This weekend I'll be emceeing the 5 year anniversary party of Chicago's premier indie book publisher, Tortoise Books. The celebration will be Saturday, August 5, from 5:00 pm to 7:00 at Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston (address: 1712 Sherman Avenue, Alley 1).
It's going to be a stellar lineup of writers on tap: Alex Higley, Christine Maul Rice, Zoe Zolbrod, and Gerald (also known as Jerry) Brennan. Each one of these writers is worth a listen on their own, but together? All in one place? Come on, man, that's a monopoly of talent that's patently unfair to the competition. Frankly, there ought to be a law against that kind of deck-stacking.
In short, here are just a few of the reasons you might want to stop by and check out this event:
1. You want to help celebrate the enfant terrible of Chicago indie publishing
2. You want to see some great writers read great work
3. You're a huge fan of Evanston and gosh darnit you just don't get up there often enough.
4. You love checking out new independent bookstores and you've never been to Bookends & Beginnings before.
5. You're an aficionado of superb emceeing.
So many reasons to go. So few excuses not to.
Here at last is the final version of the cover for my forthcoming short story collection. (Big thanks to Daniela Campos for her creativity and patience.) I've debated about whether to go into a lengthy explanation for why I settled on this image for the cover, but I think maybe it's best to just let it speak for itself. So here it is:
The designer is putting the finishing touches on the book cover, so I'll be sharing that soon. Plus, my editor is making the last few adjustments to the interior text, which means the book itself is getting close to being a reality. Thus far, I've gotten some incredibly generous blurbs from some writers I admire immensely. If you'd like to see those, follow this link to The Story Collection page.
In this post, I wanted to share the verbiage my editor came up with to describe the collection:
Like an arrowhead, the title story in this collection pierces through our tough skin to what’s delicate within. It’s the first piece in a triptych that elegantly holds together this stunning collection about love and loss and longing—our feeble human institutions and fragile relationships broken down and rusting; our tender hearts shot through with tragedy and dysfunction but still struggling to find wholeness and healing, or just to keep beating as long as possible in the face of overwhelming sorrow.
I'm pleased as punch to hear someone I respect that much pay my writing such an awesome compliment. So I'll just leave it at that.
Stay tuned for the cover image, which should be good to go sometime this week.
Though I've already spilled the beans on Facebook, I wanted to formally post here that the ink on the contract for my next book is dry. Here are some particulars you can use to keep yourself in the know:
Here's what a couple early readers had to say:
"To touch the heart without even a hint of sentimentality is a tough trick for any fiction writer, and most of us never quite get it right. Giano Cromley not only pulls off this trick, he establishes touching the heart as his own particular genius that distinguishes him from other writers of talent and serious purpose. He makes you feel the depths of your own humanity. These stories are not only great reads, they are an enduring contribution to our literature."
Ernest Hebert -- author of The Dogs of March, The Old American, and ten other novels
"Giano Cromley’s powerful stories feature blue collar characters who make mistakes, race blindly toward disaster, and frequently plunge over the rim into darkness. These are the folks Tom Waits and Lucinda Williams capture in their songs. Survival in the aftermath is the key. "
Richard Peabody -- editor, Gargoyle Magazine
So that's it for now, I will be using this page to provide future updates regarding the official release date, cover info, more early reviews, reading venues and dates, and any other worthwhile announcements, so stay tuned!
I'm pleased to let gentle readers know that I'll be reading at the iO Theater this coming Wednesday (1/25) at 10:30 PM as part of their Fictious Improv series. The way I see it, there are two really good reasons you should consider going.
First off, it's at the goddamn iO Theater! For those who don't know, the iO Theater (formerly known at Improv Olympics, but no longer called that due to the assholishness of the actual International Olympic Committee) is considered by insiders to be Chicago's best improv theater. so if you haven't been there yet, you're really missing out. I am, incidentally, hugely honored to be part of a show there.
Secondly, the Fictitious series is a cool-ass series. Basically, a writer gets up and reads a short story, and then the team of improvisers proceeds to improvise within that story's literary universe. The universe of my story involves a vacuum cleaner, giant pet cats, and a relationship collapsing under the weight of both. In short, it should be a pretty good improvisational universe.
The show will be held at the Jason Chin Harold Cabaret. I highly recommend that you find your way over there for the show. Hope to see you then...
Last night, I had the pleasure of reading with an awesome lineup of writers at one of the coolest new bookstores in Chicago -- Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park. The occasion was the launch of Tortoise Books' new anthology entitled "The Pleasure You Suffer: A Saudade Anthology." For those of you who are unfamiliar with the word Saudade (as I was), here is the definition cribbed from the preface:
Saudade reportedly has no direct English translation; it’s a Portuguese word describing the nostalgic longing for something that may never return, or may not exist. This feeling can be strangely comforting; author Manuel de Mello calls it “A pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.” It permeates the music of Brazil, another nation steeped in slavery and sadness and the hope for a better life. Yet this heartsick yearning’s actually very familiar to those of us born and raised in North America; we often call it “the blues.”
Choosing a story to submit for this anthology was a challenge -- one that first required me to ponder what saudade really is. In my mind, the past colors the present, and the present clouds the past. Like two lovers trying to communicate but who more often than not wind up with crossed signals. Those crossed signals, between the past and present, for me, are what saudade is. And my story, "Homefront," tries to give voice to that.
