October 17, 2017

The Extraordinary Ordinary: Doing Good for Others With Our Art

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The Extraordinary Ordinary: Doing Good for Others With Our Art

Our newest barista, Natalie Rodriguez, is a gifted writer and digital video director-producer with a cause to share. She wants people to become more aware of a great and growing affliction of our youth, and you can help her get that message out into the world. Please join Natalie’s crowdfunding project on Seed and Spark to finance and create The Extraordinary Ordinary The narrative follows the story of three college students navigating their way through the music, writing, and photography scenes. When one of them experiences a panic attack. they begin revisiting their history with mental health. ERICA strives to complete a long overdue photography project from high school but who struggles to find balance and closure from her past due to her ongoing battle with panic attacks. She befriends a classmate, BIANCA, a writer who has…

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October 11, 2017

Round 5 in the Fictional Cafe Anthology Contest

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Round 5 in the Fictional Cafe Anthology Contest

OK, fans and foes, the technical difficulties have been ironed out and we’re back in the ring, ready to watch – er, read – two new competitors! They’re slugging it out for your votes, so please, don’t let them down! Fictional Cafe Contest Voting Round 5

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October 9, 2017

The 400th!

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The 400th!

Last month, we received notice of the 400th member of our Fictional Café Coffee Club. This was a milestone moment for us, so we wanted to share the news and introduce the 400th member to you. Coffee Clubbers, please meet Dianne Patten, who works in the Staples Print Services Center in Burlington, Massachusetts. She’s wearing our Fictional Café hat and holding our brand-new FC coffee mug. Congratulations, Dianne! We’re happy you’ve joined our community and delighted that you’re Our 400th! Like our new mug? Stay tuned to learn how to get one for yourself!  

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October 9, 2017

NEW! Rounds 3 and 4 of the FC Anthology Contest!

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NEW! Rounds 3 and 4 of the FC Anthology Contest!

Dear Coffee Clubbers – Sorry to say, but we’ve had some system difficulties over the weekend that kinda messed up posting new rounds. We apologize, and want you to rest assured we’re all over this and getting it fixed so the contest will run smoothly going forward. Here are Rounds 3 and 4 for you to read and vote on. Enjoy! I’m delighted to see how good the writing is in all the entries, and am really looking forward to seeing who wins and will be making an appearance in our first and forthcoming book. I’m sure the writers will appreciate your interest, and your vote! Fictional Cafe Contest Voting Round 4

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October 3, 2017

Join the Fun! Vote for your favorites in the FC Anthology Contest!

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Join the Fun! Vote for your favorites in the FC Anthology Contest!

There’s a new pair of contestants every 48 hours. Click here to read and vote. Your participation makes our contest more fun for everyone, so please jump on in! And here’s what to expect over the next few days. Literary Round 1 (Mindy Windholz vs. Dee Home) Genre Round 1 (Bill McStowe vs. Joanna Ghazali) Poetry Round 1 (Judy Wood vs. Annie Tventenstra) Literary Round 2 (Mike Mavilia vs. Jack Rochester) Genre Round 2 (Beth Roper vs. Peggy McAloon) Literary Round 3 (Natalie Rodruigues vs. William Cook) Poetry Round 2 (Dee Home vs. Suman Chatterjee) Literary Round 4 (Natalie Rodruigues vs. William Cook — another one) Genre Round 4 (Joanna Ghazali vs. Chelsea Keenon) Poetry Round 3 (Alison Whittenbeck vs. Michael Larrain) Literary Round 5 (Jane Ward vs. Jake Simons) Poetry Round 4 (Judith Manzor vs….

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September 28, 2017

Inside an Amazon Bookstore: Rachael Allen, Our Intrepid Correspondent, Reports

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Inside an Amazon Bookstore: Rachael Allen, Our Intrepid Correspondent, Reports

A Summer at Amazon Books by Rachael Allen You walk into a bookstore. Something is different, you think. You pay for a cold brew from Peet’s Coffee & Tea, located in the rear of the store, then walk around, assessing. Perhaps it’s the orientation of the books: they all face out, squared shoulders, as if presenting their best selves to a potential new owner. Perhaps it’s the black review cards tacked below each book, giving you booklover22’s opinion on why All the Light We Cannot See was so moving. Perhaps it’s the devices zone in the middle of the store. A couple pokes at a tablet, while a little boy dances to Ed Sheeran, whose music is now spouting from the voice-activated speaker, per his request. Perhaps, too, it’s your awareness of the store name…

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September 19, 2017

Introducing Natalie Rodriguez, Our Video Barista

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Introducing  Natalie Rodriguez, Our Video Barista

I’m very pleased to introduce Natalie Rodriguez, a Los Angeles-based video artist, who is joining us as our video barista. Natalie has contributed her work to the Fictional Café in the past. We were impressed not only with her passion for writing, directing and producing video and film works, but with her artistic expression in a social context. Natalie is committed to raising consciousness about issues of mental health, psychotherapy, and grieving. She is currently seeking financial support to make a documentary film entitled “The Extraordinary Ordinary,” focusing on the mental health issues of young people that affect one out of four, most of them college age. Her first contribution to FC was “The Scars of Our Lives,” a subject-themed trailer for this feature-length film. It can be viewed here. To me, Natalie’s work exemplifies the…

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September 12, 2017

Guest Blogger Mike Squatrito – “From Writing to Teaching”

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Guest Blogger Mike Squatrito – “From Writing to Teaching”

From Writing to Teaching: How Did THAT Happen? By J. Michael Squatrito, Jr. As a young writer I had a great idea for a storyline and, after years of turmoil and struggle, I eventually wrote the first book in my Overlords fantasy series. As of today, I have three self-published novels and I’m working on the fourth and final(?) installment. My literary journey has taken me to places I never dreamed that I would go – from individual book signings and mass author events, to local library and school visits, regional conferences and Comic Cons, and more than enough radio and TV appearances. I’m even the Vice-President of the Association of Rhode Island Authors! However, all of this started with an idea for a book and blossomed into a business. Why am I telling you…

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September 2, 2017

A Hope in the Unseen – September Submissions

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A Hope in the Unseen – September Submissions

This month’s issue is about hope for the future. Wherever you are, whatever is going on, two things are certain: there will be strife and amidst that strife there will be hope. We can’t always see it right away, but it comes in many forms. We think this month’s member work will fuel some hope for a better tomorrow, whatever that may look like for you. Whether it is the wide-eyed optimism of a child’s writing, the reflective joy of a long-time love affair, the realism of a budding artist,  the coming-of-age perceptiveness of a young writer or the commitment to servitude that one’s work can inspire within one’s own community, we believe these works of creative expression can give our members a little hope in the unseen. Fiction A big welcome to our youngest…

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August 7, 2017

Paula Bonnell’s New Book of Poetry, Reviewed by Simran P. Gupta

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Paula Bonnell’s New Book of Poetry, Reviewed by Simran P. Gupta

Editor’s Note: Paula Bonnell enthralled us with her poetry two years ago here at the Café. Now Paula has written and published a new chapbook of her poetry entitled “Tales Retold,” which Simran, our poetry barista, reviews here. Paula Bonnell’s chapbook, “Tales Retold,” can be summed up as a masterpiece of words. Bonnell’s poetry demanded (and received) my full attention, with varying tone, emotion, and clever word choice. With each re-read, a new level of understanding was achieved and a new connection was made. This is not to make the poems in “Tales Retold” out to be puzzles waiting to be solved; that depends on the reader’s interpretation. It does, however, mean that anyone reading Bonnell’s poetry will never be bored, as something new awaits at each level of engagement. Before writing this review, I read…

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August 1, 2017

Light in August: This Month’s New Work

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Light in August: This Month’s New Work

Please pardon us for snitching the title of William Faulkner’s momentous novel about race relations in the 1930s South, but it’s on our minds a lot as we continue to see ugly racism rampant in our country. Which, of course, begs the question posed in the gorgeous song, “Why Can’t We Live Together“, performed by Diana King and Kyle Eastwood. We hope you’ll find interesting and provocative aspects of what’s good about a diverse culture in our offerings this month. That’s about it, save for the more obvious metaphor of our contributors shedding some light into your own personal August with our bountiful creative offerings. Fiction. Sandor Blum has given us a short story about an American Jew who encounters latent – and perhaps blatant – discrimination in “My Last Night in Paris.” We also…

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July 25, 2017

Understanding Reading Biases and My Mission to Fix Them

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Understanding Reading Biases and My Mission to Fix Them

I still have all my summer reading lists from high school. The eternal optimist in me thought that someday I’d run down that list and read each one. Years later, I still haven’t read more than a few of those books, but that collection spawned a very important way of thinking for me. As a student, I treated these reading lists like they were the word of God – that to be a writer or English major in college, these were the texts I should be reading. Still, there was a quietly blasphemous part of me that questioned that belief and as I grew older, I realized that even these holy lists were imperfect. Fast forward to last year, when I was studying my Goodreads “to read” and “previously read” lists. I noticed biases reflected…

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July 20, 2017

Caitlin Jans: The Working Writer Interview

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Caitlin Jans: The Working Writer Interview

Caitlin Jans is the editor-owner of Authors Publish, a website and newsletter devoted to providing writers with sources – and resources – for publishing their work. Once a writer signs up, they receive periodic email messages with new leads for their literary aspirations. Caitlin was gracious in answering some questions from the Fictional Café editors about her work, as well as her own writing. FC: How would you describe Authors Publish? AP: We are a weekly eMagazine that publishes information for authors, including reviews of literary journals and manuscript publishers open to submissions from authors. Of course, we have changed a little over the years. We now publish eBooks and special issues that focus on just one topic, but we can still be mostly summed up in that first sentence. FC: What inspired you to…

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June 22, 2017

Our Literary Friends at “Dead Darlings”

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Our Literary Friends at “Dead Darlings”

We are very excited to share the work of our friends at Dead Darlings (great name, huh?). Dead Darlings provides an ‘in the trenches’ perspective on the writing life from writers who are in all stages of the process. There are many literary sites where established authors share their thoughts, but Dead Darlings provides a unique blend of insights into the craft from published authors, and from those who are working toward that goal. It features posts from alumni and guest writers about the writing life, the craft of writing and the journey to publication. They also offer in-depth interviews with authors. Authors interviewed previously include Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, Helen Phillips, and J. Ryan Stradal. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest posts and join the…

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June 16, 2017

The FC Writing Contest: Live Today!

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The FC Writing Contest: Live Today!

As we announced earlier this week, our writing contest opens today! You can click here for the long version of the rules, but here’s the short version. Use the link above to submit your story Unless it’s poetry, art, or flash fiction your tale should be from 2k to 8k words It costs $10 to submit Submissions close on Friday, July 14 Starting Monday, July 17 we run head-to-head elections to see who wins each genre category Winners of 1st through 3rd place go in a print anthology. They win glory, honor, and two free copies! Any questions? Write me here! Get to writing!   Editor’s note: The Fictional Cafe Writing Contest is the brain child of Jason Brick, FC’s Anthology Barista. An accomplished author of fiction and nonfiction, Jason is also a heck of an…

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June 13, 2017

Our Writing Contest Goes Live On Friday!

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Our Writing Contest Goes Live On Friday!

Greetings Fictional Café Readers, Writers, Artists and Members! It is our pleasure to announce the First annual Fictional Café Writing Contest. In celebration of our fourth year of bringing you the best fiction we can offer, we’re expanding our programs to include a print/ebook publication curated by you, our members. Here’s how it works. Part One: Submission Beginning at the end of this week, submissions open. You enter your best piece of fiction via our one-of-a-kind submission form (link will be visible in our official Opening post this coming Friday). Submissions should be between 2,000 and 8,000 words and fit in one of the following categories: Literary Humorous Poetry (word count requirement suspended) Speculative Mystery/Thriller/Crime Western/Historical Flash (word count <1,000 words) Art (photos, drawings, and paintings, no word count requirement) You can submit as many times…

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June 1, 2017

Freedom – June Submissions

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Freedom – June Submissions

June is a month linked to freedom. Whether it’s the arrival of the day that school’s out for summer, the warm days perfect for sprawling out on the grass with a good book or the beginning of road trip season, June signals the end of the ties that winter and school have over us (at least in the northern hemisphere!). Our European Pen Pals can attest to the pleasure of being done (and home) for the summer too. This month’s submissions reflect such freedom as we deviate slightly from our typical offerings. We have two novel excerpts for you, each very different yet both quite engaging and two installments each of poetry and art. Bon appétit! Fiction Our first excerpt is from Legends of the Treasure by Mike Squatrito, the first book in his fantasy…

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May 30, 2017

Party Tonight! Join us at the Virtual Celebration of the Mickie McKinney Podcast!

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Party Tonight! Join us at the Virtual Celebration of the Mickie McKinney Podcast!

