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Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary

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flash fiction

Drive-By Book Review: Beyond Redemption by Gary V. Powell

Book Review: Beyond Redemption by Gary V. Powell

2015 Fiction 121 pages

I tend to like flash fiction and short stories in general, but I am absolutely knocked out by the flash fiction and short stories in Gary V. Powell’s gem of a collection Beyond Redemption. I wonder if Gary Powell’s training in the law helped him to develop a disciplined approach to writing in such a powerfully concise style that gets straight to the point. He knows exactly how and where to pack the power in his punches. His prose is lean, compact and taut, yet lyrical and poetic enough to be powerfully evocative and compelling. It takes great skill to compress all of the necessary story elements into this kind of short form and Gary Powell does it with aplomb.

Beyond Redemption consists of 20 pieces, 18 of which have previously appeared in various literary journals, and every one of them is a winner. If this were an old school record album, then this could easily be a collection of his greatest hits.

Beyond Redemption explores the struggles of adolescents to assert themselves, young people coming of age, middle aged couples coming to grips with broken dreams and broken relationships, laid off factory workers, patients in a psych ward, people struggling to reconcile dreams of the past with the reality of the present, and people bumped, bruised and dinged up by life, but who find a way to dig deep and muster the resolve to keep on keepin’ on. Conflict lies at the heart of each piece and creates the tension that drives it. However, these are not depressing stories. Each one of them is, in some way, about resiliency of the human spirit.

Powell demonstrates an impressive ability to drop the reader into a specific time and place while wearing the character’s point of view like a second skin. He is not constrained by age or gender. Powell writes just as convincingly from the point of view of an angst ridden teenage girl looking for acceptance as he does from that of a disaffected middle aged man plodding through an unrewarding corporate career.

Many of the stories are colored by a very recognizable regional mid western flavor with references to Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and the Great Lakes. However, Powell writes just as convincingly about the deep south and the bayou country of Louisiana. Gary Powell is a great story teller who is, in my opinion, in the same league as widely recognized contemporary masters of the form including Tobias Wolff, Amy Hempel and Ann Beattie. Beyond Redemption is a collection well worth reading and my only regret is that I came to the end of it.

About the author:

Author photo

Gary V. Powell’s stories and flash fiction have been widely-published in both print and online literary magazines including most recently at The Thomas Wolfe Review, Fiction Southeast, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Best New Writing 2015.  In addition to being the winner of the 2014 Gover Prize for short-short fiction, several of his stories have placed in other national contests including The Press 53 Prize (2012), Glimmer Train (2013) and The Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize (2014).

His first novel, Lucky Bastard, was recently published by Main Street Rag Press.

For this, and more of his work visit http://www.authorgaryvpowell.com

Book Review “Maybe Even Wanton” Jeanne Holtzman

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Review of Jeanne Holtzman’s wonderful chapbook “Maybe Even Wanton” is now LIVE on Madhat’s Drive-By Book Reviews.

Have a peek then buy her book!

http://www.madhatreviews.com

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MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews: Three Works by Robert Vaughan

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My review of Robert Vaughan’s books: “Microtones,” “Diptychs+Triptychs+Lipsticks+Dipshits” and “Addicts & Basements” is live on MadHat’s Drive-By Book Reviews at:

http://madhatarts.com/madhatreviews/three-works-by-robert-vaughan/

Reviews of Bound By Blue and Her Skin Is A Costume by Meg Tuite

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Reviews of Bound By Blue and Her Skin Is A Costume by Meg Tuite

Featuring recent books by Meg Tuite in this edition of MadHat’s Drive-By Book reviews.

http://madhatarts.com/madhatreviews/reviews-of-bound-by-blue-and-her-skin-is-a-costume-by-meg-tuite/

New Piece Published in The Writers Roundup Zine

My piece “E Mail From The Road” is published in the May edition of the The Writers Roundup Zine. Thanks to editor Edmund Jessup for including my work in his publication!

http://www.roundupzine.com/

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My Short Story “Bowling For Jesus” is published by Connotation Press

My Short Story “Bowling For Jesus” is published by Connotation Press in the April 15th edition.

http://www.connotationpress.com/fiction/2279-michael-gillan-maxwell-fiction

From Meg Tuite, Fiction Editor: “The mid-April issue of Connotation Press is up and exceptional! Michelle Messina Reale is our featured fiction writer with three brilliant poetic prose pieces from her upcoming collection. Find out more in our interview. Also we have outstanding work by Michael Gillan Maxwell, Cort Bledsoe, Mike Joyce and Grant Faulkner! Thank you for sending CP some of your beauties!”

I am honored to be in such good company! Thank you Meg Tuite!

Michael Gillan Maxwell
Michael Gillan Maxwell

Short Fuse

Jolly Roger
Jolly Roger

Originally published by Bitchin’ Kitsch December 2013

Short Fuse

He flips through channels, looking for anything worth watching. Someone said a person’s lifespan is shortened by 22 minutes for every hour of television watched. He should have been dead years ago.

Eyes glazed over, he gapes at flickering images, a kaleidoscope of catastrophe; pestilence, economic collapse, religious extremists, suicide bombers, civil war, revolution, record-breaking drought, floods, global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes and a wild fire out of control in Colorado. The bitter taste of bile fizzles in his throat.

He finds a movie about Vikings with flaming torches pitted against ferocious werewolves. The Vikings have Australian accents, the werewolves clearly actors dressed up in ridiculous wolf suits. A commercial advertises a remake of “Towering Inferno.”

Abruptly, he turns it off, jumps in the car and heads for Walmart.

