Category Archives: Orlando Literary Scene

The Drunken Odyssey

Just prior to my book release party this past Saturday, I sat down with John King, host of the literary/writing life podcast “The Drunken Odyssey.”

It’s a fun conversation. We talk about my book American Fraternity Man, and fraternity life in the state of Florida, and hazing, and alcoholism, and road trips, and mixed-media literature, and–best of all–I sing the praises of the clever Rebecca Martinson (the now-famous “deranged sorority girl” whose email has since been read by Michael Shannon, Gilbert Godfried, Morgan Freeman, and countless others, perhaps making it the single most talked-about piece of “fraternity/sorority literature” since Animal House). Don’t you want to hear me say the word “cunt punt” just once? I mean, seriously. If I said that while Heather was around, I’d get punched…but with a glass of wine, and sitting in John King’s studio: let the curse words fly!

Here’s the link. You can download the single show, or–better yet–you can subscribe to John’s excellent podcast through iTunes.


When you visit his site, do him a favor. Click on the “Audible” link and get a free audiobook download. It’s also the easiest way to support the show financially (and costs you nothing!).

Release Party



Be there.

Book Cover Revealed

There is an old advertising strategy called “pulsing,” whereby the advertiser will begin many months before an event or product release by dangling a “teaser” to consumers. Then, as we get closer to the release date (or the event), the advertiser will increase the frequency with which we see the advertisements. By the date itself, we will be so inundated with the marketing campaign that (theoretically) we will be bouncing off the walls in excitement.

This is an easy concept to understand in terms of Hollywood summer blockbusters. We get a “teaser trailer” one year in advance, which builds buzz and awareness. Then we get a “full trailer” during the Super Bowl. Then, in the month before the release date, we get TV ads, and radio commercials, and billboards, and magazine ads. All of this is supposed to build to a crescendo for the Friday-night release of the movie, where the long lines and movie theater craziness will actually become a story in and of itself.

I don’t know that this same craziness can be created with a book release, simply because reading is such a patient act, and readers tend to be so much more reserved with their excitement. Reading isn’t even an act that you (generally) share with others, as you might a movie release or a concert. Occasionally a book release is a massive cultural event (see: Harry Potter) or becomes a sort of word-of-mouth phenomenon with longer legs and more staying power than most movie releases (see: Fifty Shades of Gray). But this is so far outside the “norm” that each of these two stories are indeed stories: they’re bizarre exceptions to the rule.

So I wonder if it’s possible to use the advertising strategy of “pulsing” for the release of a relatively low-key literary novel like mine? What sort of “buzz” can one create for a book by a first-time novelist? What sort of excitement can one create for any book release, for that matter, since most readers do not rush out to buy a book with the same sense of urgency that they might rush out to the theaters for opening night of a film? For even our favorite novelists, we generally just add books to “wish lists” and “check-out carts” and then wait for some opportunity (months from now, perhaps?) when we are going to buy something else, thus pushing our total order above $25 to qualify for free super-saver shipping. Book releases are immensely exciting for authors, and for friends/family of authors, but even on the day of a book release: no one is reading the book at the event. Even when people buy the book on “opening day,” it could be weeks, months, before readers have finished the book (or before readers clear their current queue to even make time for the book!).

How does “pulsing” work, then, for a product so slowly consumed?

This is just another of the awful questions that I ask myself as I attempt to market my own book, American Fraternity Man. There’s no end to the considerations and the self-promotional opportunities and the ensuing  self-doubt, is there? But here we are, a week and a half from the release date, and now I am attempting to “pulse” the internet with the first glimpses of the book cover:

AFM Cover Spread-WEB

No, I can’t touch it yet. It isn’t yet a physical product, but I’ll tell you what: that’s a good-looking book. Here’s a close-up of the back:

AFM Cover Back-WEB

Let me know what you think, and let me know your own views on “pulsing” and “book release excitement.” Have you ever been truly excited for a book release, in an “I must get it the day it comes out” kind of way?

