Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Where Writers Write: Greg Boose

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!


 

Where Writers Write is a series that features authors as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 





This is Greg Boose.

His Young Adult novel The Red Bishop was published by Full Fathom Five Digital in November, 2014. Greg is the former Los Angeles and Chicago editor of BlackBook Magazine, and his work has appeared on/in Chicago Public Radio, NFL.com, Time Out Chicago, The Huffington Post, McSweeney’s, The Believer, and others. He ghostwrote two New York Times best-selling YA novels in 2011 and 2012. He received his MFA from Minnesota State University Moorhead, and now lives in Santa Monica, CA, with his two young daughters. You can find out more at www.gregboose.com.






Where Greg Boose Writes


I admit to being one of those coffee shop rat guys who secures the best table the moment the OPEN sign is flipped around on the door. And, yeah, I’m one of those coffee shop rat guys who often overstays his welcome, but also one who orders something substantial and always tips. I’ve written at least half my books at these wobbly, sticky tables, and that’s because the hustle and bustle of customers and espresso machines make me feel like I’m a true part of the workforce somehow. Because everyone knows how lonely and unseen writing can be. Being a writer can often feel like being a ghost.




The first draft of The Red Bishop--a book that takes place entirely on Cape Cod--was written in a dozen different coffee shops in north Chicago: nice ones, divey ones, ones with an inch of slush melting across the scuffed tiles. These coffee shops were such a huge part of my book-writing process that they ended up infiltrating the pages of the book: 95% of the characters in the novel were named after Chicago train stations: names like Lake, Logan, Madison, Halsted, Kimball, Cermak, Rosemont, Racine, Laramie, etc. (See the little red boxes?)




But there’s always a closing time, or a barista giving me the “You’ve been here long enough, dude-with-the-patchy-beard” eye, so I eventually have to make my way home to my chipped West Elm desk and craigslist chair and still try to feel like I’m a part of the hustle and bustle.

I’m no longer in Chicago. Moved to sunny Santa Monica three years ago where the only slush is on some editor’s desk in the form of a wobbly pile of manuscripts. (Note to the editor sitting at that desk: READ MINE NEXT COME ON.) And the thing about being in Southern California is that there’s rarely a good reason to stay indoors. Because, let me tell you, it’s pretty nice out. Yesterday was nice, today is nice, tomorrow will be nice. So, to stay inside for a block of hours and toil away on a novel that no one has asked for or knows about, is kind of difficult. I can’t exactly look at a Midwestern blizzard of “thunder snow” raging out the window and tell myself it’s the perfect time to stay inside and write.



So, this is what I do: I turn off my wifi, turn on some spooky-yet-energizing Trent Reznor instrumental albums like the soundtracks for The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I take a deep breath and shut the blinds. (Because palm trees.) And then I turn my wifi back on and mess around for a bit until either inspiration or desperation hits. This is where and how I write.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

James Tadd Adcox Recommends The Illuminatus! Trilogy


And so we continue our Writers Recommend - a newish series where we ask writers to, well, you know.. recommend things. Like the books that they've enjoyed. To you. Because who doesn't like being recommended new and interesting books, right?! Think of it as a PSA. Only it's more like an LSA -Literary Service Announcement. And this one comes along as a part of the blog tour for James Tadd Adcox's newest, Does Not Love. You're doubly welcome.



James Tadd Adcox recommends The Illuminatus! Trilogy




Several years ago I went to see an interview with the science fiction writer William Gibson at the Chicago Humanities Festival. The interviewer asked him about his influences, and he made the comment that if you ask a writer who his or her influences are, the writer is most likely to answer with a list of people he or she would like to have as influences. The books that influence us the most deeply, he said, are those we read before we had any conception of what we “ought” to be reading, those books that we pick up because they’re around or because they have a cool cover or whatever and which we fall intensely in love with as kids before we know we’re not supposed to. A writer’s real influences are the ones that he or she is embarrassed to talk about.

I’ve been thinking about those early influences, the books that I stumbled upon and loved before I knew enough to care about what I was supposed to love. One of those books— or perhaps the book that supplied the bridge between those embarrassing ur-books and the “literary” stuff I’d read later on—is The Illuminatus! Trilogy, originally published, as the name implies, as three books, but really a single novel. I first read Illuminatus! towards the end of middle school, when I was maybe twelve or thirteen years old, too young to understand a lot of things in the book and just barely old enough to understand some other things. Bizarre sexual practices play a pivotal role at several key points in the plot, if I remember correctly (and I am almost certain that I do—for a couple of those scenes I’ve got the sort of so-called “flashbulb” memory people talk about having the moment they learned Kennedy died). Politics, too, featured heavily; not as exciting as the sex, okay sure, but I was always strangely interested in politics as a kid, as I tried on one set of political beliefs after another, from Rush Limbaugh conservative to Marxist to anarchist to God-only- knows.

