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  1. Today
  2. Photo by Lisa Pines. This fall marks a transition on our editorial team, as Vijay Seshadri is bidding the Review farewell—at least as our poetry editor, a role he has occupied since 2019. He will be greatly missed. With our forthcoming Winter issue, we will welcome to the role Srikanth “Chicu” Reddy, a professor at the University of Chicago who has served as a guest editor of Poetry magazine and is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Underworld Lit. We are deeply grateful to Vijay for introducing us to the work of so many remarkable poets over the last few years, and for being a marvelous colleague and a true friend to the Review. The worst thing about choosing poems for The Paris Review is having to say no. The magazine receives many submissions, and many of those include strong poems that deserve to be in its pages but can’t be accommodated. Turning down poems is probably even worse for a poetry editor who is also a practicing poet and knows how being turned down feels. Guilt, misgivings, second-guessing, paralysis about naysaying, and avoidant behavior are the by-products of the process. And they should be. As a writer, if you don’t identify with the writers who are sending you work, you’re probably hardening yourself against yourself. Other than that, being The Paris Review’s poetry editor for the past thirteen issues has been a terrific experience. Looking back over the more than sixty years since I washed up on American shores, I’ve come to recognize how much literature was the means by which I socialized myself into this country and its civilization. Choosing poems for the magazine and mulling over the choices I made gave me a chance to make that socialization concrete in my mind. I was a descriptive rather than a prescriptive editor, largely because that unusual process of socialization had left me with a vivid sense of the imagined republic of American letters. At least as an editor, I saw my obligations as being almost as much civic as they were aesthetic, requiring me to acknowledge the entire republic rather than stake out a claim in one of its territories. I honored, I think, the multiplicity of American poetry (including translations into American English)—which is easy to do, because there is excellent work across the range of American literary allegiances. There has been something deeply satisfying about engaging with this country as an editor. I was most gratified when I chose poems by poets whom I felt were unfairly neglected or underappreciated. I had the chance to publish long poems, which have a harder time finding homes. I had the chance to experience over and over that little click in the mind, with its attendant rush of endorphins—very much like the click in the mind that comes from finishing a piece of writing you like—on coming across a poem that is undeniable. Maybe my only regret is that I came to the job too late to do full justice to my experience of the poetry of my time, and to some of my deepest enthusiasms. Very early on in my tenure, for example, I wrote to Allen Grossman’s widow, Judith, begging for unpublished Grossman poems. She told me there were none. That was a bitter moment. On the flip side, though, early on I also wrote to Kamau Brathwaite asking for work. The last poem he published before his death was in the pages of The Paris Review. I’ve worked with two excellent editors: Emily Nemens, who hired me, and Emily Stokes, who kept me on after she took the reins. The magazine’s vigilant staff and interns have made the mechanics frictionless, and have saved me from some serious rookie publishing errors. I’m grateful to the magazine itself, an enduring and central force in American culture. And I’m particularly glad that this goodbye letter gives me a chance to express my deep gratitude to Richard Howard, protean and titanic. The first poem I submitted to The Paris Review, in the mid-nineties, when I was about to publish my first book, was a long poem called “Lifeline.” At that time, the magazine had a long-poem prize, named after one of its former publishers, Bernard F. Conners. Richard gave me the prize for my poem, and he and the magazine arranged a reading at what was then the brand-new Barnes & Noble on Union Square for me and a writer who had contributed fiction to a recent issue, from a novel she was working on. That writer was Susan Sontag. It’s hard to convey, a quarter-century later, the enormous cultural presence and authority that Susan Sontag—and, for that matter, Richard and George Plimpton—had in the New York of the nineties. It was breathtaking to stand for half an hour in front of the eminence they had created, facing the huge crowd that had come out for the reading. Looking back to that event and then along the narrative arc that led to my sitting in the chair Richard once occupied, I get another of those clicks in the mind. Vijay Seshadri is the author of five books of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning 3 Sections, and a professor of writing at Sarah Lawrence College. View the full article
  3. Do you ever get the feeling that things are about to change? I mean, really change? Like, if you were to describe it in terms of the weather, it wouldn’t be just—“oh hey, it looks like rain,” but much more like, “Winter… Is… Coming!” As in, cue the Cate Blanchett-as-Galadriel voiceover: “I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air…” I have this feeling now. Indeed, I’m aware of a major milestone—one that’s been long upcoming. I’m inside of a month till the publication of my debut. But it’s starting to feel like something more than just a day of rain or shine. Of course I’ve presumed for many years that this fast approaching day would eventually come. But I’ve already met so many great people, and experienced so much kindness and wonder because of it. I’m starting to sense that my life is going to continue to change in ways I could never have anticipated, and really still can’t. Anyway, the phenomenon has me thinking about turning points, and how important they are to our lives—how unplannable and unavoidable they are. About how many steps are required on the way to them. All of which got me thinking about how these things apply to our characters’ lives. I thought delving into the phenomenon would be beneficial to me, and hopefully to you, too. Milestones Versus Turning Points As I say, the publication of a debut is something we know is coming. At some point it becomes an actual day on the calendar. I think the important dates and milestones of our lives—births, deaths, weddings, debuts, etcetera—are more like mere steps than the sort of turning point I’m trying to describe. Looking back on my own major turning points, I can see that it’s always taken a series of events to bring them about. Some are obvious, but others are more subtle-not so obvious as they happen, but hindsight reveals their crucial impact. For example, I consider my relationship with my wife to be the most important aspect of my life. From the moment we began sharing our lives, mine has been utterly transformed. I am who I am because of it. I can look back at dozens of milestones and vital dates that relate to our relationship, and it took all of them–steps falling one after another–to make this major turning point in my life complete. I perfectly recall the day we met. Indeed, I perfectly remember the moment I saw her, through a window at a house party as she emerged from a friend’s car (it’s been noted that I dreamily but emphatically asked, “Who is that?”). For my part, it was instant attraction. I also clearly recall our first “real” date (took her to see Prince’s movie, Purple Rain). And of course, with our 32nd anniversary just around the corner, I have to acknowledge that these events culminated in our wedding day, which came on the perfect autumn evening, cementing and commemorating the completion of the turn. But when I think back on it all, another auspicious day springs to mind—one between that first meeting and first date, and quite some time before the autumn day in the chapel. Hindsight reveals that this day was a key-spring—an event without which the turning may not have occurred as it did. I’m not sure exactly how many months had passed since our meeting; my wife and I weren’t exactly an instant item (and yes, she resisted and I persisted, how did you guess?). Anyway, we were retail coworkers during college, and on one particularly fine summer Saturday, as I was about to punch out at noon, I mused that it would be a perfect beach day. The store was slow, and I noted my very bored coworker’s interest in the idea, so I jokingly suggested that I would actually go if she joined me. To our mutual surprise, our manager, who’d been eavesdropping, suggested my coworker take the day off and do just that. To my even greater surprise, she did. To those who don’t know the Mighty Mitten, the Lake Michigan beaches on the western shore near the city where I grew up are world class expanses of soft sand and Bahama blue water. Often, those who grow up on the east side of the state—like my wife did—have never experienced them. That day I felt like a tour guide, revealing a legacy treasure that she’d just inherited. It was during this serendipitous beach day—getting better acquainted during the hour-long drive there; spending the afternoon relaxing, swimming, playing Frisbee; and then listening to music, laughing and chatting away the drive back—that our enduring friendship took root. I remember this impending sense I had that day of the turning of things. I began to feel it in the water, in the earth, in the air. I think we both sensed it that evening, as we sought to cool our sunburns over beers. The experience had shifted things for both of us. Yes, milestone experiences can have instant impact. But often it’s the subtle shifts that turn out to be key-springs to such turnings. Either way, such events are usually mere dominos, falling to push down the next, which falls to… You get the idea. Inexorable I’m getting far enough along in my life to see that it’s defined by a handful of major turning points, and that all such changes—over a series of incremental steps; incidents and events—come to feel inexorable as they arrive. Take a life-change of mine that is perhaps second in magnitude only to my marriage: our decision to leave the business world in Illinois and move back to Michigan. This turning point plays into everything that followed—particularly my writing life. The first domino to fall came in the form of a major blow—one that we knew was coming but had no grasp of its scale and lasting impact. It began with the passage of a dog. We said goodbye to our beloved black lab Maggie on the twilit morning of a September Friday. Mag had been with us through most of our years in business—a grounding presence through a whirlwind of toil. The day she left us we did something unprecedented: We left. We left our business without checking messages, without consulting our department heads, without leaving written instructions, and without offering to take calls. There had been no question where we would go. We went where Mag would have had us go. Oh, how our girl loved coming to Michigan. The joy was palpable, and contagious. Driving straight to what was then our getaway cottage on the day of Maggie’s passing taught us that the little house we built in the woods near the shore was our hearts’ home. That was twenty years ago this month, and we’re still here. It took over a year from Maggie’s passing, and an uncountable number of dominos, to complete this turning point. During that time, we started to joke about making a change. Looking back, we sensed the inexorable turning. We’d say things like, “We’ll do that after we sell the business,” or “We’ll be able to do this once we move to Michigan.” I remember one particular morning here. I’d stopped overnight at the cottage on the way to a business meeting further up the coast. Before setting out, as I sat on the porch drinking coffee, enjoying the stillness and birdsong, the thought of living here, of working at something creative here, buzzed around my head like a happy hummingbird, teasing and beckoning me to strive toward something that I couldn’t yet see. That domino was a subtle one, of the sort I only see in hindsight. There was a final domino. My wife and I began to see the signs of an oncoming economic downturn. For several years prior to this, we’d experienced what might be called growth-on-cruise. In response, we called a meeting with our partner, our top sales and marketing staff, and our accounting team. We laid out a fairly austere plan to proactively face the projected downturn. It did not go over well. Our team had grown metaphorically fat and happy. And, honestly, we had lost much of the zeal required to fight through such resistance. I’ll never forget leaving the meeting. Once we were in the car, and before I even started it, I said, “That’s it, isn’t it?” My wife gave a single nod. “Yep. We’re done.” We drove home in relative silence, feeling the resound of that final domino’s fall, knowing it had been the last of the turning. What we had long sensed possible—what had been both hopeful and terrifying—had become inexorable. Alignment Turning points such as these are intrinsic to storytelling. Indeed, change is the very essence of story. Often an entire story is built around one such turning point, and the dominos required to get our characters to it. Often it’s monumental. Thinking about this sort of change–bit by bit, one domino striking the next, until a character is utterly transformed–brings to mind characters like Ove, from A Man Called Ove, or Lieutenant John Dunbar, from Dances With Wolves. Heck, think about Frodo (sorry, had to go there), from the moment he tucks the one ring into his vest pocket and askes Gandalf, “What must I do?” to swatting at waking nightmares as he trudges across the Plateau of Gorgoroth. Only through witnessing the fall of each domino that led them there can we believe such monumental changes could have occurred. Having seen them tumble, one by one, we are all the more invested, and moved, by the result. As I sit here, feeling on the verge of yet another major turning, it’s not mine to know if the long string of events that have conveyed me this far have been aligned by unseen forces, guiding me to the life I am meant to live. But I must admit, it often feels that way. In our fiction, we are those unseen forces. And though some of the dominos we set are more auspicious and impactful, it’s our job to make each one feel like a necessary step. It’s on us to make our readers feel that each one is both surprising and essential. We must make change become a force like gravity, unrealized but accepted as a law of the nature of our stories. The dominos of storytelling—the inciting incidents, opportunities knocking, pinch points, the flips from reactivity to proactivity, the black moments and heroic sacrifices—all of them must feel both unexpected and unavoidable. The best story changes often feel both hopeful and terrifying. We must strive to have our readers feel them in the water, feel them in the earth, and smell them in the air. If we hope to tell stories that are both fresh and satisfying, we must strive to bring about the change in our characters that no one would believe at the onset, and then make it feel inevitable, even rightful. We do so by utilizing events and milestones that are inexorable steps to turning points that transform lives. What about you, WU? Is Cate Blanchett still the best Galadriel? Can you look back to the dominos that led to your own life’s turning points? Do you delight in being the unseen force that aligns them for your characters? About Vaughn RoycroftVaughn Roycroft's (he/him) teacher gave him a copy of The Hobbit in the 6th grade, sparking a lifelong passion for reading and history. After college, life intervened, and Vaughn spent twenty years building a successful business. During those years, he and his wife built a getaway cottage near their favorite shoreline, in a fashion that would make the elves of Rivendell proud. After many milestone achievements, and with the mantra ‘life’s too short,’ they left their hectic lives in the business world, moved to their little cottage, and Vaughn finally returned to writing. Now he spends his days striving to finish his epic fantasy series. Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  4. A look at the week’s best new releases. * Kate Atkinson, The Shrines of Gaiety (Doubleday) “[Atkinson] takes on London in the 1920s, masterfully capturing both its shimmer and its seediness…It’s a deliciously fun, absorbing read.” –Time Sarah Bonner, Her Perfect Twin (Grand Central) “Airtight, cat-and-mouse plotting with twists that will draw Gone Girl comparisons, this is a compulsively bingeable debut thriller.” –Booklist Iain Reid, We Spread (Gallery/ Scout) “Reid combines magnetic character development with clipped, eerie prose in this masterfully crafted psychological thriller that will keep the reader guessing until the very last word on the final page.” –Booklist Katherine St. John, The Vicious Circle (William Morrow) “[A] fun romantic adventure-thriller… St. John effectively ratchets up the suspense and the surprises. Lushly exotic locales and touches of humor add to tasty escapism that should please fans of Nine Perfect Strangers.” –Publishers Weekly C.J. Box, Treasure State (Minotaur) “Excellent. . . Box has rarely been better in his plotting. . . The story culminates with one of Box’s most satisfying payoffs.” –Publishers Weekly Elizabeth Brooks, The House in the Orchard (Tin House) “Exceptional. . . . Readers will scramble to decide whom to trust, as misplaced faith leads to deadly outcomes.” –Kirkus Reviews Kim Taylor Blakemore, The Deception (Lake Union) “Kim Taylor Blakemore’s The Deception captures the fascinating world of nineteenth-century mediums in this story of intrigue, deceit, and the otherworldly. Historical fiction lovers will delight in the wonderfully captured details and the mystical elements at the center of this novel. A must-read!” –Lydia Kang Archer Mayor, Fall Guy (Minotaur) “Another winner in one of the best American procedural series.” –Booklist Leanna Renee Hieber, Andrea Janes, A Haunted History of Invisible Women (Citadel) “Delightfully harrowing and full of spine-tingling horrors, A Haunted History of Invisible Women is not your average book of ghost stories. Hieber and Janes go far beyond the obvious thrills and chills, providing fascinating context and lavish detail in this incredibly empathetic book as they gently remind us not only of what we are but what we may become.” —Deanna Raybourn Ainslie Hogarth, Motherthing (Vintage) “A darkly comic, kaleidoscopic novel of unhealthy fixations, love, murder, the gifts and wounds that family can inflict and one woman’s fight to save herself.” –Shelf Awareness View the full article
  5. Below are six YA novels that I adore for their complexity, their willingness to grapple with larger social and moral questions, and their resistance to easy answers. Part of adolescence isn’t only coming to understand one’s own self and place in the world; it’s about questioning why the world is the way it is in the first place. No wonder adults find literature and teens so terrifying. They ask the questions we don’t always have the answers to and force the issues we’ve never been prepared to answer for. Courtney Summers, The Project A girl grieving for her shattered family. A father grieving for his lost son. Their pain, their suffering, as well as her own, lead young aspiring journalist Lo Denham to seek out the Unity Project, a community in rural New York where members dedicate themselves to charity and spiritual transcendence. But who is their leader, Lev Warren? And what connection does he have to Lo’s past? Summers’s novel quickly heads down the rabbit hole into a world where the line between coercion and consent; empowerment and dependence are flipped upside down. What is free will in a world where so much of power and success are wrapped up in hero worship and subservience? Lo is young, naïve, but determined to forge her own way, to take down this man who’s ruined the lives of so many. But what if Lev can offer her what she’s longed for most? What if Lo’s convictions aren’t what she thought they were? Janne Teller, Nothing “Nothing matters. From the moment you are born, you start to die….Life isn’t worth the bother.” When one of their classmates climbs into a tree and begins shouting about the meaningless of life, a group of Danish middle schoolers grow angry and decide to prove him wrong. Life does have meaning, they insist. The things they care about and value and center their daily lives around—well, those things matter. Don’t they? The children hatch a plan to force the issue: they’ll each sacrifice an item they care about, but that item will be chosen by the person who sacrificed before them. Human nature takes it course and what ends up mattering is not what they lose, but what they’re willing to take. Francesca Padilla, What’s Coming to Me There’s a lot for seventeen-year-old Minerva to be angry about; she’s been expelled from her Long Island high school, her mother’s terminally ill; her best friend’s ditched her; and she doesn’t have the money or means to escape her stifling existence. Then, when she’s finally able to land a job at a local ice cream shop, it turns out her boss is a perv who spies on his employees with hidden cameras. Well, there’s always something to be said for having nothing to lose and when rumors about hidden stashes of money in the boss’s office—courtesy of his unsavory side hustles—Minerva starts to plot some unsavoriness of her own. But there are people in Minerva’s life who care about her and who understand the haze of grief and anger she’s moving through. Will that be enough to save her? And is she capable of saving herself? Rebecca Barrows, Bad Things Happen Here It’s no paradise. In fact, life on the seemingly idyllic island of Parris is more fantasy than truth. It’s a place where denial allows wealth and opulence to outshine the human misery simmering below. Biracial teenage islander Luca, who suffers from severe anxiety, hates this place and has always believed Parris to be cursed. What else could explain the random acts of violence, including the childhood death of her best friend Polly? But when another tragedy strikes closer to home, something awakens in Luca. No longer bound by fantasy, she’s driven to find the real killer. But unraveling the truth will mean taking on the island’s tightly held secrets and pushing back against forces that have always been willing to wash the sins of the wealthy away. Zack Smedley, Deposing Nathan This is a book that starts after the crime’s occurred. The narrator, Nathan, is being deposed in a case against the person who brutally stabbed him—his supposed best friend Cam. But as the story unfolds, beginning with the boys’ initial meeting, their budding friendship, and eventually a more complex relationship, we start to understand Nate’s inner conflicts as well as the complicated dynamics present in some of his prior relationships. A sheltered boy living with his widowed father and an aunt who’s tried to take on a maternal role, Nate’s never questioned the adults in his life. He’s never wondered if they truly have his best interest in mind. But when the cost of obeying means hurting himself and those around him, Nate isn’t sure if he’s really a victim at all. And if he is, maybe Cam’s the one who’s been trying to save him. Kelly Loy Gilbert, Conviction In the stifling heat of California’s central valley, Braden, a young pitching phenom, faces an impossible choice. His father, whom he idolizes, has been arrested for a hit and run accident that left a law enforcement officer dead. Braden’s testimony about what happened that night will either set his father free or convict him. But the truth is never easy. And in his choice, Braden must reckon with his faith, his future, the reasons behind his older brother’s estrangement from the family, as well as who his father really is and who Braden’s always needed him to be. *** View the full article
  6. Holidays are fun to write about. Each has its own vibe. And we immediately associate iconic symbols with them. Colorful eggs mean it’s Easter and pumpkins take us straight to Halloween. There are special foods that we expect, too, like chocolates on Valentine’s Day and turkey at Thanksgiving. While families don’t gather for all holidays, when they do, authors love to write about dysfunctional family chaos. It can be very entertaining, provided it’s not our families that are involved. A GOOD DOG’S GUIDE TO MURDER is set at Thanksgiving and takes the reader into the holiday season. Holly Miller’s Jack Russell terrier and her calico cat have noses for murder. When they show an unusual interest in the most unexpected place, the trunk of a tree, it turns out someone hid a body in it! Holly has to figure out not only who is in the tree, but also who committed murder. But we’ll start at the beginning of the year. The very beginning when we drink champagne and ring in the new year. Murder in a Cape Cottage by Maddie Day Coming September 27th Mackenzie “Mac” Almeida runs a bike shop and belongs to a book group in Cape Cod, but her mind is on her upcoming New Year’s Eve wedding. She and her fiancé begin to renovate a cottage only to find a skeleton in the wall dressed in a bridal gown! Even worse, the killer lurks in their quaint seaside town, poised to make it a murderous New Year’s Eve. Death of a Chocoholic by Lee Hollis Giving up on dating disasters, on Valentine’s Day food columnist Hayley Powell intends to curl up with a box of special chocolates from Bessie Winthrop. But Hayley finds the chocolatier dead! Her chocolate may have been sweet, but it turns out that Bessie had plenty of enemies and it’s up to Hayley to pick through them. Easter Bonnet Murder by Leslie Meier Part-time reporter Lucy Stone can’t imagine how a sweet old lady could go missing over an Easter bonnet contest in Tinker’s Cove, Maine. Lucy soon finds back-stabbing has no age limits. She must hop to it and figure out what happened to the missing woman before Lucy becomes another tragedy. An Eggnog to Die For by Amy Pershing With Easter behind us, it’s time to move on and head to the beach for the Fourth of July where foodie Samantha Barnes is trying to choose the best blueberry buckle as a dessert after a clambake on Cape Cod. But when she settles on one, the baker, a cookbook author and retired restaurateur, dies in an accidental house fire. Sam isn’t buying that the fire was accidental and needs to find the killer before more fireworks begin. Claws for Suspicion by Deborah Blake When autumn winds begin to blow, what could be better than Oktoberfest in the Catskills? Kari Stuart is the new owner of Serenity Sanctuary and has her eyes on a handsome local. Everything is going well until her ex-husband arrives with the horrible news that they aren’t actually divorced, and he owns half of the sanctuary! Just when Kari thinks things couldn’t get worse, she becomes the prime suspect in a murder! Calypso, Corpses and Cooking by Raquel V. Reyes Coming October 11th Cuban-American cooking show star Miriam Quiñones-Smith wakes to find a dead woman in her Miami front yard next to a fake tombstone! When a chef tumbles down a staircase to his death, Miriam doesn’t think it could have been an accident. As more mishaps occur, Miriam’s life is also in jeopardy but she delves into rage, retribution, and murder. And that brings us back to Thanksgiving on Wagtail Mountain in Virginia where the annual dog and cat gingerbread house competition is under way and Thanksgiving weekend means a full house at the Sugar Maple Inn. Holly has to juggle her inn duties while figuring out who the man in the tree could be. It soon becomes clear that someone is desperate to keep the truth a secret. It’s up to Holly and her furry sleuth pals to find an elusive and conniving killer. *** View the full article
  7. Joe R. Lansdale is the author of more than 50 novels and 30 short story collections and is perhaps best known for his Hap and Leonard series of crime fiction novels. Jussi Piironen is a Finnish artist and illustrator, whose most recent illustrations appear in the graphic novel adaptation of Lansdale’s now-classic Hap & Leonard novel, Mucho Mojo. Thanks to Joe and to Jussi for answering a few questions about the collaborative process, the graphic novel form, and the cult classic series. What inspired you to adapt MUCHO MOJO into the graphic novel form? JOE R. LANSDALE: This is actually a question for Jussi, but for me the answer is simple. What a cool idea! JUSSI PIIRONEN: The original novel was published here in Finland in 1997 and I immediately bought it—at the tender age of fifteen. I instantly fell in love with the characters and the mood of the book. Mucho Mojo was my first encounter with the characters and remains one of my favorite stories in the Hap and Leonard canon so the graphic novel was actually a no-brainer. How did you two find each other? JOE: Paul Fry, who was the original planned publisher, wanted to hire Jussi to do the job, and I agreed. But it was mostly between Paul and Jussi. JUSSI: I was doing this horror graphic novel for Paul and after couple of conversations and wild twists and turns, I was suddenly adapting and illustrating Hap and Leonard graphic novels. As I mentioned earlier, I was already a massive fan of Joe’s work. What were some aspects that were important to keep in mind when bringing Hap and Leonard to life visually in this book? JOE: Books leave the character’s appearance and intonation to the readers. When you actually present the characters, you have to hope the art, their appearance, is convincing and satisfying for the audience. But then again, I’m not one who worries about the audience when creating, other than an audience of one. Me. But when finished, I hope everyone likes it. Jussi may have a different view point. JUSSI: Yeah, the characters have such a large fan base, so I felt gigantic pressure to make everything look right. This is our second collaboration with the characters [after adapting and illustrating the Savage Season graphic novel] and with Mucho Mojo I was, to be honest, quite comfortable during the whole process. Art-wise, I really pushed myself to extremes during the creation state as this novel means so much to me and, from what I’ve heard, for the fans here in Finland and all over the globe as well. How did the inspiration for the look of the graphic novel evolve? JOE: Jussi, to you. JUSSI: I already had the look of the graphic novel vividly in my mind when I started adapting the novel. A lot of bright colors to show the hot summer of East Texas. And I really wanted the fight scenes to be brutal and crazy. Just something that has not been seen in comics before—or not that often. After Savage Season, we already had the look of Hap and Leonard figured out. The only character I had some trouble with was MeMaw. Believe it or not, at first I illustrated her to look like a horrible, mummified grandma. Jeez! The final look for her has the right amount of heart and toughness the character needs. Did the illustrations inspire the text, or vice versa? How does that collaboration process work? JOE: Jussi did the work, I saw it, and sometimes I commented through Paul or to Jussi by email, and he would develop ways to incorporate changes. JUSSI: The Mucho Mojo graphic novel is a collaboration of us three. Joe gave me great tips and notes and Paul commented some art stuff here and there and kept the whole palette together during the process. It has been a really rewarding experience for me as a writer and as an artist. What do you get out of the graphic novel format that you can’t get from a novel (and vice versa)? JOE: It’s merely a different way of presenting a story, as is film and television. But it’s unique in that in some ways, it’s closer to the source and you’re not restricted by an actor’s abilities, and though budget may cause some restrictions in comics, it’s of a different nature than films. You don’t have to leave something out you want to put in because it will cost too much to make it work. The talent of the artist and the space are all that’s needed. JUSSI: Like Joe said, you don’t really need to leave anything out because of budget restrictions. And you don’t have to censor yourself so much as when working in the film/TV industry. The action can be over the top and there can be some serious foul language. Joe, with plenty of film and tv adaptations under your boot, your work seems uniquely easy to visualize on screen. Did that ease transfer to the graphic novel adaptation? JOE: I felt it did. What’s on your nightstand/What are you reading next? JOE: Actually, I’m reading books on settling Mars and on Greek mythology, always an interest of mine. Both subjects, actually. JUSSI: I’m currently reading Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle series, the controversial but oh-so-great autobiographical novels. The reading is sometimes really a challenge but the books are so honest you gotta love them, and I devour them. I also have Hugo Pratt’s Ballad of the Salty Sea graphic novel on my desk. The graphic novel form doesn’t get better than this. *** View the full article
