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  1. Today
  2. by Claudine Wolk I adore books about writing. The whole process is fascinating to me. How thrilling is it to write a book and then see it published and sold? As a reader, I am fascinated with the writing process as well. I wonder how the author came up with their idea and how they developed the skill to keep readers intrigued. Two of my favorite books by authors about the writing process is Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. When I heard that author Anna Quindlen was coming to Doylestown to my town speak and had a book out about writing, Write for Your Life, I purchased a ticket immediately. I arrived at the Life Science’s building on my local university’s campus just as the sun was setting on an April evening. Clusters of girlfriends and a few couples hurriedly approached the entrance doors, so I knew I was in the right place. Once the audience was seated, Ms. Quindlen was promptly introduced and led to two single seats at center stage. All About Writing and Why It Is a Lost Art For the next few minutes, Quindlen encouraged the audience to write. “Where would we be without the diary of Ann Frank,” she mused? “How will the people who come after us know us if we no longer write and leave them something?” “Email and texts are great,” she said, “but the Letters of Albelard and Heloise they are not.” “Writing is so important, she intoned, “because it’s a lost art.” Quindlen talked about her teachers. Said she would not be a writer without them. She spoke about how lucky she feels to be able to earn a living by writing and that she has a son who is a writer but he has another occupation to make ends meet. She talked about her relationship with her editor. Her editor is excellent and she listens to her editor. Her editor makes her books better. Even when Quindlen writes a passage she loves, if it does not move the story forward, it is taken out! She talked about the movies that have been made from her books, meeting Meryl Streep and how surreal it was to be on a set that looked exactly like she had imagined it as she wrote about it. She shared that she feels that the movie versions of her books were true to her books and that she was pleased that the movies share the same title. She also commiserated that as a NY Times, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, her columns were sometimes criticized for not being true while at the same time her fiction novels are often suspected as being true. The audience chuckled at that revelation. Aspiring Writer Audience Members Ask Questions of Quindlen A question-and-answer session was introduced by the host and the audience warmed up after the first brave soul raised her hand. An aspiring writer asked how to make her writing less “weird? “Weird is good,” Quindlen said. “Weird sells.” Questions of Quindlen’s writing process followed. She was asked: How do you write - in outline form? Where do you write - a separate room and separate house? Do you need complete peace and quiet? One audience member pleaded for advice. “I have written a whole bunch of stuff and I don’t know how to put it into story format?” Quindlen suggested to get it all down first and trust that a story flow will emerge. Another audience member asked how she could make a living from writing. “Don’t count on it,” chuckled Quindlen. Another asked about her memoir research and shared, “Each of my family members gave me a different version of the same story, which one should I pick?” “The beauty of being the writer is that you get to pick the version of the story that works for you,” Quindlen soothed. “All versions are true.” One audience member seemed in actual pain as she asked her question. She lamented that she felt she could not write unless she was away from her kids and husband alone in a cabin for hours at a time. Only then did she feel that she would be able to write. Quindlen was gentle with her and explained that she didn’t have the issue of young kids these days but the demands of motherhood were an issue for her years ago. Quindlen’s solution was to write when her kids went to school from 9:00 am when she dropped them off to 1:00 when she picked them up. To this day, she told us, those are her writing hours. What You Need To Become a Writer Finally, and for the second time that evening, Quindlen uttered a word that I believe is the key to becoming a writer. Confidence Maria Von Rapp famously sang about confidence in The Sound of Music, “I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain, I have confidence that spring will come again, because which you see I have confidence in me!” You must have confidence to be a writer. You must have confidence that what you write is good enough to be written down, read by someone else, and out there in the world. Anna Quindlen admitted to the audience that she musters confidence every time she sits down to write. As she revealed this last admission, I felt the shoulders of the aspiring writers in the audience start to relax. As we gathered our things at the end of the presentation, my fellow audience members confessed that they were inspired to start writing. I was too. * * *Claudine Wolk is an author, podcast host, and radio host. Follow her substack newsletter Get Your Book Seen and Sold or visit ClaudineWolk.com. Claudine lives with her husband, Joe, in Bucks County, PA and is working on her next book. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(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]
  3. Yesterday
  4. Mount Baldy in clouds. Photograph by josephmachine. Licensed under CC0 4.0. To mark the appearance of Leonard Cohen’s “Begin Again” in our Summer issue, we’re publishing a series of short reflections on his life and work. On “Tower of Song” (1988), Leonard Cohen’s weary croak cracks the joke: “I was born like this / I had no choice / I was born with the gift of a golden voice.” He can’t quite sustain his own melody, but some of us remain enchanted—and not merely by his self-effacement. The irony, we suspect, involves us, too. Choicelessness is one of his great themes: we don’t choose our blessings or our deficits, and we don’t choose our material conditions. Fine. But Leonard Cohen takes it further: maybe we can’t even control the impulse to defy our deficits, to work against the grain of what we’ve been given. We feel sentenced to sing even without a golden voice—by our own unruly desires, or by “twenty-seven angels from the great beyond.” The metaphorical cause matters less than the effect: “They tied me to this table right here in the Tower of Song.” Leonard Cohen came to music late, at least compared to his countercultural contemporaries. Bob Dylan was twenty-one when he released his first album; Leonard Cohen was thirty-three. He struggled to adapt his literary strategies to the new form. Even before his baritone stiffened with age, there was something workmanlike in his sensuous, spiritual, serious songs—not just in his delivery, but in his compositional structure, his preference for the heavy-handed end rhyme. Park / dark. Alone / stone. Pinned / sin. Soon / moon. He never made much use of slant rhyme, syncopation, or any of the sinuous tricks of great vocalists from the blues tradition. The second verse of “Tonight Will Be Fine” (1969) seems to describe the monastic simplicity of his compositions: “I choose the rooms that I live in with care / The windows are small and the walls almost bare / There’s only one bed and there’s only one prayer / I listen all night for your step on the stair.” For me, Leonard Cohen’s voice is that step on the stair—stumbling through the song’s tidy rooms, making the floorboards groan. His flatfooted rhythm makes wisdom’s weight hit harder. I sometimes think of Leonard Cohen seated like a stone on Mount Baldy, where he became an actual monk in 1994 and where he lived for five years. I know a guy who studied at the same monastery. He would try to catch the singer stirring during morning meditation—even just breathing—but his stillness seemed absolute. This discipline frightens me, though it must have been hard-won. I like his songs because they let us overhear the rage and desire rattling discipline’s wooden frame: “I’m interested in things that contribute to my survival,” Cohen told David Remnick. He liked the Beatles just fine, but he needed Ray Charles. And I need Leonard Cohen—not the Zen master, but “this laborer called a writer” (his words) arduously working through a voice too plain for his own poetry. He keeps me company in the difficult silence between my own sentences. “I can hear him coughing all night long, / a hundred floors above me in the Tower of Song.” We’re both still straining—sweetly—for the music. Carina del Valle Schorske is a literary translator and a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine. Her debut essay collection, The Other Island, is forthcoming from Riverhead. View the full article
  5. Neon Gods Neon Gods by Katee Robert is $1.99! This is the first book in the Dark Olympus series. This is close to the top of my TBR pile and I’ve heard so many good things. A friend read it and wished it were spicier. Are you a fan? He was supposed to be a myth. But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell… …he was, quite simply, mine. Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade. With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth…a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed. Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close… A modern retelling of Hades and Persephone that’s as sinful as it is sweet. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Someone to Hold Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh is $1.99 and a Kindle Daily Deal! This is the second book in the Westcott series, which I know many of you love. We had some wonderful comments yesterday about Balogh’s comforting romance. Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery… With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve. An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead… Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Much Ado About You Much Ado About You by Samantha Young is $1.99! I feel like Young is an author that readers really like or don’t. Catherine read this one and wasn’t impressed. She gave it a C. Have you read this one? I’m tempted by the Great Dane. The cozy comforts of an English village bookstore open up a world of new possibilities for Evie Starling in this charming new romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young. At thirty-three-years old Evangeline Starling’s life in Chicago is missing that special something. And when she’s passed over for promotion at work, Evie realizes she needs to make a change. Some time away to regain perspective might be just the thing. In a burst of impulsivity, she plans a holiday in a quaint English village. The holiday package comes with a temporary position at Much Ado About Books, the bookstore located beneath her rental apartment. There’s no better dream vacation for the bookish Evie, a life-long Shakespeare lover. Not only is Evie swept up in running the delightful store as soon as she arrives, she’s drawn into the lives, loves and drama of the friendly villagers. Including Roane Robson, the charismatic and sexy farmer who tempts Evie every day with his friendly flirtations. Evie is determined to keep him at bay because a holiday romance can only end in heartbreak, right? But Evie can’t deny their connection and longs to trust in her handsome farmer that their whirlwind romance could turn in to the forever kind of love. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix is $2.99! This is another Kindle Daily Deal and features magical booksellers. I know Nix’s YA fantasy novels have been a source for comfort for the Bitchery. This is the first in a series and it looks like book two is out next year. A girl’s quest to find her father leads her to an extended family of magical fighting booksellers who police the mythical Old World of England when it intrudes on the modern world. From the bestselling master of teen fantasy, Garth Nix. In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin. Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops. Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms. Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  6. Welcome to the last week of our Readalong! Thank you so much to everyone who joined our readalong and made it such a succes! We’ve loved being able to discuss Shelley Parker-Chan’s incredible debut with you all. You can find the discussion across our socials: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and on our Discord server. Week 1: Beginning through Chapter 4 Week 2: Chapter 5 – Chapter 11 Week 3: Chapter 12 – Chapter 17 Week 4: Chapter 18 to the end SPOILERS AHEAD: This post is a book-club style discussion of the novel, rather than a review to tempt new readers in. We do discuss plot points, character motivations, and twists – if you have not read the book and do not want it spoiled, please do not read further! You can find more responses to our discussion, and join in yourself, on our Google doc Week 4: Ch. 18 – Ch. 23 We’ve covered a lot of the big themes of the book over the last weeks, but one that really makes its presence known in this part is desire. Zhu, Ouyang, Ma… they each have different desires but what did you make of their reactions to them? Nils: Chan explores desire in many forms, and shows how they all have different consequences. Zhu’s desire for ‘greatness’ turns her into a killer, yet her desire for companionship draws out her softer side. Are we going to talk about the sex scene Beth? Beth: I totally think we should discuss it! This was the first sapphic sex scene I’ve encountered like this, and although it came as a surprise, I had to applaud Parker-Chan for the rep. I’m aware my reading needs to be much more diverse, but it seems to me sapphic love scenes are always quite soft, feminine, for one of the party it’s almost always a self-discovery moment. I liked that instead, we get the kind of graphic, behind-closed-doors realism you’d get from a hetero sex scene by someone like Abercrombie. And another thing you say her desire for companionship draws out her softer side, but this moment didn’t feel very soft. It very much felt like a moment of control, like even in this Zhu is in control? Nils: Excellent points my friend! You’re absolutely right, the sex between Zhu and Ma was as graphic and raw as any scene Abercrombie or even Fonda Lee would write, it is pure passion and lust and for that I did appreciate it. You also make a great point that the whole time, Zhu takes charge. Though I guess what I mean by her softer side being portrayed is that during that scene Zhu shows some of her vulnerabilities too. To begin with she’s not entirely comfortable with her own body and is coming to terms with her body being desirable to Ma, does that make sense? Beth: It does! And you’re absolutely right, and it was really lovely to see that moment with her! But as for her other desire, to be great, she makes some key realisations during this part of the story. Ouyang tries to punish Zhu in the worst way he believes possible; in mutilating her, in the “destruction of pride and honour” by removing her sword hand and, therefore, her ability to command. But this brings Zhu to the realisation that, that entire belief doesn’t apply to her, because she’s not a man. She’s “a different substance entirely”. It felt like yet another really important step for her down her path away from what she believes was her brother’s destiny and towards her own understanding of herself. As for Ouyang, his desire seems so complex and conflicting, doesn’t it? No one in this book is as hard on themselves as Ouyang. I think he has a great deal in common with Ma, actually, in believing himself incapable of being able or allowed to desire. Not just because of his position, but because his desire for Esen wars against his desire for vengeance. He cannot have both. Nils: Oh absolutely, he’s definitely a character full of complexities and inner conflicts. Has Zhu developed into a full grimdark morally grey character? Do we think she’s lost her way? How does the Zhu who contrived Fang’s dismissal compare with the one that slit the PM’s throat? Nils: I definitely feel she became a grimdark character, one who’s morals bended to favour her own personal goals. I had previously said that I didn’t believe the ‘real’ Zhu actually wanted to kill anyone, but now I’m not so sure, now I know she’ll kill easily without regret. Her need to fulfil her fate of ‘greatness’ has now consumed her whole and blinded her to the ruthless, murderous person she evolves into by the end. Yet what if she always had this ability in her? Beth: We were really upset by how dark she became, weren’t we Nils! But (someone, was Annemieke?) made a great point that right from the start, she’s all about survival. We kind of worked off the assumption that she kind of starts on level zero, as it were, but actually she’s never given us any evidence for that. She’s not known a life other than doing anything to survive. Nils: Yeah I guess that’s why I’m really conflicted by Zhu, on the one hand I fully understand why she needs to be so brutal, but on the other hand I can’t help but dislike her because of it. For example, killing the child Prince Radiance was a step too far for me, again, I understand this was the practical path for Zhu, as she wanted to become the most powerful influential figure and command the rebel army entirely and she couldn’t allow anyone to be more powerful than her, also I do realise that perhaps this is an accurate depiction of what historical figures have been known to do… but Ma was so against it, and it felt like Zhu only briefly took her wife’s feelings into consideration, yes she gave her a choice but what kind of choice was that? Accept it or leave? More importantly the Prince was still a child, an innocent child, who just happened to be given an awful fate. Beth: I just didn’t see it coming? And up to that point I kept wondering well, how is this going to work? How is Zhu going to become the Emperor when the Prince of Radiance has the Mandate – and despite knowing it couldn’t possibly work, I still didn’t see her killing this poor child who just seemed a pawn throughout the story. I felt so sorry for him. Nils: So did I. He hadn’t experienced a life at all. And speaking of deaths, how do we feel about Ouyang killing Esen? Did you see this coming? Nils: The bastard!! In all honesty, I disliked Ouyang by the end too. Esen deserved better than that betrayal by firstly his brother and then his closest friend, possible future lover, Ouyang. Again Parker-Chan truly makes you understand why Esen had to die, for Ouyang to complete his coup and fully act upon his revenge, Esen was the last obstacle to conquer. Yet from