2017: Year in Review

KomainuThis past year was an eventful one, to say the least!

By January, my science fiction novella/novellette Adam’s Stepsons, which I had come back to after a long ( ~ 18 year!) hiatus, had already been rejected by three separate SF magazines. So I made the decision to go the self-publish route.

But before that, I sought out some advice from a fellow self-publisher, Greg Spry, whose debut novel I very much admired (Beyond Cloud Nine). He pointed out several areas to be corrected/emended/improved and although I initially resisted further changes, I soon realized that he was right.

Lesson 1 learned: Always listen to advice about your writing. It helps. Continue reading

Thoughts on the eve of tomorrow

As I sit here in front of my computer late at night, on the verge of the 2016 US presidential election, I’m struck by the choice I had to make. Two different versions of a future US society: one that invites multidiversity and multiethnicity in all their chaotic, unpredictable combinations, and one that shuts the door and preserves a traditional us vs them, insider vs outsider mentality.

By all rights, I should support the latter. I’m from a small town of less than 3,000 inhabitants, close to 99.99% white, deep in the heart of Upstate New York. I grew up surrounded by people who basically looked like me, enjoyed camping and hiking, canoeing and fishing, playing baseball and football and video games. Driving. A lot. I did yard work when I was old enough to get my working papers (back then, you didn’t get your social security number until you applied for it after age 14). In the spring, I helped my father in the garden. In the summer I mowed lawns. In the fall I raked leaves. In the winter I shoveled driveways. In high school, I had a part-time at a local pizza place, then at McDonald’s, then washed dishes in a nearby town. All our customers were white. All of them spoke English. It was all just fine, everybody looking the same and acting the same. Everybody just like me. 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.

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

 

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.

Christmas in Japan

It’s been a long fall. Lots of work the past two months, with intermittent bouts of family sickness, but somehow we managed to pull through in time for the holidays.

Of course Christmas is not a national holiday where I live (central Japan). It’s mostly treated as an excuse for couples to enjoy a romantic evening at an overpriced restaurant. Except for us, where it’s an excuse for moms and dads to have their kids wreck the house while the parents have a few drinks.

Fortunately. the food is good. Very good. No Christmas turkey or ham here (the main fare is typically KFC actually, since some KFC chief in a brilliant PR stroke managed to convince the entire country that Americans eat fried chicken at Christmas). But there are plenty of parents nearby who are really good at cooking.

And of course there’s always cake:

 So Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays, and other non-denominational festivities to you and your kin!

And no, I don’t want to talk about the 2015 World Series. I’m too busy using the NL Champions shot glass set to be depressed…