Saturday Miscellany—11/9/19

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Maxine Unleashes Doomsday by Nick Kolakowski—Post-apocalytic heist novel (well, more mid-apocalyptic), is just a blast. I tried to titlesummarize my thoughts about it yesterday.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Illustrated Edition) by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Elise Hurst—I got this a few days ago, it’s just gorgeous. I don’t need another copy of this fantastic book. But I don’t care. This trailer gives you a feel for the illustrations.
  • The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge—”An action-packed thriller about a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja with family issues who fights the Los Angeles Ukrainian mob, sex traffickers, and her own family to save two desperate women and an innocent child.” How do you say no to that?
  • The Last Dance by Martin L. Shoemaker—An investigation into space mutiny. Looks like a winner.
  • Made Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky—I’ve been wanting to try Tchaikovsky for a while now, this might be the one that gets me.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Tom Gamache, proofreadingebooks (the name is making me nervous about my content), Yvonne and Fragilistic for following the blog this week. Don’t be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?

Yet More Quick Questions with . . . Nick Kolakowski

Man…this is the third time I’ve got to pick Nick Kolakowski’s brain (the first and the second, for you completists). I can’t believe he keeps coming back for more — but when I get great answers like these, I’ve gotta keep asking, you know? Do read the others if you’re wanting to learn more about him in general — I stuck to Maxine Unleashes Doomsday (I posted about it earlier today, in case you missed that) this time.

Hope you enjoy!

Did you set out to write Science Fiction or is that something that came about as you started the project?
I’ve always wanted to write a dystopian novel, but all my early attempts were ignoble failures; they were Diet Cormac McCarthy, pastiches of “The Road” that were just retreads of what everyone else was trying to do. It’s only when I mashed the concept onto a noir framework that it started to work for me—a heist novel was the grounding that I needed, even if the target of that heist, in this post-apocalyptic context, is really, really weird.
What were some of the new challenges (and/or freedoms) compared to your earlier works given this setting/genre?
I’ve never written a book that covers the whole scope of someone’s life. Any novel comes with its share of continuity challenges; even if the timeframe is really short (i.e., a few hours or days), you need to keep all of your pieces and characters aligned and consistent. But keeping the details of a character’s life aligned across decades can prove much more difficult—did this happen to her left or right arm when she was a teenager, etc.

In terms of freedoms, though, you can create an incredible character arc if you have that kind of super-expansive timeframe to play with. There’s a real poignancy to tracing someone’s life from their teenagehood to the very end, especially if the country is radically changing around them at the same time.

What came first—the story or Maxine? Is that your typical approach, or does it vary from project to project?
Maxine came first: I had a vision of a badass woman, bitter and chain-smoking but refusing to give up no matter what life threw at her. From there, I wanted a story that put her in worse and worse circumstances. What happens to someone who loses everything? What’s left?

In terms of actual writing, this book started in the middle. Then I wrote Maxine’s childhood and teenage-dom. Then I stalled for about a year because I couldn’t think of where to take her from there; it was only when I came up with the broader framework—of academics discussing her life and her impact on society—that I figured out where to take everything.

In this book, Preacher reminded me a lot of Main Bad Guy’s Walker—but a very different take on the character type. Is 2019 your Year of the Aging Badass, or is that just a coincidence?  I’m having a hard time not asking a spoiler-laden question about him, so let me take the easy way out – what would a prospective reader want to know about Maxine’s very disfunctional paternal figure?
That was a coincidence, but now that you mention it… yeah, Preacher and Walker are brothers of a type! I didn’t mean it that way; Preacher made his first appearance in my head circa 2014, while Walker emerged around 2017-18, when I was writing “Main Bad Guy.”

Not to spoil too much, but Preacher isn’t the badass that Maxine thinks. He’s ultra-tough, and he deserves his fearsome reputation in the ruined part of the world where Maxine and her family lives. But his weaknesses—and frankly, his lies—eventually force Maxine to step up. The thing about badasses like Preacher and Walker, they can serve as crutches for your main character; at some point, you need to neuter them or take them away if your protagonist is truly going to move on and grow.

Are you far enough into your next book to talk about it – are you sticking with SF, going back to Crime Fiction, or trying your hand at something like Wizards?
Haha! Noir-ish wizards would be pretty cool, although I’m sure someone has already covered that arena already. Up next is actually the sequel to “Boise Longpig Hunting Club,” so it’s back to crime fiction (and Idaho!). The as-yet-untitled sequel is actually giving me a bit of trouble, because I’m trying to ratchet up the tension as tightly as possible on Jake and Frankie, my two main characters (and siblings). They survived some insane crap in the first book, so I have to figure out a way to make things even crazier.
Thanks for your time—and thanks for introducing me to Maxine
Thank you! I love her. I hope readers will, too.

