Hear Your Fortune From Zoltar!

Zoltar predicts you will follow the link to Southern Nightmares Reading Series on September 23, 2021 between the hours of 8 PM to 9 PM EDT. You will attentively listen while I read from my short story, “Walking With Strangers,” AND you will also listen as my horror writing friends read from their pieces. Failure to fulfill the prophecy will result in many curses from Zoltar.

The Southern Nightmares Reading Series” is a monthly online event presented by the HWA Atlanta Chapter spotlighting Atlanta Horror Writers Association members and non-chapter members from around the world.

The September 23, 2021 event will be moderated by Atlanta HWA President Alex Hofelich, co-editor of Pseudopod the world’s premier horror fiction podcast, and feature the following guests:

  • Dawn Major
  • Mathew W. Quinn
  • EV Knight
  • Kitty Sarkozy

Click this link to view the live video of the event airing on September 23 at 8 pm to 9 pm EDT. (The video will stream on the event’s Facebook

It has also been predicted that you will be so captivated by my reading you will be compelled to purchase a copy of Summer Slasher Horror Anthology Vol. I so that you may read my story and others in their entirety.

What Do Small Press Publishers and Ghosts Have in Common?

Cover by Royce M. Becker

It may sound like a joke but there’s actually a punchline: Joe Taylor

Mark your calendar! On September 21st at 6:30 PM, Kennesaw State University M.A. in Professional Writing Program presents a Literary Reading and Publication Workshop with Author of Ghostly Demarcations and Livingston Press Director, Joe Taylor.

As for the small press part…on September 22nd at 6:30 PM, Joe’s offering a small press workshop. What is this about? Participants should be prepared to engage in a discussion about the procedures and requirements of small press publication. How long? About an hour and a half for each event.

Where? Kennesaw State University Convocation Building Room 1056 590 Cobb Ave NW Kennesaw, GA 30144.

Yes, this is free! No, you don’t have to sign up.

Quirky, clever, and humorous, with Ghostly Demarcations, Joe Taylor lifts the veil subjecting his protagonist, Galen, to one oddball situation after another with every variant of ghost—haints, poltergeists, revenants. Here’s a sample:

“She’s a good ghost. She’s warning me about—”
“I saw her and that hellhound. Spirits interfering with God’s Providence cannot in any way or form be good.”
A rustling took place. The rose disintegrated into white petals on the sidewalk and slowly fashioned the name, ‘Janet.’

Who is this Joe Taylor character?

Photo by Angela Brown

Joe Taylor is the Director of Livingston Press at West Alabama. His stories have been published in over 100 literary magazines and he’s had three short story collections published, including Ghostly Demarcations. He’s the author of Pineapple, A Comic Novel in Verse, and Let There Be Lite, OR, How I Came To Know and Love Godel’s Incompleteness Proof. His novel, The Theoretics of Love, is forthcoming. Oldcat & Ms. Puss: A Book of Days for You and Me, was published several years ago by the now defunct Black Belt Press and reviewed in Publishers Weekly. FOLLOW JOE TAYLOR ON HIS AUTHOR WEBSITE OR FACEBOOK. Read an interview Southern Literary Review.

TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY: VISIT SAGGING MENISCUS PRESS FOR SEVERAL BUYING OPTIONS.

KSU CAMPUS MAP & PARKING OPTIONS:

  • Lot V2 (located outside of the Central Deck off of Parliament Garden Way) | Zone number 35101
  • Lot J (located off of Parliament Garden Way) | Zone number 35105
  • North Deck (located at the end of Canton Place NW) | Zone number 35106
  • Student Center Visitor Lot (located near the James V. Carmichael Student Center on University Road) | Zone number 35104

Seven Writers Inspired by One Artist, Raven Waters

Writing is the painting of the voice.

Voltaire
Self-portrait of the Artist Raven Waters

Collaboration is essential to me, so I asked some of my writer friends to use Raven Waters’ artwork as inspiration to write a piece of flash fiction. Waters typically paints his work in what is called ala prima, where the painting is finished in one setting. To me, this suggests immediacy, an artist who’s interested in capturing a moment in time. As a short story writer, I feel there is power in brevity. Consider Alice Walker or William S. Burroughs’s vignettes, for instance, and how their short pieces capture—very concisely—a piece of time, or a mood.

Novels take years and that can be frustrating for writers who want to feel as if they’re creating something new every day. This is why flash fiction is a wonderful outlet. It can be accomplished in a short period of time, and yet, the prose is powerful. In fact, I find “condensed” pieces sometimes more evocative than longer pieces.

All of these pieces of prose are 200 words or under and the contributing writers have also asked questions of Waters. Be sure to read those responses as well!

If you’re interested in buying a particular piece of art, either an original or in print, his artwork is very accessible and available for shipping. For more about Raven Waters and to view his artwork, visit: Raven Waters – Home (ravensnatureart.com).

Blackfoot River written by Justin Jones

Lifting itself free of the inner darkness that haunted its nights, the sun wrapped its fingers around the violent-hued mountains. Beneath the slopes, Blackfoot River babbled westward, relentlessly seeking those muted colors of nightfall, and between the two, in the netherworld of beginnings and endings, stood the old man. Two flicks, one behind and one before, and he cast his line into the rushing waters, the dry fly alighting on the surface of an eddy to await notice. Amorphous time led the trout to the bait. No need to be coy. The trout, glistening with all the colors of eternity, struck the bait, but when it did, the old man was the one who was caught, trapped between the fulfillment of what is and the siren joy of what was.

JJ: Do you make color choices with symbolic meaning, and if so, how do you ascribe meaning to the colors?

RW: I really don’t choose colors, I may have a theme of colors, and then go from there. It is really more about values than colors. All colors are everywhere if you look hard enough.

Justin Jones teaches high school English and Creative Writing in Canton, GA, a northern suburb of Atlanta. He also mentors young writers in their exploration of writing as a career. His first novel, Forlorn Hope, was released in 1994. Until recently, he has spent his spare time raising children, grading essays, and taming ill-behaved felines. He has a BA in English from Oglethorpe University, an MS in Educational Curriculum from Walden University, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the Etowah Valley Writer’s Institute of Reinhardt University. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in The Blue Mountain Review, Family Life Magazines, and Sanctuary.

A Place Where Nothing Happens written by Robert Gwaltney

The school bell rings, crackling and shattering his bones. Allégro, the boy must travel, one end of the hall to the other. An odyssey of terrazzo tile to be hurried, a gauntlet of bruise and scrape. In his arms he imagines a baby doll.

Abigail, he whispers—an incantation, a protection spell.

The boy conjures sateen ribbon, the smooth crisscross about his ankles, the hug of Sister’s ballet slippers. Abigail and the boy: a pas de deux. Above their stares, he leaps. Rising above them on tippy-toe. Spinning to the room in his mind. To a place where nothing happens.

Robert Gwaltney, an author of southern fiction resides in Atlanta, Georgia, where he is an active member of the local literary community and serves as Fiction Editor for The Blue Mountain Review. His debut novel, The Cicada Tree, will be released by Moonshine Cove Publishing in February of 2022. To learn more about Robert, visit his website: robertlgwaltney.com.

RG: Will you comment on your techniques for capturing motion in your paintings and do you see any similar techniques to other artforms.

RW: There wasn’t a conscious attempt to create motion in this piece. When I try to consciously create motion, I do it by blurring the receding edge, or by placing small blotches of a similar color next to the receding edge. I have seen this sort of blurring in photography and in other artists’ paintings also.

Loup Rouge written by Maria Klouda

Red WolfA heavy, dull, thud shatters the air, louder than the squeal of brakes. The stench of burned rubber lingers in the tread marks tattooed on the curvy North Carolina road. Marking the path where you lay. Feeling your last breath, I gasp for air. I close my eyes and see yours. Golden, glowing in the coming night. Standing, your spirit smiles as if to play, pounce. Slowly you turn towards the burning sun’s last rays taking my broken heart with you. A haunting cry calls warning to only nine that remain. A mortality signal from your GPS collar. Male 2044.