my perspective, and I’m one who loved Esen’s character, that was too brutal! Beth: There was a lot hanging on that moment, wasn’t there. The death of Esen represented the death of a number of things for Ouyang. Like Zhu and the Prince of Radiance, I couldn’t see how Ouyang’s future could play out with Esen still by his side. It’s very much a story about the lengths people will go to, to achieve their desires, and exploration of that. For the longest time, I just wanted Ouyang to fall into Esen’s arms… but then I really started to feel like maybe Esen didn’t actually deserve Ouyang. He certainly didn’t seem to understand him all that well, would often wound him without even having the slightest idea he had. And yet I still didn’t see Ouyang actually going ahead and killing him. Nils: I felt that Esen was one of the only characters in this book who could have learnt to be better, who could have really tried to understand Ouyang had Ouyang opened up a touch more, confided in him. Beth: Oh that’s such a good point Nils! Maybe he could have! Nils: Esen never intentionally hurt Ouyang, but there was a great level of ignorance and naivety in him, I don’t believe it was malice and I felt given time he could truly change. Had Ouyang let him live long enough. I’m all for morally grey characters, I’ve read plenty of books with characters who commit violent, often horrific deeds (I’m thinking of Hilo from Fonda Lee’s, The Green Bone Saga!) and yet I have still found a certain charm within them, something to like and root for, despite this. For some reason I couldn’t quite gel with Zhu and Ouyang even though they have valid reasons for their deeds and inhabit the complexities I usually love seeing in characters. Personally for me though, by the end they both just become too unlikeable. Beth: I was really disappointed too. But now I’ve absorbed the events a little better, I feel like, by making their characters take those extra steps and become unlikeable, Parker-Chan has lifted this above being a simple story with Good and Bad and Satisfying Neat Ends. Their characters are so much more complex than that, they represent so much more than that. They storm through their narratives very much not here to be liked, their concerns are above that. Nils: That’s a great point! I honestly believe Parker-Chan did a fantastic intricate job with these characters, even if I personally felt no longer invested in them. The Mandate of Heaven was an aspect that never gets fully explained. What do you think might be going on here and how important do you think it will be in the next book? Beth: This was an aspect of the story that I didn’t focus on too much, as it felt like there was a lot more importance placed on other parts. So with that in mind, I think it will turn out to be very important in the next book? But I don’t know what it means that so many people seemed able to produce a light: the Prince of Radiance’s red light, the Great Khan’s blue, General Zhang’s orange light and finally Zhu’s white light. Surely if it’s Heaven’s mandate of rule, there wouldn’t be so many people with it? Nils: What did the different colours signify? Do we know? To be honest I was really confused by the concept of the Mandate of Heaven but it was a point I was intrigued by because I thought by the end I’d get more clarity. So maybe you’re right Beth, and Parker-Chan is saving that for book two. Beth: I’d love to know what the different colours might mean! So we’ve been skirting around this, but let’s finally address the elephant in the room: is this a fantasy? Nils: This is actually another part I struggled with throughout the book. I knew prior to reading She Who Became that the fantasy elements would be few and far between but nevertheless I feel disappointed. Mostly because Parker-Chan had quite a few fantastical concepts bubbling away in the background, which we’ve been theorising on throughout this readalong, and by the end I was hoping to see them more fleshed out. I think had the novel been pitched as solely a historical fiction, or historical reimagining, my expectations would have been different, I wouldn’t have expected nor wanted any fantasy elements at all. Beth: It’s a strange one, isn’t it! I don’t mind that the fantasy elements are quite limited – we have the ghosts, and the Mandate of Heaven, but I wouldn’t say these were enough to place the book firmly within the fantasy genre. I can’t work out why it’s been pushed so hard as a fantasy therefore, and not a speculative historical fiction. It didn’t impact my enjoyment of the story at all though. Nils: Having those parts removed detracts very little from the more important aspects of the story, so it leaves the question of why they’ve been added at all. Beth: Exactly! What was your overall impression of the book? What did you enjoy the most? Was there anything you wish had been done differently? Nils: She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker Chan is a fantastic exploration of cultural gender roles and gender expectations. It is a novel where the characters break through these walls and live a life where their worth and their deeds are far more significant than their gender ever would be. These characters fight to be seen as more. It’s a novel of fate, destiny and of survival. Those are the aspects which I absolutely loved; Parker-Chan provided a wealth of philosophical aspects to ponder over, and her historical world was realistically brutal and gave cause for her character’s motivations. Beth: I found it such a powerful novel. These are representations of stories we don’t get enough of, that get told and shared enough. I loved the complexity of all Parker-Chan’s characters. Nils: However, unfortunately there were just parts of the novel, which for me personally, didn’t work. I found the pacing to be rather slow and lacking in action, it felt as though Chan would build up to an action scene, only to skim over it in a few lines. A kind of “fade to black”. There also wasn’t enough fantasy elements and I wasn’t too impressed with how our main characters evolved by the end, as I’ve mentioned above. Beth: That’s such a good point about the action scenes Nils! It’s not really that kind of book, so it’s very much a personal taste point. I’d have loved to seen more fantasy too. And also like you, I was shocked by the developments at the end. Again, objectively I can see the progression of the characters and the necessity of their decisions, how powerful they’re becoming and what it represents about them. But as a reader it broke my heart a little! Nils: And mine! Having said all that, I’m so pleased to have read this novel, delving into the deeper themes and hidden meanings was a fascinating experience to share and discuss with Beth and the other readalong participants. I truly applaud Shelley Parker Chan for her exceptional representation. Beth: She Who Became the Sun is an atmospheric power-house of a novel. The way Parker-Chan brought this time period to life, brought these people to life, their culture, is so immersive. It had the feel of a sprawling Chinese epic, that they’d transported us back. But the true focus of this novel is of course Zhu and Ouyang and the way their world tries to shape them – the clash of when their worlds meet their solid unshakeable desire and belief. That inner battle is truly something to behold! The post SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN by Shelley Parker-Chan – READALONG Week 4 appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  7. Note: This post does not contain a happy ending. In Seattle, June is the cruelest month. Terrifying. Violent, too. A month where people rarely leave their homes, and if they must, they hurry from house to car, exhaling only once safely inside, windows rolled up, doors locked. In June, schools forgive truancy. Non-urgent appointments–dental check-ups, meetings with financial planners, eyebrow shaping–pretty much anything other than trips to the ER–are put off until mid-July. Have you seen Hitchcock’s film, The Birds? Hitchcock himself claimed, “It could be the most terrifying motion picture I have ever made.” I bet Hitchcock was inspired by Seattle in June. Because of Poe’s quothing ravens, I’ve always found crows a bit sinister, but in general, I had no beef with any corvids, not really, until June 2013. While walking to get my daughter at school, a crow–out of nowhere–slapped me across the back of the head with a rolled-up magazine. At least, that’s what it felt like. The June 2015 NPR story, “They Will Strafe You,” taught me these attacks are common. I was simply in the wrong place (near the crow’s fledglings) at the wrong time (June, fledgling season). This particular crow, undoubtedly sleep deprived and struggling with postpartum depression, deemed me a threat. Thus, she grabbed her June 2013 issue of The New Yorker, or perhaps The Economist, or maybe it was The New Republic, and whacked my head. I began to fear another strafing. “No eye contact, people!” I’d yell at my children, my husband, my dog, whenever I saw a crow. “You make eye contact, and THEY WILL STRAFE YOU!” The whole world was starting to feel unsafe, and not just in June. Year-round, I felt the beady eyes of crows upon me. Fast forward nine (terror-filled) years, and we arrive at Spring 2022. At the end of May, bunion surgery left me horizontal with my sad, swollen foot in the air. For weeks, I crutched only between the TV room sofa and my Room of Convalescence. Back and forth, forth and back. Then May became June. June! Bedridden and homebound, I could not escape their terrible cawing, could not ignore the murderous shadows that darkened my windows. Twenty-three days post-op, loopy with a weird mix of boredom and fatigue, tired of my POW status, I raised my fist at the crow-laden spruce in my yard. “Nevermore!” I shouted. “NEVERMORE!” After Googling “what do crows eat,” (the answer: “pretty much anything”) I crutched to the kitchen and found a box of stale, generic-brand Wheat Thins. I then crutched awkwardly–it’s difficult to crutch while holding a box of anything–to the sliding glass doors that leads to our backyard. I opened the doors six inches, set my crutches on the floor, sat myself beside my crutches, then frisbee’d a fistful of crackers outside. And I waited. Needless to say, by the end of the week, I had a handful of brainy crow-pals, all of whom I christened “Carole,” a gender-neutral name that ensured I wouldn’t wrongly assume their preferred pronouns. Their crownouns. Extending the olive branch of generic Wheat Thins, inviting my worst fear into our yard, having the opportunity to applaud the Caroles for the way they neatly stacked crackers, four at a time, then transported their repast with Henry Ford-like efficiency to their roost, all that made me a little less fearful. Not fear-free, just less fear-full. Except my husband was uncomfortable. My children, confused. My BFF, Erica, feared I had finally lost my mind. My funny friend, Robin, dropped off a little crow finger puppet. Worse, there was exponentially more crow crap in our backyard. And things had gone missing: twine that held my husband’s raspberry bushes against the fence, a few of his melon seedlings, the pack of tiny-handed raccoons who sauntered, arrogant and badass, through our yard pretty much whenever they felt like it. Would my dog be next? Recently, I think a lot about fear. How, like a contagion, fear infects our hearts and brains, our relationships and communities. Even when there’s good reason to feel scared, fear tempts us to retreat, isolate, blame, hoard. Our hearts become hard, stingy. Our worlds become small. But thank goodness for writers! Writers invent stories that connect strangers and expand hearts, stories that make readers’ worlds bigger. Writers arrange words into images that remind people of the beauty that remains, even amid today’s difficult news. Stories, even scary ones, make us feel not so alone, not so disconnected, not so fear-filled. On June 1st, after spending ten years writing, and another ten years of rejection and revision, my loyal agent and I found a home for my first novel. I am thrilled. Also, I am TERRIFIED. There are roughly seventy-five reasons for this nebulous, nagging fear, all of which are simultaneously valid and stupid. But just as we cannot create a world where epidemics, tyrants, injustice, and dive-bombing crows are extinct, we cannot create a fear-free life. We can only keep inviting the crows to our backyard. Until we cannot. “The Caroles are eating my bean plants,” my husband announced. The bean plants he grew from seed. I swallowed. “You’re sure it’s the Caroles?” He nodded. “And there’s the crow-crap. And the missing twine … I think we need a scarecrow.” A scarecrow? Suddenly I was meant to terrorize the Caroles? Equally important: How could I face my fear if I couldn’t, well, face my fear? He was right though. I had to stop feeding them. There was the issue with the crow-crap and the missing stuff. Plus I love my dog. I didn’t want the Caroles to take him as their own. And honestly, I was still scared of the Caroles. I still worried they’d attack me, tie me down with the stolen twine, steal my shiny necklace, then peck out my face. Acknowledging the fear, exposing myself to it, feeding it stale crackers, had not made it evaporate. Likewise, acknowledging that this next phase of the writing journey is terrifying, identifying the reasons for the terror, blogging about it, none of that eradicates the fear. It’s still there, and it’s still scary. So … now what? Simple! I continue moving forward in my writing journey. So do you. We continue using words to expand the world, to amplify empathy, to fertilize the love-parts of our fellow human’s hearts. We keep creating characters who are happily living their safe lives–until they are suddenly very much unsafe. Those characters help us understand how to navigate a vast array of our own real-life, omnipresent, Hitchcockian horrors. See? No happy ending. Just this truth: The world needs not scarecrows, but stories. Mine and yours. Your turn! What’s your greatest writing-related fear? Have you ever been crow-slapped? What crazy things have you done as a result of bunion surgery? What do you do when fear, depression, or sorrow feels bigger than your need to write? I can’t wait to hear from you. Crow photo by Flickr’s Sheila Sund. About Sarah CallenderSarah Callender lives in Seattle with her husband, son and daughter. A crummy house-cleaner and terrible at responding to emails in a timely fashion, Sarah chooses instead to focus on her fondness for chocolate and Abe Lincoln. She is working on her third novel while her fab agent pitches the first two to publishers. Web | Twitter | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=lUUQ8nNqvbc:tsOXMu9KTb4:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=lUUQ8nNqvbc:tsOXMu9KTb4:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  8. In crime fiction, there is always a victim. Someone is murdered or a body is found, and the police are called in to investigate. The murder victim generally leaves behind loved ones who mourn them. They want the crime solved, and the culprit brought to justice. On the other hand, someone wanted the victim dead, so chances are they weren’t all sweetness and light. That’s the line mystery writers walk. We generally want a victim sympathetic enough to make readers want to see justice served, but they also have to believe the victim did something bad enough to move the villain to murder. Generally. Once in a while you find a victim who lived their life in such a way that they are mourned by none. No one is calling for justice, and some are figuratively dancing on their graves. Including the readers. That’s the kind of victim I have in A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder—a man so reprehensible, those left behind want nothing more than to give the culprit a round of applause. Everyone he knew had a reason to want him dead, but which one actually did it? While writing this book, I looked for other mysteries with memorable, unlikable victims. I kept coming up with Agatha Christie’s titles. So, what follows is a list of Agatha Christie’s most unlikable victims, who had it coming. It would be hard to come up with a single redeeming quality among these victims. They had to go. But who in each of their circles finally snapped? And how did they do it? You’ll have to read the books to find out. And I highly recommend that you do. Simeon Lee from Hercule Poirot’s Christmas Every member of his family has reason to hate Simeon Lee, its elderly, tyrannical multi-millionaire patriarch. His open cheating on his wife broke her spirit and turned at least one of his children against him. The others he brow-beats and controls. He unexpectedly calls them all home for Christmas. Once they’re gathered, his vicious nature surfaces, and he announces his intention to change his will. Unsurprisingly, his murder soon follows. After a collective sigh of relief, the houseguests eye each other with suspicion. One of them must be the murderer. Aristide Leonides from Crooked House One of my favorite Christie mysteries features another overbearing patriarch meeting a bad end. Though this is a pretty twisted family to begin with—all living under the same roof, by the way—Aristide knows how to pull their strings and push their buttons as he plays each family member against the other. He has all the control, and his adult children clearly resent him for it. When he’s murdered, even his second wife isn’t sorry to see him go—until everyone learns he gave control of his fortune to his granddaughter. Still playing one off the other right to the end. Mr. Shaitana from Cards on the Table Shaitaan is Hindi for devil or evil. I’m sure it was no coincidence that Christie devised the name Shaitana for this victim. He’s a wealthy collector who exudes a creepy, sinister aura. He’s flamboyant, social, and completely amoral. When he tells Poirot about his collection of murderers, he explains, “Murder can be an art. Murderers can be artists.” Everyone is careful while around Shaitana, as if they’re defusing a bomb. Anne Meredith, a member of Shaitana’s collection, puts it best. “There’s always something a little frightening about him, I think,” she tells Poirot. “You never know what would strike him as amusing. It might—it might be something cruel.” It is definitely something cruel. Samuel Edward Ratchett from Murder on the Orient Express Samuel Ratchett, aka Lanfranco Cassetti, destroyed countless lives and did some awful things in his former career. Aboard the train, he recognizes Poirot and approaches him. He says he’s received death threats and asks for protection. Poirot, instinctively repulsed by the man, refuses. Ratchett, of course, is murdered. No one is bereft, and there is nothing more I can say without spoiling the book. Mrs. Boynton from Appointment with Death I just realized there weren’t many women in this category, but Mrs. Boynton more than makes up for any lack of quantity with pure vileness. This time Christie created a tyrannical matriarch. Her family includes a daughter and three stepchildren, one of whom refers to her as “a mad dog—something that’s doing harm in the world and must be stopped.” This mother is so loathed that several members of her family discover her body, but thinking another family member probably killed her, just walk on by, failing to report it to the authorities. That’s bad. *** View the full article
