Short Story Collections:
Book Info, Excerpts, Reviews
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The Bus Stops Hereand Other Stories
In her second short story collection, J.A. Carter-Winward weaves tales that engross and immerse you in emotions as versatile as her imagination.
With Carter-Winward’s unique take on the complexity of human behavior within intimate relationships, she tackles issues such as monogamy, sexuality, and betrayal with her unique, nuanced eye.
From shattered illusions and regret in “Days Past,” to the sting and slap of betrayal in “Chance of Rain,” to the ambiguities and devastation of acquaintance rape and sexual assault in “Daddy’s Girl” and “Violets,” as well as the redemptive dissolution of conventional boundaries in “Unspoken” and “Inside.”
Her stories, “The Bus Stops Here” and “Perfect,” both taught in literature and fiction writing classes at local universities, explore the themes of the paradigms we hold and how they shift, causing everything from mild disillusionment, to a terrifying moment of truth, and concluding in a decision that could have literal life-or-death ramifications.
And of course, Carter-Winward’s themes of loss and grief as well as her unwavering belief in the paradoxical light and dark within each of us permeate this collection, with stories such as “Market Time,” and “The Third Son,” which give the heart and mind pause.
But Carter-Winward throws in plenty of “feel-goods,” as well—feel-goods and her special brand of dry humor, with “Grapefruit,” “Going Nowhere,” and “Mama’s Boy;” tales that will leave you curled in the comfort of knowing that there is goodness in the world.
Included are four bonus stories: the meta-fictional self-parody, where she performs the ultimate self-deprecating satire on “celebrity” in the slap-dash comedic piece, “WikiMe.” The story, “#1 Leading Cause...” is a heart-breaking dialogue between "a poet" and a gay Mormon teen, a piece that received national attention in 2016 for its relevance and import concerning Utah culture and teen suicide. Then, the story "Demographics," a heartwarming, breaking, and soothing overview of the human condition, reduced to a “form” that captures the zeitgeist of the Millennial age.
Finally, Carter-Winward’s collection ends with her acclaimed monologue, “One Week,” commissioned by a local theater owner/director for the 2014 production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues; a piece that will open your eyes and mind to the sacred feminine, the healing beauty of sexuality, intertwining them with grief, loss, and the glory of being thoroughly, wonderfully, human.
Dress warmly and get ready for the tumultuous sea of Carter-Winward’s diverse storytelling as she sets sail on the whole spectrum of human emotion and experience in The Bus Stops Here and Other Stories.
Excerpts from The Bus Stops Here:
She came home one night after an arduous first day at her new job, a job that allowed us a townhouse in a nice part of the city, and I had spent the day in sweats, job hunting. To my credit, I had showered that afternoon. She sort of insisted on that.
"Oh my God!"
I heard her voice coming from upstairs. I circled an ad looking for a copywriter and ignored her. But then she said it again and called my name.
"What's wrong?" I called.
"Come up here. Just…Greg? Come up here!"
I arrived in the bathroom, ready to squash the monster insect or change the faucet washer. But what resided in the bathroom was much more nefarious.
"Do you know what this is?"
She held a bar of soap in her hand.
"It's soap," I shrugged, not comprehending the way her eyes bulged.
"It's decorative soap, Greg. Do you know what that means?"
I concentrated on the blue form in her shaking hand. What did it mean? I searched my mind for the meaning of soap in general. Soap: to clean stinky man parts. Decorative soap: a decorative way to clean stinky man parts.
"I-it's, um, nice to look at and smells good?"
"No! Decorative soap is a decoration! You don't shower with it! You look at it!"
I gaped at her. "We're out of soap."
"So you use the decorative soap? Why didn't you just go to the store and buy us more soap!"
"I was going to…after I showered."
Apparently my answer was less than satisfying to Amanda.
~"Grapefruit," from The Bus Stops Here
Stalking silently to the restroom, his ears burn. The people at the table had been talking about another vet they know and how he had "such bad PTSD." Whenever he hears the term, he flies into a blind rage.
He's got another set of words for the acronym besides the actual words: Pathetic Troops Sickening Dishonor. That's what it means to him. Post traumatic his ass. It's because they let women in, and faggots. They've softened everything and everyone up like an infectious disease, and even men, real men, claim to have it.
He finishes taking a piss, but his body hasn't calmed. His muscles are cement, his bones steel. The throbbing between his ears almost makes him dizzy. When he gets this angry, he can't see. But he remembers the warning from the coffee shop owner. He fucks up again, she'll eighty-six him for good.
Walking back to his seat in measured steps, he tries to drown out their voices. All of their talk of "therapy" and "trauma." Don't they know what it means to be a soldier? And if you aren't made of the stuff to be a soldier, then get the fuck out. That's what he thinks. Your sensibilities too soft for the guts and glory? Get the fuck out.
~"The Price," from The Bus Stops Here
She walks into each bedroom and waits for him to follow. He looks in the bathroom, the closets. He says nothing. She decides he's married, he must be, with plenty of children to fill up the rooms. The thoughts comfort her, as if the idea of him as a family man makes her less vulnerable.
As she walks the length of the hall toward the last room, she senses that he lags behind her on purpose. The pencil skirt hugs her yoga-formed curves well. Perhaps he's admiring the view. It still doesn't quell the jittery feeling she's had since they'd entered the house. Opening the final door, she sees the unfinished part of the basement with built-in shelves and cupboards for canned goods and storage.
She stands at the threshold and feels his presence directly behind her, pushing her forward into the room.
She takes a few tentative steps in. A vinyl flooring in cream and beige absorbs the click of her heels. When she turns back toward him, he's not looking at the room anymore, he's looking right at her, a detached expression on his face.