Maria Klouda is a writer based in Ball Ground, GA. Her background and work can be found at: https://www.clippings.me/users/mariaklouda

Learn more about the plight of the endangered Red Wolf at The Wolf Conservation Centerhttps://nywolf.org/learn/red-wolf/
Maria was drawn to Raven’s piece, Loup Rouge, after reading the following release: https://nywolf.org/2021/07/two-wild-red-wolves-found-dead-in-north-carolina-reducing-population-to-9-known-wolves/

MK: Why do you think there’s such buy-in to the “Big Bad Wolf” stereotype? 

RW: In a nut shell fear, fear of something humans cannot control.

Gathering Two written by Alyssa Hamilton

“Behold!” Peter said to the witch. “You have found the shark gathering blood, the death of all prey.”

The witch did not see the red-plume feathering to pale brine. She saw blue and violet cells rolling against one another, forging white caps. “No. This is birth.”

And then there was no foam—from the blood and teeth below, white beaks emerged. Wings rose from the waves and took flight, the forked tails flicking against the breeze, bodies smoothed like clay pulled between the wind’s fingers. The kites flew up and did not return.

AH: How important is selecting a perspective in your work? How does it change the final piece?

RW: I’m not sure what exactly what you mean by selecting a perspective and how it changes the final piece. I am not a photorealistic painter, nor am I a completely abstract painter. The perspective in this piece was accomplished by placing objects behind one another and varying the size of the Swallow Tailed Kites. Generally speaking, I try to create the illusion of distance through size, placement, and color.

Alyssa Hamilton is a writer from New England. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Reinhardt University. Her work has appeared in Stonecoast Review , Springer Mountain Press’ Summer Slasher Horror Anthology, and Page and Spine, among others. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking and reorganizing her library.

Ode to No Woman, No Cry written by Dawn Major

If I want to wear nothing but the silk robe you bought me last year today and red panties to the café, I will. I’ll smoke, drink, spread my legs wide—I spread them once before for you. Nine months later, I’m mother-fucking-mother-earth.

No, I don’t want brunch, flowers, cards, perfume.

I want to sleep until my body tells me to rise, roll out of bed, hunt down my Gaulouise, stroll to the café where a hipster waiter pretends, like me, to be in Paris. Order Dom.

“What are we celebrating today?” He asks.

“Mother’s Day.”

DM: Your pieces often feature images of other artists—dancers, musicians, writers, aerial artists—which in my opinion is a pseudo-collaboration because you honor various art forms. What do you think about this specific collaboration?

RW: I would also add to your list farm workers, cooks, and pretty much anyone who is doing something. I like for a piece to have a story, a different story for every viewer. This particular piece is a “stolen photo.” I say stolen, because I tried to ask permission to paint this photo, but I couldn’t get a response from the photographer, Antoine D’Agata. I can’t recall if he took this photo in South America, or if he is from South America. I was on the other side for this piece. That is, I was interpreting what D’Agata pictured. That’s what intrigued me to paint it.

I was very curious by the project as a whole, mostly because of my art history classes. Art historians will tell you at the beginning they don’t really know why an artist did this or that, and then shortly later tell you matter-of-factly why the artist did something. Also, I know that Janisse’s books have been dissected, so I was very curious as to what people would write about my work, even though the writers were not coming at the writing from a dissection or critique point of view. I was and am honored that my work catches people’s attention enough to put writing efforts into it.

Also, I really didn’t know what to expect from the collaboration, but I would love to do this again. It turned out way better than I imagined. I plan to use this project to interact with my Facebook patrons in the near future.

Listen to Bob Marley” No Woman, No Cry” on YouTube.

Dawn Major thoroughly enjoyed curating this collaboration between writers and the artist, Raven Waters. She is a book advocate and lover of southern literature. Her debut novel, The Bystanders, will be released by Springer Mountain Press, October 2021. To learn more about Dawn Major, visit her website at http://www.dawnmajor.com.

Clearcut written by Jennie Mayes

Okay, I can do this. Focus.

Hold ropes, lower body until shoulders rest on bar. Done. I’m digging the air with my toes, repelling, digging – building momentum.

Words of that therapist merge with those of Yolanda, trapeze instructor extraordinaire. Let everything fall away until I’m nothing but momentum – forward – arch back – backward – arch front – forward – higher. Fighting gravity…surrendering; pushing…letting go.

Forget everything else. Forget. Wipe it all out, every memory cut down, relentless slashing of the past. With each stroke of the body through air another memory is scythed down.

Nothing left except the escape of the backyard swing set. Hours on the swing, pretending, forgetting, pretending, forgetting. Faster. Higher. I’ll get there this time, to that clearcut space where new memories can grow, new childhood. But no. Clearcut leaves the mind wide open, unprotected, rootless. With one careless spark – conflagration, total annihilation.

JM: Will you please comment on the juxtaposition of the trapeze artist hovering over an area of a clear-cut forest?

RW: This came about from a series on trapeze that I did. Both my wife and I took trapeze lessons in Brattleboro, VT. We even tried flying trapeze for an afternoon. My wife stuck with it longer than I did. In fact, as I sit here on my couch typing this, just a slight rise of my head brings me into view of the trapeze we have hanging in our kitchen.

My wife has written extensively on clearcuts; we both feel their destruction deeply. I was doing a photography project and there was a clearcut just down the road from us. I sometimes create art to make a point, and this was one of those times.

My wife is a frequent model in my work, there was a French painter in the late 1800s to early 1900s–Pierre Bonnard–who painted/drew 400 works of his wife. I am chasing Bonnard (that is the title of one of my works also). I am currently at 155.

Jennie Mayes is a former concert and theater manager who currently lives and works in Cobb County, Georgia. She recently received her MFA in Creative Writing from Reinhardt University. Her short story “The Call of the Swan” won the 2018 Driscoll Award for Excellence in Writing and she most recently was a guest contributor to Middle Grade Mojo, a website for Middle Grade authors.

Andy, Have You Heard About This One? written by Amy McGee

At first, I couldn’t even tell he was speaking English for his weird accent from Wherethefuckistan. “Thank you very much for letting me sit.”

I shrugged. “I came here to watch birds.”

Beneath a bushy unibrow, his bright eyes darted back and forth like a shell game. “I like the robins and the St. Louis cardinals.”

Sheesh. “You got baseball on the brain? It’s a northern cardinal.”

“My favorite.” One red bird hopped right to him. The old man scooped it into his wrinkled palm, where it stayed and winked at me. “You know they bring messages from departed loved ones.”

I stood, ready to nope out of there, but I had to ask. “Do you get many messages?”

“I only send them.” He lifted the bird to his lips and whispered. The bird fluttered away, and the man turned to me, eyes crinkling.

I swallowed. “But you’re not—dead?”

“I’m not?” He lowered his voice, lost the accent. “Noooooooo,” he said, grinning like a kid. “For 30 years, it’s my best joke.”

AM: I lived in Athens, GA for many years and I couldn’t help but notice how many of your pieces are titled after REM song titles. What is the connection between the REM song and your piece?

RW: First, let me say that your piece makes me want to paint the scene you described; the others I may too if I go back and look at them. I’m not really a huge REM fan. I think I have one album, and I like it a lot. Ahh… REM, Losing My Religion. REM and many other bands are on my iPod/laptop that I listen to while painting. I had to look up everyone of these pieces because the title usually has no connection with the painting. I have about three ways to title a painting: 1.) I have a title in mind for a piece (very rare); 2.) I translate the image or a thought about the image into French; 3.) the title is whatever song I happen to be listening to while painting.

I actually do not put much effort into titling a piece. When it gets time to title a piece, I am ready to move on to the next painting. Occasionally, I will search out a lyric, based on a thought I had while painting or riding my bike.

Listen to REM’s “Man on the Moon here” on YouTube.

Amy McGee is a 2018 graduate of the Etowah Valley Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Reinhardt University. She lives and writes in the foothills of Appalachia in Waleska, Georgia. She also works as a librarian and professor at Reinhardt where her two children attend school. “Andy, Have You Heard About This One?” is an excerpt from a longer piece inspired by Waters’ work. (During the ‘90s, Amy used to spot the members of REM quite frequently in downtown Athens, GA, but is still waiting for Andy Kaufman to phone home. This is dedicated to Jon, longtime fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. You can phone home too, honey).

