Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Justin Bog Stops In - Guest Post & Tour for Sandcastle and Other Stories

The Secrets Characters Keep.

First, before I speak about secrets, I want to thank BK for hosting a stop on my Sandcastle and Other Stories virtual book tour. I have loved meeting so many great writers, bloggers, and book lovers along the way. Being on this tour has taught me to stay focused and also to meet deadlines -- the creative part is wonderful -- and has made me look at the stories in the book from different angles. Thank you very much for allowing me to speak about the short sharp tales, and what went into creating them.

Philosophy stirs me. In Sandcastle and Other Stories I tried to understand each character's philosophy, even if this philosophy differed greatly from my own; I wanted to come close to figuring it out so that I could better reveal this on the page. People who wrestle with why and how we go about our lives; people who try to answer deep questions, who are yearning for closure, often never find anything close to an end point. As I started writing these stories, some in early form, complete on one page before I expanded the tales into their current form, long ago, I would begin with a character or an image of a character doing something, or thinking something odd, or mundane. The story would blossom from that one thought.

In Sandcastle and Other Stories, there are two tales where a character is said to have "wanted to be a tree." In Cats In Trees, this character is a young adult named Jacqueline, and she mimics a tree's life, a movement as wind flows through the branches. Rachel, in The Virtue of Minding Your Own Business, also finds herself drawn into a world where trees engage her every thought. In both stories it is the characters surrounding these girls, who try to figure them out, to maybe help them, for good or bad. They are caught up in the mindset of someone a little bit off kilter. We all have met people who choose to live in a much different manner than the way we would go about life. Sometimes there really isn't a choice; sometimes people just try to live. I hope to capture these oddities in my stories, share the secrets people hide.

Keeping secrets is something we all do, big or small. Why a character breaks and reveals a secret is a moment for the best fiction. I love reading literary, psychological, and suspenseful short fiction. The tales often deal more with the interior mind rather than the exterior action of a character's journey, although both are very important. Every single person has a story to tell. I find the people with secrets the most interesting to write about. Why people conceal them, and how this affects their lives and the lives of their friends and family, or even a complete stranger, is my own operating system, a jumping off point, when I sit down to write a story. 

Do your characters have secrets they want to reveal but can't? Or, does the struggle to keep a secret consume them? What motivates your characters' actions? Authors have to walk in so many different shoes, move around, and try to talk about what they find by writing it down for readers. That's the fun part of the writing life. Creating rich, thoughtful, deep, comedic, murderous, empathetic, trashy, youthful, ancient, godlike, mundane, fantastical, characters who reveal themselves in the narrative, is the icing on the cake. In one tale, Poseidon Eyes, a young girl catches the eye of an old god who isn't worshipped anymore. She refuses his advances, and he changes her perception to try to rein her in. From this moment in the story, the girl wrestles with her new situation and chooses whether or not to keep her condition a secret from the people she meets on a daily basis. 

I hope you enjoy meeting all of the characters in Sandcastle and Other Stories. They wanted their stories told, but they hoped to cling to their secrets. 

Best to you and your reading and writing lives, Justin

The ten literary, psychological, and suspense tales collected in Sandcastle and Other Stories are nothing short of an escape into a roiling sea of emotion. You will meet an old man twisted by fate and a lost love . . . a young girl playing on the ocean shore who becomes entangled in the nets of a mercurial god . . . a divorced man mired in his troubles who is pressured into taking a singles cruise . . . a Hollywood actor in a night time television drama who is always typecast as the bad boy . . . a family on the edge trying to live with a troubled daughter who they believed they'd never have to coexist with again . . . a young adult bruised and torn by a secret past who watches the world around her teetering on the brink of chaos . . . a new mother of twins who finds it difficult to say no to the pushy, energetic President of the local Mothers of Twins Club . . . a child kept awake by night terrors, and a woman who hides her secretive personality from everyone on the beach one sunny day. Upon reading, you will meet several more people who view life as a constant struggle, and others who resist this mindset, some with grace, some with humor, and others with acts of hubris. The genuine voices of the characters, mixed with a clear-eyed tonal simplicity, make this a series with mesmerizing psychological interplay. All of the stories span a broad depth of human understanding and build a bridge between the deepest chasms of pain and the highest portals of joy. Read Sandcastles and Other Stories and you will stand witness to unspeakable hate sitting with cozy wile right beside unconditional love -- a true fictional study of the human condition.