When I found out my story was accepted, I was thrilled. Now, after getting a chance to hear some of the other authors from the anthology read, I'm positively giddy. It's a veritable all-star lineup of writers I admire (which, like any good all-star lineup, means all offense and no defense, i.e. lots o' fun!).
If you're looking for an interesting mix of stories and poems that strives to interpret this omnipresent itch-you-can't-scratch, you really ought to pick it up. Right now, the best place to get a copy in a brick-and-mortar store is Volumes Bookcafe. For those looking to order one you can do so through Amazon, or through Tortoise Books' website. Buy it!
It is with incredible sadness that we announce the passing of Kaiya Vesga-Cromley. It's hard to know how to talk about the perfect dog. Do we begin by mentioning her fierce loyalty to anyone who was lucky enough to know her? Do we start by talking about how she demanded nothing more from life than to be fed and loved? Or perhaps we go with small things – the thwap of her tail against the hallway walls before her morning walks, the tap-tap-tapping of her toenails on the hardwood floors before mealtimes, or her propensity for sneaking out of the bedroom in the middle of the night when no one was looking to find a comfortable couch to curl up on.
I first met Kaiya on a trip to North Carolina. Her mother and I were in the midst of a long distance relationship and neither of us knew where it was headed. Kaiya, always outgoing and personable, made me feel welcome immediately (as opposed to her brother, Niko, who tended to be more circumspect with his affections). It's safe to say that those early days of the relationship were made easier through Kaiya's gentle grace and sweet charm. A little over a year after that first encounter, in November 2004, a U-Haul truck pulled up outside my apartment in Chicago, and Kaiya moved into my life full time. Since then, she taught me daily how to love and forgive and forge ahead.
From the moment her mother first saw Kaiya shyly peeking out from the back of the dog pound cage, she knew this was the dog for her. Kaiya was fortunate in those early years to have the companionship of her older brother, Niko, who embraced his status as canine role model wholeheartedly. He frequently tried his best to steer her in a positive direction. If he ever felt like she was straying from the straight and narrow path – such as the time she tried to raid the trash bin in the middle of the night – he would not hesitate to rat her out to her parents. Kaiya learned a lot from Niko, and shortly after his passing, she had the opportunity to begin mentoring her new younger brother, Tanka. As soon as we arrived at the rescue sanctuary, it was clear that Tanka was highly impressed with Kaiya and took to following her immediately. Tanka has, admittedly, not always been the best of students, but Kaiya has unquestionably left a deep impression on him and helped him to become the lovable dog he is today.
During the fourteen years we were lucky enough to have her in our lives, Kaiya evolved. Some of her favorite habits – like stick-fetching and varmint-chasing and lake-swimming – she had to ease back on as she got older. When climbing onto couches became too much of a challenge, she found out that an orthopedic memory foam bed could be just as comfy. But some of the changes were for the better. Late in life she got over her fear of certain hardwood floors. She even became brave enough to wander into the bathroom on her own, without fear of being bathed. Another nice late-blooming development was her decision to spend more time with us in the living room the last year of her life. It used to be that as soon as the television turned on she'd head for the bedroom, but lately – perhaps possessing some secret knowledge no one else had – she chose to stay with us. We are intensely grateful for those extra hours we were able to spend with her.
The illness that took Kaiya from us came on suddenly and left little time for lengthy good-byes. Even still, despite the fact that it was clear she was having trouble with lucidity at the very end, she managed one last time to lift her head and sharpen those soulful brown eyes – first on her mother and then on me – for a few beautiful seconds. In that moment, she seemed to be thanking us for the wonderful life she had lived. I'd also like to think she sensed the gratitude we felt towards her for making our lives immeasurably better.
This memorial began by mentioning a simple truth, that Kaiya was a perfect dog.
And it seems only fitting to end with that assertion. Over the course of her fourteen years on this earth, she traveled a lot of places and met a lot of different people. Every single one of them could attest to the fact that she was a special dog, one in a million, the whole package. And we were so, so lucky to have her in our lives.
I'm proud to announce that I'll be taking part in a reading on Friday, March 13, at 6:30, located at Powell's Bookstore at UIC (1218 S. Halsted). The reading is to help launch Tortoise Books' newest release: The Dark Will End the Dark, by Darrin Doyle (who shares my unhealthy fascination with Bigfoot, so you know he's a good egg).
In addition to Darrin, I'm humbled to be joining some of my favorite Chicago writers: Ben Tanzer, Joseph Peterson, and Rachel Slotnick. When you're slotted into a lineup that's that strong, you know you have to bring your A-game. So, for what it's worth, I'll be debuting a chapter from my novel in progress, The Prince of Infinite Space, which is a sequel to my first book, The Last Good Halloween.
I hope to see you all there!
I got a chance to write a review for one of my favorite books of all time: Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk, by Ben Fountain. The review, which is kind of a personal take on the book, is now up live at The Oyster Review.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, The Oyster Review is the editorial arm of Oyster Books, which is basically the Netflix of books.
I've had to chance to look around at their offerings and I have to say they've got an impressive variety of titles to choose from. For those of you who still have someone who's expecting a Christmas gift, you might want to think of giving them a trial membership.
In the meantime, feel free to check out my essay, which is basically a meditation on the pain of being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys.