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  2. Introduction to Pre-event Assignments The below seven assignments are vital to reaching an understanding of specific and critical core elements that go into the creation of a commercially viable genre novel or narrative non-fiction. Of course, there is more to it than this, as you will see, but here we have a good primer that assures we're literally all on the same page before the event begins. You may return here as many times as you need to edit your topic post (login and click "edit"). Pay special attention to antagonists, setting, conflict and core wound hooks. And btw, quiet novels do not sell. Keep that in mind. Be aggressive with your work. Michael Neff Algonkian Conference Director ____________ After you've registered and logged in, create your reply to this topic (button top right). Please utilize only one reply for all of your responses so the forum topic will not become cluttered. Also, strongly suggest typing up your "reply" in a separate file then copying it over to your post before submitting. Not a good idea to lose what you've done! __________________________________________________________ THE ACT OF STORY STATEMENT Before you begin to consider or rewrite your story premise, you must develop a simple "story statement." In other words, what's the mission of your protagonist? The goal? What must be done? What must this person create? Save? Restore? Accomplish? Defeat?... Defy the dictator of the city and her bury brother’s body (ANTIGONE)? Struggle for control over the asylum (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST)? Do whatever it takes to recover lost love (THE GREAT GATSBY)? Save the farm and live to tell the story (COLD MOUNTAIN)? Find the wizard and a way home to Kansas (WIZARD OF OZ)? Note that all of these are books with strong antagonists who drive the plot line (see also "Core Wounds and Conflict Lines" below). FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. ___________________________________________________ THE ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT (Photo : Javert from "Les Misérables") What are the odds of you having your manuscript published if the overall story and narrative fail to meet publisher demands for sufficient suspense, character concern, and conflict? Answer: none. You might therefore ask, what major factor makes for a quiet and dull manuscript brimming with insipid characters and a story that cascades from chapter to chapter with tens of thousands of words, all of them combining irresistibly to produce an audible thudding sound in the mind like a mallet hitting a side of cold beef? Answer: the unwillingness or inability of the writer to create a suitable antagonist who stirs and spices the plot hash. Let's make it clear what we're talking about. By "antagonist" we specifically refer to an actual fictional character, an embodiment of certain traits and motivations who plays a significant role in catalyzing and energizing plot line(s), or at bare minimum, in assisting to evolve the protagonist's character arc (and by default the story itself) by igniting complication(s) the protagonist, and possibly other characters, must face and solve (or fail to solve). CONTINUE READING ENTIRE ARTICLE AT NWOE THEN RETURN HERE. SECOND ASSIGNMENT: in 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them. ___________________________________________________ CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE What is your breakout title? How important is a great title before you even become published? Very important! Quite often, agents and editors will get a feel for a work and even sense the marketing potential just from a title. A title has the ability to attract and condition the reader's attention. It can be magical or thud like a bag of wet chalk, so choose carefully. A poor title sends the clear message that what comes after will also be of poor quality. Go to Amazon.Com and research a good share of titles in your genre, come up with options, write them down and let them simmer for at least 24 hours. Consider character or place names, settings, or a "label" that describes a major character, like THE ENGLISH PATIENT or THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST. Consider also images, objects, or metaphors in the novel that might help create a title, or perhaps a quotation from another source (poetry, the Bible, etc.) that thematically represents your story. Or how about a title that summarizes the whole story: THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, etc. Keep in mind that the difference between a mediocre title and a great title is the difference between THE DEAD GIRL'S SKELETON and THE LOVELY BONES, between TIME TO LOVE THAT CHOLERA and LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA between STRANGERS FROM WITHIN (Golding's original title) and LORD OF THE FLIES, between BEING LIGHT AND UNBEARABLE and THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING. THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed). ___________________________________________________ DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES Did you know that a high percentage of new novel writers don't fully understand their genre, much less comprehend comparables? When informing professionals about the nuances of your novel, whether by query letter or oral pitch, you must know your genre first, and provide smart comparables second. In other words, you need to transcend just a simple statement of genre (literary, mystery, thriller, romance, science fiction, etc.) by identifying and relating your novel more specifically to each publisher's or agent's area of expertise, and you accomplish this by wisely comparing your novel to contemporary published novels they will most likely recognize and appreciate--and it usually doesn't take more than two good comps to make your point. Agents and publishing house editors always want to know the comps. There is more than one reason for this. First, it helps them understand your readership, and thus how to position your work for the market. Secondly, it demonstrates up front that you are a professional who understands your contemporary market, not just the classics. Very important! And finally, it serves as a tool to enable them to pitch your novel to the decision-makers in the business. Most likely you will need to research your comps. If you're not sure how to begin, go to Amazon.Com, type in the title of a novel you believe very similar to yours, choose it, then scroll down the page to see Amazon's list of "Readers Also Bought This" and begin your search that way. Keep in mind that before you begin, you should know enough about your own novel to make the comparison in the first place! By the way, beware of using comparables by overly popular and classic authors. If you compare your work to classic authors like H.G. Wells and Gabriel Marquez in the same breath you will risk being declared insane. If you compare your work to huge contemporary authors like Nick Hornby or Jodi Picoult or Nora Ephron or Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling, and so forth, you will not be laughed at, but you will also not be taken seriously since thousands of others compare their work to the same writers. Best to use two rising stars in your genre. If you can't do this, use only one classic or popular author and combine with a rising star. Choose carefully! FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: - Read this NWOE article on comparables then return here. - Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why? ____________________________________________________ CORE WOUND AND THE PRIMARY CONFLICT Conflict, tension, complication, drama--all basically related, and all going a long way to keeping the reader's eyes fixated on your story. These days, serving up a big manuscript of quiet is a sure path to damnation. You need tension on the page at all times, and the best way to accomplish this is to create conflict and complications in the plot and narrative. Consider "conflict" divided into three parts, all of which you MUST have present in the novel. First part, the primary dramatic conflict which drives through the work from beginning to end, from first major plot point to final reversal, and finally resolving with an important climax. Next, secondary conflicts or complications that take various social forms - anything from a vigorous love subplot to family issues to turmoil with fellow characters. Finally, those various inner conflicts and core wounds all important characters must endure and resolve as the story moves forward. But now, back to the PRIMARY DRAMATIC CONFLICT. If you've taken care to consider your story description and your hook line, you should be able to identify your main conflict(s). Let's look at some basic information regarding the history of conflict in storytelling. Conflict was first described in ancient Greek literature as the agon, or central contest in tragedy. According to Aristotle, in order to hold the interest, the hero must have a single conflict. The agon, or act of conflict, involves the protagonist (the "first fighter" or "hero") and the antagonist corresponding to the villain (whatever form that takes). The outcome of the contest cannot be known in advance, and, according to later drama critics such as Plutarch, the hero's struggle should be ennobling. Is that always true these days? Not always, but let's move on. Even in contemporary, non-dramatic literature, critics have observed that the agon is the central unit of the plot. The easier it is for the protagonist to triumph, the less value there is in the drama. In internal and external conflict alike, the antagonist must act upon the protagonist and must seem at first to overmatch him or her. The above defines classic drama that creates conflict with real stakes. You see it everywhere, to one degree or another, from classic contemporary westerns like THE SAVAGE BREED to a time-tested novel as literary as THE GREAT GATSBY. And of course, you need to have conflict or complications in nonfiction also, in some form, or you have a story that is too quiet. For examples let's return to the story descriptions and create some HOOK LINES. Let's don't forget to consider the "core wound" of the protagonist. Please read this article at NWOE then return here. The Hand of Fatima by Ildefonso Falcones A young Moor torn between Islam and Christianity, scorned and tormented by both, struggles to bridge the two faiths by seeking common ground in the very nature of God. Summer's Sisters by Judy Blume After sharing a magical summer with a friend, a young woman must confront her friend's betrayal of her with the man she loved. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud As an apprentice mage seeks revenge on an elder magician who humiliated him, he unleashes a powerful Djinn who joins the mage to confront a danger that threatens their entire world. Note that it is fairly easy to ascertain the stakes in each case above: a young woman's love and friendship, the entire world, and harmony between opposed religions. If you cannot make the stakes clear, the odds are you don't have any. Also, is the core wound obvious or implied? FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. Though you may not have one now, keep in mind this is a great developmental tool. In other words, you best begin focusing on this if you're serious about commercial publication. ______________________________________________________ OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO MORE LEVELS As noted above, consider "conflict" divided into three parts, all of which you should ideally have present. First, the primary conflict which drives through the core of the work from beginning to end and which zeniths with an important climax (falling action and denouement to follow). Next, secondary conflicts or complications which can take various social forms (anything from a vigorous love subplot to family issues to turmoil with fellow characters). Finally, those inner conflicts the major characters must endure and resolve. You must note the inner personal conflicts elsewhere in this profile, but make certain to note any important interpersonal conflicts within this particular category." SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction. Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it? ______________________________________________________ THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING When considering your novel, whether taking place in a contemporary urban world or on a distant magical planet in Andromeda, you must first sketch the best overall setting and sub-settings for your story. Consider: the more unique and intriguing (or quirky) your setting, the more easily you're able to create energetic scenes, narrative, and overall story. A great setting maximizes opportunities for interesting characters, circumstances, and complications, and therefore makes your writing life so much easier. Imagination is truly your best friend when it comes to writing competitive fiction, and nothing provides a stronger foundation than a great setting. One of the best selling contemporary novels, THE HUNGER GAMES, is driven by the circumstances of the setting, and the characters are a product of that unique environment, the plot also. But even if you're not writing SF/F, the choice of setting is just as important, perhaps even more so. If you must place your upmarket story in a sleepy little town in Maine winter, then choose a setting within that town that maximizes opportunities for verve and conflict, for example, a bed and breakfast stocked to the ceiling with odd characters who combine to create comical, suspenseful, dangerous or difficult complications or subplot reversals that the bewildered and sympathetic protagonist must endure and resolve while he or she is perhaps engaged in a bigger plot line: restarting an old love affair, reuniting with a family member, starting a new business, etc. And don't forget that non-gratuitous sex goes a long way, especially for American readers. CONTINUE TO READ THIS ARTICLE THEN RETURN. FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story? Please don't simply repeat what you already have which may well be too quiet. You can change it. That's why you're here! Start now. Imagination is your best friend, and be aggressive with it. ________________________ Below are several links to part of an article or whole articles that we feel are the most valuable for memoir writers. We have reviewed these and agree 110%. MEMOIR WRITING - CHOOSE A SPECIFIC EVENT (good general primer) How to Write a Memoir That People Care About | NY Book Editors NYBOOKEDITORS.COM Are you thinking of writing a memoir but you're stuck? We've got the remedy. Check out our beginner's guide on writing an epic and engaging memoir. MEMOIR MUST INCLUDE TRANSCENDENCE Writing Memoir? Include Transcendence - Memoir coach and author Marion Roach MARIONROACH.COM MEMOIR REQUIRES TRANSCENDENCE. Something has to happen. Or shift. Someone has to change a little. Or grow. It’s the bare hack minimum of memoir. WRITE IT LIKE A NOVEL How to Write a Powerful Memoir in 5 Simple Steps JERRYJENKINS.COM When it comes to writing a memoir, there are 5 things you need to focus on. If you do, your powerful story will have the best chance of impacting others. MEMOIR ANECDOTES - HOW TO MAKE THEM SHINE How to Write an Anecdote That Makes Your Nonfiction Come Alive JERRYJENKINS.COM Knowing how to write an anecdote lets you utilize the power of story with your nonfiction and engage your reader from the first page. ________________________
  3. Get a Life, Chloe Brown RECOMMENDED: Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert is $1.99! Kiki really loved this one and gave it an A: Get a Life, Chloe Brown saw my expectations’ proffered hand and kissed it gently, and then proceeded to charm their pants off. In a tent. With s’mores. (Not with s’mores, because s’mores apparently are not a thing in the UK.) This metaphor got away from me, but you get the idea. This book is outstanding. Talia Hibbert, one of contemporary romance’s brightest new stars, delivers a witty, hilarious romantic comedy about a woman who’s tired of being “boring” and recruits her mysterious, sexy neighbor to help her experience new things—perfect for fans of Sally Thorne, Jasmine Guillory, and Helen Hoang. Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamourous family’s mansion. The next items? Enjoy a drunken night out. Ride a motorcycle. Go camping. Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex. Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage. And…do something bad. But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job. Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit. But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior… Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Witches Are Coming The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West is $2.99! A bunch of us were excited for this one on a previous Hide Your Wallet. While this nonfiction may be a cathartic read, it also might be a little heavy right now. The firebrand New York Times columnist and bestselling author of Shrill–soon to be a Hulu series starring Aidy Bryant–provides a brilliant and incisive look at how patriarchy, intolerance, and misogyny have conquered not just politics but American culture itself. What do Adam Sandler, Donald Trump, and South Park have in common? Why are myths like “reverse sexism” and “political correctness” so seductive? And why do movie classics of yore, from Sixteen Candles to Revenge of the Nerds, make rape look like so much silly fun? With Lindy West’s signature wit and in her uniquely incendiary voice, THE WITCHES ARE COMING lays out a grand theory of America that explains why Trump’s election was, in many ways, a foregone conclusion. As West reveals through fascinating journeys across the landscapes of pop culture, the lies that fostered the catastrophic resentment that boiled over in the 2016 presidential race did not spring from a vacuum. They have in fact been woven into America’s DNA, cultivated by generations of mediocre white men and fed to the masses with such fury that we have become unable to recognize them as lies at all. Whether it be the notion overheard since the earliest moments of the #MeToo movement that feminism has gone too far or the insistence that holding someone accountable for his actions amounts to a “witch hunt,” THE WITCHES ARE COMING exposes the lies that many have chosen to believe and the often unexpected figures who have furthered them. Along the way, it unravels the tightening link between culture and politics, identifying in the memes, music, and movies we’ve loved the seeds of the neoreactionary movement now surging through the nation. Sprawling, funny, scorching, and illuminating, THE WITCHES ARE COMING shows West at the top of her intellectual and comic powers. As much a celebration of America’s potential as a condemnation of our failures, some will call it a witch hunt. To which West would reply, so be it: “I’m a witch and I’m hunting you.” Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. This Side of Murder RECOMMENDED: This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber is $1.99! Did you catch Huber on the podcast? Sarah has been a huge fan of Huber’s historical mysteries and had this to say: If you like smart, clever, extremely competent women sleuths with a handful of secrets and a crap ton of inner resilience this is a terrific start to a mystery series. Good for fans of Huber’s other series, and of historical mysteries. The Great War is over, but in this captivating new mystery from award-winning author Anna Lee Huber, one young widow discovers the real intrigue has only just begun . . . England, 1919. Verity Kent’s grief over the loss of her husband pierces anew when she receives a cryptic letter, suggesting her beloved Sidney may have committed treason before his untimely death. Determined to dull her pain with revelry, Verity’s first impulse is to dismiss the derogatory claim. But the mystery sender knows too much—including the fact that during the war, Verity worked for the Secret Service, something not even Sidney knew. Lured to Umbersea Island to attend the engagement party of one of Sidney’s fellow officers, Verity mingles among the men her husband once fought beside, and discovers dark secrets—along with a murder clearly meant to conceal them. Relying on little more than a coded letter, the help of a dashing stranger, and her own sharp instincts, Verity is forced down a path she never imagined—and comes face to face with the shattering possibility that her husband may not have been the man she thought he was. It’s a truth that could set her free—or draw her ever deeper into his deception . . . Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Highland Fling The Highland Fling by Meghan Quinn is $1.99 at Amazon! This is a contemporary romance with a grumpy Scottish hero. I’ve always been curious about Quinn’s contemporary romances. Would you recommend them? In this steamy tale by USA Today bestselling author Meghan Quinn, an American searching for her purpose escapes to a Scottish town but finds more questions than answers when she meets a brooding yet handsome handyman. Freshly fired from her third job in a row, Bonnie St. James has lost her way. So when she and her best friend stumble upon a “help wanted” post to run a coffee shop in the Scottish Highlands, they apply on a whim. Who knows? Maybe traveling to a new place is just what she needs to figure out her next move. When the friends arrive in the tiny idyllic town of Corsekelly, they instantly fall for the gorgeous Highland landscape and friendly townspeople. But Bonnie finds a less-than-warm welcome in Rowan MacGregor, the rugged local handyman. Busy wrestling his own demons, Rowan’s in no mood to deal with the quirky American—even if she is a bonny lass. As Bonnie and Rowan’s paths inevitably cross, insults—and sparks—fly. Can the pair build on their similarities to help each other find purpose and direction…and maybe romance too? Or will their passionate tempers fling them apart? Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  4. Last year, when my mother moved apartments, I came into possession of a largeish Prada box full of my childhood diaries. They go from 1981—I was four, and dictated the diary to my aunt—up to the nineties. I still haven’t read most of them. (I think it was a handbag, and not a small one, that originally came in that Prada box.) It is hard work to feel love for one’s childhood and adolescent self. Reading this entry, for example, I feel ashamed at my eleven-year-old self’s American imperialistic attitude towards my grandparents, who hadn’t heard of a planetarium before but “liked it very much.” It’s interesting that I then apparently felt I had to explain the concept of a planetarium for the benefit of people “a million years from now.” The whole entry gives me a “dutiful” feeling, when I read it now. I think I used to feel like I had to be writing all this stuff down, maintaining a chatty, “delightful” style, explaining every last thing down to the speech patterns of my fifth-grade science teacher, and appealing to some kind of “universal” reader who would understand it all and give each detail its proper value (although apparently this person also wouldn’t know what a planetarium was). What even is a childhood diary—for whom do we keep it? Elif Batuman’s first novel, The Idiot, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Its sequel, Either/Or, will be published on May 24. View the full article
