Author: Ian

A Girl on the Shore, by Inio Asano (2011)

A ninth-grade girl wanders distraught after a subpar encounter with the class playboy, then seeks solace with another guy who likes her and a shit-ton of graphic middle-school sex ensues.

I’m not kidding—this manga isn’t for the squeamish, since there’s A LOT of sex here shown in close-up, and just when you think it can’t go any farther, it does.  In terms of story, Koume and Isobe’s relationship shows a lot about first love, disenchantment, and searching for something you can’t quite describe, and their confused realizations keep you guessing until the end, with stirring results.

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The Day Job Life à la Clark Kent

I think a lot about how certain stories stick around through the generations because they reveal universal truths: Romeo and Juliet says a lot about first love, Gulliver’s Travels satirizes mankind’s stupidities, and 1984 explores totalitarian societies across all time (hence the novel’s sudden spike in sales after Trump’s election).

The best superhero stories do the same thing.

I have a friend who can school me in all things Batman and comic book hero-related (Hi Dan), but today I want to talk specifically about Superman, the precursor of them all.  Or, as this entry’s title suggests, I want to talk about Clark Kent. Continue reading »

Revolutions We’d Hoped We’d Outgrown, by Jill McCabe Johnson (2017)

Johnson’s poems hit that sweet spot of being approachable yet challenging, not too simple, yet not too arcane.  The opening section was written during her walking trek through France in the days leading up to the 2015 Paris attacks and captures both the country’s historic character and the ideological ugliness behind ISIS, including its abominable treatment of women (which tends not to get as much coverage).  The collection’s other poems convey images of loss, humiliation, and conflicts with loved ones in moments that quietly ask for our reflections, along with a few plays on words to break the rhythm.

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Jill McCabe Johnson’s website

Revolutions We’d Hoped We’d Outgrown at Finishing Line Press

What Happened When I Went to Work on 2 Hours of Sleep

Let’s get one thing straight: I love sleep.

Every day, at least once a day, I think about how great it would be to just lay down and go to sleep, or even just take a quick nap.  On the weekends I try to sleep in at least one day until 9:00 or so (usually on Saturday, since that’s my no-work day) and go to bed early one night so I can get caught up, since sleep debts can have some pretty nasty effects if you’re not careful.  My favorite time to sleep is on cold winter nights, covered in extra blankets, and I sleep a lot better Continue reading »

Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie (1911)

Another children’s classic I never actually read as a kid, the original Peter Pan holds up solidly in its story, characters, and playful writing style, but not in its cringeworthy turn-of-the-century descriptions of Native Americans. Barrie also inserts some distinct undertones for careful readers, such as the rivalry between Wendy and Tinkerbell for the clueless pre-pubescent Peter, the Darling parents’ obsession with doing everything society expects of them, and Hook’s being a former prep school kid, along with an epilogue (left out of the Disney version) that explores what it really means to outgrow the carefree adventures of youth.

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Last Words, by George Carlin (with Tony Hendra, 2009)

Carlin’s posthumous memoir (based on a decade of conversations with co-author Hendra) covers his New York childhood, his humdrum ‘60s comedy, his departure into gritty realism (“Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV”), his cocaine addiction, and finally his move toward satirizing politics and society.  This was my first real foray into Carlin’s work, and it proved a solid start—many of his most famous pieces are transcribed with commentary, and his biting, thoughtful voice is always present.  I was most drawn to his reflections about leaving the mainstream to find his real voice—undoubtedly the strongest section.

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You Have to Find the Value in Your Work

I think a lot about where confidence comes from, and why sometimes I’m absolutely full of confidence about the work I’m doing (creative work, Day Job work, and everything else) while other times everything I’m working toward feels meaningless.

It’s amazing how quickly these two mindsets can switch back and forth in the same week, or even the same day, even when nothing’s really changed.  I’m still the same person, I still have the same job, I’m still working on the same novel, and I’m still trying to get my writing out there in the same ways.  Big successes usually deliver equally large boosts of confidence, while rejections usually set me back more than I care to admit.  But most of the time, though, there’s Continue reading »

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers (1940)

Four lonely people in a Southern town search for meaning outside of life’s banalities, brought together by a deaf-mute who’s mourning the loss of his closest friend.  Parts of this book resonated with me strongly as the characters express their inability to fit into the world around them, especially Mick’s analogy of the outside room where she performs for society versus the inside room where she enjoys her secret love of music.  The rest of it, however, moves painfully slowly, with long chapters and dialogue that hasn’t aged well, leaving its raw power to be deciphered rather than enjoyed.

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Guest Post – Writing While Parenting

Charles Hiebner has worked as a pig farmer, a long-haul truck driver, and a warehouse manager for a roofing supply company.  The two of us met in grad school where we took a few writing classes together and shared a cubicle wall as interns at the university press.  His writing projects have included a page-turning crime novel and a thesis about ecoconsciousness and colonial identity on the Great Plains—both at the same time. His next project is to set up a blog to share his work with the world…maybe sometime before his youngest leaves for college.

 

I’m a writer with a day job, one that I actually enjoy a great deal. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to earn my bread with writing, but until that time I have bills to pay. There are other parts of my life that pull me away from the writing desk, like being married. Luckily, my spouse has a day job as well, and writes, and is very patient, encouraging, and understanding of time that I request to write. So, what’s keeping me from cranking out novel after novel?

Well, there are these kids… Continue reading »

My Untimely Death, by Adam Peterson (2008)

For an entire week in September I ask my wife to feed me only Swiss chard.  There is a day when I eat a can of tomatoes bigger than a toddler.

This is a 43-page small press book that fits easily in a pocket—a series of prose poems about bizarre deaths.  I don’t write this kind of prose myself or read it very often, but I’ve developed an odd kind of respect for it, and enjoy it in small doses that evoke an emotional response before I move on.  In that sense, this little book accomplishes that nicely.

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More About this book from Subito Press

Confession: I Haven’t Worked on My Novel in 3 Months

I’m absolutely ashamed to admit this, but it’s true.

According to my Daily Schedule Log, I last put in actual writing time on my new novel on June 1st, the day I finished editing the final chapter of Draft Three.  Since I’m drafting this entry on Labor Day to schedule for next week, that means my No-Novel period’s run just over three months, and that’s a long time.

To my credit, it’s definitely been a busy three months since I started my new Office Day Job.  This is partly because I’ve actually been working more hours and was dealing with a nasty commute for the first few weeks, but also because of the general life upheaval that came with the new job throwing off my old writing schedule.  Having to deal with a lot of new surroundings, routines, and habits made it harder for me Continue reading »