Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Bronwyn Reviews: Strawberry Fields


Strawberry Fields
Publisher: Fence Books
Winner of the Fence Modern Prize in Prose
Released: 2018





reviewed by Bronwyn Mauldin




Strawberry Fields is a book of names. Half the chapters are titled “Alice,” the name of the novel’s protagonist. Each of the remaining chapters is titled for its narrator, 17 of them named, three identified only by nicknames. Alice and Modigliani are trying to solve the simultaneous murders in a hospital ward of Iraq war veterans. Names are important, as Alice explains:

“I had profiles of the victims, tons of background. In my notes I used their first names, hoping to call them up, make them feel known: Kareem, Frances, Jonathan, Sergei, Diana.”  

Through the course of the novel we have fleeting encounters with 36 more named characters, a few others identified only by an initial or characteristic, a handful of dogs named after their behaviors, one very, very bad man.

That man is Bill LeRoy, CEO of Xenith, a transnational corporation making millions selling war, mercenaries, and security services. Any resemblance to Erik Prince and Blackwater USA (now known by the more anodyne “Academi”) is intentional. One great conceit of this novel is that much of it is true. Dialogue is taken directly from former prisoners at Guantánamo and from Donald Rumsfeld. Protesters occupy a city park for weeks. Reporters try and fail to discover why innocent people were shot during Hurricane Katrina.

I started reading this novel just as massive wildfires were exploding across California. To be reminded of the Bush administration’s startlingly inadequate response to one of the worst natural disasters to hit the US even as the current president was tweeting out threats to cut federal funding to fight wildfires, was to be reminded the crisis of democracy we are living through today did not happen overnight. So many scenes in this book center around a war Americans are trying to forget. It may be tempting to look back at the Bush years and think, at least they had an ideology, in comparison to nihilistic drive to amass wealth and power driving the current administration and its camp followers. To read this book is to find yourself back in that time, but with the benefit of hindsight. Plum, by treating the Katrina murders and killings committed by mercenaries in a time of war equally as crimes, helps us see the ideology of that administration was nothing more than a wrapping of red, white, and blue tissue paper.

Those aren’t the only crimes and injustices Plum’s characters explore. Reading this novel is a bit like reading the newspaper. Its disconnected narratives leave you with the sense that no matter how much you’ve read when you finally put it down, tomorrow’s newspaper will offer more injustices to read. That is, of course, the point. We are surrounded by disconnected injustices, and we get only a cursory view of them through the news. Behind the stories we read are people, famous and otherwise, whose lives we will never know, even if we know their names.

In a chapter titled “La Gringa,” the American narrator arrives in the village where her grandmother had been born, somewhere in what is probably the Balkans:

“The village was much as one would expect, though the background of mountains and sky more spectacular than I would have imagined. The children’s clothes were not traditional but dirtied American castoffs – Mickey Mouse, Adidas, mesh shorts.”

While this novel gives us the victims’ names and reminds us to think of them as human, it treats them only as victims. We see the damage wrought by American foreign policy, but that is all we see. At the end of the novel we know Alice and we have a better picture of the five murder victims, but as when we read the newspaper, we know little about the other people we’ve passed along the way. Today, I find myself equally interested in seeing the world through the eyes of those who’ve lived through war and authoritarianism. I want to know how they find agency, continuing to go to school, fall in love, get married, go to work each day. How do they find the strength to live lives that are full and meaningful, even in terrible times? I am certain they have something to teach us.




Bronwyn Mauldin writes fiction and poetry and is creator of The Democracy Series zine collection. Her newest work appears in Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California.  

Monday, December 3, 2018

Where Writers Write: Sue Ingalls Finan

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 Sue Ingalls Finan. 

She is a graduate of University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and Loyola University Chicago. She taught American history and literature in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Northern California, and her adaptive writing and story-telling are featured in diverse media – textbooks, anthologies, magazines, and newspapers. “The Cards Don’t Lie” (She Writes Press, Oct. 9, 2018) is her first novel. Now living in Sonoma County with her history buff husband Jim, she writes for her local newspaper and volunteers at hospitals and libraries with Duffy, her Irish wolfhound therapy dog.







