So far, every cent of the royalties from Fearsome Creatures of Florida has been donated to The Nature Conservancy in Florida! This is why you should buy more copies. It’s also good for you.
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Dear Fearsome Creatures fans,
I should have mentioned this a few months ago, but I have a new serial novel in progress at my blog site, www.johnhenryfleming.com. No creatures so far, but there zeppelins, Michael Jacksons, mysterious books, missing dogs, drunken editors, and a homeless hero currently camped out in a library. Catch up when you get a chance, and please join me for many more months of weird and funny entertainment.
Listen in Sunday, May 2, at 10 eastern. Better yet, call in and ask me strange questions at 914-803-4053!
Thursday and Friday 3/18-3/19, I’ll be appearing at the Lake County Festival of Reading. Thursday 4 p.m. at the Paisley County Library for a reading and Friday 6:30 at the Leesburg Public Library for an author reception. All free!
Monday 3/22 from 1-3 p.m. I’ll be signing books at Circle Books in Sarasota. 478 John Ringling Boulevard.
As always, frightening animations at every event!
Elvis in Paradise
The curtains are drawn. The window’s foiled over. It could be any time of day, any day of the year, any hotel in America.
He might have been asleep. He might have been dreaming. Were the dreams his own? It would be the first time in years. He wishes he could remember.
Alan and Lamar are in the kitchen arguing loudly about how to cook his bacon. Cousin Gene’s at the card table in front of the silvery window, cheek down on a game of solitaire, snoring. Gene’s supposed to be keeping watch, making sure Elvis doesn’t sleepwalk out the door.
Once when Elvis was young his parents found him on the roof of their house trying to step off into the night.
It could happen again.
Except he can’t even feel his feet. He must have slept on them funny, or else he’s somehow lost them in the night.
He closes his eyes. He doesn’t want to know.
He wonders sometimes what might have happened if he’d taken that last step off the roof of his parents’ house. Would he have fallen or flown?
That kind of test doesn’t present itself to everyone. What’ll he do if the opportunity comes his way again?
If he’s lost his feet, he’ll never know.
These are some of the problems of being famous no one told him about. You lose things. Feet, dreams. Your soul if you’re not careful. You don’t notice them till they’re gone, and then you’ll search the rest of your life for the simple stuff you once took for granted.
If he did step off into the night, where would he fly?
Over treetops and houses. Over Memphis and Mississippi. From up there he’d get a glimpse of everything for once. He’d gather up the pieces of life and understand its whole. Resolve its contradictions. Fall in love with everyone he’s ever met.
As it should be.
His fans would turn in their beds and catch a glimpse of him through their windows. They’d come out of their houses, huddle together on lawns, and point. When the press got wind of it, they’d turn their cameras and microphones to the sky.
Arms out, soaring, what could he do but wave?
Don’t do this to us! his fans would shout.
The girls are crying. They fall into their mothers’ arms.
It’s not goodbye, he’d say.
Or it is, but just for now.
Look, he’s climbing higher! Can you still hear us, Elvis? Any last words for the fans who’ve adored you, who’ve given you everything in life and asked only for your boyish, one-sided smile and the warm caramel of your voice?
Wait, it’s not like that at all! he’d insist. It’s just, sometimes you have to leave the world to get it back!
He’s not even sure they can hear him. He’s risen too far. He’s in the coolness of the stratosphere and turns his eyes to the moon.
But he still can’t feel his feet!
It’s as if the rest of him woke up but he left his feet in a dream. How can he get them back when he can’t even remember the dream?
And where, anyway, do dreams go when you abandon them in the middle? Do they find another dreamer and pick up where they left off? Do they fizzle into a million droplets and rejoin a great ocean of dreams? Will he ever know?
He lies perfectly still, waiting for the day’s rhythms to pluck him awake and bring back his feet.
A frying pan slides across a burner in the next room, rattles and pops.
Footsteps. The creak of a wicker couch.