Please join us in wishing a happy first anniversary to Ruby Fink and the “Mickie McKinney, Boy Detective” podcast series on Faux Fiction Audio. We were fortunate enough to publish the whole Mickie serial here at FC, and upon learning the franchise has been renewed for another year, anxiously await the first episode of Season 2, which we’re told is due any day. In the meantime, you’re welcome to join in congratulating Ruby, the creator and producer,  and her performers–Sam, Hannah, Lucas, Lyndsey and who knows who else will show up–tonight [Tuesday] for Mickie’s birthday/anniversary party! It will stream live tonight on Facebook, beginning at 5:00PM PST. You may even bump into one or two of us FC baristas there–virtually, of course. In the meantime, here’s what Ruby wrote about her experiences writing and producing Mickie:…

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April 30, 2017

The Merriest Month – May Submissions

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The Merriest Month – May Submissions

May was Shakespeare‘s merriest month, at least literarily. We have found similar joy in what we’re publishing for you this May as well. Here’s what we have for you to peruse while “sitting in a pleasant shade” this month.   May Submissions Fiction Feast on our May fiction. We’re pleased to publish an excerpt from Luke Bencie’s first novel, The Clandestine Consultant: Kings, Sheiks, Warlords, and Dictators,which was just published last month. It’s an exciting, fast-paced, true-to-life adventure of an “international consultant” who is in truth a spy, an assassin, and a dirty-deal maker of epic proportions. You won’t want to miss his story. We are also introducing a short story by Katinka Smit, an Australian author. A dark, absorbing fantasy, it’s entitled “Silver Moons.” Poetry Bonnie Amesquita returns to the Café with some new poetry. She’s…

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April 22, 2017

Announcing Our First Annual Short Story Contest

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Announcing Our First Annual Short Story Contest

To celebrate entering our fifth year bringing excellent short fiction to the world, we are opening a new venue for writers: the Fictional Cafe Short Fiction Contest. Here’s how it works: Step One: Over the course of the summer, writers enter their works in one of ten categories for fiction. Entry will cost a nominal fee, to prevent us from getting spammed. FC subscribers get a discount. Step One-and-a-Half: The most-viewed story for each month from January to June, 2017, is automatically entered into the contest for free. Step Two: This fall, our readers vote on the entered stories in head-to-head, double-elimination tournament action. Step Three: We put the first and second place winners for each category into an actual print anthology made out of actual dead trees. And a Kindle edition, too. Step Four: That anthology…

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April 7, 2017

Introducing Our New Barista, Artist Gary Marchesano

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Introducing Our New Barista, Artist Gary Marchesano

  The Fictional Café is a growing, changing artist’s coffee house. What began as a desire to publish other writers has grown into a place where not only fiction-writers and poets but artists, photographers and yes, even podcasters, are delighted to share their creativity with you, our loyal FC members. We are also growing and changing  from the inside as we welcome new baristas to help us with the ever-growing number of submissions, as well as introducing us to increasingly wider audiences. That’s why it’s such a distinct pleasure to introduce Gary Marchesano, as an artist and our newest barista. He’s a very thoughtful, discriminating, and cool guy who gets to live in a garden spot in Florida where he can watch Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket launches, go fishing not even a mile from his door,…

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April 4, 2017

New and Old Friends – April Submissions

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New and Old Friends – April Submissions

My mom recently shared this quote with me about the importance of maintaining friendships. Here at the Fictional Café, we like to pass these lessons learned on to our readers. Whether you’re a literary community like ours or an individual in the creative arts, connecting with others opens so many doors and opportunities. Life is all about relationships, and we hope you will enjoy yours with us and encourage others to join us! This month, a good friend introduced us to a new community. We’d like to welcome our readers and members from GrubStreet, a Boston-based non-profit that provides resources to writers of all levels, including workshops, seminars and networking events. Please check them out. In the spirit of the quotation above, we will be featuring work from both new members and long-time members this month. Before…

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April 2, 2017

Faux Fiction Audio: The Cast

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Faux Fiction Audio: The Cast

Writing, reading, recording  and sharing our creative work   Our featured podcasts for March were the first four episodes from “Mickie McKinney, Boy Detective.” The show was written, directed and produced by Ruby Fink, who heads up her own audio studio and staff of talented, hard-working performers of Faux Fiction Audio out there on the Left Coast [where else?]. What began for Ruby as something simply fun to do has turned into her passion. What next? She hopes a business, specializing in producing podcasts and audiobooks for authors. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, you can continue listening to Mickie here [we’re up to Episode 5, “Brawn and Brain”], while you wait for Ruby and her cast to get Season Two up. You can also listen to the Mickie podcasts on iTunes [podcasts, store, search “mickie mckinney”]….

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March 26, 2017

Guest Blogger Clark Zlotchew – “Havana, 1959”

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Guest Blogger Clark Zlotchew – “Havana, 1959”

Editor’s Note: You may recall Clark Zlotchew’s poetry in our December Submissions. I had a chance to talk with Clark about his experience in Cuba and his writing. Did this trip inspire the poem and photo you shared with us? Yes, my several trips to Cuba did inspire the poem “Dancing in the Tropics” but with a little help from what I witnessed in Haiti as well. These events took place in the last years of Fulgencio Batista’s regime, while Castro was in the mountains at the other end of the Island.  I was there in 1957 and 1958.  Those guns and pup tents on the roof of the Presidential Palace were protecting Batista.  The occasional bomb blast in Havana was set by Castro’s agents.  Castro took over the whole Island in 1959. Was it scary seeing…

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March 20, 2017

“Journaling Abroad” by Rachael Allen

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“Journaling Abroad” by Rachael Allen

I’ve been studying in Italy for over two months, and have become a journaler. I’ve become a dedicated one too, sitting down to write for almost an hour each day in these flexible canvas-covered, orange-detailed notebooks I purchase from a bookstore off Bologna’s main street. In these journals, I recap my day. I write about the food I ate. I spiral into analyzing my emotions, then pick myself up with a second-person pep talk, occasionally feeling strongly enough to address myself by name. I am glad my Italian roommates don’t understand English well nor know the spot in the second drawer of my bedside table where I stack the journals, beside a jar of Skippy peanut butter from home and my monthly food allowance. What are these journals worth, really? Are they worth all the…

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March 14, 2017

Our Intrepid Barista in Paris

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Our Intrepid Barista in Paris

Simran P. Gupta, our newest Barista and a student at Simmons College in Boston, is doing her study abroad semester in Paris. For her, it’s Literary Paris, and we’re delighted to share her impressions, feelings, and experiences with you. Stumbling Through Paris: On Settling In During My First Five Weeks As I write this, I am sitting in Shakespeare and Company’s bookstore café, situated right on Rue de la Bûcherie with a view of the Seine and the Notre Dame de Paris. The winter weather is temperate, which means I can often sit at the tables outside this and other cafes, under a heated terrace with a blanket over my lap while I sip my chocolat chaud or café au lait. I often joke that I have “moved in” to Shakespeare and Co. It’s my…

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March 2, 2017

Guest Blogger Kathy Parker – Creativity Matters: Jumping Without A Parachute

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Guest Blogger Kathy Parker – Creativity Matters: Jumping Without A Parachute

Editor’s Note: Kathy Parker is a Fictional Café member, poet and Instagram All-Star. She wrote this piece about her work in the writing field on her blog. We loved her honesty, courage and hope she inspires to fellow creative folks so much, we asked if she would share it with our community. We hope you enjoy her piece. * * * Creativity Matters: Jumping Without A Parachute With the year still fresh and shiny I’ve been thinking lately about my goals and direction for the coming 12 months. After much thought, I have decided I will no longer continue to write for Elephant Journal. While having that kind of exposure can be of benefit, I can simply no longer advocate an organisation who do not pay their writers, yet still demand exclusive ownership and rights…

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February 26, 2017

Free Coffee, Anyone?

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Free Coffee, Anyone?

Dear fellow Fictional Café members: You may recall the recent posts about my trip to Taiwan and the story of Dante Coffee, our sister coffee shop in Taipei. In one of the posts I asked, “Could a cup of home-brewed coffee from Dante in Taipei, Taiwan, be in your future?” Here is the answer! While having my morning coffee at Wei Ni’s charming coffee shop I bought a box of six single-serve coffee pods, just so I could give them to you, our Fictional Cafe members, free! These coffee pods are, in our American experience, rather unique. The pod hooks over the edge of your coffee cup [see below] and you pour steaming hot water through it, kind of  like steeping tea. It’s fun, even if you only get to do it once. I have six Dante coffee…

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February 25, 2017

Give Me Coffee or Give Me Death

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Give Me Coffee or Give Me Death

That’s what Patrick Henry said, right? Pretty sure. I may be wrong. But anyway, it’s Sunday, February 26, so tomorrow is February 27. That’s Monday. I know I’m right about that. Monday always follows Sunday. So tomorrow, Monday, you get to find out what these coffee messages are all about. Look for it. It’s called “Free Coffee, Anyone?” Don’t want to miss out on that, do you?

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February 1, 2017

Love or Something Unlike It – February Submissions

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Love or Something Unlike It – February Submissions

Apologies to Kenny Rogers for appropriating his song title, but it’s that time of year again. The Hallmarkiest of holidays is upon us. Whether you celebrate it or not (or just meme about it), we have something for you this month in our “love or something unlike it” themed selection, drawing on the emotions that interpersonal relationships tend to create among us humans. Take a gander at what we have in store this month: February Submissions We open with Kevin White’s short story “Bowl of Peaches,” a meditation on love lost and the despair one feels in the aftermath. The one scene story revolves around a meeting between a one-time couple whose wounds have not completely healed. Our next short story comes from A.D. Wolf. “Words Unspoken” looks at the other end of a relationship…

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January 27, 2017

A Fun Survey for Creative People

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A Fun Survey for Creative People

Our friend and publishing colleague, Michael Boezi at Control Mouse Media, has offered Fictional Cafe members an interesting opportunity to help you focus your creative efforts, the results of which he is going to share with us. Michael and Jack know each other from book publishing days and reconnected at the recent Independent Publishers of New England conference, where Michael gave an outstanding, SRO presentation. Here, in his words, is his enticement for you to take the short survey. If you’re interested, please jump right on this. Hi Fictional Cafe Members, Creatives have unique challenges when trying to market and sell their art. Over the years, I’ve seen many writers, musicians, and visual artists struggle to build a business – even if they produce great work.   In my experience, the issue always seems to boil…

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January 24, 2017

Taiwan: A Photo Essay

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I recently returned from my fifth trip to Taiwan. I like this small island republic for its interesting and dignified people, its relaxed pace of life, its emphasis on personal physical well-being, and of course its food. I recently finished writing a novel entitled Bridge Across the Ocean, which is about bicycling and love and business intelligence espionage, which takes place among characters from both New England and Taiwan. I enjoyed writing about Taiwan and on my last trip, I took hundred and hundreds of photos and shot a lot of video for the novel. This time, I just took pictures of people, places and things that caught my interest, in no particular order, all with my new iPhone 7 Plus. I hope you enjoy them. Captions appear below photos. Click on a photo to see an enlargement….

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January 2, 2017

New Blossoms – January Submissions

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New Blossoms – January Submissions

Welcome to 2017! Here at the Fictional Café we are roasting up some tasty beans to share with you this year. Whether it is the wonderful artwork, fiction and poetry of our members, our contests or our blogging from the baristas and some of our featured writers and artists, we hope that you enjoy our Fresh Java from the comfort of your own corner of the world. As creatives, it can be hard to churn out the work, day in and day out, year after year. Setting goals and deadlines can help keep us focused and give us a light at the end of the tunnel. What are your goals for 2017? Let us know in the comments section below. If you’re more of an admirer of great work than a producer, we baristas are…

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December 27, 2016

Dante: Our “Sister” Coffee Shop in Taiwan

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Dante: Our “Sister” Coffee Shop in Taiwan

When visiting Taiwan, you might think it is a country noted more for tea than coffee. But you would be mistaken. There are small storefronts that roast and grind the beans to brew your espresso a cup at a time. There are Starbucks and Mr. Brown’s coffee shops. A modest but solidly superior choice to all of them is Dante. It was because it was named after the great Dante Aligheri (author of The Divine Comedy; 1265-1321) that Dante first caught my attention. I knew I was in coffee heaven the first time I ordered a cup. First because it’s served in a real mug if you choose to sit inside. The nice big mug is heated with hot, steaming water before the coffee is poured in. Even if you opt for a takeout cup, it’s sturdy and of high quality. Last but…

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December 20, 2016

Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

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Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

My feelings about this novel were like the swells of the sea. At times, I loved the magical realism and the character interweaving, while at other times it was disjointed and irreverent, as the biographical information dragged on for pages with nothing really happening, like a the conversation you wish you hadn’t started with the stranger at the bus stop. The last 30 pages or so are where this book earned its rating for me. This was the ultimate “wait for it…” book. The culmination of everything that happened, the justification of the need for so many frustratingly confusing characters and the symbolic meaning of so much of the book all came together at the end. I didn’t truly *get* the novel until then and when I did, it had a big pay off. I…