Where Sue Ingalls Finan Writes




For me it’s not the where that’s important– it’s the important wear!...

When looking for inspiration, I slip into my snuggly Ugg moccasins. And while cuddled in their warm fuzzies, ideas slip into my head.



They take me lots of places – around our neighborhood of bulcolic lakes and wildlife, weekly visits to local libraries and museums, exploring and sightseeing our many diverse locales while in the passenger’s seat of my husband’s car, shopping for the latest and greatest at farmers’ markets, cooking Ottolenghie’s newest recipes in the kitchen, even perched on the sofa watching the Borgias or the Durrells on Netflix.



And always, as my feet are making impressions in the Uggs fleecy soles, so too are impressions being made on me, lining my soul with suggestive writing notions. Once ensconced in my “writer’s zone,, I jot down concepts on scrap papers and post-its, and sort through them later.   Llike that scene in the movie “The Post,; the “office floor” becomes littered with numerous pieces of the “evidence” - (my thoughtful manifestations-) and not worthy of being photographed.)  Such a delight to find that various notions I’d scribbled are quite plush proposals; and many a perfect fit for what I’d intended and needed.

And I’m again aware that all were enabled by the wear of my cozy moccasins: Hugs to my Uggs!


Friday, November 30, 2018

Page 69: Chinese Gucci


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 Hosho McCreesh's Chinese Gucci to the test!






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

It’s the end of chapter 11, and takes place at the dogtrack in Juarez. After being fired from his fast food job, and in an attempt to reconnect with old “friends” — the book’s main character, Akira, takes an ill-advised road-trip down to Mexico.

There, he and his friends have met a group of girls, and they’ve all spent the afternoon hanging out. Akira is throwing around money, showing off, desperately thinking the girls will like him if he does. In this scene, there’s a blow up with the girl he has basically just met but likes — who has wandered off in search of a better time. Partly out of genuine concern, and partly out of a ridiculous, stalker-ish mentality, he has gone looking for the her. When Akira finally finds her, she’s at another racetrack bar, drinking shots with some random guy.


What is Chinese Gucci about?

The elevator pitch is: A modern-day Holden Caulfield, in Juarez, Mexico, living out his fucked-up version of the American Dream selling fake designer purses via his dead mother's eBay account. For me, it's a screed against some very prescient America notions (toxic masculinity, globalism, jingoism, flippant sexism and racism) with an unreliable narrator who is both his own worst enemy, and the struggling architect of his own hard-won and lonely salvation.


Do you think this page is a good reflection of the book overall? Does it align itself with the book’s overall theme?

It definitely does. It features Akira and his skewed perceptions…his bullshit, tough-guy delusions; it features fake designer purses — Chinese Gucci — one of many façades in the book; and it is a catalyst for how Akira’s whole lucrative hustle comes about. Throw in the “getting drunk in Juarez,” and it hits on a lot of the books aesthetics and themes in a single page. It clearly shows the character caught in the dissonance between who he wants to be and who he actually is — certainly at the core of the novel. He’s acting out in counter-productive ways, against his true desires — but basically unable to stop himself. And on an even deeper level, I hope the scene addresses the book’s allegorical approach to as Akira as a stand-in or proxy for the American experience.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Page 69
CHINESE GUCCI


“Hey…how much?” Akira said to the Mexican, “How much if I let you fuck my girl?”
“What?!” Blue Glitter Top said.

The Mexican started laughing.

“No shit, amigo. Two hundred, American.” Akira went on like a shopkeeper, “mira, mira…number one best priiiice.”
“‘Your girl?’” she said. “Fuck you, pal!” She took three steps, stopped, and turned — yanking everything from her fake Gucci. “You can keep your shitty bags,” throwing both at Akira’s feet. She walked a few more steps then stopped. “And you’re fat too!” She stomped away. Over her shoulder she yelled, “And you have awful skin!”

Akira stooped, picked up the purses, and was tempted to say something about the sunglasses. He couldn’t think of anything. He pretended to laugh. He ordered a beer, and drained off half with his first few gulps.

