Deal Me In Doubleheader: Weeks 32 & 33 – “Your Book: A Novel in Stories” by Cathy Day and “More Than the Game ” by Barbara Swander Miller

I’ve fallen behind pretty egregiously in Deal Me In, so I’m going to combine my week 32 & 33 selections in one post. Both selections were by Indiana authors so I’m also counting this as a “Reading Local” post. Now in its fifth year, Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about, may be found here.

Unlike week 31’s selection, my week 32 story was a perfect fit for the Indy Writes Books anthology. The three of diamonds led me to the fascinating and delightful Cathy Day story, “Your Book: A Novel in Stories,” which traces a kind of life cycle of an author’s book and even the author herself.

Among other things, it follows the various ways that “the word gets out” about books (goodreads, word of mouth, seeing a friend or stranger reading a book you’ve heard of, etc.). In this regard, I know much of what’s in the story is true because I’ve witnessed it myself over the years. We readers often forget that we’re consuming a finished product that has undergone quite a history just to get to the point where it’s fallen into our hands. I think the following is a good representative passage from the story when dealing with this process:

“She loves the stories inside the books, yes, of course, but she also loves the stories outside the books, which is the story of how a book travels from the author’s imagination into the reader’s imagination. To do so, it must travel a vast maze called commerce, and your editor has devoted her adult life to understanding that maze, which is why she lives inside it and inside this office, even when she isn’t physically there.” 

Three of diamonds image from

For my week 33 story, via the ten of hearts, I returned to the “Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks” anthology, tackling Barbara Swander Miller’s “More than the Game,” a story that is a mystery not in the whodunit sense, but rather a young man’s exploring why there was such a rift between his father and recently deceased grandfather, who was a standout basketball star for the local “Red Rollers” basketball team. Young Tim is just beginning to become interested in basketball and has begun to regularly participate in a local pickup game with other youths – a scene repeated countless times all over my state and one in which I participated in myself when I was young. Tim also experiences – or hallucinates? – a couple spectral encounters with his grandfather and old teammates that lead him to discover his grandfather has bequeathed “a box” to Tim, that his dad doesn’t want him to have…

I was a little surprised at how different this story was from the others I’ve read in this anthology (two of which are part of my 2015 deal Me In roster, one of which (“Fallen Idols”) I’ve already posted about.

What short stories have you read recently? Have you ever tried a “reading local” focus to your reading plans?

“This Bitter Pill” by Frank Bill

For week 31 of the 2015 Deal Me In challenge, I drew the eight of diamonds, which I had assigned to the Frank Bill short story, “This Bitter Pill” from the Indy Writes Books anthology. Now in its fifth year, Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about, may be found here.

The randomized order of my Deal Me In selections often produces eerie coincidences. For instance, just this week, in nearby Anderson, Indiana, police broke up a heroin ring of more than twenty(!) people. (News article may be found here if you’d like to be depressed) Heroin addiction and its consequences is the subject of Frank Bill’s short story, “This Bitter Pill,” originally published in Pank Magazine but also reprinted in the “Indy Writes Books” anthology, which I own a copy of.

“Tar Baby” is an eighteen year old mother of a newborn. She has a deadbeat boyfriend, “Patch Work,” a stuttering, “stillbrain” whose main attraction appears to be that he “scores good drugs.” She works at a low-paying convenience store job, and is, along with her boyfriend, a heroin addict. Tar Baby and Patch Wwork have gotten into debt to a despicable dealer, “Deuce,” using some of the money that friendly relatives have given them to help “the young couple out with the baby” as a down payment on a fix and promising the rest, thinking they’ll pay Deuce back  when Tar Baby gets her meager paycheck. Sadly, they discover that much of that money is needed for diapers and other baby-related expenses.

What to do? It seems one option is that Deuce is notorious for taking payment in flesh – usually in sadistic ways – from his delinquent female customers. This option hangs in the background throughout this short story as the young couple try to cope.

