Blog Tour Review: The Great and the Small by A. T. Balsara

 

The Great and the Small by A. T. Balsara

Published by: Common Deer Press

Publication Date: October 31,2017

Genre: Young Adult

Page Count: 294

Rating: 4/5

Source: eARC from Common Deer Press

Goodreads | Common Deer Press | Indigo | Amazon CAN | Amazon US | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


Deep below the market, in the dark tunnels no human knows exist, a war has begun. Lead by the charismatic Beloved Chairman, a colony of rats plots to exterminate the ugly two-legs who have tortured them in labs, crushed them with boots, and looked at them with disgust for as long as anyone can remember. 

When the Chairman’s nephew is injured and a young two-leg nurses him back to health, however, doubt about the war creeps in. Now the colony is split—obey the Chairman and infect the two-legs with the ancient sickness passed down from the Old Ones, or do the unthinkable… 

Rebel. 


I’ve received an eARC for an honest and unbiased review.

 

“Over the mountains and across the sea, there came a terrible scourge…a scourge that would deal death not only to the Old Ones, but to all.”

When I first heard of this YA illustrated novel, I knew I had to sign up for the tour. And I am not disappointed with what I read. This dark, poignant, yet somehow relevant tale will keep you on the edge.

Courtsey of A. T. Balsara and Common Deer Press

Strength is tested, lines are drawn, and a war has begun. As more two-legs (humans) torture rats in labs and see them as nothing more than vermin, the Chairman, the leader of a colony of rats deep underneath the city, conspires to release the old plague that wiped out these evil beings. Their time is now. They can taste their revenge. But doubt seeps into this colony when the Chairman’s nephew, Fin, is wounded, and a two-leg decides to take him in and heal him. Now that act of kindness divides a once united colony.

Andrea, the author, weaves a richly dark tale that speaks to readers of all ages. At first, I wasn’t sure how dark this story will go, but she pushes against the boundary of writing and also incorporates real-life health scares like Ebola and, most recently, the plague. Throughout the book, she shows you the cruel side of our society, yet she then demonstrates our humanity. The contrast between the two is rather jarring but realistic though. How many times have you freaked out over seeing a wild animal, even a rat, but you’re an advocate for animal rights?

Courtesy of A. T. Balsara and Common Deer Press

The Great and the Small is a slow burn. Andrea builds up the story by adding complex layers and characters. But I don’t mind that build up though. It is a character-driven book that needs time to reveal itself to readers. What speaks out among these pages is Fin and Ananda, the teenager who saves him. I adore reading Fin’s story, especially his history, which is heartbreaking. I didn’t know if I could connect with a rat, but the way Andrea writes him just makes you fall in love with this deeply conflicted yet loyal rat. And Ananda represents the essence of real humanity. She doesn’t see a rat and cringe; she sees it as a living being that needs as much protection as anyone else. And while the scenes between these two are short, I relished them.

I was surprised by the level of world building Andrea mixes into her story. She creates such an imaginative and lively underground for her rats. The politics will keep you guessing as well. This world is built on a two-tiered class, which, regardless of what the politicians say, sets each rat apart and divides them. The Chairman, Fin’s uncle, is a cunning, ruthless, yet charismatic antagonist. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the author drew inspiration from dictators we’ve grown to hate. What I love is the anticipation in the book. This atmospheric tone in Great and the Small builds suspense throughout each chapter. And I had to question each character’s decision and action.

Courtesy of A. T. Balsara and Common Deer Press

Typically, you don’t see a lot of illustrations in YA novels. But these drawings bring out the story and enrich it. I enjoyed seeing them. And you don’t usually find a YA with an animal as the main character. However, more authors are testing the limits of genres and book categories. They’re not always limiting their readership based on just an age range. And I appreciate that both the author and the publisher have done just so.

This illustrated novel holds a strong meaning behind it. Sometimes the unlikeliest stories will teach you something or give you perspective on another that you weren’t sure you’d ever find. And The Great and the Small is that book.

 

 

 

 

 

www.commondeerpress.com

www.facebook.com/commondeerpress

@AHerdOfDeer

Advertisements

Blog Tour Interview: The Great and the Small by A. T. Balsara

 

Hi, everyone!

On my second blog tour stop. I interview, A. T. Balsara, the author of The Great and the Small. I want to know why an author stepped away from the traditional route of YA books, which usually don’t include illustrations.

