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  2. Spotless Spotless by Camilla Monk is $2.99 at Amazon! This one has been mentioned in the comments of at least two Rec Leagues: More Action Adventure Romance and He’s Always Loved Her. It’s also had a cover redesign. I like the art style, but also feel like it makes the characters look pretty young. Island Chaptal — nerdy IT engineer by day, romance novel junkie by night — just walked into her messy New York apartment to find Mr. Right waiting for her. No, wait… Mr. Clean. A gentleman professional killer with a bad case of OCD and zero tolerance for unsorted laundry, March isn’t there to kill her… yet. He wants the diamond her late mother stole for a sinister criminal organization. Island agrees to help him find it, facing the kind of adversaries who dismember first and ask questions later. Good thing she’s got March to show her the ropes. And the guns. And the knives. The buttoned-up Island is soon having a blast racing from Paris to Tokyo following the clues in her mother’s will, and for the first time, she’s ready to get close to someone. But falling for a hit man may be the very definition of loving dangerously.… Spotless marks the beginning of Island and March’s ongoing adventures. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Alice Network RECOMMENDED: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is $2.99! RHG gave this one a B+: This book has a lot of my catnip: lady spies, a dual chronology, and a host of people trying to put their lives back together after a war. If you read and loved Code Name Verity this is a book for you. In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption. 1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister. 1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose. Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Reading List The Reading List by Sarah Nisha Adams is $1.99! I just mentioned this one on yesterday’s Get Rec’d. If you like books about books and people bonding over reading, check this one out! An unforgettable and heartwarming debut about how a chance encounter with a list of library books helps forge an unlikely friendship between two very different people in a London suburb. Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life in Wembley, in West London after losing his beloved wife. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who hides in her room reading while he spends his evenings watching nature documentaries. Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a list of novels that she’s never heard of before. Intrigued, and a little bored with her slow job at the checkout desk, she impulsively decides to read every book on the list, one after the other. As each story gives up its magic, the books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she’s facing at home. When Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha passes along the reading list…hoping that it will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between two lonely souls, as fiction helps them escape their grief and everyday troubles and find joy again. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Hunted Hunted by Elizabeth Heiter is $1.99! Elyse says, “The first book in The Profiler series introduces us to Evelyn Baine, an FBI agent who hunts serial killers while trying to solve a mystery from her past. The suspense is creepy (think Criminal Minds), but Heiter adds a romantic subplot to balance it out. I love that Evelyn totally misses all the signals her hot Hostage Rescue Team member is giving her about how much he’s crushing on her.” Terror stalks a small Virginia town. FBI rising star, criminal profiler Evelyn Baine, knows how to think like a serial killer. But she’s never chased anyone like the Bakersville Burier, who hunts young women and displays them, half-buried, deep in the woods. As the body count climbs, Evelyn’s relentless pursuit of the killer puts her career – and her life – at risk. And the evil lurking in the Burier’s mind may be more than even she can unravel.  Terror is closer than she thinks. The Bakersville Burier knows he’s got an FBI profiler on his trail. He knows who she is and where to find her. And he’s biding his time, because he’s planned a special punishment for Evelyn. She may have tracked other killers, but he vows to make this her last chase. This time it’s her turn to be hunted! Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  3. Squee The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman May 30, 2023 · Berkley Regency CW/TW CW: Breast cancer (but no one dies as yet), some violence on the page, descriptions of cruel treatment of people I started this book expecting the usual historical mystery fare just with older leads (42!), but no. From the start, it was clear that this novel was something different entirely. I’m going to try to keep my superlatives under control, but just know that I made Good Book Noise from page 1! This novel is divided into three parts, and each part focuses on a different adventurous rescue mission. One overarching plot ties the three stories together: Lady Augusta ‘Gus’ Colebrook and her twin sister Julia blossoming as they stretch beyond the social boundaries of Regency England. The three stories intertwine so much that they cannot be read independently of each other. I’m letting you know they’re divided into three separate tales to give you a head’s up that this plot arc is shaped differently to one you’d find in a traditional historical mystery. Gus and Julia are independently wealthy, a point for which I am grateful as their brother is truly odious (by that I mean he adheres to strictures on ‘a woman’s place’). Gus and Julia were by no means shrinking violets to start with. Gus, in particular, has always been bold and brilliant – something her father encouraged. Julia lost her betrothed with whom she was deeply in love and at the start of the book, she has been in mourning for two years. In the opening pages, Gus and Julia are meeting someone on the Dark Walk in Vauxhall Gardens. Specifically, they’re meeting the man who is blackmailing their best friend. They are to exchange their best friend’s diamond necklace for the incriminating letters that the blackmailer holds. The exchange takes a turn when the blackmailer pulls a gun on them. Gus, with a rock hidden in her reticule, wallops the man in the nethers and they manage to retrieve the letters and keep the diamond necklace. This is their first go at rescuing women who the law either can’t or won’t help. It leaves them a bit scared, but exhilarated, and leads them to their next rescue mission: saving (technically kidnapping) a wife from her brutal husband. On their way to rescue this woman, they are stopped by a highwayman. Only, Gus accidentally shoots him. They recognise him as the exiled Lord Evan Belford and co-opt the unconscious man into their rescue mission. Yes, there is romance. From the get go, the witty repartee between Evan and Gus is fantastic. Evan calls Gus his renegade. Their romance is a fantastic subplot to the bigger story of Gus and Julia becoming more fully themselves through these rescue missions. The real love story is an exploration of the bond between the twins and how it allows both of them the space to grow. They have each other in a world that tells them they’re individually worthless without a man. Gus’ romance with Evan just sweetens the deal. I loved the way Gus narrates the unspoken communication between herself and her twin. For example, when Gus wants Julia to stand behind her in their engagement with the blackmailer. I glanced at her and tilted my head: Stand behind me, dearest. Her mouth tightened: I stay at your side. Brave girl, but I knew she was not built for confrontation. I widened my eyes: Please! Something else that this book does beautifully is incorporate specific and fascinating historical detail. Sometimes the details are in the brutal situations from which Gus, Julia and Evan rescue people; sometimes it’s in the dances at the balls. And sometimes it’s in the layout of the different London parks. For example, at one point, they’re investigating the site of a past duel at The Ring in Hyde Park. It was ‘the site of all fashionable activity fifty years ago’ and is now reduced to ‘the ring of trees and a few weathered railing posts’. Instead of saying that it is all but abandoned, it reads, ‘Aside from the view of people upon distant paths, we could have been standing in a field in the middle of the English countryside’. Another example of tiny details that I found so interesting and charming is in how one of the dances was described: ‘Charlotte gave the call for the first dance set – the popular “Butter’d Pease” and “Juliana” – and quickly moved off the chalked dance floor to avoid the surge of people creating their sets.’ Did this rich detail make the story drag? Not at all! The pacing is brilliant. As is the humour, a wry, biting humour but it is never cruel and has a sense of perspective: ‘I had come to the ball to dance with a murderer. Admittedly, I did not have any particulars of the man or the actual murder, but I had a feasible theory’. Which brings me to their approach to planning these rescue missions. There was a kind of scattered hopefulness when it came to making plans. They would have a clear end goal in sight, but there was a lot more thinking on their feet. Things end well (mostly) as they should in a romance, but there is rather a lot of doubt for the reader that things will actually end well, and the suspense inside that doubt kept me reading. I picked up this book because it had the kind of tropes I like – historical women who go against the grain, adventures, feminism. The tropes were familiar, but how the tropes were explored and written was altogether different. It’s so immersive that I felt like I was inside Gus’ head, living her life. Describing Gus as someone with ‘gumption’ or ‘pluck’ does her a disservice because while she has those characteristics, she is so uniquely herself, so fully formed and original that it is like comparing a takeaway apple pie to a gourmet apple pie experience. They’re both apple pies, but they’re not the same. I was not myself when I read this book. I lived a whole new life with Gus, going on adventures and cheering both sisters on in their quests. Seeing Gus put herself first had all the challenge and realness and depth of seeing a best friend doing so in real life. Gus made the book for me. A second installment is promised and I’m counting the days. Honestly, writing this review has been so challenging, because I just want to scream ‘nuance’, ‘depth’ and ‘originality’. Oh, and most of all, ‘Please read it so I can talk to you about it!’ View the full article