Excerpt :

From Sandcastle
From a beach towel space away, Brenda took the scene in. The beach was crowded, but the background noise didn’t bother her at all; Brenda believed she could hide in a crowd, and wondered why being alone was something she deserved. She found herself enjoying the discomfort in the mother and daughter’s close conversation; she almost laughed out loud when Jane’s mouth opened like an outstretched bow. The kid deserves what she gets, Brenda thought. She tilted her head away to make it look like she wasn’t paying attention, but only just slightly. She saw everything.
“But . . . I want my balloon.”
Brenda, her pistachio-colored beach chair squeaking when she moved slightly,
noticed a string of saliva dribble from Jane’s mouth and down her chin. Jane’s mother pushed her octagon-shaped sunglasses into the hair above her forehead and stared, her eyes somehow cold and reflecting nothing, at her daughter. “What did I just say to you, Jane? Forget the goddamn balloon. I told you I didn’t want to buy it for you . . . you’re blocking my sun. If you don’t leave me alone and go play, you’ll find yourself at home right now. Be a big little girl for Mommy. If you can do this, I promise I’ll give you another swimming lesson later. Your dog paddle is coming along fine. Go play.”
Brenda tried to smile, but couldn’t, as she thought about her life and what it
would’ve been like if her baby had lived, would this new presence in her family be
capable of healing a prickling rift under her heels, make her husband’s boots stop flailing about – always making contact by accident, didn’t mean to do that, you know me, you know me, you know me. Her life could be broken down into a twisted children’s rhyme.
Right, Brenda, first comes love, then comes marriage; then comes miscarriage, and her goals and planning stopped there. She hated the simple way her life unfolded and the way it seemed so goddamn planned. Ever since she was little she’d been under someone else’s control. When she was twenty, almost two years away from graduation at the community college, she met Jake and they moved in together. Brenda’s parents never trusted Jake; they could tell the first second they spotted him hoisting himself off his motorcycle, then slicking back his sun-bleached hair and finally tugging at the devil-pointed goatee that he was just putting on a big show (her father’s words). They wouldn’t speak to her for months until her twenty-first birthday when they relented and finally knew Jake would, for better or worse, be a part of their daughter’s future. They stopped asking Brenda if she was going to finish college. All they could do was warn her when Jake wasn’t around, try to undermine what was happening all along. “Is he hitting you again, Brenda?” her mother would whisper to her when Jake and Father were in the living room watching the
Sunday football extravaganza, neither of them speaking to the other, just grunting from their Lazyboys, the kind with the built-in beer holders on the arms. All her parents could do was watch and say “I told you so” later, which they did all the time.
How could Brenda reply? Her control had shifted territory, from one of family
questionings and buttonholes, to the scary realm of Jekyll and Hyde. It was one thing she wanted to handle alone, without her parents’ interference. Jake was the sweetest man she had ever met, at first, before the wedding, and wouldn’t even lay a finger on her neck to caress her. It started after the wedding when he slapped her on the butt too hard, a prelude to lovemaking he said, and when she complained, he hit her harder. Of course, he always tried to make it up to her afterwards. He took her to movies she wanted to see, to the roadhouses for drinks, and took her shopping, but never at the good stores, just the second hand malls where he worked in rotation as a night security guard.
Another thing Brenda hated was the way she often caught her mother scrutinizing
her. Her mother’s chin wrinkled up, and her eyes opened just almost all the way and sly, as if her mother had foreseen Brenda’s downfall, as if she was used goods now and any other man could smell Jake’s lousy scent all over her and she would never hear the sound of grandchildren. She said to Brenda, with her patented matter-of-fact tightness, “A lot of women have miscarriages. And a lot of women, today anyway, fail at meeting the right man.” What her mother didn’t have to say was “How dare you do this to our family;” the tone of her voice was enough. At times, Brenda liked to picture her parents, naked, with witch paint splashed across their bodies, dancing around an effigy of Brenda. In her daydream, she would force the effigy to come to life and make it bash her parents’ heads together to let them know they were not always right.
Their spoken predictions of failure had started when she brought her fiancé home for the first time, when Brenda was helping her mother cut salad cucumbers and rip iceberg lettuce, when her mother, in a voice of thinly veiled anger, asked her how long she’d known Jake and asked her if she was really serious about ruining her life with a man like that. Now, her mother gives her books on how to choose your mate and her father still curses her former husband at the dinner table, even though it’s been two years since the divorce. He looks at Brenda and chuckles, wisely, and says he told her not to marry the bastard.
Brenda watched as Jane ran into the water and yelled something to a boy named
Danny Richards. She didn’t know whether Jane’s mother would’ve actually taken the girl home, but it did seem as if Jane didn’t want to stick around and find out. I wouldn’t even bring the whiny girl, Brenda thought, which made her remember her own lost child, the image of a dashed possibility always close to the surface, and Brenda frowned even more because she knew she was a liar. There was a time in her marriage when she fervently believed this surprise baby could’ve saved her, and that her husband could’ve changed if he only held a tiny baby in his arms, focus on something good and pure for once — she knew this was a ridiculous thought. If her baby had lived she would’ve taken her everywhere and she’d never send her away with an imperious flick of the wrist.
The mother readjusted her sunglasses on her nose and then lowered her bikini top an inch, giving anyone trudging by in the sand a tantalizing view. Brenda envied the
woman’s body. It was what her magazines called sumptuous and glandularly flawless.