You’ll be surprised what what you find out.

Enjoy!


 

Hello, Andrea! I’m excited to welcome you to my blog. Thank you for taking some time to discuss with me about your book. And I’d love to congratulate you on your book birthday!

 

 

Thank you very much for having me! I really appreciate it!

 

  1. You’ve just recently published a book. Tell us about it.

Sure. The Great & the Small is the story of a colony of rats, led by their charismatic Beloved Leader that has sworn to kill humanity using the bubonic plague. When the Beloved Chairman’s nephew, Fin, gets rescued from certain death by a young “two-leg,” a teenager named Ananda, doubt creeps in about the war. Now Fin must decide: follow his beloved uncle and murder the two-legs, including the one he has grown to love or do the unthinkable…rebel.

 

  1. Your novel is one of the unique stories I’ve heard this year. So why did you choose rats for your protagonists?

They were the ultimate enemy that could bring down humanity. They are smart, can chew through concrete, take down a grown cat, and multiply like…well, rats. They were the carriers of plague-ridden fleas, and were instrumental in killing almost half of Europe’s population during the years of the “Great Mortality.” Humanity does a collective shiver when we think about wild rats running amok.

 

  1. Can you explain your writing and drawing process? What inspired your drawings and writing for this story?

For my writing, I think I’ve always been drawn to Tolkien, and his epic, all or nothing, type of story. I also loved the book Watership Down and loved how the author made you feel as if you were watching the lives of rabbits. I wanted the epic feel of a Lord of the Rings, combined with the intimacy of what it would be like to be this particular animal. It was incredibly interesting to me to write from a rat’s point of view. For the drawings, I wanted something monochromatic, so that it felt like it might be taken from old times. I love adding texture, and layers to the drawings, and used the computer software Corel Painter to do the illustrations.

 

  1. You don’t always see illustrations in YAs. Why did you include them in yours?

I was told that young adults don’t read animal stories, that they don’t do illustrations…blah, blah, blah…in other words, the big publishers didn’t want to take a chance on a story that was outside of their lines of acceptable risk. There is far too much emphasis, nowadays, on staying safe in order to make a sure profit, than on publishing something that pushes boundaries and takes risks. I wrote and illustrated the story I wanted to read. If I had listened to the gatekeepers at the big houses, I would’ve been bored out of my mind.

 

  1. When did you first realize you had to write this book?

I had gotten the seed for this story many years ago when I visited a concentration camp museum. From that moment, there was a burning need inside of me to make a difference, to try to do my part to shine a light. I wrestled with the question of what makes someone capable of doing such heinous acts. In writing this book, I took my question to the next level, and asked, if you were raised in the orbit of one who did such acts, could you save yourself, or were you doomed? The Great & the Small was my attempt to work through those questions, but it was painful. Most of us aren’t devils or saints but fall somewhere in between. It was painful exploring that light—and darkness—within myself.

 

  1. What do you want readers to take away from it?

There are many things. The most important thing is that no one is born evil. So-called “evil” people are made, usually slowly, by the choices they make. Many of us feel we have no choice, that we are helpless within our own lives. Not true. We always have a choice. The Nelson Mandela of the world teaches us that no matter what happens, you have a choice. The other thing I would say, and I will quote Balthazar, a wise old rat in The Great & the Small, on this one: “Seek Truth.” I believe that the truth really will set you free. But it takes soul-searching, and a willingness to deal with our own garbage.

 

  1. What was the most difficult part in creating The Great and the Small?

Persistence. This story took me close to 15 years to write because projects would come up, or opportunities, or life, and I would have to shelve it for years at a time. It was hard to have to dust it off, reread it, realize with horror that it needed a complete rewrite, keep going, and then put it on the back burner…etc. etc.…it was a loooong process. Recently, I came across an old CD from 2012; it had a copy of the manuscript, and was labeled, “final draft.” Seeing that made me burst out laughing. The book has been rewritten a million times since 2012 (okay—not a million; it just feels like a million!!). If I hadn’t loved the story so much, I would have given up a long time ago.

 

 

www.commondeerpress.com

www.facebook.com/commondeerpress

@AHerdOfDeer

Blog Tour Spotlight: The Great and the Small by A. T. Balsara

 

Hi, everyone!

