Join The TBR Triple Dog Dare challenge hosted by James Reads Books!

Are you interested in joining me in accepting James’s dare?

Participants will only be reading books in their current TBR pile for the first three months of 2016. Do you have the discipline to accept this dare? 🙂

See here for details.

My 2016 Deal Me “IN” Roster


Since December 2010, I have spent some time near year end by coming up with a list of fifty-two short stories to read during the new year. I assign each story I plan to read to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week I draw one card and that is the story I read for that week. By the end of the year’s fifty-two weeks, I’m out of my fifty-two cards and out of stories. The second year that I did the “Deal Me In” challenge here at Bibliophilopolis, my reading colleague Dale (blogging at “Mirror With Clouds“) joined me. The third year, a few more bloggers did – including Katherine at “The Writerly Reader” who has also become a mainstay in the DMI crowd – and the year after that even more, including the “Behold the Stars” blog, which added the wrinkle of reading essays, poetry, and plays in addition to short tories. So, though it’s hard for me to believe, the Deal Me In Challenge is now entering its sixth year! If you’d like to try this challenge (or any of its shorter variations) the explanation of how it works and the sign up post may be found here. Won’t you join me in 2016?

Since 2016 is the year of (my home state) Indiana’s Bicentennial, I wanted to theme my short story reading challenge this year related to the ongoing celebration of our 200th birthday.  So… I am reading exclusively “Indiana stories” (stories written by an Indiana author, or having some Indiana connection) this year, and even throwing some short non-fiction into the mix for the first time.  I’ve also dubbed this year’s challenge Deal Me “IN” since IN is the postal abbreviation for Indiana. 🙂  Is there any end to my cleverness? Ha ha ha. Not yet, because I’ve also located an Indiana deck of cards which I’ll be using as my short story deck.  It features 14 unique pictures (see below) with, for example, the “2” of each suit having the same picture on its face.


Below I share my roster for 2016. Take a look and let me know what you think. I’ve included four wild cards, as has become my habit, so I am open to suggestions to help fill those slots.  I’ve separated my selections into suits with a common theme: Magazines & Literary Journals, Contemporary Writers, Non-Fiction, and Indiana “Legends.”

♥♥♥ Hearts (from Indiana-related Magazines and Literary Journals) ♥♥♥

♥A♥Letter to the Man in Carnivorous Plants – Lauren Ann Bolton (week 20)

♥2♥– *wild card* Siddhartha – Abe Aamidor (week 19)

♥3♥Everything Strange and Unknown – Joe Meno (week 33)

♥4♥A Conversation with Tim O’Brien – James J. Hanna (week 31)

♥5♥I Can Hear the Clicking at Night – Ann Gamble (week 7)

♥6♥Ransom Place – Corey Dalton (week 24)

♥7♥The Gods of Indianapolis – Jason de Koff (week 3)

♥8♥The Devil and James Whitcomb Riley – Jason Roscoe (week 30)

♥9♥The Passeur – E.E. Lyons (week 18)

♥10♥Come Go With Me – Nora Bonner (week 9)

♥J♥A Hundred Ways to Do it Wrong – Emily Temple (week 40)

♥Q♥  – Drills – Laura Citino (week 5)

♥K♥Not in Kansas Anymore – Rocco Versaci (week 39)


♠♠♠  Spades (Indiana-related short non-fiction works) ♠♠♠

♠A♠ – Poet, Prophet and Philosopher (Max Ehrmann) – Fred Cavinder (week 34)

♠2♠ – *wild card* Working a Jigsaw (Barb Shoup) (week 52)

♠3♠ – God Bless You Mr. Vonnegut: And Farewell – David Hoppe (week 17)

♠4♠ – Men From Mars – Ernie Pyle (week 27)

♠5♠ – Profiles in Survival: Eleanor M. Garen – John Shivley (week 44)

♠6♠ – The Gentleman of the Press in Skirts (Janet Flanner) – Fred Cavinder (week 15)

♠7♠ – Educational Testing: Just Another Job – David Hoppe (week 50)

♠8♠ – The B-29s – Ernie Pyle (week 32)

♠9♠ – Profiles in Survival: James Duckworth – John Shivley (week 46)

♠10♠ – Politics and Poetry (John Milton Hay) – Fred Cavinder (week 21)

♠J♠ – Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often – David Hoppe (week 29)

♠Q♠ – Life on a Flat Top – Ernie Pyle (week 4)

