Thursday, July 2, 2020

Blog Tour: The Wounded Ones



We're happy to help Meerkat Press support the release of their latest title The Wounded Ones by participating in their blog tour. 

And if you're at all into winning free stuff, they're running a giveaway where you can potentially win a $50 book shopping spree. Click here to enter. 



For today's stop, G.D. Penman is taking it to the toilet. 



Oh yes! We absolutely have 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, G.D. Penman takes it to the toilet. Penman is the author of the Strata Online and Witch of Empire series, the ghostwriter of more than 50 books, and a freelance game designer. A firm believer in the axiom that any story is made better with the addition of dragons, he is fulfilling his destiny as an overweight bearded white man by pursuing a career as a fantasy author. In “real life” he lives in Scotland with his partner, children, dog and cats. Just . . . so many cats.





I can’t work on the toilet. I can’t do whatever the kids are demanding, I can’t cook a meal, I can’t write. It is literally the only place in my entire house where I am not feeling lazy for not doing something else.

It is a place with a singular purpose, a purpose that I abuse for the excuse of getting a little bit of reading done. The kind of reading that you can pick up and put down multiple times a day – depending on coffee intake.

For me that means non-fiction rather than short stories. Short stories are a smoke-break pleasure, not a poop-break pleasure. You have to keep these things separated. I you’re smoking on the toilet then you need to change your diet.



So without further ado, what I read while I poo:


The Battle Royale Slam Book
Edited by Masumi Washington & Nick Mamatas
Like all of these books, this lives on my kindle, and dipping into it reminds me why I started writing the weird stuff that I write on a daily basis. Each of these essays addresses a different viewpoint on the cult classic film/manga/book, talking about elements of the story in ways that even the author might not have predicted.

Feel Free
Essays by Zadie Smith
While the slam book is full of really niche pop culture essays that are only of interest to me, Feel Free is chock full of essays on such a breadth of topics that I can guarantee whoever picks it up is going to find something of value. There isn’t a specific reason I read this book, I just enjoy it.

Impossible Owls
Essays by Brian Phillips
Travel writing almost always focusses inadvertently on the travel writer rather than the culture that they’re invading, so Phillips collection of essays – technically sports writing in a lot of places – is a refreshing change of pace. He blends elements of the cultures into the style that he is exploring, and he seeks out the fringe viewpoints that reflect a reality of that central culture. Amazing work.

The Good War
Studs Terkel
This is an old, probably out of print, book that I keep going back to. Enough of my projects revolve around conflict that a perspective on war is vital and no perspective on war matters more than the ones from the front lines. Terkel’s book is a narrative history woven together from interviews with the people who fought in the Second World War. A perspective that has been lost as that generation passed away. I should probably say something trite about learning from history so it doesn’t repeat, but honestly that ship has sailed.

Girls and Sex
Peggy Orenstein
What I thought was going to be a quick and fun Sex and the City style romp through modern attitudes about sex turned into a deep dive about the waves of feminism and how they’ve been weaponised against women by the corporate power structures pretty much instantly. Blending interviews with these bigger overarching themes really helps them to punch you in the gut and make you take notice.

Phone
I can’t handle Twitter on the toilet. You never know when you might scroll past something that sends you into a sphincter clenching rage, and that is not conducive to a functional visit to the smallest room in the house. What I can do is browse through my stockpile of tabs full of non-upsetting news stories and interviews. I’ve also tried reading recipes  and food writing while on the crapper, but it feels fundamentally wrong.




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





THE WOUNDED ONES by G.D. Penman
Book 2 in the WITCH OF EMPIRE series

Release date: 6/23/20
Urban Fantasy / LGBTQ / Detective


SUMMARY:
Demons and serial killers are Iona “Sully” Sullivan’s bread and butter, but nothing could have prepared her to face off against the full weight of the British Empire at the height of its power. With the War for American Independence in full swing, she finds even her prodigious talents pushed beyond their limits when citizens of the American Colonies begin vanishing amidst rumors of crop circles, hydra sightings and worse. Through a wild and lethal adventure that will see her clashing with the Empire around the world and beyond, the only constants in Sully’s life are an undead girlfriend, a giant demon crow that has taken a shine to her, regular assassination attempts by enemies on all sides, and the cold certainty that nothing and nobody is going to make it out of the war in one piece.