Justin Bog, first and foremost, grew up a voracious reader, movie fanatic, and music audiophile. Justin always carried a stack of library books and collected way too many comic books from his local Ohio small-town drugstore. More than one teacher scolded Justin to put his "suspect" reading materials away and join the class. Justin began to make up stories of his own, using an old typewriter he found in the attic.

Growing up in the 70s, Stephen King was about to publish his first novel and John Updike had only published the first of his Rabbit books. Along with so many cinema buffs, I witnessed the huge change in the way movies were distributed — from artistic, Director-driven films backed by huge studios to the dawn of the Blockbuster and popcorn summer films, like Jaws, Rocky, and Star Wars. I was drawn to the music of these decades as well,” says Bog.

So it comes as no surprise that Justin pursued an English Degree at the University of Michigan, followed by Film and Music Appreciation classes -- finally graduating from Bowling Green State University with an MFA in Fiction Writing. After teaching creative writing, Justin began apprenticing in a number of bookstores and editing fiction for a midwestern journal. Justin ended up on the management team at Chapter One Bookstore in the Sun Valley resort area for a decade, offering book recommendations to its local celebrities, skiing fanatics, and tourists. Currently residing in the San Juan Islands just north of Seattle, Justin has the opportunity to focus on his own novels and short stories, while contributing commentary and reviews of Pop Culture. Justin continues to engage his lifelong passion for writing in combination with his curious mindset as the Senior Contributor and Editor at
In Classic Style.
Publisher - Convenient Integration
Release Date - May 8, 2012
Website - www.justinbog.com
Purchase Link - Amazon

June 28 - Reviewed at The Story of a Girl...
July 2 - Guest Blogging at AZ Publishing Services
July 6 - Interviewed at Mass Musings
July 9 - Guest Blogging at From The TBR Pile
July 13 - Reviewed at B00k R3vi3ws
July 16 - Interviewed at Reviews & Interviews
July 18 - Reviewed & Interviewed at A Book Lover's Library
July 18 - Interviewed at Brenda & Steve's BlogJuly 20 - Interviewed at Unnecessary Musings


JustinBog said...

Hi BK, and thank you very much for hosting today. I loved writing about the secrets characters keep, and sometimes reveal. And I thank you for sharing. Best to you and yours. Justin

RachelintheOC said...

What a great insight into your characters, Justin! I adore your book and love everything you write. We're so lucky to have this book to turn to again and again.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear about other authors who get so wrapped up in their own characters that you start to have trouble distinguishing between their truth and your own. I'm not the only one!!!

Eden Baylee said...

I loved this book and the intricate characterization in each story.

Great tour so far, Justin.


Brandy Walker said...

Thanks for sharing your process and thoughts as a writer. The part on "revealing secrets" was particularly educational and eye opening for me!

M. E. Franco said...

Loved the excerpt. I have Sandcastles on my reader and cannot wait to get to it!

JustinBog said...

thank you, rachel, lorca, eden, brandy, and M.E. for stopping by BK's site and leaving a comment on the power of secrets in fiction. I hope you keep writing, keeping, and revealing your characters' own secrets. best always, Justin

Sugarbeat said...

Hi Justin and BK!
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I love reading what you write! This post was interesting for me to read as a reader - something that I experience when reading a book, but don't really think about.

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