  4. Welcome to the Down a Bad Road blog tour! This psychological thriller by Regina Buttner is perfect for fans of domestic thrillers by best-selling authors Kimberly Belle, Kaira Rouda, and Heather Gudenkauf. The blog tour starts today and lasts through June 25th! See the tour schedule below to follow along.Enjoy the following excerpt of Down a Bad RoadLavender snorted. “How can a dead person be dangerous?” Penelope sighed. “It’s hard to explain, the message I’m getting isn’t quite clear. This storm that’s about to dump on us has thrown my chakras out of balance. It happens sometimes, when the atmospheric pressure is in flux.” What in the hell were chakras? Lavender chewed the remnants of her peach-flavored gloss from her lower lip. This was a whole lot of crazy talk. “The best I can make of it,” Penelope went on, “is that Ron’s safety is at risk somehow, and this woman may have something to do with it.” Fear jolted Lavender. At this very moment, Burley was driving down to Pennsylvania, to pay his final respects to Marta. “When was the last time you spoke to him?” Penelope said. “This morning. After he asked me to marry him, he said he needed to get on the road—” Lavender’s voice rose, on the verge of hysteria. “Are you serious, Penelope? You really think he’s in danger?” “Yes, I believe so, and you may be, too. You need to be careful.” Holy crap! Lavender’s insides twisted with fear. Had Burley lied about Marta’s death? But why would he do that when he was smitten with her? She’d divorced her husband to be with him! She wanted to believe that Penelope’s strange ramblings were completely mistaken, but what if they weren’t, and something bad was about to happen? Either way, she had to get hold of Burley. Now. “I have to go, Penelope,” Lavender said. She hung up without saying goodbye and dialed Burley’s number, but the call wouldn’t go through. Clutching the phone in her trembling hands, she stared out the living room window as the wind picked up and the swirling snow began to come down harder. About the BookJealousy can be deadly. Longtime bachelor Ron Burley has a rule against messing around with married women in his rural upstate New York town, but sassy, lovely Lavender has convinced him to break it. Their steamy affair sets someone off, but it isn't Lavender's clueless husband-it's Marta, Burley's clingy childhood friend and ex-lover. Marta knows Burley is on the verge of going broke, so she secretly tries to lure him with a lucrative job offer and some enticing fringe benefits. Although he's sorely tempted, Burley's afraid to trust Marta due to the sketchy circumstances surrounding their bitter breakup years ago; but this might be his only chance to get back at her for what she did. Suspicious of her boyfriend's romantic history, Lavender visits a psychic for a tarot card reading in a creepy cabin in the Adirondack woods. Watch your back, the psychic warns her. Burley and Marta aren't the innocent people they're pretending to be. Someone's out for revenge, and this love triangle could turn deadly. Publisher: Black Rose Writing ISBN-10: 1685131883ISBN-13: 978-1685131883ASIN: B0BSN7F7KTPrint length: 298 pages You can read more about the book (and read a preview!) by going to: https://www.amazon.com/Down-Bad-Road-Regina-Buttner-ebook/dp/B0BSN7F7KT. Add Down a Bad Road to your Goodreads TBR list or purchase a copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org.About Author Regina Buttner Regina is a registered nurse-turned-writer who was raised in beautiful upstate New York, where she spent many happy years exploring the winding back roads and scenic hiking trails of the Adirondack mountain region. She recently traded the snowy northern winters for the tropical breezes of the Sunshine State, where her favorite pastimes are kayaking among the mangroves, strolling the gorgeous beaches, and attempting to teach tricks to her boisterous corgi. Learn more on Regina's website or follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads or BookBub. ---- Interview by Michelle Cornish WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Regina, and congratulations on the release of Down a Bad Road! I love the twists and turns in this story. Did you plan these ahead of time or did they come to you as you were writing? Regina: I’m very much a plotter rather than a pantser. I like to know where my story is going, as if I’m setting out on a long drive and following a road map. When my novels are in the planning stage, I create that road map by first constructing a narrative outline of the story, using the same voice that I would use if I were explaining the plot to a friend. I do, however, allow myself to write “by the seat of my pants” when I’m creating my individual scenes. That’s where potential plot twists will often surface, as though the story has a mind of its own. I then weave those twists into the narrative outline, adjusting the story arc as I go along. WOW: What advice do you have for authors wanting to incorporate a major twist or surprise ending into their story? Regina: You can’t just plunk a bad guy or a dark secret into your story without setting the reader up for it first. If you don’t, you risk losing your credibility as a storyteller. The reader won’t find the sudden turn of events to be believable, and they’ll lose their trust in you. To prevent that from happening, you’ve got to drop a few breadcrumbs here and there throughout the story. Breadcrumbs are tiny bits of information that hint at things yet to come in your characters’ lives. This subtle foreshadowing will percolate in the reader’s subconscious, building up to that delicious Aha! moment later on in the book, when the puzzle pieces of the plot begin to snap into place. WOW: Do you find it difficult to write villains? Why or why not? Regina: I have a blast writing villainous characters! In Down a Bad Road, I had a wonderful time creating self-centered Lavender, bumbling Burley and manipulative Marta. Lavender was especially fun to play around with as she morphed into the satirical vixen that my beta readers said they “loved to hate.” Writing these unlikeable yet compelling characters freed up a part of my normally straight-laced psyche, which allowed me to explore the darker side of human nature. WOW: I love that! How much of your own personality shows up in your characters? Regina: My sense of humor tends toward the sarcastic, and my friends would probably describe me as a bit of a smartass. I think those traits of mine shine through in the character of Lavender, but magnified about a thousand times! I actually consider myself to be a genuinely nice person who would never stoop to Lavender’s level of insensitivity and scheming. In that sense, I’m more like the character Burley, who strives to live a life of integrity, even though his efforts often fall far short of his intentions. WOW: Did any particular book or author inspire you to write a thriller? Regina: One of my all-time favorite novels is Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, the classic gothic tale of mystery and obsession. I’m a longtime fan of du Maurier’s vivid settings and intricate plotting. I love the ambiguity of cousin Rachel’s seemingly innocuous actions as she toys with young Philip’s affections. Every time I reread the novel, I find myself pondering Rachel’s intentions right along with the bewildered Philip. In homage to du Maurier’s stellar example, I try to weave that same sense of uncertainty and foreboding into my own stories. WOW: Do you have a favorite writing craft book or favorite piece of writing advice you’ve received? Regina: Being the plotter that I am, I’ve found the craft book Write Away by Elizabeth George to be an indispensable guide for planning a novel. Her method takes you step-by-step through the process, from initial idea to final draft. My favorite piece of advice from George is the importance of “showing up.” Your novel won’t get written without you sitting down in that desk chair every darn day, and doing the work. Only you can make it happen! WOW: Wonderful advice, Regina! Thanks for joining us and we wish you all the best with Down a Bad Road. ---- Blog Tour Calendar May 29th @ The MuffinJoin us as we celebrate the blog tour launch of Down a Bad Road by Regina Buttner. You'll have the chance to read an interview with the author and win a copy of the