Monday, June 22, 2020

Audio Series: The Ancestor



Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was iriginally hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.


In light of all the social distancing and recommended reduction to group events, we're happy to help support those who have recently published, or will soon be publishing, a book. It's hard enough to get your books out there, and now with the cancelation of book events and readings making it even harder, I want to do my part to help you spread the word!



Today, Lee Matthew Goldberg is hanging on the blog today, reading an excerpt from his forthcoming Alaskan Gold Rush novel The Ancestor. Lee is the author of the novels SLOW DOWN and THE MENTOR from St. Martin’s Press. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The first book in an international thriller series, THE DESIRE CARD, is out and PREY NO MORE is also forthcoming in 2020. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press, Monologging and others.










Click on the soundcloud bar below to experience an excerpt from The Ancestor, as read by Lee Matthew Goldberg.




TNBBC · The Ancestor Chapter 1 Excerpt


What it's about:

A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he's certain they do not exist in modern times-but from his life in the late 1800s. After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow's life. Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he'd been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis's wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love. This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can't be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.

A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future. The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice….

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Blog Tour: The Attic Tragedy



We're happy to help Meerkat Press support the release of their latest title The Attic Tragedy by participating in their blog tour. 

And if you're at all into winning free stuff, they're running a giveaway where you can potentially win a $50 book shopping spree. Click here to enter. 


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



For today's stop, J. Ashley-Smith would like to introduce you to one of his favorite books: 





J. Ashley-Smith recommends 
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima

As a student, way back in nineties Sheffield, I had an obsession with thrift store book finds. I was studying film and creative writing and had a voracious, directionless reading habit, fuelled almost entirely by random discoveries on the shelves of this or that charity shop between my house and the campus. I judged every book by its cover, bought anything that aligned with my aesthetic of the time – mostly mass market paperbacks of the sixties and seventies. This was how I discovered Japanese author Yukio Mishima and his incomparable classic, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea.
The first copy I bought was the 1976 Penguin edition, a tie-in with the movie released that year (a shamelessly westernised adaptation, which I have still never seen and am not endorsing here). That version has a squint-eyed and beardy Kris Kristofferson, hair tousled and wafted in unseen ocean breezes, gazing into the distance. I thought the cover was kind of cool and was sold on the blurb:

After five years of celibate widowhood, Fusako consummates her two day relationship with Ryuji, a naval officer self-convinced of his glorious destiny… and they are spied on by Fusako’s son, Noboru, a self-possessed thirteen-year-old, ‘No.3’ in a sinister élite of precocious schoolboys.

While the back cover text alludes to the wonders inside the book’s 150 pages, it does nothing to convey the intensity, the beauty and stark horror of this perfect novella. There is something about this length of book, the short novel, that is like a swift gut punch. The opening pages – which depict with cold detachment, the killing and dissection of a neighbourhood cat by a group of prepubescent boys, led by the otherwise unnamed ‘Chief’ – set the tone for what proves to be an incredibly bleak, incredibly beautiful tale of glory and betrayal.

The story is simple: the collision of three dynamics embodied by the sharply drawn central characters. The romanticised longing of the sailor, Ryuji, for some inarticulate glory awaiting him at sea (a longing artfully penned by Mishima to be both transcendent, absurd, and painfully, pathetically human). The loneliness of Fusako, kept always at arm’s length for the sake of her son – the son she believes, mistakenly, to be in need of a father. And Noboru himself, highly intelligent and intense, his learned ’objectivity’ a rationalisation for the prevailing culture of sociopathy among his gang of school friends.

