Monday, May 9, 2016

Less Than Human by Allen Long - Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Allen Long will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Five Things You Probably Don't Know About Allen Long


1. When I was a journalism student at Virginia Tech, I was one of the top students in my class, and this earned me an internship with United Press International covering Jimmy Carter in the White House. I was supposed to report to Wesley Pippert, but he was called away on an assignment, so I reported directly to his boss, Helen Thomas. On my first day at the White House, Serbians and Croatians, two groups that didn’t get along, were outside protesting the visit of Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito with President Carter. Before I arrived, there had been some violence and an arrest. Helen virtually shoved me out of the White House and said, “Go find out what’s happening outside.” My press credentials weren’t convincing because I was only an intern, and the Serbians suspected I was a Croatian spy, and the Croatians thought I was a Serbian spy. However, I managed to avoid getting beat up and got to the bottom of the story. When I returned to the White House, Helen said, “You aren’t in the union, which means you can’t send stories over the wire.” So I composed the story in my head and dictated it to Helen, who typed it up and sent it over the wire.

2. I was once a child guest on Willard Scott’s Bozo the Clown show, although the host that day was Cousin Cupcake. I sat between a white kid and an African-American kid. Out of the blue, the white kid punched the black kid. I said, “What did you do that for?” Using a racial slur, the white kid said he hit the kid because he was black. I was about six, and this was the first time I heard the N-word and witnessed racial prejudice.

3. When I was earning my M.F.A. in fiction writing at the University of Arizona, I also volunteered at the Hunger Action Center. When I asked the director what I could do to most help the organization, he said, “Please get us non-profit status. I want to expand operations, and all the local churches have donated as much as they can afford. If you succeed, I’ll give you a paying job.” Without any experience in accounting, I collected the data I needed to determine we were indeed a non-profit, and I filled out the necessary forms and sent them off. I graduated with my M.F.A. and moved with my wife and son to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I ended up working in the business world for twenty-five years because the cost of living was so high. About six months after our move, I learned the Hunger Action Center had been granted non-profit status. I wondered how my life would have turned out differently if I’d stayed in low-cost Tucson and accepted the position there.

4. I virtually fell in love with my second wife Elizabeth on first sight. A mutual friend introduced us over lunch in a San Francisco Italian deli. After that, our friend made a quick exit, and Elizabeth and I talked for about 90 minutes. We felt so close at the end of this conversation that we hugged and fell in love. Our twenty-first wedding anniversary is July 1, 2016.

5. I once told my three sons a humorous story with so much vigorous gesturing on my part that my chair exploded beneath me, throwing me to the floor while my kids split a gut laughing. This is one of many stories that has passed into family legend.

In Less than Human, Allen Long tells the story of his often nightmarish childhood in the wealthy suburbs of D.C., the wonders and mysteries of teenage love, his ill-advised journeys into corporate America and a hellish marriage, and ultimate breakdown. And yet, his story is mostly one of triumph. He draws strength from the joys of fatherhood, he finds true love in his second marriage, and through working with psychotherapists and leading a life rich in self-examination, he overcomes both child abuse and the resulting PTSD, finally learning that instead of being less than, he is, indeed, human. Less than Human follows an unconventional path, arranged as much by theme and association as by chronology. These stories take many forms, from driving narrative to lyrical reverie, at times evoking mythic overtones, and this variety, along with an unflinching confrontation with the conditions and consequences of childhood abuse, create its own form of suspense--in what direction will this book take us next?

Enjoy an Excerpt:

While the zookeeper threw apples into the makeshift pool and coaxed the elephants to swim to retrieve them, he recited a long string of facts. These awe-inspiring creatures have 150,000 muscles in their trunks and they can use this appendage to suck up to 15 quarts of water at a time, which they then squirt into their mouths. Also, he said, elephants can hear with their ears, trunks, and feet. In addition, these captivating mammals are believed to have the same level of intelligence as dolphins and non-human primates and they can feel grief, make music, show compassion and kindness, mother one another’s infants, play, use tools, and recognize themselves in mirrors.

When some of the elephants exited the pool, they used their trunks to throw dirt on their backs.

“Dad, what are they doing?” Ben asked.

“Putting on sunscreen,” I said.

The boys giggled.

The zookeeper continued to lecture, but we tuned him out and focused solely on the elephants as the great gray wrinkly creatures with the small dark eyes and long eyelashes and formidable, floppy ears shaped like the African continent bobbed and swayed in the hot July afternoon. Perhaps the boys’ minds wandered briefly to Babar, one of their favorite books about an anthropomorphized elephant, just as mine may have flashed briefly upon the proverbial elephant in the room at home, but our thoughts quickly returned to the magnificent elephants and our simple but immense male joy.


About the Author:
Allen Long was born in New York City and grew up in Arlington, Virginia. He holds a B.A. in journalism from Virginia Tech, an M.A. in fiction writing from Hollins University, and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Arizona. He has been an assistant editor at Narrative Magazine since 2007, and his fiction and memoirs have appeared in a wide variety of literary magazines. He lives with his wife near San Francisco.

