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51kgifio8wL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Nobody walks in L.A. This is a well-known fact. Everything spread too distantly, too arrogantly—the city, the county, the Southland, however you want to categorize it all. The only connection the great roaring freeways, like clogged ancient rivers, carrying commerce and travelers, people making their way in the world, industrious and air-conditioned and unaware, but not walking, no, never.

Nonetheless, Father Jim Hinshaw isn’t going to let the limitations of his adopted hometown—three years and running, still genuinely flummoxed to be among what he used to think of as the chosen of Southern California—ruin his lifelong love of a good, brisk walk.

 

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God possessed Father Michael during mass. I was sure of it. I knew if I squinted hard enough, I could see beams of light shooting from our priest’s body, making him convulse in a sort of spiritual shiver signifying the exact moment God settled into his bones. ‘Go in peace to serve the Lord,’ God would say, raising His arms at the conclusion of mass. And then, following His somewhat self-serving farewell, He would return to Heaven in a flutter of robes, leaving a shinier and slightly steaming Father Michael.

When I explained this theory to my mother one day after church, she didn’t clarify, didn’t point me towards a bible or suggest I pay more attention in CCD. She only looked at me like she wanted to power-of-Christ-compel-me before saying, “No, that’s not right.”

3b

 

My California is the smell of eucalyptus trees in ocean air. Even salted essential oil can evoke for me whole swatches of my childhood: My father in his crazy wigs, my grandparents’ conch-shell silences on the Carmel beach, the thick grove where I got lost behind my schoolyard collecting the trees’ bell-shaped silver pods.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that eucalyptus is nonnative to California—“invasive” even though they didn’t ask to come here. They arrived in the late 1840s and early 1850s with prospectors from Australia—those Gold Rush days brought an onslaught of mostly European-American and Chinese immigrants that would triple the state’s population in the space of a few years.

Now my local newspaper prints detailed instructions on how to kill the invasive eucalyptus.

I am also invasive.

 

 

Do you imagine an ideal reader?

The ideal reader is someone who, upon reading a poem, goes immediately to find someone, another ideal reader, and she says, “Listen to this!” and reads the poem aloud as if she herself had written it. I grew up with parents who said often, “Listen to this!” And I listened. Maybe I’m someone’s ideal reader—I hope so!

What she wanted was a bearded man
to tease her, all those tight curls
between her legs scratching, tickling.
She would hold him as she would

an amphora, scenes painted onto it:
a boar with scythe tusks, a chariot
high-wheeled and eager, a naked driver
curved indelicately, his horse a puzzle

of arcs. Or she would hold him as Salome
offered up St. John, his head open-mouthed,
on a platter. No, she’d hold his head,
alive, the tongue arced and silent.

AFSulli_1

Start with the premise. A skinhead and a butcher run over a lion in December in Canada. How does this kind of thing happen?

Loose zoo laws. Or at least loose exotic animal laws.

The province of Ontario has surprisingly loose regulations around keeping wild animals. Certain cities like Toronto have passed by-laws to prevent this, but Ontario itself is full of small, family run zoos with little to no real oversight on a regular basis. You can spot a lot of them off the highway when you head north to cottage country. It’s also a lot easier for any private citizen to own an exotic animal than you might expect. And it’s a lot easier for these animals to escape than from your standard, big city zoo. Every so often these escapes make the news, but it usually disappears after a while. The past few years have seen major escapes in Florida, Ohio and Alberta. It happens more than you think. Enforcement has ramped up a bit since 1989, but it’s still common enough to pop-up in your local police blotter or Facebook feed.

Waste CoverPawned

Jamie Garrison knew he’d made a mistake when Connor Condon began to thrash around inside the plastic Kmart bag. The kid looked like a fish, his big mouth puffing out and pulling in the plastic, his lips fat and purple. Jamie saw Connor’s eyes staring back at him in the window. He could see the boy’s skin slowly changing color, the muscles in his neck straining to yank the plastic off his face.

Jamie didn’t stop though. He just ground his teeth together and pulled tighter while the ninth-graders near the front took up a chant of condom, condom, condom, condom…their voices bounced between the syllables. The bus driver wasn’t even looking, her eyes burning into the back of a stalled driver’s head, her horn blaring at the green Chevy that refused to move from the turning lane. Brock was in the seat beside Jamie and leading the chant with his hands in the air, his mouth dangling open as it always did, his leather jacket reeking of cat piss. Brock flicked his wrists like a maestro and the chant rose.

Breakwater

By Derrick Austin

Poem

In the photograph, my grandfather stands
               in sepia water off Mont Saint-Michel,
barely older than I, having chased wine

and women. Fresh from the Italian Campaign,
               swaggering on the shore,
he points at his brother beyond the frame

(killed a year later by cops who mistook him
               for another black man)
watching lambs whose salty meat is prized

in Normandy, whole racks for christenings.
               You could taste the tide, he says.
Which means what exactly? That he could taste

amina_gautier5.creditjennibryantI notice that every time someone asks you when you’re going to write a novel, you get pretty snippy about it. Sometimes even—dare I say?—downright snarky. Do you hate novels so much?

