Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

I haven't put up a post in quite a while, so thought I'd take a moment to wish everyone in cyberspace a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous 2008. God bless you and yours.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

USA Book News Short Story Finalists

Eight Dogs Named Jack is now listed live, along with the other finalists and winner in the short story category for 2007. Check it out by clicking the title or here:

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Bruise online magazine

I graduated from Northern Michigan University in 1984. One of the things I remember with fondness from my time there in the 80s, besides my six-pack abs (really!) and mullett, was a cat named Mark Shepherd. Mark was maybe the most laid-back dude in the world, perhaps challenged only by Spiccoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High or "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski. Anyway, in addition to having really cool surfer looks, Mark was a very talented artist and designer. I later found out he has had his work published in mags ranging from Esquire to Playboy. The man's work is solid. His magazine, The Bruise is available online. I really have no accurate way of describing the Bruise other than to say it's totally unique and visually arresting. But there's all kinds of images, and if you want a take on what's now in pop culture, The Bruise is the place. I've added it to my links, so check it out. You can even submit work for consideration.
Way to go Mark!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's A Guy Thing is hilarious

My buddy Scott Seegert's book, It's A Guy Thing, (Three Rivers Press) is a flippin' hilarious take on the goofy ideas us men come up with. There are over 70 actual patents in it, accompanied by the drawings that were submitted with the papers. The great thing about the book though is Seegert's witty, dry take on each "invention". Make no mistake, even though his tongue is planted in his cheek as he's commenting on the absurd nature of these "contributions to mankind," there's a trace of awe and envy in his voice as he describes Jack's No-Slip Hairpiece, or Albert's Helmet-Mounted Pistol. I'm not making that up and neither is he; you couldn't try to make this stuff up. It's a great gift for anyone who is a handyman, or better yet, thinks he is a handyman. Show Scott some love and buy his book for the inventor in your life. Click the title of the post to go to his Amazon page, or look for it at the bookstore in the humor section.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sports Inferno shows me some love...

Yesterday my publisher sent copies of the book to, in my humble opinion, two of the best sports guys in the D. Hosts of the formerly titled The Sports Inferno, Mike Valenti and Terry Foster's talk show is now called, well, Valenti & Foster (regular listeners know the station and show have went through myriad names since 1270 AM went simulcast-crazy with the switch to 97.1 FM). Of course, being the shameless promoter of my work that I am (it's dog-eat-dog out there, pun intended), I was angling to maybe get shown a little love from these two fine gentlemen (i.e., interview). Terry Foster is a well-respected sportswriter for the Detroit News, and Mike Valenti continues his meteoric rise as the most entertaining and energetic man on the local airwaves (he'll be national one day-heard it hear first). If you haven't listened to them, their show airs from 2-6 p.m. Mon-Fri. Mike, being Italian, seemed a receptive audience for the kinds of stories that are in my book. He's spoken at length of disobedient hunting dogs, pinky rings and chesty women, and who doesn't like that combination?

Anyhow, I received a really nice email from Mike, saying he got the books, and that he said he'd give me a shout out during the week. Also, that he ordered two copies for gifts, etc. Again, a real thrill for me that folks actually find it interesting and worthwhile enough to go through the process of ordering or buying it, let alone shelling out hard-earned dough for it. But then, as I'm driving to the optometrist, listening to him and Terry on the radio, he thanks me for the book, gives a nice little synopsis of what the stories are about, and tells the audience where the last two signings are! Needless to say, I was knocked out. I'm hoping to maybe get on their show for a short interview, though with the BLOCKBUSTER trade the Tigers just pulled off (YEE-HA!), that looks doubtful, at least this week.
Anyway, check them out. There's a link to the right to go to their home page. They are truly knowledgeable and entertaining.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Come out of the cold for the last two signings of the year

Hey out there. If you're looking to give a unique holiday gift this year, I've got a great suggestion. A gift card to Best Buy is always the schizzle. What did you think I was going to suggest? Anyway, I have my last two signings of the year coming up. I'll be at the Borders on Orchard Lake this Friday from 7-9 pm, and the following day, Saturday, from 2-4 at the Borders on the Hill in Grosse Pointe. The addresses for each is listed on my Appearances page (see link above). If you have a chance to stop by, just to say hello, I'd truly appreciate it as it's always nice to have bodies milling around, even if they're not purchasing. Thanks for all the continued support.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