Gene’s throat rattles on the intake, clicks once on the exhaust; his tongue ticks the roof of his mouth like he’s drunk in his dream and the words come slow and thick. Gene should know better than to drink, even in his dream.
Outside, a mockingbird warbles and tsks and chugs through its borrowed songlist. There are back-up birds behind that one. A mourning dove? One of them gives a screech. What kind of birds do they have here?
That’s right: Jordanaires. They have Jordanaires singing in the trees.
A motorboat plows the river, passing slow. A girl calls Elvis’s name. Is she on the boat? On the roof? Out in the parking lot?
Yes. All three.
He hears these sounds, just as he hears the whisper of the high-altitude winds and the soft slosh of the bay and the breaths of the nocturnal creatures asleep now in their dens. The world opens up on its voices.
But there’s got to be one moment when the rhythms get in synch and the world falls silent before the next beat, a moment when even the world is listening.
As he waits, holding his breath, his feet return in droplets, as if from the point of a needle, or from the spray of an ocean of dreams.
He opens his eyes. He bends his big toe.
There it is.
Copyright 2010 John Henry Fleming
Thanks to Loren Coleman and Cryptomundo.com!
A fearsome new year to all.
The University of South Florida’s MFA Program in Creative Writing invites you to join them for an evening of poetry and fiction as they host the 2009 Writers’ Harvest. The event will be held on October 23, at Karma Bar and Café in downtown Tampa. Come early, the reading begins at 7pm.Featured readers will include John Fleming, Karen Brown, Hunt Hawkins, and Alicia Thompson. There is a $3 admission fee or you can bring 3 canned goods. Authors will sign copies of their books which will be available for purchase and there will be a raffle for a variety of prizes. All proceeds will go to America’s Second Harvest of Tampa Bay. If you have any questions about Writers’ Harvest, please don’t hesitate to email Professor Ira Sukrungruang, email@example.com.
I’ll be presenting at the Festival of Reading Saturday 10/24 from 11-11:45. More than 50 authors and 15,000 attendees are expected. This is the major literary event of the region, and well worth your time.
More info here.
Review: John Henry Fleming’s ‘Fearsome Creatures of Florida’ is suitably creepy
Review By Colette Bancroft, Times Book Editor
In Print: Sunday, October 11, 2009
Some might say the most fearsome creatures in the Sunshine State are the human ones, but John Henry Fleming lets us off the hook (maybe) in his whimsical bestiary Fearsome Creatures of Florida.
Fleming, a professor of creative writing at the University of South Florida who will be a featured author at the Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 24, writes of critters mythical and real — and some that blur that border. Wild things still prowl Florida even if it is encrusted with gated subdivisions “with vigilant, uniformed guards charged with improving upon the gatekeeper of Eden, who, after all, couldn’t keep out the snakes.”
Among his subjects is that giant Everglades python, split open after gobbling a gator — a real animal, but Fleming gives its future a discomforting spin. He writes of another real animal, the beautiful and endangered Key deer, spinning an eerie legend of deer amassing on the road through Big Pine Key during hurricanes to blockade evacuating motorists: “If I’m not getting out, neither are you.”
Some of his more cryptozoological subjects are familiar, like the lonesome skunk ape (“the infamous artist of stink”) and the links sprites, jocularly blamed for missing golf balls but perhaps up to much worse.
Others are less familiar, like the Okeechobee flatwhale and the were-panther. There is only ever one were-panther; it reproduces itself by attacking humans while they’re driving at least 75 mph on Alligator Alley, crashing through their windshields to create an “unblessed union of species.”
An environmentalist’s heart beats behind these stories, but instead of lectures Fleming artfully draws us into the kind of campfire tales we almost believe. As he writes in his disclaimer, “Any resemblance of these creatures to the one now standing behind you is purely coincidental.”
Colette Bancroft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8435.
Please join me at Inkwood Books for a Fearsome reading, signing, and Q&A. If you’ve never been, Inkwood is an indy gem of a bookstore in Tampa, active in the community and a hot-spot for author events. Buy your books there!
