Thursday, March 25, 2010

Flashing My Shorts by Salvatore Buttaci

Flashing My Shorts is the book our tour is covering this week and I'm excited about this one. It is an anthology of flash fiction by Salvatore Buttaci. For those who don't know-- flash fiction is defined as stories of very limited length. Some editors limit it to no more than 300 words, while others will allow up to 1000. But in either case it takes a great discipline to write with such brevity and Buttaci does so with power.

Flashing My Shorts by Salvatore Buttaci is a collection of 164 flash-fiction stories that runs the gamut from humor to horror with everything in between. These quick but thought-out writes have become quite popular today. They tend to accommodate readers on the go who lack the luxury of sitting down for long periods of reading. Like patrons at a smorgasbord, they can taste a little of this fine dish and a little of that and not go hungry. The stories Buttaci flashes in his book can, on one page, make readers laugh, and on the next, cry.



Years of hard drinking had driven him to seed. He slept under cardboard on the coldest New York City nights, and his days were taken up begging for spare change.

One morning a passerby stopped to look at him. He turned his unshaven, toothless face away. But the woman continued staring. “Is your name Thomas?” she asked. He shook his head. “Thomas Cole?” she persisted. Again he gestured no. He could see the tears wetting the woman’s face. She could not see his.

Leaning against the streetlight, he watched his daughter lose herself in the rush hour of pedestrian traffic.


These Stories Are Short, But They Pack A Punch

Salvatore Buttaci masters the short form in his new collection Flashing My Shorts. The stories here are spare but powerful, and each is injected with Buttaci's quick wit, sharp insight, and the sort of emotional depth that causes a reader to pause, for just a moment, before reading on, wanting more.

Buttaci has a delicate touch with his pen and he's fantastic at telling stories, stories with wide range and the commonality of insight, humor and strong resolution. Buy the book for yourself, buy a copy for a friend and get ready to enjoy what a strong short story collection can offer: utter entertainment in bite-sized bits. I like to think of these stories the way I think of those portion-controlled, pre-packaged desserts: when I'm done with one, why not another? (J.L. Knox, Musical Chairs)

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To order Flashing My Shorts, go to or

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Ambler Warning

Video of a reading of Motherless Soul.

I was at an art opening about a month ago, talking to someone about books we've read and enjoyed. She mentioned that she was a fan of Robert Ludlum. I haven't read any of his books, so I thought I might try him. I searched for an audio version to fill my commuting time and found The Ambler Warning. I was a couple of chapters into it before I discovered online that Robert Ludlum had not completed the manuscript for this book when he died in 2001. His estate hired a ghost writer to complete the work then published it as a novel by the well known author.

I'm not sure what credits are on the book jacket. I downloaded it from the NC Digital Library and only saw an image of the front. But my understanding is that the hired writer is not allowed to publicize his connection to this project. I see two problems with that. First of all there are readers, such as me, who are receiving something that's different from what they expect. Secondly, the ghost writer isn't going to take the same level of pride in the final work that he would take if his name was on it.

The other question that came to mind when I discovered the way this book was written was What would I like done with my manuscripts if I were to die? It's an interesting question. The idea of a ghost writer sounds horrible to me, but I would like whatever ideas I was working on to find a life of their own. There are excellent writers in my writers group and I've met some great ones through my publisher, All Things That Matter Press. I wonder how many writers leave instructions for their work in their wills.

I am about halfway through The Ambler Warning now and so far the beginning of the book is its strongest part. But it still has been an interesting read (listen) and well worth finishing. I intend to wait awhile then try another Ludlum book. Next time it will be one he actually wrote.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Musical Chairs by Jennifer Knox

My post for this week contains information about Musical Chairs, a memoir written by Jennifer Knox. This is the first book that is being covered by a blog tour organized by our publisher, All Things That Matter Press. It is a powerfully written work about dealing with insecurities, panic attacks and a family that is at times dysfunctional but at other times strong and supportive. Anyone who has either raised a teenager or been a teenager should read this book!

Musical Chairs explores one family's history of mental health diagnoses and searches to define the cusp between a '90s working-class childhood and the trouble of adapting to a comfortable life in the suburbs. In order to understand her restlessness, Jennifer reflects on years of strip-dancing, alcoholism, and estrangement. Inspired by the least likely source, the family she left behind, Jennifer struggles towards reconciliation. This story is about identity, class, family ties, and the elusive nature of mental illness.

Excerpt: (Prologue)

Throughout the summer of 2003 I repeatedly underwent what psychologists have since diagnosed as post-traumatic stress and panic disorder. A spiritually-inclined friend refers to the same summer as my rebirthing period. Still others, who claim to have had similar experiences, tell me that such episodes were probably a warning, my body’s way of telling me to adopt healthier eating habits, exercise more or quit smoking. At the time, all I knew was that the onset was swift.

Review: Alvah’s Book Reviews (to read the entire review, click here).
“[Musical Chairs is] well-written, which means Jen Knox knows how to string words together into comprehensible sentences. And her ‘voice’ is honest, unapologetic and – vital! – likeable. In other words, she’s like the Apostle Peter in the Bible. She’s a weak, frail, vulnerable human being, who makes lots of mistakes. Which means – thank God – that she is human. Which means that despite all her flaws and failures, she is not a fraud or a charlatan. She’s not pretending to be someone who has their ‘shit’ together.
Jen and most of her family are gloriously dysfunctional – just like most families. And they have a tendency toward mental illness. And – shockingly – she talks about it. Which is what makes her story and her book so wonderful. It’s downright refreshing to read a book that acknowledges what most people know is true, but are afraid to confess: Most people are one brick short of a load. Which is what makes them and life so interesting.”

To watch the Musical Chairs Trailer, go to Knoxworx Multimedia.

To purchase Musical Chairs, go to Amazon, ATTM Press, or Barnes & Noble.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Motherless Soul and the subject of Loss

Last Sunday my book, Motherless Soul, was a topic of a discussion at Fellowship Presbyterian Church in Greensboro. I was to lead that talk, which was held after the Sunday service in the fellowship room. It's a group that meets once a week to talk about subjects as varied as astronomy, local politics or art. So there was no trouble having a book that covers reincarnation fit in, even if it isn't normally considered a Christian subject. Almost anything of interest suits the group.

I knew I would read from the book, then lead a discussion about it. But I was a little concerned because I would be talking to a group that contained people who had read my book and people who had not. So I decided to focus on the subject of loss. The book is about an elderly woman who lost her mother when she was two. She approaches a hypnotist to help her pull out memories from those early years, so she can get to know the woman who gave her life.

I read a section from Chapter Two where the woman, Emily Vinson, is reflecting back on her life as a young child. I showed how she dealt with her loss by throwing herself into her chores and by rejecting relationships with friends. Then I talked about the qualities that made her believable. Her father had thrown himself into his work after her mother had died. Emily both resented and copied those actions. She also had dolls whom she had made into friends. She spent long periods of time talking to those dolls, mostly about how wonderful her mother was.

After the reading, the talk turned the way I had hoped it would. Loss is something we all go through, so the subject became about both my book and their real life experiences. There were a number of suggestions about how I can get more people to read Motherless Soul. There was one that struck a chord with me. We had talked about how I had discovered that people who are going through very hard times seem to find comfort in its theme. This friend suggested that I donate a copy to our local hospice. I've contacted them and I plan to mail it this week. Perhaps my book has found a new purpose.