Monday, July 2, 2012

Author Influences with Justin Bog

Sandcastle and Other Stories
by Justin Bog


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.

Publisher - Convenient Integration
Release Date - May 8, 2012
Website -
Purchase Link - Amazon

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Author Influences by Justin Bog

I chose to subtitle my blog, A Writer's Life, and I began with a free Posterous blog in January of 2011 with a wintry photograph of a sunny afternoon, ice reflections across a pond. A few stories revised and placed there early, found little notice. I kept my head down and added a few poems and hooked up with the eMagazine In Classic Style as a pop culture correspondent, a fancy title for someone who has always loved entertainment, someone who would rather live in other people's created worlds than my own. At ICStyle I began to share my favorite films, music, and books. Not just the current work, but art that remains or should be rediscovered. Find and read The Cage by Audrey Schulman, Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, or Pork by Cris Freddi and you will also wonder why these books came out and didn't find a huge following. Rent the film Micmacs or Bound. Listen to Jim White's Drill A Hole In That Substrate and Tell Me What You See or Diane Birch's The Velveteen Age.

As a kid, I began to create my own worlds to escape to. Nothing too science fiction or fantasy either or too dipped in fantastical worlds, what others expected I would like to write. At a young age I enjoyed the frights of a double creature feature, the horror stories of Shirley Jackson, Thomas Tryon, Peter Straub, Joan Samson, John Farris, and Stephen King. I loved the book and film versions of Burnt Offerings, and how The Shining played off of that rich premise to much greater success.

I was in junior high when a classmate lent me her copy of Carrie. The first Stephen King novel I read, and it excited me to no end. Firing up my own writing engines, the masters of that day were a steep act to follow, and I loved every part of it and King's next books as well. I remember lugging the library's hardcover copy of The Stand to history class in 8th grade and trying to read it while the teacher spoke of the Civil War. Ripe beginnings for any writer, but I didn't write in the horror genre as a young adult writer. I also read John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Joy Williams, Shirley Jackson, Cris Freddi, Margaret Atwood, Rachel Ingalls, John Irving, T.C. Boyle, and Alexandre Dumas.

These writers' work became my constant go-to books, and I could fall into their imaginary worlds. I still remember reading Escapes: Stories, Taking Care, and Breaking and Entering by the wonderful writer, Joy Williams. She had an ease. Her characters surprised me as they discovered their fates. Same with the complete works of Raymond Carver and T.C. Boyle. I adore their short fiction.

Inspiration comes from so many places. Today, I am falling for the latest work of Haruki Murakami, a big, sprawling, inventive novel titled 1Q84. There's a simplicity to his language, even in translation, that covers up the fact that the story he tells is complex and thought-provoking. Jennifer Egan is a writing fiend. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray is a book that sticks in my head. 

I published eleven stories and several sections from my novels over the past year and a half on my blog (changing to Wordpress at the beginning of the year). One of the stories is a holiday short I decided to leave up there, Seducing Santa, to spur me on so that I write one for each new season. The next one is titled The Bracelet and will hit the blog in December. After a lot of encouragement from my writing group of friends, I decided to take ten of those eleven stories and form Sandcastle and Other Stories. Most of my favorite authors from way back in the day came out with short story collections first as an introduction -- some never even wrote novels. I loved that.

All ten tales work on their own but also as a whole. Psychology, conflict, thought patterns, fate, bind them. The voices of these characters spoke to me, and I fell for them, tried to write down what they wanted to reveal. A longer story I just completed, The Conversationalist, will be part of an eBook anthology this Summer, called Encounters, a group of tales centered around the subject of stalkers. My story is about a young man who never learned how to treat the women he dates, or himself, very well. This tale could've fit right into Sandcastle and Other Stories -- it has that internal drive I want my stories to have. I hope you enjoy all of the short stories, and I look forward to sharing many more with you over the coming years.

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.

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 fiancĂ© 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.


JustinBog said...

Patti, thank you very much for being a host stop on my Sandcastle and Other Stories virtual book tour. I hope your readers enjoy the tales as much as I did writing them. best to you, Justin

Rich Weatherly said...

Thanks for hosting this, Patti.
Justin, enjoyed your overview of Sandcastle and Other Stories!

M. E. Franco said...

Loved to see what authors, books, and films inspired you Justin. Learning something new with every stop on your blog tour! :)

Lorca Damon said...

I'm a huge music fan and that's where I get inspired in my writing. I might see a character or a setting on a film now and then, but I definitely have to treat myself to a new album or two when I start a project. Thanks for sharing your writing influences!

tmycann said...

Nice excerpt, Justin! Your literary taste, on the other hand... I'd prolly run screaming from the book if I had to read much Stephen King--and I suspect the others are much of his ilk. ;)
Atwood, though, I could read all day long...
Thanks for untangling your literary roots for us, in any case. :D

Jessica Kristie said...

Good stuff! Love hearing about others influences and what hurdles them forward. Thank you for sharing :)

Eden Baylee said...

I can see Stephen King figures prominently in your style - love the minimalist setup for fear. Also, Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is probably one of my all-time fave shorts. Saw a movie of that too - very scary.

Great work, Justin. Enjoying the tour.

JustinBog said...

Thank you very much, Rich, ME, Lorca, Tonya, Jessica, and Eden, for following me to Patti's wonderful blog book tour stop. Your support makes me zing.

Rachel Thompson said...

Wonderful profile, Justin. I'm so pleased to see you and others getting the word out about your wonderful book! I'm a huge fan. I

'm telling you, this book will win awards. Your writing is amazing.

Patti Hultstrand said...

Thank you everyone for supporting the authors who visit with us here.
Best of luck Justin on your book.

Brandy Walker said...

Thanks for sharing about your influences. It is always interesting to find out what writers have influenced a writer friend.