I’m tempted to look this book up on Wikipedia, to tell you, for example, that it is described there as “a satirical, postmodern, science fiction-influenced adventure story; a drug-, sex-, and magic-laden trek through a number of conspiracy theories, both historical and imaginary, related to the authors’ version of the Illuminati,” covering themes such as “counterculture, numerology, and Discordianism,” the latter being a religion that may or may not, but probably was, made up by the authors and which spread in subsequent years to the world outside the book. But I would prefer not to do that. I would prefer to rely here on my
memory of the book, accepting that I’m going to get certain things wrong. Illuminatus! was a thousand-some page book (one of the longest, possibly the longest, that I had read up to that point in my life) written by a pair of ex-hippies and then-anarchists, both named Bob, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. At that time I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels, and I found this book in the science fiction section of my hometown library. God knows whether it makes sense to classify the book as science fiction or whatever else at all. What deeply impressed me about the book was its approach to the real world.

Previous novels I’d read always seemed really clear on what parts of the book were of the real world, or were intended to be, and what parts were the novelist’s additions to it. In a typical science fiction novel, for example, there are some scientific theories or facts that are posited as real, such as the existence and basic science relating to black holes, and some fictitious extrapolation from these facts, such as the use of black holes to travel through space. Or, in literary fiction, certain facts about the world will be posited—such as the
structure of racism in the American south—to which will be added certain fictitious elements, such as the existence of a lawyer named Atticus or a recluse named Boo.

This clear division didn’t hold in Illuminatus! Certain elements, clearly, were fictional—the main characters, or most of them, anyhow, were probably made up, and the authors probably didn’t have any direct knowledge of how long it took for various world leaders to get off during encounters with skilled prostitutes (rounded, if I’m not mistaken, to the nearest half-minute). Other parts were clearly based on fact—the aforementioned world leaders seemed to be clearly based on their real world counterparts, for example. But a wonderfully broad swath of the book seemed to inhabit a shadow space between these categories, things that might be true, things that might be mostly true, things that the authors might believe to be true regardless of their real-world status, things that people besides the authors thought were true that the authors were willing to go along with. But you would never know which was which without doing outside research—and what good would that do you, really? How would you ever know that you’d researched enough? Just because you couldn’t find one of the sources the authors cited (because of course they cited their sources)
doesn’t mean that the authors made it up. Just because you found a book that said such-and-such never happened, that such-and-such happened instead—well, you could find books that said all kinds of things, couldn’t you? There were books that said that the pilgrims and the Indians were friends and that colonialism was glorious and that human beings really did, honest to God, land on the moon.

Reading Illuminatus!, you got a sense of something like vertigo, a sensation of falling even as you were sure (weren’t you?) that you were standing on solid ground. It’s the first book that I can remember ever giving me this sensation, and it’s in large part responsible— I’m eighty-nine percent sure of this—for the path my taste in books and movies and possibly even music would eventually take. I am forever looking to be overwhelmed. I’m reading a book right now, a very good book, called The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing by Nicholas Rombes. I’m reading it for a review, so I won’t say much about it, to make sure I still have something to say when it comes time to review it. But there’s a moment when the narrator is describing some avant-garde films the protagonist is watching, and he says that they’re “the sort of films that poisoned you if you saw them at the wrong (or right) age.” I don’t think it’s going too far to say that something like this occurred when I read Illuminatus!: I was precisely the wrong or right age, and I am poisoned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



James Tadd Adcox is the author of a novel, Does Not Love, and a collection of stories, The Map of the System of Human Knowledge. He lives in Chicago.




Set in an archly comedic, alternate-reality Indianapolis that is completely overrun by Big Pharma, James Tadd Adcox's debut novel chronicles Robert and Viola's attempts to overcome loss through the miracles of modern pharmaceuticals. Their marriage crumbling after a series of miscarriages, Viola finds herself in an affair with the FBI agent who has recently appeared at her workplace, while her husband Robert becomes enmeshed in an elaborate conspiracy designed to look like a drug study.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Audio Series: Guy J Jackson



Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. This feature requires more time and patience of the author than any of the ones that have come before. And that makes it all the more sweeter when you see, or rather, hear them read excerpts from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.


Today, Guy J. Jackson reads an excerpt from his book Drink The Rest Of That
Currently living in Los Angeles, Guy is a writer, performer and moviemaker.