This was not a pleasant story, and I’m still a little perplexed at how it found its way into this anthology, the submissions for which were supposed to have “something to do with reading, writing, literacy, books, or bookstores.” I guess a stretch could be made that “illiteracy” might be assumed to be among the young couple’s shortcomings, though that isn’t explicitly stated. Illiteracy is rampant, in general, in the margins of society that these characters inhabit. In fact “margins” of society is a good choice of words here, as one of the problems that keeps people like this down is the fact that there is little or no margin for error in their lives. Just one setback or piece of bad luck (or more often a bad decision) can quickly derail any progress (or the hope of progress) being made to extricate themselves from the margin…

I continued to enjoy the author’s gritty and visceral writing style in this story (as I have in his previous works that I’ve read, “Coon Hunter’s Noir” and “Amphetamine Twitch“) I have one more story of his to go in this year’s Deal Me In, titled “What Once Was” and am looking forward to reading it.

Indy Writes Books is an anthology for sale by Indy Reads Books, with all proceeds going to support local adult literacy programs, an undeniably worthy cause which Bibliophilopolis is happy to support. If the Indy Writes Books anthology sounds like something you’d be interested in, please consider purchasing a copy. More info may be found at

Up next for week 32 of Deal Me In 2015 (Also from Indy Writes Books): “Your Book: A Novel in Stories” by Cathy Day.

Below (from author Frank Bill

frank bill

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 31 Wrap Up

Sorry for the delay in this wrap-up post. I had kind of a “lost weekend” (not the Ray Milland movie kind, thankfully) and am just now getting back into the swing of things. Below are links to new posts since the last wrap-up:

“o” at Behold the stars read “Know Thyself” by Samuel Johnson

Dale at Mirror With Clouds posted about “Wild Plums” by Grace Stone Coates

Katherine at The Writerly Reader shares her thoughts on “Tedford and the Megaladon” by Jim Shepard

I read Indiana author Frank Bill’s “This Bitter Pill” and hope to have my post up soon. 🙂

I think that’s it for this week – see you next time for week 32!

“Yellow Warblers” by Jason Sizemore

For week 30 of Deal Me In 2015, I drew the nine of spades, which I had assigned to the Story, “Yellow Warblers” from Jason Sizemore’s collection “Irredeemable.” Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about, may be found here. If the name sounds familiar, maybe it’s because I posted about another story (“Sleeping Quartet“) by this author a couple months back.

Yellow Warblers”

He’d lived long enough to know the way of the spirits, to listen when they shouted across the heavens to warn the other side of danger.”

When I picked a couple stories from this collection for Deal Me In, I confess I based my selection on titles only, and, as an amateur birdwatcher for twenty years, this title appealed to me. I also knew the collection included stories that “are dark, powerful and unsettling,” so I was curious as the title’s meaning. I’m not sure I ever found out, which is okay.

Few conquests in the history of humanity have been absolute or “complete.” There are always pockets of resistance or remote areas that maybe the conquerors “just don’t care enough about” to fully bring under their rule. Think about the Kurds in modern day Iraq, or how hard Afghanistan has been to manage for its sundry invaders/conquerors. Maybe this phenomenon would hold true in the case of an extra-terrestrial conquest as well. Such appears to be the case in this story. It starts peacefully enough with a commonplace scene of rustic Appalachia. An old man, Jeremiah, is sitting on a church pew praying. Outside a Kentucky Warbler sings “joyfully.” But maybe not all is right. A visitor has arrived…

“The alien moved with a grace befitting its slender build and smooth, alabaster skin. The old man had seen one of these before. A Shadow , they’d called it. It had been… what… twenty-three years since last he’d seen one? But there it was, no mistaking. Those large almond eyes in an oval, slightly humanoid face.”

As you might guess, the way the peaceful Jeremiah wants to welcome the visitor is more than slightly different from that of his neighbors.

I found the following interesting observation in one online review of the “Irredeemable” collection. It rang true to me, and is especially apropos to this particular story, which actually included the line, “Xeno-what?” in its dialogue. 🙂

Appalachian cultural history shows a tendency toward xenophobia.’” People from outside this region will know the opposite is true as well: aliens (literal or figurative) to this region tend to fear it, and the stories in Irredeemable both capitalize on and castigate that fear.”

