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Manisses


Manisses by Steven R. Porter

If you want to get technical, summer ends on September 21 each year. Therefore, my new summer novel Manisses is only a few weeks late…. so stop complaining.

“Manisses” is a Narragansett Indian term meaning “island of the little god” and refers to the island we all know and love now as Block Island. (For all you foreigners, Block Island lies just a few miles off the southern Rhode Island coastline.) Although the book’s setting is fictional, I draw on many of Block Island’s legends and true history to bring you the story of the allegedly clairvoyant Clement Bradford, his family, a missing child, and a strange little doll named Otto.

The inspiration for this novel came from many sources, but the setting was selected after I visited the island myself last year. Block Island might be the most historic place you have never heard of, and has played a supporting role in almost every major historic moment our country has experienced. Even most locals aren’t aware of the island’s significance. It made for an ideal setting.

This novel is my second — the first being Confessions of the Meek and the Valiant. Response to my first novel was so overwhelming I couldn’t wait to try it again. Writing fiction is a blast. The book is available in paperback now from Amazon, and in most e-book formats around the web. It will be in bookstores soon. Enjoy!

Manisses
1-47835-480-1
Paperback: $17.00
e-book: $4.99

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Literary Illusions


Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores

Slow Death of a Salesman

In April, author Jen Campbell released a book in the U.K. entitled, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores. It is based on her firsthand experiences as a bookseller in independent bookshops in North London and Edinburgh.

Anyone familiar with my background knows that back in the eighties and nineties, I spent many a day patrolling the perilous, shark-infested aisles of bookshops around New England in a variety of roles with the defunct Lauriat’s Bookstore chain.  Through those years, I kept a notebook that chronicled many of the half-witted, stupid, inane, crazy and downright mind-boggling requests customers would fire at us each day. Those notes, sadly, were tossed into the dumpster of retail antiquity many moons ago.

It would not be fair to say that this book was my idea first. (Though, I’ll take the credit if anyone wants to give it to me.) In truth, several of my bookselling associates proposed the very same thing — and we enjoyed one-upping each other with tales of stupid, much the same way, I would imagine, a bunch of grizzled North Shore fishermen might compare their day’s biggest catch. We all had the idea and chance to write this book first and we all blew it. Shame on us.

Lauriat's Bookstores

Shopping Mauled

Two weeks ago, The Overlook Press put out a call to U.S. booksellers asking for submissions for an American edition of Weird Things… due this fall. It got me reminiscing, and I was able to recover several anecdotes from deep within the recesses of my brain — funny how it also starts coming back to y0u. (To paraphrase Woody Allen, my brain is one of my favorite organs.) Below, I have listed those I submitted to The Overlook Press for inclusion in the new edition. Maybe they will see print, maybe not. Either way, sadly, I can personally guarantee they all happened. And there were witnesses.

———-

CUSTOMER — My daughter needs a book for school. I think it starts with the letter “S.”
ME — Hmmm. Hard to say. There are so many.
CUSTOMER — I know. I’m sorry. But the teacher said every bookstore would have it.
ME — Well, how about this one here by Edward Rutherford. It’s called Sarum and just came  out last week in paperback. It’s on the bestsellers list.
CUSTOMER — (Puzzled) No. She’s only in the 8th grade. This looks too old for her. And I think the book had something to do with dinosaurs.
ME —  Our dinosaur books are over here, but I don’t have one that starts with the letter “S.”
CUSTOMER — Oh wait… I think I wrote it down. (Rummages through handbag) Yes! Here it is! It’s  called SaurusThe- Saurus.

———-

CUSTOMER — Do you have Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Hound?

———-

CUSTOMER — Where are your dinosaur books?
ME — Right over here, ma’am.
CUSTOMER — These are awful. They are all full of paintings and drawings. Where are the ones with the photographs?