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December 11, 2016

Walk On, Walking Crow

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Walk On, Walking Crow

Walking Crow, one of my finest, closest friends, no longer walks among us. He now walks the paths of Summerland, far away in space and time from the cold, bleak New Hampshire winter lands. At 2PM on December 9, 2016, Walking Crow, nee Stephen Croft, took his last breaths. Stevie, as I often called him, had been my friend – indeed, more like a brother than those bound to me by blood – for the past decade. He was dying of cancer, and I was on my way from Massachusetts to see him. His other best friend, Stormi, was at his bedside and held his hand as he took the Last Great Walk. I didn’t make it in time. Stevie and I lived on the same dirt road in Holderness, New Hampshire, overlooking Big Squam…

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December 5, 2016

Another Year, Another Chance to Say Thank You: December Submissions

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Another Year, Another Chance to Say Thank You: December Submissions

As we close out another year here at the Fictional Café, We’d like to take a few moments to say thank you to those who make our site possible. To our writers and artists, we thank you for sharing your amazing work with us and our community. It is not easy putting one’s self out there, but we hope that the payoff of our appreciation is worth the tireless hours of working and the often thankless process of submitting to magazines and websites. Here’s to your wonderful work and to your continued success! I’d also like to thank our loyal readers. What started out as a small, fun project has grown into a wonderful literary magazine and community – beyond what any of us had expected. Thank you for subscribing to the Fictional Café and…

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December 1, 2016

“Writing Abroad: The Things We Carry” by Rachael Allen

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“Writing Abroad: The Things We Carry” by Rachael Allen

A few weeks from now, I’ll board a plane from JFK to Bologna, where I’ll study abroad for five months. I’ll bring my parents with me as far as the boarding gate. Then, I’ll bring my two suitcases, filled with scarves, boots and jackets, all easy to layer and, most importantly, cheap (after all, my parents’ luggage was stolen on the first day of their honeymoon). Toiletries will be stuffed into my shoes; a housewarming gift for my Italian roommate nestled between socks; money, preemptively in euros, already stashed in my cross-body purse. I haven’t decided what books to bring yet—perhaps one I’ve been waiting to read (Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am), one to model the short story (Alice Munro), and one, of course, that reminds me of home (any of the Harry Potters)….

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November 28, 2016

Book Review: “Barkskins” by Annie Proulx

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Book Review: “Barkskins” by Annie Proulx

From The Shipping News to Accordion Crimes to “Brokeback Mountain,” Annie Proulx hasn’t written a novel or short story I didn’t enjoy. Proulx is a storyteller with a great depth of understanding for not just people, but environments both physical and emotional. One of my particular favorites is “On the Antler” from Heart Songs and Other Stories. It’s the story of a feud between two emotionally primitive men who live in the woods and have few means of expression, but seek revenge upon each other for crimes both real and imagined. A novel which lingers in my thoughts for its engaging thematic thread is Accordion Crimes. The musical instrument travels from hand to hand, place to place over a century, sometimes in danger and sometimes cherished, but never revealing its secret. Although Proulx’s works linger…

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November 15, 2016

Rattlesnakes, Fictional and Real

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Rattlesnakes, Fictional and Real

(Photo Credit: Audubon Society) A number of years ago, while visiting the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, I was struck by the fact that many science fiction authors had envisioned the future in their novels, then watched as their vision become reality. Well, guess what? It’s happened at the Fictional Café, too! We recently published a short story by Kathryn Holzman entitled “Rattlesnakes.” It concerned a group of people demonstrating against creating a sanctuary on an island in a Massachusetts reservoir for…yep, rattlesnakes. Oooo, I thought, that’s a creepy idea! But I liked the story a lot, especially the dream-like ending. So it was with some surprise that I read this article by Jan Gardner in the Boston Globe a few months later: “Tale of the timber rattler” “After a public outcry, the state of Massachusetts earlier this…

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October 26, 2016

Is “The Death of Books” Eminent? Nope!

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Is “The Death of Books” Eminent? Nope!

We often hear that people aren’t reading much these days. Is the death of books eminent? New research by the Pew Center points out that people are still reading paperback and even hardcover books – in fact, often preferring them to e-books. It startled me into recalling a conference I attended while still a book editor in publishing – I seem to recall 1981 as the year – entitled “The Death of Books.” Hah. People read books and e-books. More people are listening to audiobooks. We have many more choices in how we consume the stories between book covers, even as we discover more and more sophisticated ways to acquire information. Here’s an interesting article about how reading real books is still pervasive. And here’s another about the growing interest in audiobooks, which is why we podcast for…

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October 18, 2016

When Trouble Is Truly Worth It: Two YA Book Reviews

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When Trouble Is Truly Worth It: Two YA Book Reviews

Note: We welcome contributor Simran P. Gupta back to the Café with reviews of two new young adult [YA] novels. She’s not only a thoughtful literary critic and skilled essayist, but she’s opening an avenue into a literary genre which we haven’t given the attention it deserves. When Trouble Is Truly Worth It: Two Essential YA Novels To Help Ring in the School Year By Simran P. Gupta             The title of YA novelist Tony Wallach’s second book, Thanks for the Trouble, may have a sarcastic echo to it upon a first read. Upon reading the book, however, a wry and heartfelt tone emerges. The “trouble,” after all, is what forces the development of protagonist Parker Santé. Wallach’s story starts out as an enigma, through sullen, introverted Parker’s POV. A mute who prefers to spend…

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October 7, 2016

A Ghastly Deluge: October Submissions

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A Ghastly Deluge: October Submissions

The month of apple cider donuts and kids in costumes roaming the streets is always a fun time for me. From scary movies to crisp cool air, October is filled with signs, omens, of the impending darkness of winter. Our member contributions this month all have something a little eerie, even sinister, in them. We hope you enjoy our overflowing cornucopia of fiction, poetry, art, photography and video this month. Our first piece of fiction is a short story about a play. Bobby Mustin’s Theory of Evolution follows three people from the fictional play Titans taking heat from a couple who think their production is garbage. John Grey is our featured poet this month, bringing us poems about hell and dead men. You know, in case October wasn’t already Stephen King-y enough for you. Our…

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September 29, 2016

Win Real Coffee in the Fictional Cafe Sticker Contest!!

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Win Real Coffee in the Fictional Cafe Sticker Contest!!

The Fictional Café (not a real café) is teaming up with Café Monte Alto (a real café) for a brand new contest. You may recall we recently came into some very real Fictional Café stickers. Well, you can win real coffee from Café Monte Alto by putting your very real Fictional Café sticker in the most creative place and sending us a picture of it. The person with the best sticker placement will receive an 8oz bag of any blend of coffee from Café Monte Alto and their winning photo will be featured on our website. Four more creative sticker affixers will each receive a 2oz bag of any blend of coffee from Café Monte Alto. To Enter: Simply email us and say you’d like to participate in the FC Sticker Contest and we’ll send you…

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September 16, 2016

Podcast: “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, Episode 2

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Podcast: “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, Episode 2

Here we continue our September podcast of the Amazon/Audible audiobook, “It Can’t Happen Here,” with thanks to Amazon, Blackstone Audio, Inc. and the excellent narration by Grover Gardner. In this segment we see how Senator “Buzz” Windrip insidiously works toward becoming president from the perspective of Doremus Jessup, editor of a small-town Vermont newspaper. In case you missed last Friday’s first episode, it’s here. If you have any concerns about the sentiment of the American people or their feelings about the current presidential candidates, you owe it to yourself to listen to, or read, this novel. The Audiobooks version is available here on Amazon for a very reasonable price, or free if you take a one-month subscription.

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September 14, 2016

When Ghosts of the City’s Past Linger: A Review of “The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen,” by Simran P. Gupta

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When Ghosts of the City’s Past Linger: A Review of “The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen,” by Simran P. Gupta

Editor’s Note: With this book review, we take great pleasure in introducing Simran P. Gupta, a new and talented contributor to Fictional Café. Learn more about Simran at the end of her review. We hope to be seeing a lot more of her writing here at the Café! When Ghosts of the City’s Past Linger: A Review of “The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen,” by Simran P. Gupta Katherine Howe’s YA novel, The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen, is a perfect combination of spooky and romantic. The result is an equally enthralling and chilling story. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Howe has written a love story in which one half of the equation is a ghost– yet she never says the word. As summer eases into autumn, this is a perfect book to…

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September 9, 2016

Podcast: “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, First Episode

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Podcast: “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, First Episode

In 1935, a well regarded novelist named Sinclair Lewis published a book entitled It Can’t Happen Here.  The story concerns a senator who is perceived as a man of, for and by the people. But when elected president, he reveals himself as a dictator and turns the United States into a totalitarian police state. This is a story which, 81 years later, still makes Americans cringe. Yet as we look toward the 2016 presidential elections, it’s hard to escape the fact that the Republican candidate frequently rings this bell. For further evidence of this view, read this op-ed from the Boston Globe by Joan Wickersham, “An eerily familiar fiction.” Once a stage play, the novel was never made into a movie. Fortunately, it was made into an Audible Audiobook, which we are excerpting here with…

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September 2, 2016

Lost in Thought: September Submissions

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Lost in Thought: September Submissions

As those sunny summer days wind to a close, we start to wonder where the time went. I like to recall those days spent with head in the clouds, those hours sitting by the pond reflecting on life, while life reflected back at me. Our submissions this month are all about such head-in-the-clouds moments. Thomas Healy starts our offerings with his short story “Switzerland,” in which we see a man who sits all day by a fountain, lost in thought. To where does his mind venture? Where would yours go? Next up we have the poetry of Paula Bonnell. She ponders the “somedays” of life alongside vivid descriptions of nightmares past. Read along to see where her eyes and mind bring you. For our art this month, we feature the inspirational images of Jessica Edouard…

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August 29, 2016

Emily Harstone says Writers Must Be Readers

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Emily Harstone says Writers Must Be Readers

There are essentially two schools of thought about how to become a writer. The older European school says read, read, read. The newer American school says, go to college – in particular a graduate creative writing program – and study to be a writer. Emily Harstone (a nom de plume) wrote the following article, “Why Writers Need To Read To Be Writers” for the AuthorsPublish website [if you’re a writer and you aren’t a member, you should be]. Following AuthorsPublish guidelines, here is an excerpt from Emily’s article. Go to the article link above to read it in its entirety. “When I was a child I read one book every day. And by a book, I mean a one hundred to two hundred page novel. Usually it was part of a series. Often it was nothing that would…

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August 23, 2016

“Fear of Commitment: My Relationship with Writing, Time and Discipline” by Rachael Allen

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“Fear of Commitment: My Relationship with Writing, Time and Discipline” by Rachael Allen

Time moves differently when I’m home from college. An hour at home means deciding what to do, watching two Food Network episodes at my grandparents’ house, driving to the beach, or puttering out half-sentences at my computer that I tell myself I’ll finish later. An hour at school means completing a homework assignment, attending a newspaper meeting, reveling in this unusually lengthy chunk of free time, or simply talking with roommates right before bed, making me lose sleep but feel the good tired of a full day. This discrepancy in time is a welcome product of summer and its lazy days of food excess, television and marathon reading (most recently for me, Emma Cline’s The Girls and, of course, the latest Harry Potter). It’s also a product of place. School is an academic environment of…

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August 18, 2016

Partners in Caffeine: The Best Coffee This Side of Arcturus

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Partners in Caffeine: The Best Coffee This Side of Arcturus

We’re partners in caffeine-imbibing with a real coffee shop, the Cafe Monte Alto in Plymouth, New Hampshire. It’s a very cool place on Main Street, across the town green and down the street from Plymouth State University. They grow and sell fair trade coffees from their plantations in Peru, and boy, it’s a great coffee! We’re fortunate that their various roasts are not only outstanding, not only 100% Arabica shade grown, not only reasonably priced, but also available by mail order from their website. I never want to be without Monte Alto’s Dark Roast, so I order it in five-pound bags! We have a link to Monte Alto on our Home page. The owners are not only artistes in coffee roasting, but also love to have artists hang their work on the cafe walls and exhibit on their…

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August 11, 2016

Book Review: “Secrets Can’t Be Kept Forever” by Stephen Seitz

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Book Review: “Secrets Can’t Be Kept Forever” by Stephen Seitz

I recently attended “Bookstock 2016,” the Woodstock, Vermont, annual book festival. Many of us authors had our published works on display, for sale, and it was there I met author Stephen Seitz and his wife Susan. He’s written quite a few novels in the mystery genre and as we talked I became more interested in reading his work. I bought this one, Secrets Can’t Be Kept Forever, in paperback. The story begins innocently enough, focusing on the trials and tribulations of Ace Herron, the crime reporter for a small local newspaper that’s been bought by a media conglomerate. In the course of his work he learns of a father who has embezzled a large sum from his employer, kidnapped his son, and taken off for parts unknown. Ace pursues the story, which takes many surprising twists…

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August 1, 2016

It’s a Summer Romance – August Submissions

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It’s a Summer Romance – August Submissions

Something about the hot weather makes people come together. Maybe it’s all the time outdoors or the shedding of all those winter layers. From summer camp crushes to the “long walks on the beach” everyone claims they enjoy, summertime is a season of love. The Rolling Stones knew a thing or two about a “Summer Romance.” So do our members in this month’s issue. Here’s our “summer reading list.” Don’t worry, you won’t be quizzed on it the first week of school. Timothy Boudreau’s short story about unrequited love in mid-life hits hard at just how cruel the heart and its desires can be. If love is a language, perhaps not everyone can speak it. This month’s poetry comes from Chrysa Keenon, a Writing undergraduate student in Indiana. Her poems look at love as if…

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July 24, 2016

The Call of the Whale

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The Call of the Whale

It all started with a little getaway in March. My girlfriend and I had booked a cruise and in anticipation I was gathering books to bring along. Those of you who are book nerds can attest to the anxiety of trying to pick out just a few books to take in your luggage. I was weighing my options, no pun intended, when I came across Moby Dick, that hefty tome of classic American literature which had eluded my syllabi in both high school and college. Now as an “adult,” I thought it was time to give it a read. When I told my girlfriend of my choice, she sort of looked at me sideways, then said that’s a bold choice for a vacation read, especially one where we will be spending a week at sea….

