Category Archives: Secrets & LIes
The print edition of Secrets & Lies has been out for a while now. But because of a doozy of a file error, I wasn’t able to get it converted to an e-book until very recently.
But I’m happy to report that it is now available for Kindle as an e-book, and that several of the stories are available as singles. You can find all of that via my author page at Amazon.
Next up will be a version for the Apple Store, hopefully with embedded audio versions of the book and a copy of the film adaptation of The Dog House, the first story from the book. No hard timeline on that though.
Just saw a new reader review of my book posted on Amazon, and though Secrets and Lies has gotten nothing but 5-star rankings, I wanted to share because this may be the best review yet.
A lot of times something that is “independent” can be seen as garbage. An unsigned band, a low budget movie….after all, if this book was that great, why wouldn’t it have a major publisher behind it?
Josh Gross blows this line of thinking out of the water with “Secrets and Lies.” A culmination of short stories that bounce between hipster cliches and broken dreams; this collection runs from one emotional extremity to the next, with no regard for reader comfort. And it’s this dangerous style of writing that turns the “corporate book publishing machine” off…..this book at times is an uncomfortable and unstable read. And that’s what makes it amazing.
After all, this is not a set of stories that end with a happy ending. This is not a children’s book where the villains are served their just desserts. These are not fables where the hero gets the girl and we learn a lesson. These stories showcase the heartbreak of life and young adulthood – and are deeply personal snapshots of a generation struggling to define themselves.
Let’s all thank Josh for creating a stimulating and honest work; as we already have a culture drowning in mindless fluff and escapism.
All I can say is wow. Maybe it is not a very writerly response, but still, wow. I continue to be grateful for the kind things people have said about my work and for the opportunity to create work that can inspire that sort of reaction. And you know, wow.
I decided to post a sample story from my book, Secrets & Lies, on the blog today. I did that for two reasons. The first is that today is Valentine’s Day, and this story has do with the fallout from just such a day. And the other is that though I initially feared this story might not age well because of its elements of political satire, Congress seems to become more and more of a farce by the day, thereby making this story almost more, instead of less relatable.
The Rise and Fall of the Wally Johnson Act
House resolution 417, popularly known as the Wally Johnson Act, passed in a specially called late night joint session of congress.
Sponsoring senator, Rick Stanford, told the gathered masses that the best way to honor the young man whose death had touched so many, was to take steps to see that the tragic events of February 14th, would never-ever-ever, be repeated.
Due to the general silliness of the proposal, making it illegal to break someone’s heart, all elected officials present believed themselves to be the only ones who had voted for it, discovering afterwards that it had in fact passed unanimously. No one wanted to be seen as supportive of heartbreak, especially not the kind that drove 22-year-old Wally Johnson to throw himself from his 15th floor apartment window, landing on a sidewalk café table where a divorce support group was having its weekly meeting, a meeting which was being filmed for a feature story on a popular TV news Magazine program, and which captured every grisly detail of the tragedy on film.
Not in an election year anyhow.
A national furor erupted within hours when it was discovered almost no one in congress had read the bill. Some believed it to be a non-binding statement that United States of America stood against heartbreak. Some believed it to be TORT reform, bringing heartbreak under the umbrella definition of emotional damages one could sue for. And some believed it to be a form of criminal assault. However, whatever those who voted for it had believed it to be, they had all voted for it for the purposes of appearance, and as such, no one was willing to be the first to retract their support for it lest they would be accused of waffling, of being a flip-flopper, or even of having philandering or playboy sympathies.
Instead, they claimed that on review, it didn’t go far enough, and pushed for stricter regulations, a war on heartbreak .
Stanford himself said the bill was only the first phase of a bold new direction for the ountry, one free of misery and cruelty—both of which were harmful to the economy.
Broad new powers were awarded law enforcement officials to monitor all of the usual suspects and a special new federal prison nicknamed the honeymoon suite was constructed.
