Monday, June 29, 2015

True Detective Season 2: Barrelhouse TV Workshop- Episode 1

While you're still processing the shocking (not so shocking? we're already debating it...) ending of last night's True Detective episode, take a moment to hope on over to Barrelhouse Magazine and check out our writer's television workshop. This go round we're breaking down Season 2 of True Detective and the conversation is already heating up. This is a must-read workshop for writers and fans of the show. Enjoy!!True-Detective-The-Western-Book-of-the-Dead-Season-2-Episode-1-Barrelhouse-Television-Workshop/cge1/558c035a0cf298ff2bca7476

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

That Easy, That Hard and Writing

Neil Gaiman has a saying about writing that's been running through my mind the last few weeks.

It's summer and I'm writing every day. Not killing myself (that comes with editing), but writing consistently, trying to keep it steady, trying to get this goddamn first draft done because it's going to swallow me whole otherwise. And Gaiman's description of the writing process is keeping me going.

Sometimes, I can see the whole story in my head, playing out in all of it's big screen drama (when I write, I write as if I'm watching a film...) and it's fantastic and glorious and so beautiful that it can hurt.

And then I look down at the cursor blinking. Waiting. Writing is about dreaming, yes, but it's also about the work. It's about sitting down in a chair and putting your fingers on the keys and forcing the words to come out, one after another into phrases and sentences and paragraphs and pages. It's about the hours, or the word count or the page count- however you measure out your dedication to the story. It can be fun, yes, but it can also be hell and sometimes I'd rather do anything, just about anything, than sit down in the chair and put one word after another in the hopes that eventually a reader will see in their own mind what I am seeing in mine.

That's what writing is. It's that easy, word after word, and just that hard.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Childhood Books and Writing

So, I've been thinking about books a lot lately.... (Okay, that's lame- I think about books everyday, sometimes all day. Reading books, reviewing books, how my book is doing with sales, how my other book is doing with editors, how my third book is coming along, friends' books, books, books, etc.)

But I've been thinking in particular about the books I read as a kid. The books that really stuck with me, that even now I can remember everything about. Maybe this is because we're getting ready to tackle bookcase cleaning tomorrow (Yes, this is monumental. Like, Olympic sport monumental. We have literally thousands of books...- there's going to be a blog post on this event, I promise), or maybe it's just the nostalgia of summer setting in. Either way, childhood books have been on my mind.

I read a lot as a kid. A LOT. But here I'm thinking of the books that changed me. That I can remember not only the story of, but the actual experience of reading the book. Where I was. What I felt. Who I thought I was at the time. Those books that I read over and over from the age of seven to ten or so, when I was really coming into my own as a reader, and as a dreamer who would one day become a writer. Books like The Call of the Wild and Where the Red Fern Grows. Bridge to Terabithia and Island of the Blue Dolphins. Hatchet. You know, THOSE books.

The one book that stands out the most for me was actually one that I read in school in the 4th grade. Roald Dahl's Danny the Champion of the World. I read it for class and then I read it again. And again. And again. This was my gateway to every other Dahl book that I immediately scoured the library for- James and the Giant PeachThe B.F.G., The Witches and so on- but I always came back to Danny. It was a book that contained such magic for me and made me fall in love with the art of storytelling.

I haven't done this in a while, but I'm opening up the floor here and would love for you to share: what books from your childhood can you distinctly remember? What books made you fall in love with writing or reading or just reminded you that a story is a world that you can carry around you? What books have you or will you pass on to your own children? And why?

Happy reading!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Novel Notes: The First 10 Pages

Laura Ellen Scott does a great job of noting the importance of focused simplicity in the opening scene of a novel. Her post is well worth a read and hey, uses the opening page of A Tree Born Crooked as an example. (double bonus- she uses Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes as well) This is a definite read for any writers struggling over those "crucial" first few pages.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The King in Yellow

Who knew I could write horror?

This week I'm proud to announce that I have a short story titled "The Pallid Mask" in NonBinary Review's 5th collection- The King in Yellow. All of the pieces (including art work) are inspired by Robert Chambers' bizarre horror collection and will both dazzle you and chill you. Journey to the land of Carcosa where the blue star rises, the yellow sign emerges and a mysterious play will turn any of its readers mad. Fans of True Detective will certainly recognize many of the references appropriated by Nic Pizzolatto, but there is much, much more to discover.