Noboru’s interest in ships leads Fusako to take him to visit a commercial steamer. There they meet Ryuji, the ship’s second mate, and both mother and son are charmed by the sailor, though for entirely different reasons. Fusako and Ryuji become immediately involved in a brief romance, while Noboru is inspired by what he sees in Ryuji as a kind of perfection, the quintessence of those ideals espoused by his highly intellectual and rigidly moral gang. Through a peephole in the back of his chest of drawers, Noboru watches his mother and the sailor make love. As long as the sailor leaves and abandons Fusako, Noboru rationalises, then that perfection he first saw will remain intact.
But Noboru’s detached infatuation with the sailor quickly pales, as one after another incident reveals Ryuji’s flawed humanity, his less-than-perfection. When the sailor and Fusako become engaged, Noboru’s sense of betrayal reaches its peak.

The second half of the book is an agonising descent towards tragedy. When Ryuji returns from the sea, he remains on shore and his ship leaves without him. His attempts to ingratiate himself with the boy, to wear the ill-fitting uniform of loving father, are entirely at odds with Noboru’s own desires – and the philosophy of his gang, who have a particular resentment of fathers and father figures. Fusako’s attempts to domesticate Ryuji, installing him as a manager in her fashionable boutique, only serve to emasculate him further in the eyes of Noboru. As the wedding draws near, the boy calls an emergency meeting of his gang. Something drastic needs to be done. Something glorious.

It’s so hard to write here all that I love about this novella. The story – its perfect, utterly horrific ending, at once surprising and inevitable – cannot be encapsulated in any form other than itself. If I write too much, I fear I’ll do more harm to it than good. And there is so much to say about Mishima himself, that author as troubled, complex and problematic as his own characters – the repressed homosexuality, the right-wing nationalism, the failed coup, the ritual suicide…

Nothing I have read, before or since, has had so powerful an impact on me, both as a reader or as a writer. This slender, immaculate book is infused with darkness, with a potent aliveness that is intensely human. A work of literary horror of the highest order, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea captures with art and precision the beauty and brutality, the monstrousness and transcendence of the everyday, constructing from its architecture of minor betrayals a tragedy of Shakespearean grandeur.




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


THE ATTIC TRAGEDY by J. Ashley-Smith
Release date - 6/9/20 
Dark Fantasy / LGBT / Novelette





SUMMARY:
Sylvie never called them ghosts, but that’s what they were—not that George ever saw them herself. The new girl, Sylvie, is like a creature from another time, with her old-fashioned leather satchel, her white cotton gloves and her head in the clouds. George watches her drift around the edge of the school playing fields, guided by inaudible voices.

When George stands up for Sylvie, beating back Tommy Payne and his gang of thugs, it brings her close to the ethereal stranger; though not as close as George would have liked. In the attic of Sylvie’s father’s antique shop, George’s scars will sing and her longing will drive them both toward a tragedy as veiled and inevitable as Sylvie’s whispering ghosts.




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




J. Ashley Smith is a British–Australian writer of dark fiction and other materials. His short stories have twice won national competitions and been shortlisted six times for Aurealis Awards, winning both Best Horror (Old Growth, 2017) and Best Fantasy (The Further Shore, 2018). J. lives with his wife and two sons in the suburbs of North Canberra, gathering moth dust, tormented by the desolation of telegraph wires.

You can connect with J. at spooktapes.net, or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  The Attic Tragedy is available now from Meerkat Press.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Where Writers Write: Clifford Garstang


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



Where Writers Write is a series in which authors 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 Clifford Garstang. 


Clifford is the author of the new short fiction collection, House of the Ancients and Other Stories, as well as two previous collections, In an Uncharted Country and What the Zhang Boys Know, and a novel, The Shaman of Turtle Valley. He’s also known for his annual literary magazine rankings, which can be found on his website: cliffordgarstang.com










Where Clifford Garstang Writes





My home office is where it has been since I moved into this house in 2001—a second-floor loft with built-in bookcases, closets for storage, and a bathroom. There’s even a window overlooking my yard. In theory, it’s ideal, even if I do have to make the occasional trip down to the kitchen for snacks or a coffee refill. Over the years, though, it grew impossibly cluttered. There is no more bookshelf space anywhere in the house, so new acquisitions formed stacks in my office, teetering piles of regret mixed with possibility. I also had boxes and boxes of literary journals that needed to go somewhere, but I couldn’t bring myself to send them to recycling. And I had a hard time throwing away documents or drafts of stories or anything else I’d produced here, so file drawer space was also hard to come by.
The office had become such a mess that I began writing in coffee shops. I’d grab my laptop and head off to one of the many such spaces in my community and find that I got a decent amount of work done and also managed to interact with people, too. Factoring in travel and socializing, it might not have been the most efficient use of my time, but I managed.

