Tom Janikowski

Unusual Writer - Unusual Fiction

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A Martini and a Pen -
the Official Trailers!

The Official Balloonheart Trailer:

"worse than it looks":
a word from the author

Mr. Michael Nitrous works for a failing newspaper chain. Dr. Neil Troper is an escapee from a psychiatric detention facility. They are both looking for a really good lunch. Fiberglass Clown Head Symphony follows the separate journeys that these two men make across the People's Republic of Illinois on their way to the Wisconsin Confederation, considering music, metaphysics, and fortune cookies along the way. Must the individual sacrifice all creativity and freedom for the good of the society, or can a person become whatever he or she wants to become? Can he or she even become the manufacturer of the finest imitation shrunken heads in North America?

The 60,000 words of Fiberglass Clown Head Symphony will move you from the shores of the Mississippi to the shores of Devil's Lake, and they will carry you from an Asian Buffet to a glacier and back again. Michael Nitrous is going to have one heck of a headache in the morning.

A Stay of Execution is the latest collection of flash fiction from Mr. Janikowski.  It is a somewhat voluminous tome, stretching to just under 300 pages, and chock-a-block full of Midwestern weirdness.  You should probably buy at least two copies, and leave one of them in your tiny cubby-hole wherein you make your sandwiches.


There are a few depressing pieces in the collection, but more of them are just a wee bit unnerving.  Kind of in the same way that finding a dead bird at the bottom of a box of breakfast cereal is unnerving.  That actually happened to someone, once, we are told.  No one is quite sure what became of the bird, and we were unable to find out what brand of cereal it was.


 We apologize for ruining your breakfast.  And for not knowing the brand.

A Martini and a Pen is a collection of 55 pieces of short fiction, ranging in length from the form known as “flash” or “sudden” to the short story. Drawn from both previously published and unpublished works in the author's collection, the stories span a wide expanse of subject matters and moods, which has contributed to his style being likened to “'A Prairie Home Companion' on 'shrooms.”


Tales of good and evil are set against dreamlike stories – some bordering on the psychedelic, some unashamedly tongue-in-cheek. The flash fiction is punctuated by several longer pieces, including “Dauphin Street and the Most Cruel Disease,” told partially from within the mind of an Alzheimer's patient, “Priceless and Serene,” a study of emotion set in the countryside of southwestern Vermont, and the title piece, “A Martini and a Pen,” which finds a desperate man discussing his future with a bartender (and which includes a very nice drink recipe).


Catering to a generation that has next to no attention span, this collection should have a little something to please almost any reader, and quite a bit to make almost everybody uncomfortable and fidgety.

Balloonheart tells the age-old story of the struggle for freedom. The novella is set somewhere in middle America after a post-war collapse of society. Remnants of the government and the military-industrial complex have forged an alliance and cooperate in a re-ordered and fortified microcosm of post-modern civilization known as "the Project," which produces arms and materiel and seeks to enforce some order in what they attempt to portray as a very hostile world. 

A man whom we come to know only as "Hombre" narrates his path from his civilian home to the bowels of the Project and out again. He is aided in his quest for freedom by the ghost of a friend of his who was killed in an industrial accident within the Project.  "Ed's Ghost" appears to the Hombre at critical times and helps the Hombre ask the right questions. 

The reader comes to see that perhaps some things are not quite as they seem - in the Hombre's world and in our own, as well.


Midwestern fictionista Tom Janikowski has crafted a collection of poetry drawn from his experiences working with people who have made bad choices - addicts, convicts, users, and the like. Written over the span of two years on the streets of the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, the poems include many that appeared at his collaborative poetry site, "the lost beat," where he writes with his cousin, the poet Denise Janikowski-Krewal.