This story may be read on line here

Have you read any good short stories set in Appalachia? Care to recommend any? 🙂

(above: the yellow warbler I know from my birdwatching (I see these all the time); below: a Kentucky Warbler from the story – I almost never spot one around these parts…)

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 29 Wrap Up

Kind of slim pickings this week on the Deal Me In front – maybe everyone is enjoying a summer vacation? Either way, below are links to the posts that I found since our last update:

Dale at Mirror With Clouds posted about Bernard Malamud’s “The German Refugee”

“o” at Behold the Stars posted about the Virginia Woolf essay, “Jane Eyre and a withering Heights”

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (that’s me!) read a lesser-known Shirley Jackson short story, “Mrs. Melville Makes a Purchase”

That’s it for this week. Until next time… Happy Reading!

“Mrs. Melville Makes a Purchase” – Shirley Jackson

A couple years ago I purchased an e-copy (nook version) of “Just an Ordinary Day” a (posthumous) book of Shirley Jackson short stories, “previously unpublished and uncollected.” I made the purchase after reading one of the stories in The New Yorker (“Paranoia” – see my prior post about that story here). I also had assigned another story from this collection to my Deal Me In challenge deck of cards as the King of Hearts, which I drew this morning for week 29 of Deal Me In 2015.

I’m one of those people who tries to always follow the golden rule when dealing with others. Treating them as I would hope to be treated myself. I’m betting most of you reading this are the same type of people (thankfully, most people in general are too). Mrs. Melville, the title character of this Shirley Jackson story, is NOT one of those type of people. Jackson makes us dislike Mrs. Melville immediately as, while shopping for a blouse in a department store, Melville sighs “How long do I have to wait for service here?” to a salesgirl who is helping another customer. I was happy to see the salesgirl eventually start “giving it back” to Mrs. Melville though, when she notes that she doesn’t have Mrs. Melville’s desired purchase in pink or chartreuse, but that “I have the black. Most large figures prefer the black.” (Heh heh)

Eventually Mrs. Melville completes a purchase and with barely muted indignation seeks out the store’s Complaint Department, which the salesgirl helpfully informs her is on the ninth floor. This is just the beginning of Mrs. Melville’s retail adventures, though, as she stops for lunch on the fifth floor (as you might guess, she’s dissatisfied with her server and food there too – we are seeing a pattern here) and, after seeing a mysterious woman, realizes she’s lost the package with her purchase…

This was a good story, and I enjoyed it (who doesn’t like to see snobs getting their comeuppance?), but I don’t think it’s up to the high standards of Jackson’s other work. I’m sure I’ll still read the other stories in this book eventually as well, but I’ll probably be rationing them out over several years, as has become my habit with Short story collections. Oh, and this week’s Deal Me In coincidence? I discovered that the book blogosphere has a “Shirley Jackson Reading Week” currently in progress. How cool is that? One of the host blogs may be seen at

What have you read by Shirley Jackson and what did you think of it? In addition to her story, “Paranoia,” I’ve blogged about her creepy story “The Summer People” as well.

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 28 Wrap Up

Below are links to new posts since the last update. Please take a moment to visit (or comment or “like”) these posts and support your fellow DMI participants! 🙂

James at James Reads Books wrote about H.L. Mencken’s essay “On Being an American” and Ursula K. LeGuin’s story “Darkrose and Diamond” from her Earthsea world. Did he find a connection?

Dale at Mirror with Clouds tackles Donald Barthelme’s “A City of Churches”

Katherine at The Writerly Reader posted about Dan Chaon’s “The Bees”

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery shares with us the Stephen Murray story “Positive Vetting

I read my fifth story from the “In the Meantime” anthology (stories set in Brussels), “The Commissioner and the Pig” by Nick Jacobs. I learned of this collection a few years back at Alex’s excellent blog “The Sleepless Reader.” I haven’t written a post yet as I’m recovering from the weekend’s “24in48” readathon (and yes, of course I read short stories for that!)

“o” at Behold the Stars brings us another Miguel Cervantes story “The a Little Gypsy Girl”

That’s it for now. happy reading until next week!

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 27 Wrap Up

I think several of us took the week off due to the holiday, but below are links to those posts I found that are new since our last wrap-up. Happy reading! 

Image above from includes a summary of the legend of Oriza (relevant to one of this week’s stories)

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read Stephen King’s “The Tale of Gray Dick” and also shares her DMI “Luna Extra” story, Eugie Foster’s “When it Ends, He Cacthes her.”

Dale at Mirror With Clouds revisits Steven Millhauser and his short story “Phantoms

“o” at Behold the Stars tackles Franz Kafka’s “Investigations of a Dog”

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (that’s me!) read Victoria Barrett’s “Small Planes Flying Low”

See you next week!