When the coffee shops closed in response to the pandemic a couple of months ago, I was forced to stay home to work. The first thing I had to do if I had a prayer of getting anything done was clean the office, or at least make it livable. I threw away a lot of paper. I removed the clutter from my desk. I organized the stacks of books so they didn’t look quite so intimidating. And for the first time in a long time I haven’t been tempted to leave, even if I had somewhere to go.

I’m now loving this space. I’ve written a lot here, over the years—my MFA thesis (an unpublished novel), three story collections, two novels (one published, one forthcoming), and a draft of another book I hope to finish this year. Not to mention the three anthologies I edited, the magazine I started and worked on for years, and countless book reviews, essays, and blog posts I’ve written.

In a previous life—I practiced international law for two decades, bouncing between Asia and the United States—I had offices that were necessary, but not particularly inspiring (although I do kind of miss my view of the Singapore harbor). Now, if I can keep the clutter at bay, I think I’ll be able to keep writing for years to come.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Page 69: Walking with the Ineffable

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....










In this installment of Page 69, 

We put Stephani Nur Colby's Walking with the Ineffable to the test!






Set up Page 69 for us. What are we about to read? 

P. 69 details a painful childhood incident mainly in the arena of nature and culture, where I became sadly made aware of some of the violence we people were heedlessly wreaking on our ecology.





What is the book about?

Walking with the Ineffable is a memoir with a core relating to spiritual experiences, both as an adult and as a child, and also to relationship with our natural world. It’s about the changing weather of belief -- what, when, and why we believe at various passages in our lives, and the startling possibilities which can open up for us if we venture “into the unknown region” of both traditional and unconventional mystical paths that carry us toward deeper aspects of ourselves and of the Divine.





Does this page give readers an accurate sense of what the collection is about? Does it align itself with the collection’s theme?

It aligns with part of the theme which has to do with growing awareness of the natural world but does not touch on the search for relationship with God and its consequences, a more pervasive aspect of the book. The shocks of personal growth that came through contact with powerful spiritual paths and phenomena comprise much of the memoir and are thus not well-represented by the incident described on p. 69.


Commentary on p.69:

To me at the time this seemed just further evidence of the heartbreak and uncertainty of life. But rescue was close at hand. Uncle “D,” a close family friend, visited, took a look at the bough, and said, “Don’t worry; we can fix this.” Having me hold the branch in its normal position, he wound layer after layer of heavy, sticky black tape around the bark. It held up when I let go. “Now just don’t bump it! And watch!”    he said.

Over months and a couple of years I watched the dogwood bark expand until it ultimately covered all the tape, and no sign of injury remained. To me, it was like a miracle and gave me new hope in life’s possibilities. 

Furthermore, Uncle D himself was a broken branch   --      a     blameless intellectual, he had been framed by an unscrupulous boss who purloined a union’s funds.  My innocent Uncle D went to prison as a result and left it a shattered man.  Yet he retained his knowledge and love of beauty, raising two generations of my family in love and appreciation of all the arts. The broken bough yet brought forth beauty and joy, and the teaching that one should never despair too soon.

This is a good sampling in the sense that much of my book deals with unexpected resiliency in hard or challenging situations and the ubiquity of hope and grace.       

                                                                                                   



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PAGE 69
WALKING WITH THE INEFFABLE




 which I peered, as if through an elegantly carved screen, at the swatches of blue sky peering back at me through their screen of lordly oak leaves high overhead.

