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  1. Today
  2. It’s time for The Bachelor, a show where a bunch of drunk twenty-somethings act like we’re in a post apocalyptic world where this is their only chance at finding true love. It’s worth noting Big Brother has a higher success rate of couples staying together than this (shit) show. Pudding: I can’t believe you woke me up for THIS. We start off with the ubiquitous shot of Zach taking a shower (WHY?!) click for me First up is a group date where the ladies meet Latto. She tells the women that “bad bitch energy” is as much about confidence as it is about physical appearance. She has the women dance to show off their confidence. Brooklyn complains that “literally there are professional dancers here, and I’ve got rhythm from Oklahoma.” Then Latto announces more women will be joining the date; it’s three women from prior seasons, Victoria, Tahzjuan and Courtney. I don’t remember which seasons they were on. They are bad bitches who will be judging this seasons contestants. First the women walk down a catwalk. Zach stands at the end of the catwalk nodding and smiling and not knowing what to do with his hands. It’s painful and awkward. Then the women share stories about a time when they were a bad bitch and none of them involve scraping their sharpened claws down the face of the patriarchy, so Pudding, the original bad bitch and duchess of murder, is not impressed. Pudding: Amateurs. During the cocktail party, Brianna admits to Zach that she doesn’t feel confident regarding her place in the McMansion or with him. During the After the Rose special for last season’s Bachelorette they introduced five women from this season’s show. The audience picked Brianna to get the first impression rose, and she reflects that it didn’t come from Zach and she doesn’t know where she stands with him. Then they make out. IDEK you guys. Click for me So then Zach is talking to Cat, and Tahzjuan (the bad bitch from season 23) interrupts them to talk to Zach. Pudding: Interrupting a conversation makes her a bad bitch? What rot. Tahzjuan asks to join the show because she likes Zach’s energy. Pudding: Not his face, his “energy.” The other women aren’t thrilled. Then Tahzjuan tells them that watching them on stage was painful. …but, like, it was. Then Zach tells them he’s not inviting her to join the group. SO WHAT WAS THE POINT OF ANY OF THIS? DID THEY JUST HAVE 15 MINUTES TO FILL? Tahzjuan gets weepy and says, “Bad bitches don’t cry.” Then we get the closed captioning for a producer in the background saying, “Sometimes bad bitches cry. It’s okay.” This show is just …yeah. Click for the show The date rose goes to Katherine. So then we cut back to the McMansion the next morning where some of the women are sitting by the pool talking. “I feel like Zach, right away, will know if you want to use tongue or not,” Jess says “Wait, like, I did not know that tongue was not something that was used in every kiss,” Katherine replies. It must be real weird when she kisses her dog. ANYWAY. It’s Christina’s turn for a one-on-one date. On the car ride they bond over… I am not making this up…their mutual love for the band Nickelback. They go for a helicopter ride (I swear to God every season has a helicopter/horse budget. I’m waiting for the episode where the horse pilots the helicopter). Then they go to Zach’s family home where they are celebrating his mom’s birthday with a barbeque. One of his cousins loudly asks, “Should we tell her about his rash?” Give THAT guy a show! During the dinner they aren’t allowed to eat, Christina tells him that she’s the mom of a five-year-old girl. Zach acts like Christina is the only human being to have reproduced. He tells the camera he doesn’t know if he’s ready to be a dad. He tells her that he feels like they have a connection, but he’s not sure he’s ready for kids yet. He starts to tear up and we think he’s going to send her home, but then he gives her the rose. Side note, they keep advertising the Senior Bachelor and that they’re looking for casting. Pudding is, technically, a senior. Pudding: I will end you, bitch. Then it’s time for the second group date. It’s basically a cocktail hour. Gabi, who looks a lot like Kendall Jenner, worries that she hasn’t talked to him yet. Pudding: Based on how this is season is going, I would count that as a blessing. I mean, look at this guy. So then Gabi does get to talk to him and asks if she can call him “Zachy-poo.” Click for me The whole conversation seems to be a lot of verbal vomit on her part, although that could be the editing. The date rose goes to Jess. Gabi feels more insecure and walks away crying. She says she didn’t get any validation from him. Then, the next night during the pre-Dreaded Rose Ceremony cocktail hour, Gabi and Zach share a peanut butter cup Lady and the Tramp style and then kiss, so I guess it’s ok? Then Brianna confronts Christina because on night one Christina joked that she hated Brianna for having the first rose. Christina apologizes. So then Brianna starts to tell Zach about it and he basically shuts her down saying he trusts her to handle it. LOL. Then Zach tells her she has a lot of walls up. To be fair, everything we’ve seen of her this episode has been her complaining about not fitting in. Later Zach sends home Cat, Kimberly and Victoria. What do you think of this season so far? View the full article
  3. It was close to midnight in Manhattan and they were still waiting in the van. Ford, short and wiry, was behind the wheel, while Neuland—bulkier and a foot taller—slouched in his seat trying to keep his head from hitting the ceiling of the van. They were dressed all in black and had black balaclavas on their faces so that the only things visible were their eyes—and someone would have to look carefully to see them. They’d been parked at the edge of the alley since twilight and both men had long since grown bored. Still they waited, their rifles propped against their legs. Their employer—Mr. Garrick—hadn’t given them a description of their target, just the bare outline of what was supposed to happen and how they were supposed to stop it. It was annoying. They didn’t work that way normally, but Garrick promised to pay them double their normal fee, so they went along with his nonsense. “Do you think that’s them?” said Neuland. A few yards ahead of them in the alley, a well-dressed man and a haggard woman appeared to be negotiating some kind of deal. Ford watched through what resembled a pair of binoculars, but the tubes were carved from a yew tree and the lenses were the shaved corneas from the eyes of thirteen hanged men. “It’s not them,” said Ford. “From the look of them, the girl’s got pills or party potions and the guy’s a tourist who doesn’t know how to haggle. Besides, they’re both dodos.” Dodo was what Ford occasionally—and many others routinely—called the undead. It bothered Neuland, who was also undead. “Please don’t use that word. It’s demeaning,” Neuland said. “And it makes you sound like a hick.” “Sorry.” “We prefer Marcheur.” “You’re right. I’m tired and didn’t think.” “It’s all right.” “No. It was rude and I’m sorry.” “You can’t help how you were raised.” “But you’re my partner and I should be more considerate.” “Apology accepted,” said Neuland. “Now, are we going to shoot either of those two or not?” “No. The deal is supposed to be someone alive selling something to a Marcheur. That lets these two off the hook.” “Maybe. Let’s keep an eye on them. One of them could still be involved.” The van felt cramped after all this time, and they’d finished the coffee hours ago. Ford wanted a smoke, but didn’t dare light up where the cherry-red end of the cigarette could be spotted. So, they waited in silence. The dealer and the tourist finished their business, and the tourist went into the rear of a bodega while the woman remained in the alley. She checked her watch several times. “You’re right,” said Ford. “She’s part of the deal.” “Nervous?” “Impatient. I mean, look at her twitch. It won’t be long now.” “I hope you’re right.” They sat quietly for a few minutes before Ford said, “Really, man, I’m sorry about the dodo thing.” “I told you it’s all right.” “Thank you.” “You’re welcome, and also, you should look out the window. This might be it.” Ford sat up as a young woman approached the Marcheur. The woman was in a purple velvet dress and had straight black hair that hung down to her waist. He scanned the two women through his special binoculars. “You’re right,” he said. “The one in the velvet dress is alive. But I don’t like it.” “Me neither. Garrick didn’t say the target was a woman. Just dressed in velvet, right?” “That’s right.” Neuland shook his head. “I don’t shoot women.” Ford looked at him. “We’ve both shot women.” “Really evil ones. Like Elsbeth Bathory evil. Not some little thing in a party dress.” “Let’s keep watching. Maybe she’s the right kind for shooting.” For the first time, the nature of the assignment weighed down on Neuland. He didn’t like the situation one bit, but he knew that if this was indeed their target, he’d have to take the shot. It was his job to kill the living. Ford killed the dead. Neuland said, “Please tell me they’re plotting something nefarious.” “Shit,” said Ford. “Shit.” “What?” He didn’t like the tone of Ford’s voice. “There’s something else. The party dress?” “Yes?” “She’s pregnant.” Neuland reached out and took the binoculars. The haggard undead woman’s aura was a grayish purple while the young woman’s was a bright purple. “What the hell is this?” said Neuland. “If she’s selling her kid, I sure as hell will shoot her.” “Yeah, Sir Galahad? And kill the kid too? I’m going to keep watching. I want to know exactly what’s going on.” Neuland was mad now. He knew his distaste for shooting women was hypocritical since they were every bit as capable of evil as men. Worse, not wanting to shoot a mother was the rankest kind of sentimentality. He didn’t like having strong emotional responses to these situations. Strong emotions were for the living, like Ford. He could fly into a rage at a moment’s notice and it accomplished nothing. The undead were supposed to be above such things, but here he was. Fretting about some stranger selling what, rationally, was hers to sell. Another moment passed and Ford said, “A necklace.” “Not the kid?” “Not the kid.” “What kind of necklace?” “Expensive looking. Earrings too. Some bracelets. All gold. All nice-looking stuff.” “Let me see,” said Neuland, and Ford handed him the binoculars. He was right, the undead woman was examining a pile of jewelry in a decorated wooden box that the young woman held out. Neuland handed the binoculars back to Ford and said, “You know what this means.” “Of course.” “It might cost us our fee.” “There’s no helping that.” “I guess not.” Ford started the van and they drove to Mr. Garrick’s office, where they’d arranged to meet after the hit. They let themselves into the building with a key Garrick had given them and rode the elevator to the penthouse level of the old office building. Neuland was out of the elevator first and didn’t bother knocking on Garrick’s office door before going in. Garrick, sixtyish and in a sharply tailored suit, looked up in surprise. He smiled at the men. “That was quick,” he said. “You boys are every bit as efficient as they say.” The two men came in and Neuland stood very close to Garrick’s desk so he could loom over the man. They’d left their rifles in the van. “Efficient,” said Neuland. “That’s because we can read a scene and know what’s happening, even from a distance.” “It’s what keeps me alive and my partner in one piece,” said Ford. “We read the scene tonight, Mr. Garrick.” “And we didn’t like it.” Garrick scowled at the men. “What’s it your business to like or not like a particular killing? I hired you to do a job. Did you do it or not?” “No,” said Ford. “You see, the target was pregnant.” “What difference does that make?” said Garrick. “She was selling her personal jewelry,” said Ford. “It was in a silly little box. Something cheap and gaudy. The kind someone young like her would love.” “And?” said Garrick. “It was very expensive jewelry,” said Neuland. “Much too expensive for her, considering the quality of her dress. The jewelry might have been hers, but she didn’t buy it.” “They were a gift,” said Ford. “From you,” said Neuland. Garrick sat back in his big leather office chair. “What the hell are you talking about? I hired you as killers, not psychics.” “There’s nothing psychic about it,” said Ford. “It’s like we said, about being able to read a scene. You see, a young woman selling jewelry like that—jewelry she couldn’t possibly afford—can only mean one thing.” “And what’s that?” said Garrick snidely. “That she’s using her rich lover’s gifts to her to finance an escape,” said Ford. “From the lover,” said Neuland. “You hired us to kill her because you got her pregnant, and that’s an inconvenience. She was smart enough to know that something was up and was buying a ticket out of town.” Garrick slammed his hands on his desk and stood up. “Don’t get high and mighty with me, boys. You’re murderers. Not priests. And you don’t get a cent until the bitch is dead.” Ford and Neuland looked at each other. “I think you should explain it to him,” said Ford. “Obviously,” said Neuland as he took a Sig Sauer P220 pistol from his jacket and emptied the entire clip of .45 rounds into Garrick’s body. The man slammed to the floor, his blood splashing onto the desk and the curtains and the window behind him. The moment his partner was finished, Ford began going through the drawers in Garrick’s desk looking for money. Neuland went through Garrick’s pockets. “Anything?” said Ford. Neuland shook his head. “Two thousand in cash in his wallet, but that’s it.” “Damn. Well, let’s take it and go. We need to leave town.” “Not yet,” said Neuland. “I don’t think we’re done. Garrick is the kind of guy to have an insurance policy.” Ford stopped. “You’re probably right.” “We’ll know soon.” A minute passed before Garrick’s corpse began to twitch. His limbs convulsed and his eyes fluttered open and shut. His shoulders spasmed and his teeth chattered as if he was cold. Then he stopped, grabbed his desk chair, and dragged himself to his feet. Erect, he looked at Ford and Neuland and said, “You’re both dead men.” “No. I’m the dead one,” said Neuland. “And I kill the dead,” said Ford, pulling his own pistol. He shot Garrick between the eyes with one of his special cold iron bullets and the man fell back to the floor. The killers left, knowing he wouldn’t get up again. “So, where are we going?” said Neuland. “We can’t stay in New York.” “Europe?” “I don’t like flying and I hate ships even more.” “We could drive to Montreal. Bigsby is always offering us jobs,” said Ford. “Too cold. My joints get stiff.” Ford said, “Right. So where?” Neuland thought for a moment. “West. As far west as we can go.” “Like cowboys.” “Sure. Like cowboys.” “Goddamn Garrick,” said Ford. “Lousy dodo,” said Neuland. Ford looked at him. Neuland laughed, then so did Ford. He said, “I’ll get us train tickets.” From THE PALE HOUSE DEVIL by Richard Kadrey, forthcoming from Titan Books on October 3. Copyright ©2023 by Richard Kadrey. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Titan Books. View the full article
  4. Assignment 4: Selecting Genres and Finding Two Comparables Genre: Womens Fiction, Historical Fiction, Feminism, LBGTQ+ Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus In this book, the main character is an anomaly for her time, a chemist in a man’s domain. Set in the 1950’s, the mainstream jobs for women were clear cut: teacher, nurse, secretary, but NOT chemist! The main character, Elizabeth Zott, fights with grit and determination to bring her feminist views to the public via her cooking show that combines chemistry with art of cooking. There is tension in the sexist encounters with her male peers, humor (her dog narrates come of the action) and an antagonist you clearly want to cheer on. Compared to my stories: My women’s stories are set in time frames starting in the early 1900’s to present day. Although the context within which each woman struggles is different, struggles remain. Some of my women are much like Elizabeth Zott – bright, determined and up against cultures and mores that attempt to block their way. Some of my women’s struggles are completely self-induced. Some of my antagonists the reader will want to cheer on and some will be more difficult to cheer on. They’re complicated women with sound motives that may seem nefarious to some. A Manual for Cleaning Women, Collected Stories by Lucia Berlin, Foreward by Lydia Davis, Edited by Stephen Emerson This gritty collection of Berlin’s stories, published posthumously, tell tales of hard-living women. Many of them are semi-autobiographical, as Berlin suffered from alcoholism and fought that demon all her life. Her clear, unvarnished prose is the clear asset in her stories with just enough humor and wit to keep the reader from descending into a black hole. Kirkus Reviews states “…she might have had a higher profile if her subject matter had been less gloomy.” Advice - I’ll take it! Compared to my stories: The women in my stories are mostly blue-color women, only one being college-educated. There are struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction, an inability to live an authentic life because of religious beliefs and homophobia and a woman’s most ineffective coping mechanism: denial. I want to keep the prose clean and necessary to advance the story, but vary the voice to allow an omnipresent 3rd person to inject humor, wit and outrageousness into what might otherwise be a depressing tale.