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July 22, 2016

And the Winner is…

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And the Winner is…

We’re excited to announce the winner of our Logo Design Contest! Congratulations to Dan Chu for submitting the winning design!! It captures the “round-the-clock access “of our virtual café while giving a nod to the effects of drinking coffee all day and all night. This is a big 3-inch in diameter adhesive sticker on circular vinyl, suitable for affixing to your car window, your bumper, your water bottle, your laptop or a porta-potty… you know, the usual sticker places. If you’re low on ideas and want to buck tradition, here are a few other worthy candidates: your Keurig (because, obviously.), your phone/tablet case (because let’s face it, who uses computers anymore?), your self-balancing scooter (because who drives cars anymore?), your coffee mug (because what’s better than an ad for an imaginary café on a real-life…

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June 29, 2016

Lost or Found? July Submissions

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Lost or Found? July Submissions

Searching. We are all looking for something in life. It may be as small as a lost object from our youth or as large as our place in the world. In 1987, U2’s Bono proclaimed that despite searching the world over, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” His single-minded focus to find that which eludes him took him to the ends of the earth. Such is the nature of desire and the power of the human will. But sometimes, in the absence of looking, we discover treasures as well. Earlier this year, I found what I wasn’t looking for and was tracked down by a creature I didn’t realize was following me (stay tuned for details). What do you search for? What drives you to glance under slippery rocks and peer around dark…

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June 29, 2016

Welcome to our Summer Intern, Bronwen Evans!

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Welcome to our Summer Intern, Bronwen Evans!

Hello Café patrons! I’m pleased to introduce you to our summer intern, Bronwen. We are very happy to have her on board to help with these long lines. So much coffee to serve, so little time! You know how it goes. Bronwen has a background in editing and publishing, literary magazines and English literature, so we are excited for the experience she brings to our site. She is currently a student, pursuing her Masters Degree in English. Her literary interests include graphic novels and the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice. Please join us in welcoming Bronwen to the Café! –Your Baristas  

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June 26, 2016

The Last Novel of Alexandre Dumas – Troisieme Partie (Part 3)

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The Last Novel of Alexandre Dumas – Troisieme Partie (Part 3)

If Alexandre Dumas were alive today, he would be living fat, admired and happy with the royalties just from his two biggest hits, The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. In all likelihood, you have read one or both of these novels, which are among the finest examples of the thriller genre – and glorious writing to book. Dumas, writing some 200 years ago, knew what audiences liked, and he gave it to them. Michael Ross writes in his biography, “Of ten plays by Dumas and Victor Hugo, eight of the characters are adulteresses; five are common prostitutes; six are seduced; four mothers are in love with their sons or son-in-law; eleven persons are murdered; and in no less than six of these plays the leading character is either a foundling or a…

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June 24, 2016

Podcast: David Foster Wallace’s “Infiinte Jest” at 20 Years of Age

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Podcast: David Foster Wallace’s “Infiinte Jest” at 20 Years of Age

The world is divided into two groups: those who have read the late David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece, Infinite Jest, and those who have not. Tipping in at just over a thousand pages, and described on Amazon as “A gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about the Pursuit of Happiness in America set in an addicts’ halfway house and a tennis academy,” it’s not for everyone. I confess I bought it with high enthusiasm. Couldn’t wait to read it. Now, twenty years on, it’s still resting on my bookshelf, unread. Yet after hearing the people in this New York Times Book Review podcast discuss it, upon the occasion of the 20th anniversary edition being published, I’m ready. Sometimes books are like that, aren’t they? You just have to wait until you’re ready to read it. This podcast was originally netcast…

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June 22, 2016

News and Interview with Nicole Beauchaine

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News and Interview with Nicole Beauchaine

  I recently had a chance to catch up with our Featured Artist for last October, Nicole Beauchaine aka Woodsybug, about her new work. In March, she published her first book: an adult coloring book titled Goddesses. It seems that unlike Trix, coloring is not just for kids. Read on to hear more about it.   The Fictional Café: Congratulations on your new book! First off, what exactly is an “adult coloring book?” I’ve never heard of that before.   Nicole Beauchaine: So, an adult coloring book is just like a coloring book for kids, only slightly more complex designs and subject matter. For instance, my book includes nudity, not specifically sexual, but not exactly for children either.   FC: Good to know! Thanks for making that important distinction. What inspired you to make a coloring book?…

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June 21, 2016

A Visit to Dumas’ Chateau de Monte Cristo, Deuxieme Partie

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A Visit to Dumas’ Chateau de Monte Cristo, Deuxieme Partie

“I confess that the sensation attaching to the name of an absent person bedazzled me. I became ambitious of this glory of making people talk about me places where I was not.” – Alexandre Dumas   Paris, 13 Mai, 2016. In France, a country that reveres its authors, Alexandre Dumas is considered a national treasure. He was a prolific writer, most notably for stage plays, novels, and travel nonfiction. He is said to have written 100,000 words, an estimate which, given that he penned some 400 works, must certainly be a low estimate. Dumas was also a man who lived large and loved every moment of his life, which speaks to his character and a subject of equal or greater interest: Le Chateau de Monte-Cristo. [You might enjoy watching this short video, although it’s in French.]…

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June 19, 2016

Children’s Lit Issue – “Chou” by M. J. Sterling

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Children’s Lit Issue – “Chou” by M. J. Sterling

Editor’s Note: For the final installment of our Children’s Literature Issue, we have an essay by one of our members, M. J. Sterling. She writes about the agony of anticipation that comes with hoping for parenthood. * * * In Chou on Spruce and Sacramento one crisp November day while the city reverberated with the tap tap tap of keyboards under blue lights in cardboard cubicles, we were two deserters and a stowaway drifting through the jewel box of smocked, pinstriped, hand-knit and starched cotton treasures as through an enchanted forest. Just past three. Nestled on that too beautiful San Francisco street, clear brilliance of red and blue and green skyline — the city paused here in quiet repose. The owlish shopkeeper in giant black glasses and 50’s polka dot scarf peered into her dog-eared…

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June 17, 2016

Podcast: Michael Connelly, Stephen King, John LeCarre, Frederick Forsyth and More!

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Podcast: Michael Connelly, Stephen King, John LeCarre, Frederick Forsyth and More!

If you’re an avid bookie, you probably read The New York Times Book Review, which comes tucked inside the Sunday paper. For some time now Pamela Paul, the NYTBR’s editor, has been creating podcast interviews and other book news in a podcast. This month, we’re highlighting not one but several we think you’ll enjoy listening to. The first is an interview with a popular crime thriller author, LA’s own Michael Connolly, author of the fabulous Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer tales, discussing his most recent novel, The Crossing. It’s followed by Alexandra Alter’s in-depth exploration about how Stephen King came up with the ideas to write the short stories in his latest collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. A review of Adam Sisman’s biography of the king of spy novelists, John Le Carre, author of The Spy Who…

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June 13, 2016

Dumas’ Castle, Première Partie (Part 1)

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Dumas’ Castle, Première Partie (Part 1)

Paris, 2 Novembre, 2013. While on a writing retreat in rural France, I read an article about the famed author Alexandre Dumas’ magnificent Chateau de Monte-Cristo in France Today magazine. Located in the small village not far from Paris, the three-story home of the novelist who penned The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and hundreds of other works, gave me great cause to want to see his palatial estate. Most particularly, I wanted to visit his writing studio, the Chateau d’If, situated within the beautiful gardens. Dumas was born in 1802. He lived through – even participated in – the Second French Revolution of 1830. He was a prolific author who helped found Romanticism and is said to have written over a hundred thousand words [with a quill pen, mind you] for dramatic…

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June 8, 2016

Announcing the Fictional Café’s Children’s Literature Issue!

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Announcing the Fictional Café’s Children’s Literature Issue!

Kids at the Café?! Yep! Next week, we are bringing you a full issue of children’s literature featuring short stories, poetry, art and narrative for and about kids. We are very excited for this issue, which was put together by some of our very own Fictional Café members. They worked hard for months on this issue, so we are happy to be putting it out just in time for summer vacation. So pull up a carpet square and grab a juice box; it’s story time! On a historical note: with this issue, we are marking a new milestone at the Fictional Café. Our purpose in running this site is to bring people together from all walks of life – whether they are on a different continent, in a different age bracket or of a different…

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June 1, 2016

Are You Listening? – June Submissions

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Are You Listening? – June Submissions

Last week, I posted a teaser of our featured work for June. We continue with the idea of vulnerability this month, as our submissions focus on communication. Whether it is the basic act of trying to interact with another human being or looking to the depths of our souls and expressing who we are, communication is a fundamental component of humanity and one which we perhaps take for granted. Our fiction this month comes from William Torphy, who has written two pieces of flash fiction about telephones – our lifelines to connection and communication. What can the telephone teach us about the mystery of who is really on the other end of the call and what happens when our cell phone batteries die? Stay tuned to find out. Hannah Carmack uses her poetry to convey…

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May 25, 2016

The Vulnerability of Creating

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Singing
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Reading
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Mural artists
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Building
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Songwriting
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Sand sculpting
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Cooking
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Flair bartending
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Arts and crafts
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Photography
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Poetry reading
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Modeling

Those of us who are creators know how vulnerable it feels to put our work out there. Whether we are writers, artists, architects, bartenders, musicians, inventors, etc., the act of making something and displaying it for the world to see can be scary. It takes so much courage to be as honest as we are when we are creating – to stick our necks out there like we do. This month’s featured poet, Bonnie Amesquita, shared what it’s like for her when she’s creating: “Have you ever wanted to write something really good, a poem or some great something-or-other.  Still, when you try to spill those words on a page you discover that they’re just noise. Oh Jeez. Finally, you settle down and you ask yourself what you want to say and about whom or…

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May 17, 2016

Book Review: The “Brilliance” Trilogy by Marcus Sakey

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Book Review: The “Brilliance” Trilogy by Marcus Sakey

I’ve spent the past few months reading Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance trilogy. It’s been a helluva trip. Set in the unspecified near future – maybe tomorrow? – it’s a story that could have come right off the front page of a major newspaper. Sakey has character development that makes a writer pine and a plotline that’s terribly engrossing. This is a trilogy, so it’s three full length novels: Brilliance, A Better World, and Written in Fire. You can get a plot briefing on Amazon, but the brilliant aspect, for me, is the brilliants. Sakey posits an event occurred some thirty years ago, that humans with extraordinary powers – in a word, brilliance – were unsuspectingly born. Over time, average mortals have grown largely resentful of the brilliants, and some have decided to assure they will never…

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April 30, 2016

Fond Memories, Bright Futures – May Submissions

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Fond Memories, Bright Futures – May Submissions

This month we reminisce about those times – some long ago, some close in our minds – that make us smile. May takes me back to my sister’s birthday and family get togethers. It takes me back to three generations of moms on Mothers Day – my grandmother, my mom and my sister. I don’t think I’ll ever buy so many flowers and Hallmark cards as I did then. We also look ahead at what’s to come. May is the month of college graduations and the beginning of a young person’s foray into “the real world.” As a former college employee, I loved seeing their bright, wide-eyed faces as they began their next stage of life. It also marks that turning point when the last breath of winter is extinguished and spring fully envelops us…

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April 29, 2016

We Were Featured in Authors Publish Magazine!!

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We Were Featured in Authors Publish Magazine!!