———-

CUSTOMER — Can you help me? This is my son’s reading list for school. Where would I find these?
ME — There are 20 books on the list. And they are in several sections throughout the store.
CUSTOMER — Is there any way you could gather them together so I can decide which one to buy?
ME — Sure…
ME — (After spending 10 minutes running around the store.) Here are all the books from the list, ma’am.
CUSTOMER — Thank you so much. (Lines the books across the counter.) My son doesn’t like to read.  So I’ll take this one — it’s the thinnest.

_________

CUSTOMER — Do they make Cliff’s Notes for this video?

__________

CUSTOMER — Can you direct me to the blue books?
ME — I’m sorry, we don’t have them arranged by color. Do you know the title?
CUSTOMER —  Oh, I don’t care about the title. I just remodeled my bathroom and I need it to match.

__________

ME — I’m sorry, we don’t have this book in stock. Can I order a copy for you?
CUSTOMER — I need it right away. Could you call the Barnes & Noble across the street for me and see if they have it?
ME — Ma’am, they are our competitor.
CUSTOMER — I understand. When you call, just don’t tell them who you are.

__________

CUSTOMER — Thank goodness! I walked all over the mall looking for this bookstore!
ME — Well, welcome to the store! I’m glad you found us. Were you looking for a particular title today?
CUSTOMER — Oh, I don’t read. (unbuttoning her blouse.) I just need a quiet place to breastfeed my baby.

__________

CUSTOMER — The recipe for chow mein in this book was too salty. Do you have one with less soy sauce?

__________

CUSTOMER —  I need a very specific repair manual for Evinrude outboard motors.
ME — I’m sorry sir, but it looks like that book is out of print.
CUSTOMER — If you were a good bookstore, you’d just call the publisher and have them print one for me.

——–

CUSTOMER — Where do you keep the true fiction?

———

ME — (Phone rings) Good morning, this is Lauriat’s Books.
CUSTOMER — Hello. Do you have Sidney Sheldon’s Memories of Midnight in stock?
ME — Yes ma’am, we do. I have one right here.
CUSTOMER — Oh that’s great. I misplaced my copy and it’s snowing. Could you just read the last chapter over the phone? I can’t wait to find out how it all comes out.

———-

CUSTOMER — I simply refuse to pay for the whole cookbook if I’m only going to use one recipe.

———-

CUSTOMER — I’d like to return this book by Stephen King. I read the whole thing and I wasn’t scared once.

———-

CUSTOMER — Do you have 1984 by George Orwell?
ME — Yes we do. It’s right over here.
CUSTOMER — Have you read it?
ME — Yes I have. In fact, it’s one of my favorite books.
CUSTOMER — That’s great. Could you summarize it quickly for me then? My exam is in an hour.

———-

CUSTOMER —  Excuse me, are you hiring?
ME — Yes. We are looking for a part-time bookseller.
CUSTOMER — Great! How do I apply? I need a quiet place to work where nobody bothers me and I can get my homework done.  This place looks perfect.

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The Kanc – a short story


My new short story available now!

Good news!

My new novel, Manisses, is still on schedule for a summertime release. With a little luck and if the wind remains to my back, it will be ready as promised.

But in the meantime, here is a short story I sketched out years ago. It was inspired by a trip I took along The Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire in a snowstorm, late for a meeting. I was convinced that road was out to get me.

The story is only 6,000 words long and has a significant historical element to it. It is only .99 cents in e-book form.

It is available for Nook and also available for Kindle.

Thank you and enjoy!

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You Look Great! Are You Sick?


Steven R. PorterI lost one hundred pounds. Intentionally. On purpose. I am not dying of any horrible diseases. If you don’t believe me, you can read the story in the Providence Journal, because we know they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true. (Oops, sorry, no you can’t do that anymore.  You have to pay for an unprintable, unreadable, PDF, e-version now. So go to the library.)

My inclusion in the story, which was mostly coincidence, was part of a P.R. feature they were doing on the National Weight Control Registry, for whom I once filled out a survey.  At some point, I accidentally checked-off that I would be willing to speak to reporters. I didn’t know the ProJo had any of those left.