  5. Haven't the online forums pretty much superceded the old study manual? I believe that's the case.
  6. “A Mami Wata’s essence is moonlight and desire melded to one. Nala knows this in her marrow, in her fins. Lasirèn, Yemanja, Oxum, Erzulie, Jine-Faro, Santa Marta. Their bloodline flowed through miles of sandy lagoons and tidal estuaries along Africa’s coast. In her homeland, Nala’s clanswomen are worshipped as goddesses till this day, queen of queens reigning on high in a pantheon of miengu, wanton water deities. They are the descendants of Mojili, a spirit-ruler hailing from a time before man, her name so powerful, so revered, it could not be uttered before small children lest they perish.” Nana Nkweti’s debut short story collection Walking on Cowrie Shells (2022) demonstrates the range of the Cameroonian-American writer’s remarkable fiction. Nkweti’s fiction gleefully crosses genre boundaries, mixing the fantastical and the bizarre with sharply observed character pieces. The stories cover a wide range, but are linked by Nkweti’s playful imagination, her deft characterisation, and her fascination with those who are caught between different cultures. Walking on Cowrie Shells is an engaging collection that marks the debut of a striking talent, a writer unafraid to engage with the speculative and the fantastic in inventive ways. Nkweti’s writing uses the fantastic, the speculative and even metafictional techniques to explore the difficulties, triumphs, contradictions and discrimination faced living across multiple characters, frequently drawing on her Cameroonian and American heritage. ‘The Living Infinite’ is perhaps the most fantastical story in the collection, and tells the moving story of Nala, a Mami Wata – an African water goddess – who renounces her powers so that she can live a mortal life with Byron, the New Orleans-born fisherman she falls in love with. The story is full of sensual magic, drawing on Cameroonian folklore to tell a love story between people in two different cultures, one of whom must give hers up to live with him. Nala finds herself a stranger in New Orleans, but also amongst her family of magical water spirits, who don’t quite understand this strange human man she has fallen for or the very different life she has chosen with him. The collection’s most speculative story is ‘It Just Kills You Inside’, a brutally cynical look at how Western media portrays Africa as a centre of poverty and disease, in which Connor, an embittered journalist, is hired to help cover up a zombie outbreak in Cameroon. The story expertly dissects neo-colonialist attitudes that are embedded into how Western culture perceives and talks about Africa, and feels particularly pertinent after both the Ebola outbreaks and the worldwide COVID pandemic. It is at once very darkly funny, an incredible work of characterisation, and remarkably thought-provoking. Other stories are less explicitly speculative or fantastic, but still engage with speculative or fantastic tropes. ‘Rain Check at MomoCon’ is a wonderful story about fandom. It’s the story of Astrid, a cosplaying teenager who writes comics with Young, her secret crush. Astrid has to navigate her fandom and her writing, which go against the expectations of her African family, who have a very different idea of what her future will look like than she does. It’s at once humorous and touching. Other stories touch on fantastical ideas without ever explicitly tipping over into the fantastic. ‘Night Becomes Us’ engages with the tropes of vampire fiction to tell a story about a woman who has moved to the USA to work in club bathrooms. ‘The Devil Is a Liar’ explores the contested role of religion between a mother and daughter undergoing a family crisis, and while nothing explicitly supernatural ever occurs, the story is built around ideas of faith, spirituality and how one might feel the hand of God in one’s life. Other stories engage more with ideas or tropes from thrillers. ‘It Takes A Village Some Say’ is a tightly constructed tale that switches between the perspectives of an adoptee child trafficked from Africa and her rich adopted parents, in which Zora the daughter manipulates her adopted family’s fortunes in a masterful heist to reclaim her own sense of agency. Like ‘It Just Kills You Inside’, it has many cutting and pertinent things to say about the West’s attitude towards Africa, and delivers them in a darkly humorous package. ‘The Statistician’s Wife’ explores violence between African women and their American spouses through a murder mystery. The remaining stories in the collection cannot be called speculative or fantastical in any way, but are arguably the most powerful and stylistically inventive stories present. ‘Schoolyard Cannibal’ exorcises years of institutionalised racism forced onto African and Black children via the school system, incorporating images from the Warner Brothers cartoon Jungle Jitters, artworks ‘If It Bleeds, It Ledes’ and ‘Africa Is Not a Country’ by Idongesit Daniel, and a photo of a Shaka Zulu Queen Mother in order to make its powerful rhetorical point. And the final story ‘Kinks’, a story structured around the changes in how its protagonist Jennifer arranges her hair based on how she is relating to her African heritage that day, uses its complex structure to critique patronising boyfriends who impose their interpretation of Africanness on their mixed heritage girlfriends. The story is again whipsmart in terms of its characterisation, and amongst its structural games includes a QR code that links to an in-universe blog read by one of the characters in the story. These stories show just how fearless and inventive Nkweti is as a writer. She is utterly unafraid to experiment with form to tell the kind of story she needs to tell. Walking on Cowrie Shells is a remarkable collection, full of inventive and boldly experimental writing. Nkweti is a fascinating writer who creates with admirable passion and intensity, as well as brilliantly drawing character and filling her stories with sharp humour. I look forward to seeing what she does next. The post WALKING ON COWRIE SHELLS by Nana Nkweti (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  7. tree wolf image by chic2view on 123RF.com Welcome to Fantastic Top Fives with Wyrd & Wonder! Every Monday throughout Wyrd and Wonder, we’re going to recommend a fantasy read in five words. This week, we’re celebrating shorter reads in fantasy – believe it or not, not every fantasy book out there is an absolute unit. So, let’s take a look at our favourite zines, anthologies, individual short stories, novelettes and/or novellas! Underlined book titles in bold contain links to reviews on this site. Beth Flame and the Flood by Shona Kinsella Magic-wielding emancipators face betrayal Nils A Mirror Mended by Alix E Harrow Wicked Witch finally gets agency Asha The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly Memory-infused pastries; delicious revenge Lucy The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky Parallel-worlds, talking Dinosaurs, Cryptozoology. CHAOS Julia Frozen Rage by Steve McHugh Wearbears, murder mystery, sweary fox! Theo Triggernometry by Stark Holborn Mathematical angles on Fantasy westerns No Other Troy by Mark Lawrence Active horse rewrites the myth . Next week will be the last post in this series! We’ll be thinking of fantasy subgenres, and our favourite titles in them. Since Last Time | Forest Fantasies | Mascots The post Fantastic Top Fives with Wyrd & Wonder – Single-Serve Fantasies appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  8. My wife and I recently had dinner with another married couple—old friends whom we hadn’t seen since before the pandemic. We went through the usual greeting rituals and settled into our seats, me directly across from Burke, who seemed particularly ebullient. “What’s up?” I asked, sensing there was something. “What do you think of the audiobooks thing?” he all but burst in reply. It took me aback. “It’s huge,” I said. “And growing fast, by all accounts.” I’m sure all of you realize how true it is. In fact, according to a recent Publishing Perspectives piece by our own Porter Anderson, audiobooks have just completed their seventh straight year of double-digit growth, with worldwide sales of over $3 billion in 2020—on their way to a projected $15 billion by 2027. (The phenomenal performance of the category is likely not news to you, and learning more is only a google search away, so I won’t spend a lot of space on industry news.) Burke’s ebullience, and the fact that he broached the topic right out of the gate, indicated his genuine enthusiasm for the medium. Burke is a doctor who is beginning to shepherd his practice toward his own retirement. His zeal at our dinner was born of my being a fiction writer. But that was paired with the fact that, for decades, he read zero fiction. For years he read nonfiction almost exclusively. Due to his increasing free time, including more car trips to their summer cottage, Burke has discovered Audible. He went on to tell me that he’s read over 50 audiobooks in the last year, and he just can’t get enough. He’s been catching up on the classics, and on bestsellers and notable authors he’d missed out on over the years. It’s evident that he’s having a ball, which makes me glad. But I also found our conversation heartening. Mainly due to the fact that Burke pressed me about when my books would be available on Audible. The question sent the conversation on a tangent, about cost, voice talent, etc. Still, here’s a guy who I thought would never experience my story. Now he’s anxious to do so. That’s quite a reversal. All due to this particular medium. You might have noticed that my response to Burke’s initial query was a bit deflective. He asked how I feel about “the audiobooks thing,” and I wasn’t exactly forthcoming. That’s partly because I’m still figuring it out. How do you feel about it? Shall we explore this publishing phenomenon together? Heard Any Good Books Lately? Well, have you? I have! This particular instance provides the perfect example of how my audiobook journey is proceeding. The good book I’ve heard lately is Darling Girl, by WU’s own Liz Michalski (if you haven’t experienced this book yet, in whatever form, I highly recommend it). I actually started Darling Girl by reading the hardcover. An upcoming road trip had me adding a digital edition to my Kindle, for easy packing. But then it dawned on me that on this trip I would be driving alone. Since I was already so invested in the story, the solution was simple: download the audiobook as well, for the drive. It worked out wonderfully, and I ended up experiencing about half of the story via the audiobook and I loved every minute of it. This has been the pattern for me—downloading the audio version of my current read for extended car trips. Of course, with each experience I get more accustomed to switching back and forth. But it’s more than that. I’m also growing less resistant to the medium. What do I mean by resistant? It goes back to my automatic deflection when my friend asked me about audiobooks. I’ve got to admit to a bit of snobbishness when it comes to “listening” to a book rather than “actually reading.” My attitude is swiftly changing, and the realization has me feeling a little silly. I suppose I used to consider audiobooks as a bit of a cheat—like they weren’t rigorous enough to make them worthy of a “literary experience.” Keep in mind, this was before I actually tried them. But I didn’t think audiobooks could provide immersion or retention as well as reading a printed book. Those of you who’ve been reading my posts here for any length of time (if you have, thank you!) have likely gleaned my pique over the snobbishness that’s often aimed at the SFF genre by the literary world, so my own snobbish about audiobooks is slightly embarrassing to me now. Besides becoming more accustomed and less resistant to the medium, I’ve continued to grow more impressed. I’m beginning to see audiobooks not just as a viable part of my reading life, but one that has it’s own unique set of advantages. Things beyond the fact that sonic storytelling frees one from the requirement of paying attention visually. Advantages which I believe that we, as writers, ought to be aware of as we consider our publishing paths and options. Allow me to attempt to explain some of the additional pluses I’ve discovered. Sound Advantages *Audiobooks can provide relevant accents. Starting small here, but this is a plus I noticed during Darling Girl. The story primarily takes place in London, with a prominent secondary character having been raised in New York, and narrator Elizabeth Knowelden adeptly utilizes accents for the various characters in voicing their dialog. *Audiobooks can provide prosody. Speaking of accents, do you know the term? I didn’t. Prosody refers to the rhythmic and intonational aspect of language. Do you know how some people seem like natural-born storytellers, or are excellent at delivering a joke? Much of that has to do with prosody—using the right tone, inflection, and emphasis at the right time. A good audiobook narrator can provide this enhancement to storytelling. Action scenes can become more gripping, emotional scenes more tender, and so on. *Audiobooks remind me of the magic of being read to. We’ve all had someone read to us, if only when we were children, and it can be a magical thing. I remember my fourth grade teacher, Miss Paul, used to read to the class as a reward for good behavior. She was an excellent narrator. I fondly recall feeling all the feels during her renditions of The Wind in the Willows and Charlotte’s Web, to name a few. We would become so engrossed in whatever story Miss Paul was reading, if we were restless or acting up, she had but to remind us of the story she might withhold to get us to snap to. That’s a fifty-year-old memory, and you know what? Having a skilled narrator read to you is still pretty darn magical. *The voice talent for audiobooks is fantastic and getting better all of the time. Speaking of the magic of being read to by a skilled narrator, there are some extremely talented folks narrating audiobooks these days. I’ve often heard of audiobook fans seeking new titles via their favorite narrators. My goddaughter swears that a big part of her adoration of the character Jamie Fraser in the Outlander series is due to his portrayal by celebrated narrator Davina Porter. *Even famous actors are getting in on the audiobook trend. I’ve heard wonderful things about the ensemble cast of the audiobook of Daisy Jones and the Six, including Sara Arrington, Jennifer Beals, and Benjamin Bratt, among others. Some of today’s finest actors are using their talent to bring great books to life. You can have Claire Danes read you The Handmaid’s Tale, Tim Curry read Lemony Snicket, or Meryl Streep read Heartburn. Oh, and how could I leave out that you can have Andy Serkis read The Lord of the Rings to you? Talk about magic! I’d say that’s a pretty special advantage. The Ongoing Death of Literature I recently saw that a popular fantasy book reviewer was lamenting the corrosive effect on storytelling of BookTok, a popular segment of TikTok. He fretted that the books that skyrocket to popularity there are required to be faster, shorter, pithier, grabbier, and he senses that it’s only growing worse—that high concept and ever increasing pace will seize the publishing world, eventually banishing all other, slower, deeper, and more character-driven fantasy books from the marketplace. I clearly recall, during the explosion of YA fantasy titles a decade ago, that it seemed adult epic fantasy would be relegated to the bookish outskirts. Funny how trends come and go, isn’t it? I’m sure there is plenty of fret out there about audiobooks replacing actual books, too. Remember when e-readers where going to replace bound books? Or when TV would be the death of literature? No doubt it was radio before that. Heck, I’m sure there were those who thought that writing in bound books rather than on scrolls would be the death of the quality reading experience. Anyone who fears for the death of bound books has only to look at the flourishing specialty book market in the SFF communities. Younger epic fantasy fans and collectors in particular are paying top dollar for artfully bound, illustrated, and signed editions of popular series. Physical books are all the rage, and it seems there’s no end in sight to that very old trend. Seriously, I think they’re a more durable bet than vinyl LPs. Aspiring To Embrace Opportunity I’m currently an aspiring self-publisher. The audiobook trend is one that deserves my attention and consideration. Yes, it can be expensive to produce your books as audiobooks. But I have to consider the potential of gaining readers like Burke, who, in spite of our long friendship, would likely have never purchased or read a bound version of my book, but who’s anxious to give it a try via Audible. I also have to consider hiring a sought-after narrator when I factor in the number of audiobook readers I know who seek new titles via their favorite voice talent. I may not have an audiobook version available on the day I release my debut this coming fall, but that doesn’t mean I’m not pursuing having them in the future. I sense an opportunity here. Besides, since I’ve abandoned my snobbishness, and have experienced the flexibility and additional advantages audiobooks can provide to readers, why wouldn’t I want to offer those things to my own readers? Let me hear you, WU! Are you willing to sound off about “the audiobook thing”? Ever been an audiobook snob, like me? Are you interested in embracing the opportunity? Or have you already had your own audiobook? How’d it go? Please, voice your opinion! About Vaughn RoycroftVaughn Roycroft's (he/him) teacher gave him a copy of The Hobbit in the 6th grade, sparking a lifelong passion for reading and history. After college, life intervened, and Vaughn spent twenty years building a successful business. During those years, he and his wife built a getaway cottage near their favorite shoreline, in a fashion that would make the elves of Rivendell proud. After many milestone achievements, and with the mantra ‘life’s too short,’ they left their hectic lives in the business world, moved to their little cottage, and Vaughn finally returned to writing. Now he spends his days polishing his epic fantasy trilogy. Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=rfNuWRlmTjM:HHH-WGOb9Fs:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=rfNuWRlmTjM:HHH-WGOb9Fs:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  9. Another week, another batch of books for your TBR pile. Happy reading, folks. * James Lee Burke, Every Cloak Rolled in Blood (Simon and Schuster) “Burke rolls together the driving themes that have dominated his work—the inescapable presence of evil, the restorative power of love, the desecration of the planet, humanity’s long slouch toward Armageddon—into an intensely, heartrendingly personal exploration of grief.” –Booklist, starred review Kiersten White, Hide (Del Rey) “The suspenseful plot combines elements of Thomas Tryon’s classic Harvest Home, Netflix’s Squid Game, and the social commentary of Jordan Peele’s film oeuvre and mixes these with a revelatory pacing reminiscent of Spielberg’s Jaws.” –Booklist Chris Pavone, Two Nights in Lisbon (MCD) “Two Nights in Lisbon is sensationally good—timely, important, layered with ticking suspense, driven by an ominous drumbeat that accelerates like a panicked heart. My thriller of the year so far.” –Lee Child David Yoon, City of Orange (GP Putnam’s Sons) “Much more compelling and heartfelt than the end of the world could ever be.” –Kirkus Reviews Hannah Mary McKinnon, Never Coming Home (MIRA) “Deliciously dark and deviously funny, Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon is one hell of a ride. Lucas Forester might just be the most enjoyable, deceptive character I’ve ever met. Absolutely brilliant. McKinnon’s best book yet.” –Jennifer Hillier Tori Eldridge, Dance Among the Flames (Running Free) “Tautly written, mystical, and action-packed Dance Among the Flames will take you on a wild, thrilling ride through centuries and continents. Eldridge is at the top of her game, delivering an irresistibly sweeping adventure that will linger long after the gripping story ends. Don’t miss it!” –Lisa Unger Ulla Lenze (transl. Marshall Yarbrough), The Radio Operator (HarperVia) “Based on a true story, The Radio Operator is a marvelous period piece from a unique perspective.” –New York Journal of Books Nancy Dougherty, The Hangman and His Wife (Knopf) “The hollowed-out soul of one of Nazi Germany’s worst criminals is explored through his wife’s recollections in this searching biography . . . Dougherty vividly dissects the murderous intrigues roiling Nazi bureaucracies . . . A chilling, revelatory case study of the moral corruption of the Third Reich.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review Glenn Cooper, The Fourth Prophecy (Grand Central) “Smart and entertaining, every page is pitch perfect. A terrific story, terrifically told.” –Steve Berry Laura Griffin, Midnight Dunes (Berkley) “Griffin’s characters leap off the page, and she throws myriad twists, turns, and red herrings into her taut plot as it rockets to a heart-pounding finale. The result is a high-stakes romantic thriller that’s sure to please.” –Publishers Weekly View the full article
  10. In the early twenty-tens, I read Albert Camus’ The Plague. Due to its allegorical treatment of the French Resistance to Nazi occupation during WWII, it reminded me of the current gentrification resistance movements popping up all over Los Angeles. At the time, I lived in South Central, although urban planners and city leaders attempted to rebrand it as South Los Angeles in order to liberate it from the negative stigma it developed in the 80s and 90s in relation to: the crack epidemic, gangster rap, street gangs, graffiti, and social-realist urban films. But of course, a simple name change cannot delete a region’s past. Yet, in a city like Los Angeles, where culture is driven by constant reinvention, it is not unusual. Chinatown was once Sonoratown because of all the Mexicans who lived there, and Little Tokyo was once Bronzeville, to accommodate the Blacks, Native Americans and Mexicans that lived there during Japanese internment. It went back to being Little Tokyo when the Japanese community returned. I did not want to live in South Central, but I couldn’t afford a house in the LAX coastal region of Westchester, Playa Del Rey, or Culver City, places I considered home. I kept thinking of Camus’ coastal city of Oran, a Mediterranean location in Algeria, as the place for his plague battleground, and I assumed that the newly rebranded “Silicon Beach” ―the Westside of Los Angeles―along with its perennial Mediterranean comparisons, was the appropriate location for an end-of-the-century conflict. The media didn’t talk as much about the street gangs that plagued the region back in the 80s and 90s, which was the reality I lived through and participated in. These social ills were already considered “old school.” The new conversation was centered on urban renewal, open-space design, the tech industry, development, and displacement, and it was this phenomenon that directly led me to write The Displaced. Similar to Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, I focused on place as a form of characterization. The Independent called Conrad’s ignored London location “a great city novel,” and I too attempted to give voice to an overlooked area―the Del Rey neighborhood and the Mar Vista Gardens Housing Projects. I wanted the community to resonate, before it becomes erased and white-washed by renovation. Moreover, I wanted to position the reader at the end of the millennium where fear of change, Y2K and lack of education contributed to a bleak point-of-view. A time when collective, doomsday apocalyptic stress took over rationality. All over America, people started militias, packed garages and basements with water and canned foods, armed themselves, and looked to God for answers. It is in this absurdist thinking―in the face of powerlessness―that the novel exists. Residents in disenfranchised neighborhoods could never have imagined the concept of gentrification. Even though our people have experienced drastic forms of social disorganization in this city; from redlining or being excluded from buying homes via housing covenants, to our streets being gutted for infrastructure projects, a return of the gentry was out of focus. White flight created a form of abandonment all over Los Angeles, as a result of suburbanization and freeway expansion of the 1950s, and my attempt was to draw out the marginalized Del Rey neighborhood and the projects, as a statistically significant sample, which can be used for gentrification comparisons. Today, homes near the Mar Vista Gardens Housing Projects sell for millions of dollars, which is clear that working-class people from the area can no longer afford a house where they grew up. Once considered one of the most poverty-stricken communities of the Westside, Del Rey is now a cool and hip zip code located in thriving Silicon Beach. Similar to Camus’ The Plague, I chose a reporter―someone who attempts objectivity to such a marvel―as a main character. It is a coming-of-age story, and his arc goes from student, to writer, to distinguished journalist. Mikey Bustamante is deeply rooted in the community of Del Rey, but he lives just outside the projects, home to the notorious Culver City 13 gang. While examining this character’s undertaking, I looked toward Black writers to help in my understanding of America’s larger race conversation. Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man were a source of inspiration. The bigger question was how to present Americanness, while also stressing Otherness. Is Mikey American enough? Can America see themselves in him? Will people of Mexican descent identify with his struggle? In the opening chapter, Mikey is called out on his dress style, appearance, and interests, and he is accused of being White-washed. Thus, Mikey Bustamante must learn to navigate the resistance while doing his job. He does not entirely fit into the larger Latinx community he is surrounded by, yet he is not at home with his White counterparts. This theme is presented throughout the novel as a way to abandon identity politics, yet still make it about identity. In Himes’ book, his main character is a fractured existentialist who is staunchly anti-White, while Ellison’s underground, or invisible man, exercises power through his opaqueness. In The Displaced, Mikey is neither opaque, nor invisible, nor anti-White. Unlike Ellison’s invisible narrator, or Himes’ overtly Black and angry protagonist, Mikey reflects the status-quo back to those who make up the new gentry. Mikey’s characterization is deliberate, in order to present a more nuanced approach to race, class, and conflict, which examines what Robert Wuthnow maintained: “A single work of art or literature that affects the social order must relate closely enough to its social environment to be recognizable, yet maintain relative autonomy from it.” The goal is for Mikey to be close enough to be affected by the problem, while also disengaging from it as a journalist. The Displaced is also an examination of the human condition. The characters in the novel must reconcile with universal themes like religion, myth, murder, betrayal, goodness, suffering, groupthink, and others. The struggle against urban renewal in the book mirrors today’s dialogue about whitewashing and cultural appropriation. More than ever, people of color are fighting back to reclaim what has been stolen from us. Museums, publishers, galleries, music studios, television series, and films, are under attack for their lack of diversity and authenticity. Historically in American literature, White writers often introduced lowly-developed, moronic, buffoon-like, exotic and folkish “other” characters. Sometimes they didn’t give the characters a name, and simply wrote things like the Jap, the Negro, or the Mexican. When writers of color, starting with the Harlem Renaissance, introduced characters that were complex and multi-dimensional, they began to give life, meaning, and understanding to the marginalized other. These writers claimed that American nationalism, identity, and culture cannot be examined without taking into consideration the contributions of “other.” Simply put, readers do not want to read about themselves through an outsider’s perspective. They do not want to read assumed voices for the sake of messaging, human understanding, solidarity, or whatever other justification they might claim. In The Displaced, a White novelist who is interested in writing about Mexican American gangs (because he thinks it’s cool and interesting) is murdered by the resistance for his audacity. On the streets, situations are handled differently. The goal is for readers to be aware of the serious repercussions caused by gentrification. For powerless people, community is all they have. In wealthy neighborhoods, housing associations and neighborhood council groups thwart development and radical zoning, but in working-class areas, this is often out of their control. I want to place the reader in their situation, as if they too were cornered and they had nothing else to lose. For people like my characters, home and the hood are everything, and if that is taken from them, people will respond in unexpected ways. The people in the novel are people you see and who surround you daily. They cook your food, wash your car, clean your house, and take care of your children. Simultaneously, they are your council members, police officers, assemblymen and women, professors, gang members, artists, lawyers, and architects. They are Los Angeles. I turned this novel in as my final thesis for my MFA program at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Two years later, I was still getting rejection letters from publishers and literary agents. However, at the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, with the lockdowns, quarantines and riots, themes I had written about in The Displaced, it occurred to me that the novel might have more significance. Not surprisingly, Penguin Classics reported that Albert Camus’ The Plague became a bestseller in 2020. I decided to send my work out to the world again, and publishers and literary agents that had ignored me in the past, suddenly seemed interested. I signed on with the University of Houston’s Arte Publico Press because they showed more care and understanding of my work, formerly titled, The Plague @ Silicon Beach, as a nod to Camus. The whole world has changed now and we are still in the midst of the pandemic, and somehow these worldly plague themes are as relevant as ever. Yet, we are still powerless, and our absurdist thinking is the same, whether fact or fiction. On a final note, I no longer live in South Central Los Angeles. I moved to the affluent suburbs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and according to some elderly White neighbors, we are the new gentrifiers in the neighborhood―young, different and other. It occurred to me, for the first time, that the face of gentrification is not the same everywhere. *** View the full article
  11. The age old conundrum of which came first, the chicken or the egg, can definitely be applied to author branding and the genres across which an author writes. While many authors establish a brand based on the books they write, others write books (especially non-fiction) inspired by an existing brand. Since what we want to write and who we are as people can evolve over time, it becomes hard to tell which came first or which is leading our literary evolution. We might ask ourselves… Do we write in a specific genre because it aligns with our interests, personality, and expertise? Do we limit ourselves to a specific genre because we have already established it as our brand? Do we adapt our brand to fit the stories we want to write? The farther an author strays out of a specific category, the more challenging we become to brand. Some authors address this challenge by creating pen names for different genres of work. I’m more interested in how we can unify works in multiple genres under one overarching brand. In order to accomplish this, we need a clear understanding about what this means. I define brand as a public identity used in marketing to help shape the perception and expectation of potential readers for an author’s literary work. Brands are intangible concepts that help to define and unify products from a singular source. Since a brand is a tool for marketing, an aspiring author does not need a brand in order to write. That said, if an aspiring author already has a brand, it can inspire what they write. It’s easy to comprehend branding when looking at a company like Nike. They have a clear—Just do it! —energy and a contemporary, urban athletic culture. It makes perfect sense for them to make and sell products in a variety of categories—clothes, shoes, gear—for different sports aimed at a broad target audience. No one would expect Nike to limit their categories or sports. No one would expect them to target their audience to only men, women, kids, hardcore athletes, sports enthusiasts, or couch potatoes who just like wearing great-looking comfortable clothes. Why can’t authors do this? Answer: We can! If we brand the author instead of the work. As authors we frequently create brands for ourselves according to a particular book, book series, or the category which covers our book or series. But if we write in multiple genres—and don’t use multiple names—we’ll need an overarching brand that covers us as an author and everything we write. In order to create a cohesive brand, we need to find the common themes between who we are as people and the literary works we create. Although a brand can be created before, during, or after publication, I’ve found it was most needed when I was marketing a new book or creating (and updating) my website. Although this frequently happens after an author lands their first book deal and has that all-important marketing conversation with their publisher, it could happen earlier or repeatedly