“Putas,” the Mexican at the bar said, raising his Bud.
“Yeah,” said Akira, “putas,” raising his can before draining off the rest.


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





Hosho McCreesh is currently writing & painting in the gypsum & caliche badlands of the American Southwest. His work has appeared widely in print, audio, & online.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Eat Like An Author: Chaya Bhuvaneswar

When most people get bored, they eat. When I get bored, I brainstorm new series and features for the blog, and THEN eat. And not too long ago, as I was brainstorming and contemplating what I wanted to eat, I thought how cool it would be to have a mini-foodie series where authors share the things they like to eat. Photos and recipes and all. And so I asked them, and amazingly they responded, and I dubbed it EAT LIKE AN AUTHOR. 




Today, Chaya Bhuvaneswar dishes on some of her favorite meals, family traditions, and recipes to boot: 


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


Banana leaves, the thinness of them flat against the floor, holding, precarious, mounds of rice heavy from vegetable sambar. These were my first introductions to thali eating. Not the metal but chlorophyll, green tasty leaves that roll, disposable and no longer replete, modest, quiet outside houses where pigs and dogs sniff them out and lick off traces of left over meals.



The thali itself, made of metal, conveys a cool resistance to the urgently hot food. Touching one of the metal thalis my parents brought from India, bounteous plates from my grandmother’s trousseau, valuable across decades, I see that thalis are unbreakable.


I feel unbreakable, sitting on the floor and eating with my hands. As if I am already there, taut in the low place where my oppressors imagine me. I am there, and like Langston Hughes’ dark child eating in the kitchen, shoved out of the grand room, forced into the back, I sit there in the place I have been pushed, and eat. Eat and grow strong.

There’s a tradition of broad shouldered, meaty-armed brown women in South India. Some are former dancers and singers; some have even entered politics. There’s no way to choose one and put her picture below, but in my mind there is a picture of a composite Tamil Tayi, goddess of my parents’ native language, and it’s that picture that gives me permission to eat course after course of rice. First rasam shadham (RECIPE HERE: https://www.wikihow.com/Prepare-Rasam-in-Tamil-Nadu-Style; note – avoid any places that say “don’t use rasam powder.” Just don’t play that. Don’t. Also be suspicious of people who use the phrase “lentil donuts.” You see that in a restaurant claiming to be Indian – get up and walk out. They’re VADA’s people. VADA’S. Or vadai’s. But NOT donuts. No.).


THEN a combination, over at least two hours, of several sabzi’s (neat how what Americans call “curry” is “sabzi” in the rest of the world, like Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, etc. and also translates to “vegetables”). (Note: curry/ sabzi = NOTHING to do with raisins. NOTHING. Sorry. Feel strongly about that.)

Good samples: bindi (okra). Dry. Don’t fry it too much. Oh, OK, here’s a recipe. I’m trusting you:


Others that TASTE FANTASTIC but occupy a range of difficulty to actually make and/or get supplies for but I HAVE TO INCLUDE MY MIND IS WATERING:

Bitter gourd curry. (sighs, salivates). This is what my grandmother used to make for me starting from my first night in Madras at her house. She knew I loved and craved this. CRAVE. Basic recipe is you cut and shallow fry after starting a mix of peppercorns, sesame seeds, lentils sputtering on the fire. Real Simple. Ha. Sort of as simple as preparing a souffle, really.


Not to forget some kind of either potato curry she would make or else this other root vegetable. I THINK it was dry taro curry. I KNOW it was LIT. You can try to make it from this Youtube video. It won’t be the same. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af-KO-z16-8

She definitely wouldn’t have let me watch the silly looking hippies playing their guitars during a meal like this. NEVER.