I was also contacted by Roy Wallack, a journalist, exercise guru, and contributor on fitness to the Los Angeles Times. He is working on a book on weight loss, and shared some interesting conclusions of his own with me, based on a recent Harvard University study.

It took two years, but now, it seems everyone wants to know how I did it. It was actually much easier than I thought it would be. So people will stop asking, here is some advice you, too, can follow to lose your own 100 pounds.

Step 1 — Do not follow my advice. I am not a doctor, I have never played one on TV and what I know about medicine I learned from the Internet and those exploitative shows about conjoined twins on The Learning Channel. I have a primary care physician at the moment  who I like, but the last one treated me with a backpack full of questionable pharmaceuticals, soaked my insurance company, then dumped me and his practice to open a weight-loss clinic. I am medically ignorant, yet abashed by the irony.

Eric Cartman

I am not fat. I am big boned.

Step 2 — Gain 100 pounds — You can’t lose what you don’t have, and if you only weigh 150 pounds to start, this will likely kill you, which may not be a good thing, unless you are that ass who cut me off near Route 37 in Garden City last week. Go eat some lettuce, you scrawny, emaciated  bastard! Gaining 100 pounds can be an enjoyable hobby  — I once polished-off  48 oz’s of prime rib at Austin’s Steakhouse in Albuquerque, and was rewarded by the restaurant with a free dessert — and the dessert was so good, I ate my wife’s, too. Statistically, the weight I lost is equivalent to that of an entire European supermodel (not one of those cute, hair-blowing-in-the-wind, aloof-looking ones, but one of those skanky, sunken-eyed, heroin chic ones). My personal weight gain occurred gradually, 4 or 5 pounds per year  across 25 years. Those who see me every day barely noticed the change. Being 6 ‘4″, I was often told I “carried it well.” And I now know that “carried it well” is a euphemism for “holy crap, you’re fat.”

Step 3 — Eat Less — Don’t put so much food in your mouth.

Step 4 — Don’t Worry About the Holidays. I learned that there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. So if you blame those high-calorie Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners as the reason you gained 100 pounds, put on your magic hat and polish off a few more pies, Frosty. I have learned that weight loss and maintenance are about the other 1,000 meals you eat the rest of the year, and whether you have good, daily, balanced eating habits. So instead, put down the Diet Coke and enjoy the eggnog,  then go home and throw away the bag of Ruffles and boxes of Reese’s Pieces hidden in the broom closet.

Step 5 — Run around More. Exercise sucks. In New England, it’s either too cold or too hot to be outdoors, and since no one knows how to drive anyway, every walking or running activity is abound with the stench of danger, fear, doom and Johnston’s Central Landfill. (Little known fact: Hitler could have used the Central Landfill to help build his master race! Just ask our local State Rep. Mike Chippendale…)

Johnston's Central Landfill: Creating a fuhror.

And if you elect to frequent the local gyms, you are more than likely going to bring home  athlete’s foot, head lice, a beefy same-sex date, or all three.  But exercise is a critical and key ingredient in the weight loss brew… but not for reasons you might think.

That recent study out of Harvard University I mentioned suggests that the reason exercise is important as a component of weight loss has little to do with calorie-burning or the alleged euphoric feeling that the compulsive exercise addicts claim (with a straight face) you get from working out. The vast majority of those surveyed who maintained significant weight loss relied on some sort of consistent exercise program. And the most popular? Walking! But wouldn’t you need to walk half way around the planet to burn that many calories? Well it seems that regular, repetitive exercise creates a physiological change in the part of the brain that is responsible for executive function. Simply put, exercising may improve concentration and determination, as an unexpected side effect, not only helping you stay on a calorie-reduction program, but also helping you accomplish great things, start businesses, or finish life-long projects… like writing the Great American Novel.