Within weeks, quarterback was the most dreaded position on high school football squads and church groups began protesting the opening of romantic comedy films as vile propaganda, nothing more than attempts to poison the minds of vulnerable children by the Hollywood elite.
No one was more vocal in their support than the Catholic Church, as the Wally Johnson act caused divorce rates to drop sharply. No matter how much they hated each other, couples were wary to risk the jail time.
It quickly became a dark age for daytime TV as tabloid talk show hosts were convicted of conspiracy and racketeering by the score. But conversely, it became a golden age for pop music, as record companies were now willing to sign more talented but less attractive acts. A memo to A&R reps, later acquired and published by the BBC, insisted on a minimum weight of 220 pounds for potential new artists to ensure they wouldn’t have to seek political asylum in France like so many boy bands had already been forced to do.
However, after a few months it became clear that the blue and red states of America were no in way united, that they were in fact cleanly split on the issue, with those who supported the heart’s irrational freedom in all it’s glory and horror labeled as home-wreckers and sociopaths, and those who believed in respecting other’s feelings slandered as brainwashed Orwellian minions. Public school teachers, already under fire for their incitement of childhood crushes, were now subject to rigorous review panels as to whether or not their lesson plans were biased on the issue of heartbreak. Shakespeare’s sonnets were dropped from curricula nationwide and the percentage of class-time devoted to math increased by thirty percent.
The national discussion expanded when several prominent social conservatives wrote op-ed pieces insisting that the bill was tantamount to special rights for perverts, as it exempted homosexuals, who weren’t actually capable of loving one another. Gay rights groups responded that they were every bit as capable of bitter, drawn-out, devastating separations as hetero couples, and cited statistics from a recent study in the Netherlands. A peaceful mass-breakup was scheduled in San Francisco, but turned violent after the governor sent in the National Guard.
Sandra Jackson, Wally’s mother, rejected the legislation perpetrated in her son’s name outright, and staged a sit-in, camping out on Rick Stanford’s lawn, vowing not to leave until America was once again “free to love em’ and leave em’.” Her crusade was not widely supported and an attempt was made on her life by an assassin later found to have late sixties flower child ties.
A coalition of out of work therapists and chocolate manufacturers marched on Washington, demanding compensation. Or revolution. Whichever came first. They brought mini-workout trampolines, branding themselves re-bounders. Rick Stanford laughed off their protest, calling them “buggy whip manufacturers,” in a televised interview, and insisting that profiting off the misery of others was fundamentally anti-American.
The talking heads on TV debated misery-profiteering point back and forth for days, the liberals insisting that capitalism was nothing more than creating the illusion of misery in conjunction with the belief that your product can abate it, and the conservatives insisting that life is inherently miserable and that capitalism is in fact the solution. The greens tried to say that both life and capitalism could be what you made of them, but no one listened to them. The dialogue had become a din, a rhetorical slush so thick, so garbled, that none of the viewers had understood a word of it, only the emotional charge it was infused with.
However, the zeitgeist all came to a stunned and silent halt when Rick Stanford was eventually caught having an affair with a male intern, for his wife, Mary, told the media that devastated as she may be, she was declining to press charges. All she wanted was to move on.
She was quickly drafted into running for her husband’s now-vacant senate seat—he had fled to Syria, as it lacked a formal extradition treaty with the US—and ran on a platform of pain equaling growth. Pop art posters and t-shirts featuring her image and the word pain were everywhere. Now armed with an icon, a totem, opposition to the new national climate grew swiftly, and Mary Stanford was elected in a landslide.
In her first act as an elected official, Mary sponsored a bill revoking the Wally Johnson act, which passed unanimously, allowing Americans to once again gaily wreck each other’s lives on a whim, looking back at the recent years as dark confusing interlude in which they let their compassion run wild, distorting reality and opening the door to tyranny, a door that was now thankfully closed.