A little more about the artist Raven Waters…I started working with wood in 6th grade. I turned a wooden bowl and made a book shelf, which after my mother had the book shelf for decades, I now have. I worked with my stepfather in remodeling and I picked up those skills. I built my first woodshop in the early 1980s; it was 8×8 and I had all my major tools on wheels in order to be able to use them. In the ’90s, I moved and built a 16×20 workshop where I built a lot of Adirondack chairs, furniture, and crafts.

Fast forward to the early 2000s when I met my wife. She lived three hours away, so we wrote a lot of letters. My wife decorated her envelopes with poetry and a little drawing. I cut and pasted things out of magazines, until I ran out of clippings. At that time I went to the library and checked out a book on drawing Florida wildlife and I was painting watercolors for many years. About half way through getting my BFA at Georgia Southern, I switched mostly to oil.

Since graduating I have set goals on the number of paintings to do each year; it helps motivate me. I feel that if one wants to be a a world class artist, like a world class athlete, one needs to practice everyday.

Hope you enjoy this interplay between prose and painting. Thanks to all who contributed!

Southern Storyteller, Ann Hite, Talks About her Novel, Going to the Water

Learn about Southern author, Ann Hite’s, inspiration for her latest novel, Going to the Water–the setting, art, and music that influenced her characters and much more….

DM: What made you to commit to a trilogy?

AH: When I begin writing a novel, I have at least one solid character talking to me. In this case, I had four, five if you count Velvet’s letters. Isla, Randal, Dar, and Iris. The first draft contained the stories of these character’s lives and was close to five hundred pages long. My agent read the draft and told me bluntly I had three novels in one. As soon as she said this, I knew she was right. One novel for the present generation, the second for Dar’s story, and finally the story of Iris and Lundy.

DM: How are you structuring your next two novels?

AH: Because I write from the seat of my pants, I never know the true structure until I finish the first draft; sometimes it takes two drafts.

Dar’s novel will be called Beautiful Wreck. It’s told in first person, covering her life from the time of her father’s suicide and her mother’s untimely death until Velvet is born. Paul Watkins, the preacher in Going to the Water, may have a point of view.

Iris and Lundy’s novel will cover the family secrets that set this legacy in motion.   

DM: You’re a writer who puts a lot into place and history. What made you settle on Nantahala, NC?

Nantahala, North Carolina is a magical place for me. I’m a huge lover of nature and my soul is fed when I unplug. When I enter the gorge, the phone loses its signal, my shoulders relax, and I become loose and mellow. There’s nothing quite like standing by the Nantahala River; the melody of the crashing, churning water wrapping around me. Spray from the rapids touching my face. I’ve been there in all seasons and weather. Thunder rolling through the gorge makes me want to curl up on a porch swing and just be.

In the fall of 2016, during one of the worst droughts in the history of the river, yellow, red, and orange leaves lit up the trees. I stood where rushing water should have swept me away. My heart was broken to see the river–my river–reduced to a trickle. An unexpected peace settled on my shoulders, and I knew the mighty Nantahala River would be back. I chose a flat smooth, gray river stone and took it home to sit on my writing desk. When I began to tell the story of Going to the Water, I knew the place had to be the Nantahala Gorge with all her mystery and magic.

DM:You don’t shy away from characters suffering from mental illness and you were forthright about your own family history in your memoir, Roll Away The Stone. Is there something specific you want to convey to readers about mental illness?

AH: I never sit down to place mental illness in my novels, but it always shows up. The saying, “write what you know” really applies here. I lived with two generations battling the disease, and it marked me. Most children with one or more parents afflicted with mental illness battle with the residue. Often, I think my writing of this illness is my way of attempting to find answers that just aren’t there. My writing allows me to work through the past. More than half of my readers have reached out to me because they identify with the mental Illness that my characters battle. Maybe I’m giving everyone permission to own their experience with this disease, especially my own.

DM: Your narrators are compelling. You alternate chapters between Isla in first person point-of-view and Randal in third person point-of-view. But there is another narrator, Velvet, whose story you told through epistolary form. How did you decide on these various perspectives?

AH: There is always trial and error when I begin, but I understood early that Going to the Water was Isla’s story, and that Randal could easily steal the reader’s heart. I knew Isla wouldn’t be likable in the beginning because she exhibits those nasty traits most of us possess to survive trauma. She is in first person to bring the reader close to her, so even when they are hating her, they see why she makes her choices. They see her vulnerability. Velvet writes the letters because I wanted to expose her true emotions, feelings she would never admit to aloud. I listen to music when I’m writing. This is something that helps me to evoke the emotions the piece needs. While writing Velvet’s letters, I listen to Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s Deja Vu and The Band’s Whispering Pines. Isla’s primary songs were Todd Rundgren’s Hello It’s Me, Joe Cocker’s Woodstock version of Just like a Woman, and Judy Collins’s Amazing Grace. Randal was written to James Taylor’s Fire and Rain, Carolina in my Mind and Paul McCartney and Wings’s Band on the Run. Much of the time, the music I listen to dictates the voice and the perspectives.

DM: Were Velvet’s paintings based on specific images from Nantahala?

AH: Art is a large part of who I am creatively. Often, like music, images will influence my writing. My husband is an artist and paints the mountains, but he has not done a work of Nantahala. Velvet’s art was strongly influenced by the artist Mary Whyte. Her book Down Bohicket Road in particular. Ms. Whyte tells stories in her paintings, and I wanted to capture Velvet in paintings. She is such a complex, flawed woman. So, in words, I created the paintings I’d like to see from my Nantahala, the emotions the gorge brings to the top.  

DM: Your stories consistently combine elements of the supernatural, yet I wouldn’t exactly classify you as a speculative writer. Can you explain how your haints and allusions to magic fit into a realist text?

AH: What’s an Appalachia woman without her haints and spells? I was raised by a granny who was well-versed in the Appalachian ways. She could flip a switch and become a well-read southern woman, but Appalachia was her heart. For me, haints (ghosts) were just everyday life. I craved the stories my great aunts told on a Sunday afternoon on the front porch as they passed around a tin of snuff. I learned some useful things; one being haints can look just like they are alive. So you never know if you’re talking to a haint or not. Also, when a love-one visits you from the grave, they are not considered a haint. Folks just see them as being kind enough to check in. Pulling fire and stopping bleeding was deeply believed to be powers passed from one generation to another. I know the plants used to heal before there was modern medicine. I’ve heard stories of spells being sewn into quilts for recipients who had offended the maker.

DM: Thanks so much for sharing your influences and inspiration for Going to the Water. I wish you much success.

TO PREORDER (RELEASE DATE NOVEMBER 9, 2021): FoxTale Book Shoppe or GOING TO THE WATER.

MEET ANN HITE: FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA is hosting a reading and book signing event with Ann Hite on November 13th, 2021 at 2:00 pm. For info, visit: FoxTale/ Going to the Water.

Ann Hite is a wife, mom, grandmother, and book junkie. At age 51, she became a published novelist. Ann’s debut novel, Ghost On Black Mountain, won Georgia Author Of The Year and was a Townsend Prize Finalist in 2012. She is the author of the following novels: The Storycatcher (2013 Simon & Schuster), Where The Souls Go (2015 Mercer University Press), Sleeping above Chaos (2016 Mercer University Press), a novella, Lowcountry Spirit (2013 Pocket Book), and a memoir, Roll The Stone Away (2020 Mercer University Press). Her books have been finalists in IndieFab and Georgia Author of the Year Awards. A chapter from Roll The Stone Away was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her upcoming short story collection, Haints on Black Mountain, will be published by Mercer University Press in fall of 2022. Her novel, Going To The Water, will be published by Firefly Southern Fiction in November 2021. Being a city girl most of her life, Ann now writes each day in her home office that looks out on a decent clutter of trees. 