You'll need to download the Lithomobilus app (free) to view the anthology, but it's well worth it. Both for The King in Yellow issue and the others as well. Are you ready to put on the pallid mask and step through the gates to Carcosa......?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Breznican Interview 2.0

In case you missed it, I had a chance to interview Brutal Youth author Anthony Breznican this past weekend. The piece is up at Writer's Bone and Breznican not only discusses debut release emotions and fan reactions, but delivers some sage advice for new and established writer's alike. This is an interview that you don't want to miss...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wordier Than Thou 6/16

Many thanks to everyone who came out to the Wordier Than Thou Storytelling and Prose event at the Studio 620 in downtown St. Pete last night! It was a great time and I was thrilled not only to be the featured author, but to meet and talk with some new readers, writers and creative folk. Good times all around- cheers!

Monday, June 15, 2015

I am Beth: An Interview

I can't believe that it's taken me this long to get to know author Beth Gilstrap and her work. Thankfully, we met at a reading last month and I have to tell you, I was pretty much floored. Beth was captivating and I even though I only experienced a snippet of her prose that night, I knew that I was in for something special in picking up her recently released short story collection I am Barbarella.
I was not disappointed.
In truth, I was blown away.
Beth Gilstrap writes stories that sing. Her characters leap off the page and the reader cannot help but become taken by them. Their troubles become the readers' troubles; their joys become the readers' joys. Gilstrap creates characters who are messy and places them in situations that are complicated and destructive. Yet we cannot help but fall in love with them, as we cannot help but fall in love with Gilstrap's honest style and dedication to the authenticity of the world she writes about. There is something glittering on the pavement here, and whispering through the trees.
And that something is raw, raging talent.

Steph Post: I am Barbarella is a short story collection, but ten of the stories feature the same characters or mention of the same characters, settings and events. Loretta, Janine, Hardy... As I went through the stories I saw the threads weaving together a multi-perspective microcosm of lives. Did you write all of these stories in a single span of time? Or are they characters that have haunted you throughout your writing career, demanding to show back up time and time again?

Beth Gilstrap: I did write all of them in the same span of time. Between fall of 2010 and winter 2014. I intended to write connected stories, but the cast became larger than I anticipated. I’m interested in how people create ripples in each others’ lives even though we may not realize it. I tried to accomplish the same effect with the threads throughout the collection. There are six more stories that didn’t make the cut into the final manuscript. This crew still haunts me, but I intend to keep them lodged firmly in my brain. It’s time to let some other characters talk for a while.

SP: In reading about these characters, I was reminded in some ways of Faulkner's Snopes family and how he couldn't seem to let them go. Do you see a novel stirring somewhere in the depths of I am Barbarella? (hint: I do!)

BG: Ah, yes, the Snopses. Faulkner is certainly an influence. I had a Faulkner seminar during my first round of graduate school. We read nine novels and his collected short stories. When I first read his novels, I thought I was drunk and sometimes wished I were. I’ve been fascinated by the scope and intensity of his storytelling since. There was a point near the end of the first draft of the "thing" as I called it then, when I wasn’t sure if it would be a novel or if I’d continue with the mosaic effect of linked stories. I think these lines are blurry. At this time, I don’t intend to develop a novel with any of these characters. I have put in three years of work on a novel about folk artists, but I’m on the verge of putting it aside to work on something else.

SP: While not all of the stories feature Loretta and her family and friends, they all occur in the same world- one that I felt an eerie, striking kinship with. Tell me more about this world and its inhabitants.

BG: This world is essentially Charlotte and the surrounding rural counties. Upstate South Carolina and coastal North Carolina come into it, too. This world is my world –a strange contrast between wealth and newness and poverty and a group of folks who hail from farming and textile mills. My people were never wealthy. My mother’s parents each had 7 siblings. Most of them farmed and then headed to work in the mills. Many did not attend more than a few years of school. The mills, the farms, and most of my relatives are now gone. My generation grew up children of divorce, children of first-generation (or first-generation themselves) college students, children of what people call the New South, whatever the hell that is. I’ve never known. My grandpa couldn’t read and my mother has a PhD in education. I am a product of these extremes and I think Charlotte is in some ways, too. I guess part of me writing this world is trying to make sense of all that.

SP: As I mentioned, I felt an immediate connection to the people and places of your work. In many ways, these are my people and it was no stretch for me to understand and relate to their motives and desires, their bad decisions and glittering, underdog hopes and dreams. Do you write for a particular audience who you believe will relate to you stories? Or do you think everyone can find something in these pages?

BG: I hope everyone can find something to identify with in these flawed characters. We’re all fucked up in our way, right?