♠K♠ – Songs of Experience: Bob Dylan at the Egyptian Room – David Hoppe (week 41)


♦♦♦  Diamonds (contemporary writers with an Indiana connection)  ♦♦♦

♦A♦Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List – Michael Martone (week 49)

♦2♦ – *wild card*(& guest post!) Play Like I’m Sheriff – Jack Cady  (week 12)

♦3♦The Penance of Scoot McCutcheon – Frank Bill (week 22)

♦4♦Missing Athena – Josh Green (week 14)

♦5♦It Came From Burr County – Marian Allen (week 16)

♦6♦The Circle Effect – Diana Catt (week 35)

♦7♦What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell – Clint Smith (week 11)

♦8♦Shadowed – Christine Johnson (week 10)

♦9♦And One for the Road – Joanna Parypinski (week 2)

♦10♦Schliemann in Indianapolis – Michael Martone (week 28)

♦J♦Murder on Indiana Avenue – Andrea Smith (week 51)

♦Q♦Uncle Sack – Murphy Edwards (week 43)

♦K♦The Table of the Elements – J T Whitehead (week 37)

♣♣♣  Clubs (“Legendary” Indiana authors)  ♣♣♣

♣A♣ – A Reward of Merit – Booth Tarkington (week 13)

♣2♣ – *wild card* The Boyhood of Christ – Lew Wallace (week 25)

♣3♣ – The Boarded Window – Ambrose Bierce (week 45)

♣4♣ – Harrison Bergeron – Kurt Vonnegut (week 36)

♣5♣ – The Old Soldier’s Story – James Whitcomb Riley (week 38)

♣6♣ – Autumn Full of Apples – Dan Wakefield (week 26)

♣7♣ – The Pedagogue – Maurice Thompson (week 47)

♣8♣ – Mr Blake’s Walking Stick – Edward Eggleston (week 1)

♣9♣ – The Beautiful Lady – Booth Tarkington (week 48)

♣10♣ – The Legend of Potato Creek – Maurice Thompson (week 8)

♣J♣ – Next Door – Kurt Vonnegut (week 23)

♣Q♣ – Bobby and the Keyhole: A Hoosier Fairy Tale – Edward Eggleston (week 6)

♣K♣ – The Haunted Valley – Ambrose Bierce (week 42)


Hearts: “Booth” – the literary journal of Butler University (Indianapolis); “Punchnel’s” – an online journal here in Indianapolis; most of the stories from this source will also be part of the “Mythic Indy” anthology; “Midwestern Gothic” –a Midwestern literary journal (a couple with an Indiana connection from this one);  “Indiana Review” – a literary journal managed by Indiana University. I had to buy a couple issues to fill these spots.  They won’t arrive until mid -January, so I hope I don’t draw these cards first!

Diamonds: Story collections: “Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List: Indiana Stories” by Michael Martone, “Crimes in Southern Indiana” stories by Frank Bill; “Dirtyville Rhapsodies” stories by Josh Green (I learned of Green via his former professor at an author event at Bookmama’s bookstore*); “The Worst Book in the Universe” stories by the “Southern Indiana Writers Group,” “Decades of Dirt” stories from the ‘Speed City’ chapter of “Sisters of Crime”; “Ghouljaw” stories by Clint Smith; “Terror Train 2” a horror story anthology produced by a Hoosier small press, James Ward Kirk Fiction; “Defy the Dark” anthology of short stories; “Mistresses of the Macabre” short story anthology; “The Periodic Table of Elements” – a poetry collection.

Spades: “Forgotten Hoosiers: Profiles from Indiana’s Hidden History” by Fred Cavinder, “Personal Indianapolis” mostly humor and satire writing on Indianapolis-related themes; “Last Chapter” by Ernie Pyle; “Profiles in Survival” by John Shivley

Clubs: “Welcome to the Monkey House” short story collection of Kurt Vonnegut; “The Best American Short Stories of 1966” (contains the Dan Wakefield story); “The Collected Works of James Whitcomb Riley”; public domain for the Ambrose Bierce stories; “Collected Short Stories” Booth Tarkington; “Queer Stories for Boys and Girls” Edward Eggleston; “Hoosier Mosaics” stories by Maurice Thompson.