throughout a career. No matter how different our literary works might seem, since they all come from us, commonalities will appear. The trick is to bypass the specifics and examine the core. The same can be said about empathy. We don’t need to be widowed to understand loss. We don’t need to have murdered to have experienced rage. We don’t need to share the same beliefs to feel passionate about our cause. In order to connect with a person or character who is very different from ourselves, we can relate to them on a universal level. Since our literary works comes from our own imagination, the chances are pretty good that we’ll find universal commonalities between what we write and who we are as people. The genres may vary, but certain core themes, emotions, or interests will find their way into our writing. Once we find the common elements between us and our work, we can have a lot more fun with social media—a source of stress for many authors. We all know we’re not supposed to promote our books 24/7, but what do we do in between? How do we reinforce our author brand without posting about our books? Since we tend to write about themes, issues, communities, hobbies, etc. that appeal to us as people, we’ll probably discover that most of what we want to post about can be framed, authentically, to reinforce our brand. For example: I write suspenseful and often action-packed novels and short stories that expand awareness and empower the spirit. Regardless of the genre I’m writing, most of my work involves diverse cultures, complex family dynamics, women of agency, and the struggle for empowerment and justice. These themes pop up in my Lily Wong mystery thriller series about a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja from Los Angeles, most of my horror, fantasy, mystery, and thriller short stories, and my newly released Brazilian horror epic, Dance Among the Flames, about a desperate mother who rises from the slums of Brazil to become a fearsome wielder of Quimbanda magic. Since these themes also relate to me as a person, it feels natural to reinforce them through my social media presence. If you visit my website, Instagram, Facebook, and (to a lesser degree) Twitter, you’ll see an abundance of positive, empowering, family-oriented, culturally-diverse posts. From yoga handstands and multicultural recipes to ninja training videos and shots of my adorable Hapa-Hawaiian grandbaby in Shanghai, everything I post speaks to who I am as a person and how it fits into my multicultural and empowering author brand. That said, art—like life—can change. When pivoting or breaking out of a genre, it helps to control the narrative and lay a foundation for a shift in author brand. Expanding social media posts to introduce the new interest, speaking about the new genre and project while promoting a book, and updating profiles and website to make sure the branding reflects what is to come all guide public perception and facilitate a seamless transition. Most importantly for me, I allow room to evolve. I’ve explored many careers on my journey to writing novels: acting, singing, dancing, screenwriting, and martial arts. Even when I reached high levels in my craft, I always gave myself permission to pivot and grow. It’s led to interesting life twists. Some of them challenging. Some of them fun. Every new endeavor and career has led me to where I am and who I have become, not only as a person but as a writer with a point of view and a voice. *** View the full article
  12. Cassie Pérez: “You still think this is the best place in the world to live?” Detective Inspector Jimmy Pérez: “Yep. Of course I do. I mean to say, on a clear day, you can see Norway over that way.” Cassie Pérez: “There is that.” Detective Inspector Jimmy Pérez: “And . . . you can see Iceland over that way.” Cassie Pérez: “What about shops?” Detective Inspector Jimmy Pérez: “I forgot. We don’t have any of them. . . . We’ve got the sky and the sea, and razorbills and kittiwakes. What more do you want?” —From Shetland, Season 1, Episode 2 “Shetland has always been a place of sanctuary for me. I visited when I dropped out of university, and I just loved it from the minute I got there. It’s a bleak but very beautiful place.” —Ann Cleeves, author of the Shetland novels ______________________ Tim Maskell is the Director of Scottish Location Services. He began working in the film industry in 2006, and has worked as a location manager on many feature films and TV dramas, including Shetland (Series Four to Seven), The Nest, Guilt, Clique, and Agatha Christie: Ordeal by Innocence, The Estruscan Smile, and Only You. The Shetland Islands are an archipelago in the North Sea, 130 miles north of Scotland, with a population of 23,000. The Scottish crime drama Shetland, adapted from the novels of Ann Cleeves, is filmed on the islands and the Scottish mainland. The show, which has now completed seven seasons, follows the investigations of Detective Inspector Jimmy Pérez, played by Douglas Henshall, and his team of detectives. The stories of Shetland are impossible to imagine apart from their setting, steeped as they are in the islands’ brooding skies, barren landscape, and ever-present sea. I wanted to talk to Tim about the challenges and rewards of filming a crime series on a remote island. The following interview has been edited for conciseness and clarity. ______________________ Frederick: Shetland is very popular in the states. I think one reason is the unusual beauty of the location. My wife said I should tell you this story. We also watch another British mystery series called Vera. And when we watch reruns of that show, I often don’t remember the plot or who the killer is. But I do remember the locations. I remember specific houses or fields. So for me, locations are really important to stories. Tim: I agree. But you know location managers don’t get the recognition, actually. There are awards out there for all these other people, but locations get overlooked. Frederick: Are there any awards for location managers? Tim: Not really. I know the locations team for Game of Thrones got a couple of awards and recognition. But the usual big award ceremonies in the U.K., like the BAFTAs [British Academy of Film and Television Arts], don’t even have a location category. You’ve got designers, composers, and actors, but they don’t seem to recognize locations that much. Frederick: When did you work as location manager for Shetland? Which seasons? Tim: I’ve been location managing Shetland since Series Four. I started as a unit manager on Series Two. Series Six, which we shot earlier this year, was just shown here in the U.K. Due to COVID delays, it was shot back-to-back this year with Series Seven, which we just wrapped on the 17th of December. Frederick: Are there plans to do more? Tim: At the moment, I don’t believe so. It will probably come down to the ratings of these last couple of seasons. Obviously it’s doing very well. And I guess we’ll just see how it goes. But at the moment, there’re no further plans for any more seasons. Frederick: So how did you originally become a location manager? Tim: There’s a kind of ladder process. I started off as a location assistant, which is the lowest rung. You’re managing the set, the guy on the ground, who relays everything back to the location manager or the unit manager. How it happened for me was my mum ran an estate on the west coast of Scotland, just off Loch Fyne, called Ardkinglas Estate. In 2006, a film called The Water Horse was filming there. I was at university at the time, and it was my summer holidays. My mum called me and said they were looking for somebody to come and help out. I didn’t have a clue what that would entail. But I went down and spoke to them. The location team was looking for somebody young, local, and energetic who could be on the team. That was that. I basically just fell into the industry. I worked as a Locations Assistant for approximately four years, and the first job I did as a unit manager was a musical film called Sunshine on Leith, which starred a Scottish band called The Proclaimers. I started the film as an assistant, and then stepped up to be unit manager. I did unit managing for four years. Then one day I got a call from the film crew on a BBC thriller called Clique. They were looking for a location manager, and I jumped at it. The very next job was Shetland Four. Frederick: When you started Shetland, did you know the islands? Tim: No. I’d never been to the islands until I started unit managing the show. But you get to know places pretty quickly, especially as a unit manager. You’re responsible for making sure everybody gets to where they’re going. So you’re drawing up maps and doing things called “movement orders,” which tell people where they’re going. And then obviously you’re heavily involved with the location side of things as well in terms of setting things up and making sure you can get all your trucks there. I got to learn the place pretty quickly, to be honest. So when it came to location management, I had a fairly good idea of where to go for various things. But also, from day one, we’ve had a local fixer in Shetland named David Gardner. His knowledge is obviously invaluable to us. He actually does a lot of the scouting for us. Then I go up to look at what he’s found and do some additional scouting if necessary and whittle down the locations to what we need. Frederick: How do you choose locations for the show? Do you work with the director and the producer to figure out the kinds of places you want? Tim: Yeah, exactly. It’s basically the director, producer, and the designer. The first thing I do is go through the script and do a location breakdown based on what’s written in the script. The scripts have quite good descriptions of what they want. So that starts the process. Then it’s liaising with the director, producer, and designer to make sure you’re all thinking the same thing. It’s just a case of giving them options. Frederick: Were there times when you couldn’t use a location on Shetland? Were some locations off limits? Tim: Occasionally. But on Shetland, they’re actually much more open to filming almost anywhere, even sensitive locations, than on the mainland. The only place in Shetland that we haven’t ever been able to get anywhere near is the Sullum Voe Oil Terminal, which is a very large oil terminal and understandably under heavy guard. We’ve filmed on the road to it, but we’ve never been allowed anywhere near it with cameras. Generally they’re very open to everything up there. Frederick: Is that partly because they appreciate the show being filmed there? Is it because they know that it’s going to attract people to Shetland? Tim: Definitely. There’s been a shift as well from when we first started going up there to now. There was some apprehension in the first couple of series, just because the Shetlanders didn’t really know how they were going to be portrayed. They just didn’t know how film crews really work. You’ve got 60, 80, 100 people coming up from the mainland to take over the island for a few weeks, so there was apprehension. But after they realized what the show was about and how good the show was and how it portrayed the islands, it was fine. You’re rare to find someone up there now who doesn’t welcome you with open arms. There have been one or two places where people quite clearly don’t have televisions or watch the show. You’d knock on their door and they’d say, “No. This isn’t for me.” But that happened very rarely. The locals are all very welcoming. Frederick: What building is used for the police station? It’s a very distinctive-looking building. Tim: The exterior of the police station is the actual Lerwick Sheriff Court itself. And the police station is on the side of it. The main entrance and the doorway that we use is the Sheriff Court. Everything that you see inside the police station is a set built in a studio. Frederick: And is that set on the mainland somewhere? Tim: Yes. We’re based in Glasgow. Whenever we shoot, our production office and everything is based in Glasgow. Frederick: What’s the building that you use for Jimmy Pérez’s house? It’s right on the harbor. It looks like a really beautiful setting. Tim: Again, it’s exterior only. The interior is a set built. The exterior is in Lerwick, the main town of Shetland, just off Commercial Street, a little house called the Lodberrie. It’s a place that the crew found in Series One that they happened to like. And obviously, once you’ve filmed there, you’re not going to move it. It’s a lovely little house. The inside isn’t great in terms of filming capacity. It’s quite small in size, so it would never have worked to film the interior there, but obviously the exterior setting of it is fantastic, and that’s why it was chosen. Frederick: Are you using the same studio in Glasgow for the interiors of Pérez’s house and the police station? Tim: Yes. The only official set-builds are the interior police station, including the Fiscal’s office, and Pérez’s house. The interiors of those two things are in the studio. Pretty much everything else you see is on location. But we do split a lot of locations, which means filming exteriors up in Shetland and then we’ll find interiors back down on the mainland. Those split locations are real locations rather than set-builds. Frederick: In Series Four, there’s a character named Thomas Malone, who’s accused of killing a young woman named Lizzie Kilmuir. He lives in a very rural, rundown farmhouse. How did you find that? Tim: That’s not in Shetland. It’s in a place not far out of Glasgow called Loch Thom, and that area is the best “cheat” we’ve managed to find on the mainland that looks like Shetland. A lot of exterior stuff that we shoot on the mainland is done at Loch Thom. For that farmhouse, we actually shot both the exterior and interior at that house. There was a small bit of set-building inside the house to make the living room feel smaller. A neighboring location was used for the scene where Malone gets buried alive and he pulls himself out. Frederick: So Loch Thom looks enough like Shetland that you can pretend it’s Shetland? Tim: The thing is, there’re basically no trees. That’s what helps make it look like Shetland. And there’s a bit of water, so water always helps. You know, whenever we’re cheating stuff down on the mainland, we generally look for no trees and a bit of water, and that allows people to think it’s in Shetland. Frederick: And there’s also a scene in Season Four at a picturesque cemetery. Is that on Shetland? Tim: That’s the actual Lerwick Cemetery on Shetland. The cemetery sits on a little bit of headland looking out to sea. That’s where that shot was. Because it’s up on a hill, the camera can pan through the gravestones and show the sea and beyond. Frederick: Are there other locations that aren’t on Shetland itself? Tim: Yes. There will be in the upcoming Series Six and Seven. In Series Four, there were locations up in Norway for a couple of weeks. But in terms of the Shetland stuff. Detective Constable Sandy Wilson’s flat is a cheat in Glasgow. The exterior of Donna Killick’s house is actually in Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary in Shetland. But the interior of her house is on the mainland. For the most part, when we go up to Shetland, we use the time to shoot as much of Shetland exteriors as we can. In Series Four, Kate Kilmuir is the sister of the murdered girl. Her house—interior and exterior—was on Shetland. Interior coffee shops and pubs and the interior of Lerwick Hospital are always shot on the mainland. Duncan and Mary’s house is on the mainland. The farmhouse of Jo Halley, the artist, was up on Shetland, and was quite a nice one. Frederick: Are there challenges that are unique to Shetland as a location manager? How is it different from shooting other shows? Tim: The main thing is that obviously you’re on an island, for starters. And you’re on an island that’s not close to the mainland, so you might as well be filming in a different country. To get there, you’re either taking a 12-hour overnight ferry, or you’re flying up and down. So I’m flying up and down every couple of weeks for tactical scouting, to look at places, to meet with the council and the police, or do whatever I need to do. The other challenge is the weather. Shetland is quite a barren landscape. There are not even very many hills. The tallest hill is only about 300 meters [1,000 feet]. It’s a flat landscape, and the wind just whips right in off the North Sea. Because we’re predominantly shooting exteriors, you don’t have anywhere to hide. You just have to go out and get it done—get your waterproofs on and make sure you’ve got a change of clothes. That is definitely the biggest challenge, because they’re so receptive up there to us filming now, that there aren’t really many challenges in terms of finding locations. The weather is probably the biggest thing. Frederick: Do you try to shoot during a certain season? Is it the summer? Tim: Yeah, we’ve always tried to, but it doesn’t always work out like that. Series Four was shot May through June, which are generally the best months up there. The driest months tend to be May and September, but obviously by September, you’re starting to lose the light again. It doesn’t always work to film in the summer because the crew isn’t available. Or this year, we had to do two series back to back. We were shooting up there up until October. By which point, you really start getting battered by the winds and rain. When we were shooting Series Two, it was just foggy. The whole time it was like shooting in a Tupperware box. You couldn’t see two feet in front of you. So you’ve gone up to Shetland to shoot all these amazing landscapes and you couldn’t see anything. Frederick: I saw a news story that said for this latest series you even had snow. Tim: We did, actually. Our first block of filming for Season Six was in March, and the day we arrived, we had snow. What can you do? Obviously continuity is a big thing. It doesn’t really matter so much with the rain, because unless it’s absolutely pouring down, you can get away with it. But the snow definitely produced a few more problems. Again, we just have to get on with it. You really don’t have a choice. When you’re shooting on the mainland, generally you try to have some weather cover. So if the weather’s bad, you’ll think: where can we go? But up there, you don’t have room to maneuver. Some scenes were moved—scenes that were meant to be played outside on a beach were put into a house. When you watch Series Six, you’ll see all of a sudden there’s snow on the ground, and then the next thing, there’s not snow on the ground. But again, these things just happen. You have to get on with it. Frederick: It also seems like daylight can be an issue, too. Is that right? If you’re up there in the early spring or the late fall, you’re going to start hitting darkness. Tim: Absolutely. In the summer solstice, you get about an hour of darkness. And even then, it’s not real darkness. Shetland actually has a golf tournament that tees off at midnight on June 21st because players can pretty much see to play on the course. Then, in the winter solstice, you’ll be lucky if it’s light between half nine [9:30 a.m.] and half three [3:30 p.m.]