The tour is finally here! I’m excited to announce the release of The Great and the Small, by A. T. Balsara. Ever since I heard of this book, I knew I had to be a part of the tour. A rat struggling with an existential crisis? I’m in.

Check out Common Deer Press’ latest literary treat! The Great and the Small is now available.

 

 

 

The Great and the Small

A. T. Balsara

Publication date: October 31, 2017

Publisher: Common Deer Press

Buy links: Common Deer Press, Indigo, Amazon CAN, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

 

Deep below the market, in the dark tunnels no human knows exist, a war has begun. Lead by the charismatic Beloved Chairman, a colony of rats plots to exterminate the ugly two-legs who have tortured them in labs, crushed them with boots, and looked at them with disgust for as long as anyone can remember.

When the Chairman’s nephew is injured and a young two-leg nurses him back to health, however, doubt about the war creeps in. Now the colony is split—obey the Chairman and infect the two-legs with the ancient sickness passed down from the Old Ones, or do the unthinkable…

Rebel.

 


About the Author

A.T. Balsara lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband. She is the proud mom of two adult daughters, two dogs, two cats, and two hives of bees.

 

She writes and illustrates for young children up to young adults.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

www.commondeerpress.com

www.facebook.com/commondeerpress

@AHerdOfDeer

Blog Tour Review: Genesis 2.0 by Collin Piprell

 

Genesis 2.0 by Collin Piprell

Published by: Common Deer Press

Publication Date: October 5, 2017

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

Page Count: 660

Rating: 4/5

Source: eARC from Common Deer Press

Goodreads | Common Deer Press | Amazon CAN | Amazon US | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble


A nanobot superorganism lays waste to the Earth. Is this the apocalypse? Or does the world’s end harbor new beginnings? Life will always find a way. Though some ways are better than others.

Evolution on steroids and crack cocaine–the most significant development since inanimate matter first gave rise to life. You can’t predict novel evolutionary developments, you recognize them only after they emerge.

Then you have to deal with them.


“Immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be”

Stop, take a step back, and marvel at this creation. I want to pick apart Collin’s mind because his writing is beyond what I imagined. Collin takes science fiction and flips it upside down. So get ready, world. Here comes Genesis 2.0.

The last survivors of the human race have been lied to. Now their lives have changed, and they must learn to live in a world they don’t understand. Problem is that Brian, the original human malls operational manager (MOM) and general badass who wreaked havoc in the first instalment, is on the warpath with the self-aware artificial intelligence, Sky, who’s in bit of a hurry to reboot herself, and now the heroes may run out of time to save themselves and their loved ones.

I usually write my reviews within the first day or two after reading, but when I finished this book, I had to adjust my thinking, digest what I’ve read, and somehow wrap my head around this impossibly creative world building. Collin adds layer upon layer, and each one is unbelievably complex in its own right. He doesn’t just stick with one arc, whether story or character. He throws in multiple storylines, and somehow, they combine together to make a captivating science fiction story. He makes me want to read that genre.

At first, Collins throws you in a new environment with new characters. Son and his family live in mondoland, the real world outside of the generated realities and the former malls. He, one of the few people to be born after a virus that made everyone sterile, eventually meets up with our favourite characters Cisco and Dee Zu, two tests pilots. And that is where everything goes to hell.

Mondoland, the remnants of our old world, isn’t what MOM, or Sky, made it out to be. No superorganisms are out to kill the rest of the human race. And now since the malls, where the last survivors of humanity lived, are non-operational, and the main characters’ world is completely turned upside down, they must survive in a landscape they’ve never lived in.

Beyond the world building, Collin excels at writing a deeply flawed yet compelling character. Even Sky, the AI, shows her humanity, yet you want to die as much as Brian. But what stands out the most is Cisco and Dee Zu. They lose everything, they realize their lives were built on a lie, and yet they create an incredible bond. I enjoyed reading their scenes, even though they were short. And I’m dying to see how their future plays out in the third novel, which, if you haven’t figured out, I want right now.

I don’t always read science fiction, but I think Collin has convinced me to jump into that world. So here it goes.

Blog Tour Interview: Genesis 2.0 by Collin Piprell

 

Hey everyone!

Guess who’s back on the blog? Collin Piprell! The author of MOM and Genesis 2.0 from the Magic Circles series sat down (digitally) to talk with me about his new book. I’ve been wondering how this insanely thought-up series will go, and finally, we get to find out.