No Country For Old Men is no pick-me-up

I was anxious to see the new Coen Brothers film, No Country For Old Men, especially after having read the Cormac McCarthy novel a couple years ago. I was anxious because I thought if anyone could somehow convey the sheer emotionless landscape the film takes place in, not just geographically (Texas) it would be the Coens. I just got back from the theater and ol' Ethan and Joel didn't disappoint. Javier Bardem in the role of Anton Churgar makes Hopkins' Hannibal Lechter seem like a pansy. The movie is probably almost too true to the novel, both in dialogue and scene. I'm actually surprised it's getting the wide rave reviews I've seen given its adherence to McCarthy's bleak prose (NOTE: The worst review I've read was from the Metro Times, whose reviewer gave it a B, but they hate all kinds of good stuff, so I don't really count them). The cinematography is sparse and raw, and there's absolutely no score to guide you along. You barely catch your breath when WHAM! more tension. A buddy of mine joined me tonight, and at one particularly grisly scene, with perfect comic timing, he whispered, "This ain't High School Musical, that's for sure!" Indeed, although given the bloodshed, Carrie comes to mind. Bardem's character is a psychopath that sticks to a strict code of his own ethics, and it becomes apparent that he will do everything necessary to stick to his word. This is really a guy's movie, and the other male actors, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin, give very good performances, though Jones plays a character we've seen before. This is not really a date movie, unless you're dating Eileen Wournos. Still, I give it an A-.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Friends make East Side signing enjoyable

Heading back to the East Side, albeit on "OSM" or Other Side of Mack, in this case, the side growing up I could only dream of, was really a great experience. The signing at the Barnes & Noble tonight was more than exciting, it was fulfilling. Don't get me wrong, I'm still THRILLED--nay, tickled--that anyone finds my stuff interesting enough to merit shelling out hard-earned bucks for it, but to take the time to come out specifically for me to sign it? That's not only humbling, but it's a great honor and a real thrill. I was able to meet a really nice woman named Ann Marie who had corresponded with me a few months ago. If you're reading this ANN Marie, it was brought to my attention that I added an "e" to your name that doesn't belong. My apologies. This was brought to my attention by another fine woman, also named ANNE Marie, who happens to be pals with the aforementioned A.M. Another couple folks came out, friends from the ad business. Tom Kozak, a talented artist and former art director from the Detroit Ad scene, wandered in and lent his support. It was great to catch up with him and hear that he and his wife have their own marketing/pr/art business and are doing great. Andy Ayrault, one of the funniest men I've ever been around, stopped by with his beautiful wife Kim and their 14 children. OK, I embellished; they have four kids--TWO SETS OF TWINS! And if you have ever seen Andy and Kim, they're like 7 foot tall, so collectively they have maybe 14 normal kids' worth of kids, if you know what I'm saying. My sisters Janet and Nancy came out as well as my bro-in-law, Paul. Always nice to have familial support. And lastly, my best friend growing up, Russ Beigas (see pic from summer), had a sixth sense that he'd be seeing me, and made the trip to Grosse Pointe. "Rusty" is one of the true great guys I've known in my life, and whenever we see each other, which is too infrequent, it's like we never miss a beat. I grew up mere miles from that bookstore, and it was a strange sensation being there with a guy I spent so much time with as a kid, playing baseball, riding bikes and endless hours drawing pictures. Even though he doesn't own an email address, I want to say, "Thanks Rusty. You're the greatest."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Barnes & Noble signing, Grosse Pointe Wednesday

Hey everyone. I'll be at the Barnes & Noble on Mack Ave tomorrow, from 6-8, signing only. If you're out that way, please stop by and say hello. Signings can be very lonely, at least for hacks like yours truly. So if you're looking for last minute holiday gifts for the 16+ loved one in your life, here's your chance. Or just come by and make fun of me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Detroit Noir worth losing sleep over