. You’re really only talking about six hours of daylight. And even then, it can be very dull. If it’s overcast, sometimes the streetlights don’t turn off during the day. We filmed there right up until October this year, and you have to schedule around that basically. You start at half seven in the morning, knowing it’ll be daylight by the time you start shooting. And then by four o’clock, you have to be in a location where you can light it night-for-day to pretend that it’s still daylight. You have to split your day up to make sure you’re getting the best out of the day. Frederick: Are there any challenges in working with the local people? Tim: In all honesty, there aren’t. We take on a lot of local labor—for traffic management or extra labor for the day. The local council is always very open to us and has allowed us to do stuff that we wouldn’t have got away with on the mainland. They’re so open, and they like to be involved. Frederick: And eventually, once they saw what the show was like and how it was, they seemed to welcome you? Tim: Yeah, absolutely. The funny thing was, in the first couple of seasons, the Shetlanders couldn’t get their head around the TV magic of it. For example, we’d shoot an exterior house in Lerwick. Then Jimmy walks around the corner, and all of a sudden he’s in a different part of the island. Then we’d get Shetlanders messaging on Facebook that what we showed is impossible because that bit of the island is a 40-minute drive away. Or they’d know we were shooting something in Glasgow that was supposed to be on Shetland. It took them a while to get their heads around that. But I think once they got that, they were all right with it. Frederick: What effect have the locations had on the show’s popularity? Tim: I think it’s massive. The show is a kind of Scandinavian noir genre. The landscape and the locations really lend themselves to that. If you’d written the same show, and it was just filmed in Glasgow, it wouldn’t have nearly the same appeal. Obviously a lot of people watch it to see those landscapes and those locations, and that’s why they love the show because it’s showcasing an amazing place. So I think it’s got a lot to do with it. Frederick: When I was doing a similar interview about the show Lewis that’s filmed in Oxford, the location manager told me that, after that show became popular, companies started doing tours of Oxford just to show the locations featured in the series. Do people come to Shetland just because the show is filmed there? Tim: Absolutely. The show has done so much for the tourist industry up there. Shetland is basically run on oil, and over the last few years, that industry has taken quite a hit. But the tourism industry was boosted from the show. It happened at the right time for them and brought in a lot of revenue. The number of cruise ships stopping in Lerwick every year has probably doubled in the last four or five years. And a lot of that is to do with the show. David Gardner, our local fixer, also works for Radio Shetland. The station tasked him one day with meeting people coming off a cruise ship and asking them why they came to Shetland. Something like 60 to 70 percent said, I’m here to see Pérez’s house. The bus operators had to organize tours to see locations from the show. These are people from all over the world. They love the show in Australia. A couple years ago, we had people who flew to Shetland from Australia just so they could be extras on the show. Frederick: What do you enjoy about working on the show? Tim: I’m a bit of a country bumpkin at heart. I grew up on the west coast of Scotland and in the countryside. I just love Shetland. I love the people. I love the landscape. To the point where, before my wife and I moved to the house where we live now, I was actually looking at buying a house on Shetland. I don’t think I’d ever have convinced my wife to do it. I like the show as well. I like the premise, the genre. It’s the show that I’ve location-managed more than any other in my career. It’s got a big place in my heart. Frederick: Did you have interactions with the actors? Tim: More so when I was unit managing because I was on set. With location management, I’m more in the background. But obviously, since I’ve been on the show so long, we know each other very well. For example, the other day when we were filming in Loch Thom, Alison O’Donnell, who plays Tosh, came by and said hello. Dougie Henshaw, who plays Jimmy Pérez, had a daughter who’s a similar age to my youngest. So there was a bit of a bond with that. There’s obviously a lot of socializing after hours. But most of the time you’re just filming the show. You’re up there with a group of people you know and get on with and enjoy doing the job. Frederick: Does the author ever come on set? Tim: Yes, she has occasionally. She’s always consulted on the storyline because the script is obviously not written by her. But she’s consulted to make sure that she’s happy with what we’re portraying. Frederick: All right. Thanks, Tim, for taking the time to talk to me. Tim: Okay. No worries. It was a pleasure. Nice to speak to you. Cheers. * This interview is a companion piece to Frederick’s earlier CrimeReads interview with Ian Pearce, location manager for the British crime drama Lewis, which you can read here. View the full article
  13. A- 40-Love by Olivia Dade June 18, 2020 · Hussies & Harpies Press Romance 40-Love is part of the Marysburg series by Olivia Dade. Shana and I both enjoyed this romance between a tennis player in his twenties and a forty-year-old high school assistant principal on vacation. The book glories in having a fat heroine and addresses issues including chronic pain, the challenge of reinventing oneself, inequities in the American school system, and navigating romance across an age gap. Despite all these topics, however, the book remains light and lovely, providing “I’m on vacation” fantasy to go along with the romance. Behold the plot: Forty-year-old Tess is at a vacation resort. Her ocean swim is interrupted when she loses her bikini top. Luckily, twenty-six year old Lucas, a tennis instructor at the resort, comes to her aid. Will Tess and Lucas manage to overcome an age difference, Lucas’ traumatic past, and Tess’s self-esteem issues in the short time that they have before Tess’ vacation ends? Guess. Shana: I know nothing about tennis. But with that caveat, this is my favorite tennis romance. Carrie: This is my only tennis romance, so yes, my favorite for sure! There is so little about this book that I didn’t like that I want to get that stuff out of the way so I can relax and swoon about it for the rest of the review. I thought the timeline was much too short for the amount of emotional intimacy that the characters want and arrive at, especially when this was held up as a reason for conflict. Tess is concerned that Lucas won’t open up to her? He’s known you for four days, woman! He shouldn’t open up to you yet! Boundaries are good for you! Also, I thought Lucas was a bit too perfect, especially since his Big Flaw is supposed to be that he’s closed off, which, as I just mentioned, is ridiculous coming from Tess, who levels this concern after what, five minutes of acquaintance? This would have been a stronger story if Lucas had had more of his own arc instead of so very often serving as sort of an ideal man to fantasize about. On the other hand, if you read romance because you want to escape with a perfect being into a perfect place, then the bug becomes a feature, because Lucas is both pretty and perfect and the resort seems just about perfect too. Shana: You’re right, although I have to admit that when I was reading the book I had the opposite reaction: Lucas yay, resort boo. I was relieved that Lucas had at least one flaw, because I read 40-Love right after finishing a different novel with a sickening perfect hero. That, plus my soft spot for celebrity romances—Lucas is a former tennis star—may have warped my perspective. Lucas’ version of “closed off” is defaulting to vacuous flirting and charm, a common celebrity trope that I tend to enjoy. I thought he walked an interesting edge between being sex-positive and using his playboy persona to emotionally protect himself from clients who want to sleep with a famous person. Carrie: Oh, that’s a really good point. He definitely has to tread a line between “fun sex is fun” and “everybody wants something from me.” That’s part of why I don’t think him being closed off is a personality flaw – it makes sense as a strategy to be nice to everyone but not to jump instantly into vulnerability. Shana: On the other hand, I struggled with the resort as a site of luxury, because August in Florida’s humidity will make you long for the cooler breezes of hell. Satan’s tit, it sounded hot! Much of the courtship happens outside, and the book didn’t shy away from explaining how sweaty and uncomfortable Tess and Lucas were. Descriptors like “every breath felt like gargling soup” are used. Of course, all that sweat means lots of sexy shower time and refreshing beach dips, so I forgave the book for burning phrases like “Eau de sweaty balls” into my brain. Carrie: I liked that they both had chronic pain but different kinds and for different reasons – she’s middle-aged and has arthritis in her knee, and he’s a young, fit athlete who has sports-related problems with his wrists. Shana, you got me to read this book by telling me about the scene in which Tess has to decide whether or not she can climb up, and, worse, down, a shit-ton of stairs and you were not wrong – it was like looking into my own brain. Extra points for the understanding that with bad knees, down is usually worse than up. Shana: Isn’t the chronic pain rep in 40-Love stellar? Lucas and Tess are both proud and self-protective, and hate acknowledging their pain. I loved seeing them slowly learn to trust each other with their tender places, like when Tess teaches herself wrist massage, or when Mr Perfect Lucas chooses sex positions based on Tess’s neck and knee pain. Carrie: These are both lovable characters with believable personalities. Even though I thought the development of their romance happened super fast, I liked the steps that it hit along the way and how it resolved into a really mature, healthy relationship with a realistic sense of commitment balanced with an understanding that they still have to learn how well they get along post-vacation time. I especially loved how Tess’s period became an opportunity to demonstrate: period positivity: Tess’s period is miserable, but nobody gets all weird about it, because it’s a normal thing that happens. self care: Tess sets boundaries for what she wants to do, sexually and otherwise, during her period. caring for others: Lucas provides a hilarious yet perfect replacement for a heating pad, as well as chocolate, air conditioning, and a romantic comedy on TV. consent: everything they do, sexual and otherwise, is framed by mutual check ins on how they are both feeling and what works for them. Shana: I loved that too! I was happy that Tess had an unusually long two week vacation—by sad American standards—which gave the relationship a little more time to develop from Lucas reflexively flirting with a nonplussed Tess, to banter over tennis lessons, and finally to deeper intimacy about fears and insecurities. A terrible academic ex is involved. Don’t we all have a terrible Academic at the root of our self-doubt? I was worried their tennis lessons would turn into a terrifying training montage, but Tess’s unapologetic disinterest in tennis technique squashed those fears. I was thrilled that Lucas loved tennis but accepted Tess’s unwillingness to run for the ball. And conversely, I was delighted that Tess got turned on by Lucas’s precision and skill, without feeling any pressure to be more than a disinterested novice herself. Very refreshing! I also adored that Lucas‘s “craggy” face was beautiful, but sun-damaged enough to make him read as older. That’s what happens when you train nonstop in the sun if you aren’t one of the Williams sisters! He handles his skin in the same way that Tess handles her body size, aware that other people see it as a flaw, but choosing to live life with no fucks to give. There’s a fun scene where he visits the resort spa for the aforementioned period supplies, and the spa staff are nearly too distracted trying to sell him face peels to help him properly. Both Tess and Lucas are passionate about their work. I could see 40-Love working for readers who love competence porn, non-creepy age-gap romances, and grumpy-sunshine pairings where the heroine is the grumpy older character. Carrie: Agreed! There was no power imbalance, a lot of fun tropes, terrific examples of consent and very sexy sex, and a good mix of fantasy and reality. These are two people who clearly love each other for the people they really are. I also loved their plan for what to do when vacation ends, and I won’t spoil it but the last scene is sweet, hilarious, and adorable. This was just a sweet, fun, sexy book that provided escapist fun while also demonstrating that you are the only person who gets to define what success means for you, and that love can come to all of us regardless of our tennis playing abilities. View the full article