216 South Armenia Avenue
Tampa, FL 33609-3310
Book Review: Fearsome Creatures of Florida
August 27, 2009 at 10:11 am by Shawn Alff
In Fearsome Creatures of Florida, Tampa author John Henry Fleming serves as taxonomist of Florida folklore, producing a wildlife handbook that could have been published by National Enquirer. This book breathes new life into real creatures and popular myths like the Skunk Ape and the Chupacabra. However, the beasts that stay with readers long after finishing the book are Fleming’s creations, like the ghost of the monkeynaut, Gordo, trouncing along the Space Coast in his shiny suit.
From David Hazouri’s sketched illustrations, I expected a Disney World version of swamp monsters. Instead I was confronted by Swiftian creatures that prey on the book’s true monsters: humans. These unnamed locals and tourists are lazy drunks more concerned with stocking their liquor cabinets than evacuating from a hurricane.
The cataloged beasts are the Frankenstein monsters of modern culture. The Key Deer evolved into ruthless survivalists due to overdeveloped breeding grounds. Some animals were set loose from defunct tourist traps or pet cages, like the Glade’s Python which has developed a taste for “big, slow-moving, sun-worshipers.” The Mangrove Man eats land developers and the lone Were-Panther attacks complacent drivers exceeding 75 miles an hour down Alligator Alley. In the book’s darkest piece, the Hanging Trees come to life. Having learned from the surprising number of lynchings in Florida between 1882 and 1930, these trees strangle unsuspecting victims then mail dismembered toes to the deads’ families.
With no overarching plot, this book’s devilish charm lies in the details–a mix between Carl Hiaasen’s pop-culture wasteland of modern Florida and the unyielding wild of Fleming’s first novel, The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman. Beer cans collect like driftwood between mangrove roots. The state’s topography is like that of a “deflated life raft on a calm sea, interesting only when you get too near the edge or when a hole opens in the middle.” This golf-themed Eden offers residents in gated communities limited postcard views of “sunsets and swimsuits,” along with the aroma of “coconut sunblock and the freshly quaffed Bermuda grass of our finest golf courses.” These contained lives aren’t just blind to swamp creatures, but also the “one-armed vets God-blessing America and begging for dollars at intersections” and “vacant-eyed streetwalkers hustling for drugs.”
Like Where the Wild Things Are, Fearsome Creatures reminds us why we obsessed over monsters as children. This book is required reading for any eco-conscious Floridian. It should be shelved between stiff wildlife handbooks for your children to discover when they’re old enough to explore the truth between the facts.
Fearsome Creatures‘ biggest flaw is its brevity. Readers will finish it in one sitting, wishing Fleming would use his lively style to animate real endangered Florida species that get overshadowed by charismatic manatees and sea turtles. Fleming could do worse than to concoct a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings knockoff detailing battles between Mermaid Vampires and Globesuckers in Florida’s mystically polluted swamps and perfectly overcrowded beaches.
Readers can’t help but pick up where the book ends, cataloging evermore local species: goblins with a taste for bicycles’ front tires, bloated and brainless zombies prowling the streets of bar districts every weekend; the infamous parking ticket fairy… This, after all, is Fleming’s goal. He instructs us to suppress the “instinct to deny,” reminding us that ignoring our imagination “is a finely honed skill, one that rewards with a flat-line existence of impenetrable satisfaction.”
At least 20% of the royalties from the sale of this book and 50% of the profits from associated products will be donated to the Nature Conservancy to help protect critical natural lands in Florida. For more on Fearsome Creatures of Florida, visit fearsomecreatures.com, and check out John Henry Fleming at these upcoming readings:
-Inkwood Books, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.
-USF Campus GraphicStudio, Sept. 18 at 6 p.m.
-Karma Bar, Oct. 23 for Writers Harvest
-St. Pete Times Festival of Reading, Oct. 24
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