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Dumps, Bumps & Mugwumps


Working two full-time jobs can take a toll on one’s free time, health, family, household chores — and more importantly — one’s blog. I can’t believe it’s been over two months since my last update, so  to clean out the filing cabinet and get myself caught up, here comes a whole flock of mini blog posts. Ignore them one at a time, or all at once, at your leisure.

Buy Local RI

Shopping Maul

Buy Local — Why do I seem to be the only one not to get the buy local campaigns? On its face, they sound like a great idea — why spend my hard-earned dollar in Providence Place or on Amazon.com  if I can support one of the bustling three or four stores occasionally open right here in Chepachet! I get that part. But doesn’t “shop local” also mean that people from Worcester or Putnam will stop coming to Chepachet, and shop in their own obsolete, dreary downtowns?  The effort all  seems circular to me and represents a collective waste of energy  better focused on improving prices and service.

Things That Go Bump in the Night — An era ended quietly this Fall when The Town removed the speed bumps from the end of Absalona Hill Road near Route 44. No longer will residents be able to sheer off their mufflers and set their minivans onto their front grills as they speed through the countryside. The nearly invisible, badly-signed bumps have been the bane of commuters since they were installed, and we will now, sadly, have only our repair bills and memories to honor them.

Steven R. Porter

"Through tattered clothes, small vices do appear."

In the News — Eagle-eyed friends, relatives, and those who still pay attention to local TV news coverage may have caught a glimpse of yours truly on a number of local stations last week including Channels 11, 12, 10, 6 as well as www.GoLocalProv.com, rallying the cause of my new employer Big Brothers Big Sisters, who were recently victimized by the theft of bins and donations meant to fund mentoring programs for kids. Can there be any act more shameless than stealing from needy children? Perhaps not. But in the spirit of this season of shamelessness,  look for me to make another surprise, self-indulgent media appearance in the feature section of next Tuesday’s Providence Journal.

Oscar the Grouch

Trash Talking

Dumps — Is an unpopular “Pay As You Throw” trash program the inevitable result of a poorly operated transfer station, an irrelevant Town Council whose messages are ignored, an apathetic populace too lazy and self-indulgent to sort out their own bottles and cans, or perhaps all three? Despite the grumbling, evidence is clear that “Pay As You Throw” programs not only work but show dramatically positive results — and if you don’t like it, you can just dump your stuff over the border into the woods in Burrillville.

Chronic Town

It's the End of the World As We Know It

REM — In September, after 31 years together, REM announced it was disbanding. The news came as a shock to many who thought the band disbanded years ago. But no matter how irrelevant and uninspired their songs had become in the modern era, their influence on rock is permanent, and deserving of Rolling Stone Magazine once calling them the greatest rock band in the world. REM invented and defined the sound of music for my generation. So beware, that ear-splitting sound you hear in the middle of the night may not be the screeching mating call of the fisher cat after all, but might just be me with my guitar in my basement belting out one last cover of, What’s the Frequency Kenneth.

Rep. Mike Chippendale

Rep Chippendale: Dancing Around the Real Issue

Connecticut Junkies — A rash of serial break-ins in the Foster area in October inspired State Representative Mike Chippendale to alert his friends and constituents, via email,to be alert and lock their doors —  a bit of absolutely wise advice, of which my family has dutifully followed. However, the eyebrow-raising part of his message surprisingly identified the bad guys, “...when we see serial break-ins, it’s usually junkies from over the CT border…” Egad! Who knew all those old people driving down 395 to Foxwoods were heroin addicts! Considering Foster has had its own share of serious crime stories this year, and the recent and troubling raid in Chepachet that netted marijuana, cocaine and two semi-automatic pistols, Rep. Chippendale’s finger pointing at “them” and not “us” not only demonizes whole communities who are more than likely innocent, but also provides a false sense of security in our own communities where the real culprits may lie.