“Small Planes Flying Low” a short story by Victoria Barrett

IMG_6026Above: officials inspecting the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103

I drew the four of diamonds for week 27 of the Deal Me In challenge. In this challenge, at the beginning of the year, participants pick fifty-two stories to read and assign each to a card in a standard deck of playing cards. Draw one every week and you’re done at the end of the year. The randomized order of the reading sometimes presents interesting coincidences, which I enjoy. An explanation of the challenge is here. My list of stories for 2015 is here. My lists for prior years are on the sidebar.

Four of diamonds pillow found at

I own a copy of this story as part of the “Indy Writes Books” anthology, a fundraising publication of Indy Reads Books that features Indiana writers and donates its proceeds to local adult literacy programs. Bibliophilopolis is happy to be one of many sponsors of the project.

Those writers contributing material to Indy Writes Books were asked “to contribute work that had something to do with reading, writing, literacy, books, or bookstores,” and the story I read this week qualifies by taking place in a comic book store called Cosmo’s, where our young female protagonist, Rae, is employed. (Although the world of comic books and those who are passionate about them is not one I’m very familiar with, my brothers and I did accumulate a box or two of them when we were kids so, armed with that credential, I pressed on with the story…)

The story takes place in 2001 and is sparsely populated with just a few characters – Rae, Joel (the store owner), two adolescent male customers, Devin and Jackie, and Camille, who has a crush on Joel and works in another shop that Cosmo’s shares a strip mall with. Initially, there didn’t seem to be too much to the story other than some typical teenage banter between the customers and Rae, or the Boss-employee dynamic between Joel and Rae. But then a report comes on the Radio that Al-Megrahi, a Libyan terrorist, has received a life sentence for his role in the Pan Am 103 over Scotland in 1988. Rae is unfamiliar with this historical event and Joel explains to her that “300 people” were killed in the incident.

This – at least momentarily – sobers up the occupants of the store as Rae ponders the magnitude of such a tragedy. She is sure she couldn’t even name 300 people, a number which “was like her whole universe multiplied by eleven.” The story ends with a little spat between Rae and Joel, which she regrets, musing that “She felt safer here than anywhere else. Three-hundred people are a whole universe, but so was Cosmo’s.”

I liked the story and appreciated that the name of the store is both a person’s name (“Cosmo” – you know, like Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld) and a homonym for Cosmos, meaning the universe (you know, like Neil deGrasse Tyson’s or Carl Sagan’s) . I also enjoyed playing the “What Does The Story’s Title Mean?” game with this one, and must admit I don’t fully know. A Google search of the phrase “small planes flying low” yielded some conspiracy theory-related hits, and also the information that such a group of planes is one recommended way to overcome anti-aircraft and radar-aided defense. There is, of course, a plane in the story, but I’m not sure if the title phrase relates to that incident or not. I’m also not sure if I mind not knowing the true meaning of the title, as it’s fun to speculate about. 🙂


If the Indy Writes Books anthology sounds like something you’d be interested in, please consider purchasing a copy. More info may be found at

What interesting short stories have you read lately?  Can you think of any books or stories where you have been unable to determine the meaning of the title?

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 26 Wrap Up

We’ve made it to the mid-point of the Deal Me In challenge! Those who have kept up have read through “a couple of suits worth” of stories now and only have the same amount to go that we’ve already done. We KNOW the finish line is achievable now. (Think of it as getting to the halfway point in a book – how good does that make you feel?) 🙂

Anyway, I’m a little late this week, but that  serendipitously allowed me time to pick up a post from James, which is among the links below. Please check them out and leave a comment or “like” if you’re so inclined,

“O” at Behold the Stars posted about a classic Greek tragedy, Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King”

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Eudora Welty’s “The Worn Path”

Randall at Time Enough at Last read William Eastlake’s “A Long Day’s Dying” and last week covered “Customs of the Country” by Madison Smartt Bell

I drew a wildcard and went to a favorite author, Margaret Atwood, reading her story “Revenant” from her newly published collection, Stone Mattress.

James at James Reads Books read a “pair” of works:  Joan Didion’s “Comrade Laski” and Ben Winters’ connected tales “BRING HER TO ME” and “BRING THEM DOWN”

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