Click on the soundcloud link below to listen to Guy as he reads an excerpt from Drink the Rest of That:






The word on Drink the Rest of That:

In this collection of rare, hard-to-find, and often too-short short stories, Guy J. Jackson wields his not particularly helpful but still relatively charming (at least compared to being chased) worldview in order to pretty much study and correct all of humanity's foibles, or at least the ones that need correcting by the end of this year.
*lifted from goodreads with love

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christopher Brooks' Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, TNBBC's newest series is a fun, new, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same 20 odd bookish scenarios. And just to spice it up a bit, each author gets to ask their own Would You Rather question to the author who appears after them....



Christopher Brooks'
Would You Rather 



Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?
Tongue. Either way, the book would be 220 pages of...jieoa rjelaiejhk, fjd feuihakrh anfuiajberu fjkadyrjkekanfmdna

Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?
I’d rather write a long string of moderate sellers, which is arguably more difficult anyway. The slow and steady approach worked guys like Richard Linklater. M Night Shyamalan...not so much.

Would you rather be a well-known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?
I’d prefer to be well known now. With social media and communities like Goodreads, authors have so many chances to connect with their readers. It’d be a shame to miss out on those opportunities.

Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?
I’d rather write a book without conjunctions. Especially if I’ve committed to writing with my tongue, I better start cutting out as many words as possible.

Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?
Tattooed on my skin, preferably in 5 point font.

Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it or write a crappy book that comprises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success?
I can’t imagine success out of insincerity would feel like true success at all. I’d rather write with conviction and give up the extra cash. After all, I’m only selling my ebook for $0.99 anyway.

Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?
I’d rather write about a character I hated. After a while, they might win me over. It’d be kind of like learning to love Kale after it systematically worked its way onto every restaurant menu.

Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?
Blood as ink, which means I’m now only writing in haiku.

Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?
Since my novel takes place on the last day on Earth, I’m not too eager to become a character in it. But, I guess I’ll take one for the team rather than bring about the world’s demise by reenacting my novel in real life.

Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?
Writing without punctuation or capitalization would make for a maddening read. Either way, you could probably market it as a concept book.

Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?
Having a book you wrote taught in school would be a huge honor, but I’d rather not have a novel of mine associated with multiple choice questions or assignments with mandatory word counts.

Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?
I’ve already read Atlas Shrugged, and after suffering through John Galt’s seemingly endless speech, I think I’ve hit my Ayn Rand quota for this decade. Bring on Dylan Thomas.

Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?
I’ve already planned on writing haiku in blood. If I agree to only speak in haiku, too, can I at least get away with not having to announce my line breaks?

Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or a series in a language you couldn’t read?
I’d take the 50 Shades series and turn it into a choose-your-own-adventure story. At each juncture, you’d be presented with two choices: “stop reading” and “please, please stop reading.”

Would you rather critics rip your book apart publicly or never talk about it at all?
I’d rather have people saying something than nothing at all.

Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?
Much to former roommates’ and my girlfriend’s chagrin, I already narrate my every move.

Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?
My pens and paper can’t check BuzzFeed, and I’m too lazy to draw my own flip-book GIFs to entertain myself.

Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or laying down flat on your back?
I spend most of my work day sitting down. Maybe my body would thank me if I at least wrote standing up on my tippy-toes.

Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?
Naked - when else am I going to get the perfect opportunity to show off the amazing calves I got from writing an entire novel on my tippy-toes?

Would you rather read a book that is written poorly but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content but is written well? 

I’d rather read a book that is written poorly but has an excellent story. If nothing else, maybe someone will make a good movie out of it, unless it’s directed by M Night Shyamalan.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Christopher Brooks is the author of The Gertrude Threshold. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. Christopher graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University. Originally, he set out to study biology and become a doctor. Organic chemistry and a love of writing convinced him to study English-writing instead. Christopher now works at Edelman, a public relations firm, at its headquarters in Chicago. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter or send him an email at ChristopherBrooks@RaggedRightMedia.com.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Melanie Reviews: After the People Lights Have Gone Off

Pages: 310
Publisher: Dark House Press
Released: September 2014


Guest review by Melanie Page



Stephen Graham Jones is at again, writing faster than fans can read and publishers would like. This time, SGJ gives us a collection of 16 stories coming from various scary persuasions: ghosts, vampires, werewolves, haunted houses, and even some aliens. The title alone creeped me out; “people lights” imply something looking at your house, something that isn’t “people.” The cover image, too, is frightening--we see a person through a broken window, so the image creates a fore-, middle-, and background. Ingenious for a book cover, really, as the perspective makes readers wonder who’s looking at whom.

Before I started People Lights, my most recent SGJ experience was this summer when I picked up Growing Up Dead in Texas (MP Publishing, 2012), a nonfiction work that read like fiction: things too weird to be true, people who are larger than life. I didn’t finish SGJ’s memoir, though, because it seemed like he forgot someone was reading. Settings I couldn’t picture, people I couldn’t remember, farming terms I didn’t know, and perspectives that were missing. Occasionally, SGJ appears to write for an audience of one.