Sometimes I work way too late. Like until 2, or 3 am. Most of the time by the end of the week, all I want to do is check out at around 11 and sleep until 10 in the ayem.
Yeah, right.
What usually happens is I'm off to one of my girls' (or all three) swim meet, usually out of the house by 7 in the morning. So the thought of working all day coloring animatic frames then high-tailing it to Birmingham tonight for a 7 pm book reading wasn't at the top of the list of things to rejuvenate my weary bones. But man am I glad I went. I was able to meet two extremely talented authors who until this point were either voices on a telephone or email pals. They being Michael Zadoorian (he wrote the wonderful Second Hand) and Dorene O'Brien (she wrote Voices of the Lost and Found, among other things). The two of them, along with Roger K. Johnson (his story in Detroit Noir is Hey, Love) and Craig Bernier (his contribution to Noir is Migration)read excerpts of their stories. It was really exciting to hear four distinctly different voices express their vision of the city, and the people that inhabit it. There are many other stories in the book, from authors I've heard of and some I haven't, but what I find fascinating is that the two editors, E.J. Olson and John C. Hocking, had enough drive and vision to contact the Akashic folks (the publisher) and say, "Hey man, what's the deal? How can you have a noir series and not include the D?" They convinced Akashic that they were the two men to edit it, and we're all the richer for it. A book like this will inspire more fiction from local authors looking for an outlet. The readings were spirited, touching, funny and sad, sort of the feeling I get thinking of my old neighborhood on the city's East Side. I had my book signed by the four authors who read as well as the editors. It was also noteworthy that all the authors were students of WSU professor Christopher T. Leland, who was also in attendance. There was a great crowd, and I think everyone left feeling that it was an evening well spent. Dorene O'Brien, whose book I'm devouring right now, read an excerpt from her contribution, Honesty Above All Else. The stories from her collection of short stories are dark, startling and at times absolutely haunting, and seeing this woman and meeting her in person, it was hard to picture her putting those words on paper. I always find it amazing what disparate images can come from the soul of artists whose exteriors do not match their words. Mike read a touching and witty, The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit, with verve and the adman in him was just below the surface. Pick up the book and let me know what you think. Maybe if we're lucky, some of us will get a chance to submit to Detroit Noir, Volume 2. A special shout out to Andrew Brown, an author whose work fits perfectly into that setting. With a little luck and hard work, he'll probably be published nationally before Akashic decides to Call for Entries on DN II.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sunshine in November

I feel fortunate and blessed to be able to make a living doing something I love. After 20 years in commercial art & design sales, 18 of them at a leading Detroit creative studio, being employed as a staff artist, and having the chance to draw every day keeps me invigorated and aware of how important it is to take the gifts God gives us, even if we're not the best in our field. By using them every day, they become stronger, just like any muscle when we try to stay in shape (something I've struggled with since the onset of children). So even on a dreary day like today started out as, I feel alive and connected to the world, because that part of my soul that needs creativity feels sated. Hope all of you out there are making the effort to continue developing the gift within you that makes you unique. JB