  5. For most of my life, I took quiet to mean a kind of shortcoming. I had heard it used too many times as a description of how others saw me. But then I realized that in the work of writers I love deeply are many kinds of quiets—those of catharsis, of subversiveness, of gaping loss or simple, sensual joy. I came to think of quiet not as an adjective or verb or noun, but as a kind of technique. The books I chose for the syllabus below expand how we think about black expression, intimacy, interiority, and agency; about black quietude. I began with the work of Kevin Quashie, whose voice, like a tuning fork, set a tone for my reading of other books. For the nonfiction books on this list, I looked for thinkers who are deeply attentive to the everyday. For fiction and poetry, I selected writers who allow us to glimpse more clearly our own selfhoods via the unknowability of others. In all cases, these are books that are richer for asking us to listen more deeply. We might return from each one dazzled, dazed even, but always with renewed, sharpened perception. Kevin Quashie, The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture Elizabeth Alexander, The Black Interior Toni Morrison, Sula Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha Natasha Brown, Assembly Christina Sharpe, Ordinary Notes Margo Jefferson, Constructing a Nervous System Robin Coste Lewis, To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness Lucille Clifton, Generations Dionne Brand, The Blue Clerk Grace Nichols, Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman and Other Poems M. NourbeSe Philip, She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks Kathleen Collins, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a poet, a writer, and an artist. She is an alumna of the Barbican Young Poets and recipient of an Eric Gregory Award. Quiet, her debut poetry collection, is a finalist for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Rathbones/Folio award. It will be published by Alfred A. Knopf this month. View the full article
  6. Go Hex Yourself Go Hex Yourself by Jessica Clare is $1.99! This was part of the deluge of last year’s witchy romances and I mentioned it on Hide Your Wallet. Lots of enemies to lovers vibes coming from this one. It’s one hex of an attraction in this romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Jessica Clare. When Reggie Johnson answers a job ad in the paper, she’s astonished to find that she’s not applying to work at her favorite card game, Spellcraft: The Magicking. Instead, she’s applying to be an actual familiar for an actual witch. As in, real magic. The new job has a few perks – great room and board, excellent pay, and she’s apprenticing to a powerful witch. Sure, the witch is a bit eccentric. And sure, there was that issue with the black cat Reggie would prefer to forget about. The biggest problem, however, is warlock Ben Magnus, her employer’s nephew and the most arrogant, insufferable, maddening man to ever cast a spell. Reggie absolutely hates him. He’s handsome, but he’s also bossy and irritating and orders her around. Ben’s butt might look great in a crystal ball vision, but that’s as far as it goes. But when someone with a vendetta targets the household, she finds herself working with Ben to break a deadly curse. Apparently, when they’re not fighting like cats and dogs, things get downright…bewitching. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Out of Character Out of Character by Annabeth Albert is 99c and a Kindle Daily Deal! This is part of the True Colors series and features all sorts of nerdery and fandom culture, if you like that in your romances. I’ve heard this series skews a little more toward New Adult. Thoughts? It’s friends-to-enemies-to-friends-to-lovers in this LGBTQIA+ Romance for fans of Red, White & Royal Blue and The Pros of Cons who enjoy: • Ex-best-friends falling in love • Gaming, conventions, fandom & cosplay • Nerd culture at its finest • Learning how to be true to yourself Jasper Quigley is tired of being everyone’s favorite sidekick. He wants to become the hero of his own life, but that’s not going to happen if he agrees to help out his former best friend turned king of the jocks, Milo Lionetti. High school was miserable enough, thanks, and Jasper has no interest in dredging up painful memories of his old secret crush. But Milo’s got nowhere else to go. His life is spiraling out of control and he’s looking to turn things back around. Step one? Replace the rare Odyssey cards he lost in an idiotic bet. Step two? Tell his ex-best-friend exactly how he feels—how he’s always felt. Jasper may be reluctant to reopen old wounds, but he never could resist Milo. There’s a catch, though: if Milo wants his help, he’s going to have to pitch in to make the upcoming children’s hospital charity ball the best ever. But as the two don cosplay for the kids and hunt for rare cards, nostalgia for their lost friendship may turn into something even more lasting… Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Mountain in the Sea The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler is $3.99! I mentioned this one in a previous Hide Your Wallet and it’s reminding me a lot of the movie Arrival. I believe Carrie is reading this one right now and remember her saying good things about it in the SBTB Slack. Humankind discovers intelligent life in an octopus species with its own language and culture, and sets off a high-stakes global competition to dominate the future. Rumors begin to spread of a species of hyperintelligent, dangerous octopus that may have developed its own language and culture. Marine biologist Dr. Ha Nguyen, who has spent her life researching cephalopod intelligence, will do anything for the chance to study them. The transnational tech corporation DIANIMA has sealed the remote Con Dao Archipelago, where the octopuses were discovered, off from the world. Dr. Nguyen joins DIANIMA’s team on the islands: a battle-scarred security agent and the world’s first android. The octopuses hold the key to unprecedented breakthroughs in extrahuman intelligence. The stakes are high: there are vast fortunes to be made by whoever can take advantage of the octopuses’ advancements, and as Dr. Nguyen struggles to communicate with the newly discovered species, forces larger than DIANIMA close in to seize the octopuses for themselves. But no one has yet asked the octopuses what they think. And what they might do about it. A near-future thriller about the nature of consciousness, Ray Nayler’s The Mountain in the Sea is a dazzling literary debut and a mind-blowing dive into the treasure and wreckage of humankind’s legacy. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Address Book The Address Book by Deirdre Mask is $2.99! I featured this one on a previous edition of Get Rec’d. I thought it was a fascinating examination of race and class through the micro-history lens of addresses and urban planning An extraordinary debut in the tradition of classic works from authors such as Mark Kurlansky, Mary Roach, and Rose George. An exuberant and insightful work of popular history of how streets got their names, houses their numbers, and what it reveals about class, race, power, and identity. When most people think about street addresses, if they think of them at all, it is in their capacity to ensure that the postman can deliver mail or a traveler won’t get lost. But street addresses were not invented to help you find your way; they were created to find you. In many parts of the world, your address can reveal your race and class. In this wide-ranging and remarkable book, Mask looks at the fate of streets named after Martin Luther King, Jr., the wayfinding means of ancient Romans, and how Nazis haunt the streets of modern Germany. The flipside of having an address is not having one, and we also see what that means for millions of people today, including those who live in the slums of Kolkata and on the streets of London. Filled with fascinating people and histories, The Address Book illuminates the complex and sometimes hidden stories behind street names and their power to name, to hide, to decide who counts, who doesn’t—and why. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  7. “What happens on Calchan Geal, stays on Clachan Geal” Chris Brookmyre was a journalist before becoming a full-time novelist with the publication of his award-winning debut Quite Ugly One Morning, which established him as one of Britain’s leading crime authors. His novels have sold more than two million copies in the UK alone, and Black Widow won both the McIlvanney Prize and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. Chris Brookmyre’s 2022 island thriller, ‘The Cliff House,’ is written in quite an accessible way. I am not suggesting that this novel is written simplistically, but rather that it is written in a very familiar way, so one can connect with the narrative easily, although it concerns subject matters that I hope most people wouldn’t have had to endure (such as missing husbands, domestic violence and finding dead bodies in the kitchen). To say I think this book might have deserved a trigger warning for some of the content would be an understatement, Brookmyre writes in a familiar but blugeoningly unapologetic way, handling complex subjects and sensitive details skilfully, but occasionally the content could be at risk of upsetting some people. Jen has rented a luxury getaway for her hen do, an entire island off the Scottish coast, a location that influencers scramble for invites to and celebrities pay thousands and thousands to host elaborate parties and weddings at the large lavish mansion that resides on the Island of Calchan Geal. Luckily for Jen, there was a cancelation. So, she booked the island for her big weekend, inviting her nearest and dearest to join her. ‘I want you to feel the one true essence of the Clachan Geal experience: Splendid Isolation’ Little did they know that within hours of arriving on the island and being greeted by the host and owner, Lauren, that they would find a dead body in the kitchen, and they would realise how very alone they really are. ‘The Reaper: All for one and one for all. Six downloads short.” This thriller is focused on family, secrets, friendship, and survival (more types than one), Brookmyre successfully handles all areas of this novel by meticulously constructing the narrative from a variety of perspectives. Which includes Jen herself, her party guests as well as the islands owner. Bouncing from perspective to perspective is not as disorientating as it could be, and it actually makes it harder to guess who the ‘bad-guy’ character in this narrative is. ‘Not Everybody’s playing an angle’ One of the things I love about Brookmyre, is how he reminds you that he is a Scottish writer within his work. Occasionally, Brookmyre will use Scottish vernacular within his work, or mentions iron-bru, so you can never forget that this is a Scottish novel, written by a Scottish author, brilliant. As well as that, Brookmyre includes a plethora of contemporary (ish) references that help you position the narrative, as well as the characters themselves, and help to contextualise what he was trying to do in terms of setting and atmosphere. Such as relating Jen’s friend Michelle, or the famous singer Mica, to Adele, or talking about watching BBC’s 2009 series ‘Ashes to Ashes,’ (which was no where near as good as the series ‘Life on Mars’ which preceded it). Brookmyre uses references, and Scottish vernacular to position his novel as familiar and highlight that that characters could be anyone, and he does it well. ‘I haven’t been hiding the truth from your Beattie, I’ve been sparing you from it.’ I had not heard of Brookmyre until NetGalley recommended ‘The Cliff House,’ to me, but boy am I glad it did. A terrifying and triggering novel that I would recommend to anyone who loves adrenaline-fueled chaos and thrillers – but I would make sure people were suitably warned: ‘may contain references to dead bodies, violence and domestic violence.’ A cracking novel about a hen party I am glad I wasn’t invited to. https://www.brookmyre.co.uk/ Twitter: @cbrookmyre The post THE CLIFF HOUSE by Chris Brookmyre (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  8. I’ve been messing up for years now. I mean, we all make mistakes, obviously. Big ones and small ones, writing-related and otherwise. But the mistake I’ve recently realized is very much related to my publishing career. And now that I’ve vowed to turn over this leaf for myself, I want to shout from the rooftops–to help others, let’s say, turn over their own leaves. Here’s the thing: it’s an easy mistake to make. If you’ve been lucky–and hard-working and persistent and stubborn and talented and about 83 other things, but especially lucky–enough to write and publish more than one book, your newest book is pretty much always the one topmost in your mind. After all, in some sense, you have to put the others behind to focus on the newest one. If you’re lucky (again, and other adjectives here) enough to write under contract with a publisher, the schedule on which you write the new book is dictated, and then when the book comes out, promotion happens right around one big On Sale date, a brief window where your book is New. So I’m not beating myself up about it, but for years, when I’ve introduced myself to new people as an author and they ask what I write, I start talking about my newest book. Sometimes it’s the most recent to come out, and sometimes it’s the one that’s coming out next, depending on where I am in the cycle. Hi, I’m Greer, I write books! What kind of books? Well, my new book Arca, the second in a fantasy series that’s kind of like a matriarchal Game of Thrones, comes out in March! And I have finally realized, while that’s exactly the right answer for a publishing crowd, it’s almost meaningless to civilians. People I meet at my kids’ school, or at a fondue party, or at the endodontist’s office, or wherever, don’t care about a specific book of mine. They don’t care about what’s new. I shouldn’t be focusing on that particular book. And if you have multiple books, and someone asks you about your work, you shouldn’t focus on your newest/latest book either. Don’t tell them what you’ve written. Tell them what you write. What I mean by that is, don’t start with specific titles. If you write in multiple genres, you don’t even need to start with genre, either. I write both historical fiction and epic fantasy, and the deeper I dive into one or the other of those, the more tempted I am to start listing titles, which is right about when people’s eyes start to glaze over. Hi, I’m Greer, I write books! What kind of books? Novels about extraordinary women. That isn’t where it ends, but that’s where it starts. Sometimes, that may be enough to trigger a follow-up question. If not, I could talk next about genre, or specific titles. I could ask the other person a question about what they like to read, and go from there. I could say that sometimes I draw inspiration from real-life figures, like Kate Warne, and ask if they know her story. I could talk about my matriarchal epic fantasy series, including the book that’s coming out next month–but only after setting the stage with the broader description. Because in the real world, by which I mean not the publishing world, your new book is no more important than any of your other books. Unless they’re very likely to have heard of your newest book because you’re, I don’t know, Tana French or something, the title isn’t going to ring a bell. Tell them who you are as an author. Then go from there to introduce your most relevant book to the conversation depending on who you’re talking to. It’ll be more natural. And your new friend might even be more likely to look up your book if you make an effort to connect. Q: Do you fall into the trap of always focusing on your newest book when talking to new people? If not, how else do you approach these conversations? [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  9. I'm so excited to launch the blog tour of Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez. This book is perfect for anyone – young and not-so-young – who has ever felt sad, lost, or in need of advice or messages about empowerment and self-discovery. Continue on to find out more about this amazing book and read an interview with the author. But first, here's more about the book: Hope and Fortune is a modern-day fairytale, featuring multicultural, multiracial (e.g., Filipina, African-American, Latina, Asian, Muslim, etc.), multigenerational, and multigender (including a boy) fairies of different shapes and sizes who help a sad little child who has lost her way to find her path. Each fairy represents an ideal - Hope, Innocence and Wonder, Truth and Virtue, Generosity and Kindness, Strength and Courage, Respect and Dignity, Confidence, Imagination, Happiness, Beauty, Wisdom and Intelligence, and Love and Friendship. Although the protagonist is a little girl, the life advice given by the fairies is non-gender-specific and could resonate with anyone facing a difficult situation at any point in her/his/their life. Publisher: Black Rose WritingISBN-10: 1685131174ISBN-12: 978-1685131174Print copy pages: 46 pages Purchase a copy for yourself on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Bookshop.org. You should also add it to your GoodReads reading list. About the Author, Marissa Bañez A first-generation immigrant to the U.S. from the Philippines, Marissa Bañez is a graduate of Princeton University and a lawyer licensed to practice in New York, California, and New Jersey. She has published legal articles for the prestigious New York Law Journal and the American Bar Association, but her true passion is in her children's stories. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and daughter, whose childhood was filled with many original stories and puppet shows made up entirely by her mom. In her free time, Marissa likes to travel, design and make clothes, cook, binge-watch Star Trek shows and Korean dramas, and occasionally strum a guitar. She is currently working on her second book, Hues and Harmony (How the Singing Rainbow Butterfly Got Her Colors), a story about mixed or multiracial children, self-discovery, and respect for others as told through the life and adventures of a caterpillar. It is scheduled for publication on July 20, 2023. You can find her online: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marissa.banez.7/LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marissa-banez/ --- Interview by Nicole Pyles WOW: First of all, congratulations on your book, Hope and Fortune. What are you working on now that you can tell us about? Marissa: I’m currently putting the finishing touches to my second book, Hues and Harmony (How the Rainbow Butterfly Got Her Colors). It’s about multiraciality, empowerment, self-acceptance and belonging as told through the life and adventures of a singing caterpillar (because why not a singing caterpillarar???), using common shapes, primary colors, and basic chemistry concepts. Like Hope and Fortune (see response to No. 3 below), Hues and Harmony is a re-write of story and puppet show from my daughter’s childhood entitled The Singing Rainbow Butterfly. Then, I created the puppet caterpillar in the story out of round silver pot scrubbers held together by a wire, string, and popsicle sticks (not to mention a prayer). I think I still have that caterpillar somewhere and intend to use it when I do public readings for Hues and Harmony. Esperanza and the Fortune Fairies from Hope and Fortune make a cameo – yet important –appearance in Hues and Harmony, but it’s not a sequel. I used the same illustrator, and the dialogue/songs are also in rhyme so it will have the same look, feel, and sound as Hope and Fortune. I’m happy with how Hope and Fortune turned out and I want Hues and Harmony (as well as any other subsequent books) to have the same quality. Hues and Harmony is scheduled for official release on July 20, 2023. WOW: That's amazing and I love the synchrony of both books! I love the symbolism in Hope and Fortune. Can you tell us a bit more about that? Marissa: I deliberately designed Hope and Fortune to be more than what meets the eye. Because children’s illustrated books are usually limited to 1000-1500 words, I expressly curated my illustrations to supplement the text of Hope and Fortune and create a multi-layered story with deeper significance. In writing and illustrating Hope and Fortune, I learned that numbers, colors, and animals represent or symbolize certain ideals and principles that dovetail nicely with what I wanted to say in the book. I then incorporated a lot of that symbolism to make the story as multifaceted as possible. Each of the characters in Hope and Fortune represents or symbolizes something. For example, “Esperanza” is the Spanish word for “hope.” Also, I read the number 12 symbolizes emotional, mental, and spiritual growth and enlightenment, which makes it the perfect number of fairies for this book! One of my favorite fairies is the Fortune Fairy of Beauty, who I deliberately chose not to depict “beauty” with a person’s face because what is beautiful is a personal concept informed by one’s world view. I remember a wonderful episode of Star Trek, about a race of aliens that were evolving from their corporeal states into