book.https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com May 30th @ Author Anthony Avina’s blogStop by author Anthony Avina’s blog to read his review of Down a Bad Road by Regina Buttner. http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com May 31st @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews blogJoin Lisa for an interview with Regina Buttner.https://lisahaselton.com/blog/ June 1st @ World of My ImaginationStop by World of My Imagination to read Nicole's review of Down a Bad Road. https://worldofmyimagination.com June 4th @ Author Anthony Avina’s blogRevisit author Anthony Avina’s blog to read “How a Corgi Supercharged My Writing Life” by Regina Buttner. http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com June 5th @ A Lit LifeStop by A Lit Life read Stephanie's review of Down a Bad Road. http://www.alitlife.com/ June 7th @ One Writer's JourneyVisit Sue Bradford Edwards’ blog to read an interview with author Regina Buttner.https://suebe.wordpress.com/ June 8th @ Michelle Cornish's blogRead a guest post from Regina Buttner about cultivating writerly discipline.https://www.michellecornish.com/blog June 9th @ Reading is My RemedyCheck out Chelsie's Instagram where she'll review Down a Bad Road.https://www.instagram.com/reading_is_my_remedy June 10th @ World of My ImaginationStop by Nicole's blog where Regina Buttner is a guest for "Three Things on a Saturday Night."https://worldofmyimagination.com June 12th @ Reading is My RemedyStop by Chelsie's blog to read a guest post by Regina Buttner about disguising your friends and family in your stories.https://www.readingismyremedy.wordpress.com June 13th @ Michelle Cornish's author blogJoin Michelle as she reviews Down a Bad Road.https://www.michellecornishauthor.com/blog June 14th @ Create Write NowVisit Mari's blog to read a guest post by Regina Buttner about growing up old-school Catholic and daring to write about it!https://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog June 15th @ The Knotty NeedleJoin Judy for her review of Down a Bad Road.http://knottyneedle.blogspot.com June 16th @ Mindy McGinnis’s blogStop by Mindy’s blog to read “A Humorous Look at NOT Dating After 50” by Regina Buttner.https://www.mindymcginnis.com/blog June 16th @ From the TBR PileJoin Kari as she reviews Down a Bad Road. https://fromthetbrpile.blogspot.com/ June 18th @ Lady Unemployed Stop by Nicole's blog to read "How Joining a Professional Writers Organization Transformed My Writing Career" by Regina Buttner.https://ladyunemployed.com June 21st @ Life According to JamieJoin us as Jamie reviews Down a Bad Road. http://www.lifeaccordingtojamie.com June 22nd @ Sue Edwards’s blogReturn to Sue’s blog to read "From Nurse to Writer" by Regina Buttner.https://suebe.wordpress.com/ June 23rd @ Nikki's Book ReviewsRead Nicole's review of Down a Bad Road.https://nikkitsbookreviews.wordpress.com/ June 24th @ The Faerie ReviewStop by The Faerie Review to read a spotlight of Down a Bad Road. https://www.thefaeriereview.com June 25th @ A Lit LifeReturn to A Lit Life to read a guest post from Regina Buttner about how a visit to the Stillwater Hotel in Upstate New York inspired the setting for Down a Bad Road. http://www.alitlife.com/ ***** BOOK GIVEAWAY ***** Enter to win a copy of Down a Bad Road by Regina Buttner! Fill out the Rafflecopter form by June 11th at 11:59 pm CT for a chance to win. We will choose a winner randomly the next day and follow up via email. Good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway (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]
  5. Happy Cover Snark Monday! Amanda: Sir that is going to be a melty mess in under an hour. Elyse: Imagine you’re already lost in the desert, thirsty as fuck, and some dude comes up to you with a chocolate sampler platter. Carrie: I mean… not even an iced mocha? I didn’t know you could go wrong with chocolate but here we are. Tara: I’d tuck a couple of brownies in my bag for later and keep walking. Sarah: I have some suspicions about what kind of brownies those are and in case my suspicions are correct I’ll take 6. Amanda: Not necessarily a snark because the cover makes me want to know more, but the title made me laugh. Sarah: I love how HAPPY the ghost on the left is. Amanda: I wonder if it’s a series, where this guy keeps getting reincarnated into professions he hates. From PamG: So I saw this and thought for a moment that it was kind of aesthetically pleasing. Color scheme, pretty guy, no egregious cover fails. . . . I mean, who says decapitation ain’t sexy, amirite? Sarah: I think that’s a penalty, either high sticking or hooking or attempted murder. Susan: With the world’s tiniest hockey stick as well! Amanda: What is this? Hockey for ants?! From PamG: I’m backkkk. Again, this didn’t seem bad at first glance. A little squirrelly, but. . . you get the picture. When I blew it up for details, though, so many little things were just full of nope. From his very creepy eyes coupled with the aw shucks pose, to the fire puking squirrel who appears to have set their own tail on fire. Also, is it just me, or is the musculature just a tad off? Worst of all, is something “weeping” below the belt–er, title. Sarah: I remain curious about the lack of childcare in these worlds. I would have thought that supportive services and networks would have been a foundational element to shifter and/or alien societies. Fire breathing squirrels, though. That’s new. Lara: Maybe I’ve listened to too many true crime podcasts but the proximity of smouldering man to children’s toys gives me the ick. But then it’s the day care for the squirrel? Like that woman on TikTok who has a daycare for raccoons? Susan: …Okay, that squirrel IS breathing fire. I was genuinely worried I was making that up. Sneezy: Did it light their own tail on fire too? Susan: There’s probably a joke to be made about how this isn’t why squirrels are red, but I’m just not getting there. View the full article
  6. Yesterday
  7. We’re thrilled to bring you a Take Five interview with our esteemed contributor, David Corbett. For those who aren’t aware, David is the author of seven novels, which have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Edgar. His short fiction has twice been selected for Best American Mystery Stories, and a collaborative novel for which he contributed a chapter-Culprits-was adapted for TV by the producers of Killing Eve for Disney+ in the U.K. His new thriller, The Truth Against the World, sounds incredibly enticing: In the near future, as America breaks apart into factional violence, a young artist named Georgina O’Halloran creates an illustrated book of old Celtic tales in the style of the famous Book of Durrow. Titled The Truth Against the World, it’s intended as a gift for her professor-who is also her lover. Curious to hear more? Let’s talk to David. Q1: What’s the premise of your new book? DC: Who knows? I don’t write from a premise. I start with a couple (usually incompatible) ideas that are bugging me and then ask: How can I build a story out of this mess? In this case, the ideas were: (1) the possibility of armed civil strife in this country not unlike the Troubles that afflicted Ireland from 1970-1998; (2) the “wondrous and strange” atmospherics of Irish myth, specifically the Fenian Cycle featuring Finn mac Cumhal (Finn McCool) and his hunter-warrior band, the fianna, especially his son, the warrior-poet Oísin; (3) what I’ve written about before here at Writer Unboxed, “the love that dare not say its name,” i.e. genuine Platonic love between a man and a woman. (I was particularly pleased when an early reviewer specifically picked up on that last element of the story and praised my refusal to force a cheap romantic subplot on the characters.) Q2: What would you like people to know about the story itself? DC: Given the mythic undertones, no one should be surprised this is a journey tale—specifically a cross-country trek with the country descending into violent civil war, with our intrepid couple, Shane and Georgie, in search of their personal Grail: a book Georgie wrote as a gift to her professor and lover, who then viciously broke off the affair, sending Georgie into a deep, depressive tailspin. The professor then published the work as his own and it became an international sensation—as well as the inspiration for a video game that has become a watering hole and recruiting venue for militia members and other malcontents performing some of the worst atrocities in the national conflict. Q3: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them? DC: Beyond the external challenge of making it all the way to California from Philadelphia to confront the plagiarist, Georgie struggles with her susceptibility to depression and the lack of self-confidence that goes along with it. She also needs to believe that everything they endure to expose the truth is worth it. For Shane, there’s an element of his past he must fiercely keep secret, and as aspects of that past surface in the course of their journey, Shane has to face squarely what his real motives are for remaining so devoted to Georgie. Q4: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any? DC: This is the first time I ever tried pantsing a novel. Never again. I just got lost so many times, losing the thread of the story in digressions I ultimately cut. The actual core of the story didn’t emerge from the shadows for me until after three complete drafts of the novel, including two that went through developmental edits. Q5: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book? DC: I have been very gratified by the genuinely warm and generous responses I’ve received from people who’ve read it. In particular, readers seem to have taken Georgie and Shane into their hearts. Nothing is more rewarding for a guy who’s written two books on character than confirmation he might just know what he’s talking about. Thank you , David! You can learn more about David and The Truth Against the World on his website, and by following him on Twitter and Facebook. [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  8. Welcome back to Get Rec’d! How are we all doing? I haven’t said it in a while, but thanks to all the people who lurk on these posts and interact in the comments. I hope I’m able to introduce hidden gems to your TBR pile or find that perfect book for the reader in your life. What great recommendations have you received lately? I want to hear all about ’em! Here We Are Oliver Jeffers creates some truly beautiful picture books and is my go-to for people who wants gorgeous illustrations and something more existential in its storytelling. Oliver Jeffers, arguably the most influential creator of picture books today, offers a rare personal look inside his own hopes and wishes for his child–and in doing so gifts children and parents everywhere with a gently sweet and humorous missive about our world and those who call it home. Insightfully sweet, with a gentle humor and poignancy, here is Oliver Jeffers’ user’s guide to life on Earth. He created it specially for his son, yet with a universality that embraces all children and their parents. Be it a complex view of our planet’s terrain (bumpy, sharp, wet), a deep look at our place in space (it’s big), or a guide to all of humanity (don’t be fooled, we are all people), Oliver’s signature wit and humor combine with a value system of kindness and tolerance to create a must-have book for parents. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Jane Austen Escape Room Book If you have a young Austenite in your life, check out this book of Austen-themed puzzles. I’d say they can be a little on the easy side, which is why I’d recommend this as a gift for high school age or younger. An exciting new take on a literary classic, The Jane Austen Escape Room Book is sure to delight and intrigue fans, old and new, of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice. This elegant book presents a chance to experience a classic piece of literature in an all-new way. The Jane Austen Escape Room Book combines the characters that you know and love with the intrigue of mystery as you solve puzzles and riddles to help Elizabeth find her way back to the arms of Mr. Darcy. This thrilling new take on the ever-adored Pride and Prejudice, exquisitely illustrated by Marjolein Bastin, is the perfect gift for the Jane Austen fan in your life! Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Miracle Creek The comparisons to Celeste Ng (especially Little Fires Everywhere) are pretty accurate. This a literary, legal thriller with a divided community at its center. WINNER OF THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL The “gripping… page-turner” (Time) hitting all the best of summer reading lists, Miracle Creek is perfect for book clubs and fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies? In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident. A powerful showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Chapter by chapter, we shift alliances and gather evidence: Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe? “A stunning debut about parents, children and the unwavering hope of a better life, even when all hope seems lost” (Washington Post), Miracle Creek uncovers the worst prejudice and best intentions, tense rivalries and the challenges of parenting a child with special needs. It’s “a quick-paced murder mystery that plumbs the power and perils of community” (O Magazine) as it carefully pieces together the tense atmosphere of a courtroom drama and the complexities of life as an immigrant family. Drawing on the author’s own experiences as a Korean-American, former trial lawyer, and mother of a “miracle submarine” patient, this is a novel steeped in suspense and igniting discussion. Recommended by Erin Morgenstern, Jean Kwok, Jennifer Weiner, Scott Turow, Laura Lippman, and more–Miracle Creek is a brave, moving debut from an unforgettable new voice. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Reading List If you like books about books, and unlikely people coming together over a love of reading, check out this one! It’s very sweet and tender. An unforgettable and heartwarming debut about how a chance encounter with a list of library books helps forge an unlikely friendship between two very different people in a London suburb. Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life in Wembley, in West London after losing his beloved wife. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who hides in her room reading while he spends his evenings watching nature documentaries. Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a list of novels that she’s never heard of before. Intrigued, and a little bored with her slow job at the checkout desk, she impulsively decides to read every book on the list, one after the other. As each story gives up its magic, the books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she’s facing at home. When Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha passes along the reading list…hoping that it will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between two lonely souls, as fiction helps them escape their grief and everyday troubles and find joy again. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  9. As a traveler, I’ve migrated throughout the United States—from Michigan, to Hawai’i and in between—landing, finally, in Portland, Oregon. I was chasing that dream we were all told we wanted, only to realize my own. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago, I landed a laboratory position along the Gulf Coast of Texas, analyzing wastewater and soil samples. When I’m not testing what comes out the other end of the toilet, I’m writing. Currently, I am working on a speculative fiction novel in which humans have discovered an exotic fuel source that burns clean and renews itself, sparking a war with galaxy-traversing space rats. ----------Interview by Renee Roberson WOW: Hi Aubrey, and welcome! Your essay really made me stop and think, so thank you for sharing such a personal experience. What are you hoping readers take away from “How to Measure Maximum?” Aubrey: With this essay/personal experience, I would like for readers to understand the plight of a woman during times of extreme stress and lacking basic necessities such as housing. We live in a tumultuous time for the economy and it's getting worse. Population rates rise but available and affordable housing has not kept pace. This tragedy steadily unfolds in the United States and elsewhere as more and more hardworking people find themselves out on the streets. The median house price in the Portland, Oregon area alone hovers around $400k. I don't know many people that can qualify for a mortgage at that rate. Furthermore, rent averages around $2k a month for a typical two bedroom apartment. Only recently, have businesses begun applauding themselves for paying closer to $15 an hour. At that pay rate a few years ago, I struggled to find housing and slept in my car for over two years. WOW: I agree on all points. Reading about it in a firsthand account such as yours makes the crisis all the more clear. When did you first decide you wanted to pursue a career in science? Aubrey: In college, I originally planned to major in History or Anthropology. The job market for those fields seemed extremely competitive so I switched to Biology. At the time, I felt like studying something practical would lead me to a job that paid the bills with a little left over for traveling or other leisurely activities. WOW: Could you share some life lessons you’ve learned from your travels? Aubrey: Probably the greatest life lesson I have learned by traveling is just that: to travel. I think it is imperative to discover how other humans live around the country and around the world. In the United States, I have been lucky to have met folks from other countries, learn their cultural values and world perspectives, expanding my own in the process. When I talk to people back home (in Michigan), many of whom have never left the state, or even the town, it is as if I am speaking to the past. They seem stuck and unchanged, encapsulating ideologies and worldviews of a nostalgic sort. I like to think of myself as a continuously evolving creature that craves change and spontaneity. Life is about growth and learning and the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to go out and wander the world. WOW: You are currently working on a speculative fiction novel. What do you think is the hardest part of creating a body of work in this genre? Aubrey: Besides finding time to actually do the writing, probably the most challenging endeavor of writing speculative fiction is the research. Though it is fiction, I want to write stories that sound as if they could happen in our lifetime. Space exploration, rudimentary and largely confined to our native solar system, could be a possibility. Discovering exotic fuels that might power that prime directive is also possible. Encountering other life forms that grew up on other planets is also probable at some point. Writing speculative