NEW RELEASE – Dialogues on the Beach by John C. McLucas

Cover for DIALOGUES ON THE BEACH, a novel by John C. McLucas. A painting by artist Minas Konsolas on the cover: an empty boardwalk bench overlooks an empty Rehoboth beach.

John C. McLucas‘ debut novel, Dialogues on the Beach, is here!

This beautiful paperback, bound in the art of Minás Konsolas, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Itasca Books, as well as the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore, Maryland!

Dialogues on the Beach follows Jim, who was…is? in love with his best friend, Tony, but Tony married Rachel, and she is…always was? a fantastic human being and a caring, supportive friend. Still, it’s unfathomable for Jim to think about loving anyone else the way he loved…loves? Tony, and next to impossible for him to consider loving himself.

Until 1993, when Jim joins Tony and Rachel on Rehoboth Beach. Metaphorical lines in the physical sand separate the gay and straight communities, but when Jim meets Joe, that line is erased and redrawn as a labyrinth. Misunderstandings and new perspectives arise at each turn, but one thing remains certain: Jim isn’t the same person he was when he first met Tony. And maybe that’s OK.


Dr. John C. McLucas has taught Italian and Latin at Towson U. since 1984. He has taught Italian language and repertory to voice students at Peabody Conservatory; he is a classically trained singer himself. Dr. McLucas has published numerous scholarly articles and translations as well as poetry and short fiction.


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COMING SOON – Dialogues on the Beach by John C. McLucas


BrickHouse Books is proud to announce the upcoming release of Dialogues on the Beach, a novel by John C. McLucas!

Jim was…is? in love with his best friend, Tony, but Tony married Rachel, and she is…always was? a fantastic human being and a caring, supportive friend. Still, it’s unfathomable for Jim to think about loving anyone else the way he loved…loves? Tony, and next to impossible for him to consider loving himself.

Until 1993, when Jim joins Tony and Rachel on Rehoboth Beach. Metaphorical lines in the physical sand separate the gay and straight communities, but when Jim meets Joe, that line is erased and redrawn as a labyrinth. Misunderstandings and new perspectives arise at each turn, but one thing remains certain: Jim isn’t the same person he was when he first met Tony. And maybe that’s OK.


Dialogues on the Beach will be released September 10, 2017, and is available for pre-order here:


Dr. John C. McLucas has taught Italian and Latin at Towson U. since 1984. He has taught Italian language and repertory to voice students at Peabody Conservatory; he is a classically trained singer himself. Dr. McLucas has published numerous scholarly articles and translations as well as poetry and short fiction. Dialogues on the Beach is his first novel.

About the Cover:

A welcoming boardwalk bench and the gently rolling waves of Rehoboth Beach, painted by artist Minás Konsolas, invite us to settle in and join McLucas’ characters as they ruminate and reminisce about the nature of relationships and each other. Learn more about the artist at minaskonsolas.com.

Discovering Our Authors: Louie Crowder

Louie Crowder, playwright and novelist, completes this series. Here’s what he has to say:

Louie's 2013 BHB title

Louie’s 2013 BHB title

I quit the theatre again. After years of navigating the wonders of the self-producing playwright, I wrote a novel. The consistent nagging that fueled dialogue fueled the prose; I wasn’t convinced it would but apparently the Muse doesn’t care so much about the medium as she does the release of the information. I’ve found it’s easier to be experimental in prose than onstage. I’ve also found the process of a novel to be more rewarding than the stage. With the theatre, there are too many people involved in the development; in the end the playwright seems to be the least important. The novel is a lonelier process but the payoff is having more control and being an active participant in the final product (at least on the level where I currently reside). I’m not sure it’s always been that way. The film industry redefined the theatre. When theatre became a feeder for film, stage lights across America dimmed in requiem. Haha; it’s true.

Thematically, I’ve also found prose to be more accepting of the things I need to write about: gay equality in the contemporary South, the differences between the Boomers, X’ers, and the Millennials regarding sexuality and civil rights. There are two gay Americas. One is comprised of the coasts and enclaves; the other is made from the South and the Midwest. The coasts and enclaves are progressive and aggressively pro-equality, the South and Midwest are not. Two different sets of civil rights, two different sets of reasonable freedoms. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why the HIV infection rate remains high in the South. Actually, Louisiana has the cities with the #2 and #3 highest infections rates in the country (New Orleans and Baton Rouge).