beings of pure energy. That made me think of energy as our spiritual essence or life-force. To me, a beautiful spirit will always win over a gorgeous face with an ugly personality. Thus, the Fortune Fairy of Beauty as a heart radiating positive and bright energy was born. As she says: “Beauty is not what you see with your eyes but with your heart.” Another favorite is the Fortune Fairy of Wisdom and Intelligence. Oftentimes, old women in fairytales are depicted as old crones or witches. I wanted to change that narrative by depicting an old woman as representing wisdom and intelligence. I also wanted to honor and pay tribute to my alma mater, Princeton University. Orange and black are Princeton’s colors but orange is also a symbol of meditation, inspiration, and creativity – building blocks for wisdom and intelligence. The tiger, Princeton’s mascot, symbolizes high intellect and confidence. These are just some examples of the many things embedded in my illustrations. My hope is that the illustrations will result in further discussion and engender curiosity among all readers, both the young and the not-so-young. WOW: I love it! What inspired you to write this book and what led you to write children's books, in particular? Marissa: When my daughter was little, I wrote original children’s stories and created puppet shows from the stories. One of the stories from those days is the precursor to Hope and Fortune called The Lost Foal. For my daughter’s 7th birthday, I wanted to put on a show for her and her friends at her party. She wanted a story about cowgirls, fairies, and her little stuffed horse. I came up with a story entitled, The Lost Foal. In The Lost Foal, the stuffed horse was the one that got lost in the forest and encountered “cowgirl fairies” played by my daughter and her guests, each of whom wore fairy wings and pink cowboy hats and gave the horse life advice to get it back on the right track. Fast forward 16 years later to the pandemic and lockdown in 2020. I felt bad for my daughter, her peers and those younger, all of whom faced unprecedented uncertainties in life. I then took The Lost Foal, modernized it with a diverse cast of characters, and created a message that I hope will resonate not only with the very young but also with those less so who may feel rudderless and lost (in however way you want to define and contextualize those terms) at some point in their lives. Writing children’s books is a great way for me to enjoy speaking to and connecting with young children. In December, I did a reading of Hope and Fortune at a local library in New York City. After I read the book, a 7-year-old boy took a copy of the book to read to himself. He then followed me around until he had my full attention to tell me how much he loved the book and that now he wants to write a book someday too. Even though the book is about a little girl with a Spanish name and fairies, the story still resonated with a little Asian boy – which is more than I could’ve hoped for. How wonderful to be able to touch the hearts and minds of young children with just a few words and illustrations. Here are a couple of pictures from my December 17, 2022, reading: WOW: That is such a touching experience that led you to writing this book! I can see you already have a wonderful impact on children. Your book features multi-cultural and multi-generational fairies. Why was this type of representation so important to the book? Marissa: The Fortune Fairies are multicultural, multiracial, multigender and multigenerational because I wanted to demonstrate through vivid and relatable images that this world is comprised of many different types, colors, sizes, and shapes of people – all of whom have something valid to say and contribute to the betterment of humanity. The need for this type of representation was recently made obvious to me when I advertised my reading of Hope and Fortune at a local library on a public page on Facebook: She deliberately chose to ignore my conciliatory tone and further challenged: “that doesn’t look a white fairy.” What is a white fairy supposed to look like?!? I will confess that I have not ever seen a fairy of any type and that all the fairies in my book simply sprung out of my imagination. Hers is type of closed-mindedness, unjustifiable vitriol and, yes, prejudice that warrants greater racial, cultural, gender, and generational representation in children’s books. WOW: Absolutely! How has being a lawyer prepared you for your writing career? Marissa: As a lawyer, I’m used to revisions and wholesale re-writes. Our documents usually undergo several revisions. This process continues until the very last moment and until we feel comfortable that we’d done everything in producing a good document. I treat my writing of children’s books the same way. The objective is to be able to sell the story (to the publisher, to the reviewer, to the buyer, to the reader) much in the same way that lawyers have to sell their arguments (to the judge, the opposing side, the jury, the client). So, this is my editing process: Write (or at least visualize) an outline that captures all the ideas I want to convey. Write a first draft that will likely surpass the word count requirement for children’s illustrated books of only about 1,000-1,500 words (most legal briefs also have word or page limitations). Remember: it’s easier to cut than it is to add or create new material. Focus on what’s essential and relevant and be ruthless in deleting or changing what’s not. As a lawyer, I learned not to be attached to any particular words or phrases. When I’m finally happy with a draft and think it’s as good as it’s ever going to be, I put it aside for a couple of days.Often, when I look at it again, I find that it needs further editing. Sometimes, during the respite, new ideas bubble up in my consciousness that must be incorporated. “Shampoo, rinse, repeat” until the very last moment of my submission deadline. My manuscript editing process applies equally to the illustrations. Of course, because I work with an illustrator (as I do with paralegals, assistants and outside vendors necessary to produce a legal document), I am considerate of his time and capabilities. As a rule, I try very hard not to jam anyone up at the last minute with too many changes. I’ve found that being considerate of others in this way not only results in good working relationships but also a better work product. WOW: You have a fantastic structure to your process. What surrounds you as you write? Marissa: My lawyer training has given me the ability to write and focus anywhere at any time, blocking out all distractions. I don’t need – or want – aromatherapy, music, food/drink, pet companions, or even a pristine desk or room. I just need space for my computer and space in my mind. WOW: That's wonderful! Thank you again for your time and best of luck to you on your book tour! --- Blog Tour Calendar February 6th @ The MuffinJoin us as we celebrate the launch of Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez. You can read an interview with the author and win a copy of the book.https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com February 8th @ School Librarian in ActionVisit Zarah's blog for her review of Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez. https://lovealibrarian.blogspot.com/ February 10th @ What is That Book AboutJoin Michelle who will be spotlighting Hope and Fortune on her blog.https://www.whatisthatbookabout.com/ February 12th @ The Mommies ReviewsVisit Glenda's blog for her review of Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez. https://www.themommiesreviews.com/ February 13th @ Mindy McGinnis' BlogMindy features a guest post by author Marissa Bañez about why publishing a book is not the end, but only the beginning in getting your book to a reader.https://www.mindymcginnis.com/blog February 16th @ The Frugalista MomJoin Rochie as she reviews Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez. You'll also have a chance to win a copy of the book too!https://thefrugalistamom.com/ February 20th @ A Storybook WorldJoin Deirdra as she features a guest post by Marissa Bañez about how to contact a newspaper that caters to your specific "tribe."https://www.astorybookworld.com/ February 20th @ Ronovan WritesJoin Ronovan for an interview with the author of Hope and Fortune, Marissa Bañez.https://ronovanwrites.com/ February 22nd @ Word MagicVisit Fiona's blog where she shares a guest post by Marissa Bañez about using illustrations in children's books to add depth and meaning to the story.http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/ February 24th @ Barbara Barth Art & WordsJoin Barbara as she reviews Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez.http://barbarabarthartandwords.blogspot.com/ February 25th @ World of My ImaginationJoin Nicole as she features Marissa Bañez on her weekly feature "3 Things on a Saturday Night."https://worldofmyimagination.com/ February 26th @ Shoe's Seeds & StoriesJoin Linda for her review of Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez. https://lschuelerca.wordpress.com/ February 28th @ World of My ImaginationJoin Nicole as she reviews Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez. You can also win a copy of the book too!https://worldofmyimagination.com/ March 2nd @ Beverley A. Baird's BlogVisit Beverley's blog for her review of Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez. https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/ March 3rd @ Writer AdviceVisit B. Lynn Goodwin's blog for her review of Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez. https://writeradvice.com/ March 4th @ Beverley A. Baird's BlogJoin Beverley again for a guest post by Marissa Bañez about becoming a children's author in her mid-60s.https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/ March 4th @ Boots, Shoes, and FashionVisit Linda's blog for an interview with author Marissa Bañez about her children's book Hope and Fortune.https://bootsshoesandfashion.com/ March 5th @ Barbara Barth Art and WordsVisit Barbara's blog today for her review of Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez.https://barbarabarthartandwords.blogspot.com/ March 8th @ One Sister's JourneyVisit Lisa's blog for a spotlight of Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez.https://www.lisambuske.com/ March 10th @ ChoicesJoin Madeline as she shares a guest post by author Marissa Bañez about whether self-publishing is worth it.http://madelinesharples.com/ March 10th @ Ronovan WritesJoin Ronovan again for a review of Hope and Fortune.https://ronovanwrites.com/ ***** BOOK GIVEAWAY ***** Enter to win a copy of the children's book, Hope and Fortune by Marissa Bañez. Fill out the Rafflecopter form by February 19th at 11:59 pm CT for a chance to win. We will choose a winner randomly the next day and will 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]
  10. In his introduction to the Black Lizard edition of Charles Willeford’s Miami Blues, Elmore Leonard writes that neither he or Willeford wanted to be stuck with the good guy’s point of view. “We both saw Harry Dean Stanton as our hero,” he said. When I lived in Los Angeles, I haunted the bar at Dan Tana’s because I heard Harry Dean Stanton haunted the bar at Dan Tana’s. I spent a couple foggy closing times in his company, drinking tequila, smoking American Spirits, and singing Irish songs. Later, when I started writing about the burned-out Van Nuys bail bondsman who became the hero of my first novel Zig Zag, I always pictured Harry Dean. Across a hundred or so movies, Harry was rarely the lead, but he was always a high point. Spaceship mechanic, Christmas angel, FBI agent, Paul the Apostle, Rip Van Winkle, Molly Ringwald’s dad. Plug him in anywhere and he works. On the surface, he could appear disinterested, ornery, hungover. Unwinding the cellophane on the day’s second pack, he did baby-I-don’t-care better than Robert Mitchum. But in all the drunks and lowlifes he portrayed, even in the cruel characters of The Rose or Big Love, his humanity always blazed through. It was right there on his face all the time. He looked like a fugitive saint. With his hangdog mug and laconic fatalism, Harry was born to be in westerns—from early saddle and spurs roles on Rawhide and The Rifleman to wild riffs on the genre like Ride In The Whirlwind, Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, Rancho Deluxe, and Cry For Me, Billy. But when you go down the rogue’s gallery of characters in the rap sheet of his filmography, you’ll find many who could float their own crime novels. Here are some of my favorites. Low-Rent Detective Billy Rolfe, Farewell, My Lovely; Ernie Fontenot, Playback; Johnnie Farragut, Wild At Heart; Rudy Junkins, Christine Talking about noir, Farewell, My Lovely is as good a place to start as any. When Harry’s shifty department hack comes knocking, Mitchum’s Marlowe takes one look at him and says, “I have the feeling I should be slipping him a fin or something.” A small role, but Harry’s authentic performance is part of what makes this 1975 Dick Richards picture one of the best Raymond Chandler screen adaptations. Only the most morally bankrupt Harry Dean completist need seek out Playback (it’s on YouTube), but even in this softcore Playboy production starring Tawny Kitaen and an extremely oily George Hamilton, you completely believe Harry as the cheap snoop digging up divorce dirt. For Harry as P.I., you’re better off with Wild At Heart, David Lynch’s film of the great Barry Gifford novel. His Johnnie Farragut has a wide range—from down and out to completely out there—best represented in the famous scene of him barking like a dog in a motel room with a brandy snifter on the nightstand. In John Carpenter’s version of Stephen King’s Christine, Harry has a Columbo quality as Detective Rudy Junkins. Maybe that’s why Carpenter pitched him the idea of doing a TV detective series. He mentioned it in interviews a lot, how it would have brought him more fame, money, and women, but he turned it down for a purely Harry Dean reason: “Too much work.” Deadbeat Dognapper Philo Skinner, The Black Marble Based on a Joseph Wambaugh novel, this is an odd entry even for the Harry Dean canon. Philo “The Terrier King” Skinner kidnaps a high-end show dog to cover his gambling losses. Chain-smoking Camel straights, he calls in desperate ransom demands from gin mill payphones and is eventually found out by a bloodshot boozehound of a cop who chases him through a kennel in the bonkers climax. A self-described “mangy man” in white shoes, a white belt, and a rayon shirt open to the navel, Philo may be the sleaziest character in Harry’s repertoire, planted on a barstool right between Moe from One From The Heart and Billy from Rafferty And The Gold Dust Twins. Bank Robber Homer Van Meter, Dillinger; Jerry Schue, Straight Time Dillinger doesn’t occupy the same space in my heart as their other team-ups in 92 In The Shade, Two-Lane Blacktop, and Cockfighter, but it’s always a deep pleasure to see Harry Dean and his Kentucky compatriot Warren Oates share the screen. Especially when they’re knocking over banks. After Dillinger, it’s only a few years until Harry’s back in hold-up mode in Straight Time. Loafing poolside with a platter of cheeseburgers and a doting wife, Jerry Schue has traded in his ski mask and shotgun for a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops—and he’s miserable. Soon as Dustin Hoffman’s Max Dembo hints at a robbery job, Jerry jumps at the bait with Harry’s immortal delivery of the line, “I don’t give a damn what it is, let’s do it…What is it?” That’s when you know everything’s about to go very bad. Repo Man Bud, Repo Man; C.W. Douglas, Flatbed Annie and Sweetiepie: Lady Truckers Most of you have probably seen Repo Man. Some of you may be able to recite the Repo Code. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to find Harry’s first run at the repo racket in Flatbed Annie and Sweetiepie, a 1979 TV movie starring Annie Potts and Kim Darby. In the grand tradition of 70s trucker pictures, this is a shaggy, freewheeling affair. It concerns an 18-wheeler hauling cocaine with some interested parties in hot pursuit. Harry’s repo man looks like an emaciated Boss Hogg with his western suit and longhorn hood ornament—but he’s damn determined to get that rig. Also featuring Fred Willard, which is never a bad thing. Shady Faith Healer Who Moves Stolen Cars Brother Bud, UFOria (1986) This movie starts strong with Fred Ward drinking from an open container in an open convertible. When he reunites with Harry Dean’s conman preacher, things really take a turn for the weird. A lot of the charm of this underrated gem is in Harry’s boozy chemistry with Ward, which recalls the dynamic he had with Warren Oates. Brother Bud’s philosophy is, “Everybody ought to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another drink.” Sounds a lot like the guy holding court at Dan Tana’s twenty-five years later, who was fond of saying, “We’re all gonna live forever. But I’m gonna outlive all you motherfuckers.” Nowheresville Loner Travis Henderson, Paris, Texas; Old Man, Fool For Love; Carl Rodd, Twin Peaks: Firewalk With Me/The Return; Lyle Straight, The Straight Story; Floyd Cage, The Pledge; Lucky, Lucky Harry Dean created his own distinct version of the American loner archetype. A Zen cowboy. A man out of time. Starting with his defining role in Paris, Texas, written for him by Sam Shepard, you could argue many characters that followed are versions of Travis. Still on the drift, discovering again and again that all roads lead to nowhere. In Robert Altman’s adaptation of Shepard’s Fool For Love, Harry’s character, known only as the Old Man, is ensconced in a junkyard trailer behind the neon mirage of the El Royale Motel, fantasizing about Barbara Mandrell. For Firewalk With Me, the loner decamps for the Fat Trout Trailer Park and a cup of Good Morning America in a plaid bathrobe. Then David Lynch drops him on the porch of a dilapidated shack for the haymaker final scene of The Straight Story. Come 2001, he shows up in The Pledge, operating a remote gas station outside Reno. When Jack Nicholson presents a turnkey offer, Harry wastes no time packing his fishing rod and hitting the road, eventually making his way back to the Fat Trout Trailer Park for an encore performance of “Red River Valley” in Twin Peaks: The Return. The loner finally comes to the end of the trail, as Harry does, in the desert town in Lucky, his small, perfect swan song. *** View the full article
  11. Another week, another batch of books for your TBR pile. Happy reading, folks. * Jonathan Kellerman, Unnatural History (Ballantine) “This is Kellerman at his very best. Just the dialogue between Sturgis and Delaware is worth it. But also, the depiction of Los Angeles is always the star.” –Mystery & Suspense magazine Kwei Quartey, Last Seen in Lapaz (Soho) “Quartey once again finds piercing social pain beneath what looks like a routine case.” –Kirkus Reviews Deborah Crombie, A Killing of Innocents (William Morrow) “Crombie is as skilled as Louise Penny or J.D. Robb in developing characters while entwining personal lives with riveting police investigations. With four years since A Bitter Feast, the previous book in the series, the author’s fans will be eager to catch up with her characters.” –Library Journal Stephen Graham Jones, Don’t Fear the Reaper (Gallery/Saga) “Horror fans [will] be blown away by this audacious extravaganza.” –Publishers Weekly Hank Phillippi Ryan, The House Guest (Forge) “Hank Phillippi Ryan is one of my favorite authors, and The House Guest proves why. This riveting novel twists and turns through the pageturning story…events turn shocking, with revelation after revelation in a thriller that never forgets to touch the heart.” –Lisa Scottoline Mike Lawson, Alligator Alley (Atlantic Monthly Press) “Assured prose matches the two capable protagonists: the crafty DeMarco and the relentless, brilliant Emma. This is perhaps Lawson’s best in the series to date.” –Publishers Weekly Mariana Enriquez (transl. Megan McDowell, illus. Pablo Gerardo Camacho), Our Share of Night (Hogarth) “An ailing medium who can connect with the dead tries to protect his son from an insatiable darkness. . . . Monumental.” The New York Times John Higgs, Love and Let Die: James Bond, The Beatles, and The British Psyche (Pegasus) “Higgs builds his case around evocative profiles of the Beatles and their fandom and of Bond’s evolving persona and his real-life alter-egos. The result is a thoughtful romp through pop culture that’s full of fresh ideas and sharp connections.” –Publishers Weekly Katrine Engberg, The Sanctuary (Gallery/Scout) “The iden­tity of the culprit is an enormous surprise, but more surprising still is the closure Engberg brings to long-running storylines, resulting in a very poignant moment for fans of the series in addition to a satisfy­ing solution to the central mystery.” –BookPage Anastasia Hastings, Of Manners and Murder (Minotaur) “Funny at times, this series debut is also an adventurous and thoughtful look at a time when women’s lives were on the brink of change. And it’s a puzzling whodunit to boot.” –First Clue View the full article