I hope to include some mention of how I chose the stories I did when I post about them individually, and maybe explain their Indiana “credentials”, especially if I’ve had to stretch the requirement a bit (Bierce, for example, though not from Indiana, did serve in the Indiana 9th Infantry Division for three years of the U.S. Civil War)

*Special thanks to Kathleen at Bookmama’s bookstore also, as she helped me round out my roster on a spending spree at her store last Saturday. J

“Happy Trails” a Sherman Alexie short story

I drew the ace of clubs from my short story deck, and thus this was my week 50 pick for 2015’s Deal Me In short story reading challenge. In 2015, Clubs were my suit assigned to “stories from The New Yorker” of which I’ve enjoyed many. I’ve read Alexie before and own his story collection “War Dances.” He has also been featured by other participants in the Deal Me In challenge the last couple years. Mr. Alexie was in the news earlier this year when he cancelled some appearances in Indiana amid the national “outrage” about my state’s passing of a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” – legislation for which I (among many) didn’t believe we had any need.  Politics aside, I found Alexie’s response disappointing in that it punished the wrong people (like me, or those who would attend his events – one of which was in honor of Banned Books Week(!) – and make no real impact other than publicity-wise). What did end up prompting an amendment to the law was a feared ECONOMIC impact (surprise!) to the state. For a moment, I considered removing Alexie’s story from my roster in a “ha! how do you like them apples?” tit for tat, but I thought it better to take the high road and not censor art based on political activity.

Ugh, I feel dirtied by even mentioning politics on this blog, so let’s get on with this story, which was first published in The New Yorker magazine in 2013. It’s narrated by a Native American member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe of the U.S. Northwest, a man who had a favorite uncle disappear some forty years ago. Our narrator decides he wants to hold a memorial for this uncle, now presumed dead (saying at one point “…we need to make the dead better people than they were, because it makes us look better for loving them.”), and the story follows his musings about how the uncle may have died (it is presumed that he would have contacted his family at some point over the years if he was still living – he “wasn’t the kind of person” not to do that. It also provides the opportunity for him to comment on the modern day world and conditions that the Coeur d’Alene live in.

It’s an eminently sad story, and perhaps the narrator has some self-loathing of his people too, hinted at when he refers to the uncle as a “half-assed warrior” of whom he speculates at the end of the story that:

Maybe he thought he could kill the world and instead learned that the world is undefeated.”

I loved that line. Have you read anything by Sherman Alexie? Perhaps his most famous work is “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” which has itself been the subject of multiple book banning incidents.

This story is available online at (I believe the New Yorker allows a limited number of views per month for non-subscribers)

This picture of Alexie was taken in 2008 (from Wikipedia)

“Your Year In Book Titles” – 2015 Edition

This is a copy of a meme I saw a few years back that I remembered being both challenging and fun to do.  Answer all the questions with a book title that you have read in 2015.  Here’s mine (I know, it seems a little gloomy – maybe that’s a reflection on the type of stuff I’ve been reading…)

Describe Yourself: Nothing to Envy

How do you Feel: Zombie, Indiana

Describe Where You Currently Live: The Dead Lands

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Galapagos

Your favorite form of transportation: Annihilation

Your best friend is: Dandelion Wine

You and your friends are: Reckless: (My Life as a Pretender)

What’s the Weather Like: Darkness With a Chance of Whimsy

Favorite time of day: Deep Down Dark

What is life to you: Magnificent Obsession

Your fear: Gut

What is the best advice you have to give:  Tall Tales of the Weird West

Thought for the day: God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian

How I would like to die: Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb

My soul’s present condition: Beautiful Ruins

Why not give this one a try yourself?

The Most Wonderful Day of the Year – Announcement of the 6th Annual Deal Me In Challenge!

It’s December 21st, the SHORTest day of the year. What better date to take the plunge and sign up for a short story challenge? So, without further ado…

Welcome to the Short Story Reading Challenge, Deal Me In 2016!


(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Yes, I know you’re being bombarded with posts about all sorts of reading challenges for the new year, and they all sound like a lot of fun. But here’s a unique challenge where your reading burden is relatively light AND where you still can experience a lot of different authors and genres.

What is the goal of the project?

To read 52 short stories in 2016 (that’s only one per week – versions with a lesser story requirement are noted below)

What do I need?

1) Access to at least fifty-two short stories (don’t own any short story collections or anthologies? See links to online resources below)
2) A deck of cards
3) An average of perhaps just thirty minutes of reading time each week

Where do I post* about my stories?

