Winter: A Time to Read

Since becoming sick this past November (first a momentary, sudden illness in the pit of my stomach…), I’ve found it difficult to stay 100% healthy as winter has well and truly set in. It’s not terribly cold where I live (the middle of Honshu, the main island of Japan), but the up-and-down irregular temperature pattern this year has made it easier to catch colds, influenza, and other upper respiratory sicknesses.

So while down in the dumps with the mumps (which I contracted over New Year’s from my two children, despite having been vaccinated against it as a child…different strain here, perhaps), I’ve tackled a reading book list compiled from last summer. Even managed to finish one or two! Continue reading

Stories from next to the grave

img_0719In April, my grandmother died. She was my last grandparent.

In August, I was finally able to visit her grave. Anyone who is living overseas for an extended period of time (or permanently, as I probably am) will tell you how difficult it is to have a sense of closure at the death of a loved one. Particularly a close family member.

But as we were standing there, gazing down at the names of my great-grandparents (whom I had barely known) and my grandfather and grandmother (whom I had known very well from a young age), it wasn’t just a sense of closure I was seeking.

It was a sense of history. Of stories.

When the three cars of relatives arrived at the cemetary — myself, my wife, my two daughters; my parents and one younger brother and sister (I have eight siblings in total), one of my aunts and uncles (I have at least twenty…yes, it’s complicated…) an interesting thing happened.

We all started telling stories. Maybe it’s the Irish in us (Bushnell, Connally, O’Leary, and Dougherty, among others). But telling stories has always come naturally to people in my family, as natural as eating and breathing.

My uncle started it. Stories about my grandfather when he was in the Navy during World War II (he never left Florida).

My aunt followed. Stories about my grandfather when he was growing up. Stories about my grandmother when she was the same age as my cousin. (A recently discovered photograph showed her to be almost identical in appearance, too. Scary, that.)

My father continued (with a little prodding from me) with a story from when I was a child. (This is how I found out that the United Methodist Church-owned apartment building I had lived in as a young child had been and has been occupied by family members for at least four generations.)

When I mentioned my intention to write a book of non-fiction about my grandparents and their generation — I’m thinking of calling it “My Three Grandfather” — the stories came fast and furious.

Right next to my grandparents’ grave.

There we were, in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of a centuries-old cemetary overlooking the Hudson River Valley (near HVCC, as a matter of fact), telling stories about the dead, with the dead. With the living.

Stories aren’t just all that’s left. Stories are what we always had, and have, and will have.

Eat your heart out, Washington Irving.

1000 Isles

Some people have asked me on FB for some previews of Notes from the Nineties. It’s difficult to prepare excerpts from short stories (which are already short). So while I’m thinking of what’s appropriate as a teaser, here’s another poem from the volume. It appears right after the story “Boys Will be Boys” together with the poem “Grandmother.”

 

1000 Isles

 

Summers of my Upstate youth were spent

in the family station wagon, the six of us, or was it seven,

traveling to the great St. Lawrence

Seaway of a thousand islands.

 

The first time we stayed one night at Mosquito Heaven,

sleepless in a brown canvas tent,

and four nights on the biggest island—

half in the US,

half out.

 

I learned how to gut a fish, how to swim,

how to roll up a sleeping bag,

and where to buy fireworks—

I mean sparklers.

 

On my 12th birthday, I got a wallet,

put in a year’s allowance,

then when I forgot it in the campsite bathroom,

got advice in return the next morning—

“I told you so.”

 

Looking back, it makes sense

to me now

that I hate dressing.

Notes from the Nineties: Upstate is…where, exactly?


This is the fifth and final preview of my upcoming collection of short stories and poems, Notes from the Nineties. In the first part, I explained the background behind the first story and poem pair, Cois Fharriage and Ag an gCrosaire. In the second part, I took a look at some of my experiences in Japan that informed Asian Dreams and Training the Mountain Warrior. In the third part, I delved into the “true story” of The Lost Bunny Shrine of Annandale. The fourth and penultimate part, I talked 
about my brief experience with occultism and the wisdom of teeth that led to The Four Teeth of the Apocrypha.

DSC00484I’m from New York. No, not New York City. No, not Niagara Falls (the Canadian horseshoe looks better, anyhow). Yes, there is something in between. An awful lot of something, actually. In fact, the oldest and still largest state park in the US comprises most of Upstate New York.

Yes, I’m from the Adirondacks. But it’s more complicated. Continue reading

Goodreads giveaway for Notes from the Nineties

Announcing a book giveaway!

Enter to win one of 10 signed copies of Notes from the Nineties (paperback, $6.98 value).

Begins March 25, 2016 and lasts until May 1, 2016.

Tell your friends! Tell your family! Oh, tell it on the mountain! And dangle your friend off of it…

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Notes from the Nineties by M. Thomas Apple

Notes from the Nineties

by M. Thomas Apple

Giveaway ends May 01, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Notes from the Nineties: The Lost Bunny Shrine of Annandale

This is the third preview of my upcoming collection of short stories and poems, Notes from the Nineties. In the first part, I explained the background behind the first story and poem pair, Cois Fharriage and Ag an gCrosaire. In the second part, I took a look at some of my experiences in Japan that informed Asian Dreams and Training the Mountain Warrior.

Bunny-smalljpg

Oh, it’s just a harmless little bunny, isn’t it?

The first story in the anthology takes place in Ireland; the last, in Japan. But I’m from Upstate New York (NOT White Plains and Yonkers; those are downstate for the rest of us), so many of the stories in the middle of the book take place there. Most such stories were originally written for my undergrad or graduate thesis, from ’93 to ’96 (hence, the name of the book, actually…).

“The Lost Bunny Shrine of Annandale” was not written back then. However, the events do take place in the mid-’90s, and the style (I hope) is similar to those stories.

The main event — finding a post dedicated to a bunny rabbit in the middle of the woods — actually occurred. The details are fuzzy (most of the night was…) and of course I’ve changed around the names of the conspirators, as well as combined two or three people into a single character with some exaggerated personality quirks. But there is, in reality, a bunny shrine in Annandale. And we did find it. Among other things. Continue reading

New book notice

New book notice

Time for a book release party…

Notes3I’m putting the finishing touches on an anthology of short stories and poems, some of which date alllll the way back to 1992. Pre-SNS. Pre-email, even. Scary stuff.

A few come from my undergraduate Senior Project. A couple from my MFA thesis (the main part of which became Approaching Twi-Night). Another handful were used to apply to said MFA program. Aside from two that were published in university literary journals, the poems have basically never seen the light of day. A couple of the stories did appear in previous versions elsewhere.

The stories are meant to provoke, to inspire, to draw a contrast between aspects of life in Upstate, out of state, and overseas, to see the world through different eyes…to challenge perceptions. And naturally, to make you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. Readers should find something to interest them, no matter their reading preference. That, in my humble opinion, is one of the biggest benefits of daring varying writing styles.

This space will be updated from now until the book release with notes on the stories — some shorter, some longer — but the poems I leave to the reader’s interpretation.

Hope you look forward to it!


Click here or on the tab above for the Notes from the Nineties page.