Genesis 2.0 is now available online!

 


Hey, Collin. Welcome back to my blog. I’d like to congratulate you on your latest release, Genesis 2.0!

 

 

  1. You’re on your second novel in your Magic Circles series. Can you explain what’s happening in Genesis 2.0? What are Cisco and your other characters facing?

The book begins with a new character, a young man who negotiates a grueling gauntlet through the terrifying world Outside that we saw in MOM. He eventually encounters survivors of MOM’s cast of characters. Some of these have come to resemble the Olympian gods of old. Cisco himself resembles a hero out of myth, operating in both Aeolia, a virtual realm, and in mondoland, the ruined remnants of the pre-PlagueBot world (real world).

The story involves (1) a titanic contest between our villain-in-chief Brian Finister and the AI that superseded him as MOM (mall operations manager), (2) another contest between the personality alters of the fragmented AI MOM, (3) contests between our young heroes (Cisco, Dee Zu, and Son) and the Olympians (and others), and (4) two different love triangles with all the attendant drama.

 

  1. What surprised me the most is how the former generated reality test pilots don’t know how to survive in the wild (the real world). They’ve lived in malls for most, if not all, of their lives. This dependence on technology smacks you in the face when you read Genesis. Were you hoping for that effect from readers? Is there some message you are hoping to impart?

If there’s a message in that, it’s simply that digital tech and, more so, the qubital tech to come encourages us to outsource our mental faculties to the point we’re in danger of becoming entirely dependent on that technology. (Though Dee Zu and Cisco are uncommonly resourceful, for mallsters, and cope pretty well with losing their qubital umbilicals.)

For a take on the outsourcing theme, you can visit this blog post: “Outsource our minds? What a good idea.” http://www.collinpiprell.com/outsource-our-minds-what-a-good-idea/.

Even without all that, imagine your average modern urbanite reduced to living off the land. Would they have the skills to find food and water, to find adequate shelter or defend themselves against physical threats from animals and other people?

 

  1. Cisco’s (the main character) world has fallen apart. His life is turned upside down at the end of your first book. What is his frame of mind in the sequel? What is he fighting for?

He finds he’s even more in love with the “wet” Dee Zu that he was with the virtual variety. And the Lode has enough of Cisco—enough of the “right stuff,” the properly stressed personal data—that, as he has already proven, he’s capable of ascension as an autonomous ebee to Aeolia, Sky’s qubital alternative to mondoland, or what you refer to above as the “real world.” He wants to ensure that Dee Zu survives long enough the Lode can absorb enough of her data that, should the wet Dee Zu die, she also has this option of a second life in Aeolia.

At the same time, Cisco is co-opted by Sky, serving as her agent in resisting both Brian’s machinations and the attempts of Mildread, one of Sky’s personality alters, to shut down Sky’s Aeolia project.

 

  1. Who or what inspired you to write Brian and Sky (the antagonists)?

Sky, to some limited extent, is a virtual version of the ancient Pygmalion story. A human creation that comes to life in a way that causes people to become infatuated, even sexually embroiled with her. But that’s a real stretch, and is misleading.

Other than that, I wanted an AI with human qualities, at least in part, and discovered a fine source of dramatic conflict between a machine MOM (mall operations manager) who has ascended to self-aware autonomy, and Brian Finister, the megalomaniacal last human MOM, whom she superseded.

 

  1. What was your favourite part in writing Genesis?

I enjoyed writing all its various parts, but maybe I had the most fun with Brian. First of all with his “despatches,” his raving fulminations and attempts to supply a history for a future readership he believes will never exist; and, secondly, with the chapters where his scendent personality fences with the super-intelligent Sky, determined to prevail in the end, no matter how unlikely that outcome appears.

 

  1. Can you give us a glimpse into your third novel, Resurrections?

To reveal the essential theme and plot device would prove a spoiler for readers of Genesis 2.0. The best I can do is say that, underlying MOM and Genesis, we find developments that point towards a game-changing evolutionary emergence. This element is brought to surprising conclusions in Resurrections, and our heroes (including, again, new characters in addition to the old cast) have to cope with these developments, which offer at once huge promise and dire threats for the future.