  8. It’s Monday morning and time for some Cover Snark! From Rebecca: For your consideration for cover snarkiness because the title hurts my brain. Sarah: Sir, I am just as confused as you are. Elyse: WTF is happening with his armpit? Also it sounds like the baby she’s carrying is her roommate’s dad so is this a time travel issue? Sarah: Wait, maybe the cover model is pregnant with their roommate’s dad? That’s going to be a complicated gestation. Elyse: He’s carrying the baby in his weird arm lump Sarah: Unless this is an alien romance and the person who is pregnant is gestating another person’s parent? AJ: This is why you don’t drink and drive a time machine, folks. From Naomi: I know the Bitches will Have Opinions about this cover! Sarah: Who is Desive? And why does Desive slap? Seems uncalled for. It’s just gold leaf. Calm down Desive. Tara: I feel like I’ve seen a face version of this on Glow Up. Elyse: I thought it said Derisive Slaps. Sarah: Decisive? Decisive slaps! Claudia: Well, regardless, the gold leaf most definitely does not slap. Amanda: He looks like me after I tuck into a croissant. Carrie: This is what happens when people discover glitter for the first time. From Tracy: This cover is wild AF but it 100% gets the point across. Maybe too accurate? Peep that horny dick spaceship tho. (Unrelated but this is the first time I’ve seen female on male anal fisting in a book, but that’s not on the cover for some reason…) Sarah: None words. Unable to word. None. Elyse: Why the ears ? Shana: Just in time for Easter, Bunny Aliens! Claudia: We can appreciate the pastel colors…I guess? Kiki: I’m now realizing just how long it’s been since I had Peeps… Elyse: If we microwave them will they expand? Sneezy: No. They’ll take up too much space. AJ: Welp, looks like I’m going to have to read that Easter bunny book. I cannot resist the crazy sauce. The heroine’s name is Ch’ik. Chick. We’re starting strong. Amanda: It says book two and yes, there is underboob on every other cover in the series. At least it’s consistent. Carrie: Look, we all know that all that exposed area is dangerous, but can we take a moment to discuss the hazards of chafing? Cause that can’t be comfortable! Amanda: The thought of chainmail rubbing against my nips 24/7 is a big ol’ nope for me. Dr. Nips would be on speed dial Carrie: I hurt just looking at this. Sarah: This is what endometriosis feels like. Elyse: I love how the armor just exposes her most vulnerable areas. Sneezy: Plus her hair must be all caught and snagged in the chainmail. View the full article
  9. Photo by Taryn Elliot/Pexels Years ago, when my oldest child was an infant, I heard about a book club a local mom’s group was organizing. I was so excited and desperate to talk to other like-minded moms that I purchased the book, read it from cover to cover, and showed up at the restaurant. I didn’t see anyone I knew, so I grabbed a drink and waited for the meeting to start. I believe we talked about the book for approximately five minutes, before everyone began breaking off into groups and chatting among themselves about their lives. Because I didn’t know anyone, I stood off awkwardly to the side. Disappointed, I left the club early and never went back, vowing that book clubs were a waste of time. I still love to read, and a few years ago noticed virtual book clubs were beginning to pop up. I’ll see different celebrities promoting them and often get ideas for new books to read from their social media pages. I’ve interviewed a few local true crime authors for my podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. I often get pitches (and Net Galley access or offers of advanced copies) for thrillers, mysteries and true crime new releases. I started thinking it might be fun to form my own virtual book club as an extension of my podcast, so I poked around to find out what some of these other virtual book clubs offer. Here are two I researched. Reese’s Book Club How it works: Each month, Reese Witherspoon selects a book with a woman at the center of the story. It’s free to join. You download Reese’s Book Club app and set up a profile. You can buy books through an affiliate link, but it’s not required. 100 percent of the proceeds go towards funding specific programs designed to advance diverse voices and promote literacy. You can also shop for merch on the website and create your own box complete with a book and other goodies from the club’s partners. Recent selections: “Honey & Spice” by Bolu Babalola, “Counterfeit” by Kirsten Chen, “The Dictionary of Lost Words” by Pip Williams, and “True Biz” by Sara Novic. Jen Hatmaker Book Club How it works: Author Jen Hatmaker has a monthly subscription box and membership designed to share works of fiction, non-fiction, biographies, short stories, etc. each month. Members can pay $32.99 (plus shipping and handling) to receive the book, chapter summaries, a reading plan, and weekly group discussion questions. They also receive access to the private Jen Hatmaker Book Club Facebook group and a video podcast with the author or other special guest. The monthly book always includes a surprise item, such as a beanie, coffee mug, water bottle, etc. If you don’t want a physical copy of the book and would rather use a Kindle version, library copy, etc., you can pay $9.99. The digital membership allows access to everything but the physical copy of the book and bonus item. Recent selections: “When We Believed in Mermaids” by Barbara O’Neal, “The Girl with the Louding Voice” by Abi Dare, “I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet” by Shauna Niequest, and “The Lost Apothecary” by Sarah Penner. What’s the verdict? Do you belong to any of these virtual book clubs, and do you enjoy participating? What would you enjoy most out of joining this type of club? Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas.(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. Yesterday
  11. Hey there! Are you ready to get rec’d? This is where we get to talk about book recommendations, whether we’re receiving them or giving them out. I love to do a bit of handselling at the bookstore and it’s always a point of pride when a customer takes a chance on your suggestion or staff pick. Have you recommended any good books lately? Picked up anything based on a friend’s suggestion? A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons I feel like even if you think you’ve exhausted your list of historical mysteries to read, there’s always another one popping up! Saffron Everleigh is in a race against time to free her wrongly accused professor before he goes behind bars forever. Perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn and Anna Lee Huber, Kate Khavari’s debut historical mystery is a fast-paced, fearless adventure. London, 1923. Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh attends a dinner party for the University College of London. While she expects to engage in conversations about the university’s large expedition to the Amazon, she doesn’t expect Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin. Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect, having had an explosive argument with Dr. Henry a few days prior. As evidence mounts against Dr. Maxwell and the expedition’s departure draws nearer, Saffron realizes if she wants her mentor’s name cleared, she’ll have to do it herself. Joined by enigmatic Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons. Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list? Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Killing Code This one was actually recommend to me! I loved Marney’s None Shall Sleep, which I recommended here before. I had no clue she had a new one coming out that is a WWII YA thriller. A historical mystery about a girl who risks everything to track down a vicious serial killer, for fans of The Enigma Game and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. Virginia, 1943: World War II is raging in Europe and on the Pacific front when Kit Sutherland is recruited to help the war effort as a codebreaker at Arlington Hall, a former girls’ college now serving as the site of a secret US Signals Intelligence facility in Virginia. But Kit is soon involved in another kind of fight: Government girls are being brutally murdered in Washington DC, and when Kit stumbles onto a bloody homicide scene, she is drawn into the hunt for the killer. To find the man responsible for the gruesome murders and bring him to justice, Kit joins forces with other female codebreakers at Arlington Hall—gossip queen Dottie Crockford, sharp-tongued intelligence maven Moya Kershaw, and cleverly resourceful Violet DuLac from the segregated codebreaking unit. But as the girls begin to work together and develop friendships—and romance—that they never expected, two things begin to come clear: the murderer they’re hunting is closing in on them…and Kit is hiding a dangerous secret. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Sleepless A woman came into the bookstore, wanting a dystopian/sci-fi read for her husband. I sold her on this murder mystery with the caveat that it does feature a pandemic that changes the population, if that’s a no-go for them right now. In a near-future New York City where a minority of the population has lost the need for sleep, a journalist fights to uncover the truth behind his boss’s murder on the eve of a sinister corporate takeover—while his own Sleeplessness spirals out of control. A mysterious pandemic causes a quarter of the world to permanently lose the ability to sleep—without any apparent health implications. The outbreak creates a new class of people who are both feared and ostracized, most of whom optimize their extra hours to earn more money. Jamie Vega, a journalist at C+P Media, is one of the Sleepless. When his boss dies in a suicidal overdose, Jamie doesn’t buy this too-convenient explanation—especially given its suspicious timing during a controversial merger—and investigates. As Jamie delves deeper into Simon’s final days, he tangles with extremist organizations and powerful corporate interests, and must confront past traumas and the unforeseen consequences of being Sleepless. But he soon faces the most dangerous decision of all, as he uncovers a terrifying truth about Sleeplessness that imperils him—and all of humanity. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy This is why it’s good to have people whose opinions you trust! I used Sarah’s review of this one to get my friend, Emma, to pick this one up. I would say my dear friend Emma and Sarah have similar interests in the romances they read and I’m eagerly awaiting Emma’s thoughts. Hart Ralston is a demigod and a marshal, tasked with patrolling the wasteland of Tanria. The realm the exiled old gods once called home is now a forsaken place where humans with no better options or no better sense come seeking adventure or spoils, but more often end up as drudges: reanimated corpses inhabited by the souls of those who’ve died in Tanria before. Hart tells himself that his job is simple: neutralize the drudges with a quick zap to the appendix and deliver them back to polite society at the nearest undertaker’s, leaving the whys and hows of the drudge problem for men without the complexities of a god in their family tree. But working alone, Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder exactly those questions he’d most like to avoid. Too much time alone is the opposite of Mercy Birdsall’s problem. Since her father’s decline, she’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son undertakers afloat in small-town Eternity—despite definitely not being a son, and in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart Ralston, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest. The work’s not the problem—Mercy’s good at it, better than any other Birdsall—but keeping all her family’s plates spinning singlehandedly, forever, isn’t how Mercy envisioned her future. After yet another run-in with the sharp-tongued Mercy, Hart considers she might have a point about his utter loneliness being a bit of a liability. In a moment of sentimentality, he pens a letter addressed simply to “A Friend,” and entrusts it to a nimkilim, an anthropomorphic animal messenger with an uncanny connection to the gods, (and in Hart’s case, a bit of a drinking problem). Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born. If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most–Mercy. As the two unlikely pen pals grow closer, the truth about Hart’s parentage and the nature of the drudges creeps in. And suddenly their old animosity seems so small in comparison to what they might be able to do: end the drudges forever. But at what cost? Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  12. Jennifer Juniper’s love of travel mixes well with her uncontrollable curiosity and often leads to adventure and intrigue. With life as her muse, she stays busy chronicling connections and inspiring interactions. An excerpt titled “The Fish Doctor” from her upcoming memoir was recently published. Her poetry is featured in But You Don’t Look Sick: The Real Life Adventures of Fibro Bitches, Lupus Warriors, and other Superheroes Battling Invisible Illness. Her essay made it into Decimos: We Say. She is an award-winning poet currently living on the road with a kitty she was only supposed to foster, splitting her time between here, there and everywhere while working on her memoir, Gut Instincts. She blogs at onehitoneder.wordpress.com and tries to stay up on Twitter @JenJuniperM. Read Jennifer's moving essay here and then return to learn more about the author. ----------Interview by Renee Roberson WOW: Congratulations, Jennifer, and welcome! Your essay about your relationship with your father is very touching. How has writing helped you explore the details (good and bad) that may have remained buried within your psyche had you not put them on paper? Jennifer: Thank you for feeling it with me. It’s why I write—to feel something and help others feel something. Writing has always been how I process life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been using words, both reading and writing, to help me find a solid place within myself. Writing makes it all stand still for a moment, where I can see it. Hold it. Let it do with me what it will, within the safety of the page. I use the power of the pen to get those buried treasures out of me and bring them to the light. I love seeing what pours out of me given the quiet opportunity to discover. All we need is within us—writing is one of the ways I find it. People, places and things written down become immortal. We can transcend time. I get to revisit, relive all those moments again. This piece about my father and me, it puts us in one place where I can find him again. Dance with him again, see him hand me an ice cream cone again, fall back on his advice. WOW: On your blog you wrote about how the first two times you submitted to this writing contest you didn’t advance to the finals. What advice would you give to anyone who is hesitant about submitting their work to writing contests? Jennifer: Write for the sake of writing. Write because you can, because you have something to say and what you say matters. Make art–literary art. Aren’t we lucky to be creative types? Unbound by what is, able to angle ourselves into our own designs. Everytime I write, I get better. I’ve come to see it beyond the labels of good and bad, but as a person learning guitar approaches an instrument. To learn. I’m practicing my craft, and you get better at what you practice. I always pay extra for the feedback and it’s always helpful in addition to being super encouraging. Contests offer discipline. They give structure and a deadline, prompting you to stay with a piece through completion—all good things for us writers. I find there’s a certain intrinsic prize once I hit the Send button. I didn’t let my fears stop me. I created something to share with the world. I was vulnerable. And I often tell myself, I can’t be the only one feeling and thinking this. Maybe someone will find company in my piece. I take solace in Stephen King’s "On Writing" where he talks about being a kid, putting a nail in the rafter above the desk in his bedroom. He stabbed his rejection letters onto it. And when it got full, he had to put in a second, bigger nail. So, I figure I’m in pretty good company when I don’t get chosen. A record label turned down Prince. Chicken Soup for the Soul got passed on heaps of times. Anyways, if I really want to keep an authentic voice, I need to write without wondering what will come of it. How high it will climb in the world. Once I saw Eric Clapton perform his song "Tears In Heaven" live, to loud applause. He told us he’d written the song to deal with his own grief. “That you all happened to like it, too was a bonus." WOW: Your memoir, “Gut Instincts,” chronicles your health journey with Crohn’s Disease. What do you hope readers will take away from your book? Jennifer: To see it not as a How-To book, but a Now-You book. I want them to be inspired to listen to their bodies and love themselves well. A disease has symptoms and also is a symptom of our whole life and our whole being. Go beyond the limitations of modern medicine, take back their power and tap into their own self-induced healing mechanism. An understanding that without the mind, the body can’t heal. And everything can heal. Everything. Chronic illness is wrought with shame and isolation, I want to alleviate that. Obliterate it. I hope they find a hand to hold inside my pages. I hope they reach out and ask me for more than that, if needed. WOW: I love this! Thank you for shining a light on the emotional struggles people with chronic illness face alongside the physical symptoms. Speaking of writing nonfiction, are there any memoirs you’ve read recently that you would recommend to our readers? Jennifer: Mary Karr’s "Lit." She drills down deep, puts me right there with her, and her style makes me read sentences over and over again, in awe. I’m a better writer for having read her. And she’s snarky, with a self-deprecating wit, which I love and relate to. WOW: Thank you for that recommendation! You are currently living on the road as you complete the memoir. What has the experience been like for you and would you recommend it to fellow writers if they have the chance to do it? Jennifer: Travel is magical–I highly recommend it. I just got back from a trip and can’t keep up with my muse! Movement and newness are so good for me and my creativity. I’m my best self on the road, because I can be whoever I want, unencumbered by the mundane. There’s a suspension of self, like being in a new place makes me new, too. I’m not sure how it all works, but I’m definitely more likely to follow those nudges and tune into nuances when I travel. They take me to places I wouldn’t have found otherwise. They seem to know better than I do. WOW: Jennifer, thank you again for spending time with us today! Keep us posted on your writing projects--you're an inspiration.(C) Copyright wow-womenonwriting.com Visit WOW! Women On Writing for lively interviews and how-tos. Check out WOW!'s Classroom and learn something new. Enter the Quarterly Writing Contests. Open Now![url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  13. Last week
  14. I'm so excited to interview Claudine Wolk and Kate Brenton, creators of the Sit & Write: A Writing Master Course. It's a course for writers who know they have a book in them, but don't know where to start or how to meld it into their mission. Kate Brenton, author and inspired teacher, joins book marketing expert, Claudine Wolk, in this class that combines the spiritual and analytical sides of writing to get your mission and your message into the hands of those who need it. Community calls, video lessons, and one-on-one calls combined with the unique insight of Kate (spiritual) and Claudine (analytical) will provide pieces of what is needed for your book to get written and seen. Find out more information about their course by visiting their website. Use WOW2022 for an early bird discount! Registration ends 10/15/2022. Before we get to my interview, get to know a bit more about Kate and Claudine: Kate Brenton, published author and inspirational teacher, will help you work through the structure and cadence of your story, refine your voice, and reach your audience. Kate has an uncanny knack of intuitively following a thread and unearthing resistance that clouds a writer’s voice. Writers will receive 3 one-on-one calls with Kate to review material, work through voice, or another writer-selected topic on the creative process. Claudine Wolk, published author and book marketing muse, will help you to identify your book’s message, audience, and hook - the building blocks to determine the viability and focus of your book idea and later marketing materials. You will receive 2 sixty-minute-one-on-one calls with Claudine to flesh out your book idea and get your questions answered on good publishing practices. Claudine will also teach on the art of pitching your book (because it is an art and you get to practice. -- Interview by Nicole Pyles WOW: I can't wait to find out more about this course! What can people expect from taking it? Kate & Claudine: With full committed participation, Sit & Write will be the space where you create the first draft of our book and learn the first, most important steps to successfully market the book. WOW: That's fantastic! Why do you think people have a hard time disciplining themselves to write? Kate & Claudine: It's the discipline and time management, coupled with standing your ground against resistance and doubt, which inevitably arrive. Sometimes we doubt the content as a facade for doubting ourselves or we can be so close to what we are creating that we cannot truly see it. The beauty of writing is that it's you and the word, but that is also the difficulty. WOW: So true, conquering that doubt is such a challenge. Kate, you work with writers on overcoming their doubts while also helping them structure their novel. What are the roadblocks do you notice writer's struggle with the most? Kate: Accepting that they have 1,000 things to say but there is only room for 10. So, a writer has to trust their intention and the scope of what they have set out to write to maintain a coherence and elegance for the reader. What the writer wants and what the reader needs can sometimes be a dance in creation. WOW: It is a dance! Claudine, you teach a lot of what goes into the marketing of the book. What do you think are the most important parts of figuring out how to market your book? Claudine: Number one is to learn the publishing options available so that you understand the correct timeline of the important promotion opportunities available to give your book the best chance to be seen and sold. Marketing starts while you are writing your first manuscript! Number two is to identify your message, audience, and hook. Message, audience and hook are the fundamental building blocks that will inhabit every part of your media kit and marketing plan. WOW: Yes! I don't think people realize that marketing starts while you are writing. It takes time to build a plan. Kate, what kind of resistance do you see writer's struggle with when finding their voice? Kate: For some writers there is an un-learning that needs to happen. As in so many areas, they have assumed a voice that is needed rather than trusting their own. This can look like a journal prompt flowing more easily than a significant chapter. Rectifying this is acknowledging how the writer feels (mindset) when they write in that natural voice and leaning in there, until it becomes the voice. WOW: Getting out of our own way is definitely challenge. Claudine, how do you help writers plan out the marketing method to your book? Claudine: After a discussion of publishing choices and making a publishing decision, we engage the writer in exercises to identify their message, audience, and hook. Writers come away from the exercises with an elevator pitch for their book and the backbones of a book proposal and/or query. We review the pitching process with tips and suggestions. Once the fundamentals are in place, we discuss book marketing options and how to narrow an author’s focus to what is actually doable from a financial and time management standpoint. Book distribution and book promotion opportunities are discussed for further research. WOW: That is an exciting but difficult process! Why is the spiritual and analytical side of writing important to consider? Kate & Claudine: Both are needed. If you are more guided internally you may hide from the marketing thinking that you can't do it or it's not necessary, but it is; not only for book sales, but to strengthen the reach or hook for the reader who does not know you. The analytical side helps take your book and provides the accessibility for your readers to find it! Likewise, if you are completely analytical in your writing and focusing only on the transaction of writing, you aren't allowing your reader the joy to sink in and unfurl to the fullness of your piece or your voice, fiction or non-fiction. For purpose-driven writers you need both. WOW: So true! Can you share any success stories with us? Either through this class or through one-on-one work you've had with writers? Kate & Claudine: For some of our early birds on this round, their first (free) consultation call gave them a call to action. For one writer, she decided to go with her gut and broaden her depth in her book and she is already writing before we begin! Another author, between their intake call and signing up, chose to convert a class curriculum to a book and has also begun writing with a clear directive and a loose structure. Both writers benefited from the intake assessment for Sit & Write: A Master Writing Course that both narrows the focus and asks the questions to illuminate the true intention of what is being written. We are both published authors and know what it takes to write, publish and market a book. More importantly, our work with authors over the years, Kate as teacher/mentor, Claudine as book marketer/editor, has only heightened our desire to help authors get their message out there. Why should a writer’s message be stymied because he/she can’t get it out onto the page or because they were not aware of the book marketing steps that from the beginning of the process would have made the difference in getting their book seen and sold? We aim to change that circumstance with this class. WOW: That's exciting! So much action happening so soon. I am can't wait to see what comes out of this course for people. Thank you again for your time today. Again, find out more information about their course by visiting their website. Use WOW2022 for an early bird discount! Registration ends 10/15/2022. (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]
  15. Our event is being held on “the #1 virtual and hybrid event platform for building relationships.” When we discovered Airmeet, we thought it might come close to the connection potential of an in-person event. And you know what? We’ve already heard from WU UnConference alums who’ve been in our event lounge that they feel exactly that way; it’s the closest they can imagine an online platform coming to an in-person feel. How? It supports community connection in countless ways–from hosting small-group meets, to event-wide conversations, direct messaging, unique ways to connect with session leaders, built-in networking capabilities, and more. It’s the perfect platform for a community event, and we’re thrilled to have found it. We’re all about accessibility–and we don’t just mean that you can attend our event from your own living room couch. If you, like a growing number of people from all age groups in this country, prefer your media with closed captioning, you’ll be glad to know our live sessions offer it. While there are a plethora of reasons for using closed captioning, the one that rings true to us right now is the ability to help with attention. If you have a hoppy mind (thank you, social media), turn on closed captioning and feel your roving brain cells home in. It’s a beautiful thing. You don’t need a computer to participate. Though we recommend using a computer for the most fulsome OnConference experience, you can download Airmeet in the app store or on Google Play and access the event via your mobile device. We may have accidentally stepped over the cutting edge. When we conceived of this event, it was in part through listening to the alums of our in-person UnConferences. What would they like to see in an online event? One of the things they mentioned was the need to marry the event with life at home. Time of day was important, and events that trickled out rather than landed over one bloated weekend might be more doable. Turns out the long-form event may be the new podcast, as it’s been found to create lasting community bonds. Who knew? We didn’t. But we couldn’t have written a more perfect possibility for this particular group. The event’s blueprint has yet to be finalized. Yes, OnConference sessions begin in just 5 days, and will wrap on 10/16, and those things are set–never fear. But the event itself will stay open through the end of the year, and there are so many ways the platform can be used to help you with your writing. Already, writing sprint groups have formed tables in our lounge and meet daily M-F. NaNoWriMo kicks off November 1st, and whether you NaNo or NoNo, November writing energy is real and can help you to meet your goals. How else will we use the space–the lounge and the session stage? That has yet to be determined, but is limited only by our imaginations. There are five days left to register for WU’s first OnConference. Learn more about the event that has us all abuzz, and sign up HERE. Write on! About Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton in 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~50 regular contributors--including bestselling authors and industry leaders--and frequent guests. In 2014, the first Writer Unboxed UnConference (part UNtraditional conference, part intensive craft event, part networking affair) was held in Salem, MA. Learn more about our 2019 event, ESCAPE TO WuNDERLAND, on Eventbrite. In 2016, the Writer Unboxed team published a book with Writer's Digest. AUTHOR IN PROGRESS: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published has been well-received by readers who seek help in overcoming the hurdles faced at every step of the novel-writing process--from setting goals, researching, and drafting to giving and receiving critiques, polishing prose, and seeking publication. James Scott Bell has said of the guide, "Nourishment for the writer's soul and motivation for the writer's heart." You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter, and join our thriving Facebook community. Twitter | Facebook | More Posts [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  16. September is wrapping up and that means it’s time for our second Whatcha Reading of the month. We want to hear all about your reading highs and lows! Elyse: I just started The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths. ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) It’s spooky season and I want spooky! Lara: I was influenced by Sarah. I’m reading Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn and I’m loving it! Claudia: I am at the very beginning of Sailor’s Delight by Rose Lerner! Sarah: I am reading A Restless Truth, ( A | BN | K | AB ) the sequel to A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske. A | BN | K | ABTara: I’m listening to The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monae ( A | BN | K | AB ) and it’s sooooo good. Shana: Ooh, good to know! I have The Memory Librarian on hold at the library. I’m midway through The Bad in Each Other by Tasha Harrison. ( A | BN | K | AB ) It’s a second chance romance, and the hero was enough of a jerk in the backstory that I’m going to need a LOT more groveling. And it better happen soon. Susan: I marathoned Sailor’s Delight and loved it, so I hope you enjoy it too, Claudia! So, whatcha reading? Let us know in the comments! View the full article
  17. A page from “How to Name Your Baby,” in issue no. 66. John Train, a cofounder of The Paris Review and its first managing editor—or “so-called managing editor,” as he often put it—died last month, at age ninety-four. It was Train who coined the Review’s name and, in its early days in Paris, as a member of the Café Tournon crowd, he pushed the magazine away from criticism, writing later that “theories, both literary and political, are the enemy of art.” Train went on to become “an operator in high finance and world affairs,” as the Times obituary put it today, but many will remember him best for his love of small idiosyncrasies: in the early fifties, while studying for a master’s degree at Harvard in comparative literature, Train noticed in Collier’s magazine a Mr. Katz Meow, which led to an earnest obsession with collecting what he called “remarkable names of real people.” You can find some of these in our Summer 1976 issue, no. 66, which features a fourteen-page list of names Train had unearthed in the records of a very real and now-defunct state department called the Office of Nomenclature Stabilization. (We published an appreciation of “How to Name Your Baby” online in 2015.) Train announced his departure from his post as managing editor, as George Plimpton and Norman Mailer recall, with singularly dry humor: One day in 1954, after a year of organizing things in the office, he left a note in his In-box stating, “Do not put anything in this box.” By this he meant to tell the rest of the staff that he was moving on to something else. From the Chelsea office, the staff of the Review are thinking of Train, his legacy and “In-box,” his family and friends. He will be missed. View the full article
  18. Gabriel Mälesskircher, Saint Guy Healing a Possessed Man, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. This week, we remember Hilary Mantel (1952–2022), and bring you recommendations from two of our issue no. 241 contributors. On holiday in France, I went to Colmar to see the Isenheim Altarpiece in the Musée Unterlinden. Afterward, wandering through the museum’s collection of medieval and Renaissance art, I came across a small oil painting: part of an altarpiece attributed to Gabriel Mälesskircher, a fifteenth-century German artist from Colmar. Saint Guy Healing a Possessed Man has clear, singing colors, predominantly reds and greens. While Saint Guy looks on, the possessed man in question is being restrained by three other men. His head is thrown back, and the expelled demon, a tiny black humanoid, has just flown out of his gaping mouth. I thought at once of Mavis Gallant’s story “In the Tunnel,” which ends with the protagonist, Sarah, writing a jokey, flirtatious invitation to dinner on the back of a postcard that shows a miniature human figure cast out from a man’s body: “This person must have eaten my cooking.” I remembered that another of Gallant’s stories, “Virus X,” is set partly in Colmar, and I felt certain that she knew Mälesskircher’s painting. I imagined her looking at it, taking in its detail as I was, and the thrill of connection ran through me like bright wire. Back in Sydney, I woke with jet lag at three in the morning. In the living room, I switched on the heater and a lamp and began to read “In the Tunnel.” Well before I reached the end, I knew I had been wrong about Sarah’s postcard. The story is set on the French Riviera, and Sarah steals the card in a mountain chapel not far from Menton. The chapel, which Gallant doesn’t name, is Notre-Dame des Fontaines, famous for its frescoes. The one reproduced on Sarah’s postcard, by Giovanni Canavesio, depicts the hanged Judas. From the mess of guts that spills from his open stomach, his soul—a tiny man—reaches out to the waiting Devil. Visiting the chapel with Sarah are her lover, Roy, and the woman with whom he’s cheating on her. It’s Roy, betrayer and devil, a man who takes pleasure in cruelty, a man who has supervised hangings, who first makes the remark about Sarah’s cooking—seeking, as usual, to inflict pain. In other words, the subject of the fresco is integral to the story. But in my wish to connect with Gallant, I’d contrived to forget all this and had superimposed Mälesskircher’s painting onto Canavesio’s work. At the end of the story, years have gone by and Sarah, too, has forgotten everything: Roy, the day in the chapel, the provenance of the postcard. When she unconsciously repeats Roy’s words, she’s making them her own, transforming hurt into erotic potential. After she writes the card, the past comes back to her. Her prospective dinner guest might turn out to be another Roy, but for now she’s out of the tunnel, and there’s joy in view. We remember only as much as we need to for happiness, and I felt happy that day in Colmar. Maybe Gallant did once pause in front of Saint Guy Healing a Possessed Man—why not? —Michelle de Kretser, author of “Winter Term” Middle-grade children’s literature consists of books intended to teach children something, most of which are boring, and books children actually like, most of which are bad. Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence, which was published from 1965 to 1977, is neither. I reencountered these books, which I loved as a boy, a couple of weeks ago, when my ten-year-old daughter finally turned to them, having plowed through everything else lumped under the heading, “If you liked Harry Potter, you might also like …” In one sense Cooper’s series is typical middle-grade fantasy: kid wizard, prophecy, evildoers, Gandalf figure. In a larger sense, however, her books rewrote the formula before there was even a formula to be written. The boy wizard isn’t always central. The Gandalf figure is rather grim. Children are major actors, but the events depend on adult frailties like thwarted lust, and the characters’ faults and virtues are tangled together: when a boy hero named Bran is treated like an outsider, he resents that treatment but also grows vain about it, such that another boy thinks of Bran’s face as showing “shadows of crafty arrogance” and wishes it were otherwise. My daughter’s favorite book is the third one, Greenwitch, about a strange creature created by an ancient harvest ritual that works all too well. “What I like,” she told me, “is that everything isn’t just about the people, instead it’s about this mysterious force nobody can control and nobody really understands.” There are worse ways to think about the world, or about the world of books. —David Orr, author of “The New You” At school, Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety was recommended by the history teacher I, a hateful teenager, liked least (pedantic; prone to raptures over seemingly arcane points of fact). He proclaimed it the best book we could read on the French Revolution; since it was the only novel on the list, I opened it anyway, and was reluctantly entranced. (Robespierre, self-conscious, trying to muster something better than his usual thin, cold smile for Danton—“But it was the only one available to his face.”) Mantel’s imagination was uncannily sinuous: it seemed she could absorb and reinvent her revolutionaries without bending or avoiding any of the established facts, and dance her way through the countless disputed ones. By the time of Wolf Hall, she could conjure a Thomas Cromwell faithful to the historical record whose thoughts ran quick and vital, with no whiff of the antique. Those intricately researched and constructed books are animated throughout by the thrill it evidently gave Mantel to inhabit a mind like Cromwell’s—to imagine its unusual intelligence, the dark jokes it might tell itself even in extremis. There’s a moment when our man, believing he may die, is reluctant to give confession, to relinquish those sins “that others have not even found the opportunity of committing … they’re mine.” He goes on: “Besides, when I come to judgment I mean to come with a memorandum in my hand: I shall say to my Maker, I have fifty items here, possibly more.” —Lidija Haas, deputy editor Hilary Mantel’s Giving Up the Ghost is one of my favorite memoirs—a book about illness without sentimentality, let alone self-pity; about the supernatural, without the woo-woo; about motherhood without children: You come to this place, midlife. You don’t know how you got here, but suddenly you’re staring fifty in the face. When you turn and look back down the years, you glimpse the ghosts of other lives you might have led. All your houses are haunted by the person you might have been. The wraiths and phantoms creep under your carpets and between the warp and weft of your curtains, they lurk in wardrobes and lie flat under drawer liners. You think of the children you might have had but didn’t. When the midwife says, “It’s a boy,” where does the girl go? When you think you’re pregnant, and you’re not, what happens to that child that has already formed in your mind? You keep it filed in a drawer of your consciousness, like a short story that wouldn’t work after the opening lines. —Emily Stokes, editor View the full article
  19. The transcript for Podcast 529. The Romancelandia Yarn Collection with Nakia from Wild Star Fibers 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
  20. If I could only recommend one movie from this past month, it would be Confess, Fletch, a movie of epic coolness and smoothness featuring Jon Hamm in his best role in a long time. It is so relentlessly enjoyable that I was positively shocked it didn’t have a wider release. Indeed, if you want to see it, you’ll have to hustle over to some faraway theater to catch a showing, or (like me) ride a million escalators to the top floor of the Times Square AMC, but it will be worth it, I promise you. Confess, Fletch, directed by Greg Mottola and co-written by Mottola and Zev Borow, is an adaptation of Gregory Mcdonald’s 1976 novel of the same name, the third in his series about a investigator named I.M. Fletcher, or, as he prefers, “Fletch.” The film begins when Hamm’s Fletch, visiting Boston to try to recover stolen paintings on behalf of his wealthy Italian girlfriend’s family, stumbles upon a murder in his own house. Well, the house he’s renting. Is it a frame job? A weird coincidence? The police officers in charge (Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden Mayeri) think he’s too shifty a character to trust completely, and so begins a slick, convoluted mystery with almost as many crimes as there are detectives. In almost every conceivable way (from lighting to dialogue), the movie deftly, smoothly sifts hardboiled noir tropes into the framework of a lighthearted, globetrotting caper, and Hamm’s entire presence combines the two associated character types seamlessly. He is a clever, sardonic loner PI character, while also projecting the roguish charm and playfulness of, say, Cary Grant in his To Catch a Thief and Charade days. Fletch, a freelance investigative journalist, who is very good at getting others to foot the bill of a slightly elevated lifestyle, is a bit of a loafer, even more of a goofball, sometimes an idiot. He loves being barefoot, even when it’s weird. This is the perfect fate for an actor who appeared in the drama Mad Men and as a recurring guest-star on the comedy 30 Rock at the same time. Anyway, his Fletch makes for a very satisfyingly complex and magnetic lead, as rich and dense and layered as a fresh croissant or a can of Pringles (if you think those two foods don’t belong in the same sentence, let me introduce you again to our leading man). You want to follow Fletch wherever he goes. There are lots of players in this art-heist-cum-murder-mystery, from his moneybags girlfriend Angela (Lorenza Izzo, fun to see again after her small but memorable role in the third act of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood), to her cloying stepmother, known as “The Contessa” (Marcia Gay Harden, fun to see always), to a pretentious art dealer who won’t stop talking about how he teaches courses at Harvard (Kyle MacLachlan). And of course there’s Fletch’s fast-talking old newspaper pal, played by John Slattery, who doesn’t have many scenes but properly chews them up when he does. The Mad Men reunion helps corroborate the film’s gentle midcentury sensibilities. The character Fletch is a product of the 70s, and although the film has a totally modern setting, there is something vintage about its whole vibe. The mystery itself is intriguing, but it’s more fun to watch Hamm juggle all the personalities and suspects he encounters, including a vapid interior decorator (Lucy Punch), and a loud, stoned hippie neighbor (Annie Mumolo). He hops from one conversation to the next with the same bemused wryness, a cartoonish straight man amid a chaotic whirl of strange people and strange motives. He seems to always laugh to himself, and you are invited to laugh along with him. Speaking of “cartoonish straight men,” Chevy Chase played the character in two films in the 1980s but the series didn’t yield the franchise that the character deserves. Until now. Mottola has already announced that he is developing a second installment for Hamm’s Fletch. Hallelujah. Or, as Fletch tells every single Uber driver he rides with, “five stars!” View the full article
  21. A River Enchanted A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross is $1.99! This is a Kindle Daily Deal. It’s Ross’s debut adult fantasy novel and there is a romantic subplot. I’ve also mentioned it on a previous Get Rec’d and Hide Your Wallet I think. House of Earth and Blood meets The Witch’s Heart in Rebecca Ross’s brilliant first adult fantasy, set on the magical isle of Cadence where two childhood enemies must team up to discover why girls are going missing from their clan. Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university. But when young girls start disappearing from the isle, Jack is summoned home to help find them. Enchantments run deep on Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armor, and the smallest cut of a knife can instill fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that rule the isle by fire, water, earth, and wind find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home. Adaira, heiress of the east and Jack’s childhood enemy, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, and she hopes Jack can draw them forth by song, enticing them to return the missing girls. As Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together, they find they make better allies than rivals as their partnership turns into something more. But with each passing song, it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than they first expected, and an older, darker secret about Cadence lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all. With unforgettable characters, a fast-paced plot, and compelling world building, A River Enchanted is a stirring story of duty, love, and the power of true partnership, and marks Rebecca Ross’s brilliant entry on the adult fantasy stage. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. A Spark of White Fire A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna is $1.99! Aarya really loves this series and reviewed the second book, though they can’t be read out of order. It’s YA fantasy and comes super highly recommended! Have you read it? In a universe of Gods and Goddesses, moons that hide ancient beasts, and cities built on the back of spaceships, infant Princess Esmae was cast into deep space, surviving only by the grace of a Goddess. Raised far away from her birth home of Kali, Esme longs to return to her real family. And when the King of Wychstar issues a challenge, offering to gift his unbeatable, sentient warship, Titania, to a warrior that can win his competition, the way home becomes clear: she’ll help her brother, Prince Alexi, win the ship and consequently, win her place back in the arms of her family. But when Alexi rejects, she instead enters as the champion of Max, who banished Alexi’s family from their ancestral home, waging a war that pits cousin against cousin. And she does the unthinkable. She wins. Now, Esmae finds herself on the wrong side of an inevitable war, with the Goddess-blessed Titania in the hands of her family’s enemies. Will she be able to reunite with her brother and learn why the queen banished her? Or will her family literally destroy itself, with the weapons she gave them? Drawing on Indian mythology including the Mahabharata, A Spark of White Fire is a sweeping young adult sci-fi/fantasy retelling that stretches across the universe exploring love, friendship, and the complicated ties that bind families together, and rip them apart, in a world where Gods and Goddesses keep an eye on the stars . . . and the people they favor that fight among them. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Rookie Move Rookie Move by Sarina Bowen is $2.99! This is book one in the Brooklyn Bruisers series about a hockey team. Both Elyse and I have enjoyed books in this series, though I think we both agree that the second book, Hard Hitter is our favorite. Readers loved the second chance romance in this book, but found the pacing in the first half a bit slow. The first novel in a sexy new series featuring the hockey players of the Brooklyn Bruisers and the women who win their hearts—from the USA Today bestselling author of the Ivy Years series. In high school they were the perfect couple—until the day Georgia left Leo in the cold… Hockey player Leo Trevi has spent the last six years trying to do two things: get over the girl who broke his heart, and succeed in the NHL. But on the first day he’s called up to the newly franchised Brooklyn Bruisers, Leo gets checked on both sides, first by the team’s coach—who has a long simmering grudge, and then by the Bruisers’ sexy, icy publicist—his former girlfriend Georgia Worthington. Saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things Georgia ever had to do—and saying hello again isn’t much easier. Georgia is determined to keep their relationship strictly professional, but when a press conference microphone catches Leo declaring his feelings for her, things get really personal, really fast…. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Magnate RECOMMENDED: Magnate by Joanna Shupe is $1.99! This historical romance takes place in the Gilded Age of New York and is the first book in a series. The rest of them are $3.99, if you’re missing any in your collection. Redheadedgirl read this one and gave it a B: TL;DR: NEEDS MORE GROVEL. New York City’s Gilded Age shimmers with unimaginable wealth and glittering power. The men of the Knickerbocker Club know this more than anyone else. But for one millionaire, the business of love is not what he expected… Born in the slums of Five Points, Emmett Cavanaugh climbed his way to the top of a booming steel empire and now holds court in an opulent Fifth Avenue mansion. His rise in stations, however, has done little to elevate his taste in women. He loathes the city’s “high society” types, but a rebellious and beautiful blue-blood just might change all that. Elizabeth Sloane’s mind is filled with more than the latest parlor room gossip. Lizzie can play the Stock Exchange as deftly as New York’s most accomplished brokers—but she needs a man to put her skills to use. Emmett reluctantly agrees when the stunning socialite asks him to back her trades and split the profits. But love and business make strange bedfellows, and as their fragile partnership begins to crack, they’ll discover a passion more frenzied than the trading room floor… Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  22. “I know something’s been happening to you. You’ve had… There’s something you really need to know about the family business.” Jonathan Sims is a writer, performer and games designer whose work primarily focuses on the macabre, the grotesque, and the gentle touch of creeping dread. He is the mind and the voice behind acclaimed horror podcast The Magnus Archives, as well as story-game design duo MacGuffin & Co., and some of your favourite nightmares. He lives in Walthamstow with the two best cats and an overwhelming backlog of books that he really should get round to. From Jonathan Sims, Author of the Modern Horror Classic Thirteen Storeys, comes a new and exciting novel. Riddled with raw emotion, and the familiar twangs of grief and guilt, Sims has the irrefutable skill to force his readers to confront their darkest thoughts and fears, delving deep and forcing a confrontation of universal terror. In particular, the fear of being completely and totally forgotten. ‘Then feed me the forgotten, Frank. Let me help make this world cleaner for the living.’ Diya is grieving. Angie, her best friend and roommate for over ten years recently died in their flat, and she is not coping well. Following an outburst at work, she lost her job, and has been merely existing in the flat she had once shared with her friend. Slough and Sons, a company that specialise in cleaning up after someone dies, helped Diya in the days following Angie’s death. The patriarch of this family business, Frank, saw something in Diya that he liked, so he offered her a job. Wanting a fresh start and needing to pay rent, Diya accepted the offer. Ready to roll up her sleeves and start cleaning up after the dead with Frank and his children, Mary and Xen. ‘We do not disappear after death. Small pieces of our being can remain, persisting in those places that were once so meaningful to us’ The first thing one notices in the pages of Family Business, is Sims’ ability to construct imagery and topography. He manages to capture the essence of what one might imagine as ‘loneliness,’ imprinted into a dwelling. From the dirty backpack of a homeless man who died in a pub yard, to the rusted features of a house of a hoarder, or the barren and impersonal house of someone lost in the half-way house / asylum system (the writing is aptly ambiguous), Sims makes the very life of the lonely and forgotten disposable, and able to be wiped away with cleaning products and barely a second thought. The descriptions are so vivid and real that you can almost smell the rooms that he describes, which is rarely a good thing within this novel, but it packs a realist-punch. However, the eerie hyper-realism of this novel’s settings helps to build up the horror of the narrative, whilst supernatural happenings begin leaking through the mundane descriptions of old wallpaper and forgotten personal artefacts, the disposability of human life and lack of emotive response from the death-cleaners is uncanny and uncomfortable. ‘“Death Pays,” she mumbled to herself. Which was good, because right now it was all she had.’ The characters Sims introduces us to are not the most likable, or even relatable, but they are believable. From the irritating attitude of the Slough’s surrounding death or the dead, to Diya’s constant self-doubt, the novel does not shine a kind light on people. Positivity is not something one can glean from the narrative with ease, I dare you to try. That being said, plenty of empathy can be found on these pages, if you take the time to find it. “Some people aren’t worth as much as others” As I have hinted, there is a supernatural element within this novel. This element leads to many unanswered questions but, for me, Sims’ supernatural being, ‘Mr Bill’, (who’s story I shall not spoil here) shares attributes and habits with the ancient creature who haunts Kathryn Foxfield’s ‘Good Girls Die First.’ Like Foxfield’s ancient demon-like creature, Mr Bill requires someone to do something for him so he can feed. Foxfield’s creature constantly searches for ‘The One’ and when The One has been found the creature feeds off of their guilt, whilst Mr Bill requires the forgotten, the lonely, and the Slough Family so he might feed. The similarities, for me, were unavoidable, but did not negatively impact the narrative at all. The blood never mattered. Only the job. The job must be done, and I need someone who can do it. Sims has built up a believable and creative narrative, nestled within the familiar setting of what many of us will recognise as ‘home.’ Each constructed home being unique, and comfortable in their own distinct way. Sims’ latest novel is a triumph, thriving on relatable fears, hyper-realistic dirty homes, and understandable grief. This novel has the momentum of a train with no breaks, and the correct amount of gore that manages to horrify you whilst also making you to want to read more, leading you to devour every page greedily, like Mr Bill devours the forgotten. “I AM HUNGRY I AM HUNGRY I AM HUNGRY I AM HUNGRY I AM HUNGRY I AM HUNGRY I AM HUNGRY I AM HUNGRY I AM HUNGRY I AM HUNGRY I AM HUNGRY I AM HUNGRY” The post FAMILY BUSINESS by Jonathan Sims (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  23. It is not a secret that the tried-and-true strategy of using cliffhangers at the end of your chapters or scenes is a surefire way to make a reader turn the page; in fact, it is one of the most effective ways. And why shouldn't it be? Life is a cliffhanger. In fact, Pops, in Secret Life of Pets went so far as saying "Every breath is a cliffhanger." No truer words have been said. Everyone everywhere albeit a car chase or a contentious meeting or even making a simple decision about what to eat can be a cliffhanger. It all depends on how you write it. However, what many authors fail to comprehend is that the cliffhanger conclusion is only one part of the puzzle. The cliffhanger is the hook that gets the reader to flip the page. It's a lot like fishing. A writer casts the line with a lure and bait. but if you don't have a strong line to support reader across the gap and a sinker that pulls them deeply into the next scene or chapter, your reader likely to squirm free and swim away. So how do we do that? Your hook is the cliffhanger that occurs at the conclusion of each chapter, and the sinker is the first sentence of the next chapter. If done correctly, they will establish a connection for the reader, allowing her to flow easily from one point to the next as she moves through the text. Sounds easy, right? In order to successfully make that link, you must first effectively structure the cliffhanger, and then you must firmly ground your reader in the scenario that comes after the cliffhanger. This implies that she needs to be oriented right away, and then she needs to be pulled down into the water like a sinker on a fishing line. The scene that comes after a cliffhanger will either be situated in a new time or place, or it will switch to the point of view of a different character. It is essential that you immerse your reader in the new circumstance from the very beginning of your piece, in the very first paragraph. The most effective way to accomplish this is to rapidly develop point of view while making use details, details and more details! For more information: https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/20574-the-art-of-the-cliffhanger/#comment-28819
  24. Are you an introvert? Do you panic at the thought of walking up to a table of strangers and sitting down? Are you thrilled to be invited to events, but then realize the day of you’d be much happier sitting home, alone, in your pajamas? Lucky for you, I feel the same. So put on your fanciest pajama pants and come sit by me while we discuss the upcoming Writer Unboxed OnConference and figure out strategies for how to make the most of it together. (Haven’t yet signed up for the WU OnConference? You have six days to do so! Register HERE.) Let’s start by discussing the Writer Unboxed community. It’s truly one of the most welcoming writing environments I’ve ever encountered, and everyone — regardless of their level of success and experience — is encouraged to participate. I’ve made some of my closest friends through the group, and we vary wildly in terms of writing interests and careers. That said, it can be more difficult to forge that sense of community virtually, so here are some thoughts on what you can do to make the most of the conference and find your tribe: Fill out your bio posthaste, and make sure to include a photo! Set up your bio features on the platform ASAP—and make them personal. Use a photo of YOU — not your cat, dog, or pet python, delightful as they might be. It doesn’t need to be professional, but it should be friendly and inviting. Craft a few lines about yourself. What sets you apart and makes you different? What fun hobbies do you have? Who are your favorite authors? These details can serve as a ‘hook’ giving other participants something to snag onto when you meet. (Don’t forget to include your social media links so others can find you outside of the conference.) Be sure to check out the site in advance of the first event. (If you’ve signed up and haven’t yet received your unique link, please reach out to writerunboxed@writerunboxed.com asap; your email may have been lost to the void.) The social lounge is already open, so it’s a good way to meet people without pressure. The next gathering is TONIGHT at 8 pm ET. Play around with the features, introduce yourself in the chat function, and get comfortable so that the FIRST DAY OF SESSIONS (9/29), you aren’t fumbling with the controls or having anxiety over not knowing anyone. (Say hi to me in the chat or in a message and I promise to respond.) For more details, check out this in-depth guide on how to make the most out of the platform. Reconnoiter the room. Under the chat function, look for bios of people you might want to connect with. Then be brave! Say hello, send them a message, maybe even follow them on social media. Think about what you have to offer, and what you want to get out of joining. Remember that building a community is like opening an account at the bank — you have to make deposits before you can withdraw. Deposits can be big things, like writing a review for someone’s book or offering to critique a chapter or manuscript. But they can also be smaller, such as congratulating someone on social media when they reach a milestone, sharing their good news, or simply forwarding an article or a book title that might interest them. As the conference opens, take a deep breath and dive in. Join a table where you don’t know anyone — the Writer Unboxed crew is a friendly bunch and filled with more introverts than you can imagine. Prepare one or two lines about yourself in advance — where you are from, what you read/write, what your interests are. And think of some easy ice breakers that can help start a conversation. Write them down if it makes you feel calmer and place them somewhere nearby so that if you panic, you can read them. And don’t forget to participate in networking night, a stress-free event where you’ll rotate through meeting other attendees for a few minutes each. Put on your fanciest pajama pants, relax, and remember — it’s supposed to be fun! Now it’s your turn! Have advice on how to make the most of an online event? Are you an UnConference alum or have you already experienced the OnConference lounge and have thoughts for those not yet registered? We’d love to hear any tips you might have. The floor is yours. If you’d like to attend the Writer Unboxed OnConference but finances have stood in your way, please reach out to Therese at writerunboxed@writerunboxed.com. [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  25. Where were you in the spring of 1987? What were you up to? If you were Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Susan Dunlap, Betty Francis, Sara Paretsky, Charlotte MacLeod, Kate Mattes, and Nancy Pickard, you were at Sandra Scoppettone’s place, plotting the creation of Sisters in Crime, with a founding commitment to “helping women who write, review, buy or sell crime fiction.” Why plotting, you ask? I’m being facetious. While it’s obvious now to our 21st-century sensibilities that parity, at a minimum, in any professional space is vital, the creation of Sisters in Crime was met at the time with acrimony in some quarters—not to mention derision, denigration, and denial. Plotting was the least of the accusations thrown around then, I’m sure. In 1986, a group of women decided someone needed to advocate for higher visibility and recognition for women mystery writers within the industry. In 1987, they made it happen, with a steering committee, a core of motivated volunteers, and the ultimate goal “to become a service organization to address issues of concern to everyone in the mystery field.” Thirty-five years is a long time. In the same period that SinC (pronounced with a k) has been a growing and active community, I started and finished high school and university; lived abroad; fell in love (a few times); fell out of love (a few times); got married (just the once); had children; moved 7 times; and started a career as a writer. This, of course, is by no means an exhaustive nor even linear list. But you get the gist, right? A lot can happen. Over the decades, Sisters in Crime has had 35 presidents, 35 variations of a board, hundreds of volunteers, as well as thousands of members. It has seen the number of regional chapters grow to 60. It has celebrated and shared the joy of thousands of members’ book deals. It has created programming to match community desires for accessible, craft- and business-focused learning. It has created the Eleanor Taylor Bland Award and the Pride Award to support emerging crime writers from marginalized backgrounds, as well as emergency funding for members and grants for academic research. September 2022 is my final month on the national board. As I consider the impact of SinC’s very active 35 years, I find myself returning to the longest running program of all, the Monitoring Project. Thirty-five years ago, there were weekly critical book reviews (remember those?) in these now-rare things called book columns, published in newspapers and magazines. Indeed, there were entire printed sections devoted to books, with many column inches for reviews of all sorts of novels. Heady days. The Monitoring Project aimed to assess the attention paid to mystery books written by women, by quantifying book reviews through the lens of gender parity. The theory was that reviews brought books to the attention of acquisitions librarians, and libraries were a major market for both new and midlist authors. SinC founders reasoned that if newspapers, regional and national, published more reviews of mysteries written by women, then it would ultimately help raise the profile of such books within the circles of purchasing librarians. That first Monitoring Project looked at roughly 200 review outlets, counting reviews over a calendar year for mystery books written by men versus those written by women. The results were famously (sarcastically) assessed by Sara Paretsky, a founder and SinC’s first president of the board (and I paraphrase): One might wish to argue that men are twice as good at writing mysteries than women, but surely not seven times better. Gender parity in mystery book reviews became, as expected, a tangible goal for the organization. From the reports I was able to access, I gathered that the 2013 Monitoring Project became the first to incorporate tabulation from best-of lists, bestseller lists, and award wins. The 2014 Project results revealed a very slight upward trend in terms of the share of reviews of mystery books written by women, published in traditional review outlets. The 2015 report included a comparison in percentages against 2007, showing incremental growth year after year. Sisters in Crime turned 30 in 2017. That year, reviews of mystery books by women in national and regional newspapers hovered around 37%, and at 44% in genre-specific magazines. After 30 years, the fight for gender parity was still far from over. But what about equality in other areas? The 2016 report on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion came out of a membership survey focused on identity demographics, the first of its kind for SinC. The impetus behind the survey and subsequent report spoke to a growing acknowledgement among leadership. Namely, that an organization founded on advocacy for women—a marginalized group—needed to widen its focus on other marginalizations, and on ones which intersected with that of being a woman. That was certainly welcome news to me. I first heard of Sisters in Crime in 2014, from a friendly volunteer at a Canadian mystery convention called Bloody Words. Honestly, though, I didn’t really think SinC was for me then. They seemed awfully…homogenous. Plus, I wondered, what could a hyper-local Toronto-based chapter of an American organization do for a newbie writer who lived in Edmonton? (That’s in Western Canada, second province to the east of the Pacific.) When I finally did join in 2015, there was still only one Canadian chapter, and yep, they were still hyper-local to Toronto. I can’t say I actually read all the emails about events 3300 kms (2000+ miles) away, though I appreciated belonging to the larger community as a whole. As a then-new SinC member, I was glad to fight for women’s equality in crime writing. And yet, the missives from the national body just didn’t connect deeply with me. They usually spoke to only one aspect of my life and identity. In 2016, I helped charter a new Canadian SinC chapter called Canada West. At that time, I didn’t know any other racialized or otherwise marginalized SinC members. Of course, I was already accustomed to being “minoritized” at crime events, as I am in all areas of society. Even this new chapter I helped create was no different. It wasn’t until I joined the national board in late 2019 that I encountered a SinC leadership body which even started to approach racial diversity. In 2011, Frankie Bailey had become SinC’s first, and so far only, Black president. In 2020, I became the first SinC president of Asian heritage. As I read the seventeen Monitoring Project reports available online (the rest are in the SinC archive at Rutgers University), I marked the slow decline of newspapers, the shrinking coverage for books overall, and the rise and fall of genre-specific digital outlets. I noted which stalwart outlets were singled out for their abysmal lack of inclusion. I noted the ones which consistently published a majority of reviews of books by women. I’d like to think I gained a deeper appreciation for the virtue of patience in an ever-changing publishing landscape. The Monitoring Project report for 2021 marked the first year that reviews of women-authored crime fiction reached over 50% in national newspapers. Great news! But also—and I can’t stress this enough: it took 34 years before SinC could witness this milestone. The 2021 report notably includes this: “in an effort to go beyond the binary parameters of the traditional monitoring report, Sisters in Crime created the Business of Books survey last year, which was intended to gather complementary information from another perspective, that of our multifaceted membership.” A welcome acknowledgement of the many identities within our community, beyond the reductive women/men binary. Building further on this and the earlier work from 2016, SinC created The Equity Project pilot program, to explore how the organization can best broaden its core advocacy work to include crime writers and readers from all marginalized communities, and to support writers at any stage of their writing careers. Sisters in Crime has been fighting the patriarchy for 35 years. In the arguably niche arena of crime writing, sure, but one of SinC’s biggest strengths has been its commitment to serving the crime writing community. Over the decades, as leadership shifted in tone and experience and focus, an understanding of the nuances involved in advocacy work has grown and deepened and expanded. As it needs to, to keep up with societal and cultural evolution. Just as the Monitoring Project’s parameters have had to adapt to the evolution of reviews and newspapers and magazines, so has Sisters in Crime adapted to the changing facets of its members and of the larger crime writing community. I don’t know about you, but I think the next 35 years should be pretty interesting, too. *** View the full article
  26. There’s no point in heaping more praise on the 1934 film The Thin Man, frequently cited as one of the best films of all time. It’s made several of the American Film Institute’s top lists, and film critics and scholars such as Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin, and Pauline Kael have given in high marks–in some cases, their highest. From the first screenings, audiences were dazzled by William Powell and Myrna Loy as wealthy socialites Nick and Nora Charles, and since the film heartily invited sequels (Nick keeps insisting his career as a detective is over, but Nora keeps urging him to continue sleuthing), MGM obliged and gave moviegoers five more films with Powell and Loy reprising their roles. The resulting movies–After the Thin Man, Another Thin Man, Shadow of the Thin Man, The Thin Man Goes Home, and Song of the Thin Man–don’t get the same overwhelming praise as the film that started the series. For example, Leonard Maltin, who had nice things to say about all of them, gave The Thin Man his highest rating (four stars), then gave After the Thin Man three and a half, then three stars each for the next three films, and finally two and a half for Song. In his wonderful book Romantic Comedy in Hollywood from Lubitsch to Sturges, James Harvey regarded the series as increasingly disappointing, describing a devolution of Nick and Nora into tame domestic-comedy stock characters. Viewers can make their own assessment of the series, now that all the movies with the exception of The Thin Man Goes Home are up on HBOMax. Harvey and other critics may have been too harsh on the later movies: The series as a whole is surprisingly consistent, having been made over a thirteen-year span, and enjoyable elements from that first classic continue in the rest of the movies. There are also other fun reasons to watch the films–coincidentally, each even-numbered sequel includes a cast member from It’s a Wonderful Life–Jimmy Stewart in the second, Donna Reed in the fourth, and Gloria Grahame in the sixth. Only one of the films leaves the formula so far behind that it’s not worth the time, and more on that later. In addition to the lead actors (plus their dog Asta, played by an in-demand wire-haired terrier named Skippy), three other collaborators on the first film returned for the first few sequels: Director W. S. Van Dyke and screenwriters (and married couple) Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. Their participation preserved at least some of that initial rhythm and dialogue from the initial film. Nick and Nora had some of the greatest ongoing banter in Hollywood history, combining clever wordplay, romantic innuendoes, good-humored sarcasm, and extremely dry observations on the world and people around them. While every film had a mystery to solve, what made the films so engrossing was the depiction of a wildly enjoyable marriage between two people so affectionate for each other that occasional spats never had a chance to get serious. What all the sequels get right is that this is a marriage that doesn’t evolve. Locations change, a person is added, and sobriety makes unwelcome advances, but Nick and Nora maintain their amorous regard for each other, without demanding that it strengthen, or deepen, or develop in any way. Because it’s perfect as it is. If The Thin Man is a masterpiece, then films two through four aren’t far behind. They’re enjoyable mystery-comedies that let us hang out with Nick and Nora for 90-or-so minutes at a time, and tag along with them to their swank socials and dangerous nightclubs. They’re also the four films directed by Van Dyke, who passed away in 1943. After the Thin Man opens with the couple heading to San Francisco, Nick’s old stomping grounds, and getting recruited to find a missing relative of Nora’s. Jimmy Stewart, in only his second year in show business, plays a member of Nick and Nora’s fun-loving social set. The mystery leads to a nightclub, then to a convocation of Nick’s old underworld acquaintances, then to a finale where Nick and Nora gather all the suspects and walk everyone through their findings to the solution–standard elements of this series, along with a helpful turn from Asta. The dialogue is terrific (Nick: “Did I ever tell you you’re the most fascinating woman this side of the Rockies?” Nora: “Wait till you see me on the other side.”) and the crime is… there, with the vanished relative leading to a blackmail scheme and two murders. Nick spells it all out for his costars and the audience, but no one remembers that part. The film ends with Nora revealing to Nick that a child is on the way, a move that critics like Kael and Harvey regard as a major misstep for the series. Surely, the most lighthearted and entertaining couple in movies would have their fun spoiled with the addition of a child, and the work and responsibilities that come along with a baby. But with no offense meant to Kael and Harvey, nothing on the earth nor in the heavens could ever upend Nick and Nora’s marriage. The child arrived, adding no greater stress or worries than the usual murder case. Another Thin Man introduces audiences to Nicky Jr., an infant and therefore someone incapable of speaking and interrupting his parents’ banter. The Charleses are back in New York and once again get roped into a murder investigation on Long Island; there’s a nightclub, a gathering of Nick’s underworld pals (one of whom is an uncredited Shemp Howard from the Three Stooges), some sleuthing by Asta, lots of drinking, and the gathering of suspects at the end, and it’s all very enjoyably done, but it becomes obvious that Powell and Loy aren’t alone together as much as they were in the first film, and that the film’s never quite as good when they’re apart as when they’re together. Because when they are in the same scene, you get lines like Nick’s “I’d hate to wake up and find that the fortune I married you for is gone,” and an exchange where Nick asks, “Mrs. Charles, how long have you been leading this double life?” to which Nora responds “Only since I’ve been married.” Loy may have been the most important actor of the series, as wonderful as Powell was. There had been smart-aleck playboy detectives before, but none of them were married to Nora