I consistently hear, “Things are better,” “No one cares about sexuality anymore,” “Gay equality is a non-issue,” “AIDS is the new diabetes.” The Millennials like to say things like that; they are, apparently, the enlightened generation. The greatest tragedy of the Millennial generation is their joyful erasure of gay history, including the ongoing struggles of the Boomers and the X’ers. My generation grew-up in fear of who they were. I can’t imagine a generation of kids not being raised in fear and self-hatred. Recently, after reading In Irons, a friend told me she finally understood what I was trying to achieve with my work, “I get it now, Louie. It’s suffrage you’re talking about: gay suffrage. Because nobody cares if anybody’s a fag or not anymore. Documenting suffrage is important, too.” It’s not suffrage, it’s shining a light on the still darkened places. But at least she’s making an effort to see beyond her straight perspective. My lofty goal in this body of work is to elevate the American gay community; to create a dialogue and better understanding. I suppose that means I’ve become an activist for gay equality, and that suits me just fine.

The play BrickHouse published (A Better House for Ritchie), the novel Gallatin & Toulouse published (In Irons), as well as the new novel that comes out in the spring (Henry Gereighty) directly take on issues of the contemporary Southern gay experience, the group of gay men who still exist in hiding. I ask my students if they think gay equality can ever happen in the US, because I don’t believe it can. They consistently tell me, “Yes, of course, but it’ll be another couple of generations.”

Discovering Our Authors: Andrei Guruianu

One of the pleasures of being the new prose editor at BrickHouse Books is discovering the people who have published with us, including the poets. After all, I have said that what I look for in prose submissions—among other things—is “a distinctive voice . . . and an obvious love of language.” Meaning a touch of poetry.

After posting Adrian Koester’s piece for this series about how her poetry influences her prose, the next logical step was to look into prose poetry. So here’s what BHB author Andrei Guruianu has to say on the topic:

Andrei's BHB 2014 title.

Andrei’s 2014 BHB title.

I write prose poems to not feel restricted by the format of free verse, to not be limited by its form, its near predictability. But that is only part of the answer. All poetry is the constant struggle against the futility and limitations of expression. It is an experiment in using language to bridge the gaps within the self that language itself creates.

My work begins in that gap, in the gulf between language and self. I was raised speaking Romanian but began writing creatively in English. Thus, I feel estranged from the language of my birth, from the mother tongue. With age, I realize that I’ve never quite felt at ease in that language, instead allowed myself to be wrapped up in nostalgia, in sentiment, in the illusion of home.

When I began using English, I was fully aware of the mask I wore, that I was only borrowing the tools I needed to say what I could no longer say in Romanian. As such, Romanian and English have never fully belonged to me and I do not fully belong to them. This is the rift, the perennial split that I cannot mend. The words I use have always been measured, calculated, turned over on the tongue and in the mind until I’ve reached an approximation of meaning. But it has never been enough and likely never will.

Language fails us daily. That’s not a secret. That through language we get closer to truth is only partially correct. Each utterance severs us from reality—both from the thing it points to, which it can never be, and from ourselves, since no word or sound or image can ever mean a self. With each word, we drift further away from it. Ironically, our only way back is through language: futile, exasperating, sometimes beautiful.

It is with this knowledge that I write, and which, in hindsight, I use to judge what I’ve written. As a stranger in the mother tongue as well as the borrowed tongue, I am always one or two steps removed. I see myself from a distance, and no word so far has gotten me any closer. I can say that I experiment with style and voice then because no single approach has ever sufficed or left me satisfied. So I try and fail and try again.

The failure of language is a humbling realization (at times it is all we have), one that places the writer at the beginning, forces a reckoning with the self. It is also a realization that can be incredibly freeing: it allows for experimentation, for exploration. If language fails then the answer must lie elsewhere, and the search for that place is invigorating, a bit disorienting, but ultimately a fruitful one.

Prose poems, for now, seem to me the closest to an honest and accurate expression of sentiment. It will not last; the world will outrun my ability to keep it still within the confines of a line or a paragraph. But by experimenting with the contours of language, the rooms it inhabits, we give ourselves another means of expression, our readers another way to enter into meaning.