Friday, November 9, 2007

The conundrum of bookstore support

I received an email from a friend and bookstore owner, Pamela Grath today, that offered an article that appeared in todays issue of Shelf Awareness, a newsletter for booksellers. It was somewhat scathing in reference to authors posting an Amazon link on their websites for their book, but no link to The article contained some comments from independent bookstores that offered various reasons why links to indies should also be on their website's home page. An overwhelming theme was to not only give consumers a choice as to where to spend their money, but also to highlight an obvious dilemma; why should we, as indies, prop up you authors and not get a little love in return? It got me thinking how confused I am as a just-published author. My publisher, Momenum Books, is a regional press out of Troy, Michigan. They've set me up with signings at both indie stores and chains such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, throughout the northwestern part of Michigan and the Detroit area. New to the game, I asked many times if I should direct people intrerested in buying the book to go to the chains, the indies or Amazon. The answer is always Amazon. This is because sales flow on the web, especially for a regional book (Eight Dogs Named Jack is available only in Michigan and parts of Ohio) attract the distributors to make bulk purchases from the publisher. What's even more confusing is that the indies oftentimes order their books from these same DISTRIBUTORS!
But I confess, that my homepage ( lacks links to indies. It's got the ol' Amazon logo right there, ready to be clicked on and direct folks outside of Michigan (that was my intent) to my Amazon page (currently plum full of 7 reviews). I do list Dog Ears as a favorite link, but that's on my bio page.
I will soon be making an adjustment to my home page. I am going to actively seek out the indies that carry my book and return the favor by posting their website links on my HP.
However, here's another interesting side-bar. I was recently fortunate enough to have a story from the book, Measure of a Man, exerpted in Traverse Magazine's November issue. The magazine has a 50-state subscribership, but primarily appeals to the upper northern part of the lower penninsula. So I was puzzled that a couple of indies up there refused to carry a display sign that reads, "As featured in Traverse Magazine." But the lack of support is not limited to the indies. There's the Borders by my house, less than 3 miles away, and that I have a signing at in November. My book is there on an "order-only" basis, yet the Borders on the East Side of the city featured my book prominently displayed next to some little-known thing titled, "Harry Potter and the something-something" (tongue totally wedged in cheek). People in my community that want to support me, and the local economy, by buying the book from a local bookstore (I know it's a chain, but a few indies don't stock my book) can't do so as readily as clicking on Amazon and getting it delivered to their door.
Man, all I'm trying to do is write stories and sell enough books to get the next one published. It gets to be crazy, confusing, and zaps the energy out of you.
Neal Rubin, a local columnist, told me upon a garbled congratulations for being published, that he'd love to have a book and not have to do any signings. I am totally down with what he means.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Support local authors: Buy Detroit Noir

A friend of mine, Pamela Grath, who owns Dog Ears Books and runs the Painted Horse Gallery in Northport (visit her blog at connected me with Dorene O'Brien. Dorene's compelling book of short stories (Voices of the Lost and Found-Wayne State University Press) is a must read for anyone who wants to discover an original voice from someone who knows how to lay it down. Dorene and another local author of note, Michael Zadoorian, known for his debut and excellent book, Second Hand (Dell) are included in Akashic Books' latest Noir series, Detroit Noir. Dorene mentioned in a recent email that some of the authors will be at local readings/signings in the area. I look forward to one coming soon at the Borders in Birmingham. Below is a description of Detroit Noir from the Amazon page:

Book Description
From crime stories in the classic hard-boiled style to the vividly experimental, from the determination of those risking everything to the desperation of those with nothing left to lose, Detroit Noir delivers unforgettable tales that capture the city's dark vitality.

Includes stories by: Joyce Carol Oates, Loren D. Estleman, Craig Holden, P.J. Parrish, Desiree Cooper, Nisi Shawl, M.L. Liebler, Craig Bernier, Joe Boland, Megan Abbott, Dorene O'Brien, Lolita Hernandez, Peter Markus, Roger K. Johnson, Michael Zadoorian, and E.J. Olsen.

Give it a try.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Eight Dogs a finalist in the USABookNews Awards

The publisher let me know that 8DNJ was selected as a finalist in the USABookNews Awards, Fiction, Short Story category. My first reaction to this news (after, "is there a cash prize?") was the old, "Any organization that would give me an award is one I wouldn't want to belong to." But then I got to thinking, even though I have absolutely no idea what the USABook News is, I'm sort of happy that they selected my book as a finalist. So I thank you USABN, wherever you are.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Drawing on experience

I've been drawing now at my "new job" for a few weeks. It's been great having been in sales for so many years, I've had to retrain my eye and my hand to be able to get in the flow. I'm fortunate in that I've never stopped drawing and painting while I was selling other people's art, but more importantly, I was blessed to have watched closely the techniques and professionalism that they carried to the job. I'm hoping that being able to be more hands-on-creative will make my days less stressful, even when the stress of deadlines looms over me. I was able to do some illustrations for Creative Director of TeamDetroit, Toby Barlow's website for his new book (US release Feb 08) Sharp Teeth. The book is about packs of werewolves living in LA. It's pretty cool, and the excerpts I read (the book's written in free verse) are edgy and risky.