Although fiction, the first few stories in After the People Lights Have Gone Off read in the same confusing manner. SGJ provides a feedback at the end of the collection where readers can see what inspired each story. The first story, “Thirteen,” based on the author’s childhood, is about “some bad stuff that happened in the bathroom of the Big Chief movie theater in Midland, Texas, bad stuff that made us all so scared to go there that it finally just shut down.” In the Big Chief theater in the story, what exactly characters are afraid of is unclear. It has something to do with holding their breath during certain parts of movies and possibly disappearing. I don’t know what happened in Midland, but the story doesn’t capture the fear that SGJ felt (and, admittedly, still feels).

The second story, “Brushdogs,” was also confusing. It’s unclear whether the father’s son disappears or is actually the real son. There is a disappearing/reappearing glove. All readers know is that the father and son find a carion pile and weird things happen that make the father feel uncertain. Again, the story is based on a real experience, but SGJ fails to provide the pegs on which we hang meaning. At this point, I was disappointed that I bought the book.

Almost as soon as I thought the negatives, my faith was restored: the majority of the collection was brilliant, inventive, and truly scary. Boyfriends Jonathan and Lucas try to make it work in a time warp that sends them around one another in “This is Love.” Grandpa’s secret murderous past as a werewolf--and a human--comes home to roost in “Doc’s Story.” A husband cares for his wife after an accident in their new home leaves her paralyzed, but something haunted interferes with their lives in the title story. In “Uncle” the narrator admits, “There wasn’t even a muted scream from down the hall. Just the sound of forever. In it, I aimed the [handheld laser infrared thermometer] gun into my mouth, pulled the trigger. The readout said I was still alive, still human. As far as it knew, anyway.”


SGJ’s stories aren’t easy; in most cases the end isn’t clear, and readers are left to infer what happened. The challenge is one I want to meet, but putting the most abstract stories in the front nearly put me off the collection. Overall, After the People Lights Have Gone Off is a satisfying, terrifying read.


Melanie Page is a MFA graduate, adjunct instructor, and recent founder of Grab the Lapels, a site that only reviews books written by women (www.grabthelapels.weebly.com).

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Indie Spotlight: Jeannine Hall Gailey


Here at TNBBC, we love to tug at the sleeves of the authors who pitch us, suggesting they tell us the story behind the books they wrote, the inspiration for it...

The essay I'm about to share with you, by Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of the upcoming collection of poems titled The Robot Scientist's Daughter, is probably by far the most sad and lovely, and also probably my most favorite. Read it to find out why.