(And if you want to get American Fraternity Man the day it comes out, just stop by Quantum Leap Winery in downtown Orlando on Saturday, June 8th, from 2 – 5 PM. That’s the launch party, and I’ll be signing books and drinking wine all afternoon!)

15 Views: Volume II

Today is Wednesday, March 27.

Tomorrow night, we will celebrate the release of 15 Views Volume II: Corridor, a book which collects stories about the Metro Orlando region, and stories about the Tampa Bay region, all written by writers representing those areas. (“Corridor,” if you’re unfamiliar is the name given to the stretch of I-4 that runs between Orlando and Tampa…commuter hell.)

This is a book that I co-edited with the talented John Henry Fleming, whose Fearsome Creatures of Florida (a literary bestiary of all the legendary and mythological creatures said to inhabit our weird state) is a true undiscovered gem. Definitely a must-read for anyone who–like me–loves the strangeness of this state, and thinks that there’s something dark and ancient and maybe-evil lurking about.

We were lucky to get a fantastic roster of established/ award-winning writers, including Peter Meinke, Jocelyn Bartkevicius, Jeff Parker, David James Poissant, and Susan Hubbard. But there are also a number of emerging writers whose names you might not know today, but who will certainly become household names in no time: Jaroslav Kalfar, Leslie Salas, and Ed Bull. Seriously. Great. Writers. The collection also features a number of comics (one written by Robert Venditti, of The Surrogates fame), and a script from the bizarre and awesome Pat Rushin (whose film, The Zero Theorem, directed by Terry Gilliam, will be released sometime around awards season). And the interior of the book is decorated with paper-cut art from the super-talented Lesley Silvia. Some of it needs to be seen to be believed. My name is on the cover of this book as “editor,” but really, I’m just lucky to be mentioned in the same breath as some of these folks.

The pre-sale (in which you can order the book at a discount) runs until tomorrow at Burrow Press’s web site.

After that point, you can buy the book on Amazon and other major retailers.

The release party is tomorrow: Thursday, March 28, at 6 PM, in Urban Re-Think in Downtown Orlando. Here’s the link.

Buy a copy. Have a drink with the authors. Celebrate the literature of Florida’s I-4 Corridor.

Functionally Literate

Had the opportunity to do a super-fun reading while I was at AWP in Boston in early March. The reading series is called Functionally Literate, hosted by the very funny (but not very tall) Jared Silvia. #burn

Check out the following link to see video of all of the readers, including Jeff Parker (who read a “found poem” of Ron Artest quotes, which was hilarious), James Fleming (who read a story about Mr. T which I probably can’t explain in a way that make sense), Don Peteroy (who read from his book “Wally”), Juliana Gray (a poet, who also read a few pieces from Erica Swanson), and David James Poissant (who read a quiet piece from the Beloit Fiction Journal, I believe, and who has continually surprises me with the range of his work).

My story was called “How To Tell Whether Your Demon Baby Needs To Go To The Doctor.” I think that was the title? Let me know what you think.


Why Don’t We Cry For Throwaway B-Movie Characters?

I’ve got a new short story up at Word For/Word, where they ran a special section of Orlando writers (I’m joined by Chris Wiewora and Teege Braune, “Best Bartender in Orlando,” according to Orlando Weekly, and the man I will likely be ordering beer from later this evening…).

The story is called “Possible Regrets For the Supposed Hero of Dark Side of the Moon,” and is part of a series of short-shorts I’ve written which attempt to bring real empathy to the throwaway victims in bad horror movies. I’ve seen a thousand horror movies in my life, after all, and after awhile I’d watch and then just start feeling bad for the nerdy guy that died in Minute 18, or the jock who got his throat slashed in Minute 24, or the hot chick who died (topless, usually, and in mid-sex-act) in Minute 31. The horror genre needs victims, dead bodies, but too often the characters seem as if they are written solely for the purpose of dying. What about their lives outside of the movie? The hot chick (killed in mid-sex-act, remember) was around for 20 years before her death, and the nerdy guy had real-life struggles for all 18 years of his life. Maybe he had a college picked out; maybe he was going to be the first member of his family to make something of his life. Then: Jason Vorhees comes and chops his head off.