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  16. The Silence of Bones RECOMMENDED: The Silence of Bones by June Hur is $2.99! Ellen reviewed this one in September and gave it an A: I thought this book was amazing. I loved the prose, the characters, the mystery, and the setting. From a craft perspective I found this book masterful, and it took me on an intense emotional journey. I think this is a literal must-read for historical mystery fans provided they do not mind some violence. June Hur’s elegant and haunting debut The Silence of Bones is a bloody YA historical mystery tale perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Renée Ahdieh. I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak; Ears, but I mustn’t hear; Eyes, but I mustn’t see. 1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman. As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder. But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Hating Game RECOMMENDED: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is $3.99! Not a huge fan of the movie tie-in cover. For those who watched, what did you think of the movie? Sarah really loved this one: If your reading catnip, like mine, includes a blend of dialogue that crackles with intensity and emotion, cranky, stoic heroes with hidden, squishy depths, and vivid, self-assured heroines who take exactly zero crap from said hero, you should find yourself a copy of this book. Debut author Sally Thorne bursts on the scene with a hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love. Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome. 2) A person’s undoing 3) Joshua Templeman Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual. Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking. If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong. Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Secret, Book & Scone Society The Secret, Book & Scone Society by Ellery Adams is $1.99! This is book one in a cozy mystery series of the same name. I will gripe that the inconsistent use of the Oxford comma in both the book description and series name, but not the title irks me. From New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams comes the first in an intriguing new series set within a quirky small-town club where the key to happiness, friendship—or solving a murder—can all be found within the pages of the right book . . . Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing. Strangers flock here hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden. When a visiting businessman reaches out to Nora for guidance, she knows exactly which novels will help. But before he can keep their appointment at Miracle Books, he’s found dead on the train tracks. Stunned, Nora forms the Secret, Book, and Scone Society, a group of damaged souls yearning to gain trust and earn redemption by helping others. To join the society, members must divulge their darkest secret—the terrible truth that brought each of them to Miracle Springs in the first place. Determined to uncover the truth behind the businessman’s demise, the women meet in Nora’s cramped and cozy bookstore to share stories and trade support. And as they untangle a web of corruption, they also discover their own courage, purpose, and a sisterhood that will carry them through every challenge—proving it’s never too late to turn the page and start over . . . Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Yes & I Love You Yes & I Love You by Roni Loren is $3.03 at Amazon and $3.99 elsewhere! This is a contemporary romance by one of my absolute favorite authors. I remember hearing Loren discuss this book at the last RWA that was held in New York. The heroine has Tourette’s Syndrome and social anxiety, and Loren also mentioned her (Loren’s, not the heroine) son has a tic disorder. Have you read this one? A beautifully emotional new contemporary romance from New York Times and USA Today bestseller Roni Loren. Everyone knows Miz Poppy, the vibrant reviewer whose commentary brightens the New Orleans nightlife. But no one knows Hollyn, the real face behind the media star…or the fear that keeps her isolated. When her boss tells her she needs to add video to her blog or lose her job, she’s forced to rely on an unexpected source to help her face her fears. When aspiring actor Jasper Deares finds out the shy woman who orders coffee every day is actually Miz Poppy, he realizes he has a golden opportunity to get the media attention his acting career needs. All he has to do is help Hollyn come out of her shell…and through their growing connection, finally find her voice. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  17. Hi there! Hello! It’s time for another edition of Get Rec’d, where I discuss some of my more recent book recommendations I’ve given out to bookstore customers and reading buds. This time, I’ve also included a recommendation I’ve received. Love getting those! Have you gotten some good recs lately? A River Enchanted Hand-sold this one this week! This is Rebecca Ross’s debut adult fantasy romance and has some childhood rivals to lovers romance vibes. House of Earth and Blood meets The Witch’s Heart in Rebecca Ross’s brilliant first adult fantasy, set on the magical isle of Cadence where two childhood enemies must team up to discover why girls are going missing from their clan. Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university. But when young girls start disappearing from the isle, Jack is summoned home to help find them. Enchantments run deep on Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armor, and the smallest cut of a knife can instill fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that rule the isle by fire, water, earth, and wind find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home. Adaira, heiress of the east and Jack’s childhood enemy, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, and she hopes Jack can draw them forth by song, enticing them to return the missing girls. As Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together, they find they make better allies than rivals as their partnership turns into something more. But with each passing song, it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than they first expected, and an older, darker secret about Cadence lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all. With unforgettable characters, a fast-paced plot, and compelling world building, A River Enchanted is a stirring story of duty, love, and the power of true partnership, and marks Rebecca Ross’s brilliant entry on the adult fantasy stage. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Barely Functional Adult I love recommend this one to people who love graphic novel-style memoirs like Hyperbole and a Half or love funny, autobiographical comics like Sarah’s Scribbles. From the creator of Barely Functional Adult, a painfully relatable webcomic with over 125k followers on Instagram, comes a hilariously poignant collection of beautifully illustrated short stories that chronicle the ever-evolving perspectives of your twenties on work, therapy, identity, heartbreak, friendship, and more. Wielding her trademark balance of artful humor, levity, and heartbreaking introspection, Meichi Ng’s indisputably relatable collection of short stories holds a mirror to our past, present, and future selves. Featuring a swaddled, gender-neutral, Barely Functional Adult as its protagonist, who says all the things we think but cannot say, this book is equal parts humorous and heartbreaking as it spans a spectrum of topics including imposter syndrome, therapy, friendships, first loves, letting go of exes, and just trying to find your purpose in the world. Prepare to excitedly shove this book in your friend’s face with little decorum as you shout, “THIS IS SO US!” In this beautiful, four-color collection compiled completely of never-before-seen content, Meichi perfectly captures the best and worst of us in every short story, allowing us to weep with pleasure at our own fallibility. Hilarious, relatable, and heart-wrenchingly honest, Barely Functional Adult will have you laughing and crying in the same breath, and taking solace in the fact that we’re anything but alone in this world Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Modern Tarot This one was recommended to me! I started doing single card tarot pulls throughout the week and I love consulting this book to help interpret the cards. Super easy to understand! The beloved literary iconoclast delivers a fresh twenty-first century primer on tarot that can be used with any deck. While tarot has gone mainstream with a diverse range of tarot decks widely available, there has been no equally mainstream guide to the tarot—one that can be applied to any deck—until now. Infused with beloved iconoclastic author Michelle Tea’s unique insight, inviting pop sensibility, and wicked humor, Modern Tarot is a fascinating journey through the cards that teaches how to use this tradition to connect with our higher selves. Whether you’re a committed seeker or a digital-age skeptic—or perhaps a little of both—Tea’s essential guide opens the power of tarot to you. Modern Tarot doesn’t require you to believe in the supernatural or narrowly focus on the tarot as a divination tool. Tea instead provides incisive descriptions of each of the 78 cards in the tarot system—each illustrated in the charmingly offbeat style of cartoonist Amanda Verwey—and introduces specially designed card-based rituals that can be used with any deck to guide you on a path toward radical growth and self-improvement. Tea reveals how tarot offers moments of deep, transformative connection—an affirming, spiritual experience that is gentle, individual, and aspirational. Grounded in Tea’s twenty-five years of tarot wisdom and her abiding love of the cards, and featuring 78 black and white illustrations throughout, Modern Tarot is the ultimate introduction to the tradition of the tarot for millennial readers. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Say Nothing This is one of my go-to “dad books” to recommend, especially of a customer wants a paperback option, though you don’t have to be a dad to enjoy it. In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville’s children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress–with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes. Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders. From radical and impetuous I.R.A. terrorists such as Dolours Price, who, when she was barely out of her teens, was already planting bombs in London and targeting informers for execution, to the ferocious I.R.A. mastermind known as The Dark, to the spy games and dirty schemes of the British Army, to Gerry Adams, who negotiated the peace but betrayed his hardcore comrades by denying his I.R.A. past–Say Nothing conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  18. Congratulations to Marion Karian and Cabinets of Curiosity and all the winners of our 2022 Quarter 2 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest! Marion's Bio: Marion Karian is a registered nurse who retired in 2015 from an organization she founded in 1976 to serve infants and children with special needs and their families. She spent 40 years writing grants to support this work. In retirement she writes creative non-fiction. Her current project is telling stories of her family from the more than 2,000 letters her parents exchanged during World War II. She lives with her husband of 54 years on the banks of the San Joaquin River in Fresno, California. She has been published in The Mindful Word, Saveur, and The Fresno Bee. If you haven't done so already, check out Marion's talent in writing with the touching story Cabinets of Curiosity and then return here for a chat with this amazing author. WOW!: Congratulations again on placing in the Q2 Creative Nonfiction Contest! I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cabinets of Curiosity and I'm sure everyone else will as well! What was your hope as a take-away from Cabinets of Curiosity? Marion: The main take-away from Cabinets of Curiosity is the impact one’s curiosity about the past can have on understanding the present. I find this particularly true when I remain curious about those who have been important figures in shaping who I am and how I respond to the world. In exploring what has gone before me, I discover things about myself. Through wondering and pondering, and even raw research, my connections between past and present are deepened. My grandfather had a huge impact on my life—even though he died when I was six years old—I seek to know more about why that is. I have few direct memories of him, but through studying his scholarly writings, some old letters, and even the small leather case he carried in which he kept sermon notes, thoughts, and poetry that held special meaning for him, I am getting to know him. Studying the things he treasured and left behind quietly reveal to me the reasons I hold him in such esteem. WOW!: It sounds like you have certainly received the great gift of supportive people in your younger years - who is your current support? Marion: Without a doubt my husband of 54 years is my biggest source of support. He supported my journey through my work with children and families and the creation of what became a large organization. He cheered me on, filled in at home, and tolerated the times when I was preoccupied with the challenges of my work. When I retired and struggled to transition into a new way of living, he supported me in creating a writing life. We also sought experiences that we could participate in together. During the first five years of our retirement we went on five medical (humanitarian) missions to Armenia (each two weeks in length). We worked with the people there, sharing our respective skills with them in ways that we believed helped them and also held great meaning for each of us. Unfortunately, these missions ended with the pandemic. WOW!: It's so heartwarming to hear of the love and support of your amazing husband (photo of the two of you below) and congratulations on your recent 'honeymoon'! Does journaling play a role in your in your life and your writing and how about contests, is this your first contest submission? Tell us more about the area of both journaling and contests for you? Marion: I do not journal regularly. When I retired, I began taking writing classes at our local university (Cal State Fresno) through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The positive feedback I received through these classes gave me the courage to enroll in the intensive two-week CSU Summer Arts program at Fresno State. This is where the world of writing opened to me. The guest artists who I met there inspired me, and their feedback encouraged me to keep writing. Learning with other writers with much more experience helped me gradually begin to see myself as a “writer”. From Summer Arts I learned about WOW! Women on Writing and began taking courses online. When the pandemic hit and we were locked down, I took course after course through WOW! These courses helped me fill the endless hours available to me during our long quarantine. This is where Cabinets of Curiosity had its origin. On a whim I decided to enter the contest. I had never considered entering a writing contest, but I figured that at the very least I would get feedback on my essay and that would be helpful. Sending my essay off felt a bit like sending off the many grant proposals I wrote in my pre-retirement life: filled with hope. I started a writing group with a few writers from the very first OSHER class I took at Fresno State. This group has met monthly for five years and has kept me connected with five other women who love sharing the stories of our lives through a different prompt each month. This group has been an important part of my writing life as they keep me writing. I do best when I have deadlines (a la grants!) and, with my group, every month I have one! WOW!: You certainly keep yourself busy Marion - so that begs me to ask what's next for you? Marion: I have inherited nearly 2,000 letters that my parents exchanged during World War II when my father was in the Marines. They were separated from each other for most of the 40 month he served. I was born during that time, and the letters tell their story, but they also tell mine. I recently finished reading them all and placing them in chronological order in binders that stretch out nearly 8 feet in length. I am beginning to extract the stories they contain. As with Cabinets of Curiosity, delving into the past through these important relationships, I am learning about my parents and the world they lived in, and in doing that I am also discovering things about myself. 11. Advice for others? Keep writing! Keep reading! Take classes with teachers who provide direct feedback on your writing. Surround yourself with other writers of all levels. There are so many opportunities for learning. Strangely, the pandemic has opened many doors through Zoom and the abundance of other media that connect teachers, writers, and people who share common interest and are willing to provide feedback. WOW!: Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today - you are such an inspiration! I look forward to hearing from you again in the future! Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on! Check out the latest Contests:http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php(C) Copyright wow-womenonwriting.com Visit WOW! Women On Writing for lively interviews and how-tos. Check out WOW!'s Classroom and learn something new. Enter the Quarterly Writing Contests. Open Now![url={url}]View the full article[/url]
