Bud Smith

My Top Books of 2017

My Top Books of 2017

As with every annual list, I only include books I've read for the first time, but they can be from any year. It wasn't a bad year for reading but I feel like I read less and less every year since leaving NYC. I guess all that time reading on the subway actually made a bigger dent in my To Read list than I gave it credit for. But like I said, 2017 wasn't so bad. Here are some of my favorites. What were yours?

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Thank You, Unknown Press

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I don’t remember exactly when Bud Smith and I began following each other online, but I loved his work and I thought his blog was chock full of hilarious and whip-smart posts. Even better, when I began crossing paths with him In New York City at various readings, I found out that not only is he a talented guy, but he’s a really GOOD guy, generous, helpful, and he wants to see the writers around him succeed and be happy almost more than he wants that for himself, it seems. So when we talked about doing a book together, which turned into We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, I knew I wasn’t just in good hands, I was in the best hands.

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Unknown Press, as far as my book is concerned, consisted of Bud and his friend and editor Devin Kelly, who also happens to be another astoundingly talented writer Bud has published, and both of them offered helpful suggestions and insight about how to reshape and improve my poems. I loved some advice and took it, and I wasn’t sure about some and passed on it every so often, which Bud was absolutely happy to allow me to do. There was give and take, communication, lots of passes and questions and updates and trial and error, a real collaborative open effort. All heart. All joy. Did we miss some little things? Maybe. We’re human. Would I have done it any differently? Not on your life. Unknown Press was the way to go with this book, and they gave 100% of the profits directly to the author. No fees, no cut, no charge for layout, editing, anything. It’s all about the work, making it awesome, putting it out into the world, high five, grab a beer, and life keeps moving.

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I am deeply appreciative of Bud’s work on my book, and Devin’s too, and I hope you’ll seek out their own books. I’m reading Bud’s Dust Bunny City right now, a book of poetry and fiction he collaborated on with his talented and always delightful wife Rae Buleri. I highly recommend it, as well as his novels F-250 and Tollbooth. I’ve read both, and loved both. I'm also dying to read his new memoir, Work. And Devin’s book Blood on Blood is on my “Must Read in 2018” list, and I hope it’s on yours too. Please check them out and support their work. They’re writers who work hard to make other writers better, and I think that’s a great example of how we should all be in this community of ours.    

NOW AVAILABLE: We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine

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My new collection of poetry, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, is now available from Unknown Press! This has been a long process (over two years!) to get this from the page to the reader, but it's finally ready to share with you all. This collection explores the childhood memories and nostalgic daydreams of a grade-school bookworm now grown up to face cancer, chemo, debt, solitude, and the fear that all the joys and hopes of a bygone youth are slipping out of reach. I couldn't be happier to have worked with writer/publisher Bud Smith on this project, and I included a poem below as a sample of what you'll find inside.

The book is available at Amazon, by special order through your local bookstore, and by writing me at jhdwriting@hotmail.com for signed paperbacks. (Yes, yes, good old ancient Hotmail.) Blurbs and recommendations are available at the book's page on my website. Free PDF copies are available for reviewers, and I'll have free physical copies for reviewers soon too. If you'd like one, please contact me. Thank you all!!

 THE GREEN CARPET

It is a waiting room of chipped plastic tables full of
wrinkled copies of Highlights magazine and cardboard
flip-books about bears flying in hot air balloons, the
scent of rubbing alcohol and Lysol. These children here
are bald or soon will be and I run my hand through my
own hair, find bloody fingertips, red robins in flight
through my very flesh, flying away and away and away.
Opening my eyes and counting my inhale/exhale, I see
that the carpet here is lime green, shag, just like the
green carpet where the small children of Green Meadow
Elementary sat in the library, 1985, ‘86, ‘87…we read
books about dinosaurs and planets and gigantic men who
chopped trees in days gone by alongside blue oxen. There
were books of women who flew planes and disappeared,
and of ghosts who haunted castles, books of egghead
professors with childish brain games, and books of
children who had troubles just like the troubles we had
at home or in our classrooms, on the bus, with bullies,
siblings, nightmares, parents who disappeared, feelings of
isolation, feelings. None of them had the troubles we had
when we grew up though, or the troubles the bald
children here have discovered. Publishers and sales reps
probably don’t like tallying such figures. Back then,
Letter People lined the walls and a TV with Ramona
played on rainy days. There were book club sales, book
reports, and wooden chairs lined up along the wall,
straight and small. All of us sitting on the green carpet. I
believe the rain still falls on the windows there, while
kids here grow old, fall down, their eyes drifting against
the wash of a television glow in hospital rooms and daybeds,
their blood and marrow melting, betraying,
hounding them, the pages of their stories thinning out
and fading blank. And then someone calls my name so I
rise and walk across that green carpet to see how many
pages my own story has left.