Yes, language fails us, and maybe we have failed language (I am nearly certain of it), but that should give us even more reason to keep looking for the place where it feels most at home, where the word leans up against a wall and for a moment feels secure, feels like it can stand on its own and speak for itself: a tree, a sunset, a howl or birdsong, almost a life.

Note: While two of Andrei’s recent collections published by BrickHouse Books (Made in the Image of Stones and Portrait Without a Mouth) fit the category of free verse, much of his writing over the past couple of years has been prose poetry, loosely defined.

Discovering Our Authors: Adrian Koesters

One of the pleasures of being the new prose editor at BrickHouse Books is discovering the people who have published with us, including the poets. After all, I have said that what I look for in prose submissionsamong other things—is “a distinctive voice . . . and an obvious love of language.” Meaning a touch of poetry.

To illustrate this point, I asked Adrian Koesters to write a few words about what she brings from her poetry to her prose. Here is what she shared with us:

Many Parishes

Adrian’s BHB title

Flannery O’Connor has famously said that anybody who lives through childhood will have enough to write about for the rest of her life. I’d add to this that living through a childhood in Baltimore 40 years ago filled my ear with enough distinctive cadences to write through to last through the rest of mine, and these are what come naturally to me as I write. The rich, thick, what one of my sisters calls the “Dundalk” accent but that you might identify as the language of the “Hon”; the loud, long melisma of the vegetable street-cart vendor crying, “Strawberries! Cherries!” as he passed our house (we never-in-all-my-life heard these men called Arabbers); our cries of “Wait-a-minute, wait-a-minute!” after the ice cream car that we’d just gotten permission to run after with our nickels or dimes; my grandmother’s now-soft elisions (the way, for example, she could make the simple, embarrassed courtesy of the word “no” last for four syllables), now-percussive “No, not that!” or “Tuppitware,” as she called it, or “I-never-did-in-all-my-life” or “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” The tall, sexy white girl two doors up who sashayed past us where we sat on the front steps, taunting, “I ain’t got no/Skinny leeeegs!/I ain’t got no/Flat chest!”

When I first began to write poetry as a girl, it was these elisions and percussives that I was most aware of when I sat down to write something, and to the extent that I was at all conscious of what I was doing, those were what I tried for. In the early days, like many young writers, I loved poetry for, as I thought, its get-in-and-get-out permissiveness. The brevity of a poem allowed me to explore for an instant something that was more often than not too frightening to stay with consciously for long. Still, in working a poem in this way, to get the sound I might be able to get out of it, I also over time discovered the great pleasure of simply giving myself over to words, to those moments that you literally lose your “self” in the act of creation.

When I much later came to prose, the drummings of poetry in common talk stood me in great stead, as you can see a bit in this first line of an early unpublished story titled “The Ape Guy,” where I attempted a story with words of only one syllable: “There’s a blue page on the wall with a guy that’s been dead a long time.” If you scan that line, you’ll see how the stresses fall: There’s/a blue page/on the wall/with a guy/that’s been dead/a long time. If I read that line, I myself can’t visualize the guy or the blue page but I readily hear the series of anapaests (two short beats and a long) ended up with a spondee (a short beat and two longs), without even knowing that I hear it.

And for me, this remains the greatest pleasure of writing. When I find myself sliding into those moments in a run of dialogue, a block of narrative, or a stanza of a poem, where the beats of the language that filled me up in my first days emerge somehow to make another, new small bit of music that talks to me, and, I hope, my reader: that’s when I know I’m doing what I most want to do. It’s also where I find myself, again, at home.

Adrian Koesters is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. She attended high school in Bellingham, Washington, and has lived most of her life in Nebraska, where she has worked in Omaha and Lincoln as a high school teacher, secretary, sign language interpreter, academic advisor, editorial specialist, and university professor. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University and a Ph.D. in English (fiction and poetry writing) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she teaches writing and is the host of the online reading series for Prairie Schooner magazine. She has been an assistant editor for Ted Kooser’s syndicated newspaper column “American Life in Poetry” and is the fiction editor at A River & Sound Review journal.

Adrian’s BHB title Many Parishes is on sale at a discount through the end of this year.

For more on the aural aspects of poetry, see “Discovering Our Authors: Peter Weltner.”