Good morning Café patrons! The great folks at Authors Publish magazine have written a review of our community of creative folks. You can read it here. Authors Publish is a FREE resource that connects writers to publishers, literary magazines, articles on writing craft and a litany of other resources. Please join us in thanking Caitlin Jans, Ella Peary and Jacob Jans by checking out their site and their Facebook page (they have great writing prompts there). So pour yourself a nice big mug of joe and take a look at what they have to offer. — Your Baristas  

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April 26, 2016

“Indecision: Choosing a Career in Writing” by Rachael Allen

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“Indecision: Choosing a Career in Writing” by Rachael Allen

[Photo: Manhattan. Which box do you choose?] I want to be a writer. Well, what do you want to write? Novels, short stories, articles? Academic papers, scripts, speeches, songs? English, Italian, Spanish, marketing materials, instructional manuals? I don’t know. Moreover, I don’t want to choose right now. And yet, in declaring a major, in finding summer jobs, in approaching the time when I will no longer have school to define myself by, it feels as though I have to choose—at least momentarily, to shroud that indecisiveness that jitters inside me. In part, my confusion seems to fulfill the generalizations of an English major and perhaps, moreover, a liberal arts student—you do not have a set career path, you will not make much money. Even if you do find that sweet spot of a job, they…

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April 19, 2016

50 Ways to Sell Your Writing — #1 (Traditional Book Deal)

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50 Ways to Sell Your Writing — #1 (Traditional Book Deal)

Traditional Book Deal (Agented) Part one of multi-blog series by Jason Brick on how many ways there are for writers of all stripes to make a living doing what they love.  Check out #3 over at brickcommajason.com This is what most people think of when they think “published writer.” You write a book. Then you find an agent to represent your book. Then the agent finds a publisher to print and distribute the book. A couple years later, you have a book out. Most books you buy at Barnes and Noble were published this way. Most names you know as published authors got their work out this way. It’s the most familiar model, and the one served by most writers’ conferences. The market for this is huge, and well-serviced. But it’s a competitive field growing…

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April 13, 2016

“Why We Write” An editorial by Lloyd Prentice

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“Why We Write” An editorial by Lloyd Prentice

Why We Write Words flit in and out of our awareness like fish in shoals— many so drab we scarcely pay attention; others teach us or guide us, imbue memory and behavior like computer code. Some few— some few inspire us, change us in subtle and striking ways, play on our minds and emotions like a maestro on a concert grand. These words, by and large, are invisible to the eye. They slip through and resonate, indeed explode, at the deepest levels of our being. Words that matter are the product of disciplined study and practice— hard won. At best— an art. Words that matter are most often composed in solitude over lonely hours. Every serious writer I’d venture yearns to tame the ineffable, express the inexpressible with elegance and beauty. Writers of non-fiction weave…

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April 2, 2016

April Submissions

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April Submissions

It’s April. The human- and wild-life are coming out of hibernation, the trees are starting to stretch their limbs and baseball’s opening day is here. Those who believe in omens (and care to wager on them), take note of the photo above, taken in my backyard recently. The Cardinals and Blue Jays are two of the six teams that play on opening day. They also happen to be contenders to win their divisions and could possibly meet in the World Series in October. Do you believe in omens? How about urban legends? Well this month we’ve got a short story from Joan Connor entitled “Suburban Legends.” Whatever you’re thinking it’s about, you’re wrong. I’ll wager on that. Stick around and find out how Joan spins a yarn into a cautionary tale. Next, we have the…

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April 1, 2016

New Contest! Design our Fictional Café Merch Logo!

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New Contest! Design our Fictional Café Merch Logo!

Those of you who dropped by the cafe yesterday or earlier today may know we just wrapped up our 100th member contest. Well, we’re excited to announce some new Fictional Café swag on the way. But we need your help, Coffee Club members! We are looking for a fun, eye-catching logo design that we can use for our new FC stickers, mugs and other merch. Here are the contest specs: This contest is open only to Coffee Club members. If you’re reading this and are not yet a member, you can join here for free! All designs must include some play on the “café” theme (see featured image above for an example). Bonus points if you can incorporate “Fresh Java,” the name of our digest email, in the design. All designs must be a high-quality…

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March 31, 2016

100th Member Contest Winners!

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100th Member Contest Winners!

Hello Fictional Café patrons and Coffee Club members! You may recall that back in 2015 we ran a 100th member contest. At long last, we are happy to announce our TWO winners (they signed up on the same day, so what the heck!). Congratulations to Karen Huff and Erica Nazzaro!! You’ve won a Fictional Café baseball hat and a Fictional Café sticker. We’ve gotten such a great influx of new readers, we have actually reached (and surpassed) 150 members as well, so we are also going to give that lucky person, Judy Katz-Levine, a hat and sticker as well! Congrats to all our winners and if you didn’t win this time, stay tuned. Right around the corner we have another contest that we are super-excited about! -Your Baristas    

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March 25, 2016

An Interview with V.E. Ulett, Author of the “Captain Blackwell” Novels

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An Interview with V.E. Ulett, Author of the “Captain Blackwell” Novels

An Interview with V. E. Ulett, Author of the Captain Blackwell Novels JBR: How did you become interested in writing about the days of wooden sailing ships? VEU: My interest in writing springs from a love of books and reading. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I loved C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series, and even more Patrick O’Brian’s wonderful books. I have a certain fascination with the British Royal Navy of (Admiral Horatio Lord) Nelson’s day, but I don’t read only in that era. Arturo Perez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste novels are another favorite of mine. JBR: Those tales take place in Spain and elsewhere in the 1600s. In those times, sailors often considered a woman on board a jinx. You’ve broken through that with Mercedes, a woman who can hold her own with the men. It’s…

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March 20, 2016

“In Praise of Editing” by Sam Henrie

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“In Praise of Editing” by Sam Henrie

A few weeks ago, I began mulling over an editorial blog concerning editing. I’d begun noticing, in published reviews, more criticism for novels that had multiple typos, misspellings and syntax errors. I even wrote a first draft. Then I received Wheatmark Publishing’s monthly “Marketing Newsletter” with an essay by Sam Henrie, Wheatmark’s publisher. It was far better than anything I had come up with, so I asked Wheatmark for permission to reprint. The bottom line is this: readers notice wordsmithing errors. Content may be king, but it needs editing, its queen. For all you writers, both aspiring and published alike, here is Sam’s editorial, in its entirety. In Praise of Editing by Sam Henrie Years ago I was reading the bestselling A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (on which the 2015 motion picture…

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March 15, 2016

Craft Notes: Pacing

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One problem with taking on any profession is that it begins to taint how you look at the world. Cops and social workers probably get the worst end of that stick. On the other hand, spending a decade as a professional martial arts instructor gave me a new level of appreciation for film choreography and fight sports. I find the same thing is affects how I read. I just finished the newest Virgil Flowers thriller by John Sandford: Deadline. Sandford’s books – and he’s certainly written his share – can be a mite formulaic, but I love the heck out of them. He’s not saying anything important, nor is he bucking for a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize for literature. He just turns out good stories year after year. Sandford (and, yes I am aware that’s a…

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February 29, 2016

“Live, Travel, Adventure, Bless, and Don’t Be Sorry” – March Submissions

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“Live, Travel, Adventure, Bless, and Don’t Be Sorry” – March Submissions

I wanted to quote Jack Kerouac in celebration of his birthday later this month and recalled the photo above (in true Kerouacian form, I wasn’t even standing still long enough for the photo to finish taking). Four years ago, at the Harvard Coop bookstore, I stumbled upon this curious sign. I inquired about it as I purchased a copy of “The Sun Also Rises.” The cashier told me that they had this placard made because so many people were stealing these authors’ books as a tip of the cap to the jobless, anti-capitalism, beat generation writers. The staff had to start keeping those books behind the counter a-la cigarettes and scratch tickets. It seems other bookstores have done the same. Maybe Kerouac’s quote should read: “Live, travel, adventure, bless and don’t pay for books.” *…

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February 28, 2016

“We Have a Particular Relationship with Vowels” The BreakBeat Poets Experience

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“We Have a Particular Relationship with Vowels” The BreakBeat Poets Experience

I had no idea what to expect when I decided to attend a poetry reading called “The BreakBeat Poets” at an art gallery. So even though everything that followed was, by definition, “not what I’d expected,” that phrase did little justice to my actual experience. As I entered Uforge Gallery on a balmy Thursday night, I was greeted with the aroma of wine and the sounds of hip-hop music echoing off paintings of men without faces and photographs of women sitting on the floor. A panorama of bodies in motion, buzzing, stretched from wall to wall. The organizers of the event, Papercuts J.P., had a table with the anthology of poems by The BreakBeat Poets and the poets’ individual books for purchase along with tote bags, bookmarks and free wine. I found a singular seat along…

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February 22, 2016

“To Write, To Grow Up” by Rachael Allen

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“To Write, To Grow Up” by Rachael Allen

Editor’s Note: Guest Blogger Rachael Allen talks about her experience in Creative Writing Classes.   * * * A good creative writing class feels a bit like growing up. You arrive eager and breathy, whipping out efforts that while earnest are lacking. You listen and admire and emulate. You judge and then learn to empathize. You make friends and feel vulnerable and must continually prove yourself. Through these efforts, if you write and write and write, you hopefully come out with a better sense of yourself and a fat folder of writing on your desktop. I started taking creative writing classes in high school, my school luckily being one with the funds and interest to have an arts program. That class didn’t feel like an academic space; rather, it was a space for me and…

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February 22, 2016

50 Ways to Sell Your Writing — #5: Anthologies

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50 Ways to Sell Your Writing — #5: Anthologies

Part 5 of a multi-blog series on how many ways there are for writers of all stripes to make a living doing what they love. Check out #1 here on Fictional Cafe, and #4 on my own blog. Anthologies Anthologies are collections of short stories by several authors, compiled by everybody from major publishing houses to simple Kickstarted projects leveraging the fundraising power of multiple authors. As a reader, chances are you’ve discovered at least one of your favorite writers by encountering her first in an anthology of one kind or another. In a lot of ways, writing a story for an anthology is a lot like writing for a magazine. You find out it exists, you pitch the project, and if they accept you they publish your story in a volume along with several…

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February 9, 2016

A. J. Sidransky On Writing: Crime Fiction or Otherwise

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A. J. Sidransky On Writing: Crime Fiction or Otherwise

Editor’s Note: Fictional Café member A. J. Sidransky shares some stories and wisdom from his writing experience. Enjoy! * * * From the time I was a teenager I wanted to be a writer. When I was 17 years old, graduating high school and heading off to college, my parents asked me, “What do you want to do? What do you want to study?” I said I wanted to study English and I wanted to be a writer. “No, no, no, no,” they said. “You need to be able to earn a living and support a family.” I spent more than thirty miserable years in the real estate finance business. Thank god for the great recession. The first thing I will tell you is that a writer, regardless of genre, has to write. If you…

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January 30, 2016

February Submissions: Hell’s Kitchen Freezes Over

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February Submissions: Hell’s Kitchen Freezes Over

Editor’s Note: Storm season is upon us folks. If you happen to live in one of the states hit by Winter Storm Jonas, godspeed to you. Religion puns aside, it has been an eventful start to the new year. Mine started with a tribute to my alma mater’s mascot. We hope that yours has been joyous, or at least involved a good cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Here’s our lineup for our February Submissions. Our first submission this month is from one of our Twitter friends, A. J. Sidransky. He writes crime fiction and in this two-parter short story we get a peek behind the curtain at police life. Find out what happens when it gets personal. Next, we have a poetry collection from the talented Holly Guran. Holly’s poems are a blast…

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January 27, 2016

Book Review: Safe Inside the Violence

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Book Review: Safe Inside the Violence

Safe Inside the Violence is 13 short stories about the everyday conflicts that push the common man to act in ways he never thought he would. I must admit, this is the kind of writing that I personally enjoy the most. First off, it is character-driven. Irvin knows the importance of building well-defined, realistic characters, as his stories all share this trait. Second, the situations are right out of everyday life: a man walking to the grocery store in a snow storm, a confrontation with noisy neighbors, a garbage man finding something valuable in the trash. Irvin digs through modern-day life to uncover an engaging story each time. Now, I enjoy a spell-casting adventure as much as the next person, but for me it doesn’t get any better than when a writer really captures the…

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January 5, 2016

January Submissions

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January Submissions

Welcome to 2016 at the Fictional Café! Thanks for sipping along with us into our third year of operation. We’d also like to thank our friend Lloyd Prentice for his Christmas fiction last month. It’s great to hear from our Featured Writers, Poets, Artists and Photographers, whether it’s for an interview, a fun little snippet of what they do, an invitation to a reading or an exhibition they’re in or for a guest blog. We are ringing in the new year with some great creative work, so let’s get right to it. First up, is our January Featured Writer John Martinson. His novella Who Done Me In? is part sci-fi, part detective story. He creates a whole new world and invites you and your imagination to come along for the ride on this five-parter story. Next,…

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December 29, 2015

To All Our Loyal Fans

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To All Our Loyal Fans

From all of us baristas at the Fictional Café, we would like to thank all of you – our readers, writers, artists, photographers and fans – for your continued support of our site. We simply would not exist without you! Thank you for your submissions, for your subscriptions, for your comments and emails, for your “likes” and friendships, retweets and follows, for your invitations to readings, exhibitions or cups of real coffee. But most importantly, thank you for being a part of our community. We hope that you have found some inspiration for your own life on these pages this past year, as we bid a fond farewell to 2015. We are so excited for next year and the offerings we have in store for you all – some familiar, others novel (no pun intended)….