  12. São Paulo – the most populous city in Brazil; the largest Portuguese speaking city in the world; arguably the fourth largest metropolitan area in the world and a major financial, corporate, and commercial centre for the country. And also a melting pot city – Arabs, Italians, Portuguese, Jews from all over Europe, and Japanese among others have all made São Paulo home and have added to its distinctive feel. It’s a city of skyscrapers, buzzing helicopters, traffic jams, a serious soccer addiction, and the massive energy of the Paulistanos, as the locals are known. São Paulo crime fiction is invariably tough, hard boiled and accentuates the problems within Brazilian society and its justice system. A really good place to start delving into São Paulo crime writing is Joe Thomas’s São Paulo Quartet – Paradise City (2016), Gringa (2018), Playboy (2019), and Brazilian Psycho (2021). Thomas is English but moved to São Paulo and fell in love with the place – the distinctive (shall we say!) smell of the Tietê River, the miles of anonymous urban sprawl in all directions, the heat. And, though the traffic and crime are terrible, Thomas found an energy that excited him. The first book in the series, Paradise City, is named after the Paraisópolis favela, an incredible physical symbol to the huge gulf between rich and poor in the city. According to Thomas, crime in São Paulo is run by a gang called PCC – from jail. He told The Guardian, ‘On the weekend before the World Cup in 2006, they demanded wide screen TVs to watch the game. When the authorities refused they said they’d cause chaos across the city – and they did for three days.’ The Quartet is not just a series of great crime novels but a way to learn the ins and outs of São Paulo from favela etiquette to why, if you ever visit, you need to eat a pastel – a deep-fried pastry with a cheese or meat filling which you’ll find at stalls everywhere. For a slightly earlier era in São Paulo, Leighton Gage is a good source. Gage, who died in 2013, split his time between split time between his home in Santana do Parnaiba, a village near São Paolo, and Florida. His time in Brazil inspired the Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigations series reflecting the twenty years he lived in Brazil and his love of the local culture. There are seven books in the procedural series starting with Blood of the Wicked (2008). Chief Inspector Mario Silva of Brazil’s Federal Police is a good cop in a bad system. Silva, and his partner “Baby Face” Gonçalves, are forced to work within a justice system is rife with corruption. Book two in the series, Buried Strangers (2009), is Gage’s book most rooted in São Paulo. A skeleton is found in the woods on the outskirts of the city and Silva is summoned from his base in the capital, Brasilia, to unravel the web of politics and corruption in São Paulo. The series moves location from books to book, both urban settings and some investigations that take Silva into the Amazon jungle. All are well worth reading and cover such contemporary issues as pornography, organ theft, underage prostitution and the illegal destruction of the rain forest. Writing crime books seems to attract many from other walks of celebrity life – Gypsy Rose Lee, Anthony Bourdain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and various others… and so too the Brazilian musician and lead guitarist with Brazilian mega-rock band Titãs (who have released twenty albums and sold over six million records to date), Antonio Bellotto. Bellotto is São Paulo born and bred. He set his heart on becoming a guitarist in the mould of Hendrix or Clapton, but he also loved books. His first book, Bellini and the Sphinx (1994), features a detective who living in the São Paulo suburbs. It was a big success and later inspired a Brazilian movie. Bellini and the Sphinx finally got translated into English in 2019 and was praised by everyone including CrimeReads and the Chicago Review of Books. Several other books in the series, including the follow up to Bellini and the Sphinx, Bellini and the Devil (1997), Bellini and the Spirits (2005) and, Bellini and the Labyrinth (2014) are yet to be translated into English. Bellotto, who also is the long-running host of a popular television program focused on literature and music, Afinando a língua, has also gone on to edit São Paulo Noir (2018), for the consistently excellent Akashic Noir series which features writing by Bellotto as well as many other local Brazilian authors not much translated unfortunately – Olivia Maia, Marcelino Freire, Beatriz Bracher & Maria S. Carvalhosa, Fernando Bonassi, Marcelo Rubens Paiva, Marçal Aquino, Jô Soares, Mario Prata, Ferréz, Vanessa Barbara, Ilana Casoy, and Drauzio Varella. In his introduction to the book Bellotto notes that São Paulo includes a district known as Cracolândia (Crackland) and that among the violent and neglected communities spread along its periphery, one bears the ironic name Paraisópolis (Paradise City). Among these writers only Bellotto and Jô Soares have made it into English sadly. Soares’s Twelve Fingers: Biography of an Anarchist (2001) is a wild ride featuring Dimitri Borja Korozec, born in the late 1800s to a Brazilian contortionist mother and a fanatically nationalist Serbian linotypist father. Korozec is a Zelig-like character throughout the early twentieth century, and an assassin, who interacts with (among others!) Mata Hari, Al Capone, Carmen Miranda, Marie Curie, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, George Raft, and even the old English occultist Aleister Crowley. It’s not really crime, it’s not really fact or fiction…but it is fun. I feel it’s also worth mentioning a couple of non-fiction books that explore the underbelly of São Paulo. Gabriel Feltran is an ethnographer deeply immersed in the city. His study The Entangled City: Crime as Urban Fabric (2020) in São Paulo looks at many elements of the city’s criminal world including illegal markets, union busting, drug dealing and car theft. He studies the clash between the everyday the young black men of the favelas São Paulo’s white middle classes. Equally interesting is Teresa PR Caldeira’s City of Walls: Crime, Segregation, and Citizenship in São Paulo (2001). Caldeira examines the patterns and the dynamics of São Paulo crime by comparing the city to Los Angeles and other large global metropolises. And finally, as usual a book that does not perhaps neatly fit the crime fiction genre but is revealing of the city and contains insights into the inner, and often murky, workings of the place. In São Paulo’s case a good example is James Scudamore’s Heliopolis, long listed for the Booker Prize in 2009. It’s a rambling but insightful tale of the city – As a child Ludo is plucked out of the São Paulo shantytown where he is born and transported to a world of languid, cosseted luxury. At twenty-seven he finds himself working high above the sprawling metropolis for a vacuous ‘communications company’. But this is not his world, and this is not a simple rags-to-riches story: Ludo’s destiny moves him around like a chess piece, showing him both extremities of opulent excess and abject poverty, taking him to the brink of madness and brutality. Heliopolis, as much as Joe Thomas’s Paradise City, or pretty much all the other books on this list stress the extremes of São Paulo – rich and poor, black and white, lucky and unlucky, honest and corrupt. View the full article
  13. meth·od act·ing /ˈmeTHəd aktiNG/ noun a technique of acting in which an actor aspires to complete emotional identification with a part, based on the system evolved by Stanislavsky and brought into prominence in the US in the 1930s. Method acting was developed in institutions such as the Actors’ Studio in New York City, notably by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg, and is particularly associated with actors such as Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman. I didn’t start out aspiring to be a novelist and I came to it later than many. I was in my late thirties, the creative director of a NYC ad agency when I started writing screenplays. When one was stolen and produced, I learned how powerful Hollywood studios were and how expensive it would be to sue. My literary lawyer told me that if I wanted any control I needed to move to LA and really get involved in the business. But I wanted to stay in New York. “Writers in New York,” he said, “write novels.” And so it began. I had been an avid reader and always imagined writing a novel one day but the stolen screenplay was all the impetus I needed. Except I had no idea how to write a novel. I’d been working on screenplays with a writing partner whereas a novel was a solitary effort. Screenplays are spare in exactly the way novels are complex. Screenplays are all direction and dialog. Novels can be interior. One of the biggest differences between the two is that when you write a screenplay, you leave a lot out about the character in order to give the actors room to bring their art to the party. Not true with novels. After a dozen aborted attempts and reading too many “how to write a novel” books, I decided that I needed to know my characters in a much more intimate way than I was used to. Character development had never been my strength in the screenwriting process. That was my writing partner’s forte. Mine was description and plot. But here I was on my own. I had to figure it out. So, I turned something I knew about from the film world— the idea of method acting. I figured if the process helped actors inhabit their characters in deep and meaningful ways in order to bring them to life, then that’s what I’d do. After all, I was bringing them to life too, wasn’t I? Unlike Robert DeNiro, who gained 60 pounds to emulate Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, I’ve never gained weight to help me create a character. (Well, maybe a few extra pounds eating croissants for breakfast like one of my characters.) But I have done some rather unusual things. I studied phone sex with a sex worker who arranged for me to speak to one of her clients so I would understand how my characters would feel as a phone sex operator. I spent two months with a trans-life therapist to understand what it’s like to discover your past lives like one of my characters. I got a job as a perfumer’s assistant to understand how to create perfumes. Part of this method-writing that I do for every novel involves other aspects of my characters’ lives besides just their jobs. I listen to the music they listen to, I read the books they read and eat the food they eat. I also dress like my characters while I am creating them and need a talisman—something that belonged to my character—a touchstone if you will—to connect me to my imaginary friend on a very deep level. For The Secret Language of Stones I found a WW1 trench watch and never took it off. For The Library of Light and Shadow it was a piece of sea glass that my main character had found when she was a little girl. For The Seduction of Victor H., a fountain pen that I had to dip into ink to use, the same way my character did. For my latest book, finding that talisman came with a new complication. The main character in The Jeweler of Stolen Dreams is Suzanne Belperron. She was born in a tiny town in France 1900 and died in Paris in 1983, in between she created some of the most original and iconic jewelry of all time. “Her designs are so singular—bold, playful, anti-ornamental—that they tend to strip away one’s assumptions about jewelry in the latter half of the 20th century, if not in the period before World War II. Her effect was nearly that of Coco Chanel in fashion; Belperron’s sculptural shapes anticipated modern design and, like Chanel, she showed that high style could come from unfancy elements,” writes Cathy Horne in The New York Times. Despite being such an important designer, there are no autobiographies about Mme. Belperron. Her letters have never been published. If there are still people alive who knew her well enough to speak to me about her, I couldn’t find them. And while all of her more than 90 journals exist, the strict privacy laws in France, prevented me from learning anything more than I could find from the two coffee tables about her work. During her life Mme. was intensely private. She wanted her jewelry to glitter and shine. Not her. She gave few interviews and is described as being enigmatic. But in order to write about her, I had to inhabit her. But how do you find someone who wanted to remain hidden behind her gemstones. After months of sleuthing, I stumbled on a 1940s women’s magazine article focusing not just on the designer but the woman, she was. It listed what nail polish, eyes makeup and lipstick she wore. Scouring the internet I found all those products were still made. I ordered them and used them the whole time I was writing. I learned she favored minimalist clothes, mostly black—to show off her jewelry. That one was the only easy one—I pretty much only were black. (IYKYK- it’s a native New Yorker thing.) In a photo of her that accompanied the article, I was able to zero in on the shape of her fingernails and fashioned mine to match. The reporter wrote that Mme. Belperron loved baths. (Sadly, she died from a scalding hot bathing accident). I gave up my showers and for months only took baths. Even with all those efforts, one thing was missing. I was writing about a famous jeweler who exclusively wore the jewelry she designed. I became convinced I had to have a piece of her jewelry to wear. That I wouldn’t “find” her without it. But there was a problem. Never mass-produced, Mme. Belperron’s pieces are extremely costly and hard to come by. During her life she sold only to an exclusive clientele. Of the few pieces I saw in my search, not one was less than five figures. Many were six figures. Unlike the mascara she used, I couldn’t find a Belperron piece of jewelry to buy on eBay and wear to get into character. Except I was convinced I’d never “find” Mme. Belperron well enough to write about her unless I could wear a piece of jewelry that she had created. And so I set out to borrow a piece from an art connoisseur I had met while doing my research. Easier said than done when you are dealing with pieces worth at least five figures. Ms. X.s collects jewelry, paintings and sculpture. Her apartment is an Ali Baba’s cave of treasures. I never thought she’d agree to what I was asking. But she was intrigued. There were a few complications and conditions. Her insurance company had to agree to the loan (they agreed but required she take out a rider) and I had to agree in writing that I would not wear the borrowed jewelry out of my home. For six months I wore a simple 22 carat gold “moi and toi” ring designed by Mme. Belperron, created under her auspices and sold by her to one of her best clients. I also borrowed and wore a brooch of carved rock crystal and sapphires. How do you know when you’ve gotten the character right? When do you stop trying to find them and put them into words? When do you stop questioning if readers will be able to imagine the flesh and blood person that you’ve put down on the page? I can never predict when it will happen. But usually after the first draft of a novel is done and I’m well into the second draft, there will be a time when I’ll realized that it’s time to step out of the character’s shoes and back into my own. Or in this case, there was a day when I was typing and saw Mme. Belperron’s ring on my finger and knew that I needed to take it off and put my more modest one back on. The ghost of the stunning, world class designer and enigmatic woman had helped me find her character and her story through her creations. It was finally time for me to let her go and finish mine. *** View the full article
  14. A Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey October 11, 2022 · Little, Brown Spark Not a Book Rest is Resistance is a tiny book but it took me a long time to read because every sentence was a truth bomb that I needed to carefully absorb. This is a short book with a lot of repetition, but I felt it powerfully. I am so excited about this book, but I find it difficult to review because I just want to quote it. Essentially, this book crystallized a lot of things I’ve been learning recently about the importance of validating rest not only as self-care but as a way of rejecting the entire culture that reduces people to machines and values people only for their output. Shana: This book felt like the spiritual sequel of Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. While I liked Burnout, I thought it did a better job of assessing how women of color are damaged by modern society than it did at offering specific self care suggestions to us. Rest is Resistance roots its suggestions in the lived experience of Black women. From the introduction, it tries to speak to those of us who might not see rest as a realistic option, because we’re worried about money, overburdened, or driven by a strong sense of activism. Tricia Hersey is open in describing her life before she refocused on rest, and it’s basically my life right now—balancing multiple responsibilities, driven both by economic necessity and social justice. Carrie: The message of Rest is Resistance is right there in the title. Hersey posits that we are caught in grind culture, in a capitalistic and white supremacist society that attempts to reduce our value to what we produce. By exercising our right to rest we reclaim our humanity from a dehumanizing system. Hersey is adamant that rest is a means of resistance for everyone. However, she centers Black people because, historically and in the current day, they have been most deprived of rest. Claiming the right to rest is not an individual action in this context but rather a collective action that resists the dominant culture: The rigid idea that justice work centering Blackness, born from a lens of Black liberation, is only for Black people is limiting and false…The belief that what one does and experiences does not affect everyone around them is a myth and disease that Americans severely suffer from. When we don’t take our own rest while holding space for others around us to rest, we are functioning like the systems we want to gain freedom from. I found plenty in this book that spoke to me on many levels. It’s a book that insists that not only can I take a nap, or rest my eyes, or find a moment of pause in my day, but that I have an absolute RIGHT to do that, a duty to myself and my community to honor that need in myself and in others. Shana: I thought one of the strongest parts of the book was the way it gave you MANY reasons to give yourself a break, and also offered practical suggestions. The suggestions were both bite-sized like deleting an app or closing your eyes for one minute, and dramatic, like rethinking your purpose on Earth. I liked that the book is an inspirational sermon and super-duper actionable at the same time. When I said no to someone this week I heard Hersey in my head saying “…will you be able to one day say no to a request that doesn’t serve you?” Carrie: I’ve always struggled with “not being able to pour for others from an empty cup.” This book goes way beyond that concept: The concept of filling up your cup first, so you can have enough in it to pour to others feels off balance. It reeks of the capitalistic language that is now a part of our daily mantras…The cup metaphor also is most often geared toward women, who, because of patriarchy and sexism, carry the burden of labor…Our [Black and Latina] labor historically has been used to make the lives of white women less hectic and more relaxed…I propose that the cups all be broken into little pieces, and we replace pouring with resting and connecting with our bodies in a way that is centered on experimentation and repair. This paragraph suggests to me, or rather insists to me, that in addition to claiming my own right to rest, it is my responsibility to recognize my racial and class privilege and ally with marginalized communities to ensure that the right to rest is exercised by all. It also reinforces the message of the book that rest is a right in and of itself. It’s not something we should be doing so that we can do more, or produce more. It’s not saying that I should grab a nap so that I’ll have the energy for the next protest, or for the next job, or for the next task. It’s worthy in and of and for itself. I know that everyone who reads this will have a different “Holy Shirtballs” moment. I have pages and pages of to-do lists and piles of guilt about not completing everything on them, so my Holy Shirtballs moment was this: I know that if I never check another item off my to-do list, I am still worthy and loved by God and my ancestors. Bitches, I had to just sit down with that for a while. It was like I saw that sentence in capital letters of flame. Once more for the people in the back: I KNOW THAT IF I NEVER CHECK ANOTHER ITEM OFF MY TO-DO LIST, I AM STILL WORTHY AND LOVED BY GOD AND MY ANCESTORS. I’m a white atheist who does not share the same roots at Hersey, who gained this sense of self-worth from her upbringing in a church that preached Black Liberation theology, but this sentence still stopped me cold. Can that really be true? I’ve been thinking and thinking about this concept. It’s a true paradigm buster, one that challenges not only how I see myself but also how I see other people and my role within society. Shana: That’s a lovely thought. I have to say that even though Hersey refers to her work as the Nap Ministry, I was unprepared for how churchy the tone of this book was. I have a complicated relationship with religion and there were a lot of references to divinity, souls, and sacredness that personally didn’t work for me. But I still had many highlighted quotes in Rest in Resistance that spoke to me. Thinking about the sacrifices of my ancestors is often what drives me to sacrifice my time, my health, or my peace in service of other people. This book offers an alternative perspective on honoring one’s past, and it made me reflect on the different survival and resistance strategies of my own ancestors. This is a deeply accepting book, and it encouraged me to not only see myself as more than my labor, but to see my ancestors that way too. I loved that it directly linked how Black people resisted exploitation in the past, to how we can rest and resist in the present. Carrie: I recommend this book highly, especially in conjunction with Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price, which also explores the concept of rest from an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist viewpoint. It is VERY repetitive, but that worked well for me because I struggled so much emotionally with the concepts (are we SURE my worth isn’t tied to my to-do list?). Shana: I agree that the book is very repetitive. The main points are in the introduction, and the rest of the book doesn’t deviate much from those initial ideas. This is partly by design, because Hersey talks about the need to repeat something “over and over to ourselves as we deepen into this truth.” It took me a month to read this short book because I kept putting it down to go to sleep. So, I guess it’s effective! I would recommend this book for readers looking for a manifesto that encourages you to nap and dream more often, especially if you’re skeptical about whether resting more is possible for someone like you. View the full article