One day, when I went out to play, I saw a small airplane flying low above the neighborhood, a strange dark spray raining down from it. It gave me a bad feeling somehow. I went in to tell my mother. She came out, looked up, and hustled me into the house. She forbade me to go out again that day, looking troubled, but explained nothing. The next morning, when I went out to play, I noticed odd little brown lumps scattered all over the ground and even way up the hill beneath the tall trees. When I went to examine one lump, I was shocked to see that it was a dead sparrow. And, as I wandered from lump to lump, I discovered that they were all dead sparrows, scores of them. I felt as if I were walking in a waking nightmare in an ornithological Armageddon. In shock, I stumbled over to my comforting Wishing Rock. Bright on its gray surface, the pink-blossomed dogwood branch framing them, lay three pure yellow dead goldfinches. Staggering as if with a spear in my heart, I scrambled back into the house and told my mother. She told me that all this slaughter was due to the DDT that the plane had sprayed to kill insects. Apparently, this poison had also killed almost everything else. She kept me in the house again that day. Later on my father went out with his heavy work gloves to fill a big bag with small dead birds.

Aghast that grown-ups could perpetrate such a rain of death, it was quite awhile before I could bring myself to return to my dear Wishing Rock and comforting dogwood tree; the mind-photo of three rigid, cold little goldfinch bodies arrayed funereally on the sparkling mica always leapt up, causing a catch in my throat and the need to turn away. A short time after I finally did resume my companionship with the rock and tree, a particularly violent thunderstorm struck. To my distress, the next day I found the main bough of the dogwood, as thick as a man’s wrist, broken off, with only some thin threads of bark still maintaining their connection with the mother tree.                                                                                         
                                                                                       




 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~







Stephani Nur Colby is a writer and editor who lives in Gloucester, MA, “the last stop before Portugal.” Walking with the Ineffable: A Spiritual Memoir (with Cats) traces her journeys through spiritual seeking in Greek Orthodox Christianity, Sufism, herbalism and energy-healing, Nature (especially with owls, hawks, and falcons), the de-anaesthetizing company of lively cats, and pilgrimages and adventures in Greece, the Holy Land, England, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Mexico, all spurred by a persistent search for the Really Real.  Walking with the Ineffable is to be issued by Green Writers Press in August 2020.                      



Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Page 69: Inconvenient Daughter

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....






In this installment of Page 69, 

We put Lauren J Sharkey's Inconvenient Daughter to the test.






Set up page 69 for us. What are we about to read?

Rowan and Valentina are students at Our Lady of Mercy Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school on Long Island, NY. At this point, their excitement for the Sadie Hawkins Dance is met with worry over the school’s new dress code after word of the cost and beauty of another student’s dress starts to make its way through the halls. In particular, Rowan is not only worried about asking her mother to buy her another dress, but also concerned that if she can’t get a dress which meets the guidelines that she won’t be able to go with her crush.
  

What is your book about?

At its core, Inconvenient Daughter is about the relationships between mothers and daughters. Rowan is a transracial adoptee from Korea being raised by two Irish Catholic parents on Long Island. Not seeing herself reflected in the faces of the people she loves most, and the lack of answers surrounding Rowan’s relinquishment, lead her to question her self-worth. Rowan – like so many of us – is searching for love, her identity, and where she belongs.


Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the book is about? Does it align itself with the book’s overall theme?

I think this page definitely gives the reader an accurate sense of the tension between Rowan and her mother, which is one of the central themes of the book. When it comes to Rowan and her mother, there’s a lot they don’t say to each other, and therefore, a lot that’s assumed. Rowan’s fear of talking to her mother about everything – from buying a dress to questions about her biological mother – leads the their inability to be close.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PAGE 69
INCONVENIENT DAUGHTER


Despite being an exemplary college preparatory school on the North Shore of Long Island, the Academy had sent a letter home after the hallways were taken over by speculations regarding Kristen Yacendia’s custom gown two weeks before the Sadie Hawkins Dance. Apparently, Badgley Mischka was a friend. Either way, Mercy let it be known it would not permit any “attire that contributes to social and economic division among its young women.”

            “Did you see this crap?” Valentina huffed, slamming her binder onto my lunch tray.

            “Dude – my fries! Watch it!”

            “This place sucks – it’s like we can’t do anything.”

            “What’s your deal?”

            She laughed at my ignorance, and passed me an envelope. As I removed and unfolded its contents, my eyes grew wider, my temperature hotter.

            “Are they serious?” I mumbled, my mouth full of fries.