  9. Kellye Garrett interviews Cheryl Head about her new novel, Time’s Undoing, a searing and tender novel about a young Black journalist’s search for answers in the unsolved murder of her great-grandfather in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, decades ago—inspired by the author’s own family history. Time’s Undoing is both a passionate tale of one woman’s quest for the truth and, as newfound friends and supporters in Birmingham rally around Meghan’s search, the uplifting story of a community coming together to fight for change. Time’s Undoing is forthcoming on March 7, 2023. Cheryl Head (she/her) writes the award-winning, Charlie Mack Motown Mysteries whose female PI protagonist is queer and black. Head is an Anthony Nominee, two-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, a three-time Next Generation Indie Book Award finalist, and winner of the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Ann Bannon Popular Choice award. In 2019, Head was named to the Hall of Fame of the New Orleans Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, and in 2022 was awarded the Alice B Reader Award. Cheryl is Vice Chair of the national Bouchercon Board of Directors. She lives in Washington, DC with her partner and Abby & Frisby who provide canine supervision. Kellye Garrett is the author of Like A Sister, about a black woman in New York City looking into the mysterious overdose of her estranged reality star sister. The suspense novel was featured on the TODAY show and was a Book of the Month April 2022 selection. The cofounder of Crime Writers of Color also wrote the Detective by Day lightweight mysteries, which have won the Anthony, Agatha, Lefty and IPPY awards. Learn more at KellyeGarrett.com Kellye Garrett: Cheryl! You know I’ve been excited about your new book from the nanosecond you told me you were working on it. Can you describe it in your own words? It’s based on your grandpa, right? Chery Head: That’s right, Kellye. My Grandfather was shot and killed by police in Birmingham Alabama ninety-plus years ago. It’s a tragedy that’s hung over my family for decades, and because of the times (the Jim Crow era) my grandmother and her family were reluctant to call foul for fear of attracting the attention of the Klan. My grandfather’s homicide, and the aftermath, was always discussed in hushed tones and worried scowls, but with few details. I’d thought of writing about my grandfather many, many times, but when George Floyd was killed the universe nudged me again. The novel is told from my grandfather’s perspective in 1929 the year he died, not yet twenty-nine, and from the perspective of a fictional great-granddaughter, a newspaper journalist in 2019, who sets off to Birmingham to solve the mystery surrounding her ancestor’s murder. KG: It’s such a departure from your previous novels, which were all in the Charlie Mack PI series. What was the toughest thing about writing it? CH: The toughest thing about writing Time’s Undoing was to let go of my apprehension about not having many facts; remembering that this book is a work of fiction; and taking the chances I took to make my grandfather a whole, complex, flawed character that I believe readers will care about. KG: Did anything surprise you? CH: Oh yes! During the course of my research for the book, for the first time in nine decades, I found my grandfather’s death certificate. My family had never had it before. My research also uncovered another record that proved my mother’s long-held recollections were true—a newspaper article that confirmed her father was shot by the police. There were more than a few times that I felt my grandfather was guiding me in this work. KG: Like your main character Meghan, you’re from Detroit, are a former journalist and—as we discussed—this is based on your own grandfather. Did you base her on you? How is she the same or different? CH: Meghan and I share some qualities. I think we’re both tenacious and self-directed. Meghan rises to a challenge. I do too. It’s funny you ask this question, Kellye, because as I was writing the book I often felt I was in parallel action with Meghan who was doing the same kind of research I was, as she was carrying out her investigation. It was kind of surreal, and wonderful. KG: I’m sure that helped inform another aspect of the book–the dual timelines. How was it writing about 1929? What was the research process like? I’m curious how your journalism background helped with that. CH: I loved writing the 1929 chapters of the book. Those chapters rolled out so organically. Imagining myself in a segregated black community. Thinking about the relationships, and daily life, and the tactics it took to survive under the draconian laws and rules of Jim Crow. And also thinking of Black joy and Black love. That’s in the book, too. I was all over Ancestry.com and Newspapers.com. I had written another historical fiction novel and I knew there were rich archives of Black newspapers dating back to after the civil war. I spent dozens of hours looking through digital newspapers of the 1920s and 1930s. I know some about the work of news organizations because I was a radio and TV news reporter in Detroit for a while, so I also brought those experiences to the novel’s contemporary storyline. KG: I’m going to have to bug you about your ancestry.com results, but let’s talk about the gorgeous cover. I particularly love the subtle image of the grandfather in her hair. What was the process like for you? Like, for instance, I gave my publisher an eight page single spaced Word doc with images. Please tell me you did the same! CH: Ain’t she pretty!!! Eight pages! I only gave my publisher four pages of images. Ha Ha. I knew I wanted to have a black woman on the cover, and there were several concepts the brilliant designers came up with. I worked with both my editor, Lindsey Rose, at Dutton and my agent, Lori Galvin to vet the ideas. In the end I said I wanted a cover that invoked both protagonists in the novel–my grandfather and his great-granddaughter. But the abstract image was the designer’s idea and I think it does an amazing job of suggesting the ancestral connections and other elements in the novel. KG: Only four? Hmmph. Let’s talk about your journey a bit. Although this is a standalone you’ve written six books in the Charlie Mack series. You initially self published the first book in that series. Like you, Charlie is both queer and Black, which is something we hardly ever see in crime fiction. CH: Yes, that’s right. And unlike a few other crime fiction books featuring Black, lesbian sleuths, Charlie is a professional private investigator–not an amateur, or employed by law enforcement. That’s a distinction I like to make, because that makes the series, with this protagonist, a first. I enjoy writing the series, and because I’m an #ownvoices author, I’m able to riff on a whole bunch of race, queer and social justice issues based on my lived experiences. I have three or more books in that series I want to write because crime fiction is such an accessible way to talk about the foibles of people and institutions. KG: Three or more? I only was able to write two books in my series and was using the same lines so I’m in awe of folks with long series. I love Charlie just as much as I love your writing. I’m glad you’ll be still writing them along with the standalones. Speaking of, you had such a different experience with the new book, which you sold at auction over a few days to Dutton. CH: Oh, I’m glad you love Charlie, and my writing. It’s a great compliment. I took Charlie from a single book to a series because the publisher of Bywater Books asked if I could do so. I was just content to write my first mystery because I love the genre so much. That first book was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. The sixth book in the series just received an Anthony Award nomination. I feel blessed. As for the book auction? I have to admit it was a heady couple of weeks. I needed a lot of hand holding from my agent and friends, like you, to keep me grounded and sensible. But I’m loving the journey because I’m so interested in the backend of things—how publishing works–that I’m like an eight-year-old in a kitchen–learning new recipes, mixing things I know with what I didn’t know, using every dish in the cupboard, and turning on the stove without permission. Ha! View the full article
  10. The Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 is thought to have killed over 50 million people worldwide. Yet, while the First World War provides the background for countless novels, the pandemic features in very few contemporary fictional accounts. Even modern writers tend to skate over this devastating episode. In Downton Abbey, Spanish Flu seems to last the length of a dinner party, although someone does die (after having been pronounced perfectly healthy by Dr Clarkson, the world’s worst doctor). I thought about this when planning my fourteenth Ruth Galloway novel. The previous book, The Night Hawks, ended in December 2019 so I knew that in the next instalment I had to face the problem of 2020. Should I pretend that Covid-19 had never happened and let Ruth and Nelson get on with their everyday, albeit complicated, lives? Should I set the novel in the future? Surely Covid would be over by, say, 2022? Should I cram all the events into January and February and leave the virus as a dark cloud on the horizon? In the end I decided to cover lockdown and the pandemic. Having written a book about Ruth every year for fourteen years, it somehow seemed wrong to miss out 2020. Some real-life events, like Brexit and Donald Trump becoming US President, had already infiltrated Ruth’s world. I thought that, looking back at the series, I would regret not mentioning the most devastating world crisis of my lifetime. Also I thought that readers might want to know what happened to the characters in lockdown. At the start of The Locked Room, Nelson is scoffing at the thought of hand sanitiser and Cathbad is putting a circle of protection around his cottage. All the sounds very high minded but I have to admit that an evil, writery part of my mind thought: what a great opportunity. All crime writers are obsessed with locked room mysteries, so-called impossible murders where a body is found in a completely inaccessible place. In this book, Nelson is investigating a series of apparent suicides, including one in a room locked from the inside. But, when lockdown started in March 2020, the whole country became one big locked room. I wanted to explore this shared experience and also to highlight the plight of people for whom home was not a safe place. The Locked Room has some light-hearted moments – for example, Ruth’s lockdown shopping list starts ‘Cat Food, Wine’ – but there is darkness too. It has often been noted that lockdown did very strange things to our collective memory. The Locked Room was written in 2021 and 2020, which already seemed a lifetime away. I’ve kept a diary since I was eleven and, during the writing process, I was very grateful for it. I’d made a point of writing every day during March and April 2020, even noting the changing state of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hair. I’d forgotten so much. At the start of the pandemic, masks weren’t worn much in England but people wore gloves and disinfected their shopping before bringing it into the house. We stood outside our houses every Thursday night and clapped for the carers even if, as in Ruth’s case, there was no-one to hear. There were daily government briefings, politicians flanked by health experts repeating the words: ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’. Of course, we didn’t know then that staff at Number 10 Downing Street were actually engaged in a never-ending stream of parties. Spring 2020 was particularly beautiful or maybe we just appreciated it more. There were endless sunny days. The skies were cloudless and unpolluted by airplanes. Every day I walked through the garden to my writing shed and felt very lucky to have a job to do and a fictional world to escape to. The Night Hawks was the book actually written in lockdown and it’s full of longing for Norfolk, a place that I could then only see on Google Earth. But, even if I couldn’t get to East Anglia, I was lucky enough to be by the sea in Brighton. Every day I took a walk to the beach and felt refreshed. I knew that many people – doctors, nurses, teachers, retail workers – were not able to stroll in the sunshine and guilt was added to the ever-present worry. Because these were dark days, however bright the sun. There was no vaccine and no cure. I stretched things slightly in the book by having a character mention a possible vaccine but, in truth, there seemed no light at the end of the tunnel. People died alone, relatives watched funerals on zoom. We all did what we could to cope. Like Ruth I did yoga and listened to birdsong. Like Ruth I was comforted by my children and my cat. Deciding to write a book is one thing, waiting for the public reaction is another. My publishers were very supportive of the lockdown book but how would readers react? Had everyone had enough of Covid? In the event, reviews were overwhelmingly positive and The Locked Room was my first number one in the Sunday Times bestsellers list. I’m hoping US readers will like it too and enjoy a mystery set during, but not overwhelmed by, unprecedented world events. Will Covid-19, like Spanish Flu, be forgotten by popular culture? It seems that one genre, at least, has risen to the challenge. Several crime writers have set their books during lockdown. Peter May deserves the prize for writing his novel, Lockdown, about a global pandemic, in 2005. At the time, he couldn’t find a publisher for such an outlandish concept, but the book was released, to great acclaim, in 2020. Catherine Ryan Howard’s 56 Days is the story of a couple who meet and are instantly locked down together. It’s brilliantly creepy and claustrophic. One of my favourite writers, Phil Rickman, has just published Book 16 in his Merrily Watkins series. The Fever of the World features Wordsworth, paganism, a dead estate agent – and Covid-19. It’s an unforgettable addition to the series. Like every writing decision, choosing whether or not to include the pandemic is a personal one. But, now that 2020 seems almost as far away as 1918, I’m glad that The Locked Room contains a record of that terrifying, sunny spring. It also allowed me to share my guilt about never quite getting round to baking my own bread. *** View the full article
  11. “How can they call it a detective story? The thing ends like a Monty Python skit where they drop a 16-ton weight on Eric Idle,” I protested. “Edgar Allan Poe is christened the Father of the Detective Story because an escaped orangutan swung into an apartment and smashed the victims apart?” Professor Houtz likely wanted to smash me one in the kisser, but he contented himself with theatrically rolling his eyes and ambling back to the blackboard. It was my final year of high school, and my elderly World Lit instructor was having us college-bound twits read The Murders in the Rue Morgue. The class had collectively shrugged in agreement with me about the cop-out ending—it hadn’t been murder at all but a rampaging gorilla. It would be like getting to the final page of a Michael Connelly novel, only to discover the shadowy villain was a rabid pit bull. Now I stand firmly in the mystery camp. My niche lies in crime fiction. I write mystery/thrillers and I have no problem with our blessed trinity of saints—Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Dashiell Hammett—but I draw the line at Edgar Allan Poe. In this custody battle, I’m afraid I side with our horror-writing brethren. Poe’s twisted soul is the horror genre. Let’s leave aside The Murders in the Rue Morgue and my decades-ago debate with Professor Houtz—can any of you rattle off any other Edgar Allan Poe detective stories? Anybody out there have anything come instantly to mind (and no Googling)? Bueller? Bueller? I’m willing to spot you The Purloined Letter (a love letter has been stolen, blackmail’s afoot, no body count), but beyond Purloined we need to consult Professor Houtz or query a search engine. Rounding out Poe’s trio of detective stories is The Mystery of Marie Roget. In this yarn, Poe’s super sleuth C. Auguste Dupin looks into the evidence surrounding Marie Roget’s disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her body in the Seine, and then hazards a guess at possible explanations. However, there is no closure to this mystery. Readers never know whether Detective Dupin’s various hypotheses are valid or not. Okay class; now raise your hand if you can rattle off any of Edgar Allan Poe’s non-detective stories. Slow down, already, I can only write so fast. Most of Poe’s tip-of-the-tongue tales are horror in nature. The classics that pop immediately to mind include: The Pit and the Pendulum: Prisoner’s descent into madness is hastened along by unseen Inquisitors. The Tell-Tale Heart: Demented caregiver’s descent into madness is hastened along by an ever-loudening heartbeat. The Black Cat: Animal-abusing drunkard’s descent into madness is hastened along by a feline apparition. The Fall of the House of Usher: An inbred’s descent into madness is hastened along by his haunted manor. The Masque of the Red Death: A prince’s descent into madness is hastened along when an uninvited guest wreaks havoc on said prince’s masquerade ball. (A timely tale in the era of Covid.) The Cask of Amontillado: Winsome bricklayer’s descent into madness lapses into remission after his premeditated murder of an elitist knothead. Even Poe’s most famous poetry is grounded in horror, not mystery. Dr. Phil at the top of his game would never be able to save the wretched, brokenhearted bastard in The Raven. Though working in a different medium, Poe covers familiar themes. In this case the narrator’s descent into madness is hastened along by the appearance of an ethereal, talking fowl. “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!— Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted— On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore— Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!” Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil! By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore— Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore— Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.” Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” Another of Poe’s classic poems—and my personal favorite—Annabel Lee is a melancholy love sonnet of unsettling proportions. After all, is there anything as cosmically horrific as love lost to death? The narrator of the poem condemns the “winged seraphs of heaven” for stealing away his beloved Annabel Lee. The angels, not half so happy in Heaven, Went envying her and me— Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know, In this kingdom by the sea) That the wind came out of the cloud by night, Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee. ure enough we discover that the narrator’s descent into madness is hastened along by the loss of his “love that was more than love.” For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride, In her sepulchre there by the sea— In her tomb by the sounding sea. Wow. Powerful stuff. Not too shabby for an alcoholic who married his 13-year old cousin . . . nope, not shabby at all. Yes, us yarn spinners of sleuthing can worship Poe as the father of detective fiction—we can tip back drinks to him at our annual Edgar Awards and fantasize that Poe’s indubitable genius was our genesis—but horror authors see it differently. “Sorry, Sherlock,” they’d respond. “Truth be told . . . Edgar Allan Poe is synonymous for psychological horror fiction . . . he’s one of ours.” Of course the horror writers will spot us our Agathas and Conan Doyles and all the rest—but when it comes to Edgar Allan Poe . . . Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” *** View the full article
