Ronlyn Domingue official author photoYou’re writing a trilogy which can be read “out of order.” How did that happen?

I didn’t intend to write a trilogy at all. I expected my second book to be one huge sprawling novel, but it morphed into something even bigger. A subplot about a female mapmaker, exiled for treason, took on a life of its own and became the trilogy’s first book, The Mapmaker’s War. The rest of the story grew so much that it split into two.

Ronlyn Domingue official author photoYour second novel is The Mapmaker’s War: A Legend. What’s your elevator pitch?

Margaret Atwood meets Beowulf.

 

So what’s it about?

A mapmaker, exiled for treason, who must come to terms with the home and children she left behind. It’s an exploration of good and evil and the choices that lie between. There’s adventure involved—a quest, of course, to find a dragon—and war and peace and love and betrayal. It’s told in the spirit of legends, like Beowulf, an account of a remarkable person’s life and deeds. However, unlike old tales of this kind, Aoife (pronounced ee-fah) tells her own story—and her own truth.

 

Mapmaker's War Final Cover book jacketTRANSLATOR’S NOTE

This narrative is an exceptional rarity. The source language scarcely has been heard spoken outside its cultural borders. Until the acquisition of this work, the presumption was that no writing system existed for the language. In remarkable condition despite its age, the handwritten manuscript is not only one of the earliest known autobiographies but also one of the first attributed to a woman.

The author’s rhetorical structure defies the conventions of any period; she addresses herself throughout and appears to be her own audience. Further, while matters of war and society are so often the domain of chroniclers, historians, and philosophers, this author offers a concurrent, heretofore unknown representation of past events through the story of a participant and a survivor.

Simplified pronunciations of several proper names are as follows. Aoife [ee-fah]; Ciaran [keer-ahn]; Wyl [will]; Aza [ah-zah]; Edik [ed-ick]; Leit [lite]; Wei [why]; and Makha [mahk-ah].

—S. Riven

We’re proud to announce the publication of The Beautiful Anthology, edited by Elizabeth Collins, now available in trade paperback from TNB Books, the official imprint of The Nervous Breakdown.

The Beautiful Anthology can be purchased at Amazon.  To order your copy, please click right here.  (Note:  in the coming days, TBA will be available via other retailers like Powell’s and BN.com.  Ebook editions are also forthcoming.)

Mr. Jack sat under the hanging light at the kitchen table with an ashtray at one hand, a book under the other, and a cup of coffee in between. His casual posture made him look shorter than he was. Sometimes, he braced his elbow on the back of the chair and dwarfed a novel in the palm of his hand. His dark, wooly eyebrows straightened in concentration, sometimes lifting as he took a drag of his cigarette. From my place in the living room, near a lamp with a book on my lap, I could barely whiff his Marlboro. That’s what my dad had smoked before he quit cold turkey. But Mr. Jack and my father smelled alike anyway, that humid smoky scent of the Intracostal base where they both waited to fly helicopters to offshore oil rigs.

The last time I drove past the apartments on North 5th, their efficient practicality had been scrubbed up a bit. A nice little fence marked the front entrance. The sidewalk that led into the U-shaped courtyard had healthy plants on both sides. The casement windows had been replaced. Someone had finally taken pride in the boxy old place, built in 1948 to provide post-war housing.

The world is green, grass in full fall five o’clock shadow, and I stand in the middle of it. My hands cradle two pecans. There are more barely hidden in the verdant whiskers. Nearby, I may have a pile of them or a bowl full. Now, I have only the two—perfect brown ellipses flecked with black. The nuts warm quickly in my touch, the dust of their abandoned husks bitter and drying as alum. I hold the pecans. We are poetry, a song of praise. This is my first conscious memory.

I am two years old.

And I am sacred.

river praying for strangers

Read one of River Jordan’s four novels, and her first memoir is no surprise. Spend a few minutes in her company, and it seems inevitable. She’s a person of depth and gentleness, a warm spirit who knows the power of words—spoken, written, or uttered in silence.

Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit was a resolution before it was a book. At the end of 2008, she knew her two sons—her only children—would be deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In that quiet way ideas come upon all of us at times, River received her resolution for 2009. She was to pray for a stranger every day. This would be her way to focus on matters other than fear and worry.

Encouraged by her husband to keep notes, River chronicled her encounters with strangers. She shares the stories of some of them, most who received her offer with gratitude. During that year, she learned about the connections we all share as human beings and what a gift it can be to one’s self to reach out.

I’m writing my second novel by hand. In pencil, in large sketch notebooks with no lines. Or, for another part, in purple ink on letterpress-worthy paper, torn, folded, and stacked into signatures with my own little hands. When the book decided—yes, you read that correctly—that’s how it wished to be done, I balked. Seriously? With the glorious technology now available? I’m grateful it didn’t require me to use the pen and ink set I have stored in my credenza.

Yet before it made that assertion, I was writing notes by hand. In pencil, standard graphite as well as colored, for variety and emphasis. The official notebook launched October 23, 2006. It includes snippets and quotes from round after round of research, idea after idea that popped into my head, and copious ramblings, fits, furies, and epiphanies. To date, it exceeds 1,000 pages.

final_merm_cover

Carolyn Turgeon and I met in a rural, rainy corner of East Texas in January 2007. We were surrounded by tiara-wearing, book-sharing Pulpwood Queens. A surreal lovefest of words if I ever saw one. That’s how I got a copy of her debut novel, Rain Village. Whimsical and heartbreaking, the book convinced me that she’d be a writer I’d follow.


RONLYN DOMINGUE is the author of the acclaimed novel The Mercy of Thin Air and the owner of one of the most mispronounced surnames in TNB Nation (we’re pretty sure it sounds like meringue).