            “I know!” she said, snatching the notice from me. “Check this out: Excessive cleavage is not allowed. Looks like you don’t have to worry about that one,” Valentina laughed, giving my chest a quick pat.

            “Shut up, lesbo,” I laughed, swatting her hand away. “No backless, no midriffs, blah, blah, blah…What?! Dresses may not be above the knee and are not to exceed tea-length. Absolutely no gowns are permitted. What the hell is tea-length?”

            “I don’t know, dude.”

            “Oh my god,” I sighed, lowering my head to the table. “My mom’s going to kill me – she already got me a dress.”

            “The red one?”

            “Yeah!” 


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








LAUREN J. SHARKEY is a writer, teacher, and transracial adoptee. After her birth in South Korea, she was adopted by Irish Catholic parents and raised on Long Island. Sharkey holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Literature, and her cre­ative nonfiction has appeared in the Asian American Feminist Collective’s digi­tal storytelling project, First Times, as well as several anthologies including I Am Strength! and Women under Scrutiny. Inconvenient Daughter is her debut novel, and loosely based on her experience as a Korean adoptee. You can follow her at ljsharks.com.


Monday, June 1, 2020

A Sinister Quartet's Guide to Books & Booze




Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Books & Booze challenges participating authors to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 



Today we welcome the multiple authors behind the collobrative A Sinister Quartet  which gathers original long-form wonders and horrors composed in unusual keys, with a short novel by World Fantasy Award winner C. S. E. Cooney and a new novella from two-time World Fantasy Award finalist Mike Allen joined by debut novellas from rising talents Amanda J. McGee and Jessica P. Wick. All four offer immersions into strange, beautiful and frightening milieus.

Behind the walls of an invulnerable city ruled by angels, old movies provide balm for the soul and a plan to escape risks grisly retribution. A princess discovers a passage to a nightmarish world of deception and blood-sealed enchantment. A woman who has lost everything meets a man of great wealth and ominous secrets. In a town haunted by tragedy, malevolent supernatural entities converge, and the conflict that ensues unleashes chaos.






C. S. E. Cooney (author of the short novel “The Twice-Drowned Saint”)



Alizar’s Benison Wine

In Fabulous Gelethel, which is always under angelic quarantine, the only thing citizens may drink is what is provided by the angels themselves. In this case, the Seventh Angel—Alizar the Eleven-Eyed—has provided, in his great munificence, a shrub called “Benison Wine.”

INGREDIENTS: 1 shot glass of ineffable beauty, bought on the cheap from your favorite thrift store; 1 “dollop” of Ginger Beer (brand: Reed’s “Strongest”); 1 “dash” of Jalapeño/Tequila/Lime Hot Sauce (brand: Queen Majesty, of course); 2 “glugs” of Prickly Pear Sour (brand: Iconic Cocktail Co.); and just a “soupçon” of D’Anjou Pear White Balsamic Vinegar (brand: We Olive). For garnish: a tiny, tasty red pepper! This drink is refreshing, complex, sweet, sour, and bold. Above all, it’s good for the gut!

Remember: Alizar the Eleven-Eyed provides for his people. Unlike some angels we could mention.




Jessica P. Wick (author of the novella “An Unkindness”)




Ravenna’s Notes on Heart in a Green Glass Cup
(cocktail created by Elissa Sweet)

I don’t know who thought it would be funny ha ha to name this cocktail. Certainly Aliver thinks it funny, and naturally I suspect him. I think it more funny aaaagh you caught me on my funny bone and now my whole body is unhappy. I will uncover the culprit. But even I must admit it is a very good drink for sipping broodingly at a window, preferably while light catches the ruddy ardor of the drink’s fabulous color, and then whoever you’re brooding at looks up and spies you with your heart in a green glass cup, and you give them a slight nod which means Yes, mine enemy, I do look fabulous and I will soon be defeating you in that argument we keep having and I hope you are not enjoying your impending doom as much as I am because this drink is very delicious and as soon as I have had three more I will be right down. I confess, for education purposes, I have been trying a few glasses of Heart—just to see if anybody is experimenting with variations of course. It tastes green and refreshing and I think it will give you courage if you are unable to sally forth and do deeds of derring.