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ANN HITE, VISIT HER AUTHOR WEBSITE: A SOUTHERN NOVELIST, A STORYTELLER FROM BIRTH

Immerse yourself in the music that inspired Going to the Water:

Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s Deja Vu, The Band’s Whispering Pines, Todd Rundgren’s Hello It’s Me, Joe Cocker’s Woodstock version of Just like a Woman, Judy Collins’s Amazing Grace. James Taylor’s Fire and Rain, Carolina in my Mind , Paul McCartney and Wings’s Band on the Run.

Going to the Water: A Review of Southern Novelist, Ann Hite’s, Latest Novel

Our small group stood by the gaping six-foot deep hole in the little cemetery on Mama’s property. Thunder rumbled in the distance and black clouds thickened in the west. Grass swayed in the wind, brushing at the older headstones, touching the edge of the forest that seemed to have moved closer over the years. I had lived away from the river for so long, my memory of the ebb and flow wasn’t what it should have been. But then, I had never planned to return either.

If you love mysteries and family secrets and an Appalachian setting, you’ll want to get a copy of Going to the Water: A Nantahala Novel by Southern novelist, Ann Hite. Hite, who isn’t afraid to reveal skeletons from her own ancestor’s closet, recently released her memoir, Roll The Stone Away, which dealt with her family’s history with racism. Going to the Water unfolds in a similar way to how Hite uncovered her family history—by digging through records, letters, photos, newspaper articles, visiting cemeteries—and it’s her research that makes the narrative feel so authentic.

In Going to the Water, Hite turns her attention to one of the most magical places in the South—Nantahala, North Carolina. Hite enjoys lifting the veil and it’s not uncommon for her haints to make appearances. Often, her characters take their presence in stride, interacting with them as if they were alive. And there’s always a thread of magic running throughout her work. Perhaps, part of this is her choice in settings, equally as enchanting as her storytelling.

The Nantahala River and the surrounding mountains are Southern jewels—a rain forest nestled between the Blueridge and Smokey Mountains, and literally one of my favorite places in the south. “Nantahala” means land of the noonday sun in Cherokee. The Nantahala River runs through a steep gorge that blocks sunlight and in some areas sunlight only comes through when the sun is directly above it. The main character, Isla Weehut describes it best: “But I believe deeply that God is here, Randal. Right here in all of this true beauty. If we want to worship him, this is the most exquisite church in the world.” There’s a feeling you get when you enter the Nantahala Forest. There’s something special about this place, an energy you simply have to experience to understand. It’s a shadowy landscape, literally and figuratively, which makes it an ideal setting to tell this story of murder and family secrets mixed in with ghosts and superstition.

When Isla Weehut’s sister, Velvet Leech, is murdered in an act of arson Isla is drawn back into her family’s drama. Seventeen years ago, Isla left Nantahala, North Carolina and her family with zero plans to return. She wanted a different life from the wild ways of her sister. Now she is forced to deal with her sister’s murder, her orphaned nephew, Randal Leech, and a mother, Darlene Leech, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s living in a nursing home. Isla would like nothing better than to bury her sister and return to her “real” life of country club committees, the Junior League, and church in Mountain City, but Nantahala and her “ancestral roots” start calling her back to the river.

Isla initially comes off as bossy, uptight, rude, demanding, judgmental, and a little heartless. Yet there are two sides to Isla. The façade of the stodgy Bible thumping conservative who only cares about making a good appearance is at odds with the river girl who fearlessly traveled the white rapids and learned the ways of her ancestors from her half-Cherokee Indian father. She marries into money, but her wealthy, chicken farmer husband, Scott Weehut, stays drunk most days and has had numerous infidelities. Death has a way of unearthing old memories and family secrets and Going to the Water is packed full of deceptions that threaten the lives of the characters, particularly seventeen-year-old Randal.

Randal was born in the gorge, but like Isla, he remains an outsider. He’s bullied for being gay and he wants out of Nantahala as badly as Isla wishes she never came back. With a mother who suffered from depression, a reputation for going on benders and hanging out with a bad crowd, it’s largely left to Randal’s Grandmother Dar to step in. Grandmother Dar loves the boy, but she’s no shining example for motherhood and struggles with dark spells as well, both shocking and disturbing. And Randal isn’t the camo-wearing, good old boy you sometimes find in small Southern towns. He has a flair for fashion, enjoys cutting hair, cooking, and loves Flannery O’Connor. Randall has an old soul and it’s his love for the river and wisdom beyond his years that begins to etch away at Isla’s heart; she comes to love him against all the odds.

Randal’s influence isn’t the only element disrupting Isla’s world. The natural beauty of Isla’s childhood home of Grassy Bald stirs old passions and Isla begins to write, a pleasure she has denied herself, scared if she begins to express herself, she may go too far:

My words turned me into a painter, a visual artist bound to show every vein in a leaf and each minnow in a stream. Small wild violets, delicate and fragile, became my childhood wishes hidden away for years. A worshiping emotion unlike any I felt in church moved me into contentment. When I finally stopped, I sat in stillness, listening to the songs that continued to whistle around me, braiding together something more tangible than all my years of effort could have delivered to my soul. Why had I stopped writing? But I knew the reasons that lined up in my thoughts. I had to control those places in me that wanted to burst open and tell everything, to scream at the top of my lungs.

I read this paragraph multiple times. Hite captured something difficult to convey here—the mutual love and fear that comes with letting go and expressing one’s art freely and I suspect most artists can relate to this.

Deep-rooted grudges and dark secrets between generations of family living in the gorge threaten the future of both Isla and Randal. Isla must uncover the truth to save Randall, but in doing so she risks exposing deceptions she hoped to bury forever. Murder, kidnapping, suicide, infidelities, mental illness, and even love at the end, for a small mountain town, Hite’s Nantahala has a lot of going on. Though Going to the Water has its twists and turns, it’s ultimately a story about family loyalty and healing by forgiving.

TO PREORDER (RELEASE DATE NOVEMBER 9, 2021): FoxTale Book Shoppe or GOING TO THE WATER.

MEET ANN HITE: FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA is hosting a reading and book signing event with Ann Hite on November 13th, 2021 at 2:00 pm. For info, visit: FoxTale/ Going to the Water.

Ann Hite is a wife, mom, grandmother, and book junkie. At age 51, she became a published novelist. Ann’s debut novel, Ghost On Black Mountain, won Georgia Author Of The Year and was a Townsend Prize Finalist in 2012. She is the author of the following novels: The Storycatcher (2013 Simon & Schuster), Where The Souls Go (2015 Mercer University Press), Sleeping above Chaos (2016 Mercer University Press), a novella, Lowcountry Spirit (2013 Pocket Book), and a memoir, Roll The Stone Away (2020 Mercer University Press). Her books have been finalists in IndieFab and Georgia Author of the Year Awards. A chapter from Roll The Stone Away was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her upcoming short story collection, Haints on Black Mountain, will be published by Mercer University Press in fall of 2022. Her novel, Going To The Water, will be published by Firefly Southern Fiction in November 2021. Being a city girl most of her life, Ann now writes each day in her home office that looks out on a decent clutter of trees. 

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ANN HITE, VISIT HER AUTHOR WEBSITE: A SOUTHERN NOVELIST, A STORYTELLER FROM BIRTH

Springer Mountain Press Launches Summer Slasher Horror Anthology Vol. I. Read my Interview with Publisher, Clay Anderson, Launch Party Details, and much more

Taylor Knecht – Cover Artist

DM: You opened a bookstore, Bear Book Market, you’re a full-time college professor, you started a publishing company, Springer Mountain Press, you recently published your own book, The Palms. Are you possessed? Joking aside, will you talk to me about what compelled you to publish a horror anthology?

CA: I’ve always been a fan of horror writing. In middle school my parents let me pick out any book I wanted and I chose Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot; I was obsessed from that moment on. Also, I really enjoy reading horror anthologies, because it’s a great opportunity to read some of the new voices in horror. Often the writers I enjoy reading go on to publish books or anthologies of their own. I like to be on the cutting edge and know who these future writers of horror are.

DM: You write both literary fiction and Grit Lit. What drew you to the horror genre?