Anyway. My stories try to create a story for each victim, and try to treat the death as a real tragedy rather than as an audience-pleasing killshot.

The first was called “The True Anxiety…” and was published in Molotov Cocktail last year. Check it out here. It uses a character from a terrible Bigfoot movie called Demonwarp.

And you can read “Possible Regrets…” here at Word For/Word. The character in this story is from an equally awful space alien movie called Dark Side of the Moon.

Word For/Word, by the way, is a cool online publication that seems to be dedicated to really pushing the envelope on what is possible with electronic literature. The site is best viewed on an iPad or e-reader, I think, where it’s gonna look super-sharp, but you can obviously follow the link and read it straight from your computer screen.

Best of Orlando

Tremendous news from here in the heart of the City Beautiful:

15 Views of Orlando, the collection that I compile and edit with Burrow Press, was recently recognized by the Orlando Weekly in their annual “Best of Orlando” issue.

There was no “Best Book” category (which really speaks volumes about the perception of Orlando literature, even here in our fair city where we should be aware of the talented writers who call the area home), but the editors did give a great write-up of 15 Views of Orlando, labeling “Best Local Mirror.”

Check out the link here.

Interestingly, Orlando’s famous “Mr. Gold” (who was mentioned in Ashley Inguanta’s short story in 15 Views of Orlando…best mirror indeed!) graced the cover of the Orlando Weekly and earned a full feature-length profile as “Best Sport.” Mr. Gold is a town fixture, and never fails to cheer me up as I drive that wretched stretch of Colonial creeping out of downtown. It’s great to see him go from conversation piece (known to locals, discussed over beers, etc.) to the cover of a magazine, which sort of solidifies his place in the Orlando mythology.

A City’s Transformed Places

I’ve always been intrigued by the transformed places in a city, the parks and boulevards that were once something happy or great, or that were once terrible and grimy, and that–through urbanization and population changes and construction and (maybe) gentrification and remodeling–become something wildly different than anyone might have expected many years before.

In Toronto, for instance, I had the chance to visit an area called the Distillery District, the former site of (what else?) one of the largest alcohol production sites in North America. But it had crumbled over time, a major industrial center for the city reduced to abandoned and forgotten-about buildings, one of those dark places you pass on the interstate and wonder how it ever became what it became. Well, sometime in the early 2000s, the Distillery District was transformed yet again: the old brick buildings cleaned up, the streets closed and made into beautiful outdoor patios, complete with fountains. When I visited (in July), there were a half-dozen wedding photo shoots going on around me. There are art galleries, a brewpub, restaurants and wine shops. The city’s past reclaimed, a history lesson even as you eat/drink on your Saturday night.

Here in Orlando, we’ve got the Milk District: an area surrounding the T.G. Lee milk plants that–while still industrial and a little gritty–has become a hipster paradise, with bike shops and bars and sandwich shops in great supply. Orlando isn’t known for its stunning history, but the Milk District is a spot in the city that should be dumpy, but is instead bright with life and energy. The buildings are old and run-down (I love the eatery Beefy King, but its outdoor sign is cracked, pieces missing), but people seem to like it that way. If an Applebees opened, the whole vibe would be ruined.

I wrote a short story called “Fire in a Used-Car Lot” (which was just published this past week at Monkeybicycle) which zeroes in on another Orlando location that has changed…this one, though, isn’t quite so charming. Whereas the street name “Orange Blossom Trail” once implied…well, orange blossoms, and Florida sunshine…now it has crackled into something far less friendly. When you say “OBT” in Orlando, you often don’t even remember what the letters stand for.

Check out my story, and if you’ve got some spare time (or need some great background noise), check out my interview with John King at The Drunken Odyssey. We talk about the city of Orlando, how to depict the city in fiction, and all of the great successes within the 15 Views of Orlando collection. John was a contributor, and he’s got a great program going over at Drunken Odyssey.