The War on Christmas

Out on a Limb — I have been baffled at the attention everyone is giving Governor Chafee’s big, dead evergreen at the Rhode Island State House. Rather than express my opinion on whether  to call it a “Holiday Tree” or a “Christmas Tree” I’ll say this. I know how hard it is to motivate people to volunteer, coach Little League, help at their schools or mentor a child in need. So when people who are enamored with their own self-righteousness are suddenly motivated to show up and rudely interrupt the Rhode Island Children’s Chorus with a protest-inspired rendition of Oh, Christmas Tree, I know, at least, what I want to call them.

The New Book — Many have asked, and yes, my new novel is underway! But it will not be a sequel to Confessions of the Meek and the Valiant. The new book is titled Manisses and if successful, I hope it will change how people view history and their role in it. But don’t worry, it won’t be some boring textbook — there will be Indians, pirates, spiritual channelers, shipwrecks, lobsters and lots of other fun stuff, too. I promise.

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Signature Moments


Association of Rhode Island Authors

Association of Rhode Island Authors

Come join me this Saturday and Sunday at the Johnston Apple Festival, along with Rhode Island authors Lynne Holden, Erin Whalen,  Jo-Anne DeGiacomo-Petrie and others, as we sign and sell copies of our new books. The special group signing is brought to you by the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA) — a recently organized collection of local writers interested in selling and promoting their works, and who have recognized that it is time that Rhode Island authors stand up and take their place in the state’s vibrant arts community. There are over 20 published RI authors who have voiced their support to the new organization.

The formation of ARIA is partly in response to the upheaval that is underway in the publishing world. It is difficult to explain why revenue from adult fiction sales (according to the New York Times) is up 8.8% the past three years, while companies like Borders are liquidated through the bankruptcy courts. The answer has something to do with the 300 year-old business model that doesn’t include little old ladies in retirement homes huddled around  Kindles. To make a long story short, power has shifted from the Publishers and Booksellers to the Writers and Readers.

Irish Soda Bread

Gaelic Breath

The Apple Festival will be held at Johnston Memorial Park on Saturday and Sunday (9/24 & 9/25) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. If you cannot attend, come see me at the Harmony Library next Wednesday, September 28 at 6:30 p.m. where I’ll be reading from Confessions of the Meek and the Valiant as part of the Harmony Library’s “New Authors Series.”  (NEWS UPDATE: Sources have confirmed that Dawn’s delicious Irish soda bread will be making an encore appearance.)

Tuesday night, Harmony’s own Lynne Holden read at the Harmony Library from her recently published memoir, The Pastor Has Gorgeous Legs. For those of you who missed it, shame on you. It was a treat.

One of the unexpected side effects of this new power shift? Many of these emerging, new works — once ignored or suppressed by the status quo — just happen to be pretty good.

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Making an Author You Can’t Refuse


I owe a tremendous thanks to Liz and her staff at Brown and Hopkins Country Store in Chepachet for allowing me, my wife, friends, book buyers and our rum pudding to invade and occupy her shop for our “Book Release Launch Party” on August 20th.

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If you were one of those who found something better to do on an 80 degree, sunny, summer afternoon, here’s what you missed (besides the chance to buy the next Great American Novel) —  rum pudding, rhubarb crumble, Panforte,  Gamberi e Fagioli, Insalata di Olive, Crema Formaggio all’Olio, Irish soda bread and much more.  All the Irish and Italian recipes were homemade (by Dawn) and were more interesting and popular than the novel’s author.

So if you still need a copy of Confessions of the Meek and the Valiant, Brown and Hopkins has them in stock, as does Amazon in both paperback and for download to your Kindle. And if you would prefer one signed and personalized, I will be doing several bookstore and library readings over the coming weeks, including Barnes & Noble in Warwick and Tatnuck Booksellers in Westborough, Mass. (near Worcester). My next event is at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13 at the Lincoln Public Library. The complete schedule is posted on my website, www.stevenporter.com.

Thank you again to everyone who came by and helped Dawn and I enjoy a great day!

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