Blog Tour Spotlight: Genesis 2.0 by Collin Piprell

 

Hey everyone,

This is my first stop on the Genesis 2.0 blog tour! I’ve been curious to see how Collin’s characters have dealt with their lives being turned upside down by a self-aware AI. Genesis 2.0, the sequel in the Magic Circles series, is now available online.

Don’t miss my next two stops tomorrow and Thursday.

But for now, enjoy!

 

Genesis 2.0

Collin Piprell

Publication Date: October 5, 2017

Buy Links: Common Deer Press Website, Amazon CAN, Amazon US, Book Depository, and Barnes & Noble

A nanobot superorganism lays waste to the Earth. Is this the apocalypse? Or does the world’s end harbor new beginnings? Life will always find a way. Though some ways are better than others.

Evolution on steroids and crack cocaine—the most significant development since inanimate matter first gave rise to life. You can’t predict novel evolutionary developments, you recognize them only after they emerge.


About the Author

Collin Piprell is a Canadian writer resident in Thailand. He has also lived in England, where he did graduate work as a Canada Council Doctoral Fellow (later, a Social Sciences and Humanities Fellow) in politics and philosophy at Pembroke College, Oxford; and in Kuwait, where he learned to sail, water-ski and make a credible red wine in plastic garbage bins.

In earlier years, he worked at a wide variety of occupations, including four jobs as a driller and stope leader in mines and tunnels in Ontario and Quebec. In later years he taught writing courses at Thammasat University, Bangkok, freelanced as a writer and editor, and published hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics (most of these pieces are pre-digital, hence effectively written on the wind). He is also the author of short stories that appeared in Asian anthologies and magazines, as well as five novels (a sixth forthcoming in 2018), a collection of short stories, a collection of occasional pieces, a diving guide to Thailand, another book on diving, and a book on Thailand’s coral reefs. He has also co-authored a book on Thailand’s national parks.

Common Deer Press is publishing the first three novels in his futuristic Magic Circles series.

Collin has another short novel nearly ready to go, something he only reluctantly describes as magic realism. Less nearly ready to go are novels he describes as a series of metaphysical thrillers. Not to mention several Jack Shackaway comic thrillers, follow-ups to Kicking Dogs. He also has a half-finished letter to his grandmother, dated 10 October 1991, saying thanks for the birthday gift.

Website | Facebook | Book Page | Twitter | Goodreads | Reddit | Medium

Blog Tour Review: Unwrap Your Candy by Jesse Miller

 

Unwrap Your Candy by Jesse Miller

Published by: Common Deer Press

Publication Date: September 10, 2017

Genre: Literary Fiction

Page Count: 250

Rating: 4/5

Source: eARC from Common Deer Press

Goodreads | Indigo | Amazon CAN | Amazon US | Barnes & Noble | Publisher’s Website | Book Depository


Thom’s life has a soundtrack. Unseen glass phalluses–thousands of them–whirring softly along conveyer belts on the other side of the factory wall. The snap and splash of eggs against plaster. The scratch-fizz-tang of cigarette lighters being flipped again and again. A thousand throats swallowing a thousand swigs of beer; a thousand sets of lungs choking on a thousand French inhales. Hard fists sinking into soft flesh; soft chunks dropping onto hard sidewalks. Plop-flush-drain repeat. And moonsong, high above, forever calling and calling, “Stud, rub her with the Stud Rubber.” If only it were so simple.


I’ve received an eARC for an honest review. Receiving one doesn’t affect my opinion of this book. I would also like to thank Common Deer Press for sending it.

 

“Barriers are only so effective. Sometimes things just leak through, even if you hold them back.”

You know when a book leaves you speechless, and you’re not sure how to properly express your enjoyment of it? Well, I’m in that particular situation. From the first opening scene, Jesse will show you what he’s made of.

A literary fiction that teeters on hilarity, intelligence, and downright fun, Unwrap Your Candy is a treat for any reader looking for the next unique read. Thom decides to leave his job at a local condom factory, all the while losing his sanity in the process.

Jesse beautifully crafts each sentence and transports you to Thom’s frame of mind. You can’t help but be impressed by the level of detail and precision Jesse puts in his story. I felt as if you might not get that attention in a book about a condom factory worker, but I was wrong. With Jesse’s writing, you see who Thom is as a man who slowly loses his mind.