Growing Up in the Atomic City


This is the story of how The Robot Scientist’s Daughter was born.  (The Robot Scientist's Daughter will be published by Mayapple Press in March 2015.)
Growing up five miles downwind of Oak Ridge National Labs outside of Knoxville, Tennessee could seem to some like an “exotic, picturesque” childhood. I spent hours roaming the several acres of mossy woods on our property, digging up peanuts and picking strawberries we grew in a large dirt patch in the back of the house, riding rescued ponies, canning pickles and apples with my mother. The spring was full of mockingbirds, lilacs, crepe myrtle. I went to a summer camp at the local private school where we had a talent show, crafts, and art classes, along with learning to shoot a rifle and a bow and arrow – I was seven years old for my first shooting lesson, and I was so proud to bring home the bulls-eyed paper target to my parents!
It was a beautiful place, full of fossil rocks and old oak trees and steep banks of daffodils along the rural road. But it was also ominous – the little pond across from our house had a sign that said “Don’t eat the fish” with a slash across a picture of a fish – even while I watched my older brothers and their friends splash around in it. A lot of the neighbor boys got in trouble and went to prison, and there were incidents down the street – a wife stabbing a husband, a husband shooting at a wife – and whole families living in ramshackle houses that seemed on the verge of falling over. We lived out in the country, even for Tennessee, in an area that was mostly trailers, family farms, and forest.
My father, trying to make enough income for four children while my mother went back to college to get her degree, decided to augment his engineering professor’s salary by consulting for nearby Oak Ridge National Labs (ORNL) in nuclear cleanup. It was here that he made a switch from a deep interest in radiation-based medical technology – he had worked with early versions of CTscan machines at Yale before moving to work at the University of Tennessee – to robotics, at the encouragement of ORNL, who needed a solution for workers (especially janitors, who came into a lot of contact with contaminated objects) who continued to get sick from nuclear waste at their location.
So our basement became a repository for all kinds of wonderful machinery – a robot arm that played chess, a Geiger counter, and some large box with large knobs that never was specifically identified. I do remember my father showing me how to use a Geiger counter by measuring the clicks on a snowman I built, and he warned me not to eat the snow – that it wasn’t safe. That was my first lesson in the dangers of radiation. I thought this was fairly normal – after all, the kids at my school were the children of physicists and specialist physicians, engineers, and I read books like The Wrinkle in Time trilogy where the parents were scientists. My father bought me radio kits that required fine motors skills and circuitry skills and brought home trinkets and books for me from Japan, where he went for robotics conferences. I watched Hayao Miyazaki's movie Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, about a young girl who lives in a poisoned forest and fights to protect the environment from human war machines and the animals that had mutated to survive what was (even to me at ten, an obvious metaphor) for nuclear radiation poisoning.
The years I spent in Tennessee were some of the happiest I ever had – though no one would call those years perfect – and I always looked forward to visiting Tennessee after we moved away. I spent fifteen years in Ohio and can barely remember any scenery, but I can still remember the exact shape and smell of certain flowers in our yard, the way I built nests for birds out of sticks and violets and mud. When I went to college at the University of Cincinnati, I majored in Biology, and took a class called “Ecological Toxicology” – rumored to be a difficult class with a demanding teacher – and a class for engineers (that I got a special exception to attend) called “Environmental Law.” I was fascinated by these two classes, which, along with learning about mutation, DNA, and environmental impact in my regular biology classes, made me think differently about my childhood in Oak Ridge. Had I been impacted? What might still exist in my body, artifact of the produce and milk I ingested (from local farms,) the mud I played with and the grass I rolled around in? Radioactive cesium, in particular, was said to linger in the bones, hair, and fingernails of children who were exposed long into their adulthood, causing mysterious illnesses, neurological symptoms.
I didn’t know then that twenty years into the future, I’d be investigating those same questions, after years of enduring medical test after test for mysterious autoimmune problems, neurological symptoms, thyroid problems. I’d be looking into EPA reports about childhood leukemia rates in the Tennessee Valley, reports on radioactive trout in my local rivers, reading books by safety physicists about the early years of Oak Ridge National Labs and their experiments with radioactive material near my house. Or that I’d write a book of poetry about the whole thing – my dad’s mission to bring robots to save humans from radioactive poisoning, the beautiful woods and gardens I grew up on (later paved over with concrete and left alone, under questionable circumstances, like a dark joke about how you can't go home again), my own early struggle to live up to my father’s expectations and my struggle with my sometimes uncooperative, unhealthy body, my love of science and nature mixed with an understanding of the dark side of science, the dark side of nature.  
This is how my fourth book, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, was born. She is still a sort of cyborg, half-robot, half-human, waiting for someone to unlock her secrets.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 



Jeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of four books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, and The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, out in March 2015 from Mayapple Press. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner. Her web site is www.webbish6.com

Friday, December 5, 2014

Audiobook Review: Ugly Girls

Listened 11/17/14 - 11/24/14
3 Stars - Recommended to fans of edgy, straight up trailer trash fiction
Audio: 8.3 hours
Publisher: FSG
Narrator: Kathleen Early
Released: November 2014


Typical teenage girls getting into typical teenage girl stuff, only so much worse. In Ugly Girls, the writing was always on the wall of what ultimately boils down to the story of two incredibly incompatible BFF's who test one another, pushing each another from bad decision to bad decision, eschewing the consequences in lieu of the thrill of the moment, until that one final moment. The moment neither can take back though they wish like hell they could. 

Though you don't want to, you'll find the edgy, hard-core trashiness of the girls intoxicating. Baby Girl has made herself physically ugly, shaving her head, outlining her lips in a grotesque clown's mouth, donning her brother's old clothes, while Perry's ugliness is more behavioral, emotional, using her physical loveliness as a weapon. 

Home's nothing to get all worked up over. Both live boring, dead-end lives. Baby Girl lives with her uncle and struggles with the fact that her once handsome and devilish older brother has been reduced to a drooling, temper-tantrum-throwing five-year-old as the result of a tragic bike accident. Perry, she lives with her drunk-as-a-skunk mother, who never seems to care where she is or what she's up to and her step-father, a saint of a man for being able to put up with the two of 'em.

Oh god, how this book brought the memories of my teenage years rushing back to me. For all intents and purposes, I was a fairly "good girl". I'd sneak around with the boys in the middle of the night, sure, slipping out the bedroom window like Perry did, my father never the wiser. I skipped school and chilled at friends' houses listening to music and watching them get high. A group of us would hang out in the local trailer park - skin heads and hippies talking about the ways they were gonna change the world, gawking at the strung out pregnant girls shoving ice cream and pickles into their junkie mouths. Making nuisances of ourselves at the local coffee shop, batting our under-aged eyelashes at the cute college boys who worked here. Cruising the main streets by the beach with the windows down, radio blasting, the wind in our ears, like nothing could touch us, just passing the time till something better came along. 