Here is the recipe, complete with notes, as I have wrangled it from the notes of a very wary bartender:

2 oz gin
2 oz red berry juice (we used pomegranate cherry)
Mint leaves
3 oz seltzer

Muddle 6-8 mint leaves in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add ice, juice and gin to the shaker and shake until cold. Strain into a green glass and top with seltzer. Garnish with a sprig of mint, preferably fresh from the garden. Tastes woodsy and fruity and fresh, like a springtime walk in the pines when you happen across fresh berries. Looks like blood.




Amanda J. McGee (author of the novella “Viridian”)



Snowfall at Evergreen (Rosemary Gin Fizz):

1.5 oz of rosemary simple syrup, made with as much rosemary as you can stand (I used about 12 inches of rosemaryremove from the stem and finely dice before adding to your sugar water and cooking down)
2 oz your favorite gin (try Smuggler’s Notch, which Lori drove by on her first drive to Caspian Lake!)
4 ice cubes
1 egg white
Club soda

Rosemary is for memory and happens to be an evergreen. Combine this with a Vermont gin’s piney scent and you have the perfect odor to evoke chilling walks in the forest amidst the fresh, sound-muffling snow.

To mix, use a cocktail shaker (a regular-sized Mason jar will also work wonders here). Add the gin, simple syrup, ice cubes, and egg white. Shake until most of the ice has melted and the mixture is frothy. Pour into your favorite glass (or keep it in your jar). Add about 2-4 ounces of club soda (to taste, it’s really just a filler). Sip. I think it tastes like rosemary marshmallows. If you like your drinks less sweet, cut back on the rosemary simple syrup. You could likely add a touch of lemon or lime here to brighten (as in a traditional gin fizz), but I haven't tried that out yet!




Mike Allen (author of the novella “The Comforter”)




Southern Ember

Peaches are for devouring. So are souls. Flesh, on the other hand, is malleable as clay and vulnerable as paper, easily opened at seams you never knew were there, ready to be removed and repurposed.

For this recipe, we’ll focus on peaches. It’s so simple anyone could make it, including the culinarily untalented author, who came up with it while sheltering at home as he looked for a way to enliven his pre-existing liqueur possibilities.

In a transparent glass supplied with ice cubes, fill the bottom half to two thirds full with peach schnapps (the brand in the photo is de Kuyper Peachtree). Then, ideally pouring gently on the ice, carefully fill the glass the rest of the way with Old Camp Peach Pecan Whiskey. (We are uncertain if any other brand of this particular concoction exists.) This produces the smoky upper layer, and smoke of course signifies fire, which is a thing that terrifies even devourers of soulsbut confronting our fears makes us hardier, after all.

If you don’t have a taste for the extremes of Southern sweet tea, you might be daunted by this drink. You might even call it an abomination that shouldn’t exist, just like the monsters in this story.



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World Fantasy Award-winning writer C. S. E. Cooney is the author of Desdemona and the Deep, and Bone Swans: Stories. She has narrated over a hundred audiobooks—including her own—and has produced three albums as the singer/songwriter Brimstone Rhine. Her short stories and poems can be found in numerous anthologies and magazines. Learn more online at csecooney.com.

Jessica P. Wick is a writer and freelance editor living in Rhode Island. She enjoys rambling through graveyards and writing by candlelight. She will take her shoes off to walk through some truly freezing surf. You can follow her at instagram: foamlyre, twitter: lunelyre, or jessicapwick.com.

Amanda J. McGee is a mapmaker by day and a writer by night. She is the author of the epic fantasy series The Creation Saga, one half of the podcast Pop Fizz!, and blogs weekly on books, movies, anime, and writing advice. You can find out more on her website at amandajmcgee.com.

Nebula, Shirley Jackson and two-time World Fantasy award finalist Mike Allen wears many hats. An author, editor and publisher, his books include the novel The Black Fire Concerto, the short story collection Unseaming and the Clockwork Phoenix anthology series. You can follow Mike’s exploits as a writer at descentintolight.com, as an editor at mythicdelirium.com, and all at once on Twitter at @mythicdelirium.