Charles, a combination of breeding, caustic wit, glamour, occasional daffiness, and heart. Harvey points out in Romantic Hollywood that Powell reacts to everything with a sort of polite blankness, but that he really becomes fully alive and engaged when interacting with Nora. Loy’s Nora is the difference in the world, the thing that can’t be reduced to a cliché, the person who can never become boring. Audiences don’t need it spelled out—we know exactly what Nick sees in his wife. By the time we get to Shadow of the Thin Man, Nicky Jr. is now a playful kid in short pants and Nick has noticeably slowed down his drinking. The family is once again in San Francisco, and Nick is called to help with the investigation of a gambling ring. A jockey is shot, as is a journalist, and Nick (reluctantly) and Nora (eagerly) investigate. This was the first film in the series without Goodrich and Hackett as screenwriters, and maybe the dialogue isn’t as sparkling and maybe the mystery is even more forgettable than usual. But it’s every bit as entertaining as films two and three, with Nick taking the very elegant Nora to a crowded, dirty wrestling match, and a nice turn by Donna Reed as a secretary to a suspect. Best of all, though, Shadow is one of Stella Adler’s few film performances, and her turn as a dangerous blonde somehow matches Powell’s and Loy’s straightfaced-but-touched-with-playful-zaniness line deliveries perfectly. By the time The Thin Man Goes Home was made, Van Dyke was gone, Skippy was retired, and even Loy had taken a break from Hollywood. The War was on, and Loy aided her real-life husband in his administration of the Red Cross. The studio was going to go ahead with just William Powell and a replacement Nora, but the fans wouldn’t have it, and MGM persuaded Loy to return for what would be the worst, by far, of the series. The Thin Man Goes Home takes all the elements that made the previous films so enjoyable and chucks them in the dumpster. Instead of a cosmopolitan city, the mystery is set in Sycamore Springs, the small town where Nick grew up. In place of arch and witty humor, there’s a lot of unfunny slapstick and physical comedy. The haute couture outfits Nora typically wears are just plain outfits here, and even her haircut looks bad. And instead of a marriage that exists outside of time and circumstance, Nick and Nora actually seem fed up with each other at one point, as if their wonderful marriage actually HAS become stalled. Nick’s hip flask filled with apple cider–there’s no drinking in this movie–seems emblematic of the unfortunate substitutions this film makes to the established pattern. Strangely, Nicky Jr. is completely absent in this film. The only plus is that the mystery plot is slightly more ingenious, involving a worker at a munitions plant smuggling plans out disguised as paintings, which crook Leon Ames then buys from a pawnshop and resells to nogoodniks. This is the one film in the series that doesn’t need to be rewatched, but oddly, it was a hit, and MGM went ahead with one more film, 1947’s Song of the Thin Man, which Harvey describes as the series’ nadir but which is actually very good, and an inviting return to form. The film opens on a riverboat casino where Nick (in a tux!) and Nora (in a stylish cocktail dress!) are enjoying the jazz band. We soon learn that the band is a nest of vipers, with a bandleader heavily in debt to gangsters, a lead clarinet player who’s a mentally unstable alcoholic, and a beautiful singer (Gloria Grahame) looking to get out. The bandleader is shot, the young owner of the boat is blamed, and Nick and Nora step in to investigate, with the help of another member of the band played by Keenan Wynn. As though there were a shortage of actors in Hollywood, Leon Ames is also in this film, playing a different character. Song is a nice corrective to Home, with the dialogue returning to form. After the latest run-in with Nick’s underworld pals, Nora describes them as “perfect gentlemen, right down to their fingerprints,” and Nick, at one point hoping for a quiet evening, telling Nora, “Give me my pipe, my slippers, and a beautiful woman, and you can keep my pipe and slippers.” Even Nicky Jr. (played by, of all people, a very young Dean Stockwell (The Dunwich Horror, Blue Velvet, Married to the Mob et al.)) gets in on the fun. When Nora tells a nicely turned-out Nick “You look like a page out of Esquire!”, their son mutters “Not the page I saw.” Another nice callback is the cinematography. The first two films in the series made good use of dark interiors where Nick goes sleuthing, and the foggy haze of San Francisco evenings. The first film had the benefit of Academy Award winner James Wong Howe as its cinematographer. Song also has wonderfully composed shots when Nick is prowling about the boat, now closed off by the police. The cinematographer in this one was Charles Rosher, who doesn’t seem to have worked on many noir films, but he definitely could have. Despite everything coming out strong on Song of the Thin Man, the film was first in the series to flop. Maybe audiences found it too familiar. Maybe the eternal party that was Nick and Nora’s marriage actually did have an expiration date. Thirteen years of fun came to an end, and while the Charleses never had a high point like their first appearance, they had plenty of good times in the years that followed. View the full article
  27. There are few characters in storytelling that are more maligned and misunderstood than the witch. She is most often seen as grotesque and terrifying in children’s stories (not to mention that, yes, she is almost always female), and is willing to do just about anything, including eating wayward children, to retain her beautiful glow. The Evil Queen in Snow White disguised herself as the hideous witch to trick the guileless heroine with a poison apple so she could remain the fairest in the land. Ursula in The Little Mermaid steals Ariel’s voice to become young and beautiful (and let’s not forget thin). It is pretty clear that our most early interactions with the idea of a witch are meant to make us fear being anything other than young and beautiful. The witch is age, she is becoming unattractive, she is a withdrawal from polite society. But there are witches in media who defy the trope, and not just the best known of the bunch like Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the brightest witch of her age Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. This list includes some lesser known but still incredible witches who redefine how we understand what witches are in the media we consume, and all the myriad ways they are complicated, compelling, and most of all a reflection of the diversity and complexity of our world. Supernatural Supernatural is a hard show to discuss without needing to put an asterisk on all the things it did wrong. It was frequently toxic, misogynistic, and struggled mightily with its female characters who were all either victims or the embodiment of pure evil. Not exactly the most fertile grounds for growing relatable characters who fit the bill for underrated witches. And yet Supernatural has not one, but two of the most underrated witches in all of modern television. There is ongoing antagonist Rowena, who pesters and plagues the Winchesters over the course of multiple seasons, but Rowena, played by Ruth Connell, defies the regular run of the mill baddie legacy most other female villains on the show get saddled with. She Is funny, she has sexual agency, she is emotionally complex and has her own deep backstory that drives her to do the things she does beyond the standard demon-possession fare of most other women on the show. Rowena is a match for the Winchesters, and often an unwitting ally, and she gets to be smart, beautiful, and charismatic season after season. She is only underrated in that she has been somewhat overshadowed in popularity by similarly love-to-hate/hate-to-love demon Crowley. She’s not the only witch who breaks with expectation on the series, though this second example appeared in only one episode. In season five we are introduced to Patrick, a charming Irishman who has the ability to steal the youth of others through his magic (and poker skills). What makes Patrick such an interesting spin on the typical witch trope is that he is a male character. He toys with the same classic story of a witch maintaining their youth and beauty through the sacrifice of others, but by using a male character who is able to charm and coerce other male characters is such a unique and interesting take on the trope. Patrick is also allowed to be sympathetic, not purely a force of evil, in spite of stealing years off the lives of series leads Dean and Bobby. His punishment, ultimately, is not that he loses his life or youth, but that the woman he loves chooses to die by his gift. It’s tragic and sad, and does not lean on the overdone morality queues of previous witch stories. Patrick has made himself all but immortal, but his punishment is that he must face that immortality alone. It’s a pretty heavy story for a one-off episode that is largely played for comedy. “W.I.T.C.H.” – Devon Cole It started out as a TikTok duet, where singer Devon Cole picked up a beat shared by another musician and added her intriguing first line: “Rumor on the street is that her apples are delicious.” The song goes on to toy with the wicked witch expectations in its lyrics, but when it hits the chorus we’re treated to the real meaning of the buzzy earworm: “She’s a woman in total control of herself.” This, in Cole’s lyrics, is the real meaning of WITCH. The song is empowering and catchy, but what it really manages to do is spotlight precisely what it was about women in the past that made others so fearful of them. There are few things more intimidating than a woman who is self-sufficient, who can run her life without help, and who doesn’t need the input or approval of anyone else. These strong, independent women were called by different names hundreds of years ago. They were headstrong, obstinate, and yes, sometimes they were called witches. A woman who dared not listen to her father, or who didn’t want to get married, could have been seen as mentally unstable, or even potentially evil. The reason “W.I.T.C.H.” works so well is that it carries with it hundreds of years of hurt, and at the end, gives us something we can sing along to in the car while rooting for the fictional “she” of the lyrics, who manages to be the best and brightest version of us that we all crave to become. Witch Hat Atelier When I recommend books with magical themes to young people in my life, my go-to first choice is no longer Harry Potter. Most kids have already encountered it in some capacity given how pervasive it is in pop culture. Instead, the witch themed story to come out in the last decade is the Japanese manga Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama. It is currently 10 volumes long, and depicts the story of a young girl named Coco who accidentally casts a magical curse on her mother. Intent on breaking the curse, Coco throws herself into learning everything she can about magic. It’s a lushly illustrated and gorgeously complex story about growing up, and learning who you are. Coco encounters other young witches who struggle to find balance between the skills of spellcasting and the art of creating their own personal kind of magic. Each character has their own reasons for being at the atelier, and many of them have dark, deeply sad histories. But the series creates a world where magic and witches have established themselves as a force for good, who must only use their skills to help others, and never for their own material benefit. It’s a moving and powerful ode to found family and the things that make us inherently good in a world that might try to turn us bad. Coco and her friends are, without a doubt, some of the most underrated witches in modern North American media and more people should be diving into her story. So there we have it, a very small sample of some of the best underrated witches in media, and how they can help expand and change our understanding of just what a witch really is. *** View the full article
  28. Dystopian futures dominated by malevolent artificial intelligence have long been a mainstay in science fiction. From the coldly calculating HAL 9000 of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to Arnold Schwartzenegger’s iconic portrayal of the Terminator to HBO’s Westworld, we thrill at the prospect of being overwhelmed by our own creations. In fact, the very first science fiction novel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, was born out of the fear that the then-nascent industrial revolution would unleash titanic forces beyond our control. That it hasn’t happened yet has done little to diminish popular interest in the topic. Ray Kurzweil, chief futurist at Google and the most recognizable evangelist of the Singularity, predicts that computers will overtake human intelligence by the year 2045. Only time will tell if he is right. For now, such futures still belong to the realm of speculation, which is to say they belong to science fiction. However, it is not AI that is the danger, but rather transhumanism. We shouldn’t worry about making machines that are more like us. We should worry about making us more like machines. Transhumanism theorizes that mankind will transcend the limitations of biology with the aid of artificial intelligence and technology, which would be integrated with the human consciousness. Proponents of transhumanism claim that it will be possible to “upload” human minds into machines, thereby achieving a kind of immortality. They argue that we have already entered a cybernetic era, with life extending technologies such as artificial hearts, prosthetic limbs, and various implants that regulate our bodies. Now, Elon Musk is working on “brain-computer interfaces,” that would allow direct communication between a human mind and an artificial one. Transhumanist meddling in consciousness significantly increases the risk that humanity will be superseded. As a species, we haven’t proven to be very good at respecting boundaries. We need only look at the devastation human beings have wrought on the environment to see how our best-laid technological plans often lead to disastrous consequences for ourselves and for those with whom we share the planet.” Most of the work being done on AI and transhumanism is happening in a corporate black box. We are subjecting our very nature to the profit motive. That doesn’t seem like a good idea. I envision a world in which human minds are vulnerable to direct manipulation or control via the kind of brain-computer interface being developed by Musk, where quaint concepts of independent thought or free will no longer exist. In many ways, we are edging closer and closer to that world. Digital media technology and social algorithms can now be used not only to predict behavior, but to direct it. Politically, Americans are dividing into self-selected digital tribes, where the only “news” that filters through conforms to pre-existing biases. Imagine a world where it is no longer possible simply to step away from your computer or put down your iPhone. One of the recurring themes in my new novel, Our Lady of the Artilects, is the struggle of its characters to distinguish between authentic spiritual experiences and mere spectacle that has been implanted in their minds, a kind of hijacking of prophecy or prayer for sinister purposes. It’s no accident that that the subtitle of Frankenstein was “the Modern Prometheus.” Shelley’s brilliant protagonist was playing with primordial forces he didn’t fully understand. Given how little we know about the nature of consciousness, I worry we are doing the same as we rush towards a transhumanist future. If we do end up creating Frankenstein’s monster, it is likely that we will create it within ourselves. *** View the full article
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