He turns on the radio. Nothing but bad news. He comes up behind a Dodge Caravan with a sign in the window that reads “Baby on Board”. It annoys him. He takes it personally, like anyone without a baby on board is a deranged, meth addled, demolition derby jockey. Is it to remind him to stop driving fast and taking chances? Or to interrupt the text message he must surely be composing? Will it be the tipping point in his decision not to push the pedal to the floor and sideswipe their vehicle, forcing it off the side of the road at 60 miles per hour? He sees the bumper sticker “I brake for unicorns” and his face burns with aggravation. Temples pulsating and hands clammy on the steering wheel, he shifts over to the passing lane, guns the engine and gives the van wide berth.

He stops for gas and wonders what it would feel like to rob a convenience store.

Still contemplating that question, he scans the headlines of the tabloids as he waits to pay. “Dog Accidentally Shoots Man With His Own Gun, Elvis’s Hidden Extraterrestrial Daughter, Swedish Man Bursts Into Flames on Train Platform.”

Dammit! I could make better headlines than that!

His eyelid twitches. The smell of burnt gas station roller dogs is nauseating. Sweating like a stevedore, he pays and gets back in the car.

Walmart is where style goes to die. There’s a man in Sporting Goods with a mullet haircut and a tattoo that says “Do it in the dirt!” He’s seen that guy at the dirt track races. The man’s trying out baseball bats.

His mind a screeching smoke alarm, he realizes what he must do. He grabs a bat and heads over to Electronics, his senses assailed by images on 27 televisions;  break dancing, burning buildings, cooking shows, Judge Judy, an oil spill, another school shooting.

He can already picture the headline. “Man Walks into Walmart, Smashes 27 Widescreen Televisions With Baseball Bat.” He likes the way that sounds. The bat feels almost too hot to hold in his hand as he strolls over to a widescreen flickering with the image of a raging fire and starts swinging.

Bound by Blue: Stories by Meg Tuite 2014 Sententia Books

Book Review: “Bound by Blue: Stories” by Meg Tuite 2014 Sententia Books

Bound by Blue Cover

I know it’s been said before, but it took courage to write this book and it takes courage to read it. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s rough, tough and in your face, unflinching yet poignant and compassionate, but certainly not without humor and redemption. Meg Tuite’s stories are inhabited by wanderers, wonderers and seekers, lost and broken souls, parents and children estranged and searching for connection, people looking for meaning and characters dancing on the fringes of society and the edges of reality.

Each story, from the opening “The F Word” through the keystone in the arch, “Bound By Blue”, that leaves you stunned and reeling, to the final (and my favorite) piece “The Healer” bristles with fulminating energy that simmers just beneath the surface before exploding in your face. These stories are written in prose that is rendered with the sensibilities of a visual artist and the soul of a poet.

The 13 stories in this brilliant collection are dark, tough, beautifully written and skillfully wrought by an author who can look right through you and immediately tell if you are bullshitting or not.

Meg Tuite’s writing is raw boned and edgy and her voice is all her own and totally original and unique. Bound By Blue is unlike anything you’ve ever read. It’s a beautifully designed book, published by Sententia Books, and the cover art alone, a reproduction of a painting by Goro Endow, would be reason enough for me to buy it. You should buy Bound By Blue, read it, talk about it and try, just try, to write something as unique and powerful as this. Go ahead. I dare ya!

Book Review: Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits by Robert Vaughan 2013

Cover DTDL Robert Vaughan

Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits

Stories/ Robert Vaughan 2013

Published by Deadly Chaps ~ Joseph A. W. Quintella, Publisher

Robert Vaughan is a busy man with a lot on his mind, and an incredibly prolific writer. I don’t know how or when he even finds time to sleep. Author of hundreds of published stories and poems, Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits is his second release in 2013, with more on the way. Don’t take your eye off the ball or you’re likely to miss the next pitch altogether. This chap book contains many of his best known pieces and is a little like a greatest hits album, in all the best possible ways. Notable pieces include “10,000 Dollar Pyramid” which was a finalist in the Micro Fiction awards 2012, “Ten Notes To The Guy Studying Jujitsu,”finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award 2013 and “Gauze, a Medical Dressing, a Scrim” 2nd Place in the Flash Fiction Chronicles String-Of-10 Contest 2013. It also contains some of my personal favorites which include “Seven Shades of James”, “Going to Reseda On The 405” and “Mother/Father/Clown.”

Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits is a marvelously crafted collection with moving parts that work beautifully together. At times deep and dark, then light, playful and mischievous; the pieces are written in beautiful prose that moves the reader through surprising and unexpected journeys. Robert Vaughan’s work is characterized by his playful use of alliteration and eye winking references to icons, titles and phrases in the lexicon of popular culture. His capricious imagery and surprising, cleverly placed internal rhymes create pieces that are at once rambunctious, mischievous and somehow, gently subversive.

Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits is crafted from lush poetic prose. On one hand some pieces are abstract, cryptic and disturbing; while on the other hand, others are humorous and totally straight forward, without any artifice, tricks or distractions that might dull the edge or detract from their power. Vaughan’s stories are often poignant, tender and compassionate without being too sweetly sentimental. In almost every case, any one of the segments of a diptych or triptych could easily serve as the foundation for its own expanded story.

Hats off to publisher Joseph A. W. Quintella for a beautifully designed and produced book. It’s a wonderful chap book and a piece of visual art in and of itself.  Diptychs +Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits is an enduring body of work. Woven from gorgeous, rich, lyrical language and imagery, it’s right up there with the very best. Available from the publisher, http://www.deadlychaps.com and from Amazon. It’s also listed on Goodreads. If you are not yet familiar with the writing of Robert Vaughan, then this is the perfect place to start.

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