Unlike us though, to get even with the world for the bum deck they were dealt, Perry and Baby Girl get off on having fun at other peoples expense, joyriding in the middle of the night, stealing cars, skipping school and cutting classes. They even end up in the dunk-tank overnight for attempting to steal stuff from the local pharmacy. But all that becomes child's play when the two of them discover that they're both being chatted up by the same guy - a guy who has a serious crush on Perry. When the girls finally agree to meet up and show him what's what, that's where the real trouble starts brewing. And once they start that ball rolling, there's no stopping its momentum. 

From slow start to awkward and abrupt ending, Lindsay's multi-charactered novel is all about the ugly. The ugliness inside of us, how feeling ugly makes you act ugly, like there's no other way to be. Ugly Girls is a hopeless, grimy, gritty sort of novel that leaves you feeling as unwashed and skanky as its characters do and makes you thankful that you aren't raising teenage girls. Though now I feel I have to go and warn my teenage son about girls like them. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Katarina West Takes it to the Toilet




Oh yes! We are absolutely running a series on bathroom reading! So long as it's taking place behind the closed  (or open, if that's the way you swing) bathroom door, we want to know what it is. It can be a book, the back of the shampoo bottle, the newspaper, or Twitter on your cell phone - whatever helps you pass the time...



Today, Katarina West takes it to the toilet. Katarina is a novelist and a journalist who lives in an old farmhouse in Tuscany. She has published a non-fiction book, Agents of Altruism, and more recently a fantasy novel, Witchcraft Couture, which is set in the world of fashion. You can find more about Katarina and her blog ThingsI Know About Life at http://www.katarinawest.com



Sharing Your Bathroom With Imaginary People

 
Photo by Riitta Sourander
“It was big, that bathroom, much bigger than many living rooms, and the story went that she had loved it so much that she’d spent hours there, dreaming, idling, reading, designing – and even receiving guests, like a spoiled monarch. In the centre of it she had placed a nineteenth century zinc bathtub, which stood raised on an ancient wooden plinth. The space around it she had furnished like a salon, complete with an elegant Louis XVI sofa, side tables, engravings and portraits.”

Fine, so what’s this? A passage from a fifties paperback I found in a second-hand bookshop? A paragraph lying dusty and forgotten in the furthermost corners of my Facebook page? No, no, and no. It’s an excerpt from my novel, and the ‘she’ in question is a famous Italian fashion designer of the old school, a little like Coco Chanel or Elsa Schiaparelli.

But the bathroom is ours. Literally. It is just the same in the novel as it is in reality.

Which means that I share the toilet with my fictional characters.

How did this happen? I mean, how did I ever allow my characters to break free from the strict confines of my imagination, and take control of our toilet? Because it’s like giving the devil a finger and him taking the whole hand, it really is.

In all honesty, I still don’t know how it all came about. It might well be that there was a day when I forgot to bring bathroom reading with me (more about that later on) and seated there, bored, my imagination galloping, I stared at the zinc bathtub… and, abracadabra, a scene was born. And once that had happened, there was no going back.
 
Photo by Riitta Sourander


So our bathroom is populated by two seemingly alike yet fundamentally different species, homo sapiens and homo fictus. Usually the coexistence is peaceful, not least because my characters know that I am their God, and no matter what you do, you should never make your Creator angry. But it can happen that it’s past midnight and our centuries-old farmhouse is ghostly silent, and, brushing my teeth, I look at our bathroom and suddenly see it from the eyes of my mentally ill protagonist. And though I know that he wasn’t quite right in the head and imagined it all, unexpectedly I see his mother lying underwater in the bathtub, her shoulder-length hair billowing around her, and her eyes wide open and blank. And I swear I can hear the water gushing and pouring over the edges of the zinc bathtub.

That’s when I know I’ve written too much and it’s time to go to sleep.

So do I read in that bathroom? You bet. And not only have I read there, I have even written there. Years ago, when my son was a lively toddler and life was nothing but constant checking that he hadn’t fallen off the stone staircase or swallowed the batteries inside the remote control, his evening baths were my best bona fide writing time. And they always took place in that bathroom. I can still picture the two of us: my son, splashing the water happy and carefree; and me, anxious and absent-minded, hell-bent on putting down each and every idea that had been haunting me during that day. ‘Just one sentence, honey,’ I kept repeating, even if no one was listening to me. ‘Mum’s got to write just one sentence.’

Which kind of says everything about being a writer and a mother.