CA: I love reading Grit Lit because the darkness is what I’m drawn to. The same can be said of horror. I’m reminded of a Stephen King quote, “we make up horrors to help us cope with real ones.” That’s my philosophy when reading horror. I can turn off the news and be comforted with a horror novel that allows me to have a form of dark escapism.

DM: I’m always interested in placement in anthologies. How did you decide on where to place each piece? What was your strategy?

CA: There really was no strategy outside of putting Bonnie’s poem in the middle of the anthology to break it up and Alyssa’s story scared me most, so she went first. After that, we divvied up the stories based on length. Really, no one story was better than the next so it was simple to place the pieces.

DM: Springer Mountain Press is a newer publisher, but already doing great things for Southern writers and writers in general. Was it challenging getting contributors?

CA: No, it wasn’t hard to get contributors. Thankfully I’ve have a good network of authors to get contributions from, especially with my connection with Reinhardt University. A good portion of the submissions were from my fellow RU Alumni. The MFA program is really strong and produces fantastic authors. So, it was very simple to ask and receive contributions.

DM: Is Springer Mountain Press open to horror submissions outside of the anthology? Meaning, are you open to publishing horror novels, short story collections, or novellas by a single author?

CA: Fantastic Question!!!! Yes, we are open to publish horror novels, short story collections, or novellas by a single author. Again, I love everything horror. So, yes, if you are reading this and are a horror author, please submit to submissions@springermountainpress.com.

DM: The cover expletive, expletive rocks! It’s brilliant. Who is the artist? Will you chat about collaborating on coming up with the slasher image?

CA: I love this question! Yes, so Springer Mountain Press employs a graphic designer named Taylor Knecht (Instagram @knecht.the.dots). She worked with us last Spring as an intern and graduated with a degree in graphic design from the University of North Georgia. I loved her work so much that I’ve employed her at the press to be our in-house cover designer. The psycho on the cover was all her idea. He’s going to be our mascot for all of our horror anthologies!

DM: Should we expect another Slasher Anthology? If so, what’s the theme and where can all my horror writing buddies contribute?

CA: Yes, you can! Follow all of our social media accounts to stay up to date on our call for submissions. Right now, we at SMP are going to publish two horror anthologies a year. This next summer we will publish Summer Slasher Horror Anthology Vol. 2. Also, and most exciting, is that we will be publishing A Christmas Horror Story Anthology Vol. 1 this December. So, please stay on the lookout for the call for submissions, and think about writing your winter holiday themed horror stories. And our psycho will make a repeat appearance on all our horror anthologies, so stay tuned!!!!

TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY of Springer Mountain Press Summer Slasher Horror Anthology Vol. 1 visit Bear Book Market, or KINDLE UNLIMTED MEMBERS, download for FREE: Download Summer Slasher Horror Anthology Vol I.

EVENTS: AUGUST 21st 6:00 – 7:00 PM AT BEAR BOOK MARKET IN Dahlonega, GA: Come celebrate the anthology launch, hear one of the contributors (you got it, ME!) read, and meet the cover artist Taylor Knecht. Refreshments will be served. DIRECTIONS

MORE ON CLAY ANDERSON:


I am an Assistant Professor of History at Reinhardt University where I’m also the Director of the Center for Student Success. In 2019, I opened up a New and Used book store in Dahlonega, Georgia named Bear Book Market. In 2020 we were voted Best Book Store. After I received my MFA in Creative Writing in 2020, I created an Independent Publishing Company called Springer Mountain Press. We are a small press but growing. We have three really amazing books coming out in the Fall: The Bystanders by (the extremely talented) Dawn Major, a short story collection by Scott Gould titled, Idiot Men, and a (currently) untitled collection of prose by the late great William Gay. When not working on those many things, I enjoy reading and watching all things horror. My favorite genre are 1980s campy slasher movies – hence the Summer Slasher Horror Anthology – such as Sleep Away Camp, Friday the 13th, Madman, The Burning, and Don’t Go in the Woods Alone.

SUBMIT YOUR HORROR NOVEL, NOVELLA, SHORT STORY COLLECTION TO: SPRINGER MOUNTAIN PRESS if you dare!

TO FOLLOW SPRINGER MOUNTAIN PRESS:

Facebook: @springermountainpress; Instagram: @springermountainpress; Twitter: @SpringerMtPress

William Gay’s Last Novel: Fugitives of the Heart Available Now and Much More!

If you a are fan of William Gay, you do not want to miss this post. William Gay’s last posthumous novel, Fugitives of the Heart, was released by Livingston Press this summer and Signed First Editions are Available on a Limited Basis through Alabama Booksmith. Also, don’t miss my review of Fugitives of the Heart and my Interview with J. Michael White about the novel. Watch the Author Spotlight with Sonny Brewer, J. Michael White, and Jake Reiss where they discuss how the novel came to be. There’s some exciting Upcoming Events as well. Read on!

Author Spotlight Alabama Booksmith Owner, Jake Reiss, and guest speakers, Sonny Brewer, and Michael White

AVAILABLE ON A LIMITED BASIS, HARDCOVER FIRST EDITION COPIES OF FUGITIVES OF THE HEART SIGNED BY SONNY BREWER AND J. MICHAEL WHITE AT: ALABAMA BOOKSMITH

FUGITIVES OF THE HEART BY WILLIAM GAY, reviewed by Dawn Major

Young protagonist Marian Yates doesn’t have much of a chance with the parents he’s been allotted in life. His dad is killed for poaching and his mom is an ailing prostitute and is anything but maternal. She eventually departs the world, leaving Yates orphaned and homeless in rural Tennessee. Yates is a sneakthief, a scavenger, a wanderer, but he’s also a deep thinker and attuned to nature. He’s more at home in the Harrikin than in a warm bed with a roof over his head. Yates loves Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was Gay’s inspiration for this novel. He spends a short time with the Widow Paiton, who introduces him to Twain. Yates, so compelled by the Twain’s words and the adventures, he sneaks in during the day, devouring chapters that had been denied him at night: he read about “Jim and Huck in the flux on the sun-rimpled Mississippi. He could almost smell the hot torpor of the river, seeing the country sliding past, until he was hopelessly snared by Twain.” These passages truly make you see Yates for the innocent he is, despite being thrown into a den of wolves.

Yates’s prized possession is a pocketknife that his friend Black Crowe helped him acquire from Dow Cook’s general store. This negotiation is the inciting incident. Gay followed Anton Chekhov’s theory—essentially, if you write a gun into the first act of a play, it must be fired in the second act. Of course, in Fugitives of the Heart the gun is replaced with a pocketknife. Yates is in love with a girl out of his league who has a bootlegging granny who despises him. Every day is an adventure from hopping box cars heading to Ackerman’s Field to catch the circus, sneaking under the cover of night to beat up the antagonist, Swain, who’s been visiting his mother’s bed, surviving a road trip with a mad iceman (some will recognize the short story, “The Iceman,” which is part of this novel), to saving Black Crowe from a lynch mob and ultimately facing one of life’s toughest lessons—betrayal. TO READ REVIEW IN ITS ENTIRETY VISIT: SOUTHERN LITERARY REIVEW

DAWN MAJOR INTERVIEWS J. MICHAEL WHITE ABOUT WILLIAM GAY’S FUGITIVES OF THE HEART

WILLIAM GAY WITH J. MICHAEL WHITE

DM: Michael, I appreciate you doing this interview about William Gay’s last novel, Fugitives of the Heart. Gay describes this book as “a boy’s coming-of-age in a dying iron ore community of Depression era Tennessee,” and says that he was inspired by Mark Twain’s classic, Huckleberry Finn. What are a few similarities between Huckleberry Finn and Fugitives of the Heart?