fiction, to me, fuses the imagination with the real. Making that world seem as believable as possible, despite all the aliens and advanced technology, is an arduous journey that, with the proper diligence, can have great incentive. WOW: That's a great overview and I love that you are working so hard on the research aspect of it as well. Who are some authors who inspire your writing? Aubrey: I love reading so my personal list is long and spans genres. A few on the top shelf are: Anne Rice's dark fantasies, Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," the hilarious writings of Douglass Adams ("Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series). Also ranking high are: Dan Simmons' "Hyperion" series and Philip K. Dick, whose wildly imaginative stories have provided a lot of inspiration for me. Becky Chambers is becoming a new favorite of mine ("A Closed and Common Orbit"). More women writing "traditionally" male genres is vital to the literary universe because a lot of science fiction out there caters more towards men than women. Chambers not only provides a female perspective but she also explores non-binary genders, a very significant topic in a country that actively fights for and against the rights of LGBTQIA+ communities. A good writer can weave words of gold and honey but a great author can spin a tale so vivid and real that you forget your own life when reading it. WOW: Losing yourself in a story--that's the absolute best, isn't it? Thank you so much for being here today and we wish you all the luck with your writing endeavors!(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]
  10. Last week
  11. Scene: Chapter Four. Jo returns to New York from visiting Madeleine in Florida after receiving a telegram from Orson Welles asking to meet. He wants to premiere "Citizen Kane" at the Palace Theater and needs someone to show him around. The scene captures Jo's passions and core decency - and why the movies matter to her. He wanted to meet at midnight.docx
  12. A blog tour is a marketing campaign that involves coordinating a series of blog posts and online promotions to create buzz and generate exposure for your book. It typically involves collaborating with bloggers and influencers who have an audience that aligns with your target readership. These bloggers will read your book, write reviews, host author interviews, and feature guest posts or excerpts from your book on their blogs. The goal is to reach a wider audience and generate interest in your book within their established community. The Blog Tour Framework Here's a breakdown of the framework for a typical blog tour: Identify and contact bloggers: Research and compile a list of relevant bloggers who cater to your book's genre or niche. Reach out to them via email or through their website's contact form, expressing interest in collaborating on a blog tour. Provide review copies: Offer a digital or physical copy of your book to the interested bloggers, allowing them time to read and review it before the tour begins. Create tour schedule: Coordinate with the participating bloggers to create a schedule for the tour. Each blogger will have a designated day to feature your book on their blog and share their review, interview, guest post, or any other agreed-upon content. Create content: Prepare author interviews, guest posts, or excerpts that you can provide to the bloggers to publish on their respective blogs. These pieces of content should be engaging and relevant to your book, enticing readers to learn more about it. Promote: As the blog tour progresses, actively promote each blog post across your own social media channels and any other platforms you use. This will help generate more visibility and encourage your existing followers to visit the blogs hosting your content. Engage with readers: Throughout the blog tour, make an effort to engage with readers who leave comments on the blog posts. Responding to their comments and answering their questions will help build a connection and potentially lead to more interest in your book. Blog Tour Benefits The benefits of a blog tour can be significant for your book launch or generating interest long after your book has been released. Some potential advantages include: Increased exposure: By leveraging the established audiences of bloggers and influencers, you can reach a wider audience that may not have been aware of your book otherwise. Social proof: Positive reviews and endorsements from bloggers can lend credibility to your book, encouraging readers to take a chance on it. Networking opportunities: Collaborating with bloggers and influencers can expand your network within the literary community, opening doors to potential future partnerships or opportunities. Enhanced online presence: The blog tour generates online content related to your book, increasing your online presence and searchability, which can have long-term benefits for your author platform. When to Plan a Blog Tour Determining the best time to have a blog tour for your book largely depends on your specific goals, timeline, and the nature of your book. However, there are a few general considerations to keep in mind when planning the timing of your blog tour: Book launch date: Ideally, you'll want to schedule your blog tour around your book's launch date. This ensures that the tour generates maximum buzz and attention during the critical period when your book becomes available to the public; however, a book tour can also help reignite interest in your book long after it’s been published.. Pre-launch promotion: Consider starting your blog tour a few weeks before your book's official launch. This gives bloggers and influencers ample time to read and review your book, and it allows you to generate buzz and anticipation leading up to the release. Pre-launch promotion can help build excitement and generate pre-orders or early sales. Availability of review copies: Ensure that you have review copies of your book available and ready to send out to bloggers well in advance of the blog tour start date. This allows sufficient time for bloggers to read the book and prepare their content for the tour. Consider providing digital copies for ease and quick distribution. Audience availability: Take into account the preferences and availability of your target audience. If your book caters to a specific season, genre, or holiday, it might be beneficial to align your blog tour with that theme or timeframe. For example, a romance novel might benefit from a blog tour around Valentine's Day. Other marketing efforts: Consider coordinating your blog tour with other marketing initiatives you have planned. This could include social media campaigns, advertising, or other promotional activities. A coordinated approach can amplify your book's visibility and impact. Blogger availability: Reach out to bloggers and influencers well in advance to secure their participation and confirm their availability for the tour. Keep in mind that popular bloggers may have busy schedules, so it's beneficial to plan ahead and be flexible with scheduling to accommodate their availability. Ultimately, the best time for a blog tour is when you have everything in place, including review copies, promotional materials, and a solid plan for engaging with bloggers and readers throughout the tour. Take the time to strategically plan and execute your blog tour to maximize its impact on your book launch or relaunch. Did you know WOW! Women on Writing offers blog tours as part of our marketing services? If you're interested in exploring professional assistance for your blog tour and other book marketing endeavors, check out WOW! Women on Writing's book marketing packages. We offer comprehensive and tailored solutions to help authors like you navigate the world of book promotion. Our team of experts can guide you through the process, provide valuable insights, and connect you with influential bloggers and reviewers in your genre. By leveraging the expertise and network of WOW! Women on Writing, you can enhance the effectiveness of your blog tour and ensure your book receives the attention it deserves. Learn more here or contact blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com with questions. (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]
  13. It’s time to wrap up May with our second Whatcha Reading! It’s also Memorial Day weekend in the States, which seems like a perfect excuse to get even more reading done before the month is over. Sneezy: I’m reading Right Wing Women by Andrea Dworkin. She takes no prisoners. Sarah: What’s that? The library has the next Veronica Speedwell audiobook? Don’t mind if I do! Currently listening to A Murderous Relation ( A | BN | K | AB ) and having a splendid time. The audiobook performance by Angele Masters is terrific. A | BN | KShana: I just finished a YA romcom that gave me the biggest book hangover, Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert. So much banter and sweetness! I’m now reading The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older, and liking it so far. Elyse: I just finished The Daydreams. ( A | BN | K ) Some of it was how awful tabloids were to young female stars in the aughts (Lindsay, Britney etc), but each of the main characters does something really shitty to another so it’s hard to really like any of leads. It was meh. Lara: Elyse recommended Loreth Anne White’s The Maid’s Diary ( A | BN ) and I’m hooked. No romance, but the suspense is phenomenal so far. Whatcha reading? Let us know in the comments! View the full article