Lately I've been reading some non-fiction. I finished Philip Carlo's true crime book, The Ice Man, which chronicles the life of Mafia contract killer, Richard Kuklinski. It's one of the most chilling profiles I've ever read. Kuklinski killed nearly 200 people with methods ranging from the traditional hit methods of guns and knives to the more obscure, such as cyanide, crossbows and rats. That's right, rats! He allegedly found a cave where hundreds lived and would put the mark in the cave with a video camera set up so the person who hired out the hit could witness the suffering. He was paid extra for the victim to suffer. It's fascinating stuff for anyone who likes reading about the dark underbelly of society, and that would be me.

Also, I'm rereading Into the Wild, the excellent accounting of Chris "Alex Supertramp" McCandless and his demise in the Alaskan wilderness' Stampede Trail. Aside from Krakauer's writing prowess, I'm intrigued by the fact that McCandless was able to do all the things he did while alone. That's always been a topic I've found enthralling; that people can sleep at night in desolate places without any human companionship, support, camaraderie. I personally think the kid comes off like a spoiled kid who couldn't appreciate all that he had, and who romanticized Jack London and Hemingway too much, though it's still a tragic story on many fronts. Namely for the pain his parents must've felt reading some of the things he said about them to his sister, Carine, in letters he sent to her.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Royal Oak Barnes & Noble Signing

I'll be at the Barnes & Noble on Main Street tomorrow, from 7-9, for a discussion and book signing. I'l read a few excerpts from selected stories, and then take any questions from the "audience". Hopefully an audience will constitute a group of three or more people, but you never know at these things. The November issue of Traverse Magazine came out today. They actually put my name on the cover! I was stunned to see it there. The first 4,200+ words of Measure of a Man are excerpted, and they built a widow page where their readership can finish the story. I feel honored and blessed that the people at Traverse thought enough of my story to feature it in their publication. I have Patty LaNoue Stearns to thank for showing my book and illustrations to the staff at Traverse, most notably Emily Tyra, who gave me so much consideration.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Tiger

I received a really wonderful email from a person I never met before. He's a lawyer from Ann Arbor that sent me some kind words regarding the fact that my book resonated with him. "Paul" grew up on the east side, on Chalmers where it hit the river. Among the many humbling things he pointed to within the stories of the book was his connecting the tone and content to a William Blake poem called, The Tiger. Paul referenced a scene in Mean Streets, one of the best Scorcese films that many folks who claim to love movies have never seen, where the owner of a bar shows DeNiro a tiger in a cage. The poem is beyond my intellect (hey, not hard to do, really) but the point Paul referenced a "fearful symmetry", i.e., the fact that beauty and terror live within close range to each other. Here's a sample:
William Blake

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

There's quite a bit more, and you can probably find it on the internet pretty easily. But here's the part Paul referenced that gave me a chill, because it's so close to the tension I try to build within most of my stories. Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving myself this kind of credit; that I can consciously paint with these exquisite and layered themes to build toward one underlayment of plot. That said, here's the part of the poem that feels like the true root:

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

That God (for those of us who believe in Him) can create such gentle creatures as the lamb and such terrifying creatures as the tiger, is the fearful symmetry of life in most big cities. Maybe the riot influenced much of my early perceptions of the situations that I experienced, and that my and my wife's families did. Either way, it's what excites me in literature and art.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Agent search is tough

One of the things people ask me at signings, is how did I get published. What was the process; Do you have an agent, etc. Lately I've been trying to get an agent to handle things because I don't want to wear that hat and try to write, too. It's difficult enough to sit down late at night and put stories down, transcribing them from that place in your brain onto paper before they're forgotten or diluted, without having to try and find a home for them. Even with a book in print, albeit a regional press, it's an uphill battle to try and get someone to rep you. Juggling kids and a day job, I've decided to not get too high, not get too low and try and enjoy the ride this book has been.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hey everyone. I shoud have started this sooner, but I had a blog on my website,, and figured that would suffice. Hopefully with this blog, people can communicate with me, and each other. My book, Eight Dogs Named Jack, has been out since early July, and I'm hoping this blog will increase the visibility of it, and help further my aspirations to be a writer.
Thanks for checking in. I hope to actively post things that I find relevant and entertaining. Please drop me a line.
Best regards,
Joe Borri