The reader reviews rolling in over at Amazon are continuing to be kind to me. Five stars across the board. That’s better than Moby Dick. It’s got an average of four. But, it’s also SUPER-BORING.
Anyhooters, check out some of what’s been said below…
This collection is an emotional rollercoaster. I laughed a lot, cried a little, then laughed myself to tears. The book is addictive, so pick up a copy and carve out some time, because you won’t be able to put it down.
I have a process when I read books. Simple first come first serve.
Short of reading maybe a page here or there, I stick to it. When I picked up Secrets & Lies, I immediately caved and read the first story. Feeling guilty, I returned to the book who had dutifully waited it’s turn. Not unlike the sensation that I’ve left the stove on, S&L itched at my brain, breaking my routine one day at a time.
It won of course.
Not only did it win, it may have ruined other books for me. I keep picking out stories and re-reading them. I fear my process will never recover.
It was completely worth it.
I’ve read versions of many of these shorts before and yet I found myself completely sucked in to each and every story, even upon my 2nd or 3rd read. It’s a fantastically well written and varied collection from a new author and I can’t wait to read what comes next.
When my copy of secrets and lies arrived, I had to wrestle it from my wife’s hands. She saw the cover and wanted first crack at the stories. We compromised and ever since then I get one chapter at a time, and then it’s her turn to read it. At first I was a bit irritated by this, but then I realized we had something new to talk about. Thanks Josh Gross, you have brought my wife and I closer than before!
By day, a large part of my job is to be professional critic. Not everyone approves of what I have to say, which they make abundantly clear in their web comments. I think that part of it is that they think it’s me dishing it out and never having to take it, which isn’t true. I love “taking it.” I am of the opinion that something is discussed because it’s worth discussing, so even when criticism is negative, it grants legitimacy.
That’s why now that my book is getting into the hands of readers, Read the rest of this entry
Hi loyal readers. Just wanted to let you know that my book, Secrets and Lies, is now available at three stores in the Boise area: Hyde Park Books, Rediscovered Bookshop and Bricolage.
It will also be available at the November edition of Story Story Night at The Rose Room.
If you have suggestions for more stores that might carry an independent author like myself, feel free to name them in the comment box.
The team here at The Josh Gross sent out a few advance copies of Secrets and Lies to start generating some buzz. Here’s what the advance readers had to say about it.
“There is nothing timid about Secrets & Lies. Josh Gross dives headlong and with no holds barred into stories both tragic and absurd. Relationships bloom and falter, leaving the reader by turns laughing and cringing, and populated by characters desperate to escape the feeling of disconnect we all share.”
Amanda Turner – The Writer’s Block KRBX 89.9
“Gross walks the fence between the dreams of Western American youth and the nightmares of our older selves with these fine stories—a razor’s edge that you will recognize as the one buried deep beneath the detritus alongside your mother’s old house.”
Nathaniel Hoffman – Journalist
“Gross’ reflections on love, on loss and on the unending–and often unsatisfactory–search for ultimate truth will resonate with anyone who has ever tried to navigate the maze of life.”
AmyAtkins – Boise Weekly
“…from inconvenient hauntings to broken relationships, Josh Gross’s book explores it all with casual whit and careful execution. Even the classic argument-inducing topics – abortion and adultery to name a couple – are treated in a manner that is at once cavalier and compassionate.”
Anna Demetriades – Board Member, Story Story Night
“Josh Gross has the uncanny ability to balance the absurdly comical with the profoundly emotional. The biggest challenge for me as a filmmaker in adapting his work will be externalizing his ingeniously written inner monologue while preserving its depth.”
Kimberly Rideout – Filmmaker
It’s not finalized. But this is the most up-to-date and finalish draft of the cover for Secrets and Lies yet. We’ve still got to add in the assorted dinguses and tweak the blah blah blah. But still, once you see something like this, it all becomes much more real. I have a book coming out. Dang. That’s rad.