Photo by Riitta Sourander
There is even a little bookshelf in our bathroom, making toilet reading the easiest thing in the world. And it’s rather edifying toilet reading: there are Victor Hugo’s collected works in French and Marx and Engel’s The Communist Manifesto (now how did that ever end up there?) and a number of twentieth century classics in Italian, their spines elegant and aesthetically pleasing, just like almost everything made in Italy is elegant and aesthetically pleasing, from shoes and bags to lamps and statues.

But since my French is poor and Marx is not my cup of tea, I always take my own bathroom reading with me, usually in the form of my ever-so-present Kindle. And if it isn’t my Kindle, then it has to be one of my dictionaries and thesauruses, which I love to read in the toilet, because there is no limit as to how few or many words you can check while doing whatever it is you’ve got to do in the toilet. In this category my absolute favourite is Eugene Ehrlich’s The Highly Selective Thesaurus for the Extraordinarily Literate, and I warmly recommend it to anyone who wants to broaden their bathroom reading horizons.

Or then it’s a printout of whatever chapter or scene I am writing – and here lies the danger, I can see it clearly now, because the moment you bring your own texts to the toilet your characters enter there, too.

And once they’re inside, there’s no way of getting rid of them, and you just got to share your bathroom with imaginary people.

So read what you must in the toilet, as long as you have not written it. That’s my heartfelt advice for all fellow authors.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Indie Spotlight: Sonia Taitz


I love doing spotlights with small press authors. It's a great opportunity to get them talking about all sorts of behind-the-scene-y kinds of things with their books. 

Take this one, for example. Sonia Taitz (no stranger to TNBBC) dishes on her newest release, Down Under, a fictional story of love and loss, which she claims is loosely based on Mel Gibson. 


Take a peek at the three most common questions she gets hit with when she mentions that fact:








The Gibson Girl Speaks Out
                                                           
 When I tell people I’ve just published a novel loosely based on the life and loves of Mel Gibson, I usually get the same reactions:
            1. “Aren’t you afraid of him?”
            2. “Did you hear what he says about his critics?”
            3. “Does he know about your book?”

I’ll answer each question in turn.
         
   1.  I am not afraid of him. The Mel Gibson I know (not that I actually know him, but I’ll get to that) is – when not under the influence of alcohol or other distorting neurochemicals – a good, loyal, and kind man. Not to mention a multimodal genius. On top of which, he is known to be a good parent, and I place a great value on that.
           
 2. Yes, I did hear what he’s said about his critics.  And there have been a few. When his movie “The Passion” came out, reaction was not uniformly positive. One of Mel’s most vociferous opponents was Frank Rich, former head theater critic for The New York Times, and now a cultural columnist on pretty much anything he likes. Or doesn’t like. Mr. Rich hated “The Passion,” and said so in bold black and white, in the paper of record.
           
         Mel’s reaction to this negative, very public disdain was to say (and I paraphrase slightly):
          
         “Oh, Frank Rich? I want to rip out his intestines and put them on a stick. And then, I want to feed them to my dog.”
           
          That’s a critique in itself, I’d say – and nothing that I’d want to have directed at me, or my middle.  But I’ll make allowances. Mel’s world is macho, and his movies can be graphic. Have you seen what happened to Braveheart? Or what the ancient Mayans did to the unfortunates in “Apocalypto?” Add to this that the man may have felt beleaguered. At the time Mel made this comment about disemboweling his denigrators, he was inundated with criticism. He was peppered with daily buckshot. And this guy is not shy; he’s nothing if not outspoken. I think he was saying, essentially: “Ouch.” I don’t think Mel Gibson literally wanted to excise Frank Rich’s upper and lower intestines (including appendix and duodenum) and feed them to his Fido in a bowl.

           On the other hand, I did feel some small misgivings when my brother, who lives in LA, reported sighting Mel at his gym, working out in the company of someone the muscle mavens call “Mr. Testosterone.” The possibility of androgen being given to this already slightly touchy man – a man with growing lats and delts – did not enhance my own sense of bodily safety.

            Still, essentially, I feel my bowels and all my other parts are under no threat. And, to milk this metaphor to death, I think Mel Gibson likes people to have some guts. He does, so why can’t I?

3.  I highly doubt that Mel Gibson knows anything about DOWN UNDER. I will tell you why. First, I explicitly warned my brother not to greet the superstar, mid-rep, hoisting iron and grunting, like this: “Oh, thought you’d wanna know. My little sis wrote a book based on you. She’s Jewish, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, so you know she might wants to start a war here.  And, funnily enough, she lives pretty close to your favorite person, Frank Rich.” (Note – Frank actually used to live in my building.) No, my brother heeded my request and said nothing.  Of course, he chatted to Mel, who was there day after day, but mostly about he-man stuff. Nothing that would lead to homicide, or even a slight tantrum directed at an innocent female scribe, however Semitic.