I don’t hate novels at all. There are many novels I absolutely adore! A Lesson Before Dying, The Age of Innocence, Beloved, The Color Purple, Erasure, Fight Club, The Known World, Montana 1948, Not Without Laughter, Passing, Quicksand, The Remains of the Day, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Their Eyes Were Watching God –just to name a few.

 

Don’t you want your books to sell? Don’t novels sell better? Why don’t you just shut everybody up and write one?

I am a writer who is a literature scholar and professor and that is the lens through which I look to see the world of writing. So I know that there is no correlation between a book’s advance or publisher and the book getting invited into the academy.

AminaGautierLostThingsCoverFalling into step with the boy, Thisman draws close and whispers in a voice only for him. Says, “I wish I had a little boy just like you. I wish you were my own,” and the boy believes it, every single word.

He is lost, but not in the way he has been taught to be. Not in a supermarket; not in a shopping mall. There are no police officers or security guards to whom he can give his name and address. There is no one to page his parents over a loudspeaker to come and get him. None of the clocks where they go give the correct time and there are no calendars to mark the days. He never knows where or when he is.

SamSlaughter2

 

I’m going to go ahead and ask this because we’re all thinking it: are you drinking right now?

I have some double chocolate hot cocoa, if that’s what you mean.

 

Is that a shot? What’s in it?

It has water…and hot cocoa mix. Land O’ Lakes, if you must know.

11873373_879110155493027_2034678384430381309_nBlack Mamba

Blinky ran the pet shop out on Route 64. There was nothing wrong with his eyes—20/20, he said—but he only had one and a half legs and he said he believed the nickname stopped people from staring at his stump. A die-version, he said. I didn’t stare at his stump mostly because I’d know Blinky since I was a kid and had gotten used to the fact that he refused a prosthetic. Said it wasn’t American. He’d lost the leg in the war, and he wanted everyone to know even though he didn’t want people to stare. He was weird like that.

You went to Blinky’s pet shop—named Randy’s House of Reptiles, for no reason whatsoever, Blinky’d always run the place—to buy shine. There was the bar in town, but they stopped selling at a certain time and they didn’t sell the good stuff. Blinky would never really say where he got his supply from, but damn it was good. Real good. You had to buy something pet-related when you went—I usually bought a cat toy, or dog bones for the mutt that hung around the back of my property—but if you did, Blinky took care of you. He was good like that.

Final Cover Electric PeakAvailable from Artistically Declined Press

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I’m From Electric Peak is a schizophrenic valentine from the broken heart of America. Bud Smith writes with his foot on the gas, driving his damaged characters across the mystic beauty of a country intent on destroying them.” —Kevin Maloney, author of Cult of Loretta

Kody loves Teal Carticelli. He has broken out of the Mayweather, a home for wayward youth, following his threat to blow up his high school with a fertilizer bomb. Kody is on his way to see Teal’s parents, because they forced her to get an abortion. They are about to put Teal on an airplane to Italy, and he might never see her again. But Kody has a gun in his pocket and he is climbing down the water tower to go and pay the Carticelli’s a visit. True love / true wreckage.

I'dRatherWearPajamas_CoverFront_OnlineFormat (1)Is it Just Me, or Does Everybody Want to Go to Law School?

One night while I was in middle school, I came to the family dinner table and boldly announced out of the blue that Bert (of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie) was holding Ernie back. The record player scratched, dinner paused, and my entire family looked up at me completely confused. Their baffled looks didn’t discourage me. I continued with my prepared rant about how Ernie was the real show-stopper of the duo, and could do so much more if Bert wasn’t around with his negativity and unibrow. I have no idea where these thoughts were stemming from, or why I felt it so important to relay them at that moment, but I just had to get it off my chest. For the record, I still stand by my arguments. Ernie, I know you love Bert, but you could do better. Do you really enjoy finding pigeon poop all around your house? I’m just saying.

Allow me to interject here briefly with some advice for all you parents (and aspiring parents):

Fabienne Author PhotoDancing in the Baron’s Shadow is about two brothers living through a real dictatorship that most people don’t even know about. How did this story come to you?

I had these two characters in my mind for a long time: two brothers in Haiti, one socially and financially more successful than the other, but the other, kinder and more heroic. I had it in my mind that someone should write about Haitian history and politics through fiction. The Duvalier era was tempting, because I couldn’t think of any story that brought up that slice of history, except maybe for Graham Greene’s “The Comedians.” Those were hard years of tyranny and censorship, when people were killed or imprisoned, or vanished without explanation. Haiti was dubbed “the nightmare Republic” back then, and still, it intrigued the rest of the world. That period in time was a goldmine waiting to be excavated.