15 Views of Orlando Continues

I’m not sure if I’ve posted about it here before, but now’s as good a time as any.

Our second sequence of “15 Views of Orlando” stories began a few weeks ago, and it’s going full-steam ahead.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the “15 Views of Orlando” collection, it’s pretty simple: because Orlando, Florida, is so under-represented in film/ literature (and because the city is viewed through such a skewed Disney lens), we wanted to create a piece of literary fiction that would do the city justice. So we assembled 15 total writers and tasked them with writing a 15-part story (“loosely linked”), with each story focusing upon a different location within the metropolitan area of Orlando. (Hence, 15 “views.”) The first incarnation of this story sequence proved to be extremely successful, and you can order the book from Burrow Press (links are everywhere on this page). The book was released in January, and it’s doing very well so far.

So, in Spring 2012, we decided to find 15 new authors, who would focus on 15 new locations, and write a brand-new 15-part “loosely linked” story sequence. The expectation is that we’ll be able to create a new “15 Views of Orlando” book each year, with proceeds from sales benefiting local literacy groups. And man, have our new authors from the 2012 edition done a tremendous job so far.  It’s been absolutely exciting to read the first few stories.

The 2012 edition of “15 Views of Orlando” is currently unfolding at the Burrow Press Review, one story a week, and we’re now at Part 5, “Stay” by Ed Bull. So if you haven’t checked out “15 Views of Orlando” (the 2012 edition), now is the time to click the link and start reading. All five parts are available online, and it’s easy to catch up before part 6 is posted! (Other authors include Susan Hubbard, comic writer Robert Venditti, interviewer Jana Waring, and bartender-poet Teege Braune).

Ed Bull, by the way, is a great young writer, and you’ll be able to appreciate his stand-alone story even if you don’t have time to read through the other parts of the story. He’s also got a story called “Teeth” at Burrow Press Review, which you can check out at the provided link.

15 Views of Orlando – RELEASE PARTY!!!

The above subject heading uses three total exclamation points, which–in the words of my old mentor Jeanne Leiby–is the lifetime total allowed to a writer. And man, I used them all at once.

But the subject certainly calls for some exclamation points.

If you didn’t know (i.e. you don’t ever talk to me, or you don’t follow my facebook status updates, or you just randomly stumbled upon this blog), I’ve got a brand-new book coming out: it’s an anthology called 15 Views of Orlando, and it’s an attempt at finally offering an honest portrayal of the city of Orlando in literary fiction. I assembled 15 Orlando fiction writers to write one long loosely-linked story that wanders through our fair city, and the result is indeed impressive and surprising. (I love me some self-congratulation.) And because Orlando writers love our community, all proceeds from book sales will directly benefit Page 15, a literacy non-profit which conducts writing workshops for Orlando public school kids. If you don’t live in Orlando, buy a copy of the book and feel good about your purchase supporting a great cause. If you do live in Orlando, you need to get to our release party.

Details of the release party follow here, in a blog post from Burrow Press publisher Ryan Rivas:

Remember: we’ve got a huge book release happening in exactly one week.

That would be the 15 VIEWS OF ORLANDO book release:

Tuesday, JANUARY 31st
6pm to 9pm @ Urban ReThink
625 E. Central Blvd.
In addition to photography, booze, and music, there will be readings by: J. Bradley, Hunter Choate, Ashley Inguanta, John King, and J. Christopher Silvia, at 7:30pm.Folks who pre-order 15 Views for pick-up, or purchase 15 Viewsat the event, will be able to buy other BP books for $5.

15 Views editor Nathan Holic, and authors Hunter Choate and J. Christopher Silvia, were recently interviewed on WMFE’s Intersection. You can listen to that interview and excerpts from the book here. Pre-order the book while you’re at it. There’s no better way to support what we do; and, in this instance, the profits from the book are going to benefit Orlando kids.

 Whether you can make it to the party or not, please spread the word.