A Hoosier-Flavored R.I.P. Challenge


I’ve decided to follow the lead of my Deal Me In 2014 comrade, Randall, and participate in the ninth annual R.I.P. (“Readers Imbibing Peril”) Challenge (R.I.P. IX – hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings) this year, in a short story, mini-Deal Me In format. Randall’s initial post for his participation in the challenge may be found here.  I’ve selected thirteen short stories to read before the end of October. At this point, I don’t know if I’ll blog about them individually or in a couple summarized posts. I’ve picked three stories from known or classic authors, but the theme for the remainder of my selections is “authors with an Indiana connection.”


Here’s my list of stories for the RIP challenge. As with Deal Me In, I’ll read them in random order via the luck of the draw. Naturally, I’ll be using the spades suit to draw my cards.:-)


A. Feeders and Eaters – Neil Gaiman (“The Weird” anthology)
2. The Summer People – Shirley Jackson (“The Weird” anthology) -read 9/19
3. Axolotl – Julio Cortozar (“The Weird” anthology) – read 9/23
4. Strunke City DeRail – Murphy Edwards (Terror Train anthology )
5. Venus Rising from the Foam – James Owens (Indiana Horror 2011 anthology)
6. Crimes in Southern Indiana – Frank Bill (“Crimes in Southern Indiana” story collection) -read 9/22
7. Because You Watched – Paula Ashe (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
8. The Hunt – Bret Nye – (Midwestern Gothic magazine volume 6)
9. The Rose Garden – James Ward Kirk (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
10. The Hike – Brian Rosenberger (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
J. The Old Crone and the Scarecrow – Allen Griffin (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology) – read 9/20
Q. The Shadow Man of Moonspine Bridge – Matt Cowan (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology) -read 9/21
K. The Boy That Created Monsters – Paul DeThroe (Indiana Horror 2011 anthology)

I’ve seen – and even met and talked to few of these writers – at various book events around town in the past year or so, and reading some more of their work should prove interesting.  Are you participating in the R.I.P. Challenge this year??

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten New To Me Authors I read in 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme sponsored by the blog, “The Broke and The Bookish.”

Thank God for my short story reading project. Without it, I don’t think I have read ten “new to me authors” this year. About half of the following are form short story reading. Here they are, in descending order with #1 being my favorite.

10. Kevin Lynn Helmick
His novella “Driving Alone: A Love Story” was “different” and brilliant.

9. Douglas Watson
I loved his short story collection “The Era of Not Quite.” Read my post about it here.

8. Kyle Minor
His story collection “In the Devil’s Territory” was one of my favorite books of the year. I posted about it here.

7. Caitlyn Horrocks
Her short story, “The Sleep,” will be a finalist in my upcoming 2013 short story reading project awards post. See my post about it here.

6. Hugh Howey
I was spellbound by his runaway self-published hit “Wool” earlier this year. What a page-turner!

5. Henryk Sienkiewicz
The “elder statesman” on this list, his short story, “The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall” was wonderful.

4. Neil Gaiman
Yes, I’d never read him until this year’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” He hasn’t seen the last of me…

3. Steven Milhauser
His unique short story “Phantoms” was also among my favorites of the year. I think he also has a new story in the latest New Yorker. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s in my plans.


2. Ruth Ozeki (above)
I just finished it, but certainly one of my favorite novels of recent years was her “A Tale for the Time Being.” I highly recommend it.


1. Betty Smith (above)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” was my other favorite novel for the year. A classic that I had somehow neglected until now. Also highly recommended.

Other new to me authors I enjoyed (“Honorable Mention” if you will): Alexander Pushkin, Rob Smales, Lori Benton, Jade Eby, R.J. Sullivan, Robert Rebein, Marissa Meyer (the Lunar Chronicles one, not the Yahoo CEO), Stephen Chbosky, Eric Garrison, Orson Scott Card, Kristal Stittle, Hagiwara Sakutar, Sam Lipsyte, Claire Keegan, Charles Beaumont, Rebecca Emin, and Alice Adams.

What a fun list to put together! Being reminded of discovering all these great, new (to me) authors made me feel good about my 2013 reading accomplishments.

What about YOU? Who were your favorite literary discoveries in 2013?

Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”


“Do you really remember when the moon was made?” I asked. “I remember lots of things.”

This book is about memories. It is even introduced with a quotation form Maurice Sendak: “I remember my own childhood vividly… I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.”

Our narrator, returning (for a funeral) to the neighborhood of his childhood feels compelled to drive down to ‘the end of the lane.’ This is where the “Hempstock Farm” is located. It’s “the oldest farm thereabouts” and is even “listed in the Domesday Book,” that great 11th-Century survey commanded by William the Conqueror. The narrator only vaguely remembers how, as a seven year old, he was friends with 11-year old Lettie Hempstock, and that she had helped him through a time of troubles. His memory is incomplete, however (“suppressed” would be the better word) but, with his return to this pastoral setting, the whole memory of the traumatic childhood incident comes flooding back to him.


What did the unnamed narrator of this novel know but not wholly remember? A lot of things that would scare adults, that’s for sure. He knows that the Hempstocks are much more that what they appear to be. He knows that his family’s new housekeeper, Ursula Monkton (and how great of a villain’s name is that?) is not who she appears to be either.

As the story of the childhood episode unfolds, Lettie’s family is slowly revealed to be in some way supernatural and a moment of carelessness on their part causes him to stumble into a encounter with another supernatural entity – this one malevolent. Lettie puts this creature to flight,but not before it gains a “foot”hold with the young boy when he forgets Lettie’s order to not let go of her hand during the encounter.

The boy’s peril increases at breakneck pace, as Ursula Monkton begins to take over his household and the reader is kept on edge as he waits for the Hempstocks to come to his rescue. They surely will, right?

I loved the book. At first I wondered if the narrator’s memory of the childhood event were the product of ex post facto imaginings, a seven year old’s attempt to deal with the trauma of being witness to the discovery of a suicide, the death of his pet cat, or unwittingly discovering the infidelity of his father. But the framing story of his returning to the neighborhood as an adult, and his “second” meeting with one of the Hempstocks, seemed to corroborate his memory. I also loved how well Gaiman told the story in the first-person voice – of a seven year old. Impressive.

His encounter with “Old Mrs. Hempstock” in the epilogue leads him to ask her (regarding his memory), “Is it true?” Her reply, “What you remembered? Probably. More or Less. Different people remember things differently,and you’ll not get any two people to remember anything the same.”

(below: I can neither confirm nor deny whether a pensieve from the Harry Potter movies was used in the crafting of this story)


This book was just released last month and was my first venture reading Gaiman, who is wildly popular (1.8 million followers on Twitter!). I downloaded his novel, “American Gods,” a couple years ago but still haven’t gotten to it. If this short book was representative of his writing, I doubt I will be disappointed if I finally take the plunge and read that one next. What are your thought’s about Gaiman? Have you read any of his work, and if so, what did you think of him?

(below: author Neil Gaiman)