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  20. The Lake House The Lake House by Kate Morton is $1.99! This book has all sorts of elements: historical fiction, Gothic mystery, and a family saga. Elyse gave this book a B: The Lake House had some issues–there is A LOT going on here, tons of threads to keep track of–but it totally sucked me in. Once the novel gets its momentum, it barrels at you like a freight train. Historical fiction and mystery fans might want to put this on hold at the local library, at least while it’s still in hardcover. From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heartstopping suspense and uncovered secrets. Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure… One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined. Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever. A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Tourist Attraction The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler is $1.99! I’m curious about this one and sounds super cute. However, some reviews I’ve read mention it lacks some chemistry and oomph. Have you read this one? He had a strict “no tourists” policy… Until she broke all of his rules. When Graham Barnett named his diner The Tourist Trap, he meant it as a joke. Now he’s stuck slinging reindeer dogs to an endless parade of resort visitors who couldn’t interest him less. Not even the sweet, enthusiastic tourist in the corner who blushes every time he looks her way… Two weeks in Alaska isn’t just the top item on Zoey Caldwell’s bucket list. It’s the whole bucket. One look at the mountain town of Moose Springs and she’s smitten. But when an act of kindness brings Zoey into Graham’s world, she may just find there’s more to the grumpy local than meets the eye…and more to love in Moose Springs than just the Alaskan wilderness. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Fated Fated by Rebecca Zanetti is $1.99! This is a paranormal romance with what seems to be a marriage of convenience trope. Some readers thought the plot was a but over the top, while others said they couldn’t put this one down. It’s the first book in the Dark Protectors series and a Kindle Daily Deal. Marry Me Cara Paulsen does not give up easily. A scientist and a single mother, she’s used to fighting for what she wants, keeping a cool head, and doing whatever it takes to protect her daughter Janie. But “whatever it takes” has never before included a shotgun wedding to a dangerous-looking stranger with an attitude problem… Or Else Sure, the mysterious Talen says that he’s there to protect Cara and Janie. He also says that he’s a three-hundred-year-old vampire. Of course, the way he touches her, Cara might actually believe he’s had that long to practice… Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Witch Please Witch Please by Ann Aguirre is $2.99! This paranormal romance was featured in our witchy round up for this year. I think a few of our reviewers were curious about this one, but found the conflict aspect to be weak and would have been easily solved by setting boundaries. Have you read it? Practical Magic meets Gilmore Girls in this adorable witchy rom-com with: • A bisexual virgin baker with a curse • A witch looking to avoid romantic entanglements • And a chemistry between them that causes literal sparks Danica Waterhouse is a fully modern witch—daughter, granddaughter, cousin, and co-owner of the Fix-It Witches, a magical tech repair shop. After a messy breakup that included way too much family “feedback,” Danica made a pact with her cousin: they’ll keep their hearts protected and have fun, without involving any of the overly opinionated Waterhouse matriarchs. Danica is more than a little exhausted navigating a long-standing family feud where Gram thinks the only good mundane is a dead one and Danica’s mother weaves floral crowns for anyone who crosses her path. Three blocks down from the Fix-It Witches, Titus Winnaker, owner of Sugar Daddy’s bakery, has family trouble of his own. After a tragic loss, all he’s got left is his sister, the bakery, and a lifetime of terrible luck in love. Sure, business is sweet, but he can’t seem to shake the romantic curse that’s left him past thirty and still a virgin. He’s decided he’s doomed to be forever alone. Until he meets Danica Waterhouse. The sparks are instant, their attraction irresistible. For him, she’s the one. To her, he’s a firebomb thrown in the middle of a family war. Can a modern witch find love with an old-fashioned mundane who refuses to settle for anything less than forever? Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  21. The last three weeks have been interesting for sure. I took my kids on vacation, which resulted in me taking a vacation from writing. I enjoyed being unplugged from my keyboard and so did my kids. In this newly found freedom from the keyboard, my wife approached me with, “Hey, I need some help at work. Do you want to come?” My wife is a paranormal investigator and works for a company that runs ghost hunting events. I have gone with her before but this time it felt different. My creative juices started to flow. So, we left to first stay at an abandoned asylum and then at a historical landmark on the East Coast. For those of us who have experienced an unusual or paranormal experience, we may have contradictory feelings about whether or not we should tell other people about it or whether or not we should keep it to ourselves. It may be quite cathartic to share your tale, and many individuals have found that writing about their experiences with the supernatural inspires amazement and intrigue in readers who like reading about the paranormal. To explain a supernatural experience, however, requires more than just asserting that the doll moved on its own, as some people have done. In order for your audience to follow along and be attracted by what you have to say, you will need to structure your account like a tale with a beginning, middle, and ending. In the case that these occurrences did in fact take place, the task at hand is best approached in the manner of a memoir, which requires creative skill. In light of this, the following are some pointers for writing about genuine paranormal experiences: 1. The tone and the atmosphere There is a strong emphasis on atmosphere in scary stories. Even while some supernatural tales may have comedic or humorous parts woven into them, the general tone and atmosphere of the story should be solemn in order to have the creepiest possible impact. Your narrative should be filled with an eerie, bizarre, and terrifying atmosphere, but it shouldn't be so dramatic that the events come across as funny, disruptive, or incomprehensible. There is a very thin line that separates campy from creepy. It is helpful to read your tale out loud in order to get a sense of where your writing is taking you. A compelling tale is one that is bizarre yet realistic. 2. Exhibit and explain The piece of advice "show, don't tell" is perhaps one of the most poorly phrased pieces of guidance given to writers. A more useful piece of guidance would be to "primarily show, but tell sometimes." This is especially important to keep in mind while writing about interactions with the otherworldly. When should one give a description, and when should one show? Please fill us in on what transpired. When discussing the real supernatural occurrence, be sure to provide specific facts. It is not necessary to use metaphors or other flowery language in this context. Keep your statements simple and to the point. These parts of your tale shouldn't leave anyone scratching their heads. Describe to us how you were feeling. Although the presentation of your information must never be muddled, it is OK for you to be confused. Perhaps not all of your readers have had experiences with the supernatural, but all of us have felt things like fear, rage, loneliness, despair, and so on. Because of this, it is essential to incorporate a human dimension. It's possible that the reader would never believe in what terrified you, but if you can convince them that you were afraid, then you've already achieved your goal. 3. Use all five senses You are familiar with the five senses: touch, smell, sound, and taste. These five senses are essential. Use them. The more you do, the more genuine and interesting your work will appear to the reader. The use of the senses is very effective when describing a location, establishing an atmosphere, providing information to the reader, or demonstrating to the audience how you feel about something. So, explain how the temperature dropped or raised, talk about the tapping in the walls, describe the shadow or the orbs slinking around the room, the lavender perfume in the master bedroom, or the strange taste that you get when you inhale the dust kicked up from your feet. 4. When you get to the scary part, slow down. Take some time to reflect on your experience. Write down if there is a significant emotion attached to it. When writing about real-life paranormal encounters, do not simply describe how inanimate objects moved on their own without mentioning anything else. Describe the situation...all of it. So, there you have it. My four tips for writing about a paranormal experience from a person that has had paranormal experiences. Please add that sense of reality to your tales. I know it is so much simpler to suspend one's disbelief in a narrative that took place on the other side of the world but once you have that experience, the other side isn’t that far away.
  22. Romancelandia has come together to raise funds for a variety of wonderful causes. Now, they’re raising money for reproductive justice. Auctions are live now and will close Monday, May 23 at 10:30pm EDT. Right now, there are over 200 auctions up for bidding and buying! Good luck on your bids, folks! View the full article
  23. http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/WP/wp-content/themes/smartbitches/images/posts/hide-your-wallet.jpg Welcome to Book Beat! Book Beat aims to highlight other books that we may hear about through friends, social media, or other sources. We could see a gorgeous ad! Or find a new-to-us author on a list of underrated romances! Think of Book Beat as Teen Beat or Tiger Beat, but for books. And no staples to open to get the fold-out poster. Elder God Dance Squad Author: Carrie Harris Released: September 14, 2021 by Inked Entertainment Genre: Horror, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Young Adult When the escapades of Audrey Labadie’s cheating boyfriend take center stage during a show rehearsal, she up and leaves her beloved theater group to avoid the humiliation. Finding refuge in her high school’s dance squad, she believes the drama is behind her. Until the earthquake. Audrey’s dreams become plagued with creepy tentacle creatures crawling out of a sinkhole underneath her school in the aftermath of the seemingly unnatural natural disaster. Dreams that soon become a horrific reality for her and her new teammates. Faced with an ancient evil intent on taking over their small town, Audrey and her ragtag group of friends are the only ones dancing in their way. Every dance squad has its rivals, but she didn’t expect them to have gills. Elder God Dance Squad is a perfect literary storm where Stranger Things and Bring It On collide into a dark and hilarious genre mash-up of epic proportion. I forgot how this came across my eyeballs, but the title really tickles me. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → Find buy links for this book here.. I’ll Come Back for You Author: Charish Reid Released: March 24, 2022 by Charish Reid Genre: Paranormal, Romance When a hurricane destroys Whitney Beck’s chances to run a Miami resort, a bed and breakfast inheritance from her eccentric grandmother saves her and her sister, Helen. Unfortunately, within months, the Beck sisters run into paranormal problems: missing objects and bumps in the night. Helen reaches out to her favorite ghost-hunting show for help, but Whitney can only feel dread. Her high school crush is the lead camera operator for Ghost Punters. And after years of missed chances, she doesn’t want to meet him again under these circumstances. Reality television has helped Deon Grant carve a path toward his dream of directing films, but he feels guilty about the fake stunts along the way. His crew uses cheap parlor tricks to create good TV but those methods won’t work at the Bordeaux B&B. While battling an actual ghost, Deon gets to know Whitney again. She’s different from the girl he knew years ago, but their bond is still powerful enough to reveal his true feelings. The past doesn’t stay in the past, and the dead don’t stay dead. Whitney will have to confront her trauma and family secrets before she can succeed in business or love. Deon will have to slow down and finally see the truth standing before him: Ghosts are real, and so is his love for Whitney. I’m on board for any romances that involve ghosts! Add to Goodreads To-Read List → Find buy links for this book here.. Marrying the Ketchups Author: Jennifer Close Released: April 26, 2022 by Knopf Genre: Chick Lit, Literary Fiction An irresistible comedy of manners about three generations of a Chicago restaurant family and the deep-fried, beer-battered, cream cheese-frosted love that feeds them all–from the best-selling author of Girls in White Dresses Here are the three things the Sullivan family knows to be true: the Chicago Cubs will always be the underdogs; historical progress is inevitable; and their grandfather, Bud, founder of JP Sullivan’s, will always make the best burgers in Oak Park. But when, over the course of three strange months, the Cubs win the World Series, Trump is elected president, and Bud drops dead, suddenly everyone in the family finds themselves doubting all they hold dear. Take Gretchen for example, lead singer for a ’90s cover band who has been flirting with fame for a decade but is beginning to wonder if she’s too old to be chasing a childish dream. Or Jane, Gretchen’s older sister, who is starting to suspect that her fitness-obsessed husband who hides the screen of his phone isn’t always “working late.” And then there’s Teddy, their steadfast, unfailingly good cousin, nursing heartbreak and confusion because the guy who dumped him keeps showing up for lunch at JP Sullivan’s where Teddy is the manager. How can any of them be expected to make the right decisions when the world feels sideways–and the bartender at JP Sullivan’s makes such strong cocktails? Outrageously funny and wickedly astute, Marrying the Ketchups is a delicious confection by one of our most beloved authors. Sarah posted about this one in the Slack. The generational and foodie elements may appeal to some of you, especially with the Chicago setting. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → Want this book? We can help: buy links ahoy!. The Sol Majestic Author: Ferrett Steinmetz Released: June 11, 2019 by Tor Books Genre: LGBTQIA, Science Fiction/Fantasy The Sol Majestic is a big-hearted intergalactic adventure for fans of Becky Chambers and The Good Place Kenna, an aspirational teen guru, wanders destitute across the stars as he tries to achieve his parents’ ambition to advise the celestial elite. Everything changes when Kenna wins a free dinner at The Sol Majestic, the galaxy’s most renown restaurant, giving him access to the cosmos’s one-percent. His dream is jeopardized, however, when he learns his highly-publicized “free meal” risks putting The Sol Majestic into financial ruin. Kenna and a motley gang of newfound friends — including a teleporting celebrity chef, a trust-fund adrenaline junkie, an inept apprentice, and a brilliant mistress of disguise — must concoct an extravagant scheme to save everything they cherish. In doing so, Kenna may sacrifice his ideals — or learn even greater lessons about wisdom, friendship, and love. Utterly charming and out of this world, The Sol Majestic is will satisfy the appetites of sci-fi aficionados and newcomers alike. This one popped up on my Goodreads and I noticed it had comparisons to Becky Chambers, who is a favorite around here. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → Find buy links for this book here.. View the full article