  14. Another fundamental that makes a whole lot of sense, esp marketing wise.
  15. If you knew how many writers this has positively impacted, you'd say, it's no wonder. Fundamentals like this are too often neglected.
  16. The transcript for Podcast 564. Bunny Aliens in Space: Cover Design with JL Logosz 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
  17. Master Gardener is the third in Paul Schrader’s “God’s Lonely Men” trilogy, in each film of which a weary middle-aged man who has previously experienced alienation from mainstream society contends with his haunted past and hazy future, reflecting on these things, and his rote daily existence, via diary-keeping—a technique that suffices until his world is challenged by knowledge of something greater, and tested by a newfound bond with a distressed young person. Via these characters, the films in this trilogy tend to pair and interrogate the relationship between two normally unrelated topics: religion and climate change (First Reformed, 2017), gambling and the War on Terror (The Card Counter, 2021), and horticulture and racism (Master Gardener, 2022). Schrader is an accomplished, highly literary storyteller and his interests (particularly the the masculine-coded concepts of destruction and violence) have produced some of film’s most fascinating inquiries into the ills of modern society, from Taxi Driver to Affliction to American Gigolo, to First Reformed and The Card Counter. First a film critic and then a screenwriter (responsible for classics like Raging Bull and Obsession and famous for his collaborations with Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma), Schrader’s later work as a director is epitomized by the triad of films about “God’s Lonely Men,” three anti-social anti-heroes in crisis: a self-loathing pastor, a troubled gambler, and a secretive gardener, all reckoning with the sudden collision of themes, lives, selves once kept at a distance. Many of his protagonists, but especially these three, can be read as homages to Alain Delon’s Jef Costello in Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 film Le Samouraï: cool, reserved, highly-competent professionals whose whose adherence to rituals and observances leaves them unprepared to confront unforeseen cataclysms. It’s almost never useful to compare films in a director’s oeuvre to one another; despite similarities, each is its own discreet contribution. But Schrader’s films are designed to reference each other—or, really, The Card Counter and Master Gardener are designed to reference First Reformed—so please forgive me while I place them all side-by-side for a moment. In First Reformed, Ethan Hawke plays Ernst Toller (no, not that Ernst Toller), a cheerless reverend at a small antique church upstate who keeps a diary of his own stark life the year he happens to encounter a distraught climate activist who opens his eyes to the ravishment of God’s green earth by greedy corporations, as well as the ways God’s own church is influenced by corporatization to the point of disregarding the stewardship of the planet. That film, a simmering hagiography of a soul in turmoil, provides the blueprint for Schrader’s subsequent two films, not only thematically, but also stylistically, in the terms I mentioned in the opening paragraph. The films are dark, lonely meditations into their protagonists’ natures, told via their floridly-written, allusion-rich journal entries, as they finally confront aspects of their lives and their worlds they have kept at bay for so long. The Card Counter inherits the framework of First Reformed, but reworks it enough for it to feel distinct; Oscar Isaac plays William Tell (no, not that William Tell), a former military interrogator and now card-counter, who carpetbags from casino to casino, living out of austere motels, until he meets a young man who informs him that he knows his true identity, as a soldier who served jailtime for his role in the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and asks for his help committing an act of revenge against one of Tell’s military superiors. This film slowly explores the human capacity for both empathy and cruelty, teasing out the relationship between “keeping one’s cool” and “losing it.” I don’t have as conclusive a reading of the forces at work Master Gardener, arguably the film in this trilogy with the toughest conceit. Joel Edgerton plays Narval Roth, a taciturn head gardener of Gracewood Gardens, a privately-owned estate with gardens that are open to the public. Narval manages a team of polo-clad young people, overseeing their work but also instructing them in the history, philosophy, and science of horticulture. He answers to no one, except Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver), the wealthy owner of the estate, who throws his carefully cultivated world out of order when she demands he take on an apprentice, her grand-niece Maya (Quintessa Swindell). Maya is biracial, the daughter of the “wayward” daughter of Norma’s sister, who left the family and “fell in with a bad crowd,” as Norma purrs. Maya seems to be her only relative left, so she is eager to draw her into the family—but not enough that she doesn’t insist that she work on the family’s land, first. Maya is a curious, intelligent twenty-something, surprisingly accepting of the fact that she’s a minimum wage worker on her great aunt’s estate. Norma wants Narval to educate her, teach her about the maintenance and culture and theories of horticulture, so that she might be able to pursue a career in the field in the future. Maya takes kindly to this earthy finishing school, especially because she appreciates the softspoken and passionate manner of Narval, her teacher. The movie appears to take place in the South (it was filmed in Louisiana), and the house looks like a plantation estate, so it seems like there might be some interesting explorations into contemporary white supremacy, the way Norma insists that Maya be fashioned into a more refined version of herself in order to be welcomed into her family tree, and simultaneously wants this self-improvement to take place as a farm-worker beneath her, and literally in the dirt. But the film wobbles from here on out, mostly because we learn about the haunted, Narval’s past as a soldier of a Neo-Nazi army, before turning state’s evidence against them and going into witness protection. Under his clothes, he is covered in White Pride and Hitler-fandom tattoos, which he looks at disparagingly in the mirror. He likes his current life as a peaceful caretaker of the Gracewood Gardens, is glad to have distanced himself from the silo of racism, misogyny, antisemitism, and violence in which (he explains) he was raised. That Maya and Narval form a bond, while he also has flashbacks to things that his proud boy/hillbilly cult leader told him about how his job is to “pull out the weeds,” suggests that Master Gardener will become a thriller about the insidiousness of white supremacy, juxtaposing it with a reading of gardening as a kind of fascism (or at least, a way to disguise it). In other words, perhaps Narval’s solitary salvation in gardening for a racist white lady becomes an outlet for the very impulses that allowed him to thrive in a fascist cult in the first place. Master Gardener doesn’t till this ground, though, which is fine, but it also doesn’t do anything else productive with all of these rich, ripe, and (productively) thorny thematic concerns. What begins as an incredibly fruitful plot soon wilts and shrivels into a wandering love story; and the kind of discipline and restraint that Narvals brings to his gardening becomes, exactly, the element missing from the story itself. Master Gardener quickly forgets its powerful portrayals about white supremacy and racism when it becomes interested in whether or not its protagonist can be redeemed, can be