Jesse’s prose illustrates the passion and ultimately the respect he has for the literary art form. Some constructions are out there, yet you never lose the appreciation for the final product. But don’t think of this book as pretentious. It isn’t. You see the dedication he weaves in each chapter. His lyrical storytelling pulls you this way, then that, and somehow, some way, you come to a satisfying conclusion at the end. And I enjoyed the adventure. It isn’t linear; it isn’t chronological. It’s organic.

One scene that sticks out the most to me is how Thom, whose life is essentially falling apart, consoles a coworker’s widow. I can’t decide why it has, yet it speaks to me, especially when Thom doesn’t quite know how to help this grieving man. And while several characters, like his girlfriend, Samantha, coworkers, and father make appearances, the story itself focuses solely on Thom and his eventual path. Maybe other authors may have developed the secondary characters, but Thom is the main focal point in this literary fiction. And I appreciate that detail to this character.

Jesse isn’t afraid to break the writing mould. So keep a look out for his future books!

 

www.commondeerpress.com

www.facebook.com/commondeerpress

@AHerdOfDeer

Blog Tour Interview: Unwrap Your Candy by Jesse Miller

Hey, everyone!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesse Miller, Common Deer’s newest author. While discussing the Common Deer Press’ Fall 2017 lineup, Elizabeth, publisher and friend, mentioned Unwrap Your Candy. Let me tell you I wasn’t expecting a book about man who works at a condom factory, loses his mind, then leaves and his job, all in one night. But since I saw the first page, then the condoms and cigarettes sparkled throughout the book’s design, I knew I was in for a fun read.

Don’t miss out on this book! It comes out on September 10th.

 


Welcome to my blog! Thank you for taking some time out of your day to have an interview with me. And congratulations on your upcoming book birthday! 

  1. Can you tell readers what your book is about?

Thanks for having me aboard your blog! Describing this thing I’ve created is tricky for me. Even though I’m the one who created it, the book may be something very different to me than it is for others. But I’d say, Unwrap Your Candy is about being madly in love with and consequently, blissfully intoxicated by language. It’s the story of Thom Evans and a day/night he spends after he leaves his miserable job at a condom factory for a night on the town with his compellingly attractive, but seriously wounded lover, Samantha. The tagline my publisher came up with is choice, something like: Imagine Woody Allen made a movie about Dilbert and James Joyce wrote the screenplay. That’s what you should expect from Unwrap Your Candy.

Really, UYC is a book of chapters, and perhaps the non-linearity of the narrative might be a barrier for someone to push through. But if you can get past some of the construct mechanics, it’s really a book of songs, with recurring phrases, with recurring lyrical motifs, many of which are introduced in a kind of overture at the beginning, stretched and unpacked as the book spins on, and then brought around in the close. I suppose that sounds kind of absurd, and perhaps worse, pretentious AF, as the kids might say. How about this: it’s a concept album in the form of a novel.

 

  1. Why did you plan to write it? Was there anything that gave you inspiration to do so?

The real germ of UYC came from an article I read many, many years ago in one of those douchebag men’s Maxim-y magazines. I was sitting there in the waiting room at the dentist’s office and the cover had a little blurb: “The Magical, Mystical Condom Factory Experience!”—some such nonsense. I think the angle was like this Willy Wonka-esque tour through the factory as told by a kind of “with it” Hunter S. Thompson narrator-type driving the story. What struck me most was how during the tour, the writer wasn’t allowed inside certain rooms—I’m sure this is standard procedure, but he made such a huge deal out of it, out of this barrier, this kind of off-scene place. It got me wondering: What was beyond those walls? And then some lyrical part of my brain took over and wondered what that all meant—the barrier, the NO that existed in a space that made barriers. From there, the unknown, the beyond, and not just the actual room in the factory, became the quest. And then in time, the mood and the undercurrents of the book started to take shape.

 

  1. Can you also talk about your main character, Thom? How did he come to life?

Thom came to life for me in the ensuing years after I had written a full draft and had put the book down for a while. There was something about his “condition,” self-imposed as it is, that some part of my brain couldn’t stop returning to it. It was a kind of unresolved melody bouncing off the walls of my cranium, trying to get out. I suppose then, so much of Thom experience is a sense of purgatory, even in, and perhaps especially in, his youth. The book is prefaced with a portion of Tennyson’s poem Tithonus, and as misguided as Thom may be, I think he identifies with the unresolved condition Tithonus experiences in the poem—the sense of being shielded physically but not protected emotionally…feeling powerless as you watch everything decay. It’s odd, but that kind of chewing on a heavy poem for years, and returning to some lines you might mutter to yourself or anyone in earshot, at questionable times even, feels real to me, makes Thom real to me, anyway.