A Few Quick Questions With…Beth Ruggiero York

Earlier, I posted about Beth Ruggiero York’s Flying Alone. York kindly took the time to provide a few As to some Qs that I sent her. They probably do a better job of recommending the book to you than I may have pulled off. I think I’ve said it before, but I don’t read what an author says in these before I write a post about the book. So it looks like she’s actually responding to that post I wrote over the weekend. Which works out nicely.

Hope you enjoy this, I did.

Could you start off by giving the reader a quick “elevator pitch” for your book and tell us why you decided to tell this particular story and why do it now?
“From the time she was a teenager, Beth knew she wanted to fly, and a solo trip across the country to visit family confirmed her aspirations of becoming a pilot. But her dreams were almost grounded before they could take off when she received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at the age of 22. Beth vowed that this new challenge would not put restrictions on her life and embarked on journey to become an airline pilot. Starting at the small local airport, the aviation world swallowed her whole, and the next five years of her life were as turbulent as an airplane in a thunderstorm, never knowing when, how or if she would emerge. An agonizing love affair with her flight instructor, dangerous risks in the sky and flying broken airplanes for shady companies all intertwined to define her road to the airlines, eventually being hired by Trans World Airlines in 1989. Flying Alone takes readers through the struggles and the challenges of civil aviation that Beth faced 30 years ago. Ultimately a story of survival and overcoming overwhelming odds, Flying Alone is told with soul-baring candor, taking readers on a suspenseful journey through terror, romance and victory.”

I wrote Flying Alone when my aviation career came to an abrupt end in 1990. The years leading up to that had been so turbulent and challenging that I wanted to write it all down while the events were still fresh in my memory. The story is of the challenges of a young woman and how she battled through them and came through on the other side a stronger person. The message is very important for young women of any generation as they find their place in the world.

I’m always interested in the writing process, why writers make the choices they make along the way—and know that so often the important choices aren’t what to include, but are what not to include. How did you make those choices? Especially looking back at the book now, are there things you’re kicking yourself for not finding a way to work in (or the opposite, I guess)?
Because this is my memoir, it was extremely difficult to decide to include certain things for fear of making myself look like, for lack of a better word, an ‘idiot’. I made many bad decisions during those years, so the ultimate decision to tell the story candidly and expose my vulnerability was difficult. In the end, I bared it all and am so glad I did. It couldn’t just be a story of triumphs, because triumph doesn’t come without struggles and setbacks.

Looking back now, though, I wish I had not ended it where I did. I’ve had feedback that readers want to know more, and, in fact, there is so much more to tell from that time. So, I am planning to write a follow-up memoir to give ‘the rest of the story’.

What was the biggest surprise about the writing itself? Either, “I can’t believe X is so easy!” or “If I had known Y was going to be so hard, I’d have skipped this and watched more TV”.
The biggest surprise about writing has been how therapeutic it can be to go into my own physical and mental space and let the words flow.
A lot of what makes a writer are the books that they’ve read—what books, in particular, do you think made you the writer you are/the book the book it is?
There are a number of books that will always be with me because of their words and messages. Foremost are Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s North to the Orient, and Beryl Markham’s West with The Night.
(This is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but not wholly) How do you expect your readers to feel safe flying – or being anywhere near a flight path – after some of what you say about Cash Air and other ill-advised piloting choices here?
I’ve had some readers tell me they’re going to take it on vacation and read it on the flight, and I always squirm a little. Really, though, commercial flying is very safe. It has changed quite a bit since the 1980s, and the world of Cash Air and those types of companies were isolated situations flying freight. I feel safe flying, and I know what goes on up there in the cockpit!
Thanks for your time—and thanks for Flying Alone, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.

COVER REVEAL: I Can See The Lights by Russ Litten

Welcome to The Irresponsible Reader’s part in the Cover Reveal for Russ Litten’s I Can See The Lights! Pretty pictures ahead.

But first, some words. The kind of words that you’d find in a . . .

Book Blurb

The prose poems in I Can See The Lights are earthy and raw, but also incredibly sensitive. It’s pretty much guaranteed that more than one of them will bring you to tears. Characters are vividly brought to life, and stark but warm environments evoked in a down to earth, yet almost painterly manner by Russ Litten’s uncompromising voice.

Tales of home, of un-belonging, of strife at sea—of a northern city’s beating heart. Told in a mesmeric, stripped-down tone, this collection is a work of genius.

Author Bio

Russ Litten is the author of the novels Scream If You Want To Go FasterSwear DownKingdom and the short story collection We Know What We Are.

As one half of the electronic storytelling duo Cobby and Litten, he has released three spoken word/electronica albums My People Come From The SeaBoothferry and Pound Shop Communism</b.

He has written for TV, radio and film and has worked as a writer in residence at various prisons and youth offender units. I Can See The Lights is his first poetry collection.

Without further ado…

The Cover

Now, that’s a good match between title and cover image—I honestly can’t think of a better way to evoke that title (and I’ve tried a little).