SP: My experience with reading I am Barbarella was strangely akin to my reading of Taylor Brown's collection In the Season of Blood and Gold in the fact of my constantly deciding that each new story was my favorite. I kept going back, however, to one of the earlier stories in the book- "Some Girl." This one completely took my breath away in so many aching, unexpected ways. Do you have a favorite?

BG: “Some Girl” is certainly up there, but I think “Spittle” is my favorite because we get to see Loretta discovering more of herself and trying to quiet her demons later in life.

SP: I was lucky enough to read with you last month and from the very first paragraph of the title story of I am Barbarella, I could hear your voice in my head as I read your words. I think, though, that even if I hadn't had the pleasure of hearing you read your work, your voice would have rang out loud and clear. It's not often that an author's actual voice coincides so perfectly with the voice of the character and of the narrative. How did you achieve this?

BG: That might be the best compliment I’ve ever had on my work and my reading. Thank you. I’m not sure exactly other than to say, for me writing is similar to method acting. Maybe everyone feels this way, but when I work (whether it’s reading to an audience or during composition) I feel things so deeply, I wind up in a state. All my pain and joy is right underneath the surface. I try to channel it into the characters. People have said my voice is lyrical, too. Maybe that’s a product of growing up with a musician? Anyway, I always read my work aloud when I’m drafting. There’s a rhythm in my head and I revise until what’s on the page matches it. I don’t know. Did that answer the question?

SP: Absolutely! And as I'm always searching for the next great read, and to give a shout out to our fellow authors- who or what have you read in the past six months that has really knocked your socks off?

BG: Caitlyn Moran’s How to Build a Girl ripped my heart out in the best way. Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven floored me. There’s also a contributor to Atticus Review in the Gothic Issue named Kristen Valentine (“The Girl from Thorn Point Road”) whose work has blown me away. I expect to see more from her, soon.

SP: And finally, considering that after I am Barbarella I will now read any word you write, what's next for you?

BG: I recently finished a chapbook, which I’m calling “No Man’s Wild Laura.” We’ll see what happens. I am determined to complete a novel, too. Maybe it’ll be about a female outlaw.

See why I'm crazy about this author? Now that I'm sure you are too, pick up a copy of I am Barbarella from Twelve Winters Press. And be on the look out- I'm sure we'll be seeing much more of Beth Gilstrap as she takes the fiction world by storm....

Thanks so much, Beth!


Friday, June 12, 2015

No Heroes Here: An Interview with The Winter Family author Clifford Jackman

There may be no heroes in Clifford Jackman's dark debut The Winter Family, but there are unforgettable characters and narrative risks that make Jackman's novel a must-read for fans of gritty, violent tales in the vein of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Described as a "hyperkinetic western noir," The Winter Family spans over three bloody decades in the history of post-Civil War America. Abounding with outlaws and devoid of conventional hope, Jackman's book examines the darker side of human nature and ambition, all in a haze of blood, bullets and savagery. I pressed Jackman with some difficult questions about audience, craft and all that darkness and he most certainly delivered.

Steph Post: In your acknowledgements you mention that the prologue of The Winter Family, "Oklahoma 1889" was published before the novel came out. Was this section originally meant as a stand alone piece only? Was The Winter Family always going to be a novel, or did it start with "Oklahoma 1889" and transform from there?

Clifford Jackman: It was actually the final story, "Oklahoma 1891", that was written first. For those who have not read the book, The Winter Family is made up of four different stories set about 10 years apart. The first one I wrote was "Oklahoma 1891," which I self-published as a stand-alone. The story was intended as a "break" from my more serious, marketable work, but I ended up writing four more stories set in the same world, which were eventually combined into one novel, and which was eventually sold to Doubleday.

But wait, that's five stories! What happened to the fifth story? Well, although this is a shameless plug, I should say that another story set in the same world as The Winter Family (called "California 1901") will be released as an e-original standalone on June 16. I think it is only a couple of bucks, so if you are curious about the book, or if you have read it and want more, you can pick it up if you have a Kindle.

SP: One of the more striking aspects of The Winter Family is the lack, in my opinion, of any true heroes. Do you think this is true, or do you think a hero is buried somewhere in the characters beneath the prevalent darkness and violence? For that matter, does there even need to be a hero?

CJ: How sympathetic the characters need to be to keep any particular reader engaged is different for everyone and there's no right or wrong answer. It's your spare time, after all; please read what you like without fear of any judgment from me. In terms of The Winter Family, I felt that although there were plenty of villains and no heroes, in each individual story there were characters who were trying their best under difficult circumstances. In my view one of the most important themes of the book is how bad people can redeem themselves, even if they can't change the past.