JMW: William was a life-long fan of Mark Twain. When he was a kid, they had a small library in the school and he loved to go there and he once asked the librarian how much she had to pay for the privilege of working in the library! Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer were readily accessible to him as a school boy and he devoured them. He loved Huck more than Tom and read both books over and over. They were country kids like himself and the books were set in the country and sparked his imagination like nothing had before. In his career as a writer he wrote a book in every genre that he loved to read so doing a homage to Twain had to be part of his oeuvre. The main character, Marion Yates, like Huck, is in his early teens growing up without either of his parents and no home to call his own. His only friend is a black man everyone called Black Crowe. There are scenes set by the Tennessee River and in the end of the book you end up in a cave. William was not one to copy other writers, but this book echoes Twain in many ways, all done in William’s own unique style. TO READ INTERVIEW IN ITS ENTIRETY VISIT: SOUTHERN LITERARY REVIEW

UPCOMING EVENTS: SOUTHERN FESTIVAL OF BOOKS, 33RD ANNUAL EVENT IN NASHVILLE, TN WILL FEATURE A PANEL DEDICATED TO WILLIAM GAY FEATURING RICK BRAGG, SONNY BREWER, TOM FRANKLIN, SUAZANNE KINGSBURY, RON RASH, AND J. MICHAEL WHITE ON OCTOBER 9-10, 2021. EXACT TIMES TO BE ANNOUNCED.

Read Arthur Wayne Glowka’s Experience with Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing and his decision to self-publish his novel, Trout And Other Mythical Beings

To self-publish or not to self-publish, that is the question.

I started self-publishing creative works in 2012. I took that step after three decades of experiences with traditional publishing and with editing of one kind and another. It took ten years for me to publish my first two books with traditional publishers, but work on both books prepared me for self-publishing.

At the age of ten, I heard my father recite the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales as part of a speech for a Dale Carnegie course. In the speech, my father claimed that any time he felt low, he remembered his high school teacher recite those lines in an exaggerated rhythm with her large bosom bouncing up and down. That memory cheered him up. I found Chaucer’s rhythm intoxicating, and right after writing a dissertation on the rhythm of Lawman’s Brut (the first English work to treat King Arthur), I began working on a book on Chaucer’s meter. It took four years to write the book and four years to find a publisher. The small academic publisher I found wanted either a subvention from my institution for printing costs—or for me to provide camera-ready text. As things turn out, my department at Georgia College had begun to make camera-ready copy of The Flannery O’Connor Newsletter on a tiny Mac, and the secretary tutored me in desktop publishing and let me use her Mac to paste up my book. The book was finally published, it is cited in scholarly articles, it is in university libraries, but it never enjoyed enough sales to meet the minimum amount of $35 for a royalty check.

While I was writing my book on Chaucer, I was also developing a collection of essays illustrating various ways of teaching students about the dialects of American English. I convinced the Committee on Teaching of the American Dialect Society to sponsor the collection, and the chair of the committee, a long-time journal editor, signed on as a co-editor since I had no experience with editing. However, at the end of that ten-year process, I had learned more about editing and negotiating with authors and copyeditors than I ever wanted to learn. Although my little Chaucer book never earned a dime of royalties, the dialect book, which was published in a teaching series by the Modern Language Association Press, earned enough in royalties over two years to pay for all the bills associated with the birth of my first child.

To help with the expenses of raising a child, I assumed some duties in administration. My most interesting assignment was editing a faculty research newsletter. Since I knew something about desktop publishing, I abandoned the mimeograph format of my predecessors and produced an off-set publication with interviews and photographs. Soon I had a team of students working with me as interns. Also as part of my duties, I revived a student research journal and produced camera-ready copy for printing at the University of Georgia.

The one thing then led to another. After posting some observations about new words on the new email discussion group of the American Dialect Society, I was asked by the editor of its journal, American Speech, to become the editor of its column on news words, which had been published with regularity since the beginning of World War II. I edited that column with the help of dozens of students for eleven years.

But in the meantime, I had begun working on a verse translation of Wace’s Roman de Brut, an Anglo-Norman verse translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s legendary History of the Kings of Britain. This book was also a ten-year process. It took four years for me to translate Wace into English verse. Finding a traditional academic publisher took two years; getting that publisher to issue a contract took another two years of revisions and additions. In the frustration of dealing with a publisher that kept delaying and requesting more, I threatened to publish the translation on a web site through which I could get $1 per copy. However, my department chair calmed me down and begged the dean for subvention money. Finally, 175 copies of the very beautiful and very expensive book were printed. I won two cash prizes for the book at Georgia College, but I never received one cent of royalties. I am thankful that the translation is frequently used in scholarly articles and books, but the process of getting this book to press soured me on traditional publishing.

And now we get to self-publishing. In 2004, I took a trip to Texas to see family and revisited the Alamo for the first time in nearly two decades. I re-read the very moving letter of William Barret Travis (the young commander of the Alamo surrounded by the sizeable army of the battle-hardened Santa Anna), bought some books about the Alamo, and began writing about the subject in my car one Sunday morning while my kids were in Sunday school. I imagined I was the dying James Bowie telling stories about his life to other Alamo defenders on the night before they all died. I wrote in Chaucer’s rhyme royal stanza. I pecked at this poem for another six years, and when I had nearly two hundred pages of material, I sent out samples to university publishers in Texas. An editor at Texas Christian University loved the sample and the idea of multiple narrators but feared that the press would lose money on an epic poem. She asked me to re-write the book as a prose novel. My crazy lifetime dream had been to write an epic poem. The dream was all but shattered. I froze. I quit writing for months. And then I saw that a local high school student had published a novel in Kindle form for her senior project. I investigated Kindle publishing. It was easy. There was a template for the paperback. At that time, the Kindle version could be published as an html copy of the Word document. All fired up, I finished my epic, The Texiad, in three weeks and got it published in Kindle and paperback shortly thereafter. On the Kindle dashboard, I could see that I had sold 36 copies on the first day. I was going to get royalties at the end of the next month and every month thereafter. I could promote the book with free copies. At one point, over 5000 people had downloaded free copies of my Kindle book. I had become an epic poet.

I then got very busy re-writing may favorite medieval romances as erotic tales with surprising twists. Sir Gawain succumbs to seduction and has to marry the Green Knight’s “wife,” who is actually an old elf woman made to look young by magic. Chrétien de Troyes’ Guinevere is transformed into a dominatrix who goes into ecstasy watching Lancelot bleed. Free Kindle copies of The Humiliation of Sir Lancelot were downloaded 800 times on the first day. I took “Eliduc,” one of The Lais of Anglo-Norman poet Marie de France, and turned it into a much longer and detailed story–and turned the other lais into rhyming songs that Eliduc sings to the accompaniment of the harp. Europeans are fond of these romances.

At about the same time, I got involved in play writing, and I published copies of the short plays that had been performed. Nobody much buys plays, but bound paper copies are very useful for actors and directors who are staging a play–and who might want a great souvenir signed by the author.

In my last years at Reinhardt, President Mark Roberts and I started the Reinhardt University Press by opening an institutional Kindle Direct Publishing account. Through that account, we began publishing Sanctuary (the interdisciplinary arts magazine) and James Dickey Review. We also published a student athlete’s history of Reinhardt University football. Sanctuary and JDR provided my first experiences with editing creative writing. They were time-consuming additions to an already busy schedule of teaching and administration, but they were fun. All of my previous experiences with editing and formatting made the work possible.

So, when it came time to publish Trout and Other Mythical Beings, the decision to self-publish was an easy one to make. I have been self-publishing and self-editing for nearly a decade. But I am trying something new with self-publishing this time. In consultation with a former student of mine who makes his living selling Western romances, I have decided to pay for advertising. I am not much of a gambler, so the principles of advertising make me very uncomfortable, but my wife, who has worked in marketing, has been advising me to have patience with the process and the risk. So, I am on a new adventure in publishing.

TO PURCHASE TROUT AND OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS:

Get your paperback copy of TROUT AND OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS by visiting Bear Book Market at 21 North Grove Street, Dahlonega, GA, via Bear Book Market’s online store at Bear Book Market, from the author by emailing him at a_glowka@yahoo.com, or via Kindle E-book.