Of course, when I first started the book, I was roughly about the age of our dear punchinello. I was once a young, anxious man vibrating with the exotic narcotics of adrenaline and hormones, trying to figure out how to exist inside my own skin. Interestingly, it was ultimately in my aging, in my removal from the kind of “condition” of this character that I suppose I could see Thom, and write from a perch where I was capable of looking back to make some out of meaning of the flurry of his youth. I always thought there was a dark humor in this book, but as I’ve worked on the revision, and the countless other revisions, and as life has worked on revising me—I suppose I’ve appreciated the humor in the Thom’s self-created folly more and more.

 

  1. You’ve published a novel before. What have you enjoyed about this book’s publishing process? 

I’ll tell you, this has been a remarkable experience. The good people at Common Deer Press have been extremely receptive to how I envisioned this book finding its form in the world. I particularly loved the way the dust jacket came out—that long phallic factory stretch into infinity just kills me. And the 3-tone trinity spareness of the cover gives me chills, gives me that rockin’ pneumonia of, say, a White Stripes album.

I am thrilled (to) be part of CDP and to bring Unwrap Your Candy into the world! This is, well, an unconventional novel, which drifts way out there at times, and it is only fitting to work with a unique publisher so keen on presenting the work in its proper form. CDP gets this book, and I very much looking forward to the unwrapping.

 

  1. You’re a visiting lecturer at the University of New England. Why did you decide to choose literary fiction over other genres? Is there something that sets it apart?

I am! I generally teach writing courses at UNE, including creative writing courses.

Choose literary fiction? That’s not exactly it for me. Really the question is: What is literary fiction? I’m not trying to be bratty, but it’s worth considering. It’s certainly something we wrestle with in my writing classes. As I understand G E N R E, with a capital G—as both a writer and a teacher of writing—is that other genres radiate from literary fiction, and we receive their rays on many different planets. Literary fiction, for me, without putting too fine a point on it, is a home-base of sorts, an incubator, a kind of Rome from which all other genres widen and radiate. And that’s what makes other genres interesting, in their reach and radiation from home-base. And really, UYC is a probably a little bit of a transgressive book in the truest sense and in the genre sense. But I don’t really live and die by genre.

Literary fiction so often has elements of other genres. Christ, one of my favorite short stories, The Swimmer by John Cheever is really a ghost story. I love reading that story with my fiction students as “literary fiction” and then looking at from another genre-y lens. EXPLOSION! Students come in loving stories, so I really try to avoid being sclerotic with how I define or have them experience fiction. Tell me a story. Make me care. Avoid cliché. Get out of your comfort zone. That’s really my ambition in the classroom and at my writing desk.

 

  1. Are you planning to write more books in the future at all?

Well, I’m so pleased that my fabulous publisher has purchased the rights to my first novel and will be re-releasing ARK. That will be the next project to attend to. You can check out a little sample of the cover art and a blurb about the book here:

https://www.commondeerpress.com/ark

Beyond that, I’ve been writing an eschatological novel, a kind of mosaic for years and years now, which feels like with just my luck, that I’ll finish just in time for the end of the world. I’m calling it the WAX novel at this point, like drip candles that accumulate on prior drippings, because it seems like with this project I keep returning to it, burning over for a while when I can really focus; and then I’m back teaching, and that kind of singular focus I need evaporates. The cycle has been going on for a long time, writing in fits and bursts… falling into the book, back again, and then I’m gone again. The process of coming and going in and out of the book, that wax and wane, is having an impact on the style of the prose for sure.

 

www.commondeerpress.com

www.facebook.com/commondeerpress

@AHerdOfDeer

Blog Tour Spotlight: Unwrap Your Candy by Jesse Miller

 

Today’s my first stop on the tour. I have the pleasure to announce the publication of Unwrap Your Candy, by Jesse Miller. UYC is now available for purchase.

 

I hope you enjoy. And don’t miss my next two stops this week!