  15. Welcome back to Cover Awe, where we talk about things we like about book covers. Cover art by Jaime Jones Amanda: I love how the artist drew the different fabric textures and details! Sarah: I love this cover. I love looking at it, I love how subtle and stylish it is, I love the lighting. I love it. Cover art by Louisa Cannell Amanda: The coral and pinks of the outfit really make her standout. And yes, I want this outfit, though I’ll be changing out the heels for booties. Sarah: This is so cute. Cover art by Tamara Natalie Madden Maya: I was just flipping through a list of Caribbean authors and saw this!! (decidedly not a romance) Sneezy: Oh my GOD! Sarah: That is exquisite design. Cover art by Elizabeth Turner Stokes Amanda: The hero is a pastry chef for a cat cafe and I love the real time photo of a cat trying to trip a human. Seeing a lot more mischievous animals on book covers lately. View the full article
  16. Yesterday
  17. I’m thrilled to chat with Gretchen Roberts about her award-winning essay, “The Abandonment.” Gretchen shares the inspiration behind her piece, tips for editing, how science shapes her art, and a touching story her dear cat, Mr. Dooly. Gretchen’s Bio: Gretchen Roberts is a former biomedical research scientist with a PhD in Cell Biology and Genetics from the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in New York City. Her areas of research included cell motility, Alzheimer’s disease and, finally, the development of novel treatments for inoperable liver cancer. Doing science is a voracious user of time, leaving one with few hours to enjoy other interests and, although Gretchen loved science, she ultimately needed a change. After spending years following one dream, it was time to follow another. Retirement from science allowed her to rediscover her other passions, one of which was painting. Art and science both involve observation as they strive to understand the world, but it was the transition from objective to subjective interpretation that captured Gretchen’s imagination. A favorite subject for painting was her cat Mr. Dooly and, ironically, it was his death at the age of 19 that began Gretchen’s foray into writing. Writing about Mr. Dooly was both an homage to her beloved pet as well as a way to lessen the agony of loss. And thus another avenue of creativity opened as Gretchen began using writing to explore her life and the life around her. Gretchen currently lives in Manhattan and Greenport NY with her husband and their tabby cat Eloise. Interview by Angela Mackintosh WOW: Welcome, Gretchen, and congratulations on winning second place in WOW's Q1 Essay Contest! Writing about family and unhealthy relationships can be tough, and you covered so much ground in your essay, "The Abandonment." How did you pare down your piece to 1,000 words? Were there any specific methods you'd like to share? Gretchen: I had submitted this piece once before and bought the optional critique. I’d love to say that the improvement of the essay was all my doing, but the review was paramount, with the reviewer providing a combination of encouragement and suggestions. Things needing improvement were pointed out, such as some sentences being redundant and some phrases bordering on sentimentality. When I changed the wording, I saw what the reviewer meant. The most amazing change occurred when I started cutting out whole sections of writing. When sentences that I thought were necessary were slashed, the piece started to come alive. It was amazing how fewer words conveyed so much more. One hint is to get rid of modifiers and your sentence will have more power. I think I cut about 800 words and it was all because of the reviewer. My suggestion? Cut just one phrase and reread the piece. I bet you’ll find how easy it gets when you see the improvement. WOW: It's so true that cutting one phrase or a sentence can change an entire piece! What was your initial spark or way into the piece, and what do you hope readers will take away from this piece? Gretchen: The subject of this essay was from a period of my life that I rarely talk about. So, what made me go “public” with it and in such a dramatic way? First, I finally realized that the shortcomings of a parent says nothing about the child. Second, I did not cause what happened to me. Often when a person describes something their parent did that was hurtful, people will respond with “What did you do to make them do that?” Someone once told me that people need to feel in control. In my situation, wouldn’t it have been nice to think I had been in control of my mother’s actions, that I was the one pulling the strings. What better way to feel in control than to believe that if you had acted differently, bad things would not have occurred. The fact is that what happened to me was not the result of anything I did and could have happened to anyone. My essay says that things occur and I was not in control of it and I refuse to keep it buried any longer. The weight is off my shoulders. WOW: Your ending has got to be one of my favorites because it presents a realistic conclusion, and not one that's wrapped up in a nice bow, but one that provides hope. How did you decide on this ending? Was it always the same or did it change over time? Gretchen: Actually, the ending was exactly what happened and never changed from the first time I wrote it. I remember that day in my friend’s backyard and how we ran and jumped and ran until we were exhausted. And we really did make peach ice cream which we gobbled down as we sat in the hot sun. It was a beautiful day and I can still see those two little girls laughing. There’s something especially exhilarating about pretending to be a powerful animal, unleashing all the force of which you’re capable. I think it’s important that girls have a chance to do this, getting in touch with the capable and tough aspects of their personae. Maybe it was just my Baby Boomer generation that lacked outlets and/or encouragement for this type of letting loose, but it was a magnificent feeling soaring over those hastily contrived jumps that we had set up. WOW: I think we should still be able to pretend we're powerful animals as adults! Perhaps in our writing. Speaking of our animal companions, your bio says that after you retired from your science career it was your nineteen-year-old cat's death that prompted you to start writing. My condolences for your loss. I'm sure Mr. Dooly would be honored to know you've written about him. I also recently lost my nineteen-year-old cat, Jazzy, and I'm writing about her. Do you have any advice for those who are grieving the loss of a dear pet? Mr. DoolyGretchen: Mr. Dooly’s mother was a feral cat that frequented our Greenport backyard. One summer day I noticed two little kittens in our woodpile. It was unacceptable to have these two little ones outside, looking forward to nothing but a hard and probably short life in an environment for which they were not suited, so we had a local rescue group trap the kittens along with their mother. We had the mother spayed and, upon the recommendation of the rescue group, released her back outside. Sadly, she was killed by a car the next summer and I’ll always regret not trying to socialize her in order to keep her as an inside-only pet. We did end up keeping Mr. Dooly and his brother Jasper. Jasper died four years later from what his vet thought was an aortic aneurysm, but Mr. Dooly went on to live until he was 19 years and 4 months old. I slept on the couch with Mr. Dooly for what was to be our last night together. When he woke the next morning, the morning of the day he would die, he looked at me with so much love and happiness to see me. I had never seen that expression on his face before and it was his last gift to me. It was almost impossible for him to stand without help so I knew that it was time to put him to sleep. I made the call to the vet. After that, I felt nothing. Nothing. I often cried as he got older, wondering what I would do when he was gone, yet on the day he died, I was numb. I was in shock I realize now. If I had allowed myself to feel, I would not have had the strength to do what needed to be done. We went to the vet who gave Mr. Dooly a sedative and anti-anxiety agent and we waited for it to kick in. It was then that I started to feel. The tears streamed down my face as I told Mr. Dooly stories of when he was a kitten. I told him how much I loved him. I told him he was my baby. Then my vet injected an overdose of the drug that would end Mr. Dooly’s life. When he was dead, I threw my body over his as if to protect him and I yelled into his deaf ears how much I loved him. He was gone. I went home. I collected his things, his medicine, his stairs to the couch and bed and windowsill, his favorite toys. I put up a large framed photo of him on a bureau that I am looking at and, seven years later, it now brings a smile to my face, my tears having changed to feelings of gratitude that I had known him, that he had shared my life, that he had loved me. Do not judge yourself for how long you need to grieve. You loved your pet with all your heart and the tears will come when you are able to handle the pain. And they will come. Depth of mourning has no relation to depth of love. You grieve in your own special way, just as you love in your own special way. WOW: Oh Gretchen, your story is heart wrenching; but it's a blessing when feelings of loss change to gratitude over time. If we can stay in that space, it's a beautiful gift. Thank you for saying not to judge yourself for how long you need to grieve. Now that I'm wiping away a few tears, let me shift back to writing. How does your science background shape your art and writing? Gretchen: They’re all about creativity. People often don’t view science as especially creative, but the ability to imagine enables the researcher to formulate questions based on what has been shown. How art and creativity are related is more obvious. Both disciplines interpret what is around us, science being objective, art being subjective. I’ve always been a visual thinker, so transitioning between science and drawing and painting wasn’t difficult. Writing just seemed a natural segue from science, since science depends on clear writing to report your findings. A scientist sitting at the bench, designing an experiment or doing an experiment, relies on fluid thinking in order to transition between words and images and analysis. WOW: That makes sense! Anything else you'd like our readers to know? Gretchen: When I was in school I hated writing. I dreaded when we were assigned writing a short story and would sit staring at the blank piece of paper in front of me completely devoid of thought. I never knew how to start. It was only in my adult years that I realized it doesn’t matter where you begin to write, even if you start at the end. And I can only write when the mood hits me. In that sense, writing is like art. You can’t force it. Just let it come out when you feel the need to write. WOW: Fantastic advice! In fact, I have a project that might be solved if I start at the ending. Thank you so much for chatting with us today. Congratulations again, Gretchen, and wishing you much writing success in 2023! Find out more about WOW's flash fiction and creative nonfiction contests here: https://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]
  18. Welcome back to Get Rec’d! There’s a bit of an eclectic mix for this edition. We have a couple non-fiction titles, a mystery, and some urban fantasy with kooky vampires. My personal favorite of the bunch below (spoilers!) is the nature title, How Far the Light Reaches. How about you? Get any good book recs lately? Blackwater Falls For readers who love a police procedural, but are searching for a more diverse cast. From critically acclaimed author Ausma Zehanat Khan, Blackwater Falls is the first in a timely and powerful crime series, introducing Detective Inaya Rahman. Girls from immigrant communities have been disappearing for months in the Colorado town of Blackwater Falls, but the local sheriff is slow to act and the fates of the missing girls largely ignored. At last, the calls for justice become too loud to ignore when the body of a star student and refugee–the Syrian teenager Razan Elkader–is positioned deliberately in a mosque. Detective Inaya Rahman and Lieutenant Waqas Seif of the Denver Police are recruited to solve Razan’s murder, and quickly uncover a link to other missing and murdered girls. But as Inaya gets closer to the truth, Seif finds ways to obstruct the investigation. Inaya may be drawn to him, but she is wary of his motives: he may be covering up the crimes of their boss, whose connections in Blackwater run deep. Inaya turns to her female colleagues, attorney Areesha Adams and Detective Catalina Hernandez, for help in finding the truth. The three have bonded through their experiences as members of vulnerable groups and now they must work together to expose the conspiracy behind the murders before another girl disappears. Delving deep into racial tensions, and police corruption and violence, Blackwater Falls examines a series of crimes within the context of contemporary American politics with compassion and searing insight. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. How Far the Light Reaches There have been some great nature and science titles out in the last couple years, and if you want to keep that same energy going, try this one! A fascinating tour of creatures from the surface to the deepest ocean floor, inviting us to envision wilder, grander, and more abundant possibilities for the way we live. “A miraculous, transcendental book.” (Ed Yong, author of An Immense World) One of TIME’s 10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Year • A PEOPLE Best New Book • A Barnes & Noble and SHELF AWARENESS Best Book of 2022 • An Indie Next Pick • One of Winter’s Most Eagerly Anticipated Books: VANITY FAIR, VULTURE, BOOKRIOT A queer, mixed race writer working in a largely white, male field, science and conservation journalist Sabrina Imbler has always been drawn to the mystery of life in the sea, and particularly to creatures living in hostile or remote environments. Each essay in their debut collection profiles one such creature, including: the mother octopus who starves herself while watching over her eggs, the Chinese sturgeon whose migration route has been decimated by pollution and dams, the bizarre, predatory Bobbitt worm (named after Lorena), the common goldfish that flourishes in the wild, and more. Imbler discovers that some of the most radical models of family, community, and care can be found in the sea, from gelatinous chains that are both individual organisms and colonies of clones to deep-sea crabs that have no need for the sun, nourished instead by the chemicals and heat throbbing from the core of the Earth. Exploring themes of adaptation, survival, sexuality, and care, and weaving the wonders of marine biology with stories of their own family, relationships, and coming of age, How Far the Light Reaches is a shimmering, otherworldly debut that attunes us to new visions of our world and its miracles. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Lonely City I have a frequent reader who wants themes of loneliness and living alone in the TBR pile and this is one of my top picks I grabbed for them. Named a best book of the year by NPR, Newsweek, Slate, Pop Sugar, Marie Claire, Elle, Publishers Weekly, and Lit Hub A dazzling work of biography, memoir, and cultural criticism on the subject of loneliness, told through the lives of iconic artists, by the acclaimed author of The Trip to Echo Spring. When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by the most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks to Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules, from Henry Darger’s hoarding to David Wojnarowicz’s AIDS activism, Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed. Humane, provocative, and moving, The Lonely City is a celebration of a strange and lovely state, adrift from the larger continent of human experience, but intrinsic to the very act of being alive. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant For my What We Do in the Shadows fans! Vampires don’t always have to be seductive and clad in leather. Some people are born boring. Some live boring. Some even die boring. Fred managed to do all three, and when he woke up as a vampire, he did so as a boring one. Timid, socially awkward, and plagued by self-esteem issues, Fred has never been the adventurous sort. One fateful night – different from the night he died, which was more inconvenient than fateful – Fred reconnects with an old friend at his high school reunion. This rekindled relationship sets off a chain of events thrusting him right into the chaos that is the parahuman world, a world with chipper zombies, truck driver wereponies, maniacal necromancers, ancient dragons, and now one undead accountant trying his best to “survive.” Because even after it’s over, life can still be a downright bloody mess. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  19. Last week