  12. In the Robert Altman film, The Player, Tim Robbins stars as Griffin Mill, a big-time Hollywood producer who spends his days listening to pitches from aspiring movie directors and screenplay writers. Mill’s claim to fame? Only 12 out of every 50,000 pitches he hears ever get the studio nod. Why? Because in Hollywood, there are no tales that haven’t previously been told. So the enterprising supplicants package their two-minute story summaries by stringing movie tropes together like rosary beads. A comedic romp about a clueless American who travels to Africa and becomes worshiped as a god by a pagan tribe is pitched as a hybrid of Cactus Flower and Out of Africa. Mill simplifies the pitch by summarizing their project as “Goldie Goes to Africa.” You get the drift. Writing fiction is no exception. If one unique idea succeeds and catches the eye of some weary publisher or literary agent, there soon will be a score—or four score—other novels predicated on the same premise. Witness the rash of zombie novels that proliferated after the publication of Book of the Dead in 1990. For me, that idea jumped the proverbial shark when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies appeared. However, I was forced to to eat my umbrage when that unlikely novel became a runaway bestseller. As Jane Austen herself would wisely have counseled, “Keep your breath to cool your porridge.” Still, the harder we try to reinvent the wheel, the likelier we are to cobble together a flimsy retread of something that went before. This is no disrespect to genre fiction that, by design, is intended to traverse familiar and well-traveled landscapes. You know their names: noir, thriller, police procedural, true crime, detective, cozy—the whole spectrum. But within the exercise of recrafting these well-known tropes, what possibilities for variation exist? How might depth and innovation be achieved while still coloring between the lines? In art and music, achieving this desired but tenuous balance depends on the fusion of disparate aesthetic elements that, together, create a unified expression of beauty. In literature, the intersection of unity and variety work much the same way. In his 2001 New York Times essay, Edmund White referred to Patricia Highsmith’s narcissistic Tom Ripley as “a shape-shifting protagonist who’s up to no good.” By crafting Ripley as a criminal in disguise who is also “a psychological prop to his own self-hatred,” Highsmith seduced a generation of readers to do the unthinkable: root for a bad guy who lies, cheats, and murders his way to wealth and independence. Ripley’s narcissistic attitudes and sense of entitlement drive him to exact vengeance on a society that he jealously believes has wronged him by withholding access to privilege. The world owes him something, and like all the best antiheroes, he stops at nothing to get it. And those of us in the cheap seats cheer him along the way. The five Ripley novels combine to establish Highsmith’s Ripley as the archetypal grifter of the entire mystery genre. These novels tick all the boxes: unreliable narrator, convoluted plots, a multitude of twists and switchbacks, red herrings, gripping suspense, and the skillful manipulation of a limited point of view that hides essential information from the reader. Yet within those constraints, Highsmith managed to craft a series of psychological thrillers that straddle a world of darkness and insanity—and foreshadow the ascendency of a smoldering morass of social issues that dominate our political discourse today. There are innumerable ways we all can capitalize on Highsmith’s experiment. We can start by presenting a unique take on our chosen genre. We can dare to be bold enough to turn convention on its head by taking advantage of skillful storytelling that contemplates society, morality/immorality, and other reflective subjects. As a step toward doing this, we can reference some of the classics that laid the groundwork for the mystery genre today—books written by stalwarts like Highsmith or Agatha Christie. We can study their willingness to pursue offbeat settings, complicated narratives, and disturbing portraits of violence. Agatha Christie was never afraid of adopting avant-garde approaches to the detective genre. She was a master at confounding her readers with unreliable narrators, criminals who cavalierly escaped justice, or even a murder case in which every suspect was guilty. She happily embraced such bold departures from the prescribed tropes that defined such tales. Take a gander at the offerings of any bookstore, online retailer, or library and you’ll notice that every book, graphic novel, or video has been handily linked with other titles by a seemingly endless, and frequently incongruous, string of key words that seek to categorize content. This happens because the marketplace perception is that readers demand specificity, don’t like surprises, and want to know what to expect. We’re led to believe they want assurance that the chick-lit-beach-read-billionaire-Amish & Mennonite-rom-com they just purchased won’t surprise them with the appearance of a homicidal axe murderer lurking behind a sand dune. Therefore, our challenge—if we dare embrace it—is to strive to craft genre stories that satisfy, but still manage to push the limitations of their labels. To quote Quotidian Writer, Diane Callahan, “it isn’t as if ‘the rules’ of [writing] genre are set in stone. No one has officially decreed that hard-boiled detective novels can’t break the fourth wall, or that sweeping period romances can’t also involve space assassins. And these books do more than simply mash two popular genres together: they force us to question the way we think about genre in the first place.” Callahan’s point is perfectly illustrated by the Italian novelist, Italo Calvino. His experiential novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler steadfastly refuses to be one single genre—or even one single story. The protagonist of the novel is you (the reader), and you are trying to read Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler. But every time you turn a page, you find yourself deep inside a different book entirely. What results is a nothing less than a meta-fictional tour de force that explodes practically every trope and fiction genre out there. Yet, no matter how much we inveigh against it, genre fiction and literary fiction continue to wage war with each other. Genre fiction is indicted for being simplistic and formulaic, while literary fiction is damned for being self-important and dense. This tired and ageless debate has raged on for so long, its denizens of undead rival the numbers of zombies drifting in and out of Jane Austen’s drawing rooms. Sadly, it remains true that in most literary circles, genre books come with a caveat—which writer Neil Gaiman once colorfully described in an interview: “By the time fantasy had its own area in the bookshop, it was deemed inferior to mimetic, realistic fiction . . . I was fascinated by the way that Terry Pratchett would, on the one hand, have people like A S Byatt going, ‘These are real books, they’re saying important things and they are beautifully crafted,’ and on the other he would still not get any real recognition. I remember Terry saying to me at some point, ‘You know, you can do all you want, but you put in one fucking dragon and they call you a fantasy writer.’” So it goes. And because chickens come home to roost, I’ll share that a publicist once summarized a mystery of mine as “The Big Chill meets Fried Green Tomatoes by way of A River Runs Through It.” I can live with that . . . *** View the full article
  13. This Rec League comes from Bel. Thanks, Bel! I’ve recently read and loved Drawn That Way and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay–extremely different books in terms of tone and setting, I know , but something I really enjoyed about both books was the detail about the characters’ crafts (animation and comics, respectively) and all the character design and storytelling that came with it. This might be a weirdly specific ask/reading mood to be in at the moment, but are there any other novels featuring, for lack of a better term, narrative artists? Cartoonists, graphic novelists, animators, maybe video game designers? And hopefully featuring romance and HEAs? Thank you so much! Amanda: Level Up by Cathy Yardley ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) and Even Odds by Elia Winters ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) have video game designers and developers. A | BN | K | AB Sarah: There’s a historical mystery series with a heroine who draws satirical cartoons under a pen name – the Wrexford and Sloane series by Andrea Penrose, starting with Murder on Black Swan Lane. And the titular Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) is an illustrator and artist. But it sounds like this reader is thinking more in terms of contemporary. Claudia: Would Love Lettering qualify? She’s not a narrative artist per se but i remember the heroine is really into getting to know her customers before she works on their calligraphy projects. Sneezy: Loathe at First Sight ( A | BN | K | AB ) has a video game developer protagonist, but the misogyny in the video game industry does take up a chunk of the story. The webtoon The Lady with a Mask def works. The protagonist is a children’s book author and illustrator and secretary to her boss. Trigger warning for death, grief, and shitty toxic family, though the last takes up very little of the story What romances would you recommend? Tell us below! View the full article
  14. At a "Stranger Things" experience in NYC. Years ago, I attended a children’s writing conference where an agent begged the audience to please not write about the time we grew up in. While I could see what she meant by the advice, I also got a good response later that year when I sent the opening pages of a middle grade novel to an editor I’d met at the same conference. In the words of the editor, my story about a girl who traveled back in time to the 1980s to meet the childhood version of her favorite teacher “had an intriguing premise,” but I hadn’t quite nailed the voice of the protagonist yet. I’ve begun noticing a trend of bringing back pop culture from 10, 20, even 30 years ago, especially in books, movies, and TV shows. Last summer I read a suspense/thriller novel by an author named Riley Sager called “Survive the Night.” Part of the reason I decided to purchase the novel was because it took place in 1991 and featured a protagonist looking for a ride share home from college. There were no cell phones, George H.W. Bush was president, and Nirvana ruled the airwaves. As a reader who spent my high school and college years in the 1990s, the setting and time period appealed to me. I remember going to the movie theater in the summer of 1993 to see the original “Jurassic Park” and being horrified watching Michael Crichton’s science-fiction novel come to life on the screen. Four movies later, “Jurassic World Dominion (featuring many of the same actors that graced the original) had the second-biggest opening weekend of the year just behind “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” My husband was beyond excited to finally get to see “Top Gun: Maverick,” as he can recite every line from the original, and we both agreed the filmmakers really cashed in on the nostalgia of the film by using so much of the music we loved from the first soundtrack and well, I won’t spoil anything else if you’re still planning on seeing it. After the last few years we’ve had, I can understand the joy of seeing things from my childhood and teen years come back around again. I got hooked on the Netflix series “Stranger Things” more for the nostalgic angle than the science-fiction plot lines. I love seeing the clothing the characters will be wearing and which pop culture items will be lurking in the background of each scene (kudos to Kate Bush and the revitalization of her 1985 song, “Running Up That Hill) from the current season. Nostalgia is the reason why classic car collectors spend years looking for a specific car they have fond memories tied to. It’s why the “Forrest Gump” and its original motion picture soundtrack became so popular in 1994. Indulging in nostalgia connects our emotions to memories. It brings us together collectively. It helps sharpen our minds. It gives our lives new meaning. I think I might be ready to polish off that time traveling young girl from a 1980s summer camp story. Maybe with a little work, it could be the escapism some kids are looking for. Have you written anything from a time period you grew up in? What was the response like? What are some of your favorite time periods for books and movies to be set in? Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also produces 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]
  15. Last week
  16. Sarah: People are mad and hurt and scared and upset, and there are a lot of ways to help, including caring for ourselves and our communities. Please remember that this is a space for us to feel safe, and to care for this community from within it. TL;DR, don’t be tools please. Amanda: If you’re looking for ways to help, here are a few links: Get Involved Abortion Access Front: They’re offering a workshop on the 17th called Operation Save Abortion. National Network of Abortion Funds: Tomorrow, June 30th, they’re offering a Webinar called “Building Power with Abortion Funds.” Digital Defense Fund: They are helping to place and connect volunteers for the abortion access movement. Donate Indigenous Women Rising: An abortion fund specifically for Indigenous communities in the US and Canada. National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice: A reproductive justice organization targeting Latina/x communities. National Network of Abortion Funds: They have a long list of abortion funds and networks you can donate to, especially if you want to focus your donations to states that have trigger laws in place. SisterSong: A reproductive justice organization founded and run by women of color. Additional Resources Roe v. Wade: What You Can Do Google Doc … Sarah: Per Barnraisers Project: “White supremacy is great at isolating us and perfectionism does the same thing.” There are lot of ways to get involved, and lots of ways to help. Got links to share? Local action you’re involved in? Suggestions? Please share them with us. And please look after yourselves, ok? View the full article
  17. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for! Or, one of them. The sequel to Knives Out has a title and a release date. The film will be called Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and it will make its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, which takes place from September 8th to 18th, 2022. While the plot of the film is currently unknown, we do know that it finds Daniel Craig’s gentleman sleuth Benoit Blanc in Greece, where he encounters a new mystery. The cast includes Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Jessica Henwick, and Madelyn Cline. Stay tuned for more of our Knives Out series coverage. View the full article
  18. Welcome back, everybody! I’m sure the mood this afternoon is more somber than last week’s and that’s understandable with Friday’s Supreme Court decision. I know Sarah is compiling a list of resources and actionable activities that should be going up soon (if not already). My focus is to give some lightness and distraction here if you need it. I cried, had some cocktails and comforting food, and then took an edible with my partner for a cozy movie night. I’ve also been playing a lot of video games and finding catharsis in just talking and venting to friends. If you’d like to share your own comforting plans, feel free! … Thanks to Miriam for sharing this with Sarah! It’s a look at historical romance covers and how they do or don’t reflect the fashions of their setting. Lots of costume design nerdery here! … Illumicrate is raffling off a stunning Bridgerton special collection to raise funds for National Network of Abortion Funds. There are also a couple other romance editions up for raffle. You can find them all here. … And, if you want to just bask in some vocal talent, check out this performance by Netta (Eurovision 2018’s winner!) and the Great Gehenna Choir. … Don’t forget to share what cool or interesting things you’ve seen, read, or listened to this week! And if you have anything you think we’d like to post on a future Wednesday Links, send it my way! View the full article