You can get your hands on this cover (and the prose poems behind it!) on the 10th of February. Keep an eye on the website for Wild Pressed Books for details (or their Twitter feed).

My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this reveal and the materials they provided.

Love Books Group

Saturday Miscellany—11/2/19

This week’s list seems a bit more miscellaneous than usual, but that’s cool. I honestly didn’t think I’d spent enough time online this week to cobble together a post. Thankfully, I was wrong.

Here are the odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Shattered Bonds by Faith Hunter—Jane Yellowrock is back in the aftermath of the devastating 12th novel to find that things can always get worse. I rambled on about it this week.
  • Blue Moon by Lee Child—Jack Reacher. ‘Nuff said.
  • Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson—I’m not even sure how to summarize this without reading it. Just click the link.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Lee, likeherdingcatsblog, caffeinefocus, intentforcontent, entertainingly nerdy, The Awesome Dad, and juniorgareth42 for following the blog this week (gotta catch my breath for a moment, that was a long list). Don’t be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?

Opening Lines: Look Both Ways

We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover (yet, publishing companies spend big bucks on cover design/art) (also, this has a great cover). But, the opening sentence(s)/paragraph(s) are fair game. So, when I stumble on a good opening (or remember one and pull it off the shelves), I’ll throw it up here. Dare you not to read the rest of the book.

from Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jayson Reynolds:

This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky.

But no one saw it happen. No one heard anything. So instead, this story will begin like all the . . . good ones.

With boogers.

“If you don’t get all them nasty, half-baked goblins out your nose, 1 promise I’m not walking home with you. I’m not playln’.” Jasmine Jordan said this like she said most things—with her whole body. Like the words weren’t just coming out of her mouth but were also rolling down her spine. She said it like she meant it.

The only thing better than that first paragraph is the third. And I can already see Jasmine as clear as day.

EXCERPT from Shattered Bonds by Faith Hunter: “My Eddie is in trouble!”

SHATTERED BONDS by Faith Hunter, copyright Faith Hunter.

My cell chimed. Beast and I followed Eli to my gobag in the mud room, the small bag hanging on the rack with other winter gear. He swiped the screen, tapped in my security code, and started back to the office, saying, “Molly, it’s Eli—”

Angie Baby screamed, “My Eddie is in trouble! My Eddie! No! No!”

Beast growled, showing killing teeth. My/our heart did a fearful, arrhythmic bump-and-pause, and then raced too fast. Again, I searched for the connection to Edmund. Gone. Severed. As if it had been cut out with a knife. It was a strange sensation, as if a part of my own body had been instantly amputated and I kept searching for it, feeling something but … not the missing part. Ed was mine. Ed was gone.

Molly’s voice came over the phone and my attention swept to the cell. “Sorry, Jane. Angie woke up screaming from a bad dream. We’ve been trying to calm her down, but she grabbed my cell and called.” In the background, we heard the sound of Angie Baby’s screams diminish in volume and the crooning of her father’s flute magic, calming her.

“Eli here. Jane’s big-cat at the moment. Angie may not be having a dream.”

“What’s happening with Ed?” Molly asked, a trace of fear in her tone.

“We don’t know, except that Jane heard Ed through the vamp-binding. Alex is searching for him.”

In the background Angie’s screams crescendoed, the pitch so high it hurt Beast’s ears. She turned her ear tabs down against the noise and thought, Kits… Kits in trouble. Ed in trouble.

“Eli, I—. This is … Has Ed been killed? He and Angle have a blood bond. I don’t know what to do if… ?” Molly’s voice trailed away, uncertainly.

I/we nodded Beast’s head up and down, then back and forth, an uncertain yes / no gesture. We stared at Eli, snarling and licking our jaw, hoping he would understand that this was really not right.

“Jane and Beast are upset too,” he said.

“I think we’ll come visit,” Molly said.

“We have the room,” Eli said.

“Yeah. I’ve seen the sales brochures,” she said wryly.

In the background, the screaming stopped. Evan said, “She’s asleep. Pack fast. More snow is coming.”

Into the cell, Molly said, “We’ll probably have to keep her in magically induced sleep but expect us after nine tonight.”

“The county brined the street but the drive is frozen,” Eli said. “Call if you get stuck.”

“Will do.” The call ended.

From the office, I heard the Kid’s voice in quiet conversation with Grégoire, Blondie’s and Alex’s voices barely loud enough to pick out, even with Beast’s ears. Grégoire was in France with Edmund. Good. That meant up-to-date info. I / we trotted to him.

“Send me everything you have,” Alex said.

“Oui. My people do so now. Dieu vous garde en sécurité.”

“You too, dude.”

I heard a connection end and felt a smile tug at my Puma lips. Only Alex would call a royal-born, centuries old, powerful vamp dude.



Read the rest in Shattered Bonds by Faith Hunter—how can you not?.

My thanks to Let’s Talk! Promotions for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book via NetGalley) they provided.