Welcome Wednesday guests for November:
11/05 Maya Corrigan's Five-Ingredient Mystery, By Cook or By Crook.
11/12 Death by Blue Water, a scuba-diving adventure-mystery by scuba-diving author, Kait Carson.
11/19 Susan Van Kirk--Three May Keep A Secret.
11/26 Tagged for Death, a garage sale mystery by Sherry Harris.

Gloria Alden has released the fourth book, The Body in the Goldenrod, in her Catherine Jewel series. It's available in print and in eformat. Here are two links to the book: Amazon and Kobo. Put it on your "TBR" or Christmas list!

Carla Damron's latest project, THE STONE NECKLACE, a literary novel about five lives that intersect, and are forever changed, by a senseless accident, has been picked up by Story River Books for publication in 2016. Story River is an arm of the University of South Carolina Press and is under the leadership of editor-in-chief author Pat Conroy. Congratulations, Carla!

A great stocking stuffer, Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays is available at Wildside Press or Amazon. This anthology includes short stories by WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances").

KM Rockwood's short stories will appear in two anthologies. They are: "The Lure of the Owl" in Swamp Mansion and Other Dark Stories, to be released as a ebook, (great cover, KM!) and "Aunt Olga and the Werewolf" will be included in the third Creatures, Crimes and Creativity anthology released by Intrigue Publishing.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Literary Influences

by John Carenen

What are your literary influences? Salad Bowl Saturdays is pleased to welcome John Carenen to share his thoughts on the subject. Welcome, John! — Paula

There have been only a few literary influences on me and my writing career. I've always liked twisted humor, going back to my high school days when I wrote a collection of grisly, black humor, and disturbing poems entitled Inner Sanctum. I thought they were great, but my aging English teacher did not, especially after she read one in class without pre-reading it. It was about an old man on a ledge of a skyscraper threatening to jump. Finally, despite a crowd cheering him on, he relents. As he heads back inside, he slips and falls. The final line was, "and so the old man, near happiness, slipped and fell."

Robert Frost said a poem "begins in delight and ends in wisdom." I was just trying to channel Frost, but I was sent, with my poems, to see our principal. He liked them, then told me to stick around in his office so it would seem like I was being counseled. In the meantime, we talked about sports. A great principal.

Genuine literary influences, however, have been few and far between, but significant. Ernest Hemingway, to be sure, and his theory of omission, made an impact on me. Also Joseph Heller and his genius masterpiece, Catch-22. Loved the black humor and characterizations. But I have to say the late Robert B. Parker had the most influence on me through his Spenser novels. I loved the tough guy with a code in an urban frontier where the hero has to take on the forces of darkness and not capitulate to threats, corruption, fraud, and general ickiness. And Spenser's bud, Hawk, is a great secondary character, too.

In my novels, without consciously replicating that environment, I came up with an Irish protagonist in Thomas O' Shea, a genuinely tough guy with a sketchy past before he married and became a dad. But when his family is killed in a car-truck collision, his old skills come into play as he snoops around sketchy situations, raising the ire of nefarious types. And his sidekick, Lunatic Mooning, an Ojibwe Indian and bar owner, plays a similar role to Hawk. Now, I didn't even think about that until some readers asked me, and there it was. Tough Irish guy and his minority buddy.

Thomas O'Shea's character just sort of emerged as I was writing Signs of Struggle, my debut novel. I began the story with the question about what would be the worst thing that could happen to me. And I knew immediately that if I lost my wife and two daughters, I would be devastated. So, how would that play out? It occurred to me that my faith would be shaken, I would probably drink a lot, and I would likely be pretty angry and seeking an outlet. So I started Signs of Struggle on that premise and I realized as I went along that, although I lived in Georgia at the time, I would also probably relocate back to my home state of Iowa and just withdraw for a while, sort of like the Nick Adams character in Hemingway's short stories about a survivor of World War I returning home. From that, the story just unfolded, sometimes surprising me.

For example, the Ojibwe owner/bartender of The Grain o' Truth Bar & Grill grew rapidly into a character who becomes O'Shea's laconic buddy, an Indian who plays on his heritage as a sort of running joke between the two men. Even his name, Lunatic Mooning, is a joke related to Indian tradition in that he was named after the first thing his mother saw after giving birth to him in the State Mental Hospital. Not "Sitting Bull" or "Crazy Horse," but "Lunatic Mooning."

Other characters emerged and have become staple secondary individuals such as Olivia Olson, the comely, divorced English teacher who becomes Thomas' main romantic interest; Bunza Steele, the barmaid/pro wrestling ingénue; and Sheriff Harmon Payne, a paragon of sarcastic virtue whom Thomas infuriates with his unorthodox crime-solving techniques. All in all I like my characters, even the sleazy ones, and look forward to seeing what they do to me next.

I am Irish, and also Cherokee and Jewish, so I think maybe I'm the minority, but I am not a tough guy. Living vicariously through Thomas O'Shea is so much fun, however. Literary influences? A little bit. Personal wackiness? Just who I am.

John Carenen, a native of Clinton, Iowa, graduated with an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing from the prestigious University of Iowa Writers Workshop and has been writing ever since. His work has appeared in numerous popular and literary magazines. His debut Thomas O’Shea mystery novel Signs of Struggle was published in October 2012. The sequel, A Far Gone Night, continues the exploits of the enigmatic protagonist and quirky characters of Rockbluff, Iowa. John is currently an English professor at Newberry College in Newberry, S.C. He lives with his wife in a cozy cottage down a quiet lane in northern Greenville and is a big fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes and Boston Red Sox.