"Nice storage space in here," she says, turning away from him. Then her ears pick up the door latching closed.
The effort to turn around is monumental. Pretending to be absorbed in the shelving, her mind races for reasons why he'd close the door. Had she given signals, gone overboard with flirtation based on his reserved demeanor throughout the day? Should she pull out her phone, right now, and dial for help?
An unmistakable noise from behind her causes her to whip around and gasp.
Whispering, she asks, "What are you doing?"
~"Violets," from The Bus Stops Here
Reviews of The Bus Stops Here and Other Stories:
Whereas Carter-Winward’s poetry books are dominated by scathing and naughtiness, with sentimental pieces taking more of a back seat, that balance has been reversed in this book. In these heartwarming and compassionate stories, there’s a real understanding of what it is to be an everyday human with all of life’s struggles, pitfalls, kindness and love.
Unlike many books of short stories, this hangs together as a collection very well indeed; where the expertly written tales and well-drawn characters feel like they fit seamlessly into the same realistic world. The themes of loss, hopes, tragedies and reconciliation blend together into one mightily satisfying whole. So when the bus stops, I highly recommend you climb on board. —Harry Whitewolf, author of Underdogs Unite , Two Beat Newbie , and Rhyme and Rebellion
“The Bus Stops Here was a great read for me, and that is saying something. Carter-Winward explore themes around the trap of romance, with people getting what they want or perhaps just what they deserve. This book is filled with slice of life stories and near tragedies with crash car anxieties. When I put it down, I genuinely looked forward to picking it back up. This is definitely an anthology you will want to go back to after you finish.”—Jesse Parent, poet, performer, author of The Noise That Is Not You
SHORTS: A COLLECTION
A Mormon in the White House, an ER doctor who can't stop shaking and an intimate relationship with a plastic blow-up doll show the breadth of Carter-Winward's short story telling. Don't get too comfortable with her tone--Carter-Winward is going to take you on a rollercoaster ride.
Many of the stories contain a fresh and honest glimpse into Utah's unique culture. Some are laugh-out-loud funny, some are an emotional gut-punch, but all of them are written with generosity and heart. From a pole dancing grandmother to a high school football player playing catch with a plastic baby Jesus, these stories may be short, but each one captures a piece of the reader and doesn't let go. If you are looking for a collection that runs the gamut between hilarious and light to moving or deeply chilling, Shorts will leave you satisfied.
Excerpts from Shorts:
Kerasel looked back at the dingy picture window and saw her mother, face hovering like an apparition. Mama's instant smile was tight, an eraser effacing whatever emotion had been gracing it before. Kerasel brought her hand up and her fingers twiddled in the air. Her mother nodded her head, eyes piercing, and disappeared. Mama saw her off every day, had seen her off every day, even the day her father died a year and a half ago. Even on that day, Mama still said goodbye.
~"Jesus Saves," from Shorts: A Collection
It started when I married my husband, Steve. To get really technical about it. The long and short of it was that we married, we bred, we succeeded in getting them all out of the house, and then…something happened to me.
I was lying in bed reading, and a sensation that had only tickled me a few times in our marriage came, unbidden, unexpected, and exploded over and through me before I could even utter a sound.
"Jan? What's wrong?" Steve's query came from a mouth full of toothpaste, and the faucet ran a steady stream of ice cold water. I wanted to tell him that was wasteful, like I do every night, but I couldn't catch my breath.
"Jan? You okay?"
Was I okay? The second I squeezed my thighs together I was "okay" one more time.
"Honey?" I knew he was really concerned because he spit his toothpaste wad out before asking. I finally found my voice.
"I can't believe what just happened! And this book is non-fiction!"
My sexual awakening at the age of 48 appeared without warning, and without warning I was not the person Steve had married twenty-seven years ago.
He accused me of trying to kill him on several occasions. A trip to our family doctor, and Steve had an awakening of his own.
The honeymoon was on full-force. I was insatiable. I began buying lingerie to greet him in when he got home from work. I discovered Internet porn. I became a statistic.
~"Patch Kit," from Shorts: A Collection
He didn't like carrying the plastic shopping bag. It made him feel like a pauper. He didn't like the sound it made against his leg, like rain pelting harshly against glass during a storm, like a storm in the spring when there ought to be sun. Like days when men bury their wives and can't hold the umbrella against the storm any longer. No, he didn't like the spring rains at all. And he didn't like to look like a pauper.
The only other bag he had was slightly less dignified. Alma had carried her church music in it. The bag was bright green and had a felt tree on the front with fuzzy pink pom-pom apples. He had teased her about it when she'd made it--she insisted they were blooms. He always called it her pink apple bag and her laugh floated through his ears as imaginary rain pelted glass against his leg while he walked down the street to the shoe repair shop.
~"Moment," from Shorts: A Collection
"Short stories, like short poems, are a difficult form to get right, and Winward has succeeded brilliantly for the most part in SHORTS. These well-crafted tales give a quick but illuminating glimpse at the inside of another person's mind at one particular moment in time. " Read entire review here.
A diverse collection of short stories written by author and artist J.A. Carter-Winward. J.A. addresses a wide range of topics from motherhood to politics, sex to religion. Each short story is a beautiful vignette, a glimpse into another world like a painting, that leaves the reader wanting more.
The Spring War had to be my favorite, as it was something to which everyone can relate; the games that married couples play, and how their children get caught up in them. Patch Kit made me laugh out loud as a menopausal woman, reaches her sexual awakening and asks her husband of 27 years to try something new.
J.A. is a talented writer that paints with words to create a variety of miniature works that entertain, inspire, and provoke.