Until recently, chapbooks have been ruled by poetry. Perhaps it's because poetry is made for the chapbook format: small, bite-sized delights on every page. Prose can't possibly compete... right?
Short fiction, in its various forms, is becoming popular. There are literary journals out there dedicated to publishing nothing but flash fiction, some pieces as small as under 150 words. Figment.com has writing contests that rarely go over 1k. And these short stories are collected, bound, and reaching readers near and far.
Deathless Press's first round of books share the feel of springtime; mysterious woods, flowers blooming in their cases, sweet nothings whispered between girl and frog. I ordered the bundle pack and devoured all three books. I'm happy to share my thoughts about them, so that you may also discover these stories.
The Frog Prince by Evan Perriello
When the bus running between Phoenix and LA stalls, the passengers have no choice but to deal with the suffocating heat until the technician arrives. The narrator's grandfather falls into conversation with with the man sitting next to him - a handsome old man who confesses that he has once been a frog. The initial scene works as a framing device; the handsome old man tells his story in the middle, and at the end, we're back on the stalled bus as the heat becomes unbearable.
Once the handsome old man begins his story, I couldn't put the book down. He has such a strong voice, inviting you to feel sympathetic for both him and his "princess," Emma. The dark ending, full of regret and inevitable heartache, was the perfect way to finish.
The Bouquet by Kate McIntyre
A finicky bride-to-be seeks out a famous florist to find the perfect bouquet for her wedding. Instead of meeting a trendy, young florist, the bride-to-be is faced with a peculiar old woman with hair that "stuck out like a thistle." While the story is told in third person, the bride-to-be's perspective is so strong that you feel like you're trapped in her head - and I say trapped, because her thinking is so stilted and kind of sad, in a humorous way.
At the end of the story, the bride-to-be gets her bouquet... but you can't help but feel that she's been royally tricked by the crafty florist. It's wonderful. I only wish that this story was a lot longer - I enjoyed the McIntyre's writing style very much!
The House of Zabka by Marcus Slease
Carrie is the daughter of a pig butcher; she loves her father, even when he throws pig's blood on her when she misbehaves. She decides to take her sausage dog with her on a trip through the woods, running into such odd characters as pigs and wolves, elves, and Dog Woman.
I was excited about reading The House of Zabka when I read Slease's blog post about it; he mentioned that he wrote this book in a style similar to Aimee Bender and Shane Jones. I love both those authors and, as you've heard many times, Jones' Light Boxes rocked by world in terms of structure. Slease's book has some delightfully weird moments, like Carrie's sausage dog (I mentally pictured Hot Dog Princess from Adventure Time) and the plastic dragon that breathes fire when you sent it a text message.
But, sadly, those awesome characters only appeared once in the whole book; they faded into the background while other characters took the spotlight. I had trouble following the plot - one minute we're with Carrie in the woods, and then we're with Marek, the pig butcher, as he goes through a strange operation. The shift was a bit jarring, especially when Carrie seemed to be the main character up until that point, and the ending leaves me wondering if any of it actually happened - though, honestly, I can't tell you what happened. I suppose this book was just too surreal for me.
You can purchase your own copies of these Deathless Press books over at the etsy shop, HERE.