Want to meet the author, attend a reading, and hear some banjo playing? You do. You sure do! Here’s your opportunity: Etowah Valley MFA Program Summer Residency Reinhardt University Waleska, GA July 10, 2021, 8:00 pm: Trout and Other Mythical Beings: A Reading from the Arthur Wayne Glowka. Directions

More about Arthur Wayne Glowka:

Photo by Beth Glowka

Arthur Wayne Glowka (born in Weimar, Texas, in 1952) grew up in San Antonio, Texas, in the shadow of the Alamo, and heard heroic tales about its fall from an early age. The Irish nuns who ran his elementary school directed him to books about King Arthur and Robin Hood, and his study of Spanish in high school has led to a lifelong fascination with Latin America and Spain. He studied English at the University of Texas at Austin (B.A., 1973; M.A., 1975), where he fell in love with medieval tales told in their original languages. Before pursuing his doctorate in English at the University of Delaware (English, 1980), he spent two years away from formal study to fish and to plunder libraries and used bookstores for books on fishing and a wide variety of other subjects. His scholarly publications have treated metrics, the legendary history of Britain, Geoffrey Chaucer, dialectology, lexicography, and Flannery O’Connor. He has served as an editor for academic journals, most recently James Dickey Review. His creative publications include an epic about the Texas Revolution (The Texiad), a series of medieval romances retold for contemporary readers, plays, and a novel (Trout and Other Mythical Beings). He was Professor of English at Georgia College (1980-2007) and the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Reinhardt University (2007-2020). He retired from teaching and administration in July of 2020—but not from writing, woodworking, music, and hiking.

A Conversation with Arthur Wayne Glowka, Author of Trout And Other Mythical Beings

Photo by Beth Glowka

DM: In my review of your novel, Trout And Other Mythical Beings, I mentioned that Harry was on a mythic quest, that he was a sort of mythic hero. What made you use the mythic quest structure for Trout And Other Mythical Beings?

AWG: I have been interested in myth in general and the heroic quest in particular since I was a child. I have been interested in the heroic quest and medieval storytelling ever since a nun handed me a big book on King Arthur in the third grade. In the ninth grade, I read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology with a great deal of fascination, and I assigned it in world literature classes I taught until I found a more detailed book for my classes.

I generally use the word “myth” as a story that explains the nature of the world we live in —or wished we lived in. As Harry Mature knows, myths are often not realistic accounts of every day experience. Myths entertain us with imaginative but unrealistic objects or creatures like a bird reborn in fire or a sword that confers superpowers on the rightful bearer. When I hear people condemn a story or a belief as a “myth,” I chuckle to myself. We all “believe” in myths of one kind of another. Myths can scare us; myths can help us understand things. Ultimately, we think we understand very little outside of our favorite myths. I could easily go on about all of my favorite mythical heroic quests in world literature, but let me focus instead on Harry Mature.

Harry goes on a heroic quest to experience things that have been part of his fantasy world. And he discovers that actual experiences with these things have uncomfortable physical and emotional consequences. Alcohol and tobacco can make you sick. Hunting by yourself can be dangerous and is not like hunting on a television show. Fishing is nothing like reading a book about fishing. Serial online dating comes with consequences and experiences not detailed in the old Penthouse letters or the erotic tales of Anaïs Nin. Grief can be sadness, but more likely it is anger, frustration, and fear. The refuge in being “comfortably numb” is ephemeral and ultimately just a trick of the psyche. You can’t hide from your feelings; they will sneak up on you and bite you in the ass.

Harry wants a number of things, but he needs a friend and sense of who he really is. For far too long, his wife, his child, and his job told him who he was supposed to be. At the end, he still doesn’t know who he is, but he has learned who he isn’t. Along the way, there is a string of mythical beings to consider and abandon: the Hemingway hero who drinks without hangovers, the macho tobacco smoker with no health concerns, the mighty stag memorialized on a wall, the lunker trout (and the naiads who put them on hooks), the hot hook-up (Erica Jong’s “zipless fuck” in Fear of Flying), the Valkyries, and Odin. Defying death, Harry finds escape on his motorcycle, but as we all know, a motorcycle can lead to a very gruesome death on a lonesome highway.

DM: Interesting last name you chose for Harry—Harry Mature. Is it because he’s had to act mature, too mature, and almost dead, all his life or he because rejects maturity for the first time in his life? Will you talk about the name choice?

AWG: When I was a kid, the actor Victor Mature was a popular leading man in the movies—like Samson and Delilah. So, the last name, “Mature,” has heroic (and erotic) connotations for me. Ultimately, I chose “Harry Mature” because, as the character Karen humorously notes, it sounds like the name of a porn star. Otherwise, I was searching for a name that would make the main character a “type,” in the 17th-century sense. Harry is a type of old man. He is not every old man, but an old man you might meet somewhere. “Mature” is one of the euphemisms marketers use for “old.” Working with the handicaps posed by aging, Harry tests his limits, trying to see what is still left of himself. I once asked a male friend about when male children reach adulthood and start to make sense. He said, “Around age 31.” I asked a female friend the same question, and she said, “Some of them don’t make sense till age 65.”

DM: Talk to me about the cover and how it came to be.

AWG: Intending to order a proof copy early one morning in March, I published the book by accident with a trial cover that was, frankly, pretty stupid. It featured a yellow caution sign warning of a curvy road. A helmeted man on a motorcycle was flying up the curvy road on the sign, and a trout was leaping out of the sign into the clouds. My friend, with marketing advice, hastily made another cover for me with a helmeted man on a motorcycle riding up a stream out of which a trout was leaping. I republished with that cover, but I did not like it. Then I made a black-and-white cover with a muscle-bound woman dressed up like an opera Viking. Someone I know bought a copy with this version of the cover. It occurred to me on a walk that I needed a photo of a woman with a trout. My search on iStock turned up the startling picture of the young woman emerging from the stream with a fish in her mouth. The iconography was perfect. In the novel, Karen says that the trout resort has kids in the river putting fish on hooks for seminar participants. So, the fish and the young woman are mythical beings referred to by the mythical Karen.

DM: I think some of the Harry’s thoughts about Kat and his grandkids are hilarious, but I could imagine some readers taking issue if some of those inner thoughts were taken out of context. Have you had any comments from your readers?

AWG: People who take things out of context and blow them up on social media or news broadcasts are going to do what they are going to do. In every age, Puritans of one kind or another ban works of art and inadvertently make those works more appealing to curious consumers of art. Some of my favorite books have been banned at one time or another.

Harry Mature and his granddaughters illustrate what people in the 1960s called “the generation gap.” Young boomers grew out their hair, experimented with drugs and sex, tried living in communes, protested a war, and had fantasies of changing the world by putting LSD in the water supply (see the movie Wild in the Streets). The intentions of the young boomers were good, but their assumptions about the nature of the world were naive and adolescent. The boomers grew up and became the parents they hated. They worked, they invested, they voted for corrupt politicians, they tried to stop the sale of music celebrating violence and sex, and they fought their own wars. Now the boomers have grandchildren who, to the boomers, look and sound like creatures from outer space, and the grandchildren think their boomer grandparents are ignorant, immoral, capitalist racists. My grandparents regarded me with horror when I was a teenager; I also regarded them with horror. But we all eventually grew out of this phase. Before they died, we ended up being great friends honoring one another.

Harry Mature sees his grandchildren through the lenses of what he reads in the news about college campuses. The granddaughters see him through the lenses of woke-ism, which they have picked up in over-simplified terms from older adolescents. However, when Harry shows up on a motorcycle, they welcome him, because they want to ride on his motorcycle and because they like rebelling against their mother, who thinks her father has lost his mind. Harry and his granddaughters are allies in their efforts to move past Mary’s death.

One of my neighbors, who is retired and has grandchildren, found Harry’s thoughts about his grandchildren and their thoughts about him as the funniest passages in the book. However, I am sure that some young people will find the book disturbing for any number of reasons besides Harry’s inner thoughts. When I was in my early teens, an older friend of our family lost her husband of nearly forty years and started dating shortly thereafter. My parents would twitter with her about her dating adventures with men at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, and I was viscerally repulsed upon learning that old people might actually be having sex. I did not understand at the time how geriatric sex could be possible, much less desirable for anyone, even the participants. But I was a teenager who wanted some green-and-white striped bellbottom pants, a psychedelic VW bug, and a Summer of Love.

DM: What was the inspiration for writing Trout and Other Mythical Beings?