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43 comments:

  1. The book sounds very intriguing, looking forward to reading it!

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    1. Thanks. I hope you really enjoy it. If you want to talk about it, I can be reached at allenlongauthor@gmail.com

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  2. Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

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    1. While I was writing my book, I did all my proofing and editing. I must have done a good job because I published seven of the chapters as is in literary magazines. However, when my book was nearing completion, I called in a professional editor, who was invaluable. In a comment I made below, I mention that qualities one should seek in an editor who is helping you prepare your book to be considered by publishers. I finished my book in July and had a book contract in hand by August, and my publisher accepted by book as is without requiring any edits. I couldn't have delivered such a nearly perfect product without the help of my editor. I hope this is helpful.

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  3. First, I want to thank It's Raining Books for featuring Less than Human: A Memoir today. I also want to let readers know that I'm working today--I'm a hospital nurse--so I won't be able to address questions and comments until I get home around 4:30 CA time today. Thanks for your patience. Mai T--I wrote the first eight chapters of my book on my own. Then I hired a professional editor who helped me edit the book as I wrote the ninth and final chapter and then wrote five more cover-to-cover drafts of the book. A good editor will be skilled at language, story structure, content/drama, and psychology/theme.

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  4. By the way, I think it would be fun if everyone posts the title of the best book they've read in the last few years. Mine is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

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  5. "5. I once told my three sons a humorous story with so much vigorous gesturing on my part that my chair exploded beneath me, throwing me to the floor while my kids split a gut laughing. This is one of many stories that has passed into family legend."


    It made for a thrilling and explosive punctuation mark as well as proved that it pays to pay attention to the same old stories. You never know how they might actually end. If I recall correctly, It was the rubber spider story.

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    1. So the story is about this toy spider my father had as a kid. It had a wooden body with a spring underneath, and all of its legs were made of springs. The body in legs were covered in hair, so this was a big hairy spider. My dad, who was crazed for practical jokes, put the spider on the top shelf of his closet. Just as he anticipated, my grandmother knocked off the spider while dusting, and it bounced toward her with all of its legs quivering. My grandmother was totally fooled. She got a fly swatter and beat the hell out of it. The harder she hit it, the more it bounced around and quivered. Then she sprayed it with insecticide. The spray also caused the spider to jump around with quivering legs. Then my grandmother beat it until the wet hair came off and she realized it was a prank spider. As I told this story and gesticulated all of the spider's jumping around and quivering legs, the chair beneath me collapsed. Good times.

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  6. Allen has always been an amazing story teller. During the summers when we were growing up, we had twin beds in the basement. We would sleep down there because it was cooler, and it was more difficult to disturb our parents. Allen would tell me stories for hours before we would fall asleep. You are in for a treat with Allen's storys. ENJOY!

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    1. Thanks for the plug, Dave--I'll pay you later.

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  7. Great excerpt, thank you.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the excerpt. It's from a chapter called Saturdays in Kid Heaven. The chapter addresses how my mentally/emotionally troubled first wife went into a phase in which she kicked my three sons and me out of the house after breakfast on Saturdays and wouldn't let us return home until dinner time. Far from being a punishment, this allowed us to do kid/guy stuff all day once a week, and we had a blast and super bonded.

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  8. Really great post! Thanks for sharing and for the giveaway :)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the list. The items just popped out at me, seemingly at random.

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  10. I'm still online eager to address any additional questions or comments. At the same time, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank It's Raining Books for hosting me. Thanks also for your great reader questions and comments.

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  11. Thanks for the giveaway; I like the excerpt. :)

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  12. Loved reading the "Five things..." part of the post, thank you! :)

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed them.

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  13. Congrats on the new book and good luck on the book tour!

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  14. I enjoyed reading the excerpt and the five things list. This book sounds like such an interesting and intriguing read. Looking forward to checking out this book.

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  15. Great list of five! Especially number five - sounds like you are quite a storyteller! Those kind of family stories will always be remembered and passed on from generation to generation :)

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    1. Glad you liked number five. I think the story of me telling the toy spider story will live on for a long time.

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  16. How did you come up with the idea for the book?

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    1. After I'd published some short stories, I decided to try my hand at memoir, so I wrote and published a magazine-length piece about my disgust at the corruption and greed I witnessed when I worked in the business world. A writer friend said he thought that was the best piece I'd ever written. So I continued to write and publish magazine-length memoirs about the major dramatic high and low points of my life. At some point, I realized that if I were willing to write about the very darkest moments of my life (child abuse, nightmarish first marriage), I would have a book-length memoir telling the complete story of my life (without the boring parts). So I wrote those dark chapters and finished the book.

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  17. Where is your favorite spot to read?

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    1. I like to read in a very comfortable wing chair in my living room that's next to a bright lamp.

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  18. Just wanted to leave my full contact info here. My email is allenlongauthor@gmail.com and my Facebook author's page is www.facebook.com/allenlongauthor/ I'll keep checking this blog for questions and comments as well. Thanks.

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  19. What is the most played song on your iPod/iPhone?

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    1. I love Sixties and Seventies rock. Favorite groups include The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. I listen to the Beatles station on Pandora and the Classic Vinyl station on Sirius XM. And I have a large CD collection.

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  20. I have added this book to my TBR list and look forward to reading this book!

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  21. Hope you are having a fabulous weekend! Looking forward to reading this book!

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  22. What is the name of your favorite restaurant?

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  23. I really enjoy reading your excerpt and interview! I continue to enjoy this book tour! I wish you all a pleasant weekend! :)

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  24. Good luck with the book tour, Allen!

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  25. Shared on G+, have a great day!

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So... inquiring minds want to know: what do you think?