SP: And speaking of violence... The Winter Family is certainly not for the faint of heart when it comes to brutality and gore. Does the graphic violence in the novel have a message or is it simply the realistic truth with regards to the nature of the characters and setting?

CJ: I don't think the violence itself had a message, it was just how the story came out. Certainly it was a very violent time in American history and this is a story about extreme personalities. I think another one of the main themes of the book is how all civilization has a certain level of violence in its heart, even if it appears peaceful on the surface.

SP: As I mentioned, The Winter Family has some stomach-turning scenes and doesn't leave the reader with a whole lot of hope. I honestly wouldn't say that it's for everyone, though it excels in its genre. Did you have a particular audience in mind when you were writing The Winter Family? Do you think, as I say, that the book isn't for everyone, or do you believe that all readers can find something in its pages?

CJ: This book is not for everyone, but then all books are not for everyone. Just go look at the one star reviews for your favorite book if you don't believe me. I did not write this book for an audience. My Canadian editor once said to me that all the great genre authors are completely sincere. By that she meant they were writing about what interested them, not what they thought would sell books or win awards. That's what I did with The Winter Family, and no matter how much or how little it sells it's where I've found my greatest success as a writer. You can't neglect your audience, you're writing for people other than yourself, but ultimately you have to write a book that you yourself would like to read if you had not been the one who wrote it.

There's a lot of dark literature out there, whether it's Cormac McCarthy or George RR Martin or Chuck Palahniuk, so hopefully The Winter Family finds its audience. If not, when I write my next book I'll keep the feedback I've received in mind . But not too much. You can't be too proud to change, but your first priority always has to be to stay true.

SP: From the standpoint of a fellow author, I have to wonder about what it was like to spend so much time with such dark characters, knowing that there wasn't redemption in the end. Did you ever have trouble with this? Obviously the point of writing isn't to make readers, or yourself for that matter, "feel good" all the time, but I still imagine that writing parts of this book could be a burden. Did you ever have moments where you just had to step back for fear of getting lost or dragged down by all the darkness?

CJ: Honestly not really. When I'm writing it it doesn't seem as dark to me as it does when you read it. I will say that there is one particular scene at the end of "Phoenix 1881" where someone fights back against the Winter Family that was very cathartic for me to write. I spent a long, long time editing this book and that scene was inserted very late in the process. It was nice for someone to finally stick it to them.

SP: And finally, as I always believe in spreading the love, give me three books or authors without whom The Winter Family could not be possible.

CJ: Well now let me see. Although everyone thinks Blood Meridian, I will have to go with The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy. Next would be Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler. The Winter Family has a very strong political aspect and Darkness at Noon had a big impact on me. Lastly I would pick Beloved by Toni Morrison. I should also say that like many writers of my generation I've read a ton of Stephen King, and although there's no one work in particular I would single out, his writing style has had a deep impact on me. On Writing is one of my main sources of writing advice.

Thanks so much to Clifford Jackman for stopping by! Be sure to pick up your copy of The Winter Family today.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


Look! A new short story (flash fiction) of mine was just published over in Vending Machine Press. This is my first international publication and it's also a story that is very near and dear to my heart. Please enjoy.... "Champ"

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"A Fine Debut Novel Exposes An American South Often Overlooked"

In case you missed it! This past week I had a stunning review (if I do say so myself" of A Tree Born Crooked appear in three separate editions of The Florida Weekly.
"I almost missed this one, which is among the most original and striking Florida novels I’ve encountered in my almost nine years of walking this beat."
If you're not in Florida, you can still read the full review at Phil Jason's book review blog. The review will also appear later online in the Southern Literary Review. Cheers!
"What is important on this journey, and throughout the novel, is Steph Post’s perfect pitch representation of her characters’ dialogue, desperation, and determination along a stretch of nonstop action."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Messages and Bottles: Recap!

In case you missed it.... the Messages and Bottles reading at Palate in Wilmington, NC on May 29th was KILLER! I had the lucky, lucky opportunity to read with Taylor Brown (In the Season of Blood and Gold), Schuler Benson (The Poor Man's Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide) and Beth Gilstrap (I am Barbarella). The atmosphere was jiving, the crowd was amped and the readings were captivating and entertaining. All in all, I'd say it was a pretty perfect night and I hope to meet up with these fine writing folks and do it all again sometime. Cheers!

Going first.... (hey, that's me!)

Taylor Brown slinging words.....

Schuler Benson killing it!

 Beth Gilstrap bringing us to a close.