AWG: I can blame neither a muse or any kind of spirit for the book, but one day after a lot of musing about retirement, the indignities of growing old, and the increasing number of deaths among my contemporaries, I hit upon the name “Harry Mature” for the main character and wrote a version of the first paragraph. I sent it to close friends. One wrote back immediately and said he wanted to read that book. Around the same time, he also confessed about how much he wanted to buy an Indian motorcycle. So, buying a motorcycle was added to Harry’s bucket list of “things he needed to do.” The other friend urged me to write the novel in my upcoming retirement.

And that is what I did. I retired on July 1, 2021, and wrote 12-15 pages every week for the next six months. Before starting, I thought about the fantasies that led me to various kinds of dead ends: thinking a motorcycle would be a chick magnet and glamorizing smoking and drinking as a young teenager; extensive reading about and sizeable investments in trout fishing in my early twenties and late fifties; obsessing about deer hunting in my fifties; imagining I could be a kind of Don Juan or Fabio with online dating profiles after divorces. In reality, I saw my friends get injured on motorcycles. I discovered that trout prefer canned corn to artistically tied flies. Deer hunting resulted in a freezer full of sausage that no one but me would eat–and in a messy divorce. Online dating eventually led to a wonderful marriage, but as my wife is fond of saying, she had to “kiss a number of frogs” to find me. (I’ll take the fifth on that claim for myself.) In short, I structured the novel as a series of attempts to realize fantasies. In each case, the reality is a comic version of the fantasy. With that plan, I knew pretty much where I was going with the book on the first day I sat down to write.

DM: What did you enjoy the most about authoring this novel? What were the challenges?

AWG: I have written a number of plays, and I have always enjoyed writing dialogue. Once I have a sense of who characters are, it is easy for me to get them to talk. I had the most fun writing about Harry’s encounter with Karen on the fishing trip. She’s annoying, sexy, crude, and energetic. She is attractive and repulsive at the same time. Harry is like one of those reluctant men in the stories of D. H. Lawrence. Forces beyond his control take over

The sections on hunting and fishing were the hardest parts to write. I once taught a course on writing concerned with hunting and fishing, so the bar I set for myself in regard to technical details presented me with challenges. However, the two sections that caused me the most anxiety were the Christmas dinner at Kat’s house and the New Year’s Eve party at Harry’s house. It took me months to figure out what would happen when Harry showed up at Kat’s. Finally, it occurred to me that the granddaughters would soften their attitudes in regard to Harry if he had a motorcycle that their mother hated. The motorcycle would be useful to their teen rebellion against their mother. The problem with the New Year’s Eve party was sustaining the celebratory activities beyond a paragraph. Drunk people are funny and interesting when you yourself are drunk, but they are not all that interesting to write about while you are sober. However, I feel that I succeeded in creating enough intensity in the partying to make Kat’s screeching a very significant moment.

DM: You did a lovely job of balancing comedy and tragedy. Most readers will be laughing throughout Trout And Other Mythical Beings. But there were some moments–the Georgia National Cemetery scene got to me–that hit you in the gut. Did you find it hard to balance those two extremes?

AWG: Not at all. Until that scene, Harry has been so focused on his bucket list that he has avoided dealing with his feelings about his wife’s death. The narration did not detail his experience at the visitation and funeral. He had no experience there that I wanted to report. He was focused on that glass of whiskey waiting for him at home. Harry would not have been able to pay attention to the proceedings. He just wanted a glass of whiskey.

However, Harry can finally face death at The Georgia National Cemetery, a place that can have a powerful effect on visitors. The marble headstones in their neat rows are too numerous to count. Each columbarium holds a staggering number of drawers. Heavy reminders of death surround you there. If you try to read the names and dates of each memorial you pass, you soon feel exhausted. The sameness of the headstones and the niches emphasizes the commonality of everyone: we will all die. All things will pass. The marble will melt in the acidic rain. The woods will someday return to those fields. The mountains will be washed to the sea. In that place, at that time, Harry can cry when his new friend cries. A cleansing occurs. Harry allows a friend into his life. He is ready to face his daughter and his granddaughters as a new person with a new costume and motorcycle, a symbol of his freedom and his acceptance of his own inevitable death.

One way or another, he will have to die. Like the two anti-heroes at the end of Easy Rider, he might fly through the air in a fiery blaze of glory—or just ride off into a landscape rife with bluebonnets as he goes off into oblivion.

It is fitting that Harry presides as Odin–the one-eyed Norse god who was hanged on the gallows for nine days—at a party called “Valhalla”—”hall of the slaughtered”—while Shield Maidens dance to “The Flight of the Valkyries”—the winged “selectors of the slaughtered.” The dead warriors in Valhalla fight every day and drink every night until the time when the great wolves will eat the sun and the moon and the Frost Giants will come in a boat made of dead men’s fingernails to destroy the gods and men before a new world arises to replace the old.

DM: What are you working on currently? What’s after Trout And Other Mythical Beings?

AWG: My most immediate concern is cleaning up a paper on the children’s mother in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” I am scheduled to read it at a conference later this month.

One reader of Trout has asked for another encounter between Karen and Harry. For the last week or so, I have been thinking of sending Harry to New Mexico to visit with a much older friend whose partner and wife of fifty years has died and left him enough curiosities to fill a museum—and an urn full of her ashes. The last wish of the deceased was to have her ashes cast to the wind from the top of the hill in Los Angeles with the big HOLLYWOOD sign. With Debbie tied up at work with her new job, Harry is free to offer to take his friend to California with the ashes. Along the way, they could visit with old friends whose once starving commune has become a large profitable marijuana farm tended by old hippies. Harry and his friend could stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and have fear and loathing in Las Vegas and Tijuana before they get to Los Angeles just when the sun comes up on the Santa Monica Boulevard. They’ll discover that the Hollywood hill is protected by fencing and then make a mess of themselves and the ashes by miscalculating the timing of waves along Venice Beach. I think I could start writing in July when I normally hide indoors to avoid the heat.

Beyond that project, I would like to make a collection of my plays. I often think of doing something with my boxes of lyric poetry, but they will probably stay in the attic as a problem for my heirs and assigns.

DM: Thanks so much for spending the time answering my questions and I wish you much success with Trout And Other Mythical Beings as well as your other adventures—I know you have many!

TO PURCHASE TROUT AND OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS:

Get your paperback copy of TROUT AND OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS by visiting Bear Book Market at 21 North Grove Street, Dahlonega, GA, via Bear Book Market’s online store at Bear Book Market, from the author by emailing him at a_glowka@yahoo.com, or via Kindle E-book.

Want to meet the author, attend a reading, and hear some banjo playing? You do. You sure do! Here’s your opportunity: Etowah Valley MFA Program Summer Residency Reinhardt University Waleska, GA July 10, 2021, 8:00 pm: Trout and Other Mythical Beings: A Reading from the Arthur Wayne Glowka. Directions

More about Arthur Wayne Glowka:

Arthur Wayne Glowka (born in Weimar, Texas, in 1952) grew up in San Antonio, Texas, in the shadow of the Alamo, and heard heroic tales about its fall from an early age. The Irish nuns who ran his elementary school directed him to books about King Arthur and Robin Hood, and his study of Spanish in high school has led to a lifelong fascination with Latin America and Spain. He studied English at the University of Texas at Austin (B.A., 1973; M.A., 1975), where he fell in love with medieval tales told in their original languages. Before pursuing his doctorate in English at the University of Delaware (English, 1980), he spent two years away from formal study to fish and to plunder libraries and used bookstores for books on fishing and a wide variety of other subjects. His scholarly publications have treated metrics, the legendary history of Britain, Geoffrey Chaucer, dialectology, lexicography, and Flannery O’Connor. He has served as an editor for academic journals, most recently James Dickey Review. His creative publications include an epic about the Texas Revolution (The Texiad), a series of medieval romances retold for contemporary readers, plays, and a novel (Trout and Other Mythical Beings). He was Professor of English at Georgia College (1980-2007) and the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Reinhardt University (2007-2020). He retired from teaching and administration in July of 2020—but not from writing, woodworking, music, and hiking.