(*You don’t have to post about every single story, of course, but if you have something to say about the story you read any given week, your fellow participants would love to hear it.)

1) On your own blog or website if you have one (I will link to your post at the bottom of my weekly post. I currently plan to do my weekly post on Sundays)

2) if you don’t have a blog or website you may comment on any of my Deal Me In posts, sharing thoughts on your own story – or start one at WordPress or blogspot – it’s easy and free to create a basic blog.

How do I pick which stories to read?

(The 52 stories themselves are totally up to you.) Before you get start reading, come up with a roster of fifty-two stories (you can use any source) and assign each one to a playing card in a standard deck of cards. It can be fun to use different suits for different types of stories, but that is optional. I’ve often included one wild card for each suit too, so I can maybe read a story I’ve heard about during the year, or read another by an author I’ve discovered through this challenge. Each “week,” (if you’re like me, you may occasionally fall a story or two behind – that’s okay) you draw a card at random from your deck and that is the story you will read. There are links to last year’s participants’ rosters in the comments to last year’s sign-up if you want to see some examples. I’ll be posting my own 2016 roster soon. My twist this year? Since 2016 is my home state of Indiana’s bicentennial, I’ll be reading all Indiana-related stories and changing the name of my version to “Deal Me IN” (“IN” being capitalized on purpose as a nod to Indiana’s postal code abbreviation 🙂 )  (Dale, a four time Deal Me In participant at Mirror With Clouds has already posted about his plans for DMI 2016. Will you be next?)

What if I don’t have time to read a story every single week?

You don’t have to read your stories on a regular schedule (I almost always fall behind at least once during the year) and can catch up once a month if your prefer – OR try one of the challenge variations noted below, the Fortnight (or “payday” if you prefer) version is one story every two weeks or the “Full Moon Fever” version with just thirteen stories read or selected on seeing each full moon…

How do I sign up?

Leave a comment below with your URL and I will link you on my home page, where I’ll have a section in my sidebar for “2016 Deal Me In Participants.” I’ll try to periodically link to other Deal Me In posts I’ve seen recently too.

What is the purpose?

To have FUN and to be exposed to new authors and stories and maybe get in the habit of reading a short story a week. Isn’t that enough? 🙂

Some short story resources:
Classic Horror Stories: short story of the day
EastoftheWeb’s short story of the day:
The Library of America’s short story of the week archive:
Looking for some really short stories? Try here

Deal Me In Variations:

The Deal Me In “Fortnight Version” – just use two suits from your deck and assign a story to each card, drawing a card every two weeks. If you get paid bi-weekly, you can use that as a reminder to draw a new card (I guess this makes the fortnight variation a.k.a. The “payday version.” 🙂

The Deal Me In “Euchre Deck Version”If you work for “one of those companies” where you only get paid twice a month on the 15th and 30th, e.g., use a euchre deck!

The Deal Me In “Full Moon Fever Version” – this would be the baby steps way to ease into the Deal Me In routine, basically reading just one story a month (who doesn’t have time for that?). Just use one suit or face cards only and you’re set. Seeing the full moon in the sky can also serve as a reminder – “hey, I need to read my next short story!” We only have twelve full moons in 2016, so maybe you can have a ‘discretionary read’ sometime during the year where you draw a thirteenth card.

Dates of the full moons in 2016: 1/23, 2/22, 3/23, 4/22, 5/21, 6/20, 7/19, 8/18, 9/16, 10/16, 11/14, and 12/23.

Want to “play with a full deck” – er, I mean full suit? You can try the using the new moons, there are 13 of them in 2016. 🙂  1/9, 2/8, 3/8, 4/7, 5/6, 6/4, 7/4, 8/2, 9/1, 9/30, 10/30, 11/29, and 12/29

Other participants in the past have added their own wrinkles: Reading a story a week for only half the year, reading two at a time and trying to find a “connection” between them, reading essays, plays, poems, or famous speeches… Feel free to twist, spindle or mutilate this challenge any way you see fit to suit your own plans – the only element that should probably remain is the use of playing cards to determine your reading order.

Last of all, please help spread the word about Deal Me In. It’s been so much more fun the past few years with others playing along.  I haven’t been counting, but we’ve certainly passed the “1,000 stories read” mark by challenge participants – something I’m a little proud of. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten “Indiana Books” Read in 2015



Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Last week marked the 199th birthday of my home state, Indiana. With 2016 being the year of our bicentennial, I have been reading more and more Indiana-related material. Either books about Indiana or by Indiana authors or often both, so my twist on this week’s Top Ten Best _____ Books I Read in 2015 is to list my favorite reads of the year of that nature.  (I think I read a total of 14 books that would qualify and, since I liked all of the ten that made my list, I’m listing them in the order that I read them rather than “counting them down” to my favorite as I usually do.)

So here goes nothing…

1.Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas (read in February) I learned of – or at least was reminded of – this wildly popular novel from the early 20th century when reading Indiana author Dan Wakefield’s introduction to the “Indy Writes Books” anthology. (A volume that would certainly qualify for this list if I’d waited a few months to read it) I blogged in more depth about Magnificent Obsession earlier in the year.

2. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (February) Though not born in Indiana, Gay is now a professor at Purdue University in Lafayette. I read this one because a reading friend from one of my book clubs – who also works at a library – was starting a reading group at that library. I didn’t end up ’crashing’ that book club meeting after all, but I did read & like the book, which wasn’t the first thing I’ve read by the author. I never blogged about this one, but I’ve posted about a couple of her other stories here and here.

untamed state

3. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace (March) A HUGE best seller from the 19th century (it outsold pretty much everything all the way up until the time Gone With the Wind came along), this was a book I’d always wanted to read having – of course! – seen the movie many times. I recommended it for one of my book clubs and was rewarded with the lowest attendance of the year, with only three people showing, one of whom hadn’t finished. Though it was sometimes a tough slog, I did enjoy it and am glad I’ve added it to my list since Lew Wallace and I have a “connection“.

4.Long Knife by James Alexander Thom (April) I suggested this to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library’s book club, which is trying to branch out and read more “non-Vonnegut” books, yet ones that still have a connection to that author. Thom was a friend of Vonnegut’s and a supporter of the library. He even came to our meeting about this book, which I led (talk about intimidating!). The book is the story of George Rogers Clark, an early American frontier hero. One member of this book club still thanks me profusely (for recommending the book) every time I see him. He liked it so much, he’s pretty much bought up and read all the other works by this author. Yes, that makes me happy.  🙂

5. Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb by Ian Woollen (April) I met this author when he came to the aforementioned book club. He is a friend of Mr. Thom and an accomplished author in his own right, which I found out when I read this sprawling family epic centered around the Cold War and its intrigue. I always meant to write a blog post about it but sadly haven’t followed through yet. Mr. Woollen visited the book club at Bookmama’s bookstore in my old Indianapolis neighborhood when they read this book in April. I was there too and quite a pleasant time was had by all.

uncle anton

6. Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana by James H. Madison (May) I heard about and attended a “book launch event” for this and another book at The Indiana Historical Bureau located in downtown Indianapolis at the Indiana State Library. I feared that it might be a little dry like some non-fiction but what I found was a very readable and enjoyable book. I learned a lot too.

7. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia (May)   The well-received debut novel of a young local writer. Zappia went to high school with my nephew (though he didn’t really know her), and it was through him that I first heard about this book. Kind of a “YA meets A Beautiful Mind” feel made this a refreshingly different read. And the author really “got me” with one of those plot twists at one point too, reminiscent of the horror movie where you think it’s over but… no, it’s not over.

made you up

8. Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut (June)This was a re-read for the June meeting of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library’s June meeting. As with many re-readings, I got so much more out of it the second time around. Though this book has one of Vonnegut’s more convoluted plots (and that’s really saying something considering his other books), my pleasure in reading it was not diminished.

9. The Mirrors by Nicole Cushing (November) What a pleasant surprise this book was! I picked it up at the author’s appearance at Indy Reads Books bookstore downtown last month. I still intend to post about it in detail at some point, but for now I’ll just say it was a powerful collection of dark short stories.


10. Winesburg, Indiana by Michael Martone and others (November) I can’t remember where I first heard about this wonderful collection of vignettes set in the fictional Indiana town of Winesburg (a nod to Sherwood Anderson’ famous Ohio town of the same name). Almost all the stories are told in the first person by the many and varied residents of the town. Reading this has made me seek out other works that Martone has had a hand in, one of which I’ll be using for next year’s edition of the Deal Me IN challenge.


That’s my list. Seems like I read a lot of “Indiana Books” in 2015, but that was “on purpose.”  Do you try to “read local” when you select what to read next? What were your criteria for today’s top ten list?