  20. While we all want to stay on top of what’s current about craft, be alerted to the latest conferences, and connect with fellow writers on social media, staying informed about the business side of writing and publishing is some (or many) might say, a necessary evil. To save you from spending hours scrolling through websites to find insights into the business side of writing, we’ve curated a list of recent posts for you to dig into or peruse at your leisure. We hope you’ll find value in these and share the links with anyone else who might want to keep up with the latest. Well, 2023 has started off with a publishing bang. Lots of news, everything from AI’s increasing presence to suggested prison time for our literary guardians who refused to remove banned books—our librarians. AI Artificial Intelligence and the growing questions and concerns surrounding it, continue to make headlines. A decade of research is generating a more powerful and more mature breed of A.I. A link to the best AI writing software. A writer lets her AI “assistant” write her bio with some pretty funny results, and editor and author, Tiffany Yates Martin, muses about what AI may mean for authors. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/07/technology/generative-ai-chatgpt-investments.html https://foxprinteditorial.com/2023/01/12/what-does-ai-mean-for-writers-i-asked-it/?fbclid=IwAR26nkrhkttyWECNyrPJWvq3u_dxurJeVJxBPHzXYAczbSjwHaR_SRnbK5Y https://www.thepassivevoice.com/25-best-ai-writing-software-for-2023-best-picks/ https://janeroper.substack.com/p/my-new-intern-helped-write-this-post?fbclid=IwAR2lAeNylq2XOOUhEiCp748sO8lDi3RFIlcZaJjTCdknH5YhpqmFI6xT5bA Audiobooks AI enters audiobook territory as Apple unveils AI narrated audiobooks. Will the rising demand for audiobooks create opportunity for authors or will new auto-narrated audiobook creation simply expand the offering of text-to-speech technology. And a boom in Spanish language audiobooks. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/jan/04/apple-artificial-intelligence-ai-audiobooks?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR1ehtu0IlGnu5TTRy9j9qAZoVy8PY8teNM9DsayOWIroc-PSq7FiM6BzAU https://medium.com/@elisechidleyauthor/audiobooks-the-future-of-publishing-d604c499be05 https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/bookwire-expands-its-text-to-speech-audiobook-offer-with-google-play-books/ https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/sonic-boom-spanish-language-audiobooks-are-soaring/ Book Banning and Book Shaming At least one state wants prison time for librarians who refuse to remove banned books, and a New York Times opinion piece takes a look back at the fallout from “American Dirt.” https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/north-dakota-weighs-ban-sexually-explicit-library-books-rcna66271?cid=sm_npd_nn_tw_ma https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/26/opinion/american-dirt-book-publishing.html Book Conferences Check out some of the book Conferences, Fairs and Festivals slated for the first half of 2023. https://admin.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/trade-shows-events/article/91209-select-book-conferences-fairs-festivals-january-june-2023.html?ref=PRH31DC42C11CC5&linkid=PRH31DC42C11CC5&cdi=321A47B01E594547E0534FD66B0AE227&template_id=6179&aid=randohouseinc45523-20 Bookstores In a surprising turnaround, Barnes & Noble plans to open 30 more stores. https://tedgioia.substack.com/p/what-can-we-learn-from-barnes-and?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email&fbclid=IwAR2hhrdP7MJkRfe9voC9tCrEXBSJMdTyIFFacNDAMODWlrf8HqvXX43blz0 Environmental Concerns French publisher, Hachette Livre intends to use 100-percent renewable energy by 2026, by reducing overproduction, freight, and more. An shining example for publishers in the US? https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/frances-hachette-livre-a-30-percent-carbon-reduction-by-2030/ International Publishers The first report from the Börsenverein on the German book market’s 2022 performance depicts “a major economic challenge,” and the UK’s Independent Publishers Guild is planning a digital showcase of books in the guild’s collective stands at the London Book Fair in April of this year. https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/germanys-borsenverein-2022-book-sales-down-2-1-percent/ https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/exact-editions-to-showcase-ipg-publishers-books-at-london-book-fair/ Libraries Digital lends at libraries at record levels. How often do you borrow ebooks from the library? https://www.thepassivevoice.com/record-number-of-libraries-surpassed-one-million-digital-lends-in-2022/ Publishing News and Trends A new report says that publishers are planning to create most of their revenue through subscriptions and memberships. Also, with negotiations stalled, Random House and the union have agreed to employ an independent mediator to help end a strike that has stretched on since early November. And New York Magazine talks about what Penguin Random House’s Failed Bid to Eat S&S Means for Publishing. And Centrello, president and publisher of Random House, retires after 23 years. https://whatsnewinpublishing.com/brace-for-an-explosion-of-automated-or-semi-automated-media-publisher-insights-from-reuters-institute/ https://www.thepassivevoice.com/markus-dohles-big-flop-what-penguin-random-houses-failed-bid-to-eat-ss-means-for-publishing/ https://www.thebookseller.com/news/centrello-president-and-publisher-of-random-house-retires-after-23-years?ref=PRH31DC42C11CC5&linkid=PRH31DC42C11CC5&cdi=321A47B01E594547E0534FD66B0AE227&template_id=6179&aid=randohouseinc45523-20 https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/91377-harpercollins-harperunion-move-to-solve-labor-dispute-with-independent-mediator.html Publishing Predictions A look back at 2022 and a few predictions for audiobooks, digital sales, and self-publishing 2023. And it’s all good. More on the Harper-Collins strike. https://www.thepassivevoice.com/laurie-mcleans-crystal-ball-publishing-predictions-for-2023/ https://prismreports.org/2023/01/23/harper-collins-worker-author-solidarity/ Sales in 2022 Taking a look back at book sales from 2022 and making some not-so-certain predictions for 2023. https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/us-2022-sales-in-the-rear-view-mirror-second-highest-at-npd/ https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/aaps-october-statshot-us-revenues-down-5-1-percent-year-to-date/ Have you come across any opportunities or news dealing with the business side of publishing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  21. B- Witchful Thinking by Celestine Martin September 27, 2022 · Forever Romance Witchful Thinking is a dreamy, magical, sensual novel that is enchanting. It also put me to sleep. It has all the whimsy and sweetness of, say, Practical Magic, but none of the page-turning conflict or excitement that might keep one glued to the story. It’s the chamomile tea of books. Our story involves a family of witches who live in Freya Grove, a seaside town that boasts a carnival every year, a cakewalk that is more competitive than I recall cake walks being, a karaoke contest, and other enjoyable pursuits. The heroine, Lucy, is a witch who teaches high school, and I’m so very pleased that she has an actual recognizable job as lately my books have been full of increasingly odd professions like “erotic baker” and “erotic stationary designer.” Just to keep me on my toes, Lucy also creates tea blends and reads tea leaves as a side gig. Lucy is very settled in her family town, but she longs for excitement, and when a wish turns into a spell, she finds herself baking French desserts, singing karaoke, and flirting with her childhood love, Alex. Alex, our hero, is a merman (!!!) who is back in town after wandering the world as a photographer and going through a bad breakup with his fiancee. His parents surprise him with the gift of a house, which he intends to sell as soon as possible since he never stays in one place. He’s so sure that he will never settle down that he believes he can’t possibly be Lucy’s soulmate. Lucy is also sure he’ll leave and that therefore this must be a temporary thing. But as Lucy helps Alex get his house ready to sell, the bond between them grows more powerful. There’s a ton of atmosphere in the book. If whimsical small town kitchen witch tropes aren’t your thing, then this will not work for you. There’s also home renovation, mostly limited to home redecorating. You can’t start a new paragraph without tripping on an old spellbook or a ship in a bottle or some very tasty sounding iced tea blends. That’s not a complaint, just a statement of fact so y’all know what you’re getting into. Lucy and Alex have great chemistry, but this is one of those books in which there is no real reason for the lovers to be apart and everyone, but everyone, knows they will end up together if they just stop getting in their own way, so I got pretty impatient with their romance. Like all the supporting characters, I felt a deep desire to yell at them to get over themselves already,get married and have some cute little merbabies. I liked that the romance took a long time to develop, because I think that’s realistic, but I didn’t like all the hand wringing about it. My favorite thing about them as a couple was Alex’s constant and unconditional support of Lucy’s new adventures. At one point Lucy runs a race and is mortified to come in last. His response to her question, “What will people think?” is to help her think back to the response she got as she staggered past the finish line, and the pride and applause she got from the crowd. It’s a truly lovely moment of affirmation. The closest thing this book has to an antagonist is Lucy’s cousin Ursula, who is trying to plan her (Ursula’s) wedding to a man she CLEARLY should not be marrying. Ursula is demanding and insecure and kinda mean but she is also so transparently miserable that I just felt awful for her. This book leaves Ursula hanging, presumably as sequel bait, and I felt so stressed out by her unresolved unhappiness that I couldn’t fully enjoy Lucy’s HEA. I liked that this book was, generally, very cozy and low-key, but its very slow-burn cozy vibe also meant that I kept putting it down and walking off and forgetting all about it. I also felt that there were a lot of story elements that didn’t get enough attention. In fact, I ended up having my own set of wishes for the book. I wish it had: A more detailed explanation of the magical system, its history or tradition, and how the rules of it work for those who have magic. A more detailed explanation of what it is like to be a merperson. A full story in which everyone gets a resolution instead of being left as sequel bait. More clarity about what the wish spell does and how it works. More information about Alex’s house and the gnomes who live in it and the complicated history of the house. More recognition of the fact that Lucy has a full time job as a high school teacher and that the fact that she teaches teenagers all day is, in itself, an amazing achievement. This is a gentle, whimsical, slow-burn romance and I think that some people will like it very much. Personally, I found it to be both too gentle and unsettling, depriving me of a happy ending for supporting characters while also having a glacial pace. It’s a fine comfort read and those who love these kinds of tropes and can deal with very low conflict and slow plot will enjoy it. View the full article
  22. The transcript for Podcast 548. Enthusiastic Sex and Podcasting (not at the same time) with Emily Nagoski 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
  23. Rocking. Gentle at first. A lullaby. Rock-a-bye baby. Then harder. Rougher. Her head banged against glass. Her body rolled back the other way and she was falling. Onto the floor. Hard. “Ow. Shit.” Her heart spiked and her eyes shot open. “What the fuck?” She rubbed at her throbbing elbow and stared around. Her eyes felt like someone had rubbed grit into them. Her brain felt like wet sludge. You’ve fallen out of bed. But where? She sat up. Not a bed. A wooden bench. Running around the side of an oval-shaped room. A room that was moving from side to side. Outside, gray sky, swirling flakes of snow. Glass all around. Nausea swept over her. She fought it down. There were more people in here, sprawled on the wooden benches. Five of them. Bundled up in identical blue snowsuits. Like her, Meg realized. All of them here in this small, swaying room. Buffeted by the wind, snow caking the glass. This isn’t a room. Rooms don’t move, stupid. She pushed herself to her feet. Her legs felt shaky. Nausea bubbled again. Got to get a handle on that, she thought. There was nowhere to be sick. She walked unsteadily to one side of the room-that-was-not-a-room. She stared out of the glass, pressing her hands and nose against it like a child staring out at the first snow of Christmas. Below—way below—the snow-tipped forest. Above, a frenzy of flakes in a vast gray sky. “Fuck.” More rocking. The roar of the wind, muted by the thick glass all around, like a hungry animal contained behind bars. Fresh white splatters hit the glass, distorting her vision. But Meg had seen enough. A groan from behind her. Another of the blue-clad bodies was waking up, unfurling like an ungainly caterpillar. He or she—it was hard to tell with the hood on—sat up. The others were stirring now too. For one moment, Meg had an insane notion that when they turned their faces toward her they would be decomposed, living dead. The man—mid-thirties, heavy beard—stared at her blearily. He pushed back his hood and rubbed at his head, which was shorn to dark stubble. “What the fuck?” He looked around. “Where am I?” “You’re on a cable car.” “A what?” “Cable car. You know, a car that hangs on cables—” He stared at her aggressively. “I know what a cable car is. I want to know what the hell I’m doing on one.” Meg stared calmly back. “I don’t know. D’you remember getting here?” “No. You?” “No.” “The last thing I remember is . . .” His eyes widened. “Are you . . .are you going to the Retreat?” The Retreat. The deliberately ambiguous name made it sound like a health spa. But it didn’t imbue Meg with any feelings of well-being. On the contrary, it sent schisms of ice jittering down her spine. The Retreat. She didn’t reply. She looked back outside. “Right now, we’re not going anywhere.” They both stared into the gray void, more patches of snow obscuring the glass. A snowstorm. A bad one. “We’re stuck.” “Stuck? Did you say we’re stuck?” Meg turned. A woman stood behind her, around her own age. Red hair. Pinched features. Panic in her voice. Possibly a problem. Meg didn’t answer right away. She regarded the other people in the car. One was still curled up asleep, hood over his face. Some people could sleep through anything. The other two—a short, stout man with a mop of dark curls and an older, silver-haired man with glasses—were sitting up, stretching and looking around. They seemed dazed but calm. Good. “It looks that way,” she said to the woman. “Probably just a power outage.” “Power outage. Oh, great. Bloody marvelous.” “I’m sure the car will be moving again soon.” This from the bearded man. His previous aggression had dissipated. He offered the woman a small smile. “We’ll be fine.” A lie. Even if the car started moving, even if they reached their destination, they were not going to be fine. But lies were the grease that oiled daily life. The woman smiled back at the man. Comforted. Job done. “Did you say we’re on a cable car?” the older man asked. “I don’t remember anyone mentioning getting on a cable car.” “Does anyone remember anything?” Meg asked, looking around. They glanced at one another. “We were in our rooms.” “They brought some breakfast.” “Tasted like crap.” “Then . . . I must have fallen asleep again—” More confused looks. “No one remembers a thing after that?” Meg said. “Not till they woke up here?” They shook their heads. The bearded man exhaled slowly. “They drugged us.” “Don’t be ridiculous,” the red-haired woman said. “Why would they do that?” “Well, obviously so we wouldn’t know where we’re going, or how we got here,” the short man said. “I just I can’t believe they would do that.” Funny, Meg thought. Even now, after everything that had happened, people struggled to believe the things that “they” would do. But then, you can’t see the eye of the storm when you’re inside it. “Okay,” the bearded man said. “Seeing as we’re literally stuck here with time to kill, why don’t we introduce ourselves? I’m Sean.” “Meg,” said Meg. “Sarah,” the red-haired woman offered. “Karl.” The short man gave a small wave. “Max.” The older man smiled. “Good to meet you all.” “I guess we’re all here for the same reason, then?” Sean said. “We’re not supposed to talk about it,” Sarah said. “Well, I think it’s pretty safe to assume—” “To assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘you’ and ‘me.’ ” Meg stared at Sarah. “My boss used to say that.” “Really?” “Yeah. Used to annoy the fuck out of me.” Sarah’s lips pursed. Max broke in. “So, what do you…… I mean, what did you all do, before?” “I taught,” Sarah said. Quelle surprise, Meg thought. “I used to be a lawyer,” Max said. He held his hands up. “I know— sue me.” “I worked in bouncy castles,” Karl said. They looked at him. And burst into laughter. A sudden, nervous release. “Hey!” Karl looked affronted, but only mildly. “There’s good money in bouncy castles. At least, there used to be.” “What about you?” Meg asked Sean. “Me? Oh, this and that. I’ve had a few jobs.” A gust of wind caused the cable car to sway harder. “Oh God.” Sarah clutched at her neck. She wore a small silver crucifix. Meg wondered how many more reasons she could find to dislike the woman. “So we’re an eclectic bunch,” Max said. “And ‘ass’ or not, I assume we’re all heading to the Retreat?” Karl said, raising his bushy eyebrows. Slowly, one by one, they all nodded. “Volunteers?” More nods. Only two types of people went to places like the Retreat. Volunteers and those who had no choice. “So, is now the time to discuss our reasons?” Max said. “Or shall we save that for when we get there?” “If we get there,” Sarah said, looking at the steel cables above them nervously. Sean was eyeing the sleeping figure in the corner. “Do you think we should wake up Sleeping Beauty?” Meg frowned. Then she stood and walked over to the prone figure. She shook his shoulder gently. He rolled off the bench and hit the floor with a thud. Behind her, Sarah screamed. Meg suddenly realized two things. She knew this man. And he wasn’t asleep. He was dead. Excerpted from The Drift by C.J. Tudor. Copyright © 2023 by Betty & Betty Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. View the full article
  24. Gianna Theodore in Kyle Abraham’s Our Indigo: If We Were a Love Song. Over the past year I have read and reread Angelica Nuzzo’s book Approaching Hegel’s Logic, Obliquely, in which Nuzzo guides the reader through Hegel’s Science of Logic. Nuzzo presents the question of how we are to think about history as it unfolds amid chaos and relentless crises. How, in other words, are we to find a means to think outside the incessant whirr of our times? The answer she provides is one I find wholly satisfactory: it is through the work of Hegel that we are best able to think about and think through the current state of the world, precisely because his work is itself an exploration of thinking—particularly Science of Logic, as Nuzzo eloquently explains: Hegel’s dialectic-speculative logic is the only one that aims at—and succeeds in—accounting for the dynamic of real processes: natural, psychological but also social, political, and historical processes. It is a logic that attempts to think of change and transformation in their dynamic flux not by fixating movement in abstract static descriptions but by performing movement itself. By tracking the movement of the mind, a movement that is incessant and fluid, we are best equipped to study the crises of our time as they occur. In particular, we are best able to examine and analyze the structure of capitalism itself, a structure which is formed by exchange value and is thus a system of infinite repetition and reproduction. A system of infinite plasticity—appropriating everything it comes in contact with. A system, in other words, akin to that of the mind. Hegel does not merely explain how the mind works but enacts its very movement. He places us in the center of its whirr. —Cynthia Cruz, author of “Charity Balls” For the past few months, I’ve been reading novels about white women settlers in colonial and post-independent Africa. Many of the protagonists I’ve encountered are coming of age; their journeys are heroes’ journeys, culminating in a coupling that enshrines, perhaps paradoxically, their so-called independence, a process that is almost always set against an independence movement, whether a successful or an ongoing one. In Nadine Gordimer’s The Late Bourgeois World, published in 1966 and set during apartheid, Liz Van Den Sandt is already divorced. Her ex-husband, a militant communist who has disavowed his Boer upbringing, has just drowned himself. She feels no sympathy for him, although she is convinced that his tactics (acting as a rogue bomber, and then as an informant once he was caught) were righteous: “he went after the right things, even if perhaps it was the wrong way,” she tells their son, who is completely undisturbed by the news of his father’s death. “If he failed, well, that’s better than making no attempt.” But Liz herself seems without conviction altogether: having left political life, she has now taken as her part-time lover a man with good taste and no political conscience. Nevertheless, she feels herself distinct from the consumer-driven white women around her, “the good citizens who never had any doubt about where their allegiance lay.” When she is asked by a former black political ally (another sometimes lover) to take a potentially risky action, she can see no reason not to. And yet she hesitates and finds excuses, seeing in her ally’s pleas only what she imagines he projects onto her. I don’t know if I liked or disliked the book. Some parts I found pleasurable, and other parts painful and intolerable. But as a data point, I found its cynical literalism intriguing. “A sympathetic white woman hasn’t got anything to offer,” she muses, “except the footing she keeps in the good old white Reserve of banks and privileges.” In exchange, all she can hope for is the possibility of sex, “this time or next time.” —Maya Binyam, contributing editor Recently, I’ve been obsessed with a video recording of a performance I saw last April at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston: three works by the choreographer Kyle Abraham, among them the haunting Our Indigo: If We Were a Love Song. Abraham has become well-known for large-scale collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, and Sufjan Stevens. But Love Song is understated: it’s a curation of solos, duos, and trios set to Nina Simone, each of them a private moment or choreographic journal entry. The dance makes me want to move and groove, while also rooting me to the spot, so arresting is its beauty. In a solo set to Simone’s “Little Girl Blue,” Gianna Theodore coils her way across the space in a sequence of delicate and acrobatic floor work. In a kind of silent break dance, she lays her whole body weight into the ground only to spring back up in time with the music. “Why won’t somebody send a tender blue boy,” Simone sings, as Theodore moves effortlessly between crouching and standing, “to cheer up little girl blue.” In the video, Theodore appears against a shocking yellow-and-white tile wall wearing a simple navy dress. Though the close-up shots elide some of her larger movements, they also draw me close to her private sensations and memories. Watching Theodore’s blue dress trail on the ground, her hands checking the hem as she kneels, I encounter my own sense memories: the silhouette of my grandmother, dancer-thin behind a cloud of cigarette smoke, humming along to Nina Simone. To see Abraham’s work performed by his company, A.I.M., is a particular treat, so fluent the dancers are in his physical language. You can catch them performing Our Indigo: If We Were a Love Song in New York at the Joyce Theater April 4–9. —Elinor Hitt, reader View the full article