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November 30, 2015

Winter’s First Breath: December Submissions

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Winter’s First Breath: December Submissions

If summer seems far away already to you, you’re not alone. Much of the country has donned its winter coats and woolen sweaters, like the gals in our cover photo, a floating art installment by Hilary Zelson called “Who Wears Wool,” a tribute to the wool industry of yesteryear in Fort Point, Boston. The sculpture eerily reminds me of a Trojan Horse – a wolf in sheep’s clothing or in this case perhaps a shark in sheep’s clothing – floating toward an unsuspecting city. Speaking of sharks and sheep, consumers this holiday season may be interested in this new invention to prepare for the winter ahead. But I digress… Here are our December Submissions to celebrate the solstice. This month’s fiction comes from Lloyd Prentice, a novelist whose gritty crime fiction caught our attention in…

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November 28, 2015

Interview with Artist Erica Nazzaro

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Interview with Artist Erica Nazzaro

Editor’s Note: Earlier this month, I caught up with Erica Nazzaro – our featured artist this month – to talk about her art and the business of being an artist. For those of you following along with our blogs and on social media, you’ll notice a theme this month. We are highlighting the challenges and triumphs of the modern day creative person. Not only must they be exceptional at their trade, but they must also be a savvy business person. When Jack and I met Erica Nazzaro at an art show earlier this year, we were instantly struck by her personality. She was excited to talk with us, forthcoming with information when we asked her questions and followed up with us after taking our business cards. She also asked us to join her mailing list, which…

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November 23, 2015

UFORGE Gallery “Abstracted” Opening

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UFORGE Gallery “Abstracted” Opening

I step into the din that is opening night of “Abstracted” at UFORGE Gallery, and am instantly struck by the energy of the small space on Centre St. in the artsy Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. The brightly lit white walls scream hospital sterile, yet the patrons paint the room vibrantly colorful. This is not the pearl-adorned SoWa crowd of those warm, careless summer days. No, the crowd here is salt-of-the-earth artists and art admirers, chatting away about process and inspiration as much as about personal interests and weekend plans. The sheer volume of artwork strikes me. Thirty artists are featured in this exhibit with one to three pieces each, making the walls close in a little and the people stand nearly shoulder to shoulder throughout the room. As I make my first pass through,…

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November 15, 2015

Why Podcasting Matters

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Why Podcasting Matters

Here at the Fictional Café, you will only find fiction podcasts. These are original productions, whereas a lot of podcasts you listen to are likely to be rebroadcasts of radio shows, or portions thereof. And they are primarily nonfiction, for example almost anything you hear from NPR [no disparagement intended]. Creating a podcast is a collaborative process. Someone with a good voice must be enlisted or hired to read the novel. He or she is going to read the novel at least three times while making the recording. We’re very fortunate to have Leonard Mailloux reading my two novels, he of the mellifluous voice who understands how to read the nuances in. Next, there must be an engineer to take the raw digital recording and polish it up like a shining apple. This means taking out…

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November 1, 2015

Where There’s Art, There’s Life: November Submissions

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Where There’s Art, There’s Life: November Submissions

Sometimes, we find art in the strangest of places, like in an overturned driveway marker. Other times, we find art right where we are looking for it, like at an art exhibition. In either case, it’s in those quiet, fleeting, open-minded moments that we see the depth of beauty in the world around us. This month, we invite our readers to take a moment to acknowledge the art in their lives – whether it’s on a walk through the neighborhood or on a trip to the museum. For a little inspiration, we offer you our November Submissions. This month, we’ve got submissions from a new acquaintance, an old friend and an FC regular. First up, we have Erica Nazzaro’s hauntingly evocative mixed media art. She paints scenes that bring abstraction and reality together to create…

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September 30, 2015

International Podcast Day is Today!

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International Podcast Day is Today!

If you don’t know a lot about podcasting, today is the day you can learn more at International Podcast Day! This one snuck right up on me, even though I just delivered a presentation last Saturday at the Independent Publishers of New England conference on the subject. I love podcasting. It’s a technology which gives readers a chance to listen to works of interest on their phones, in their cars, while jogging or bicycling – whenever and wherever they want. That’s why you’ll see my novels podcast right here on Fictional Café. Very soon you’ll be seeing many other podcasting offerings here from other artists as well. So jump over to learn more about podcasting at International Podcast Day, join the conversation at Blab, and check out our offerings here at the Café, too! Jack

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September 29, 2015

Harvest Time: October Submissions

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Harvest Time: October Submissions

Summer’s bounty is autumn’s benefit. Rather than pickling our harvest, we decided to throw a feast. Without further ado, we give you five courses of October Submissions. Last week, we published three novel excerpts as an appetizer for an event that featured Fictional Café members reading from their novels. We’d like to thank our authors for their work and congratulate them on their reading. We hope you will take a gander if you haven’t already and check out their books if you like what you see. For our main course, we will be featuring an artist whose unique take on art has produced some fabulous sculpture pieces. Woodsybug creates shelves, lamps and art using the guitar as the canvas. The Fictional Café is excited to showcase these guitars from an up-and-coming artist with a very…

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September 28, 2015

Announcing Our New Head Barista, Mike Mavilia

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Announcing Our New Head Barista, Mike Mavilia

Few activities give me more pleasure than helping bring someone into the publishing business, and the story of Mike Mavilia is no exception. Mike is a Bowdoin College graduate, but more importantly a smart, literate young man with discerning thoughts and opinions about writing and publishing and, perhaps most importantly, a keen attention to detail. With a background like that, how could I not want to get him involved in Fictional Café? He took to it like a duck to water and has brought a great many improvements to this, our not-for-profit, totally for-pleasure, arts site. Mike began working at FC with Jason and me about a year ago, and has taken the reins with such gusto that I decided he needed to be acknowledged to our member audience and everyone else who reads and views…

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September 16, 2015

Travels with Capilene

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Travels with Capilene

One of my all-time favorite books has recently come up in an unexpected way. The don’t-call-it-nonfiction travelogue Travels with Charley, by John Steinbeck, has always hit me squarely on my adventurer’s funny bone. For those unfamiliar with the book, a late in life Steinbeck decided to travel across the country with his dog Charley in a highly modified camper truck (affectionately named Rocinante) in an effort to place his finger back on the pulse of a nation he so masterfully depicted in such works as The Grapes of Wrath. His journey was captured within the pages of Travels with Charley, and all the colorful people and scenery make for a cross-country story that one might think Kerouac would have seen if he’d not been on so much *ahem* coffee. My time in Maine taught me…

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August 31, 2015

Summer’s Last Stand: September Submissions

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Summer’s Last Stand: September Submissions

It’s been a busy month here at the Fictional Café. In case you were on vacation, out at the beach or having a barbecue, here’s a recap. We started our second serial podcast in August. (You can find our first here). Every Saturday morning, we invite you to wake up with Jack – our resident novelist and founding father of the Fictional Café – to hear the next chapter of Nate Flowers and company in our podcast of Madrone. August also marked the second time we published a serial story. We thought Adam Gottfried’s supernatural, Gothic thriller was too good to merely excerpt for the Café. So we chose to post it in three installments, which you can read here. One more shout out before we get to the batting order for September. Last month,…

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August 21, 2015

Sympathetic Characters by Unsympathetic Folks

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Sympathetic Characters by Unsympathetic Folks

I’m going to let you in on a poorly-kept secret… …I’m a bit of an asshole. I’m insensitive, demanding, revel in crass humor and generally am told that folks put up with me primarily because I’m their asshole and they get to point my assholility at their enemies when they feel the need. But that’s not all of it. I’m sympathetic…not in the “I feel your pain and give a damn” meaning, but in the “If I were in a book, readers would care what happened to me” meaning. My book series, The Farkas Foxtrots features a pair of loser assholes. These are not good people, or smart people. They’re not pretty, or nice. They do things like steal drugs, lie to women and frame a total stranger for bank robbery. They’re stupid with a capital C….

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July 31, 2015

August Submissions

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August Submissions

As we roll on through the best beach days of the year, we baristas at the Fictional Café have been working hard this month to serve up a sampling of the creative arts’ finest. Here are our fresh brews for August: This month, starts off with the wonderful poetry of Judith Ward – a first-time submitter, long time Coffee Club member. Her imaginative poems feature lighthearted imagery juxtaposed by themes of heartache, as she peeks around dark corners for brief glimpses into the curious bits of life. Next up, we have sculptures made from typewriter parts by Erich Griebling. We think his art is a great blend of what the Fictional Café is all about: writing and art. Although we use computers now, many of us remember a time when the typewriter was a very…

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July 30, 2015

Lessons From Infant Footwear

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Some Fictional Cafe patrons already know about the Baby Shoes flash fiction anthology, a Kickstarted project I led that’s now up on Amazon for anybody who wants to buy it (hint, hint). Last November, I launched the campaign based on a simple concept: 100 writers, 100 stories, less than 1,000 words each. We looked for enough funding to pay an editor, get a hot cover, and do an offset print run. And it failed. We got nearly half the money we needed. In December, I retooled with a trimmed budget and more support for contributing authors to bring in backers. We funded, and I promised delivery in April. Just today I sent out the last backer orders, which is another way of saying I delivered three months late. Needless to say, there was stuff I didn’t…

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July 26, 2015

Enter Our 100th Member Contest, Win A Fictional Café Baseball Cap!

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Enter Our 100th Member Contest, Win A Fictional Café Baseball Cap!

We’re quickly approaching the century mark in membership at the Fictional Café Coffee Club [WOO HOO!], so we baristas have put together a contest to celebrate the event. We’re asking you Coffee Club members to encourage your friends, family, colleagues, writing class, church, skydiving group and kickball league to join us. Member #100 will receive a Fictional Café baseball cap! [You can see us wearing ours here.] But that’s not all. In appreciation to our loyal and supportive followers for spreading the word, we’ll send the member who refers our hundredth new member a Fictional Café baseball cap too! All you need to do is send us an email with the names of your referrals. We’ll keep track of those who sign up and make sure you both get your just reward. And even if…

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July 24, 2015

Randy Cade’s New Thriller is a Western

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Editor’s note: We published an excerpt from “Call Me Harry,” from the the prolific Mr. Cade, in May, 2014. His new novella is a Western. The trick question in the title, “At the Request of James Dougle,” may keep you wondering for a while, but wait – it’s a zinger. This is an old-fashioned Western, and I love the genre. Maybe because I grew up wearing cowboy boots, but more likely because in many ways the Western was the progenitor of the mystery and suspense genre, in which I dearly love to read and to write. The tales James Fenimore Cooper told of Matty Bumppo [aka “Leatherstocking”] were thrillers set in an untamed America, which translated forward into the wild-in-the-streets American cities where cops and private eyes fought crime. Race, it seems, has always been…

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July 4, 2015

Film Review: “Ex Machina”

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Film Review: “Ex Machina”

  The box-office success of “Mad Max: Fury Road” [reviewed by Jason] and “Ex Machina” is the quintessential personification of lowbrow versus highbrow films. We Americans – indeed, most of the world, civilized or no – love both types. I have come to pick up Jason’s gauntlet and praise the latter film, but not at the expense of the former, for I, too, loved them both. And as writers and artists and students of the craft of storytelling, so should you. “Ex Machina” begins by celebrating the brilliance of the creative lions of Silicon Valley, in this case Nathan [Oscar Isaac], and the wonders of technology, like the Google-like empire he has built. Yet Nathan is now, not unlike Thoreau, retired to the woods to contemplate his next brilliant move, for nothing less than topping his earlier triumph will satisfy this…

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July 4, 2015

Offbeat Resources for Writers

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One challenge of the writing life is we’re so often alone that we’re sometimes slow to seek help when we’re stumped. Another challenge is, again because we’re alone so often, we don’t always have access to solutions we can’t think up for ourselves. Here are five resources that have saved my bacon at different times in my career. None of them are traditionally for fiction writers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use them. 1. Productivity Tools The Pomodoro Method. GTD. Toggl. Eternity. These are just a few of the time-tracking and focus-enhancing tools aimed at professionals. They help you keep track of your time so you can use it to the best effect. Turns out writers can use them, too. If you’re a serial procrastinator or slow producer, these already have your name on them….

