Giving Tuesday

I’m not in a position to do as much as I might want or as much I could in the past, but in the spirit of Giving Tuesday – I’ll gladly read the first 1-3 pages of books that were written during NaNoWriMo to give feedback on the opening. I don’t need you to send the pages now, but if you could at least email me (leroy.ben@gmail.com) to let me know that you’re planning on sending them at some point in the next few months it’ll help me know how much time to set aside.

Let me know if you have any questions. My bio is below.

Ben LeRoy was born and still lives in Madison, WI. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he double majored in English and Philosophy. Ben started Bleak House Books in 2000 and ran it as Publisher until 2005 when he sold it to Big Earth Publishing.  He left Bleak House to start Tyrus Books in the summer of 2009. In 2011 he sold Tyrus Books to F+W Media, but continued in his role as Publisher. Late in 2016, F+W Media sold Tyrus Books  to Simon & Schuster/CBS. In April of 2017, Simon & Schuster folded the Tyrus Books line into their existing Gallery imprint. Since 2017, Ben has worked as a freelance editor.

Books published by Bleak House and Tyrus won or were finalists for a variety of awards including the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, the Edgar Award, the Barry Award, the Anthony Award, and Booklist’s Best Debut Novels of the Year. Books also made a variety of national and regional best seller lists including the USA Today list.

Publishers Weekly’s named Ben to the magazine’s “Fifty Under Forty” feature. He spoke at dozens of conferences and writing workshops across the country. In 2018 he launched the Salida Writers Retreat with editor and former literary agent, Anita Mumm.

A November update

If we’ve ever spent time together face to face or if you’ve ever seen a close up photo of my face or zoomed in super close on a not close up of my face you may have noticed that I had a sun spot underneath my left eye. A freckle or two. A distinguishing mark for an aging gentleman.

Astute viewers looking at photos and videos from before 2013 might notice that the mark doesn’t exist. That it appeared from the dermal ether sometime in 2013 or 2014. When it first appeared way back then I scheduled an appointment with my dermatologist who said it was nothing to worry about, but something to keep an eye on (no pun intended). She then froze the skin and off it went and I returned to a less distinguished face.

And in fact some people noticed its disappearance with a touch of the sadness. Why would I go and have it removed when it was a petite bit of flair to separate me from others? Well, truthfully? I was a little self-conscious of it. It was something of an uninvited guest and I wasn’t sure I wanted it there.

As more summers came and went and I dutifully tended to the weeds and the dirt in my garden, the determined little sun spot, like the Hosta along the perimeter of my yard, emerged again, grander than before. And maybe because I’m lazy or not as vain as I once was or susceptible to the peer pressure of others about the potential coolness of the sun spot, I made peace with it.

However, earlier this year I scheduled a trip to the dermatologist for a few reasons and when I finally got in to see her, almost as an afterthought, we decided to take a closer look at what had become.

She still didn’t think it was a big deal, but suggested that maybe we should do a biopsy on it. However, your boy Ben, still clinging to some vanity decided that it wasn’t necessary because I also had an appointment with a new dentist that day and I didn’t want to go into the new dentist’s office bleeding from my face. I worried that the dentist might think there was something wrong with me. There, I said it. It’s fucking stupid, but that’s what I was thinking.

A few days later I rethought it all and wondered if maybe that wasn’t a bit shortsighted and maybe it would be better to just let the dermatologist do what she needed to do. So I called her office and asked to set up an appointment, the first of which wasn’t available until months later.

And all the while, I felt a nagging inside me.

Nagging while I played in the garden, nagging while I went on long walks in the middle of the day, nagging while I crisscrossed Barcelona in August. Nagging. Nagging. Nagging. I probably did a better job, which isn’t saying much, of putting on sunscreen and wearing a hat, and maybe the voice got quieter, but it never stopped whispering.

When I went in for the biopsy at the end of October the dermatologist told me that it was good for precautionary purposes, but that she wasn’t too worried about it. Her assistant put a topical numbing agent over the skin, she made a quick slice, and within minutes it was bandaged up and we were joking around about one thing or another.

I’m guessing it’s nothing and that I’ll put a note in your chart early next week to let you know everything is okay.

But then the phone rang four days later and I knew that wasn’t a good sign.

Glad you came in. Turns out you’ve got melanoma.

(There’s a whole lot I’ll write about one day once I understand things. In the days leading up to the biopsy and the immediate days that followed my brain did some really really weird things. This was all before I’d even heard the results of the biopsy. I won’t get into the particulars here, but one day I will.)

Anyway, I had some pretty rough days and nights at the beginning of this month. Existential questions. Fear. Racing brain. I’m not going to pretend I won’t have more. But I have been absolutely blessed to have people at my side through all of it.

As it turns out (though I didn’t know it for a few days) the melanoma is stage zero so it was caught very early. It had spread across the skin, but not down into things. That’s the good news. I’ve got two surgeries set up for early December to have it all cut out.

The less good news is that because of how close it is to my eyelid, closing the wound may be a little tricky. I’ve got a date with an ocular plastic surgeon a few days before Christmas, so if you’ve got spare wishes that you don’t know what to do with, I’ll gladly hang a stocking on your fireplace. 

I’m being cautious with my language because I know what happens when you tempt the universe, but in general there are a lot of positive factors at play here and I feel confident in the plan and the folks with the scalpels. I still spin out more than I’d like. I haven’t really figured out what to think or even what I think. I’m processing what to say if I should say anything at all. Sometimes it’s hard to know.