  19. One Last Stop RECOMMENDED: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston is $2.99! Carrie and Tara did a joint review of this one and gave it a Squee grade: Tara: I cannot recommend One Last Stop enough. It’s funny, it’s sexy, and it gives me all the feels. Carrie: So much this! The book is fun, sexy, serious and comical, and deeply intersectional. From the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue comes a new romantic comedy that will stop readers in their tracks… Cynical twenty-three-year old August doesn’t believe in much. She doesn’t believe in psychics, or easily forged friendships, or finding the kind of love they make movies about. And she certainly doesn’t believe her ragtag band of new roommates, her night shifts at a 24-hour pancake diner, or her daily subway commute full of electrical outages are going to change that. But then, there’s Jane. Beautiful, impossible Jane. All hard edges with a soft smile and swoopy hair and saving August’s day when she needed it most. The person August looks forward to seeing on the train every day. The one who makes her forget about the cities she lived in that never seemed to fit, and her fear of what happens when she finally graduates, and even her cold-case obsessed mother who won’t quite let her go. And when August realizes her subway crush is impossible in more ways than one—namely, displaced in time from the 1970s—she thinks maybe it’s time to start believing. Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Their Perfect Melody Their Perfect Melody by Priscilla Oliveras is 99c at Amazon! It’s available elsewhere, but not price-matched. It’s the third book in the Matched to Perfection and features an opposites attract romance. A Chicago cop and a Latina caregiver make beautiful music together in this “marvelous,” heartfelt contemporary romance (Publishers Weekly, starred review). From the USA Today–bestselling author of Island Affai comes the story of three dazzling sisters brimming with talent, ambition—and passion—in a warm-hearted, sexy new series filled with Latinx culture, family drama, and women pursuing their dreams against all odds. Growing up, Lilí María Fernandez was affectionately known as the family “wild child.” The life of the party, she loved to dance, especially salsa, merengue, and bachata, and often sang beside her father during rehearsals for his trío group. But tragedy and loss have drawn out Lilí’s caretaking side, compelling her to become a victim’s advocate. These days, the special rhythms of the past seem like a distant memory. Until she meets Diego Reyes . . . A police officer with the Chicago PD, Diego also has a talent for playing classical Spanish guitar. And Lilí soon finds herself inspired by his passion—for the music, for her, and for their shared love of familia and community. Can Diego reignite Lilí’s fun-loving spirit, persuade her to balance work and pleasure—and embrace her wild side once more? Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Nothing But Blackened Teeth Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw is $2.99! This is a horror novella that I mentioned on a previous Get Rec’d. It a haunted house ghost story set in an old Japanese mansion. Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists. A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company. It’s the perfect wedding venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends. But a night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart. And she gets lonely down there in the dirt. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. Dumplin’ RECOMMENDED: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy is $1.99! I highly recommend this book, especially if you love Dolly Parton. It’s funny and emotional, and the struggles Willowdean faces as a “self-proclaimed fat girl” will relate to many who suffered from those awkward teen years. Seriously, get this book. And the Netflix adaptation is fantastic, if you need something to watch right now. Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine— Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart. Add to Goodreads To-Read List → You can find ordering info for this book here. View the full article
  20. G. D. Penman is the author of beloved and bestselling series like Savage Dominion, Deepest Dungeon and Witch of Empire. Once upon a time, they were a small press magazine editor, a literary critic, a tabletop game designer and the ghost-writer of over one hundred books of non-fiction. Nowadays, they can mostly be found writing fantasy novels and smoking a pipe in the sunshine. Hi Gray and thanks for dropping by! Readers will know you as a regular contributor in the Hive – the genius behind our Ulesorin – but give us a run-down on your books. Hello, it is cute that you think that I’m dropping by and that I haven’t been living in the walls of this place for the last 3 years. Oh! Is that what that noise is?! I have uh… too many books to talk about, so I’ll be as brief as possible: the Witch of Empire books are urban fantasy noir, set in an alternate timeline where magic exists and Britain is still an Empire. The Deepest Dungeon books are LitRPG, with much of the story taking place inside of a video game, except maybe it isn’t a video game, or maybe it is. Spoilers. Is this a spoiler or you not able to remember the plot of your own book? Definitely one of those. The Savage Dominion books are a portal fantasy story involving a himbo from our world being shunted into an epic fantasy story. I also have a few romance books kicking around. I can’t write about horrible things happening to people all the time so sometimes I write about nice things happening to naked people. Speaking of, let’s talk about Sully, because you know how much I adore her. How did she come about? Sully from the Witch of Empire books started out life as a relatively generic magic hardboiled detective character, who became infinitely more interesting when I took exactly the same characteristics as those skulking alcoholics and applied them to a woman instead. So she gets to be coarse, womanising, drunk, surly and then outwit or outfight everybody, just like they always did. Proper equality. It probably isn’t an immediately obvious parallel to most fantasy readers coming to the series from the dragons and wizards side of the divide, but all the old Dashiell Hammet fans seem to get the joke. And what was the train of thought that led you to creating her world? A world in which magic and pacts with demons has sent the time-line as we know it splitting off quite drastically. No small part of it was rooted in frustration to be honest. I’m a big fan of the genre of Urban Fantasy, I’ve been reading it since before it even had a fancy name of its own, when we used to be the bastard children of horror, dabbled in when fantasy authors got bored; but an issue I continually encountered in them was that nothing was actually all that different. The world was our world except with ghouls and goblins and whatnot, and the presence of those ghouls and goblins never seemed to actually change the course of events in any meaningful way. I objected to that. So I took a long hard look at history, at the tipping points where things might have been different, and I pondered what things would look like if magic had been a factor. If every little backwater wannabe empire throughout history had the power of a nuclear bomb in their back pocket. That is such an interesting chain of ideas and such a good point. It’s redundant to believe that supernatural or fantastical elements wouldn’t change the world in some way. Yes, I’m very clever. And so modest too! What made you want to represent magic in such a logical, mathematical way? Without limitations, a magic system doesn’t function, and through the medium of the limitations laid on the characters in the Witch of Empire series, we also get a little look at how they were educated. The way that the British Empire views magic, as a mechanical tool to be used, rather than as a force of nature, the way that other factions interact with it. Let’s talk about your Deepest Dungeon series – what’s with you and ratmen anyway? Ratmen are just great. All the fun of a rat with all the horror of giving them opposable thumbs. I’ve always considered the rat to be an admirable little creature, an intelligent and sociable survivor. Humans would probably get on a lot better if they were more like rats. And ratmen are of course a creature somewhere in the middle between the two. The best of both worlds. When it comes to LitRPG vs Witch of Empire, do you have a preference of subgenre? Is there one you find easier to write? LitRPG is always going to be harder to write, because you have a lot of precise details to manage. As well as the story, you have the game system to navigate, there can be no fudging of the numbers or hand-waving in terms of specifics. Did the brave wizard mentor die, or did he survive his fall into the abyss? That’s easy in LitRPG, you know how many health points he has, subtract the damage dealt from those and if it hasn’t hit zero, he’ll be showing up again later. In that regard then, it sounds like it would be easier, taking some of the decisions regarding plot away from you? Hypothetically, yes, but in fact it just means that you have a whole new level of organisation to contend with to ensure that your desired outcome comes about. And of course, it isn’t as simple as simply working an existing system. You have to build the game system that the world is based on, in such a way that it is fair to everyone playing, but in such a way that your characters can still shine. The balancing act is… complex. So you become game designer as well as author? And of course we all know the evils of organisation. Speaking about the writing process; do you have a process? Tell us a little something about how your story comes together. I fully outline my books before writing them, then I sit down and scream directly into the blank word document until something appears. It’s all very organised. And somewhat eldritch. Again, explains the weird noises in the Hive. You cannot prove they’re me. Your Savage Dominion series is a collaboration with Luke Chmilenko; does working with another author offer any challenges to your process? Writing books is an extremely solitary process, you’re left trapped in your own head with all of your doubts and fears about whatever it is you’re writing. You spend more time than most people like to admit staring at the book and wondering if it is bad. Having a co-author took that problem away. Every time you bounce ideas back and forth, you get reassurance that what you are doing is a) working and b) totally awesome. When that reassurance is coming from somebody like Luke, you know you can trust it. Are there any others you’d like to work with? You have some fantastic ones in your close circle – a collaboration between you and Alex Knight would be incredible. I have another collaboration coming up with David Estes, and Bryce O’Connor has been making some noises about me doing some work with him in the future. I’ll definitely be working with Luke again, if only because he is the nicest guy in the universe. Working with close friends might be more difficult, it might be harder to be professional when one of you or the other pushes back on an idea. I think Alex and I have discussed a great many projects we’d love to do together, but in practicality, I’m not sure how they’d go. Because we both have Opinions about things. We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying? I’m afraid that I am the wrong person to ask about editing. I write everything perfectly, first time, every time. Every once in a while I’ll make a typo, but it rarely takes more than a quick read through to catch them. Suspicious side eye 100% true. Bet you’ve never had to correct anything I sent you for the Hive, right? I think there was one typo, once. Possibly. Your writing – and reading tastes! – is so varied. What (or who) are your most significant fantasy/sci-fi influences? H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Terry Pratchett, Kentaro Miura, Poppy Z Brite, Joe Lansdale, Diana Wynne Jones, Thomas Ligotti, Ursula LeGuin, Harlan Ellison, Madeline Miller, Junji Ito, and Guy Gavriel Kay are the first ones that come to mind. From Lovecraft to DWJ is quite the scale Gray. I’ve always argued that fantasy and horror are the same genre viewed through a different emotional lens. In one, going to fight the monster is exciting, in the other it is terrifying. Still gonna fight the monster though. As for other influences; if you give me an hour I’m sure I can come up with a ridiculously detailed list of all the people I’ve ripped off through the years. One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive, and one which I have high hopes for you: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why? Something tentacular. Oh wait, ride into battle? It would have to be a lamassu. Flying lion with the face of a human? Amazing magical powers? Decent conversationalist for those long periods of time when neither of you have the enemy’s flesh between your teeth? What more could you ask for? I knew you wouldn’t disappoint. Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share? Is it Witch of Empire related? Please let it be Witch of Empire related. I’m currently wrapping up work on the final book of the Deepest Dungeons series, and the last book of the Last King trilogy. The Last King won’t be out for a little while, but those books are a true epic fantasy, with necromancers and dragon riders and all that jazz. DRAGON RIDERS I’m afraid that there are not going to be any future Witch of Empire books, unless there is a drastic increase in interest in them. I also have a Very Secret project that I’m co-writing with someone Important that I’ll hopefully be able to discuss at some point in the near future. Um, Whatsapp me?! Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing? From what I understand, the thing that most readers take away from my writing is that there is something deeply wrong with me. Thank you so much for joining us today! Thank you for having me! You can find out more about G. D. Penman’s books and how to order them on their WEBSITE The post Interview with G. D. Penman (WITCH OF EMPIRE) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  21. R.B. Lemberg is a poet and fantasist living in Lawrence, Kansas. R.B.’s debut novella THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES was shortlisted for the Nebula, Locus, Ignyte, and World Fantasy awards; it was also an Otherwise Award honoree. R.B.’s novel THE UNBALANCING is forthcoming from Tachyon in September 2022. R.B. was born in L’viv, Ukraine. Follow them on twitter at @rb_lemberg or visit their website http://rblemberg.net Welcome to the Hive, RB. This September you’ll be taking readers back to the Birdverse in your first full-length novel in the series, The Unbalancing. What can readers expect? The Unbalancing is a lyrical mix of queer romance, nonbinary-centric worldbuilding, a disaster story, and explorations of magic, queer community, friendships, loss, and hope. Readers should also expect a grumpy ancestral ghost and a very determined ginger cat. More books need cat in them we feel. Tell us more about starkeeper Ranra and poet Erígra! The two alternating narrators of The Unbalancing couldn’t be more different – Erígra Lilún is a dreamy poet who loves to spend their days in solitude pruning trees in the ancient quince grove and scribbling in their notebook. Ranra cannot stand still, and in fact, can often be spotted running around and making things happen extremely fast. The two are brought together, perhaps, by their mutual fascination with the Star of the Tides, an unruly mass of magic asleep in the sea, whose restless tossing and turning is about to become more desperate. But I think, in the end of the day, Ranra and Lilún are brought together by a kind of irresistible mix of mutual fascination and bewilderment that could keep them circling each other for a long time if things weren’t exploding. Things are exploding. Give us a glimpse into the Birdverse – is your world building inspired by anything specific? Birdverse is very large, and the stories set in this world are loosely connected, but not sequential in order. You do not need to read them in any particular order, but the more you read, the more immersed you hopefully become, and the more you perceive this world as a tapestry rather than a line. Birdverse is named after the goddess Bird, who brought twelve stars to the landmass at the dawn of time. She keeps showing up since then, mostly to collect the souls of the dead, but sometimes for other reasons. The world is inspired by my fascination with historical linguistics, ancient and medieval trade routes, medieval and early modern Jewish history, and literally anything associated with the linguistics of gender. It’s also inspired by a few specific characters who decided to camp out in my head, but I believe that’s common to writers. We always appreciate a beautiful book cover and we were thrilled to host the cover reveal! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray? I was not involved with the cover at all! It’s all the magic of Elizabeth Story, the Tachyon designer, and the Tachyon office. I loved it when I saw it, I think it perfectly conveys the feel of the book. Of course, since this is the second Birdverse title Tachyon is publishing, the good folks at the office already know that there must be a bird on it, and they know how the bird should look like. Let’s talk about the writing process; do you have a process? Tell us a little something about how your story comes together. I have to feel the shape of the story before I sit down to write. I daydream about each story for a long time, focusing on the key emotional scenes. I don’t need to imagine each scene, but I daydream through the most emotionally hard-hitting ones. I have to know where a book is headed, where the last big scenes will be, before I can draft. I knew how The Unbalancing ended for many years, but I was not sure exactly how the story would get there. So I was in this daydreaming process for a while when I was driving to downtown Lawrence (I live there) and suddenly this big, hard-hitting scene unfolded before my eyes, and this vast wave of emotion came over me and I somehow still needed to keep driving the car. I remember yelling, “Semberí, damn, Semberí!!!” mostly because I was fairly sure Semberí would NOT want me to have a car accident before I could put pen to paper; it’s pretty hilarious in retrospect. And I did not crash the car! It took me about a week to recover from that, but then I began writing, and did not stop until it was done. In terms of drafting, I use a hybrid method which involves handwriting and typing. I handwrite pointers for each scene in fountain pen (what happens, key thematic points, often specific phrases), and I draft on my laptop. The notebook and my pens are always to the right of the keyboard. We’re very glad you didn’t crash the car! Also, there’s something so satisfying about writing with a fountain pen. We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying? Editing can be fraught for a lot of authors, I feel, and it’s really important to have a relationship of trust and respect with your editor. I love working with my Tachyon editor Jaymee Goh. She gets my work very deeply, she understands what I am trying to do with all the complexity that often comes into my works, and she helps me get to a deeper, better, and clearer version of my vision. I love working with editors and I have heavily revised most of my accepted pieces and feel they benefited from it. That said, I always worry about edits. What (or who) are your most significant fantasy/sci-fi influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday? Ursula K. Le Guin – I think that’s obvious to everybody who reads my work, and my work is often compared to hers. It’s not accidental – I’ve done a lot of linguistics and cultural history on my academic side, and I trained some in anthropology; these are also things that influenced Ursula’s work. I actually knew her a bit and published her poetry when I was editing Stone Telling Magazine (which I named after one of Le Guin’s characters from Always Coming Home). Patricia McKillip, who just passed away, has been a major influence on me. The Unbalancing, in particular, is inspired by the writing of early 20th century Russian fantasist Aleksandr Grin, who is not much known in the West. In contemporary SFF, I’ve been most inspired by Amal El-Mohtar, Sofia Samatar, Rivers Solomon, and Malka Older, and I am so happy to know them. Sofia just sold a new book to Tor.com – The Practice, the Horizon, and the Chain. I can’t wait! In terms of collaboration… it’s hard to say – I’m married to Bogi Takács and it’s an everyday literary salon in here. We read each other’s work, and it’s the best kind of collaboration. As for creators outside of my wonderful circle of writers – I would love to have a TV show based on my work someday. My favorite TV show at the moment is Our Flag Means Death, which is quite far from the things I usually write, but that’s where my mind is those days. One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why? It’s tempting to say that I would ride a dragon, even though it’s a fantasy cliché. I would definitely not ride a bird – Birdverse birds don’t like it, and the goddess Bird in particular is not a big fan of battles – they are a lot of work for her. So I think I’m riding into battle on a traditional Slavic three-headed dragon. Each head regrows when/if it’s cut off, which is pretty handy in a fight. I’m originally from Ukraine and Russia, so these three-headed dragons are a big part of my childhood. There are also nine-headed and twelve-headed versions, but I feel they would be too unbalanced in flight. Are you planning anything fun to celebrate the release in September? Do you have any upcoming virtual events our readers may be interested in? I am going to have a launch at the Raven Bookstore, an excellent independent bookstore in Lawrence, KS! It’s a wonderful place, and they expanded during the pandemic, so now they are in a new and gorgeous spot in downtown Lawrence. I can’t wait. I am also planning a virtual event at the Texas A&M University. Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing? I hope my LGBTQIA+ readers will feel affirmed and seen. I hope they feel that they are deserving of story, deserving of all the stories – the stories of friendship and love and adventure and loss and hope and perhaps especially stories of cats. And I hope all my readers, regardless of their particular identities, take pleasure in the incredible variety of experience that my world – and our world – has to offer. Not just loneliness, but community. Not just utopia, but failure. Not just pain, but hope. Thank you so much for joining us today! The post Interview with R. B. Lemberg (THE UNBALANCING) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  22. Are you guilty of writing books with huge casts of characters? I write big long fantasy novels, so it’s kind of my thing. Honestly, I love books with a big cast. They make worlds feel richer and more real, but sometimes even I have a hard time keeping track of who’s who. And not all characters can be granted enough space to establish full personalities and depth on the page. Confusion can kill immersion in a story, which is what we want to prevent (unless it’s on purpose). So what can you do to help readers along? Here are a few craft tricks you can use to make even minor characters easier to remember. 1. Give each character a defining visual cue. A visual cue can immediately remind a reader who a character is even if they aren’t named. Visual cues can be simple: from a ponytail, to a dimple in a cheek, or a pair of glasses that is always slipping down someone’s nose. You could go all out and give your main characters personal style: always wearing black, or never smiling etc. The main idea is to pick a cue that is almost always present, so you can use it to quickly remind readers who a character is if they haven’t been on page for a while. Victoria Schwab, and Sabaa Tahir are masters at this. In Schwab’s Shades of Darkness series, Kell wears a magic red coat that he rarely goes without. It’s so iconic that it appears in the first line of the first book. In Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series, Helene Aquila is recognizable by her blonde crown braid and silver mask. Guess who gets cosplayed often? Visual cues also happen to be an easy way to encourage fan art. 2. Make sure your character names aren’t too similar. You can do this by using different letters of the alphabet to name your characters or different ending sounds if characters use the same letter. The Bridgerton books are one fun example. The name of each Bridgerton sibling appears in alphabetical order to match their birth order: Anthony (the oldest), Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory and Hyacinth (the youngest). For readers jumping from one book to the next, it’s a handy way to remember in relative terms how old everyone is. 3. Consider speaking patterns. Characters may use different slang or idioms depending on their age, personality, or relationship to other people. Do they curse? Are they polite? Are they formal? Do they joke around? Are they sarcastic? Do they have a favorite phrase? Take the Lord of the Rings, for example. Sam always calls Frodo “Mr. Frodo” but Frodo always just calls Sam “Sam.” It may not seem like much, but this one little thing reinforces the social hierarchy between them. Frodo is the main character, and a class above, while Sam is his helper. The actors in the movies doubly reinforce this by speaking in different accents. 4. Don’t name characters that aren’t important. There are always exceptions to this rule, but I usually attempt it, because each name you add to a story is another thing a reader has to add to their mental load. Unless you tread carefully, too many names can detract from the story. I kind of think of this rule as the literary equivalent to Star Trek’s Red Shirts. You don’t need to name them, because they won’t be around long. … And there you have it! What are some memorable characters you’ve encountered in a book and why were they memorable? About Tessa BarbosaTessa Barbosa writes novels by night, and software help by day. Her debut YA Fantasy novel is coming in 2023 (Entangled Teen). Tessa lives in Vancouver, BC Canada and when she’s not at the keyboard, she’s making messes in the kitchen, or sewing things. Keep up to date at tessabarbosa.com or @HiTessaBarbosa on both Twitter and Instagram. Web | Twitter | Instagram | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=LP-RDLmvhe4:gKEVy5HEBI8:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=LP-RDLmvhe4:gKEVy5HEBI8:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  23. Caution! Poison Snake On Premises! So read a handwritten sign posted at the entrance of our house. Our house was in the outskirts of Tokyo, in a town called Ōizumi in a district called Nerima. The huge Hikari-ga-oka apartment complex rose up just beside. That area had been used as an airstrip by the Japanese military during the war, and then as an encampment by American forces afterward. The grounds of Toei Studio was also nearby. Next door there lived an old lady who worked part-time painting animation cels for Toei, and behind the house, cabbage fields spread far and wide. Carpets were laid willy-nilly over the tatami floors of our house. I was the youngest of four sisters. I spent my earliest years with my legs tucked beneath the musty-smelling kotatsu heater, peeling tangerines. * Papa and Mama would sit in the kitchen munching senbei crackers. They were peering intently at foreign-language books spread out before them: the stories of Sherlock Holmes, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Papa had once been a doctor, and Mama had once worked at a bank. But with the arrival of their fourth daughter—that is, me—they decided to quit their jobs and devote themselves full time to translating the stories of Sherlock Holmes. Their dream was to translate all sixty works—the entire Canon. * The postman would arrive and slowly, trepidatiously, open the door. “Is there really a poisonous snake here?” Kids in the neighborhood would come and ring the bell. “What does a poison snake eat?” Papa and Mama would answer them with straight faces. “They love to drink milk. We train them using a whistle.” The postman and the children would then retreat, half believing, half disbelieving what they’d been told. As you may have guessed, the snake on the sign referred to the famous “Indian swamp adder” from “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” * There was another sign at the entrance, though, this one reading Beware of Dog, and the dog it referred to wasn’t the Hound of the Baskervilles. There was an actual dog there beside the small doghouse outside, a rather unthreatening black Shiba Inu mix named Pompey. The name, of course, came from the dog who appears in “The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter.” It always amused me to watch the nervous visitors as they crept so fearfully up to our door. They’re all so scared of a poison snake? They’re all so scared of dying? I had to laugh. It didn’t occur to me then, but perhaps it wasn’t the snake that scared them. After all, even just peering in through the entrance, one was confronted with chilling disorder. Both sides of the hallway were stacked with piles of books that reached up nearly to the ceiling, and there was dust everywhere. It looked like the proverbial hoarder’s dump. No one in the household, following the example of Holmes himself, ever lifted a finger for something as mundane as housekeeping. And so, in my room too, I never picked up after myself, the carpet on the floor eventually hidden so completely by the clutter that I forgot its real color, and no one ever scolded me about it. * Slurping up ramen from the shop down the street, Papa and Mama would debate endlessly the best way to transliterate “Watson” into Japanese—as Wat-SOHN? Or Wat-SUN? Meanwhile, my sisters and I would discuss various ways to die. What would it be like to be bitten by a poisonous snake? Maybe better than being bitten by a glowing, demonic hound. I had to laugh. * My father and mother would turn the pages of their books, following the words. Just as the English would turn into Japanese, Nerima would turn into London. The drainage canal that ran nearby would become the Thames, and the concrete-walled mental hospital beside it would become St Bartholomew’s. The neighborhood conveyor-belt sushi joint became Simpson’s-in-the-Strand. Dense white mist would rise up all around us. My earliest years were spent in a version of Victorian England located in Nerima, Tokyo. I’d never ridden in an airplane, but it was nonetheless the place that felt most like a hometown to me. * People died, one after the other, in these stories. They would tumble over waterfalls or sink into bottomless quagmires, and die. And in fact, every single person who’d lived in London in the Victorian Era was now dead. Even if they never ended up implicated in a violent incident—never slashed by Jack the Ripper, never killed by poison gas during the war—they nonetheless, one way or the other, ended up dead. Including, of course, Conan Doyle himself, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. * My father and mother, after working steadily for over twenty years, finally realized their dream. They finished their translation of Sherlock Holmes into Japanese. All sixty stories and novels—the entire Canon—finished at last. It was only a few years later that my father collapsed, and then died. He was taken to the crematorium and became just bones. As I used chopsticks to transfer his bones into the urn, I could no longer laugh. No one, in fact, was more scared of death, of the thought of people dying, than I was. My mother wore a deerstalker hat as she carried the urn home. * Long ago, a Sherlockian who happened to also be a biologist once told me, “Poisonous snakes never drink milk, and they have no ears, so a whistle would have no effect on them.” But then, he confidently added, “That means that Dr Roylott, in addition to being able to bend a metal poker with his bare hands, must have had other special skills to draw upon in his schemes!” * Dense white mist rises up all around us. I realized something for the first time then. In a story, anything was possible. A snake could drink milk, could hear a whistle. The dead could come back to life, again and again. I turned the pages of my books, following the words. There, I met people who never existed, people long dead. I lived with them. With Holmes, with Watson, with Conan Doyle, with each and every person who’d been alive in Victorian London. And so I wished, with all my heart, to become a writer myself one day. To write words, to write stories. * In the last years of his life, Conan Doyle became interested in Spiritualism, even saying, on the occasion of his death, that it was “nothing more than a passage to the next world.” I’ve yet to reach that point myself. * For now, I write these words. I want to live. With everyone: everyone near, everyone far, everyone living, and everyone already dead. * There, just on the other side of the door, a poison snake hears the sound of a whistle and climbs, slowly, up a rope. Translated by Brian Bergstrom May 23, 2022 *** View the full article
  24. A look at the month’s best reviewed crime novels, mysteries, and thrillers. Riley Sager, The House Across the Lake (Dutton) “Sager balances the novel’s short timeline and limited setting with rich characterization for all, especially Katherine, whom the reader meets as she nearly drowns in the dark, freezing lake, and Casey, whose never-ending supply of snarky one-liners and wisecracks never quite camouflages the deep emotional turmoil that ended her once-successful acting career…The House Across the Lake is a psychological thriller that’s thoroughly personality-driven, following women whose motives, means and opportunities are as murkily fascinating as the titular loch…An addictive beach read that fans will devour in one sitting—and leave feeling thoroughly sated.” –Lauren Emily Whalen (Bookpage) Caroline Woods, The Lunar Housewife (Doubleday) “Ms. Woods has written an elegant novel of political and cultural suspense. The mystery element in The Lunar Housewife is light, but the Cold War intrigue it conjures is gripping, and Louise’s dilemmas and adventures will hold sympathetic readers in thrall.” –Tom Nolan (Wall Street Journal) Fiona Barton, Local Gone Missing (Berkley) “Though Local Gone Missing‘s plot is wonderfully twisty with a surprising and satisfying conclusion, it’s the characters who stand out. Ebbing’s weekenders have their own complex motivations—especially a mild-mannered gay caterer and a middle-age father who are mysteriously connected to each other, and maybe to Charlie as well—but it’s the locals who will really draw readers in. Foremost among them is the compelling and well-drawn Elise, who’s struggling to adjust to life back on the force after returning from medical leave. Her retired librarian neighbor Ronnie, who’s eager to play amateur sleuth and surprisingly adept at sussing out clues, provides much-needed comic relief in this intense story of greed gone terribly wrong. Thanks to Barton’s airtight plotting and impeccable characterization, a minibreak by the sea will never seem relaxing again.” –Lauren Emily Whalen (Bookpage) Kristin Chen, Counterfeit (William Morrow) “Seemingly, what you see is what you get — a con artist story, a pop-feminist caper, a fashionable romp. Fun! Pass the popcorn. Except nothing in this novel is what it seems … Make no mistake, Counterfeit is an entertaining, luxurious read — but beneath its glitz and flash, it is also a shrewd deconstruction of the American dream and the myth of the model minority … Readers love a twist and I won’t spoil this one by revealing too much, but Chen is up to something innovative and subversive here. She uses the device to flip Asian and Asian American stereotypes inside out and upside down … You can decide for yourself whether Counterfeit is a tale of genuine American gumption or not. Either way, you must grapple with the question: If the dream itself is a false promise, why not achieve it through fakery?” –Camille Perri (New York Times Book Review) Chris Offutt, Shifty’s Boys (Grove) “This is country noir at its most powerful, combining cracking action with crystalline portraits of rough-hewn but savvy characters tragically forced to become ‘retribution killers’ to stop yet another cycle of violence.” –Bill Ott (Booklist) Katie Gutierrez, More Than You’ll Ever Know (William Morrow) “Gutierrez’s story encompasses a global recession, the devaluation of the peso, a devastating earthquake in Mexico City and the 1986 World Cup. By slipping back and forth across borders, alternating between Spanish and English and different points of view, Gutierrez creates the impression of lines easily crossed. The extent to which readers understand Lore’s decision to commit to two men and two families will act as a sort of personality test: How open-minded, how forgiving, how morally pliable are you? I can hear the book club discussions now … While Gutierrez’s attempt to draw a parallel between Cassie and Duke’s relationship and that of Lore and her first husband, Fabian, feels tenuous, each woman’s desire to be known and understood is undeniably powerful … And, really, isn’t that one of fiction’s most critical functions — not to make us agree, but to strengthen our empathy muscles?” –Chandler Baker (New York Times) Celia Laskey, So Happy For You (Hanover Square Press) “Laskey’s second novel is a force of dark humor, captivating in its boldness and its portrayal of a friendship torn apart by tradition. For readers of satire and thrillers with an added dose of dystopia.” –Allison Cho (Booklist) Ashley Weaver, The Key to Deceit (Minotaur) “… excellent … The setting of London during World War II comes to life in this absorbing plot with its fresh take on spying, murder and war on the home front. Each of the characters is well-developed and endearing, and Ellie’s sharp wit and criminal expertise play brilliantly against the by-the-book persona of Major Ramsey and the suave, slightly felonious leanings of Felix. The novel can easily be read as a stand-alone story, although readers will surely wish to enjoy the first installment as well.” –Lois Dyer (Shelf Awareness) Fabian Nicieza, The Self-Made Widow (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) “… what a read! One can absolutely expect irreverent humor from the co-creator of Deadpool, and I already knew from my enthusiastic reading of Mr Nicieza’s work in comics that he has the chops to write twisty, thrilling mysteries with compelling characters. I was completely unprepared, however, for his keen insight into the chaos of suburban life and marriage. The way he entwines both outright villainy with subtle but no-less-cutting social slights is just exquisite …” –Doreen Sheridan (Criminal Element) Daniel Birnbaum, Dr. B (Harper) “… absorbing … This complexly plotted, fact-based tale filled with shadowy characters and unlikely coincidences is an altogether engaging piece of literary historical fiction.” –Lawrence Rungren (Library Journal) View the full article
  25. On June 1, Sisters in Crime (SinC) opened submissions for their 2022 Pride Award for Emerging LGBTQIA+ Crime Writers, a $2,000 grant awarded to one-up-and-coming writer who identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. In addition to the selected winner, five runners-up will also be awarded a one-year Sisters in Crime membership, as well as a critique from an established Sisters in Crime member, so if you have been thinking about submitting your writing for consideration, the time is now! SinC will be accepting applications through July 31. Today, we’re speaking with two of the 2022 award judges, Leslie Karst and Brenda Buchanan to find out why the Pride Award is so important and the benefits of applying. Why is the SinC Pride Award important to the LBGTQUIA+ community, and how can it help writers? Brenda Buchanan: The Pride Award is a testament to the importance of authentic voices in crime fiction. For many years, queer writers who wrote stories celebrating our rich and wonderful culture had limited options to get published. That’s not as true as it used to be, but it’s still a significant issue. This award’s an important signal to writers, agents and acquiring editors that books with LGBTQ+ characters and themes shouldn’t be considered a niche market. Good books are good books, and they will sell. Leslie Karst: We can’t have diversity in our community without authors who will write the books! It’s a sad fact that there are still few queer authors published by the traditional crime fiction press, and among those books which do make it into print, even fewer have queer protagonists. The SinC Pride Award not only gives up-and-coming queer writers a platform by which to be heard (and seen and read), but it will also hopefully inspire those who do not currently see themselves portrayed in crime fiction to go ahead and write their story. Why are you excited to judge this event? LK: I’m honored to have been asked to judge the Pride Award submissions and be able to assist in this fabulous new project. I’m also thrilled at the prospect of reading and discovering new voices and talent in our community. BB: There are so many great queer authors writing compelling crime stories that incorporate all the beauty and complexity of being LGBTQUIA+ in a world where marginalization and discrimination are ongoing issues. I applaud my queer siblings for their vision and courage and look forward to reading some wonderful work. What has your writing experience taught you about how this award could benefit a recipient? BB: The Pride Award is a powerful signal that our life experience matters, that our voices matter, and there’s no need to shy away from writing characters (heroic and nefarious) who reflect our lives. LK: When I started writing my first mystery novel, I never seriously considered making my main character a lesbian, as I knew the chances back then of finding a publisher for a queer-centered cozy were miniscule. As far as I was aware, no such book existed. But had there been a Pride Award at that time, I might have rethought this and gone ahead with it. When did you make your debut as an author, and how have you seen the publishing landscape change since then? LK: My first Sally Solari mystery was published in 2016, and in that six years the industry has become increasingly diverse, publishing more and more books by BIPOC authors, and even a few with queer protagonists, too! So there’s definitely been an improvement. But c’mon, folks, we can do better! BB: My first book, QUICK PIVOT, came out in 2015. My three-book Joe Gale series has a straight protagonist but there are queer characters and themes in each book. I’m now working on a new series with a lesbian protagonist. I might well have written this character earlier had she come to mind. But Joe showed up first. There’s been something of a sea change in recent years, for which I want to acknowledge not only queer writers but also straight allies. For example, S.A. Cosby’s RAZORBLADE TEARS features the fathers of two gay men who were murdered in a homophobic attack. It brings home the tragedy of anti-gay bigotry as well as anything I’ve ever read, and Shawn deserves every accolade he’s received for this incredible book. Have you personally faced any challenges in your career that felt specific to LBGTQUIA+ authors? BB: Booksellers and librarians tend to be thoughtful, progressive people, and I’m fortunate to live in Maine, where the political and social climate welcomes LGBTQUIA+ voices. I can’t say for sure that I have, but bias is not always overt, right? LK: I mentioned earlier that I made the protagonist of my Sally Solari series straight, primarily out of fear that I wouldn’t secure an agent or publisher if I wrote a lesbian protagonist for a cozy mystery. So, yes. However, as an author, I’ve been lucky never to face any challenges because of being an out lesbian. The crime-writing community—and my publishers—have always been exceedingly friendly and helpful to me. What do you think is the biggest obstacle when it comes to diversifying mystery and crime fiction? LK: Publishers refusing to take a chance on books with queer protagonists. Sure, there are lots of gay side-kicks, but my feeling is that traditional publishers are still afraid that straight readers won’t be drawn to books with a queer main character—especially in the light and cozy mystery genre. BB: Lingering tokenism, the notion that there’s only room on the prime shelves in bookstores for a few books featuring LBGTQUIA+ characters (and also only a few books by Black, Latino/a and Asian writers) because for the most part, the reading public wants to read about straight, white people. If that was true—and I don’t think it was—it’s not true now. But old habits are hard to break and some folks in the industry still haven’t adjusted to reality. Do you think the Sisters in Crime Pride Award may have helped assist or avoid some of these obstacles? BB: The Pride Award signals that LGBTQUIA+ voices in crime fiction aren’t a fad – as the chant goes, we’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going anywhere. It confers credibility to writers and encourages broader recognition of queer voices in crime fiction. LK: I’m hoping that, by encouraging new writers in the queer sub-genre, the SinC Pride Award will result in more books out there in the future. And the more they become normalized, the more we’ll continue have. What’s the opposite of a vicious circle—a loving cycle? Why are grants and mentorship so important to getting an author’s career started? Who is someone that you’d like to thank for giving you a leg up in your own career? BB: It’s hard to make a living as a writer. Financial assistance to support emerging writers on their journey to publication is precious. One person I would like to single out from all of those who have supported and mentored me is the incomparable Sherry Harris. The Pride Award is her legacy, of course. When she was president of Sisters in Crime she met with LGBTQUIA+ writers to ask about the obstacles and challenges we face. She and I had a wide-ranging conversation about it at New England Crime Bake, and I know she had similar discussions with many others. The Pride Award is the result, and it’s a testament to her vision and can-do attitude. Sherry Harris is an absolute hero. LK: More than anything, grants and mentorship provide to up-and-coming authors that all-important knowledge that others believe in their work. Sure, the money, beta-reading, and editing all help, but the knowledge that others whom you respect in the community truly have faith in you as an author is invaluable. It’s what keeps you motivated to finish your manuscript and then have the confidence to send it out to agents and publishers. I came up in the business pretty much on my own, without a mentor to guide me along the way as I wrote my first mystery. But I would like to give a big shout-out to my agent, Erin Niumata, for her initial and continued belief in me and my books, and to Sisters in Crime, who—once I discovered them—provided me an invaluable entrée into their amazingly warm and generous community of crime writers. What kind of queer stories do you find are underrepresented in the crime fiction / mystery genre? BB: Stories involving older queer folks. Our world has changed so much in my lifetime. I’m ruminating on how to bring all that lived experience into my fiction. LK: Lesbian stories! Especially in the light traditional/cozy genres. And stories with older (50+) queer characters as protagonists. Although progress has been made in the realm of diverse and LBGTQUIA+ stories in crime fiction publishing, what changes are you still hoping to see? BB: More books with complex, complete LGBTQUIA+ characters of all ages, races, shapes and sizes. I want to see more like Cheryl Head’s wonderful Charlie Mack, a Black lesbian PI with smarts and sass, John Copenhaver’s terrific historicals featuring fascinating queer characters, and absolutely more transgender protagonists, like Dharma Kelleher’s Jinx Ballou and Robyn Gigl’s Erin McCabe. The best LGBTQUIA+ characters illustrate a central fact about queer people. We are in many ways, just like straight people, but in some very important ways, not like straight people at all. We have experienced the searing pain of bigotry and made the choice to live openly—to be out—despite the very real risks of losing family and jobs and in some cases, our lives. That reality informs the best queer crime fiction, and I applaud the writers who dig deep and put it on the page, whether they are writing a thriller or a cozy. Queer lives involve risk, and crime fiction is all about risk. It’s a natural pairing, and when done well, it’s powerful. Are there early LBGTQUIA+ authors in the annals of crime fiction that you find particularly inspiring? BB: Oh, there are so many. The great Ellen Hart for her Jane Lawless books. Katherine V. Forrest, who created Kate Delafield. The incredible Henry Rios books by Michael Nava. Laurie King’s Kate Martinelli series. Everything Val McDermid has ever written, regardless of whether lesbians are in central or supporting roles. Sandra Scoppetone for both her adult and young adult books with terrific, well-drawn lesbian characters. LK: I was a big fan back in the 1980s of Katherine V. Forrest’s Kate Delafield mysteries. But, of course, they were published by Naid, a lesbian press, so few outside the gay culture likely knew of them. Can you recommend a book by an LBGTQUIA+ writer out this year? BB: Two, actually. Anthony Bidulka, a marvelous Canadian writer, has a new book out called GOING TO BEAUTIFUL that’s getting rave reviews. I’ve not read it yet, but I’ve loved every other book he’s ever written so I look forward to diving into it when I have a bit of uninterrupted reading time. Kelly J. Ford’s REAL BAD THINGS will be out the first of September. Kelly writes about not only gender and sexuality, but social class as well. Her work is brilliant and compelling. I cannot wait for this book. LK: I loved Rob Osler’s “quozy,” Devil’s Chew Toy. It’s so great to read a fun, witty, and clever cozy with predominantly queer characters. Kudos to Crooked Lane for publishing it. BIOS: Leslie Karst is the author of the Lefty Award-nominated Sally Solari culinary mystery series. The daughter of a law professor and a potter, she waited tables and sang in a new wave rock band before deciding she was ready for “real” job and ending up at Stanford Law School. It was during her career as a research and appellate attorney in Santa Cruz, California, that Leslie rediscovered her youthful passion for food and cooking and once more returned to school—this time to earn a degree in culinary arts. Now retired from the law, Leslie spends her time cooking, cycling, gardening, singing alto in her local community chorus, and of course writing. She and her wife and their Jack Russell mix split their time between Santa Cruz and Hilo, Hawai‘i. Visit her at LeslieKarstAuthor.com Brenda Buchanan sets her crime novels in Portland, Maine. Her Joe Gale series features a newspaper reporter with modern media savvy who covers the Maine crime beat. Drawing on her years of experience as an attorney, Brenda is now working a series featuring a lawyer whose passionate defense of her clients leads her deep into the rough-and-tumble world of Downeast crime. LGBTQ folks have leading roles in Brenda’s books, just as they do in her life. FMI: http://www.brendabuchananwrites.com View the full article
  26. “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” –Confucius Getting even is a primal human desire as old as time. Nothing starts our blood boiling more than making someone pay for what they did. In True Grit, Charles Portis’s 1968 classic novel that was the basis for the film starring John Wayne as US Marshal Rooster Cogburn, fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross vows to avenge her father’s murder—on her terms and the consequences be damned. A grief-stricken father who has always lived a moral and ethical life won’t rest until he has personally punished his son’s murderer in Andre Dubus’s short story Killings, which was made into the award-winning 2001 film In the Bedroom. Are these stories of revenge? Or justice? The fine line between justice and revenge has obsessed scholars for centuries. Law professor Thane Rosenbaum doesn’t believe the line exists at all. “It’s time for Americans to be honest about the role revenge plays in our lives. A call for justice is always a cry for revenge.” So what stops the rest of us from putting our fantasies into action? Fear of getting caught? Reprisal for our retaliation, which science tells us creates an endless cycle of violence begetting violence so we can never achieve closure? Knowing that no one emerges unscathed? Which makes payback a real bitch. Maybe that’s why we keep returning to these timeless stories of revenge. We can dole out punishment in ways we can’t pull off in real life. Settle scores without responsibility or guilt, not to mention the catharsis we feel when the evildoers finally get their comeuppance. Is there anything more traumatic than being humiliated in front of your entire high school? No wonder we identify with Carrie in Stephen King’s 1974 eponymous novel when she unleashes the full force of her telekinetic fury after pig blood is dumped on her at her prom. Interestingly, King felt that the climax in Brian De Palma’s 1976 film version—with Carrie’s arm reaching out from beyond the grave—was better than his original ending. The wrongfully imprisoned Edmond Dantes in Alexander Dumas’s 1844 novel The Count of Monte Cristo waits fourteen years to deliver his masterfully orchestrated retribution that will reverberate in the highest echelons of political power. Proving that justice is a dish best served ice cold. Is that the fundamental difference—justice is rational and revenge driven by emotion? Lisa Unger’s 2020 novel Confessions on the 7:45 blurs the line even more in a multi-layered tale that subverts our expectations with a twist you don’t see coming while offering a chance for redemption as a life about to be forfeited becomes a life saved. Hell hath no fury…No story about revenge would be complete without those women scorned, starting with Medea in Euripides’s 1815 play of the same name, who sacrificed her own children to punish her faithless husband. Coming up with ingenious and diabolical ways to pay back the men in their lives—and making sure their tormentors know it—are the hallmark of (spoiler alert) the antagonists in: Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s 2012 domestic thriller that paved the way for the rest; Scott Turow’s seminal 1990 legal thriller, Presumed Innocent; and E.G. Scott’s twisty 2019 psychological suspense novel The Woman Inside. What if you didn’t get the justice you felt you deserved? Hollywood and crime fiction are replete with characters who take the law into their own hands when the system fails them. But what if the person seeking to right a wrong is sworn to uphold the very laws she or he is breaking? Detective Harry Bosch in Michael Connelly’s long-running series is often forced to operate in the gray areas, torn between his desire for justice and the need to follow the law. Some characters go further to achieve their “just revenge.” Like the undercover FBI agent in the 2004 film The Punisher, who unleashes his wrath as a one-man army after his entire family is massacred. In Karin Slaughter’s 2001 debut novel, Blindsighted, two women get caught up in the hunt for a serial killer. One a detective vowing her own justice for her murdered sister; the other the town coroner with a secret that could expose the killer at the cost of her life. Nicholas Marshall, the judge in the 1990’s TV series Dark Justice, becomes a vigilante by night after his family is killed in a car bomb intended for him. He targets criminals in his courtroom who get off on technicalities, warning them that “justice may be blind, but it can see in the dark.” In my thriller First Victim, Manhattan Supreme judge Alice D. McKerrity is used to meting out justice in her courtroom. But while presiding over a murder trial, she must make a life-altering decision. Will she journey outside the law in order to exact a long-awaited revenge? Who among us gets to play God? Who decides the punishment to fit the crime? Even one of crime fiction’s most famous detectives struggled with these ultimate questions. In Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express—the mother of all revenge stories–the novel’s twin themes of grief and retribution connected to a tragic long-ago crime forces Hercule Poirot to question the nature of justice itself that might best be left to a higher judge. Alice in First Victim suffers a crisis of conscience right up until the very end. “Violence that shatters lives and drives people to do evil in return. 