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June 29, 2015

Film Review: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

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Film Review: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

When I saw the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road last summer, it gave me a massive, throbbing anticiboner. I love Mad Max. I love Tom Hardy. The initial images looked like they were doing it the right way, instead of throwing a modernized and weak-sauce reboot at us. Turns out it was that and much, much more. Fury Road is the best movie I’ve seen this year, with nothing else coming anywhere close. It’s so damn good we can use it as a guide for how to improve our fiction. That’s right: we can learn about our craft from a postapocalyptic chase scene full of flamethrowers and electric guitars. This is true even if you’re writing cozy mysteries on the moor, or hilarious chicklit about designer jeans and eating disorders. For example: Fury Road Crushed the Cinematography…

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June 29, 2015

July ‘Zine Features and A Personal Message from your Baristas

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July ‘Zine Features and A Personal Message from your Baristas

We’d like to thank all of our loyal patrons – new and seasoned – for your support this month in our relaunch of the Fictional Café. We hope you’ll enjoy our upcoming July ‘zine Member Writing offerings. As we’re sure you have already figured out, we publish new fiction, poetry, photography and art in the early days of each month, along with occasional news, interviews and book reviews throughout the rest of the month. July features an intense short story from Jane Ward, one of our returning writers, a photo essay of egrets by John Woods, a wildlife photographer, and the third installment of Ward Parmentieri’s crazed, sexy, often funny mystery about a missing rockstar. We have no idea where this one is going, since Ward won’t tell us, but we think the journey is well worth taking. As a member of the…

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June 19, 2015

Book Review: The Angel Esmeralda (Part 1 of 2)

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Book Review: The Angel Esmeralda (Part 1 of 2)

The Angel Esmeralda spans 30-plus years of writing from Don DeLillo over nine short stories. In typical DeLillo form, The Angel Esmeralda harnesses the fundamental humanity of his characters – whether the situation is monotonous everyday life or spectacularly distant moments in time and space – to create a vivid patchwork of submission, heartache and paranoia. These are not feel-good stories, but cautionary tales told by a writer with the gift of seeing the world as it really is and who is deeply disturbed by these visions. The collection begins, fittingly, with “Creation,” a story about those dark endeavors that occur when love has left a relationship. The narrator and his wife, Jill, are on vacation on a tiny Caribbean island near St. Vincent. We instantly see that things are not right because even though…

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June 9, 2015

Opening Night: Ojos de Tango

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I walk up and down Harrison Avenue, looking for number 450. Google maps is no help. Art galleries are scattered about this tiny section of the south end between the residential neighborhoods and the Mass Pike. Eventually, I notice throngs of people coming and going from a pedestrian walkway between two buildings. This is in fact Thayer Street, the heart of the SoWa art district of Boston. As I make my way through the wonderland of galleries, each one filled with the liveliness that a warm June Friday night in the city elicits, I am swept up in the enthusiasm and passion of the surrounding creative endeavors. I come up to a rust-colored sheet metal sign hanging above a small gallery. It reads Movimiento. I’m here. Inside, the space is industrial with a brick ceiling,…

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June 1, 2015

The New, Improved Fictional Café Has Arrived!

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The New, Improved Fictional Café  Has Arrived!

 Here Comes the Sun: A happy, faithful fan of the Fictional Café Dear Faithful Fans: It was a long, cold lonely winter, but at last we can tell you that our hard work has brought forth the redesigned, completely revamped, Fictional Café! I want to thank Shari Ryan of Author Needs for months and months of demanding [and often frustrating] work to develop our new site. Shari and I have worked together for nearly five years now, and I greatly appreciate her creativity and perspicacity. She’s also an author and you ought to check her out. Our newest barista, Mike Mavilia, has worked about sixteen times harder on the site than I. He has learned an awful lot about the arcane world of WordPress, teaching me quite a lot in the bargain. Thanks, Mike, for keeping us…

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May 28, 2015

Official Relaunch of The Fictional Café

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Official Relaunch of The Fictional Café

On Monday, June 1st, The Fictional Café will be cutting its virtual ribbon to celebrate the relaunch of our site. We welcome you to stop by and celebrate with us! We will be posting our monthly submissions again in the Member Writing & Art section, as well as blogs in the News, Reviews and Interviews section from each of us baristas commenting on the writing and art world. Poke around and see what we’ve changed, or if you’re new, explore the wonderful creativity contributed by writers and artists from all over the world. Be sure to check out The Fictional Café on Facebook and Twitter to access exclusive content. Stop by Monday, June 1st, and share a cuppa creativity with us! We’d love you to write a comment or two on what you see.  

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May 22, 2015

The War on Spelling and Grammar is Never Over

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The War on Spelling and Grammar is Never Over

We here at The Fictional Café tend to notice when a comma is used when a semicolon is necessary and when a person decides to lay down instead of lie down. Sometimes it makes us pull our hair out, but other times it elicits a hearty chuckle from us. Fortunately for you and me, the omnipresent eye of the internet notices too. Here are two of my favorite sites for fail-induced guffaws. Oh, and I had to include one great blog for accurate, easy to understand grammar and spelling tips. You know, to balance out the facepalminess. http://www.unnecessaryquotes.com/ http://www.lowercasel.com/ http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl  

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May 19, 2015

Gramer? Speling? Who Cares?

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OK, this is so unbelievable I had to include the absolute proof that it happened – on the radio. In fact, I had to go back and listen again just to make sure I understood what I heard. No mistake, I heard what I heard. The show was Ask Me Another, segment “Like A Confused Boss“, on NPR. A contestant was a college student, apparently graduating, asking her professor for help with her C.V., and annoyed with his advice. But listen for yourself. This post is definitely open for your comments!   Please click on the arrow below to listen.    

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April 30, 2015

Beating Procrastination With HOKAIC

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HOKAIC (“hawk-ache”) by Jason Brick HOKAIC. It sounds like a Klingon curse word, but actually it’s the most important concept for success in any writing endeavor. It’s an acronym that stands for Hands On Keyboard Ass In Chair HOKAIC is absolutely the key to success as a writer because writers…well, we write. Maybe not for pay. Maybe not for publication. But we write. So at the end of the day, you’d better have spent some time with your hands and ass in the right place. It’s not always as easy as I’m making it sound, but it’s exactly that simple. Kick writer’s block where it hurts, then get busy writing. This is just part of the day for most people who make a living at our craft. For folks who still struggle with this, here are…

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April 25, 2015

Book Review: A Hoarse Half-Human Cheer

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It was Peter Dexter who wrote, “Keep in mind that a book that entertains without enlightening can still be a guilty pleasure, but a book that enlightens without entertaining is algebra.” Joseph [X.J.] Kennedy’s delightful A Hoarse Half-Human Cheer is, admittedly, intended to entertain, yet it enlightens in being a period piece – après-guerre America, circa 1946 – foreshadowing the sprawling modern era in this country with wit, humor and irony. After you finish re-reading Heller’s “Catch-22,” this is the novel you should begin. Young Moon Gogarty is the book’s Candide, trying to deal with his stultified feelings after having lost his first love to his mortician grandmother, just as he’s about to begin his studies at the infamous College of Saint Cassian of Imola. He’s thrust into a community of 4,500 older men who’ve…

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April 17, 2015

People, Places and Things I Know on Twitter – NOT!

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Why do I get these completely random Twitter notifications about people, places and things I don’t know, would never wish to know, and confound my sense of what’s spam? This is ridiculous. Google does a better job of targeting me with adverts that are at least within my interests or peer group[s]. Call it machine intelligence. Naw, call it machine irrelevance. The computer version of robocalls. And yeah, I know I can log into my account and change my preferences, but clicking the garbage can icon is quicker and more satisfying. Twitter Goes BIRDBRAINED! Tweet! Tweet! Wheeeeeeee!

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March 1, 2015

Writer’s Block? Take a Nap.

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Writer’s Block? Take a Nap.

Lately, I’ve been hit hard the busyness bug. In today’s society it’s hard to avoid. But it had gotten so bad for me that I’d started nodding off in the middle of lunch or while reading (War and Peace has been known to have that effect). At first I was annoyed that my body couldn’t keep up. However, I began to embrace the idea that maybe these naps were a good thing. The other day I had just woken up from a long winter’s nap and was greeted with the most pleasant surprise: having a song stuck in my head. But it wasn’t any song I’d heard before; it was one I’d just written during my nap. I scrambled to my computer to clickety-clack my verses down, shining with the glow that only a writer…

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January 27, 2015

The Year of Writing Dangerously

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Happy 2015 everybody! This year’s a big year for me in terms of publishing and writing and all that jazz. I don’t say that to brag, but rather because the experiences are going to be a great opportunity to learn about what’s going on with writing and publishing today. I will definitely take the time to share that learning with all of you, because if you don’t share what you learn what’s the point? By coincidence stemming from a little bit of design, I’m going to have a total of six projects coming out this year. All of them are releasing via different methods. Self-Publishing My vulgar and (I think) hilarious Farkas Foxtrot series goes live next month, self-published via Amazon, Kobo and all the other big boys. They’re novellas, and I plan to release them…

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January 21, 2015

Welcome Back and a Special Request

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Welcome  Back and a Special Request

Hello everyone, we apologize for the lapse in updates as we continue working on our new site design. We are very excited for the changes in store for the website and for Fictional Cafe this year and promise it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, we welcome you to tell us which of our member contributions from 2014 was your favorite. Please write your choice in the comments section below.   “The strongest of all warriors are these two – Time and Patience.” – Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace  

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December 13, 2014

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot, I Can’t Breathe, Die-In Demonstrations

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  The country is experiencing demonstrations across the country to protest police killing unarmed black people with alacrity. We, as a culture, seem to have reached a tipping point. “To Protect and Serve” as been besmirched by Michael Brown’s “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and Eric Garner’s “I Can’t Breathe.” Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice never even got a chance to surrender. We know what’s going on and we know it needs to change. People are speaking out, staging “die-ins” to express their concern [and of course being arrested for it by the police]. I raise my voice and concern and support by sharing this song, “Why Can’t We Live Together” by Diana King with Kyle Eastwood. For me, it says it all, and I know the artists feel the same. I hope you will, too. Jack From the…

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December 11, 2014

365 Docobites Gets Kickstarted!

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    We’re pleased to tell you that Epiphany Morgan and Carl Mason, the videographers we featured a few days ago http://www.fictionalcafe.com/sharing-their-stories-with-the-world/#.VIodBYrF_Do], have met their Kickstarter goal, raising almost $5,000 in just a few days. We would like to think you played a part in this happening. Here’s their message to all of us: Thank you! We are thrilled to announce we have reached our initial target of 17K! We want to thank every single person who pledged or shared the campaign with their friends and family as we simply would not have been able to continue sharing these human stories without each and every one of you. So with 7 days to go, what’s next? Our Stretch Goal! We have been keeping in touch with the amazing photographer from Humans Of Amsterdam, Debra, ever…

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December 10, 2014

Make Words, Not War

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Make Words, Not War

I recently attended a workshop at Lesley University, run by Sarina Furer who teaches children in Israel how to write poetry to process their trauma. Her students are in a constant state of alertness, living in a war zone with regular shellings. Even in the classroom, there is no safety; when a signal comes on, they have 90 seconds to get to a safe shelter before a ballistic strikes. War breeds isolation and loneliness, so she tells her students to shift their attention to “small, quiet moments of beauty” to create a calming of the psyche. Writing and sharing their poems is a powerful experience for her students, letting them exclaim “war has not completely overtaken my life.” As I listened to her speak, I thought of a song by the Decemberists, “After the Bombs,”…

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December 9, 2014

Sharing Their Stories With The World

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We baristas believe in stories, and especially in storytellers. That’s why we do what we do here at Fictional Cafe, and why we’re excited to share the story of two video documentary storytellers with you. Two intrepid Australian storytellers, Epiphany Morgan and Carl Mason, have been traveling the world to create 365 mini-documentaries in 365 days. Their project is called 36docobites  and you ought to take a look. These people not only have an ingenious and deeply human project underway, but are creating the most amazing video stories with people from all around the world. We want to help them, and we thought you might want to as well. They have a campaign on Kickstarter and not many days to reach their goal. If you can kick in [yep!] some help, please do. There are a…

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December 6, 2014

“War and Peace” Reading Group is Now Reading!

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On October 27, we posted a message about starting a Goodreads group to read a book few, if any, would undertake without some external motivation: War and Peace  by Leo Tolstoy [The Louise and Aylmer Maude translation]. My friend David Bond suggested creating a Goodreads group to read it together, and I heartily joined in sponsorship and the read. [I think my copy has been sitting on my bookshelves for about 40 years.] We’re proud to announce our group of eight people officially began reading December 1. One of us was so excited he finished in 24 days, in November. You can be sure we’re going to have questions for him! Few would dispute this is a masterpiece, and many believe it to be the greatest novel ever written. Others suggest it represented a major shift in…

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December 5, 2014

10 Reasons Writing For a Living Kicks Ass

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    As we close our first year of operation and look forward to 2015, we have to say it’s been a bumpy road. A lot of things went wrong. More things went right. In most ways, it’s been just like our careers as writers: tough, but worth it. Coming to the end of your writing year, you might be tempted to look at the “Con” column and think about giving it up. Here are ten reasons not to.   There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be a Writer Forget what some doomsayers like Scott Turow might tell you – the Internet has democratized distribution, simplified publicity and created massive demand. These changes might make Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings a bit less common, but it’s easier than ever to make your living…

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November 3, 2014

Early Twain by Michael Mavilia

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Early Twain by Michael Mavilia

  Buried beneath alternate praise and censure of his “Great American Novel,” Huckleberry Finn, lies a wealth of widely unheralded work by Mark Twain: his short stories. Twain’s penchant for writing in the vernacular translates magnificently to his tall tales, overheard while mining for silver in Nevada. His characters run the gamut from rugged and folksy to clever and charismatic, creating a circus troupe of dusty allure. In his 1880 short story “Jim Baker’s Blue-jay Yarn,” Twain retells a tale about “a middle-aged, simple-hearted miner who lived in a lonely corner of California,” who claims he can understand the language of animals. What follows is a short but tall tale of what he overhears a blue jay saying one day in the woods. As is the case with many of Twain’s yarns, the joy is…

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October 27, 2014

“War and Peace” Reading Group – You’re Invited!