 

Unwrap Your Candy

Jesse Miller

Publication date: September 10, 2017

Publisher: Common Deer Press

Buy linksGoodreads | Indigo | Amazon CAN | Amazon US | Barnes & Noble | Publisher’s Website | Book Depository

Tagline: Imagine Woody Allen made a movie about Dilbert and James Joyce wrote the screenplay. That’s what you should expect from Jesse Miller’s Unwrap Your Candy.

 

Thom’s life has a soundtrack. Unseen glass phalluses–thousands of them–whirring softly along conveyer belts on the other side of the factory wall. The snap and splash of eggs against plaster. The scratch-fizz-tang of cigarette lighters being flipped again and again. A thousand throats swallowing a thousand swigs of beer; a thousand sets of lungs choking on a thousand French inhales. Hard fists sinking into soft flesh; soft chunks dropping onto hard sidewalks. Plop-flush-drain repeat. And moonsong, high above, forever calling and calling, “Stud, rub her with the Stud Rubber.” If only it were so simple.

 


About the Author

Jesse Miller is the author of two novels including the forthcoming Unwrap Your Candy from Common Deer Press. He is a Visiting Assistant Lecturer in English at the University of New England.

He lives in the great city of Portland, Maine, with his wife, two cats, and dog. Jesse roots for the Red Sox.

 

Website |Facebook | Common Deer Press | CDP Twitter

 

 

www.commondeerpress.com

www.facebook.com/commondeerpress

@AHerdOfDeer

Blog Tour Review: MOM by Collin Piprell

 

MOM by Collin Piprell

Published by: Common Deer Press

Publication Date: April 5, 2017

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

Extent: 324 pages

Rating: 4/5

Source: eARC from Publisher

A GOD IS BORN!

TOO BAD ABOUT THE PERSONALITY DISORDER

So reads the graffito.

MOM is the mall operations manager — the greatest intelligence in history, a machine awakened to self-awareness at a time when the last few human survivors have withdrawn to the last two remaining refuges on Earth. Quarantined from the global nanobot superorganism outside the malls and from each other inside, the mallsters are utterly dependent on MOM for everything — including the ever-more suspect information they’re getting about the world Outside.

Now the malls are crumbling.

A mystery thriller set in the second half of the twenty-first century, MOM is the first novel in Collin Piprell’s darkly comic and always thought-provoking MAGIC CIRCLES science-fiction series.


Stepping just an inch inside Collin’s world is not only terrifying but also thrilling. I wondered what I have gotten myself into. I haven’t dived in to sci-fi for a long while. But Collin creates a richly dark and gritty story that will keep any science fiction lover up at night.

 Our society is dead. The last remaining humans retreat and find shelter in Malls, where MOM (mall operations manager) protects them from the outside post-apocalyptic world and the superorganisms that destroyed it long ago. Cisco the Kid, the protagonist, and other test pilots “world” in generated realities. Throughout the book he starts to lose himself, and he finds that something in these virtual worlds doesn’t add up. Once Cisco and the others discover MOM may have misled them and may also have become a self-aware AI, which may be slipping into insanity, life as they know it will change forever.

Overall I enjoyed reading MOM. I discovered an intriguing side to futuristic sci-fi, which isn’t always on my TBR list. You get a strong sense that Collin takes the time to flesh out his work. And he dedicates his efforts to create an entirely unique world. How many times have you heard the word “autonomous ebee” (electronic being)? For this fantasy lover, I’m lucky if I understand it (and thankfully I do).

Collin’s world building is superb. It hooks you in and takes you on a sci-fi junkie’s mind-altering adventure. His characters move the story along and keep your attention. I’m not a huge fan of multiple POVs in stories. Sometimes I find any more than three distracting. However don’t let that issue waylay you from reading the book. From chapter one to the next, you aren’t sure which POV you’ll read next, but that change keeps the story stimulating. One big tip any readers need for MOM is to pay attention to every detail. Collin incorporates intricate information into his work.

I think my only negative for the book is the terms and the language characters use. Understanding what each new word means took me awhile. If you aren’t accustomed to this type of writing, you may feel a bit lost. But, and I mean but, I am grateful for the glossary (yes, this book has one). You know you’ve stepped into a multi-faceted universe when you find one at the end of the book.

But if you’re a sci-fi fanatic like some people I know, MOM should be your next book. This book will take you on the craziest trip you’ve ever been on. And it will make you question everything. So get ready and strap in. MOM has just arrived.