My Top 10 Books of 2015

My Top 10 Books of 2015

It’s time once again to tally up the books I read over the last year and see which ones held up. As usual, I only include books I read for the first time in 2015, but they can have been published anytime. Oddly, it seems I read fewer books in 2015 than in most recent years, by almost double digits, probably because I moved away from NYC and lost all that subway reading time. Oh well, so it goes. Here’s my top 10. Enjoy!  

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22 Steps to Self-Editing a Book While Eating Thai Food in Chuck E Cheese

Self-editing is one of the most widely discussed “craft” topics for writers and everyone has their own B.S. methods and tricks. Most of the tricks are just common sense, such as AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS, because you will never not ever catch all of your own typos, but you can try! (And you should try…nothing is worse than typos. Not taxes, not typhus, not anything.) Here are a few things I suggest.

1. Oh god, just hire someone else to do it. They’re probably better at it than you. No, not probably, they are. I just read six websites that all said something like “The author is the best person to edit their own work” and that’s such a load of garbage. You are certifiably the worst, because you know the material too well. Find someone who doesn’t know it at all.

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Readings Past and Yet to Come

I don’t read my work in public often (never got comfortable with it) and I recently tried to rectify that by reading at a cool little open mic where author Bud Smith revealed an excerpt from his upcoming novel, F-250. The reading took place at a bar in the Bronx called An Beal Bocht (Gaelic for “The Poor Mouth”) and it was the first time I read in front of a crowd in, what…two, three years? Something like that, so it was a fun personal challenge to shake off the rust and get up there. I was more nervous than I’d like to admit, and like every other reading I’ve ever done, I needed 6-7 beers in order to not shake like a set of wind-up chattering teeth up in front of the mic. I read two older pieces from around 2009; one, “Norway,” is about strippers named after European nations and how swimming naked in the moonlight is often the best way to put them in the past; and the second, “Darkness Within the Dark,” comes from one of my many bouts with Taoism, an on-again/off-again passion of mine. Both poems are also found in my collection Dealing With the Devil in the Middle of the Road. Thankfully it went well and I got some encouraging feedback. I'm grateful for host Erin Lynn for putting the open mic together each month, and I definitely plan to attend again. If you’re in the NYC area on August 13 around 7:30, you should swing by An Beal Bocht and listen in.

I’m also doing a reading on Saturday, October 4 at Jimmy’s No. 23 (in the back room, plenty of seating) where I’ll be featured along with a number of other authors from the Too Much anthology, which is due out this summer. The cover here looks amazing, doesn’t it? I’ll have more details about that reading soon, but I’ll probably read from my piece in the anthology, which is full of stories of alcoholic, sexual, and narcotic excess. Pretty apt topic considering I'll likely need a double dose of liquid courage to read in front of a crowd that large. Anyway, I hope you can make it!

*** Update: I may be doing a reading in the southern New Jersey / Philadelphia area in December as well to promote a new book of mine. Details TBA. ***

My Summer Reading List, 2014

My Summer Reading List, 2014

The start of summer officially came and went, long after summer weather actually arrived, and this means I’m well overdue for an evaluation of what I plan to read during the upcoming months of blazing sunlight, a lazy half-attempt to go to the beach, short breaks in the shade during kayaking trips, and lots of walking around looking for the Mr. Softee truck in Manhattan. This list is far from definitive, but these are the ones waiting at the top of the stack. So here you go, my summer reading list for 2014. What are your suggestions?

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The Cards We Keep - Signed Copies Available

Signed copies of my short story collection The Cards We Keep will soon be available again! The book includes ten stories of down-and-out private detectives, bounty hunters on the run, disgraced celebrities, crumbling marriages, and boxcar hobos heading for the end of the line in search of love, redemption, and maybe just a little peace in this crazy world. Author Bud Smith recently said the books contains "wonderfully written short stories that take on a wide variety of genres, purposefully, and carries them through to succession with some sharp writing, interesting characters, and non-formulaic plotting." (See the full review at the link.) There are also a growing number of great reviews over at Goodreads. If there are any presses or magazines that would like to review the book, I have free PDFs and e-reader files I can send along. Just shoot me an email at jhdwriting@hotmail.com for details. Thanks for all of your support!