  25. The Duke Heist The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley is $1.99! This is book one in a new series and was mentioned on a previous Hide Your Wallet. Elyse was super excited about the heist element and I feel like the other books in the series have been talked about positively here. A NYT bestselling author kicks off a new Regency series of “irresistible romance and a family of delightful scoundrels” as a woman looking to recover a stolen painting accidentally kidnaps a duke instead. (Eloisa James) Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable—a curse that gives her the ability to blend into any crowd. When the only father she’s ever known makes a dying wish for his adopted family of orphans to recover a missing painting, she’s the first one her siblings turn to for stealing it back. No one expects that in doing so, she’ll also abduct a handsome duke. Lawrence Gosling, the Duke of Faircliffe, is tortured by his father’s mistakes. To repair his estate’s ruined reputation, he must wed a highborn heiress. Yet when he finds himself in a carriage being driven hell-for-leather down the cobblestone streets of London by a beautiful woman who refuses to heed his commands, he fears his heart is hers. But how can he sacrifice his family’s legacy to follow true love? Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Spinster and the Rake The Spinster and the Rake by Eva Devon is 99c! This is the first book in the Never a Wallflower historical romance series. The book description says it’s a mix between My Fair Lady and Pride and Prejudice. Have you read this one? The marriage game is afoot in this clever blend of My Fair Lady meets Pride and Prejudice with a twist! Edward Stanhope, the icy Duke of Thornfield, likes his life in a certain order. Give him a strong drink, a good book, and his dog for company, and he’s content. But when he goes to his library and finds a woman sitting in his chair, petting his dog, what starts as a request for her to leave quickly turns to a fiery battle of wits, leading to a steamy kiss that could ruin them both if they were caught. So of course, damn it all, that’s when Edward’s aunt walks in, and thereafter announces Miss Georgiana Bly is the future Duchess of Thornfield. Georgiana was content to be a spinster, spending her days reading and working to keep her family out of debt. But now her days are spent locked away with a growly duke, learning how to be the perfect duchess, and her nights spent fighting the undeniable attraction to a man who was never meant for her. As their wedding day approaches, the attraction between them burns hot and fierce, but is it enough to melt the duke’s chilly facade? Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. She Gets the Girl She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick is $1.99! This is a new adult romance that was mentioned on both Cover Awe and Hide Your Wallet (Tara’s pick!). Did any of you pick this one up? She’s All That meets What If It’s Us in this swoon-worthy hate-to-love YA romantic comedy from #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Five Feet Apart Rachael Lippincott and debut writer Alyson Derrick. Alex Blackwood is a little bit headstrong, with a dash of chaos and a whole lot of flirt. She knows how to get the girl. Keeping her on the other hand…not so much. Molly Parker has everything in her life totally in control, except for her complete awkwardness with just about anyone besides her mom. She knows she’s in love with the impossibly cool Cora Myers. She just…hasn’t actually talked to her yet. Alex and Molly don’t belong on the same planet, let alone the same college campus. But when Alex, fresh off a bad (but hopefully not permanent) breakup, discovers Molly’s hidden crush as their paths cross the night before classes start, they realize they might have a common interest after all. Because maybe if Alex volunteers to help Molly learn how to get her dream girl to fall for her, she can prove to her ex that she’s not a selfish flirt. That she’s ready for an actual commitment. And while Alex is the last person Molly would ever think she could trust, she can’t deny Alex knows what she’s doing with girls, unlike her. As the two embark on their five-step plans to get their girls to fall for them, though, they both begin to wonder if maybe they’re the ones falling…for each other. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Satisfaction Guaranteed RECOMMENDED: Satisfaction Guaranteed by Karelia Stetz-Waters is $2.99! Both Tara and Shana reviewed this one and gave it an A: Shana: I stayed up late reading Satisfaction Guaranteed because I just couldn’t put it down. This book reminded me why I love contemporary romances—experiencing the heady rush of falling in love through characters that feel so real, they could walk off the page and into one of my dinner parties. Reading this brought me such joy. Opposites attract in this playful and laugh-out-loud rom-com from Lambda Award finalist Karelia Stetz-Waters. Cade Elgin has a life and career in New York City, and she’s determined to get back to both as soon as possible after her aunt’s funeral in Portland. However, when she unexpectedly inherits her aunt’s sex toy store — and has to save it from foreclosure — Cade realizes she’s not going anywhere. But making Share the Love profitable won’t be as easy as Cade had hoped. Her new partner has an infuriating lack of business sense, and an infuriating ability to turn Cade on. Selena Mathis knows that nothing is more important than saving Share the Love. Not her pride, not her inconvenient attraction toward her new business partner. Cade may be more buttoned-up than Selena usually goes for, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to turn the store around. But the more they work together, the harder it becomes for Selena to ignore her growing feelings for Cade. And she starts to wonder if there is something more important than saving Share the Love. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  26. Nils and Beth are back with another buddy read book review. This time round, one of their most anticipated books of the year! It’s been a long wait, will it be worth it? Amina al-Sirafi should be content. After a storied and scandalous career as one of the Indian Ocean’s most notorious pirates, she’s survived backstabbing rogues, vengeful merchant princes, several husbands, and one actual demon to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural. But when she’s tracked down by the obscenely wealthy mother of a former crewman, she’s offered a job no bandit could refuse: retrieve her comrade’s kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. The chance to have one last adventure with her crew, do right by an old friend, and win a fortune that will secure her family’s future forever? It seems like such an obvious choice that it must be God’s will. Yet the deeper Amina dives, the more it becomes alarmingly clear there’s more to this job, and the girl’s disappearance, than she was led to believe. For there’s always risk in wanting to become a legend, to seize one last chance at glory, to savor just a bit more power…and the price might be your very soul. The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi is expected for release on 28th February 2023 and is available to pre-order: US – Bookshop.org | UK – Waterstones All quotes used are taken from an early ARC and are subject to change upon publication. What were you expecting going into this one? Beth: After absolutely loving the Daevabad trilogy, I couldn’t wait to explore a new world from Chakraborty. I think she’s become an auto-buy author for me, but also, because I’d read Daevabad with you Nils, I was very much looking forward to buddy reading her again. Nils: I felt the same, we had such a blast reading Daevabad together and Chakraborty is wonderful at creating stories and characters which hold enough depth and nuance to discuss in great detail, doesn’t she? They’re always so three dimensional. I was very much hyped for Amina Al-Sirafi, I’d been hearing about this book for over a year through Chakraborty’s Instagram page and every bit of it sounded like something I’d absolutely love. I wasn’t wrong. Beth: She’d been teasing us for quite some time! The tantalising little bits Chakraborty had been sharing about her new book, the extracts and art on instagram etc, really got me excited – I love a nautical/piratical fantasy, and Chakraborty was setting it in the Middle East, in the middle ages, with older protagonists and a female m/c. It was just everything that was ticking my boxes and after Daevabad and The Stardust Thief, I wanted to read more fantasy set in the Middle East inspired by mythology and folklore from that part of the world. Nils: I actually haven’t read any nautical fantasy books, or none which I can recall, so this was something new to me. Yet the idea of Amina being this infamous gutsy female pirate putting her crew back together for an adventure ticked all my boxes. I also knew it would feature themes of motherhood, cultural identity, and that it would be set in the Middle East with an ethnically diverse cast, so I was even more excited. What are our first impressions? Beth: Straight off the bat I knew this wasn’t going to let me down. Before we get to chapter one, we have a note from our narrator about the text we’re about to read, and I absolutely loved that. Nils: Same! The opening line begins with “In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate” and for our narrator to be unapologetically a person who holds such strong faith, thoroughly warmed me. Beth: Yes, that’s such a great point! I’m so used to reading fantasy religions that are quite often based on Christianity; the only other fantasy I’ve read which includes the Muslim faith is Daevabad! I really enjoy framed narratives and taking into account the voice of the narrator as a character in of themself. As narrators go, they made me feel in perfectly safe hands, and throughout the story there are little breaks where our narrator interacts with our protagonist whose story they’re telling, and it just lifted the whole experience for me. Nils: I agree, having a framed narrative worked perfectly for this book, it added character and set the tone for the story which was about to unfold. It compelled me to dive right in. Get it, dive?!! Beth, how many nautical puns can we add??? Beth: Nils. No. Nils: It has to be done!! Beth: Stop making a splash Nils: Aye, aye! Beth: But going back to first impressions, the narrator’s note sets us up perfectly for a story of a woman who doesn’t allow age and motherhood to hold her back. When we actually meet Captain Amina al-Sirafi in the first chapter, she’s witty, she suffers no fools, and she leads us straight into action. It was such an exciting beginning, wasn’t it Nils! Nils: Absolutely! As soon as we meet Amina we realise how capable, strong willed, defiant and protective she is. Her first scene we see her facing a demon to save two witless teenagers from being devoured. Her legendary exploits certainly ring true and her personality fits the tales told about her, even if they are a little exaggerated. You know what I really wasn’t expecting though? The humour! The banter! As much as I love books which can make me cry, I’m also a sucker for ones which make me laugh. Chakraborty has shown she excels at both. Amina and her motley crew made me laugh beginning to end. Beth: I was expecting great banter and dialogue, but you’re right, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so funny! “She looks like a giant.” His companion squeezed my bicep. “ By God, woman. What do you eat to be built like some sort of warhorse?” “Your father’s-” This time they hit me hard enough that I shut up. I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t a map in the arc! I had the UK version, and it’s absolutely gorgeous, with beautiful illustrations of waves between each chapter. But it says map to come and I’m gutted because I know it’s going to be something beautiful and intricately illustrated or something. I swear, this is how they get reviewers to still buy the book even after they’ve had an arc. I’ve gone ahead and pre-ordered the signed exclusive Waterstones edition… It will help to have a map reading this one though. I made a google map and saved the various locations mentioned! Nils: I had a beautiful US ARC which included the illustration of waves too and of a ship, I’m guessing Amina’s ship the Marawati, above each chapter number. However, I really wanted a map too, I wanted to visualise how far our characters had travelled and spot where they were headed next. Beth really helped by showing me pictures of all the locations she could find, they looked beautiful and looked like they held such charm. Beth: “Ok Chakraborty must be exaggerating here, her descriptions make this place sound –googles– wow no ok her descriptions are spot on” Let’s discuss the characters! Beth: Not to throw any dispersions on any other aspect of Chakraborty’s writing, as they most definitely do not deserve any, but her characters are hands down absolutely the best aspect of any of her books and The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi continue that tradition! Nils: Very true! I always instantly fall for Chakraborty’s characters too and I knew Amina would be no exception after I read this: “People have this idea of mothers, that we are soft and gentle and sweet. As though the moment my daughter was laid on my breast, the phrase I would do anything did not take on a depth I could have never understood before. This woman thought to come into my home and threaten my family in front of my child? She must not have heard the right stories about Amina al-Sirafi.” I love seeing fiercely protective mothers, and a large part of Amina’s motives are to keep her daughter, Marjana, safe. Beth: I loved what Chakraborty did here. The narrator’s note painted a picture of a fearsome pirate who sailed the seas making enemies in every port, tricking authorities, and living a successful life on the high seas. What we see now is an Amina who has retired, is living in the arse-end of nowhere with her mother and daughter, keeping her head as low as possible to hide her daughter from the various dangers created from such a colourful life. Her honesty immediately captivated me. She is fiercely protective of her daughter, and when she’s forced back to a life on the sea, that’s the key driving force. But I loved her willingness to accept that actually, there’s a part of her that wants to go back, that has missed being a nakhudda (captain). Mothers can only be motherly – I love how Chakraborty challenged this. Nils: Beth you’ve echoed a lot of the same thoughts I had regarding Amina’s character, but I’d like to add, and I know this is something we discussed on WhatsApp, that as a female POC character it was fantastic to see she was a woman who allowed herself to desire men, to feel lust, and make no apologies for it. Chakraborty challenged the male gaze and represented the female gaze, where we too can enjoy the same kind of pleasures as men do. Beth: Ooh yes, we discussed this a lot didn’t we! For me, it was great seeing an older female character, a mother, expressing her desires to the reader. She described the men she came across by their appearance and whether she found them attractive or not. We’re used to female characters in fantasy books only ever being described by whether or not they’re pretty, so I loved the way Amina applied this to new men she came across! The first couple of chapters we meet Amina and her family, and once she’s been tasked with the main objective of the plot, what follows is a Getting the Gang Back Together montage, and it’s a trope I bloody love. As Nils mentioned above, the cast was diverse and that was fascinating to follow. I thought Chakraborty did an incredible job representing just how many different peoples and faiths were living and operating around the coast of the Indian Ocean – how that part of the ocean drew so many people together. Nils: Chefs kiss to Chakraborty for representing different faiths, nationalities and ethnicities without having prejudice amongst them. Amina’s crew come from all walks of life but they are all so accepting and respectful of their differences. Beth: I don’t think there was a single character I disliked. Our main characters are Amina’s crew: first mate Tinbu, Mistress of Poisons Dalila, and Father of Maps Majed. There’s a ship’s cat, Payasam, who frankly we do not get enough of. Of the crew, Dalila was hands down my favourite. She is hilarious, mysterious, and eccentrically dangerous. On the outside she seems quite gruff and independent, but you can see there are deep undercurrents (happy Nils?) of hurt. Nils: I have such fondness for the whole crew too. Tinbu our first mate, is a gifted archer but has a knack for getting into trouble. Dalila, my beloved Mistress of Poisons has a reputation for experimenting and blowing things up, but she is a gem and Beth I would happily sail the seas with her. Albeit with one eye constantly upon her! Majed, our talented Father of Maps never steers the crew wrong and he’s so endearingly loyal. Payasam is one adorably useless cat. Beth mentioned her favourite trope above so I’ll say one of mine: found families. Together this crew all make the best found family, don’t they? Beth: Argh yes found families! Amina and Majed have their own families that depend upon them, but they also have their family of the crew, and Amina’s blindness to how they see her as family was something beautiful to watch her overcome. Nils: That was definitely a highlight for me too. Shall we talk about Raksh? I know Raksh is a character who we can’t say much about for spoilery reasons but he was certainly one of our favourites! Morally grey, cheeky, will happily run away from a fight and leave you in the shit and never shy to ask for sex, Raksh was a character who was consistently entertaining! Beth: He was absolutely hilarious and certainly had a healthy, um, appetite. (I wouldn’t count this as a spicy read, Chakraborty does the whole “draws the curtains” thing) We should definitely talk about Chakraborty’s villain. Falco Palamenestra is a Frank who has kidnapped the scholarly daughter of one of Amina’s crewmates. After building Amina up as a fearsome, borderline villainous character herself, Chakraborty needed someone evil enough to be a convincing adversary, and I think she really blew us out of the water with this one. There were moments, when Falco was discussing his past, that I thought perhaps we’re going to get a complicated villain who we can reluctantly sympathise with… and then he went batshit. Nils: Falco is villainous in an unnerving quiet way. At first he comes across as a reasonable, charming man, one who has a vision of a world where he’s not forced into the Holy crusades, he actually seems noble. It’s easy to forget the atrocities he’s committed yet it isn’t long until we see his true desire is, like most men during that time period, power. His words are nothing but sugar coated lies. As Amina herself said: “I genuinely could not tell if Falco wanted to seduce me, hire me, or cut my throat and hang me in the cave to perform nefarious magic with my blood.” Beth: He represented that Western white male power of controlling narratives and the evil that can be accomplished just with the power of words and persuasion and coercion. He was a very clever villain. We’ve skirted around some of the themes, so let’s go into those in more detail. I wanted to teach my daughter ro read the waves, and the night sky, to see her eyes widen with wonder and curiosity when I took her to new places, new cities. I wanted to give her all that I’d had to take, positioning her to enjoy opportunities I could never imagine. Beth: So yeah, motherhood’s a big one! Nils: Yes, motherhood and that guilt of wanting to be more than a mother and retain a part of yourself is strong throughout. “Our hearts may be spoken for by those with sweet eyes, little smiles, and so very many needs, but that does not mean that which makes us, us, is gone. And I hope… part of me hopes anyway that in seeing me do this, Marjana knows more is possible. I would not want her to believe that because she was born a girl, she cannot dream.” I love how Chakraborty illustrates that in women following their dreams, doing what makes them happy, keeping their identity, is inspiring their children to do the same, to be strong. Especially their young girls. Beth: Maternal guilt is something I’ve suffered a great deal with, I don’t think any mother is immune to it. I found myself really relating to Amina through this