All Books Are About
On this Valentine’s Day, let me just say: all books are
about love. Bear with me, though, while I get around to why.
I wish I could remember who said it. Horror is the
defamiliarization of the ordinary. You
have to set up a world that people recognize and then add a twist. There’s an alien spacecraft buried out in the
woods and it turns everyone into the worst versions of themselves. There’s a virus killing everyone, and in
terror the remaining people revert to ritualistic cannibalism. Only a few
people in this world have this amazing power, and they only use it for evil.
The normal is always there ~ people going about their lives,
reacting as they normally would ~ and then the abnormal puts the situation in
stark relief and people are forced to confront themselves in extreme
Other types of fiction do exactly the same thing. They take the ordinary and defamiliarize
it. They force the reader to look
closely at something they take for granted or to question what they would do in
extreme circumstances. Romance looks closely at courtly love and twists it or
deconstructs it or imagines a different ending, so that the reader feels those
emotions right along with the characters.
Science fiction is the perfect crucible ~ it puts people in extreme
circumstances by its very nature. The
genre of literary fiction ~ and it is a genre ~ does the same thing. It examines the everyday and looks into those
tiny unpredictable and weird parts of it, those complex emotions you don’t like
to put a name to.
Another thing these all have in common is that they have to
get the world right. In order to be
effective, the basics of craft have to be observed. Fiction is about eliciting emotion, and if
you’re clumsy, the most you will do is step on your reader-partner’s toes.
That’s why the study of craft, gobs of reading, and critiquing others’ work is so important. You only learn by doing and thinking about
it. You have to put in your 10,000 hours.
And at its most basic, writing and reading are a way to
connect with other human beings. It is
the only technology that allows you to see inside another person’s head and
heart and to try to understand what they’re feeling and thinking. It tells us we are not alone, that there are
others out there who feel the same.
Whether you’re fictionally fighting off a machete-wielding maniac,
clenching your muscles “in the most delicious fashion,” piloting an
intergalactic cruiser, or feeding your dying mother, it’s all about emotion,
but especially about love.
Books are love, and we love books. May you have a loving and
Thank you so much for
letting my drop by Fang-tastic! You
How to Be a Man
Genre: Literary Short Story Collection
Publisher: Willow Words
Number of pages: 238
Word Count: 59,650
“Never acknowledge the fact that you’re a girl, and take pride when your guy friends say, ‘You’re one of the guys.’ Tell yourself, ‘I am one of the guys,’ even though, in the back of your mind, a little voice says, ‘But you’ve got girl parts.’” – Birdie, in “How to Be a Man”
A girl whose self-worth revolves around masculinity, a bartender who loses her sense of safety, a woman who compares men to plants, and a boy who shoots his cranked-out father.
These are a few of the hard-scrabble characters in Tamara Linse’s debut short story collection, How to Be a Man. Set in contemporary Wyoming—the myth of the West taking its toll—these stories reveal the lives of tough-minded girls and boys, self-reliant women and men, struggling to break out of their lonely lives and the emotional havoc of their families to make a connection, to build a life despite the odds. How to Be a Man falls within the tradition of Maile Meloy, Tom McGuane, and Annie Proulx.
The author Tamara Linse—writer, cogitator, recovering ranch girl—broke her collarbone when she was three, her leg when she was four, a horse when she was twelve, and her heart ever since. Raised on a ranch in northern Wyoming, she earned her master’s in English from the University of Wyoming, where she taught writing. Her work appears in the Georgetown Review, South Dakota Review, and Talking River, among others, and she was a finalist for an Arts & Letters and Glimmer Train contests, as well as the Black Lawrence Press Hudson Prize for a book of short stories. She works as an editor for a foundation and a freelancer. Find her online at tamaralinse.com and tamara-linse.blogspot.com
Excerpt- A Dangerous Shine
When Shine told people she bartended at the Buckhorn, their eyes widened. “What’s a nice girl like you,” they said, and then their voices trailed off. “I heard somebody got shot,” they said. There was a real bullet hole in the mirror, but it was ancient history—part of the bar’s character, like the heads on the walls and the smell of stale beer. To Shine, it felt safe, like sitting on a gargantuan comfy couch with all your cousins—sunk into the softness, everyone good-naturedly elbowing everyone else.