Is that justice? Or revenge? The instinct that reduces us to our most primal impulses. Exposing us for the bloodthirsty beasts we are. Isn’t the evolution of our brains what separates us from the animal kingdom? Our ability to think. To reason. To make choices. There’s always a choice.
 And a cost.” Whether we call it revenge, justice, or something else, these and other cautionary tales are bound to make us think twice before giving that hated enemy a taste of his or her own medicine. Fiction is a stand-in for reality, allowing us to live vicariously and experience payback from a safe distance. But the way we react when we watch someone pull that trigger reveals an awful lot about ourselves, and what any of us might do under the right circumstances or when pushed to our limits. The truth is, we don’t know what we are capable of. One thing you can’t predict is human behavior. Just when you think you’ve pulled off the perfect revenge, it comes up on your blind side. The part of you that you’ve been hiding from yourself. Is that what really stops us? Seeing ourselves for who we truly are? Which could be the most terrifying reckoning of all. *** View the full article
  27. Imagine you’re a time traveler and find yourself stuck in nineteenth-century America. The year is, say, 1883. The location, New York City. Like today, there’s lots to see and do here in the Empire City. Be sure to catch a glimpse of the Brooklyn Bridge while it’s still under construction. Hop on the elevated railway and visit Central Park. Or see the newly installed electric street lamps that line Broadway. But danger lurks here too. Pickpockets and confidence men haunt the streets. Barroom brawls are a common occurrence. And then there’s disease. Cholera, typhoid, smallpox, yellow fever. Though scientists of this era are beginning to understand how these diseases are spread, most people still blame poisonous air vapors known as miasma. Thanks to all those shots you got before leaving the twenty-first century, you’re largely immune. But that doesn’t do you any good when, while side-stepping a pile of horse manure, you’re struck by a passing wagon. Your leg is broken. What happens next depends largely on how much money you have in the bank (or stashed under your mattress). If you’re wealthy, your footman will assist you home and summon a private physician. Any care you require—even surgery—will be done here. A hired nurse will tend to you after. But you’re a visitor to this city and just spent the last of your money at the fancy shops near Union Square. You haven’t a footman to help you home. Instead, a crowd gathers around you, attracting the attention of a nearby police officer. He hurries back to his station and telegraphs for an ambulance. At the breakneck pace of ten miles an hour, the horse-drawn ambulance races toward you. A surgeon leaps from the back of the wagon when it arrives. Inside his case are all the necessities: a stomach pump, a tourniquet, splints and bandages. A jug of whiskey and a straitjacket are on hand in the wagon should the situation call for them. He splints your leg and helps you into the wagon. The driver jostles his reigns, and you’re off. There are several hospitals in New York at this time. Some private, some public. The private hospitals boast handsome brick facades, spacious corridors, and lofty wards. Some even have a limited number of private rooms adorned with Moroccan rugs and polished walnut furniture. These cost between $15—$50 a week (about $430 – $1,430 today). But remember, you haven’t that kind of money. Private hospitals are selective in their clientele. The ambulance summoned for you came from a public or “charity” hospital. Less well-funded and unable to cherry-pick their patients, these institutions have higher death rates, sometimes topping 20 percent of those admitted. Your ambulance arrives at a great hulking building that could pass for a prison, and the gates are opened. The wagon pulls up in front of the receiving ward, and an orderly helps you inside. Here the house surgeon will decide your fate. He examines your leg and declares surgery is required. It’s off to the operating theater then. As electrical lighting is still a novelty, the theater is lit mainly by sunlight. Rows of benches rise above the operating stage, and onlookers crowd in. Most are medical students, eager to learn from the real-life demonstration. A few smoke cigarettes. One is eating a sandwich. Another sneezes in your direction before he finds his hankie. As most medical schools still forbid women from enrolling, all those in attendance are men. You’re placed on a table in the center of the stage. Don’t worry; it’s probably been wiped down since the last case. If you’re lucky, the instruments have been too. Perhaps the surgeon has read of Joseph Lister, whose recent work suggests that tiny organisms—germs some people call them—are responsible for disease, not miasma. In that case, the instrument may even have been disinfected. He might wash his hands too. But don’t count on him changing his clothes or donning sterile gloves—all that comes much later. The blood-stained smock he grabs from a peg on the wall was the same he wore for the previous case. Still, you can be glad for one thing: anesthesia. Gone are the days of holding patients down while the surgeon quickly sawed off limbs or opened body cavities. You’ll likely be dosed with ether and remain unconscious during the entire procedure. You’ll miss the surgeon’s lecture, of course, but surely that’s preferable to the pain. When you awaken, you’re on one of the surgical wards—a long open room with rows of beds lining each wall. Only patients of your same sex are here. Were this a private hospital, you’d likely be segregated by race as well. All the beds on your ward are filled, some with two or more patients. But it’s clean, quiet, and well ventilated. That’s all thanks to the nurses. Had you the misfortune of landing here a decade ago, your nurse would have been untrained and possibly illiterate. She might even have come from the workhouse or prison on Blackwell’s Island. The meat missing from your stew or your dose of brandy a little light? That was likely her handiwork. Now, however, the nurses go through a rigorous two-year training program. Only women of “good breeding” are admitted. They must also be well-educated, non-disabled, and unmarried. They live onsite at the hospital or in a nearby group home. Drinking, cursing, and cavorting with the opposite sex are forbidden. Anything deemed unladylike or immoral can get a trainee expelled. They study everything from bedmaking to medication administration to the application of leeches. They speak in hushed voices to maintain the calm of the ward and are on constant lookout for dust, drafts, and the dreaded signs of hospitalism (i.e. infection). Since you’ve just come from the operating theater, the nurses are particularly wary. Gangrene, pyemia (pus-filled abscesses), and blood poisoning are common complications of surgery. For some procedures, like amputations, the chances of dying within a month after surgery are over 50 percent. Treatment for these infections varies. Some wounds are left open to drain. Others are sprinkled with cold water. Still others are washed out with carbolic acid, a common disinfectant of the time. Poultices of linseed-meal, charcoal, or powdered mustard may be applied. But one treatment is noticeably absent: antibiotics. The discovery of penicillin and other such medicines is still decades off. In addition to watching out for hospitalism, your nurse has taken pains to see that you’re comfortable. Hot bottles have been placed near your feet to keep them warm, and a metal basin is at the ready. (Vomiting is a frequent side effect of the ether.) For a day or two, you’ll get only milk, beef tea, or brandy. Then you’ll graduate to gruel, poached eggs, and boiled mutton chops. When you’re well enough to rise, the nurse will assist you onto the balcony or down to the lawn for some fresh air. But don’t expect to be discharged anytime soon. The average hospital stay during this era is upwards of 30 days. From the relative comfort of your ward, you hear tell of other parts of the hospital. In the basement lie the alcoholic cells. It’s not uncommon for the police to call an ambulance when they encounter someone passed out on the street from intoxication. These patients are quickly assessed and brought to these cells to dry out. Some fall victim to what’s known on the streets as the “the horrors”—trembling, sweating, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations—as they withdraw. Of these, a fair number die. There’s also the Insane Pavilion. Crowded with those whom society deems “idiots” and “lunatics,” this building is only a halfway point for most. An “Examiner in Lunacy” assesses those brought here to determine whether they may be released or are committed to an asylum. Here in New York City, a diagnosis of insanity means a trip to the notorious Octagon on Blackwell’s Island. From vermin-infested cells to mandatory cold-baths to outright abuse, conditions at the Octagon are worse than anything you’d encounter here at the hospital. A ferry ride to Blackwell’s Island is not the only trip patients make from the hospital, though. With medical knowledge and aseptic practices still in their infancy, many patients’ final stop is the morgue. This low-slung building near the docks is a place of morbid curiosity for many in the city. Here the unclaimed dead are laid out in a room with large windows affronting the street in the hopes that passing friends or relatives might identify them. After seventy-two hours, those bodies yet unclaimed are placed in a rudely fashioned coffin and ferried to Potter’s Field on Hart’s Island. That is, unless the morgue keeper has set them aside to be delivered to one of the city’s many medical colleges for dissection. A grim practice to be sure, but one that prevents grave robbing. Before the passage of the “Act to Promote Medical Science and Protect Burial Grounds” in 1854, it was common practice in New York for medical schools to pay grave robbers for cadavers. The act, informally known as the “Bone Bill,” allowed “vagrants dying, unclaimed, and without friends” to be given to these schools for dissection. Thankfully, you’ve avoided such a fate. After a few weeks’ time, you’re deemed well enough for discharge. The staff wishes you well and sees you to the front gate. The bill for all the care you’ve received? Free! Yours was a charity hospital, after all. A private hospital might have charged a small weekly fee for board (more if you were in a private room), but nothing like the enormous bill you’d get after a stay in a twenty-first-century hospital. Still, I’m sure your glad when your time machine is up and working again and you’re whisked back to the future where operations are performed with sterile equipment and without an audience. Further Reading: The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky *** View the full article
  28. The past few months have led me down the road of revisions again. It's not too uncommon for me to continue revising, even after I've begun to submit. Somehow, it eases the sting of rejection to know I'm in an ongoing state of improvement. In fact, I've recently re-revised two short stories of mine and they have been sent out to the world with renewed hope of acceptance. At the moment, I'm looking at another short story of mine this hot afternoon in June and recognize that vague feeling that it's "missing something." I read it freshly, only to realize that around page three, I was beginning to skim it. It's one of the few short stories I've written that feels purely fiction without any realm of weirdness in it. I was inspired to write it when I was let go of my day job a few years ago. Then I combined that moment with another time I had wished I could have given someone a pair of shoes who had none on their feet. I've often imagined it being published and me, finally, being able to describe the origins of its inspiration. Instead, it's been rejected many times (although once was a more positive rejection). I've grown tired of looking at my own stories before but even in those moments, at the bare minimum, I'm intrigued by something in it despite my familiarity. This time was different. I recalled someone's feedback to me once that the real story didn't start until after my character left the office once she lost her job. At the time, I dismissed it. Instead, I tightened up the story in other parts, certain the core of the story began when my character walked into work, realizing they were laying people off. Now, I wonder if that feedback had been right all along. As much as I hate to admit it, this may be one of those stories that get the back burner treatment. It's the first time I've recognized that about this story, actually. In fact, I didn't even recognize it until I started writing this blog post. Ever since attempting to polish this piece, I have begun to realize there may be aspects of this story that I need to take out, like the first half. Or I need to leave it behind completely. I won't regret writing it, though. I think it was more therapeutic to write it than I realized at first. It likely was part of me processing losing a job I had been at six years. It also maybe even eased guilt that I didn't help a man who didn't have footwear (even though at the time I really didn't have anything to give, but still...) What will happen now to it? I'm not sure. I'm not saying there's nothing there, but I need to find what is missing to move forward. Or maybe accept that it served a purpose beyond publication. Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. When she's not hunting down the right word, she's talking to God, reviewing books on her writing blog, watching movies, hanging out with family, and daydreaming. Her work has been featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not, WOW! Women on Writing, The Voices Project, Sky Island Journal, and Best Colleges. Read her musings at WorldofMyImagination.com. (C) Copyright wow-womenonwriting.com Visit WOW! Women On Writing for lively interviews and how-tos. Check out WOW!'s Classroom and learn something new. Enter the Quarterly Writing Contests. Open Now![url={url}]View the full article[/url]
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