particular shared experience, and I really appreciated Chakraborty exploring these emotions and representing them. Amina’s not the only mother in the story, and her version of motherhood isn’t the only one either. I thought Chakraborty did a great job exploring the different ways people can be mothers, can be there for their families. Being a physical presence at home is one thing, protecting and nurturing, but sometimes a part of that process is knowing when to step away also. Understanding that your child has myriad needs. I found Amina’s arguments with her own mother fascinating in that regard. But like you say above, one of my favourite messages here was what we tell our daughters. What we give them, how we can help them find their identities. Nils: In fact the theme of identity is also prominent throughout as many of the characters are not always what they first appear to be. You see Amina might be a fierce captain but she’s gentle and fair to those she holds dear, Dalila appears cold hearted and hot tempered but there’s a sense of loneliness beneath, and Dunya, who is the granddaughter, and daughter of an old crew member, who Amina is sent to rescue, struggles with the confinement and expectations of her family versus who she really wants to be. What is so alluring about being aboard Amina’s Marawati is that everyone is free to express their real identity. Beth: It makes me think of the stories we tell about ourselves and how they hold up to the reality of ourselves. For example how Amina tells herself she never visited Dalila because it was safer for all involved that way and Dalila doesn’t need her anyway, when actually she couldn’t have been further from the truth. Stories do that, don’t they, branching out like a sapling searching for sunlight? By the time centuries have passed and that sapling is a mighty tree, there are more branches than can be counted, sprawling in widely different directions. I think the power of stories was an interesting thread. Falco had hunted Amina down on the power of the stories he’d heard about her. I loved the exploration of the role of stories in society, how they can shape expectations, how they can be used for different purposes. How important it is who gets to tell the stories. Those of us who make the sea our home carry libraries in our head; a fact I have tried to impress upon many a land-dwelling intellectual. The scholars who travel the world to study could learn just as much if they would speak to the sailors, porters, and caravan hands who ferry them and their books to such faraway lands. And of course, all this is wrapped up in a story being told to a narrator in turn relaying it to us, just like in Chakraborty’s metaphor of the spreading branches above. What about Chakraborty’s inclusion of mythology and magic? Beth: This is going to sound mad, but I wasn’t expecting a great deal of magic this time around? I thought there’d be a sea monster or two, but that would be it. I’m not sure why. So, whereas there isn’t anywhere near the levels of magic we saw in Daevabad, I was pleasantly surprised by how much magic there was! I thought Chakraborty balanced it so well; that it’s a very human story that magic encroaches into. Nils: I was glad to see some familiar Arabic mythological figures from Daevabad in this novel too though , one in particular made me smile! Beth: Yes! There are some lovely surprises! Nils: However, going back to the theme of stories, I love that a lot of the mythology and fantastical aspects in this book change throughout as the truth behind their origins is revealed. You see Amina’s mission goes from finding kidnapped Dunya to also finding a fabled artefact, one with enough power to cause catastrophic consequences. Yet with every story revealed about this artefact we learn that it is very less romanticised than what early scholars had recorded. Beth: I’m trying to step carefully so as not to spoil anything! But I loved all the snippets of story behind the artefact, they were a brilliant addition. Chakraborty includes an Author’s Note and Further Reading, which was a lovely insight into her basis of research that led to wanting to tell this story. It was very much a focus on the mundane human lives around the Indian Ocean, so of course it’s only natural that the stories of those places would work their way into this one. We all build upon the stories that came before us. Chakraborty mixes real historical figures and elements of Arabian mythology to create myths and stories in her own world. Nils: Her passion for Arabian history and mythology really shines through. I love how Amina’s character was also a feminist version of Sinbad the Sailor. Beth: There is of course a sea monster, as per the US cover. I thought it such an imaginative mix of kraken and scorpion, it sounded truly horrifying! When it first turned up, Chakraborty really ramped up the tension, it was so ominous! What were your overall impressions of the book? Nils: Chakraborty has worked her magic once again and delivered an epic feminist tale quite like no other. This is a story which celebrates being a mother who longs for more, it is a celebration of faith and a stark reflection upon the atrocities committed by Western invaders. This novel is filled with passion and heart. Yet at its core this is a phenomenally entertaining read with the most loveable ragtag seafaring crew. Beth: Chakraborty cementing herself as one of the best storytellers of our time. On the face of it, a swashbuckling adventure filled with daring rescues and magic. But as Nils says, there’s so much thought-provoking depth, perspectives to consider, representations that don’t get shared enough. This is a story of page-burning action, mysticism and magic, and so much heart. I also really appreciated that this works as a standalone story, it has a satisfying resolution; but Chakraborty has left the odd door ajar should she want to return. And I sincerely hope we can. Favourite quotes? Beth: Chakraborty’s writing is just divine! There were so many lines I sent to you Nils! Whether they’d made me laugh out loud, or whether I found them particularly thought-provoking, or just that they were so beautiful. After the Daevabad trilogy I considered Chakraborty a great story-teller, but this book has certainly elevated her even higher. She took one look at me, inhaled like an arrow being drawn back, and shouted, ‘Have you lost your mind?’ I would not want her to believe that because she was born a girl, she cannot dream For the greatest crime of the poor in the eyes of the wealthy has always been to strike back. To fail to suffer in silence and instead disrupt their lives and their fantasies of a compassionate society that coincidentally set them on top. To say no. (there are so many more quotes I’d include if I could Nils!!!) Nils: Yes Beth, Chakraborty’s prose is so superbly crafted. I’ve shared quite a few quotes already but here are two more that really made me think. “It is a difficult thing to destroy your child’s innocence. To tell her the mother she adores is not the “best mama in the world,” but a real person who has done terrible, unforgivable things.” And this quote is so damn powerful: “We are the women in the streets the others watch from behind their screens. Accordingly, we are often granted less honor, our bodies assumed to be available for the right price or simply invisible. I have cast a judgmental eye straight back, dismissing the rich women behind the screens as pampered dolls.” The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi is expected for release on 28th February 2023 and is available to pre-order: US – Bookshop.org | UK – Waterstones All quotes used are taken from an early ARC and are subject to change upon publication. The post THE ADVENTURES OF AMINA AL-SAFIRI by Shannon Chakraborty (BUDDY READ BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  27. During my prolific writing days, and even during my not prolific writing days, when I’d hear the term “writer’s block,” I believed it to be a self-indulgent myth. Either you were writing or you were not. You sit your ass in your chair and you write or you get up from your chair and decide you will not write. I could give you a lot of reasons, excuses, lamentations for why I haven’t completed my next novel. I bet some of you know a lot of these reasons, excuses, lamentations, too, and likely 89.999% of them are valid. We can talk about how others may say that giving up writing for any length of time is for those who really aren’t dedicated to the craft, but that’s bull-taters. I sacrificed quite a lot for my writing in time, family, social life, etc, so I really don’t want to hear how I am not dedicated to my craft. I’ll guess many of you sacrificed much as well. Life can toss crappy curveballs and we sometimes must make decisions on what we feel is important, and sometimes the writing is not the more important thing: GASP! I know! I never thought I’d say that! Is this the eighth sign of the apocalypse? Before the multi-year-slump, I could spit out a novel like it was nuttin’—doesn’t mean all of them were publishable but writing the words never was a problem and creating characters I loved wasn’t either. I wrote the first draft to Sweetie in 30 days (a challenge I gave myself) and it’s one of my all-time favorite published novels and loved characters. Writing created an excitement and contentment in me that nothing else could touch. Never. Ever. Never. Ever. Never. Ever. NEVER EVER did I see a world where I was not writing. But stuff happened and the writing stopped. And stopped for quite some time. And nowhere in all the time I was not writing did I believe in writer’s block. Nope. But then I opened a novel I’ve had in my computer files, one that I’ve fiddled around with from time to time, here, there, yonder, skippity do dah day. The novel has good bones. It has interesting characters that excite me. I have no doubt I am a good writer. I have no doubt I can create good characters. I’ve known my “severe limitations” when it comes to plots/outlines, and it never before stopped me from sitting my ass in the chair and writing til my ass was numb. But there I was scrolling through the novel and liking what I saw. I inserted a little here, moved a page there, renamed two characters who begged to be renamed. I had a little quiver of excitement build and I thought, “I have missed this part of me.” You know, the part where writing was like an important appendage before it’s been cut off and left with some phantom limb feeling…? And then, out from the cantankerous ether …. Anyone who has ever had an anxiety attack knows how it can be insidious, sneaky, like a noxious fog rolling in—one minute the sky and trees and birds are clear and then comes the smoky clawed tendrils wrapping around and through and within before they grasp and pinch and squeeze and the beautiful world begins to disappear until there is nothing but dense grey-white and the grey-white soaks into your brain and there is no thinking or creating, there is only a foggy confusion and your eyes feel so very wide as they try to see through a dense fairy-tale forest, you know, the part of the fairy-tale where the character is about to be devoured by the unknown, and everything becomes weirdly scary, shaky, and just wrong. I stared at my novel and all the words bulged out at me. The characters turned their backs on me. And every bit of joy I’d felt that I was writing again drained from my body and pooled onto the floor. I, much like our unlucky character in the dark-misted forest, had been devoured. Oh I tell you what! Writer’s Block then felt real! That phrase loomed in the goo of my brain with a sickly green glow. WTF? I’ve had some anxiety attacks in my lifetime, but never ever while writing. I closed my laptop, picked up my remote, and turned on the television to something funny. Laugh, Kathryn. Goddammit Laugh! Like fog will do, the grey-white receded, lucky for me rather quickly-ish, but I wasn’t about to invite the anxiety back. Nuh Uh. The laptop looked sad sitting there, so I took my laptop to my study and left it there. Yet…. I saved Black Moon Cove to my desktop. The next morning I opened it, just a peek. My gut swirled and twirled, just a bit, but I told myself and I’ll tell you too, “Yes, you are afraid. And it’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to worry about failure. It sucks to fail but the world still turns, so try again or try something else, or do not. It’s okay to decide you don’t want to publish it at all. It sucks that if the novel is published, it may not sell all that well, but you are not alone in this and that may bring a tidbit of comfort. It’s okay to feel angry. It’s okay to be down right pissed. It’s okay to feel envy over another writer’s success, but don’t let that envy turn sour; envy can be motivating or it can be debilitating: decide. It’s okay to feel grief over losses and missed opportunities. It’s okay to feel exhausted and burned out and wondering if you just do not want this for yourself any longer. But if you don’t write the diggity-ding-dang book you’ll never know how this story turns out—yours and your characters.” And I will open that novel again. And I’ll hope the nasty mean fog that may come will be a little less dense and disorienting. And I’ll hope tenacity works until writing once again becomes a part of my body—the severed limb will grow back (or it will not … but that’s another essay). I want to be where the writing is as it used to be—the One Constant that brought joy and sanity to my life. Where writing will once again be what keeps my head clear of clouds instead of the cloud creator. I’m going to open that novel and open that novel and open that novel time after time after time until I am done, even if it takes me fifty-galleven years. Or, I will not. All up to me, right? And if you are feeling what I am feeling, then it’s all up to you, right? We do the best we can in writing, in life. We are writers even if we are not writing. Yes, I said that. Believe what you will, but I am a writer and I always will be. It’s in my marrow. If I never write another book, then that sucks but gosh I have written and written and written and I’m proud of those thousands and thousands of words. What about you? Do you Believe? [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  28. Authors writing spy thrillers, or crime novels laced with espionage, often hook readers with declassified intelligence. By our nature, we want things we can’t have; we want to place our eyes on what we’re not allowed to see. To be sure, information governments once classified in the name of national security is by its nature sexy and provocative. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s role in the study of UFOs, for instance, is catnip for any generation. Declassified information is forbidden fruit that’s fallen off the tree, now ripe for eating. What once was a nation’s crown jewel lies on the ground—abandoned and discarded—beckoning like that glowing green crystal in Superman. (Of course, I’m referring to declassified information rather than the pure product. Criminal and civil penalties exist for those who unlawfully obtain, handle, or disseminate classified information.) Sources for tantalizing declassified information vary, but treasure troves exist at the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) and through investigative reporting. In the past, much of the investigative reporting stemmed from major newspapers; namely, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Today, however, online publications provide juicy nuggets of intel. Beyond the CIA’s interest in UFOs, noteworthy examples of historic declassified treasures include the Watergate scandal, the Pentagon Papers, and the Bay of Pigs. In the last few decades, NARA has released interesting material from the Cold War era, including most of Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Papers, and in the coming months and years it will unveil new records concerning the Global War on Terrorism. Earlier this month, NARA declassified an additional tranche of records concerning President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. This document dump likely piqued the interest of Stephen King, who studied the Warren Report and related NARA disclosures before writing 11/22/63, a thriller where the protagonist travels back in time to prevent Kennedy’s assassination. What’s more, Tom Clancy based most of his novels on declassified information. In fact, his material was so provocative that many accused him of exposing classified information. (The bigger the controversy, the larger the book sales.) And Brad Meltzer obviously spends considerable time researching the historical archives to find material for his novels. It is no surprise that one of Meltzer’s best fictional characters is a young archivist named Beecher White. In the early 2000s, I played a role not unlike that of Beecher White. I was on a team of U.S. Department of Justice lawyers who sifted through boxes of the Reagan Papers for declassification purposes. Each box was categorized into different topics: Just Say No, Assassination Attempt, First Woman Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, AIDS, Line-Item Veto, etc. Notwithstanding your political stripes or views of certain presidents, reviewing boxes of presidential documents transports you into the past like a time machine. Dust covered the countless bankers’ boxes, and our team scoured their contents in small offices in a building on New York Avenue in Washington, D.C. We worked into the witching hours, eating junk food and pouring over records that would forever change history, unearthing national gems. There was one topic that proved most fascinating: Ronald Reagan’s Brandenburg Gate speech in June 1987. This was the memorable speech where, with the Berlin Wall as a backdrop, President Reagan extolled General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Multiple boxes contained sensitive drafts that chronicled the evolution of the speech. Experts on world affairs knew Reagan’s speech would be historic, and several themes dominated the tension among numerous drafters and reviewers. The “tear down this wall” line, however, caused most alarm within the State Department and National Security Council. In fact, Reagan’s National Security Advisor—a forty-nine-year-old General Colin Powell—kept crossing out the phrase, worried that it would ratchet up Cold War tensions between the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. Near the end of the box, Powell’s side appeared to have won the debate. The line had vanished in the final draft in the final box. But had it vanished? President Reagan famously said those words, some of the most memorable in world history. So…was there another draft? After leaving government, I worked for the same law firm as Secretary James Baker, one of Reagan’s closet confidants. Baker’s Washington, D.C. office, just a few blocks from where I had reviewed the Reagan Papers years early, had no desks or computers—only a couch, a few chairs, and a phone. I sat on a chair across from the couch and retold my story . . . and he finished it. He said that Kenneth Duberstein, Reagan’s deputy chief of staff, rode with Reagan to the Berlin Wall on that historic day. They traveled in a limousine together, and Reagan told him he was putting the line back in. “The boys at State are going to kill me,” he said, “but it’s the right thing to do.” The rest is history, and you can find the final draft at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Beyond declassified intelligence, other mysterious governmental information awaits the curious and crafty. One of the greatest joys of writing thrillers is that people—even strangers—want to discuss your projects. Those discussions often lead to interesting material. My inspiration for writing my first novel, Scavenger Hunt, was learning of the hidden eighth floor at the U.S. Department’s (DOJ) Main Justice Building in Washington, D.C. Few people, even DOJ lawyers, know that it exists, and my curiosity led me to ask more about it. The Main Justice elevators only access seven floors, but eight sets of office windows paint the outside of the building. After weeks of inquiry, a building custodian took me on a tour. Scavenger Hunt walks the reader up the hidden staircase that connects the seventh and eighth floors and leads to the former Federal Bureau of Investigation’s ballistics lab, now dark and eerie, where the clandestine team of Operation Scavenger Hunt meets in secret. Weeks after submitting Scavenger Hunt’s final manuscript, I continued to dig up fascinating information. At an event in D.C. in May, I ran into a former U.S. attorney general. He asked me about my novel, only a few days from print, and we discussed the secret eighth floor of Main Justice. He then proceeded to describe a secret room above the attorney general’s office on the fifth floor. Before long, two other former U.S. attorneys general joined our conversation. They all knew about this hidden treasure, where, attorney general lore holds, Robert F. Kennedy “visited” with Marilyn Monroe. Learning of this revelation, I scurried away and emailed my publisher: Stop the press! You can read more about the “RFK Honeymoon Suite” in Chapter 2 of Scavenger Hunt. *** View the full article
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