Not only that. As the bartender, Shine was the center of everything. She entertained the loners, introduced people, facilitated everyone’s good time, and decided who stayed and who went. It was the next best thing to being on TV. Maybe someday she’d walk back through that door and everyone would whisper, “That’s Shine. She used to work here.”
Someday. Shine flipped a beer glass upside down and stuck it onto the brushes in the sink full of hot soapy water. She worked it up and down, rinsed it, then put it on the metal drain board. “Who’s the most famous person who’s come through that door?” she asked Doc, a forever regular who walked like a ship rolling on the high seas. Doc sat with his elbows resting on the edge of the bar, framing his draft of Bud.
“In the old days, this was a tent,” Doc said, “and everybody stopped here because right out there was the railroad depot.” He lifted his right elbow toward the tracks a half a block away. “Before they moved it on down.”
“Even you weren’t alive for that,” One-ball Paul said. Paul stood watching the door, leaning with his back against the bar and his thin elbows hooked over the edge. Everybody knew he was waiting for Serita, only everybody also knew Serita was over at Coppers Corners with Lee Mangus, the UPS guy.
“I don’t know,” Shine said and winked at Doc. “I heard the reason Doc got his nickname was because he doctored up at Crow Agency when Custer had his last stand.” The real reason Doc had his nickname was because he was a medic in Vietnam.
Doc’s eyes squinted a smile. “The most famous person to walk through that door is going to be Shine.”
“Yeah,” Paul said. “She’s going to replace Kathy Lee as America’s top anchor, once she gets that TV degree.”
Shine shook her head. “I’ll be lucky to bring coffee to Geha over at KGWN in Cheyenne.”
Doc shook his head and Paul turned around and looked at Shine. Paul said, “It’s going to be you, Shine. You’re beautiful and smart and … and …” He blushed and glanced at Doc. Doc was nodding his head.
“If Regis hits on you, pressures you, you let me know,” Doc said, his face serious.
“Naw,” Nance said and raised her head off the bar. Nance, who was married to Tommy Jon the trucker, was drunk on Gin Rickeys. “That’s Kelly what’s-her-name. Kathy Lee hasn’t been there for ages.”
“We’ll put your … Seven-Up can? … up there on the Wall of Fame,” Paul said. The Wall of Fame was empty cans and bottles—Coors Light and Mickey’s Big Mouth, McGillicuddy’s and Jack Daniels Green Label—resting on little shelves with names on wooden plaques underneath them. They were tributes to regulars who had died.
About the Author:
Tamara Linse grew up on a ranch in northern Wyoming with her farmer/rancher rock-hound ex-GI father, her artistic musician mother from small-town middle America, and her four sisters and two brothers. She jokes that she was raised in the 1880s because they did things old-style—she learned how to bake bread, break horses, irrigate, change tires, and be alone, skills she’s been thankful for ever since. The ranch was a partnership between her father and her uncle, and in the 80s and 90s the two families had a Hatfields and McCoys-style feud.
She worked her way through the University of Wyoming as a bartender, waitress, and editor. At UW, she was officially in almost every college on campus until she settled on English and after 15 years earned her bachelor’s and master’s in English. While there, she taught writing, including a course called Literature and the Land, where students read Wordsworth and Donner Party diaries during the week and hiked in the mountains on weekends. She also worked as a technical editor for an environmental consulting firm.
She still lives in Laramie, Wyoming, with her husband Steve and their twin son and daughter. She writes fiction around her job as an editor for a foundation. She is also a photographer, and when she can she posts a photo a day for a Project 365. Please stop by Tamara’s website, www.tamaralinse.com, and her blog, Writer, Cogitator, Recovering Ranch Girl, at tamara-linse.blogspot.com. You can find an extended bio there with lots of juicy details. Also friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, and if you see her in person, please say hi.
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