater than words can say.

Eye Blink Fiction
I invite you to stop by my new weblog called Eye Blink Fiction where I am posting short short stories or, in modern terms, flash fiction. There are two stories there now with more to follow. Yesterday’s upload features David Ward, the protagonist in my novel-in-search-of-a-publisher Garden of Heaven.


When the small publisher that had been enthusiastically considering a new release of The Sun Singer suddenly announced it was no longer publishing fiction in order to focus on its highly specialized nonfiction, I uploaded this 2004 novel onto HarperCollins Authonomy web site. Blunly put, this is an online slush pile. On a more positive note, manuscripts are read and discussed by the authors themselves. Those with the highest ranking are actually considered by the publisher’s editors while others of note may also get a look. I put the novel here because I don’t want to actively try to market two manuscripts at once, and my priority if Garden of Heaven. If you have a manuscript, you might find the reader comments here to be helpful.

The State of Publishing
Publishers have been in the news a lot lately as lower sales, book-acceptance freezes, and layoffs make headlines. Some experts believe that newspapers as we now know them will be gone within ten years. Others speculate about how long it will be before book publishing follows as e-books (PDF, Kindle, etc.) cut more deeply into hard cover and paperback sales.

A fair amount of publishers’ red ink comes from outmoded practices, one being the consignment method of selling books. Unlike the products in any other industry, books ordered by bookstores are 100% returnable. Knowning this, bookstores don’t always order responsibly, meaning that they order books for displays, treat them roughly, and then send them back too damaged to be sold elsewhere. This represents a great loss of money and delays the payment of royalties to authors. For a very interesting essay about this, see Richard Curtis’ Behind Publishing’s Wednesday of the Long Knives.

Forever Friends
A poem of mine appears in the new anthology (October, 2008) Forever Friends. The anthology’s editor Shelagh Watkins will appear on my Malcolm’s Round Table weblog on December 11th to talk about the book. I invite you to stop by and leave a comment or ask Shelagh a question about her work.

Book Review – Tethered by Amy MacKinnon
I have high praise for Tethered, not because it was published on my birthday, but because it exemplifies the best of what a praiseworthy novel must offer: character, setting, plot and language. MacKinnon combines these focuses in “Tethered” into art and artistry.
Clara, who is highly introverted from an unkind childhood, connects better with the dead than the living and finds her perfect peace among the bodies she prepares for burial at the funeral home where she works.

But there’s a child predator on the loose. Mike, a policeman trying to come to grips with his own grief over a family tragedy, is trying to track down the man responsible for the death of an unidentified girl whom he refers to as “Precious Doe.” He needs help, both human compassion and professional expertise, but Clara cannot give it. Yet, she must, for more kids are missing, and she knows their pain.

This well-researched story is both a mystery and a love story. MacKinnon’s blunt, highly controlled prose reminds me of the writing of Kent Haruf in “Plainsong” and is a perfect fit for her protagonist and the cold basement room where she prepares the dead for a rest she fears she’ll never know.

If I worked for the New York Times, I would have included this book on the newspaper’s recent list of 100 notable books for 2008. Based on the Precious Doe murder case in Kansas City in 2001, the novel cries out to be read and understood, and when you finish reading it, you will be transformed by the experience.

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“The world is what you think it is.”
–Serge Kahili King


2 thoughts on “December’s Newsletter

  1. I’m happy to see that you put Eye Blink Fiction on WordPress where it’s easy for me to see your new posts as they are added! It already promises to be enjoyable reading!

  2. Thanks, Montucky. As you see, the stories will be somewhat experimental. WordPress made it easy to add another blog to my account and switch back and forth between their dashboards.


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