Second, no one knows much about any novel, unless it’s been written by Stephen King or Danielle Steel. (That’s why sites like this are vital in getting the actual good word out.) Even big media coverage doesn’t always change this calculus. I remember appearing on the “Today” show to promote my first book, large publisher and all. Katie Couric herself, in her heyday, interviewed me! I thought I’d have to wear shades for the rest of my life, cowering from the Kliegs, shouting “no photos, please!” Not so. Can you name that book? (It was MOTHERING HEIGHTS. It is out of print.)

Third, and last, Mel and I had the chance to meet and speak, but we did not. Twice, he shot movies on my very block.  I watched him ambling around my corner of the world, catching some breezes and rays near his trailer.  For a moment, I thought of speaking to him, but knew that stars don’t like to be bothered, and that he was working. But I could tell Mel was a good guy simply by the way he treated others on the set. At that time, I’d been writing culture pieces for The New York Times for several few years. I’d interviewed lots of stars, not all of whom were as nice as they appeared. One who was not only nice, but intelligent and grounded, was Jodie Foster. This two-time Oscar winner has always remained loyal to Mel Gibson, even as others (former friends) ran for cover. Jodie was clearly a wonderful person herself, and her positive view of Gibson – staunchly expressed over recent years – says something about both of them. 

If you add my two neighborhood sightings to the Foster connection (not to mention my brother as Mel’s gym buddy), I have practically met the man, right?

            So, with that authority vested, what I want to say about my novel and Mel is this: DOWN UNDER has little to do with the “facts.” The story I wrote flowed out of my head. It’s my vision of what a man like him would have been like as a vulnerable boy. How he grew, whom he loved, what broke his heart, and the journey he takes to mend it. DOWN UNDER is fictional, down to the bottom. It’s true to my own heart, and that’s all it wants to be. There’s a touch of its magical source in there, but it’s like the twitching of a wand. A sprinkle of stardust.  Now you see him, now you don’t.

What Mel would make of the book is secondary, but I do hope that he’ll like it.
            



            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Sonia Taitz is the author of In the King's Arms (2011), a novel described as "beguiling" by The New York Times Book Review. Her last book was the prize-winning memoir, The Watchmaker's Daughter (2012), which was praised by Vanity Fair, The Readers' Digest, and People, featured on C-SPAN's BookTalk, and nominated for the Sophie Brody Medal by the American Library Association.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Book Giveaway: Winterswim

Since July 2010, TNBBC has been bringing authors and readers together every month to get behind the book! This unique experience wouldn't be possible without the generous donations of the authors and publishers involved.




It's the first of the month and you know what that means.
It's time to bring you January's Author/Reader Discussion book!




We will be reading Ryan W Bradley's novel



Ryan  has made a total of 12 copies available, 
4 print (for US residents only), 4 digital PDF's and 4 audio downloads (both open internationally) 




Here's the goodreads description of the book:

Pastor Sheldon Long was born of the woods, raised in a secluded cabin by a mute mother and an abusive father who preached God's vengeance. Forced to take control of his own destiny, Pastor Long found God in his own way, melded with the mythologies of his mother s tribe. Now he's out to send the wicked, as he has judged them, to heaven.

Steven, Pastor Long s son, is simultaneously pining for his former babysitter who has moved to Hollywood and crushing on nearly every girl he goes to school with. Soon his preoccupation with the opposite sex lures him into investigating a string of drownings that local police are declaring accidents.

Ryan W. Bradley's novella weaves religiosity and mythology into a tale of drugs, sex, and murder set against the frozen backdrop of blue-collar Alaska.
 




This giveaway will run through December 8th. 
Winners will be announced here and via email on December 9th.




Here's how to enter:

1 - Leave a comment here or in the giveaway thread over at TNBBC on goodreads, stating why you'd like to receive a copy of the book, what format you prefer (choose one option from above), and where you reside. Remember, only US residents can win a paper copy!

ONLY COMMENT ONCE. MULTIPLE COMMENTS DO NOT GAIN YOU ADDITIONAL CHANCES TO WIN.

2 - State that you agree to participate in the group read book discussion that will run from January 19th through the 24th. Ryan W Bradley has agreed to participate in the discussion and will be available to answer any questions you may have for him. 

 *If you are chosen as a winner, by accepting the copy you are agreeing to read the book and join the group discussion at TNBBC on Goodreads (the thread for the discussion will be emailed to you before the discussion begins). 

 3 - Your comment must have a way to contact you (email is preferred). 


GOOD LUCK!