Thursday, July 7, 2022

Book Blog Tour and Giveaway - Pictures of the Shark: Stories by Thomas H. McNeely

Welcome to my stop on the book blog tour for Pictures of the Shark by Thomas H. McNeely. This blog tour was organized by Lone Star Book Blog Tours. On my stop, I have info about the book as well as a thoughtful guest post by the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win an autographed copy of the book as well as a editorial critique of an excerpt. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: Pictures of the Shark: Stories
Author: Thomas H. McNeely
Publication Date: July 12th 2022
Print Length: 205 pages
Genre: Coming of Age Southern Fiction / Short Stories
A sudden snowfall in Houston reveals family secrets. A trip to Universal Studios to snap a picture of the shark from Jaws becomes a battle of wills between father and son. A midnight séance and the ghost of Janis Joplin conjure the mysteries of sex. A young boy’s pilgrimage to see Elvis Presley becomes a moment of transformation. A young woman discovers the responsibilities of talent and freedom.

Pictures of the Shark, by Houston native and Dobie Paisano award-winning author Thomas H. McNeely, traces a young man's coming of age and falling apart. From the rough and tumble of Houston's early seventies East End to the post-punk Texas bohemia of late eighties Austin, this novel in stories examines what happens when childhood trauma haunts adult lives.

McNeely’s brilliant stories are filled with delicious menace and heartbreaking hope.” - Pamela Painter, author of What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers and Fabrications: New and Selected Stories
In these gorgeously crafted interlinked stories, Thomas McNeely demonstrates once again an uncanny ability to illuminate the darkest emotional corners of his characters with a vision that is as tender and compassionate as it is unflinching.” - Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, author of Barefoot Dogs
With masterful prose, McNeely draws you down into emotional depths where your ambivalence and confusion show you at your most profoundly human. These stories hook you quickly and deeply and keep you even after they end."   - C.W. Smith, author of Steplings, Buffalo Nickel, and Understanding Women
Thomas H. McNeely is an Eastside Houston native. He has published short stories and nonfiction in The Atlantic, Texas Monthly, Ploughshares, and many other magazines and anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories and Algonquin Books’ Best of the South. His stories have been shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Award anthologies. He has received National Endowment for the Arts, Wallace Stegner, and MacDowell Colony fellowships for his fiction. His first book, Ghost Horse, won the Gival Press Novel Award and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize in Writing. He currently teaches in the Stanford Online Writing Studio and at Emerson College, Boston.

What It Means to Lose Where We Live
by Thomas McNeely

Since my mother passed away in 2016, I have been thinking about loss. The stories in Pictures of the Shark are my attempts to preserve moments in time from growing up in Texas in the seventies and eighties. Some of these attempts, like “Snow, Houston, 1974,” which uses the snowstorm of 1974 as a backdrop for what I hope is an intimate portrait of a family in crisis, is one of the more direct attempts. “No One’s Trash” takes an experience familiar to anyone living in Houston – riding out a hurricane without electricity – as an entry point to another aspect of daily life that now seems in scarce supply: close relationships with neighbors from very different class and economic backgrounds. “King Elvis” is centered on a specific memory – the Elvis’s 1975 concert at Hoffeinz Pavilion – which I hope brings back some flavor of that time and the importance of the King in it. “Little Deaths” and “Hester,” try to evoke the strangeness of Austin in the late eighties, when Richard Linklater’s Slacker seemed like a straightforward documentary.

Such attempts to evoke the past are always doomed to failure. I’m not saying Pictures of the Shark is a failure. I am proud of these stories, which I wrote over a period of twenty years. They represent my best work as a writer. But now I am thinking about how to convey the loss of these places and moments in time.

In Houston, the constant disappearance of landmarks of personal and civic history is a fact of life. The city changes at a dizzying pace. When I go back to visit, I find the changes profoundly disorienting. I have asked friends and relatives who still live there if they feel the same way. Some say that something fundamental has shifted about life in the city. But mostly, they just shrug it off. As my brother says, “Everything’s for sale here. That’s just the way it is.” Perhaps I am being too sensitive. The ability to surf this constant change is part of what it means to be a Houstonian.

I do think changes of a different kind are having a different effect on life in the city. I happened to visit a few days after Hurricane Harvey, when swaths of the city were still without power. No one could remember what it was like to go to work. No one seemed to know what day of the week it was, let alone what time of day. The devastation of the Bolivar Peninsula, where my uncle built a beach house in the fifties, and which was affordable enough for middle class families to build vacation homes and for a whole working class community to live, was another traumatic erasure, not only of that physical space but also of a way of life.

It’s hard to know what this kind of shell shock will mean for our sense of our own histories and communities and what the personal and political consequences will be. In my new work, I hope that I can capture just a glimpse of what it feels like.
Two Winners: an autographed copy of Pictures of the Shark: Stories by Thomas H. McNeely
Two Winners: an autographed copy of Pictures of the Shark: Stories by Thomas H. McNeely and an editorial critique of an excerpt (up to 20 pages) from an unpublished short story or novel.
(US only)
(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prizes. The author, Thomas H. McNeely, assumes all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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  1. Wow. This is some thought-provoking stuff. Love this author's writing and look forward to reading the book. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I was just in my hometown yesterday. There has been a lot of change in the seven years since I lived and worked there, and the disorientation the author mentioned above is real.

  3. It seems mysterious with a ghost haunting and the history of a changing landscape.