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Leo Tolstoy wrote one of the world’s greatest novels, War and Peace, between 1861-63. The backstory goes like this: He toyed with several versions [with pen and paper – remember, no computers back then!] until 1866. He began a massive revision he did not complete until 1869, when it was finally published. It is at once a story of an aristocratic family, the invasion of Russia by Napoleon, a romance, a tragedy, an attempt by a novelist to set history right. In short, it’s one of the world’s great stories, fiction or nonfiction. You love to read. We love to read. This is a great book, but one you might not tackle on your own. Let’s read it together. Just in case you’re on the fence about reading a novel over 1,200 pages in length, check…

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October 1, 2014

Jack Kerouac: “The road is life”

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I have a photograph of Jack Kerouac typing his famous piano-roll manuscript of On the Road hanging on my study wall. I saw the scroll when I visited the museum in Lowell, Massachusetts. It was amazing to see it stretched out. Jack wrote it in a three-day, hyper-caffeinated marathon in his mother’s apartment. She made the coffee and taped the pieces of paper together. Three days. Then he revised it for three years. You could sum up his philosophy in the four words quoted above: “The road is life.” Lowell has honored its once-maligned author by giving him a new headstone at his grave site. You can read about it here. If you’d like to know a bit more about Kerouac, here is a fine essay about him and his writing. The photo of the…

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July 24, 2014

Willamette Writers Conference Just A Week Away!

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Willamette Writers Conference Just A Week Away!

  One of the leading writing conferences in the country, the Willamette Writers Conference convenes next Friday, August 1, and runs through Sunday, August 3. Launched in 1969, in recent years attendance has topped 1,000 writing and publishing mavens from around the world. If you’re anywhere close to Portland, Oregon, or would like to see what Portlandia is really like, I hope you’ll attend. There are over 60 workshops and special events. I’m particularly flattered to be presenting three workshops in the Master’s Series in Business Writing: Your Professional Writing Career, Writing Your First Book, and Ghostwriting. But more than that, I’m excited to have the chance to meet so many fellow (male and female)  writers and presenters. I thought you might like to meet a few of them yourself. My colleague Jason Brick, who has worked…

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July 14, 2014

Kickstarting Your Next Book Advance with April Huneycutt

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Kickstarting Your Next Book Advance with April Huneycutt

Once upon a time, the process for getting published worked like this:   Step One: Write a book Step Two: Beg an agent to represent that book Step Three: The agent begs a publisher to publish the book Step Four: Wait (a long time) Step Five: Publish   These days, self-publishing, e-publishing and independent publishing give lots of alternatives to the traditional path. For more authors every year, the DIY model of publishing is superior to the old ways. You get a higher commission. The lag between finishing your book and seeing it in print is shorter. You get more artistic control. On the other hand, new publishing has one serious disadvantage as compared to the traditional route: no advance. In fact, it usually requires you to put out some of your own money to hire a professional editor, get the…

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July 7, 2014

Innisfree Bookshop is the First to Stock "Madrone"

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Innisfree Bookshop is the First to Stock "Madrone"

    Meredith, New Hampshire, July 7th, 2014: Madrone, Jack B. Rochester’s second novel about Nathaniel Hawthorne Flowers, joined Wild Blue Yonder on the shelves at Innisfree Bookshop today. Pictured beside Jack, Fictional Cafe’s Head Barista, is Kyla Goulet, an Innisfree bookseller and aspiring author in her own right. “There is no feeling to compare with seeing a book you wrote on the shelves in a bookstore,” said Jack. “I can’t wait to see mine there, too,” Kyla said, grinning. “You’re a gifted writer,” Jack replied, “and I’m certain that will happen.” All this quipping while Innisfree manager Beverly Newton snapped photos. “We can’t wait to have you do a reading,” she said. Wild Blue Yonder, published in 2012, is the first installment in the story of Nathaniel Hawthorne Flowers, a 1960s college dropout who joins the…

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July 3, 2014

What are you reading this summer?

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To hear the book marketers, books and beaches go together. Never much thought so myself; lots more fun to people-watch and play in the water. Besides, it’s dangerous; I was reading a book on a beach in Puerto Rico – fell asleep and woke up with the worst sunburn I’ve ever had. But all that aside, we usually get a raft [sic] of new books for summer. I’m reading Joshua Ferris’ new epic, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. It’s not light reading, but the premise is interesting: someone is stalking a dentist by creating a phony website for him. What are you reading? Drop us a comment and let us know. Tell us a little of your reading experience with it. And grab a cuppa creativity while you’re here over in Member Writing.

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June 13, 2014

Reading, Writing and Reviewing

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Zounds! I’ve been reading like crazy but haven’t written a review in quite a while. Here are some capsule reviews, highlights from the past two months. All links are to Amazon. Alex Berenson’s The Night Ranger I discovered Alex Berenson a few years ago with his debut novel, The Faithful Spy and then The Silent Man. I think he’s taken a top slot in international espionage thrillers with his compelling character, John Wells, who is far more interesting than the stick-figure Jason Bourne character in the post-Ludlum series. Berenson creates scenes you can see in your mind’s eye and believable characters and situations. I also respect the fact that he answers every single email he receives. Sleep Donation by Karen Russell Breakout novelist Karen Russell knocked our literary socks off a few years back with…

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June 10, 2014

Fictional Cafe Members Wearing Their New FC Hats!

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Fictional Cafe Members Wearing Their New FC Hats!

Here’s a photo of Atilla Vekony and Grael Norton at Wheatmark Publishing, sporting their new Fictional Café headgear! You can get one too! Be sure to Join the Fictional Café here to become eligible to win a FC baseball cap, then watch your email for our forthcoming contests and giveaways! Becoming a member also entitles you to submit your own creative work: poetry, short stories, novel excerpts and art.   P.S. Wheatmark is publishing my latest novel, Madrone. Stay tuned for news about it!  

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June 10, 2014

Google’s Street Art, Across the Universe

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A few years ago, Shepard Fairy, a well-known street artist, was arrested in Boston by an overzealous, graffiti-art-hating cop, for postering a portrait of Obama named “Hope” on a public wall. That strikes me as arresting someone for self-publishing their writing. Now, Google has raised street art and its cousin [or are they the same?] to new heights in its growing art portfolio. There is some wonderful art being created by artists who can’t or won’t be seen in a formal art gallery. Visit here to see more wonderful art.  

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May 19, 2014

Bravery in a Windows 8 World

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I don’t much care for television commercials. I mean, come on, “ask your doctor” if you need to take a placebo pill for your placebo-fantasy condition whose side effects will make you sick? But I don’t want to get started. Except my wife and I were watching “Big Bang Theory” and this Microsoft commercial comes on. Innocuous enough, but then at the end there’s some woman screeching something I cannot understand. It sounds like she’s having a bad-tattoo experience. Or maybe her phone just fell out of her back pocket and was run over by a truck. Or maybe it was a cry of frustration with trying to work a Windows 8 computer. I was curious enough to Google around to find out why she was in such pain. Turns out she’s singing something about being…

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May 4, 2014

Interview With Alex Hughes, Author of “Sharp” and “Clean”

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Interview With Alex Hughes, Author of “Sharp” and “Clean”

I had a chance to meet Alex at last year’s Willamette Writers Conference — of which both I and Fictional Cafe founder Jack are on the presenters’ staff for this year — and she was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions both about her work and the work. 1. Let’s start with the numbers. How many books did you write before writing “Clean?” How many queries did you send for “Clean?” How long had you considered yourself a writer before making the sale? Clean was my third completed novel. Clean was also my learning novel, on which I learned revision, scene structure, story structure, description, pacing, and a whole mess of other lovely and difficult things. By the time the final revision was done for the publisher, I’d taken it through eight drafts. Only a…

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April 11, 2014

Nespresso: The Creme de la Creme

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Are you a Nespresso fan? I just became one. The Nespresso Aeroccino3 is now standing tall on my home coffee bar, all beautiful red and chrome, just waiting to whip up a frothy cream to top my coffee. It couldn’t be easier: Pour whole milk, half and half or Coffeemate liquid up to the measuring line, hit the button, and in less than 60 seconds you have hot, frothed creme de la creme. At $99 it’s a little pricey, but I love it and use it practically every morning for my first cuppa. It’s one of those gadgets that you wonder how you ever got along without. Nespresso is a Swiss company, part of Nestle, and a purveyor of all kinds of glamorous and expensive coffee devices you members of the Fictional Café will be eager…

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April 7, 2014

“Before We Met” by Lucie Whitehouse

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I loved “Gone Girl” and I like unconventional thrillers regardless of the writer’s gender. Gillian Flynn is clearly an accomplished writer who knows how to design or orchestrate, if you will, her novel. That is less obvious in Lucie Whitehouse’s “Before We Met.” The setting is a dull as a box of rocks, and the main characters are right out of [what I imagine to be] a soap opera. I won’t say they’re stick figures, but they are clearly being manipulated into their character traits and behavior by the author, and it shows. Hannah marries a guy without knowing a thing about him or his family beyond what he has told her; now, does that sound like a woman who has deep-seated trust issues? I shall not belabor this point, because I don’t want to…

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March 11, 2014

A Night at Rodeo Houston

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March 5, 2013. I’m attending the School of Energy conference, learning about drill-bit hydrocarbons and the shale revolution here in Houston, the energy capital of America. A conference perk last night was Rodeo Houston. Around a hundred and fifty of us attendees piled into two big buses and went to Reliant Stadium, where we had our own box replete with food and drink. The view of the rodeo arena was awesome (see photo to the left), and the place is as huge as you’d expect of Texas. Above the arena was a display device with half a dozen high-def screens pointing every direction for closeup views of the action: saddleback bronc-riding, calf-roping, barrel racing in four-horse wagons…and death-defying bull-riding. A bull rider grips a a bull rope with one hand and has to stay astride the bucking beast…

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March 4, 2014

Tucson Festival of Books – Coming Soon!

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Tucson Festival of Books – Coming Soon!

The Tucson Festival of Books is one of the top book fairs and author events in the country, and this year I’ve been invited to participate! It runs over the weekend of March 15-16 in – yep, you guessed it, Tucson, Arizona (where it is certain to be warmer than Boston, where I live). I’m not just looking forward to my three workshop presentations, but to meeting a few of my favorite authors from among the 2,000 who will be in attendance. Maybe you’ll drop in and I’ll get to meet you, too! I’ll be doing a solo workshop, “Writing Fiction for First-Time Authors.” I get to do this one because I’m not a first-time author any longer – not with the publication of Madrone, the sequel to Wild Blue Yonder, being published next month…

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May 29, 2013

The World’s First iPod?

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    I watched a 1960 black-and-white Hammer Film, “Stop Me Before I Kill,” and couldn’t help but notice the main character, played by Claude Dauphin, donning this portable transistor radio.   It’s in a leather case and designed to be worn around the neck, as he’s doing in this scene in the kitchen with his wife, played by Diane Cilento.   I think he’s listening to a cha-cha.

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May 25, 2013

J. D. Salinger and the Cult of Celebrity

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Did you know that once upon a time, books were published without an author biography or photo? Why do you suppose? The straightforward answer is that the work – the book – was intended to stand on its own. What the author wrote about, and the way it was written, was sufficient. We, the readers, appreciated – or rejected – a book for what it was, not who the author was, or how much of the author’s real life played a role in the story. The character was a character, and the author was the author. Of course, that’s all changed. Now, in many cases, a large number of people care more about the author’s personal life than what’s in the books they write. The exception being if it’s an autobiography or a memoir. If…

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May 21, 2013

What’s Your Favorite Coffee?

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Welcome to the Fictional Café! Serendipitously, the New York Times published an article, “Coffee Rites and the Stories They Tell,” just the other day. The writer quotes from a book entitled Buzz by Stephen Braun, who writes that caffeine is akin to “putting a block of wood under your brake pedal.” I like that. I like guys who are funny and write books and drink coffee. Even those who write books about coffee. Braun says he sometimes takes “coffee vacations,” which I would never personally risk, but always has a cup of Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend when he gets back on the wagon. That’s one of my personal favorites, too. In my little community, we have a Peet’s, a Starbucks, a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Panera, and a bike shop where you can get the best,…

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