saved, and, in giving him some way to carry this out, represents Maya as needing to be saved by someone, too. If this narrative shoot were to blossom into a meaningful development (unlikely as it is), we would need a clearer understanding of Narval’s life or background, a focused explaining of how he has come to be changed in the first place. But more importantly, this whole angle not only misses out on saying anything thoughtful about race in America, but also robs Maya of the opportunity to be more than a plot device, perhaps (especially in light of Swindell’s elegant performance), the greatest sin of all. What results is a confusing film, overgrown in some areas and under-seeded in others. Instead of becoming as thoughtful and risky an exploration as The Card Counter, Master Gardener becomes like a game of 52-card pickup. It’s as if Schrader has a deck of cards and instead of laying them out strategically, throws them all in the air and lets them come down where they will. Instead of become the focused sermon of First Reformed, Master Gardener becomes one of those themed themed refrigerator poem packs. It has a lot of terms on the table, but shuffles them around until they say almost absolutely nothing. View the full article
  18. Crossroad Blues by Ariel Elaine Slick Prologue Beatrice As the pallbearers lowered my sister’s body into the warm, rich earth, I wondered whether any change would have made any difference. Did any of us have the slightest control over the situation—except him? Perhaps it was useless to think so. Every tiny detail led me here, and I had a feeling, would keep leading me here, no matter what I did to stop it. Because I did try to stop it. I really did. Chapter 1 The devil's gonna git you Oh the devil's gonna git you Man the devil's gonna git you Sure as you're born to die -Bessie Smith Azoma, Louisiana, 1924 Beatrice The Victrola player hissed snakelike before the brassy notes of the horns blared through the speaker. My fingers were sticky with the sweet, piney resin of the hemp leaves as I rolled a cigarette, almost as sticky as the air, which clung to us as fervently as a lover. Agnes, my sister, perched on a box of canned goods I had yet to unpack, fanned herself but failed to make even the slightest improvement in the heat. I licked the ends of the papers just barely, my tongue as dry as kindling and reached for the box of matches to light up. “Christ, it’s hot,” I said, holding the edge of the paper to the flame. “You shouldn’t swear, Beatrice,” replied Agnes. Her hand ceased its fanning, the energy too much for too little reward. A wicked grin spread across my face. “Hottern’ the devil’s—” I began. My words were cut short with a fan flung in the general direction of my head. It clattered across the room harmlessly. Agnes tried to shoot me a disproving look, but her eyes held a provocative spark to them. Instead, she reached for a newspaper, and I pushed it toward her. We currently escaped the wrath of another southern summer in Corbin’s Mercantile and Fine Goods, the store our daddy had built himself with nothing but a couple of bottles of whiskey and sheer cussedness. It was humble thing, not much more than a tin roof and four thin walls, much like my house, and my parents’ house before that which my daddy built with old wood filched from the local lumber yard and used railroad spikes from derelict box cars. The only light that came through was from the large windows that faced front. It made the store dim, but I’d take darkness over heat. The rest of available wall space was crammed with floor to ceiling shelves that held, at any given moment, oil, lanterns, soaps, medicines, farm tools, cotton, linen, muslin—silk when I could get it—sewing notions, guns, cartridges and bullets, cigars, cigarettes, canned goods, cured meat, leather work gloves, hats, denim pants, nails, screws, hammers, and wrenches. And toothpaste. Along the floor crouched stout barrels full of flour, cornmeal, feed for cows, pickles, potatoes, dried corn, and dried beans. Once my customers wound their way through the labyrinth of barrels, and avoided the ropes, lanterns, pails, and harnesses that swung from the rafters overhead, they walked up to the counter. I made sure to put the peppermint sticks, licorice, jelly beans, horehound, rock candy, and lemon drops right at eye-level for children. The space between the tobacco jars and the cash register left just enough room for me to wrap up the purchases. Behind the counter were a couple of shelves where I kept liquor for those who knew how to ask. At present I had three bottles, but one was not for sale. I inhaled, savoring the sweet smoke in my lungs, and the aroma of leather and tobacco that always permeated the store and offered the cigarette to her. Agnes only shook her head. “Pastor Dixon says it’s the devil’s plant.” “Pastor Dixon says that about everything. ‘Don’t ride in cars; they’re the Devil’s playground. Don’t listen to jazz; it’s the Devil’s music.’ Tell me, how would he know what the Devil likes?” Agnes tried very hard not to smile. Beads of sweat clung to her upper lip. “I’ll give you this, I disagree with Brother Dixon on the music,” she said. She waved away the cigarette. “Truth is, tea makes me feel floaty.” “That’s the point, Sister.” I inhaled again, already feeling the relaxation settle into my bones. “How’re we supposed to fly to heaven if we don’t practice first?” Agnes did not respond, but she did not have to. The song humming through the record player was filling up the room just fine. I tamped out the cigarette butt and let the sounds of a swinging band lift me up as I reached for the inventory sheet. Just then, Agnes sat up straighter than a toothpick in ice. “You ain’t gonna fly nowhere if you’re in prison,” she said. “Sheriff Arceneaux’s marching over, and he’s looking meaner’n a snake.” “Goddamn it.” I hadn’t pegged him for a liquor raid for at least another week. “Quick, quick!” hissed Agnes. I grabbed the three bottles of bourbon from beneath the counter, then hastened toward the back of the store. “How close?” I called over my shoulder. I yanked the line that was attached to the trap door that led to the attic. I shifted all three bottles to one arm and gripped the stairs with my right. “About ten seconds from lighting your behind on fire.” In that single moment that I have struggled to absolve in my mind, my fate, and that of my sister’s, was sealed. I rushed up the stairs, and one bottle—my Daddy’s bottle, the one he used as collateral, the one he told me never to sell because an old witch doctor woman told him if he never sold it, the store would be blessed, the one that had given us salvation from starvation—slipped from my grasp. It smashed against the dry hardwood floor. For a moment, I didn’t breathe. Then I rushed up the stairs and set the two bottles in the attic. I grabbed a tin box full of turpentine, unscrewed the cap, then dumped it all on the floor as well. The bell over the door tinkled. “Mornin’, Agnes,” said the Sheriff. Sheriff Beauregard Arceneaux was a handsome fellow, or so all the girls gossiped at the soda fountain, with a chiseled sort of face, a strong jaw, and golden curly hair that made him look cherubic. He once took me on a date to gig frogs, and he tried to gig something of mine, but the smell of sweat and beer breath didn’t appeal to me much, so I hopped on my merry way. I briefly considered dumping turpentine on myself to mask the smell, but this was my mother’s dress, and I couldn’t bear to lose two parts of my family in the same day, so I left it. As I composed myself, Beau and Agnes continued talking. “Where you coming from that you look so hot and sweaty?” said Agnes. “Getting a coupla nigger boys and the Dupres kid out’a tight spot. They was playing down by the dam and one of ‘em got hisself stuck ‘tween the lip and the pipes.” “Well, that was right