  24. Penumbra (2022), by Hannah Black and Juliana Huxtable. Press image courtesy of the artists and Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève. I frequently feel saddened and angry that animals—whom I love, sometimes feed, and never eat—mostly ignore or even run away from me. For this reason, I enjoyed Hannah Black and Juliana Huxtable’s animated film Penumbra, which stages a court case against a nonhuman defendant—“representing all animals or the animal as such”—that is on trial for crimes against human beings in contempt of human reason. The judge is an animal, the members of the jury are animals, too; from the beginning, power and numbers are on their side. There are two humans, but they’re dressed as creatures: “Juliana Huxtable,” the defense, is costumed in furry-esque bunny ears, which mirror the headdress worn by the prosecution, and “Hannah Black, genus homo, species sapiens” recalls the animal-headed Egyptian god Ra (in Derrida’s reading of Plato, the father of reason or logos). The CGI places human and nonhuman characters on a fair—and very low poly count—playing field of unreality. And so the debate begins. But it’s really a monologue: Huxtable speaks only rarely; her nonhuman “kin,” never. Animals, here, are outside the realm of representation, in both the legal and the semiotic senses. It’s a canny dramatization of the absurd, unhappy impasse posed by the discourse of anthropocentrism, which, in its attempt to “decenter” people in favor of a more inclusive worldview, must also mute the capacity that enables discourse (and community, identity, thought) itself. This capacity is both subject and object, content and container, of Black’s breathless address. “Through the use of language,” she begins, “I will show you, and you will understand, and through doing so you will have to admit that you do not fundamentally sympathize with the principle of the animal, you respond to abstract concepts, you know how to come when your name is called.” Yet the dazzling avalanche of words that follows is less an airtight argument and more a poem with the rhetorical texture of a rant. Penumbra isn’t just an intervention in theory masquerading as video art; it brilliantly reveals, aesthetically, what analysis cannot: the illogic, the nonhuman, within language and hence within us. Black’s rapid-fire circumlocutions and cascading repetitions are actually impossible to follow; instead, they are reduced to an ebb and flow of breath and rhythm that wash, anxiously, over us. The animals, of course, refuse to respond to her questions, her attempts at taxonomy: “Do you deny that you practice cannibalism?” Legally, the word penumbra refers to constitutional rights inferred using interpolative reasoning; in science, it connotes the gray area between a light and a shadow. This trial is an arbitration of gradients via an indictment of law: a tragedy of reason that makes a mockery not just of justice, but at all of our attempts at living in harmony. It’s a sign of our species’ self-hatred that most people in Sunday’s audience at Metrograph—where the film screened along with two others from the 2021 Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement—seemed to interpret Penumbra as a celebration of the inevitable triumph of the inhuman. Maybe they’re right. And no one wants to sympathize with the prosecution! But I felt so bad for us, the tiny minority in a universe that, though sensate, is senseless. As Black’s character says, “We have tried to hold on to the collective being, but the animal refuses to speak to us. All that we know about brutality we learned from animals. We learned how to treat each other as food, we learned how to die indifferently.” Aprés nous, le dèluge, I thought, despondently, leaving the theater. All three short films from the series, which was curated by DIS, are now available to stream online at Metrograph. —Olivia Kan-Sperling, assistant editor Reading the queer Brazilian writer Caio Fernando Abreu’s Moldy Strawberries this week, I was reminded of a scene in Samuel Delany’s Times Square Red, Times Square Blue in which Delany meets a stranger who ceremoniously pisses himself before sex. It’s one of many scenes of abjection featuring bodily fluids in Delany’s work—a predilection I encountered, too, in Abreu’s rapturous collection of linked stories, out from Archipelago Books next month in a new English translation by Bruna Dantas Lobato. Originally published in Portuguese as Morangos mofados in 1982—under Brazil’s anti-communist military dictatorship and at the onset of the global AIDS pandemic—Moldy Strawberries is a portrait of queer life in which it’s impossible to divorce pleasure from politics. Abreu attests to the fraught ties between friends and lovers in Brazil’s cities of the time, and his tendencies toward formal excess—jagged, labyrinthine sentences that vault across different registers; innumerable and unabashed appearances of liquid waste (piss, semen, sweat, glitter, cognac, mud, rainwater, blood); a story consisting solely of dialogue between two friends, accompanied by instructions that it be read ad infinitum—also reflect his defiance of the political autocracy that censored his work and eventually sent him into exile. “I’m not desperate, not more than I’ve always been, nothing special, baby,” says one of his narrators. “I’m not drunk or crazy, I’m lucid as fuck and I confidently know I don’t have a way out.” Abreu’s project is entirely different in scope from Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, which chronicles the eighties redevelopment of Times Square and its consequences for the cruising scene. But the two writers share an interest in how queer social relations are formed in shifting urban environments, and there can be a nearly psychedelic quality to both of their prose styles. Abreu’s turn to psychedelia, though, was the result of the dissident Tropicália movement of sixties Brazil, founded by a countercultural group of avant-garde musicians and artists that included Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, and Hélio Oiticica. Music especially may have been one way Abreu attempted to escape the conditions of dictatorship. The stories in Moldy Strawberries reference a varied and intoxicating collection of songs, including ones by Veloso, Angela Ro Ro, Donna Summer, Frédéric Chopin, the Beatles, Elis Regina, and Billie Holiday. Abreu even instructs us to listen to particular songs as we read some of the stories. (As I read the collection I was also often listening to the self-titled album of the late-sixties Brazilian rock band Os Mutantes, who aren’t named in the book but who were important figures in the Tropicália movement.) The musical dissonance here leaks beautifully into the prose, and Dantas Lobato’s translation moves with lightning speed as Abreu’s characters go out in the rain, drink with abandon, reach across the dance floor, and gaze at the planets and at one another. Abreu hammers away at the core of life until it’s chiseled and brilliant, until it splinters, suddenly, into language. “I was always relearning and inventing, always toward him,” says one of his narrators, consumed by an obsession with a lover, “to arrive whole, the pieces of me all mixed up, he would lay them out unhurriedly, as if playing with a puzzle to form what castle, what forest, what worm, or god, I didn’t know, but I was going in the rain because that was my only reason, my only destination—pounding on that dark door I was pounding on now.” Abreu died of AIDS in Porto Alegre in 1996, at the age of forty-seven. —Oriana Ullman, intern “But why do we no longer write poetry?” asks the Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou towards the end of his essay “An Open Letter to Those Who Are Killing Poetry.” “Wrong question! Is what is presented to us really poetry? That’s the question!” What is and is not poetry—and who gets to decide—are just two of the many questions Mabanckou has taken up over the course of his decades-long career, which includes the Booker-nominated novel Black Moses as well as my personal favorite, the queasy, alcohol-soaked, and at times scatological satire of contemporary Congolese politics Broken Glass. The essay in question appears at the end of As Long as Trees Take Root in the Earth, a collection of the first-ever translations of his poetry to appear in English (by Nancy Naomi Carlson), and is a fitting companion to the poems that precede it. In spare, untitled stanzas, Mabanckou writes poignantly of the natural world, a mother’s love, and the hypocrisy of borders, observing that “nation after nation / despair endures.” —Rhian Sasseen, engagement editor View the full article
  25. The transcript for Podcast 511. Cover Snark Live: Long Thumbs and Shifter Mayhem with Amanda has been posted! This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks. ❤ Click here to subscribe to The Podcast → View the full article
  26. FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. Neoma navigates through the pain and negative emotions of healing from her traumas in order to control her powers, thereby defeating the fae and freeing humans. SECOND ASSIGNMENT: in 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them. The antagonists are the fae. They were originally created by humans and witches to defeat the abusive gods in an attempt to bring peace to the world. However, the power the fae were gifted went to their head. An ability to compulse humans, taking away free will and unparalleled speed and strength rotted most of them to their core, creating another oppressive rule over humans. A majority of the fae deem their kind superior and have hunted the witches to near extinction and forced humans into indentured servitude. While not all of their kind are bad, the ones in charge hold the fate of everyone in their hands. Their ultimate goal is to rid humans and witches altogether. THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed). Starshine Of Fae & Gods Rising Sea, Fallen Star FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why? A Court of Thorns and Roses Series by Sarah J. Maas - Both are set in another world and deal with a kind believing they are superior. They also share similar attributes in the main character overcoming her emotional baggage and righting the wrongs of the world set in place by others who came long before her. From Blood and Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout - Both are set in another world with warring people. And there is a huge mystery surrounding those ruling. The main character also discovers something about herself and realizes she holds the key to saving the peace of their lands. FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. Though you may not have one now, keep in mind this is a great developmental tool. In other words, you best begin focusing on this if you're serious about commercial publication. After a catastrophe destroys her town leaving her as the lone survivor, a young woman deals with the unintended consequences of her actions while finding a way to save humankind. SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction. Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it? Neoma’s pain and suffering comes from losing everyone she loves after a tsunami and eathquake destroy her town, leaving her the lone survivor. After she is thrust into indentured servitude to the fae, she struggles with survivor guilt and numbs out with the aid of alcohol. Eventually, she is forced to confront the pain when she finds her best friend and other survivor of the town in the woods one night. He begins to slowly unravel the truths of the existence of the fae and humans, revealing the answer to their salvation lies with witches. As they travel to find the witches, it’s revealed Neoma is a child of the gods, and her powers are tied to her emotions and the elements around her. When she is sad, it rains. When she’s angry or afraid, there’s lightning or an earthquake. The night her town was destroyed, she was being assaulted by a man, causing her to panic. Unbeknownst to her, since prior to this her powers were dormant, she started the earthquake leading to the tsunami and destroying everything and everyone she loved. The knowledge she caused her suffering adds to her emotional turmoil, but to control her powers, she must navigate her emotions. The secondary conflict around the social environment comes from Neoma’s best friend and other sole survivor of her town, Ravi. He’s known for a long time of her godly parentage. However, he’s hidden it from her because he doesn’t think she can handle the truth. His underestimation leads to her feeling betrayed, and she banishes him. But it causes a core conflict within herself. She doubts herself, having relied on her best friend for reassurance. Since he didn’t trust her to handle the enormity of her powers, she calls into question his reasoning. Is it substantiated? FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story? Please don't simply repeat what you already have which may well be too quiet. You can change it. That's why you're here! Start now. Imagination is your best friend, and be aggressive with it. The land of Oria is surrounded by water. In the northern center of the town is Boerboeline, the capitol city of the ruling fae. Tall fortified walls protect Boerboeline, and it sits in the middle of a dense forest. All other cities in Oria sit on the coast at east, north, and west. These are the cities where the humans reside, the coast providing an easy access for them to work and provide food for the fae and rations for themselves. The southern part of the world is seldom traveled as most believe it’s only a forest leading to a barren valley set in front of a treacherous mountain range. The witches’ haven lies beyond the mountain range, hidden by spells. At the start of the story, an earthquake and tsunami destroy Neoma’s home, the city on the western seaboard and unbeknownst to most, lined with iron, the source of suppression for a fae’s powers. Neoma is saved and discovered in the woods where the guards take her into custody, forcing her into servitude of Helike, a town on the western seaboard. The docks of Helike house the fishing boats as well as larger boats designed for faes’ pleasure. Most of the humans work the docks, either hauling in catch or sailing into the sea. And at the end of the workday, humans are relegated to poorly constructed homes, stacked one on top of the other. Neoma has found her home in the woods, a shack depleted and offering only the comfort of a small fireplace and a mat on the dirt floor. Her late entrance in the town doesn’t guarantee a home with the other humans, so she’s isolated from them. Before Neoma finds her best friend in the woods, the other lone survivor, she spends her nights warming the beds of others who provide her the necessary liquor to numb out from her traumas. In one particularly hard instance, as the liquor from the night before fades, she sneaks onto the impressive boat of a fae intending to steal their supply and help her survive the day. On the vessel, a man interrupts her, hoping to warn her of the owner boarding momentarily. The man’s beauty shocks Neoma into silence and she grudgingly accepts his warning, wary of hidden motives. Weather and the elements play a large role in the setting. The main character notes several instances of a deepening chill in the air and an unexpected increase of heat. Sometimes a random rainstorm makes an appearance or a fire burns brighter. In the beginning, the main character notes these simple changes and, along with the reader, are unaware the changes directly align with her shifts in emotions. It’s her powers coming to light, a setup of a reveal in the novel as Neoma, her best friend, and her protector travel to find the witches. Once it’s revealed Neoma’s emotions are affecting the elements around her as she is a child of the gods, she realizes a detrimental truth. On the night of the events destroying her town, she was running away from a man sexually assaulting her. Her fear and anger caused the ground to rumble, triggering the tsunami. At the point of discovery, Neoma and her traveling companions are in the forest, heading south to the witches, and the pain of her destruction unhinges her emotionally. Her powers rage, and lightning and thunder build, taking down trees of the forest and almost causing a fire. As she recovers from her emotional rampage, Neoma promises to navigate the hurt to heal instead of furthering her self-inflicted damage through the aid of alcohol. They resume their travel, heading deeper south, and enter into a large valley sitting in front of a great mountain range. Her best friend, Ravi, informs them they must travel through the mountain range to meet the witches. They pass through the mountains and are met with another forest. Ravi instructs them to build a fire while he casts a protective circle to summon the witches. They wait for the witches who appear shrouded in mist. Once it’s determined Neoma and her companions mean them no harm, the witches take them to their haven, protected by enchantments and surrounded by water to ensure no fae find them. Entering the witches’ haven reminds Neoma of home, although it’s not set on the sea. But the peace and tranquility offer her a safe space as she comes to terms with her powers and works on managing her emotions to harness them against the fae instead of causing further destruction. The land of Arcana is separated into three parts. Upon entering, there is a village, filled with small cottages of other witches. Set off to the left is a large waterfall in front of a cavern. The waterfall flows into a creek running through the middle of the village. Beyond most of the homes is a field sitting in front of another mountain range. To the right of the field is another forest, shrouded in the mist of the witches. It is in the forest where Neoma and her companions find a large cottage. The witches inform them it is their home as they are the daughters of the High Priestess who rules over their land, keeping them safe. Neoma spends time in the land of the witches, training to prepare for the ultimate fight of the fae, knowing as a god, their powers of compulsion have no effect on her. While she is safely tucked away from the prying eyes of the fae and free of servitude, something happens to move up their timeline, requiring Neoma and her friends to travel to the capitol of the fae in the center of the forest. The capitol, Boerboeline, is only a place for the fae. Humans who are sent to the capitol are sentenced to death and spend time in the dungeons. Surrounding the capitol are tall walls, higher than the trees, deterring any breakout of humans captured. And now it’s up to Neoma and her friends to break in and rescue one of their own. Reaching the walls protecting the capitol, Neoma uses her emotional powers to create a small earthquake, breaking a portion of the wall and allowing them to slip in. They must move quickly and unnoticed under the cover of darkness to reach the dungeons as the small earthquake surely alerted someone. The end of the novel occurs in the capitol during their rescue of a friend, and during the climactic moment, Neoma summons her powers, destroying the capitol and the fae in it, sacrificing a friend in the process.
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