The Book Cometh… a few words about Blood a Cold Blue

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Irish writer, James Claffey’s, collection of short fiction, Blood a Cold Blue, spans the distance between his Irish roots in Dublin and his present life on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, California. Ronlyn Domingue, author of The Map Maker’s War, and The Mercy of Thin Air, says Blood a Cold Blue, “spans the distance of continents and the gulf between memories. At times beautifully surreal then painfully stark, his stories reach into those parts of us that long to be gathered and made whole again.” These stories are filled with characters struggling with the terrible beauty of living in complicated times, trying all the while to navigate the choppy waters of love, loss, and despair.

Claffey draws on the natural world around him for inspiration, whether it be the red earth of New Mexico, or the paved streets of his suburban Dublin childhood. Connotation Press editor, Meg Tuite says, “Blood a Cold Blue is fueled by a masterful writer; powerful, unforgettable and mesmerizing.” His eye for detail infuses his writing with a depth and texture that turns prose into painting, and creates stark, surreal narratives filled with snakes, hawks, owls, and in some instances even tapeworms. Living on an avocado ranch, surrounded by trees, visited by coyotes, bears, and other animals, his writing is informed by the landscape of coastal California as much as it is by the churches, houses, and citizens of Dublin.

The stories in Blood a Cold Blue combine stark Irish reality and gorgeous poetic surrealism in short, tight mini-narratives that display beautiful imagery. Many have already been published in various literary magazines, and are, according to Chicago writer, Ben Tanzer, “infused with… rhythm and rot, doing things with words that I’ve never seen before…”

What I Learned from my Breadloaf Rejection

  • Bears shit in avocado groves
  • Little girls like to pick their noses, too
  • Keen shoes develop a squeak of their own volition
  • Ants have a taste for blood
  • If I plant a magnolia tree this year I will be dead before it’s the size of the one on my daily dog walk
  • It takes a hell of a lot of time and effort for my wife to make 72 jars of jam
  • My mother’s memory is worryingly bad
  • Promoting a book is hard going
  • I still have a heavy topspin forehand
  • Having a toddler in the house means I couldn’t go to Breadloaf even if they accepted me

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This time of year brings a sense of regret as my former colleagues post Facebook messages about their preparations for the new school year. I’ve been out of the classroom since spring semester 2011, when I taught my last undergrad creative writing course at LSU. I had to fight to teach that class because the admin had me slated for a composition class and I wanted another writing workshop. In the end the creative writing course got assigned to me and I finished my time in grad school teaching what I love. Since returning to California, I’ve not been able to find another teaching job, and instead found work at the university in a non-academic role, surrounded by architects and project managers. The upside of my job is that I’m able to work early and leave at a reasonable time so I have time to spend with our daughter, Maisie, and cook dinner for the family every night. I also don’t bring work home with me, instead freeing up the evenings for writing, reading, promoting the book, and all those other pieces of the puzzle that matter to me.

Still, when I see the excitement in others as they ready for the new school year, the passion they put into their teaching craft, I do feel a little like the ghost at the feast, as my father used say. Choices made, life in Carpinteria on the avocado ranch, raising our daughter, and my son when he visits, is the trade-off we’ve made with career and money. If I wanted to teach I’d make the same choice as so many people I know, and move wherever the work dictates. But, that’s not our life, not our plan. Instead, we have a quality of life I never imagined. Life is not always about the large house, the fancy cars, the exterior trappings people sometimes (including myself) put so much stock in; rather, life is about sleeping with the windows open and listening to the great horned owls talk to each other. Life is swimming in the Pacific Ocean whenever we like. Life is our daughter pointing down the driveway and knowing that’s where grandma and granddad live. Life is writing in the evenings, in separate offices, and publishing our books with small presses, fully committed to the task of living engaged writing lives outside of the academy.

Tonight, I’ll put on a CD, open he novel manuscript to where I left off, and spin the story further. Maureen will be in her office doing the same with her own writing. Maisie will be asleep in her crib with ChiChi the monkey, Lambie, and her blanket. The waning gibbous moon will shine, the animals will crunch through through the undergrowth outside our window, and we’ll guess whether it’s rat, coyote, raccoon, owl, or bear. This is our chosen path, the compromise between chasing the cash and creating a lasting home. And as my friends and colleagues return to academia and the classroom, I shall send them good thoughts and raise a wine glass to their success. Then I’ll begin to write again, and who knows, down the unseen road, maybe I’ll land a gig at a low-residency program where I can indulge my passion for teaching.

Pre-order Blood a Cold Blue Direct from the Horse’s Mouth

Let me know if you want to pre-order Blood a Cold Blue directly from this site using PayPal. Simply click on the “Buy Blood a Cold Blue” button on the sidebar, and I’ll zip it to you in the mail as soon as the copies arrive at the avocado ranch. You’ll get a signed copy of this beautiful book, and a complimentary bookmark, too. The bookmark is beautiful, as you can see below:

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