Said novel, a Borders Original Voices Award Finalist that was acquired by eleven — count ’em, eleven — countries, is held in high esteem by pretty much everyone…except the geniuses at the New York Times.


Her writing has appeared in New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, New Delta Review, The Independent (UK), and, most recently, Shambhala Sun.  This last publication seems an ideal fit for her, given her love of the beauty of nature and her hatred of war.


She loves insects and leaves…and also football and Rush (we imagine “The Trees” must be a favorite of their songs).


She learned a lot from being a writing coach to a man on death row…so much that she wrote a four-part series on the exchange.


Her artistic skill goes beyond pen and paper…check out her blue doll, What Promise Was Broken.


She was also a reluctant beauty pageant contestant.


And did we mention Rush?




My 90-something-year-old neighbor is almost blind. She might still see the shapes of trees and the color of them in full leaf. She might even see the blanket of the spent ones, assuming she let them pile up. She doesn’t.

Her yard man comes nearly every weekend with his trailer loaded with equipment. In December, the neighborhood trees hung on to half of their leaves—the drop is late in the South—but the ones that had fallen on her lawn met with a 200 mph windstorm. A relentless, two-hour onslaught.

The bank’s assistant manager approached me with a friendly smile and an immaculate suit. Charles looked his part—competent, precise, rational. He also looked younger than I am, much younger, but appearances are tricky. He asked why I’d come in. I explained I needed to shift some money around to keep it liquid. I was a writer who dipped into savings and was contemplating a move to another state.

Tante Nan made ragdolls by hand. She lived on a family farm in the country, near sugar cane fields. She once had been busy outdoors, a self-sufficient wife and mother with eggs to gather, animals to slaughter, and crops to tend. My great-great aunt was elderly when she sat down with fabric and thread to create the toys.

I flew from Miami to New Orleans last weekend. There is a gallery there showing some of my paintings and I wanted to go to the opening.  Victor came along because he really likes the food in New Orleans.

At the same time as the opening in New Orleans, there was a huge on-line auction of outsider art.  We had previously sent in some bids, but you could also bid live, on-line, with the people on the floor who were actually physically at the auction.   Before we left the hotel for lunch, we bid on a wax replica of Tiny Tim from the Barnum and Bailey Circus.  He was around about three feet tall and wore a little suit, complete with bow tie.  It appeared that we won him and we were ecstatic.




We walked to meet Ronlyn Domingue and Todd for lunch at Galatoire’s.  I had Victor practice their names.  By the time they came, he had it down as Toddlynn and Ron, having gone through many other permutations. (One was Scrodlynn and Dodd.  You get the picture.  I really can’t take him anywhere.)

When they arrived, they were just so young and happy. It lifts your spirits to be around people like them.  They told us that they heard that only the hoi-polloi are given seats upstairs, so we were relieved to be seated downstairs with the hoity-toity people.  Oh, and they were genuinely impressed that we now owned the three-foot wax figure of Tiny Tim in a suit!

I learned that I had been mispronouncing Ronlyn’s name forever.  I was saying  “Dominique” as though it were French, but it actually is Domingue which rhymes with Meringue, the dessert, (not the dance.) Victor is not the most patient photographer.  Here is a picture he took of Ronlyn and me:



When we got back to the hotel we got back on the auction web site. We then won a seven-foot tall, three- foot wide wooden door painted by Molly Proctor.




We were really doing well.  Then we bid on something and the bid came up green and then it said that we won the item, also in green.  Then we realized that if someone else on line clicks the next bid on his computer a fraction of a second before you do, they win the item.

Tiny Tim didn’t come up green.  Molly Proctor’s enormous door didn’t come up green.  We hadn’t won them.

Bummer.

But now we knew the rules.  Coming up soon was a repulsive pair of wooden carved figures: one of a crouching naked man and a matching one of a woman with three breasts and, um, a hoo-ha.  I really didn’t want this item, but Victor really did and he promised to put it somewhere where I’d never see it.

When the picture came on we were ready to click to raise our bid if we had to, but nothing happened for a while and then they said they couldn’t find the figures and went on to the next item.

Well, after losing Tiny Tim and a seven-foot wooden door, we were livid.  Someone had actually stolen those two repulsive wooden statues!

That evening we flagged a cab to take us to St. Claude near Spain.  It’s just Southwest of Treme, made popular to the rest of the country by the recent TV show by that name.  The Gallery was a madhouse.  Andy Antippas is the owner of the Gallery and I think he’s always been in New Orleans.  The show was very eclectic and wonderful. The gallery was filled to bursting with interesting pieces of art.  Some pieces were beautiful, some were shocking, some were kind of nasty; there was something there for every taste.

There were so many fascinating people there of all ages, each with his own idea of appropriate dress.  Some of the attendees had piercings and oddly shaved hair, and others looked like ordinary businessmen and women.  It was really fun to be there among all of them.  The weather was perfect.  I felt good seeing some of my paintings lined up on their very own wall.

(This is the web site for it:  http://www.barristersgallery.com/
in case any of you feel like buying three creepy weird paintings.)



It had been a wonderful weekend.  The weather forecast called for rain, but it hadn’t begun yet. This was a good thing because the taxi taking us back to the airport only had one windshield wiper, and it was on the passenger side, and that lone wiper didn’t come near to touching the windshield, it just shook in the wind as though it had taxi windshield wiper Parkinson’s.

A few days after we got home, we got an invoice for the Molly Proctor door.  Victor forgot that he had previously sent in a bid for it, so we were bidding against ourselves!  (HA!)  Pretty soon an enormous door will arrive that will have the power to make me smile every time I look at it.