decent of you.” “Whooped all three of their a—, I mean, took a switch to their behinds, iffen you take my meaning. Don’t wanna cloud the sweet air around you with foul words.” “Now, Sheriff Arceneaux,” giggled Agnes. “You can’t talk like that now that I’m a married woman.” “What? Can’t I tell a woman how beautiful she looks?” I appreciated how much my sister distracted Beau, but I had to wise up sooner or later. Lifting my chin and squaring my shoulders, I took a few deep breaths to steady myself. Blood thumped in my wrists. I sauntered up to the counter. As soon as I did, Beau locked his eyes on me. “Morning, Ms. Corbin,” he said. His eyes drifted over everything. “Whatcha got going on in this store?” My heart danced the Texas Tommy as I looked him dead in the eye. “Clumsy hands of mine spilled some turpentine in the back.” Just turn around and leave. Beau sniffed. “Don’t know no turpentine what smells like an 1899 Old Forester.” It was an 1891, but I’d let that particular slide like cheese off a biscuit. “Mind if I take a look around?” Statement. Not a question. Agnes lifted up a hand and set it on his arm. “Now, Sheriff Arceneau—Beau— that ain’t necessary and you know it. My sister ain’t running no speakeasy. ‘Sides, you know Prohibition is a joke by the long, overreaching, greedy arm of the federal government.” She let go of him. “That’s for da—you have done hit the railroad spike on the head.” Beau lifted one of the cannisters of hard candies and plucked one out. Watermelon. He unwrapped the wax paper around it. Then he eyed some of the pharmaceuticals I had on the counter. “Now, what about this marihoo-wanna?” I shrugged. My spine was as tense as an old guitar string. “It’s a cough syrup, Sheriff. And the leaves are good in a tea.” He popped the candy in his mouth. “I seen plenty’a Greasers smoking it in the fields. Ain’t no good can come of something like that.” Crunch. Far as I knew, it was just a plant that grew in clumps by the side of the road, same as tobacco or Devil’s claw. Plus, it was the only thing keeping me calm at the moment. He glanced at Agnes, then lifted a finger to me. I considered biting it off. “For the love I have of your kid sister, I’ll be on my way. But if I was you—” Crunch. “I’d use the two remaining gears in my brain to grind themselves together and not do anything extra-judicial.” Crunch. “At all.” Thumpthump. Thumpthump. “Y’all have a fine day now.” He left the wrapper on the counter. As soon as the bell tinkled overhead, Agnes let out her breath in a whoosh. “Jesum Crow, Beatrice, what happened?” A particularly painful lurch in my chest. “Accidentally dropped Daddy’s whiskey,” I mumbled. I slumped down onto a barrel. I would have happily traded a night in jail if I could have Daddy’s bottle put back together. And if I had known what trouble dropping it would bring, I would have spent the better part of my life rattling my tin against the iron. “Shit.” Agnes bit her lip and came down and sat beside me on another barrel. She rubbed my back. “At least it’s one less bottle you have to hide.” “Beau’s a busybody anyhow.” “Come on, Beatrice, he was just doing his duty,” she said. She lifted a newspaper and gestured to the headline. “‘Axman kills again,” she read aloud, not bothering to hide the disgust in her voice. “Can you believe it? Murdering over music or some such.” She rattled the pages in indignation. “Aren’t you glad we don’t live in the city? Nothing like that ever happens around here. Beau keeps us safe.” I took the newspaper from her and turned it to less sanguinary tellings. “Lookee here—a band is coming to town. Says here they’re supposed to be pretty hot. They’ll be here in a week or so.” I looked up at her. “Come with me.” She took the newspaper from me and eyed the dark face blowing an axe near a flower. “‘Honey Dripping Blues,’ she read. “‘They’re the Honey Drippers and what a sweet thing is in store for Azoma. Just one taste and you’ll buzz right over. With a hot piano-trombone-cornet accompaniment, they’re here for one night only. Always fly, never sticky.’” She glanced up at me. “A married woman doesn’t need to go to all that. Sounds like too much sinful rubbing.” I kind of liked the sound of that. I had a need that was growing, and I wasn’t ashamed to admit that I liked a little rubbing now and then. Just couldn’t tell anyone around here you did like it. “Please? I can’t go alone. You know how quick the barflies and Baptists will wag their tongues about my virtue being lost if I go alone? ‘Sides, don’t you wanna listen to some good music?” Agnes glanced at the address. “Beatrice, the bar is on the west side of the tracks, in the Negro part of town. Isn’t it…dangerous?” “You’ve been listening to Mary Ellen Dixon too much.” I grabbed a broom to sweep up the broken shards of glass and the rest of my dignity but stopped when I felt Agnes’ eyes drilling two holes in my back like the oil pumps in Texas. “Listen, ain’t no danger in listening to good music. No one’s gonna make trouble lessen it’s me.” The record slid into another song; it was hard to argue in the midst of really good music. “I’ll think about it,” she said in a tone that said she had already made up her mind. I let it go for now. I was content to let life go on forever like this: just my sister and I, listening to music, talking about nothing. Time bent and warped under the smoke, and I liked it that way. Time could stand on its head, for all I cared, for all that I wanted anything to change. When I was done cleaning, I flipped through the advertisements in the back, searching for the next great record, when Agnes cleared her throat. “You just gotta get yourself married. Then you won’t be so lonely, wanting to go off to jazz joints and such.” “I ain’t lonely.” That was only half-true. And that statement was only half-true, too. The record player changed tracks. I loved the delicate sizzle between each song, the tiny space that contained infinity. Then, for just a moment, something changed in the music. It was like a jump, a halt. A whisper, then nothing. Despite the heat, a chill crept down my spine. I ignored it. The haints wouldn’t get to me, today. “When do you think you’ll get married?” she asked, softly. “As soon as you stop asking that question.” I kept my tone lighthearted, to let her know I was joking. However, Agnes remained serious. “I worry about you, you know. Living in the house, alone. Day after day.” “I’m not alone; I have Pecan.” As if summoned, my brown, fluffy cat came to sit beside me. As I stroked her, she chirped once, then started to purr. I rescued her as a stray, when she was rail-thin and mangy. “You know what I mean, Beatrice.” “As soon as I find someone who I love more than Pecan, I’ll marry them.” Pecan rolled onto her back, exposing her soft, belly fur. She only let me touch her belly when she was deeply relaxed, much like I was feeling now. I had the two persons that I cared about most deeply in the world with me –and a cat’s a person; I don’t care what anyone said. They were all I needed. “Plus, I would lose the store, which is something that I’d like to avoid, thank you kindly.” It wasn’t the only reason why I avoided marriage, but it contrived a good portion. If I ever got married, all my property would become my husband’s, and I would have not a whit of legal recourse. It was the only connection to Mama and Daddy I had left. Especially since you were a damn fool and dropped the bottle, I thought savagely. “Well, I should get back to the house. Tim’ll be there soon, and I need to start lunch.” “Just give it until the end of the record. It’s too hot to move, anyway.” And so, we did, just listening to the snazzy sounds of the new jazz music, feeling as though time would forever be on my side. I wish that record had played forever. Crossroad Blues_Writer's Conference.docx
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