What I do know is that I’ll have a new scar and when you see me in the sun, I’ll likely be wearing a floppy hat from this point forward. And I’ll wear them both proudly even when seeing a new dentist.

To sum up – please take care of yourselves, wear sunscreen, and know that I love you very much.

11/5

Please take care of yourself and those around you. Your capacity for love and compassion is the greatest gift bestowed upon you and it is only through our collective wielding of these gifts that we will bring a total and lasting Light to the world (the world is the universe the universe is everything, even the parts we don’t understand).

Go forth in love.

Go forth and love.

An Alternate Sunday Night History

Carter beats Reagan in 80.

Carter is President for the 84 Olympics and is the symbol of America with Bruce Springsteen.

In 84 Mondale loses to Bob Dole.

Bob Dole is President when the Challenger explodes.

Paul Simon beats Bob Dole in 88.

Paul Simon signs monumental peace treaty with the Russia that restores nation status to the Soviet Union states and that the United States will divest itself from taking an active role in the affairs of the European, Asian, African, and South American countries. All countries respect the autonomy of others.

Paul Simon beats Dan Quayle in 92.

Paul Simon assassinated in the spring of 93. No killer is caught. No known reason. Nobody claims responsibility. Despite everybody’s best efforts, nobody ever finds out.

Vice President Ted Kennedy is sworn in as President, June 14, 1993. The new Vice President is Marion Barry, the former highly regarded mayor of Washington D.C.

Ted Kennedy is President when Hurricane Alex comes ashore as a Category Five storm and kills over thirty thousand people in Miami. Another two hundred thousand people are injured in the metro region. Aid comes not only from the rest of the country, but Caribbean nations, including a now friendly nation of Cuba. The entire world enters a ten day period of silence and fasting.

In 96 Ted Kennedy decides to not run for re-election.

In 96 the nation abolishes the role of President.

In 2000 the world is invited to Africa to study a new hybrid of agriculture and mathematics that has maximized crop yield efficiency in a way that also slightly increases the amount of breathable oxygen in the air, a development that leads to the discovery of a new type of consciousness.

By 2024 the world is doing mass experiments of exploring/adventure into new parts of consciousness. It is heralded as a time of exploring like that of the old explorers who crossed the seas.

In 2028 God comes to Earth to find every living thing has already moved on.

Inabsolute 9/29

Tonight’s Inabsolute Mix is:

Ramshackle Glory – “Never Coming Home”

Normandy – (WWII footage)

The idea for tonight’s mix beamed itself into my head. I wasn’t even listening to the Ramshackle Glory when I thought about what would pair with it. I don’t even know which one came into my head first.

In any case, I think, if you aren’t already familiar with Ramshackle Glory or specifically this song, that you should watch it once through before you do the mix. When you listen to it, turn on the closed captioning so you can see the lyrics. This will be part of the gut punch later. I’ll wait here while you do that.

Okay, I’ve cued up the Normandy link above to start at 1:00. You don’t need to fuss with it. It’s already taken care of for you.

Push play on Ramshackle Glory, then switch over to the Normandy tab and push play right away. Watch the Normandy stuff at full screen, BUT also you should mute the Normandy video. If possible, listen to this through headphones.

Holy shit, right?

Love,

Ben

Inabsolute 9-26

This is one of those great moments where if you play enough obscure stuff on Youtube, Youtube will introduce you to an absolute treasure trove of more obscure stuff. Yesterday I didn’t know these things didn’t exist, and now I know they do.


*Akira Ishikawa – “Africa Rock” (album, 1971, .75)
*Psychedelic Cartoons (playlist, .75)

I can find very little to no information about Akira Ishikawa. I like it that way. Everything about this is magnificent especially at slower speeds. The cartoons are not childish as much as they are drowning in weird. At this speed, you’ve got over an hour of seeking answers to the universe through animated jazz.

Inabsolute 9-24

I fell asleep super early last night, so there wasn’t a mix. But tonight? Tonight there’s a mix!

*The Blue Yusef Lateef – “Like It Is” (song, .75 speed)
* 60 Minutes of Smurfs – (cartoon, .5 speed)

I started off in a blue mood which is how we ended up where we did, but then I let autoplay pick the next song after “Like It Is” and they came through with Lonnie Smith’s “It’s Changed.”

I liked this mix, but I think the music is maybe a little too upbeat given the utter insanity that was going on with the Smurfs (lots more violent and subversive than I remembered). So then I switched over to my favorite thing to listen to these days, namely the duduk.

Lévon Minassian – “They Have Taken the One I Love “

I also slowed the Smurfs down to .25 speed.

Now we’re at the good stuff, gang. The really good stuff.

Inabsolute 9-20

Tonight’s mix is a cool experiment in reversing audio/video feeds.

  • The Letter (1940, movie, .75 speed, low(ish) volume)
  • Anika Pyle – The Void (2018, song, loud(er) volume)

This is illustrative in a couple of ways. Note the matched color and note patterns when viewing the movie but listening to the song. Now watch what happens when you switch the order so that you are hearing the movie, but watching the visuals from the song. Reread that sentence, it’s cognitively disruptive. We are being asked to listen to a visual medium and at the same time we are watching an auditory medium.

And yet? Somehow it all makes sense and evokes tons of emotion because of its base characteristic–its connection to the shared human soul/psyche/etc. It also probably means (and I don’t need to tell you I’m not a scientist, but I’ll remind you of it anyway) that our brains are getting a good workout, perhaps even playing, by trying to make sense of different information coming in from multiple directions without familiar landmarks.

Do you hear what I’m hearing? Or do you think I’m connecting dots where no dots exist?