Anyway, other sabzi’s. Don’t want to miss out. Eggplant and karamani – black eyed peas. Have you ever? Ah, if not, I pity you.  Even my mother, too busy to cook that much, had mastered a spicy, redolent black eyed peas chundall (a kind of dry chili? Can’t think of a comparison) she would serve every year for Navaratri, nine holy nights you can learn about here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navaratri. But Eggplant and karamani curry. The textures just worked together. No need for rice in that spoonful or small handful to the mouth, from the thali. Try this (the coconut is key. DO NOT USE PRE-FAB. Buy a coconut, crack it, take out the meat, use a metal shredder. Will not regret. You may need a machete to crack it. Don’t be scared though. My grandma wasn’t.)


Wait, you aren’t full from all that sabzi yet, are you?? I thought I told you – we KEEP THE PORTIONS small. They all have to fit on banana leaf. You’re eating a dab or two of each, not mounds.

Because next you have to eat CARROT SAMBAR. Or GREEN PEPPER SAMBAR. Either one will send you to heaven, with steamed white rice (preferably Jasmine long grain rice). Fine – a recipe. Try, try, why not. Everyone aspires. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMe0zgAO5-0

II.

Are you full yet? Because you’re not finished. Probably you need to get up from the floor where we are sitting (wait, first it was just me, did you join me there? Watch out for the folds of your sari. DO NOT spill anything on the 9 yards of silk, Ok??) Walk around. Exercise care. Above all, do not knock over the Madras kapi – hot, milky coffee in metal tumblers – I remember almost burning myself on when I was a child intent on duplicating what my grandmother died, she with her strong hands pouring from one metal cup into another, fast, to cool the coffee off quickly, so men could drink.

You haven’t had one major dish, with which I’ll stop. Thyru shadham, or “yogurt rice”, with different varieties of pickled vegetable or fruit, my favorite being mango and lemon pickles. Eat this and you’re guaranteed to sleep, no matter how wicked you’ve been. It has become a hangover cure, about that I’m not surprised. Like coating your insides with the most soothing of things -  yogurt – and making the yogurt stick, with rice – but first waking yourself up, bloodshot eyed and all, with that pickle. Luckily, neither of my grandmothers ever saw me use Thyru shadham in this desecrated way. Not that I ever did in college, and whatnot.  Recipes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d41Wz-U006I and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fj5uZz047KI. (I included the mango pickle Youtube recipe for entertainment. You’re not going to make that. Just buy this: 





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

Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a practicing physician and writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, Tin House, Electric Li, The Millions, Joyland, Large Hearted Boy, Chattahoochee Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Awl, jellyfish review, aaduna and elsewhere, with poetry in Cutthroat, sidereal, Natural Bridge, apt magazine, Hobart, Ithaca Lit, Quiddity and elsewhere. Her poetry and prose juxtapose Hindu epics, other myths and histories, and the survival of sexual harassment and racialized sexual violence by diverse women of color. In addition to the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection prize under which her debut collection WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS was released on Oct 9 2018, she recently received a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, Sewanee Writers Conference Scholarship and a Henfield award for her writing. Her work received several Pushcart Prize anthology nominations this year as well as a Joy Harjo Poetry Contest prize. Follow her on Twitter at @chayab77 including for upcoming readings and events.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Audio Series: Shelf Life of Happiness


Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was 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.




Today, Virigina Pye reads from her short story collection Shelf Life of Happiness
Virginia is also the author of two award-winning novels, Dreams of the Red Phoenix and River of Dust. Her stories, essays, and interviews have appeared in The North American ReviewThe Baltimore ReviewLiterary HubThe New York TimesThe RumpusHuffington Post and elsewhere.
Virginia is married to John Ravenal, Executive Director of deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, and is the mother of two young adult children, Eva and Daniel.






Click on the soundcloud bar to listen to Virigina read from the short story Crying in Italian.








What it's about:

In these bittersweet, compelling stories, Virginia Pye’s characters long for that most elusive of states: happiness. A young skateboarder reaches across an awesome gap to reconnect with his disapproving father; an elderly painter executes one final, violent gesture to memorialize his work; a newly married writer battles the urge to implode his happy marriage; and a confused young man falls for his best friend’s bride and finally learns to love. In each story, Pye’s characters aim to be better people as they strive for happiness—and some even reap the sweet reward of achieving it. 


Monday, November 19, 2018

Eat Like An Author: Jennifer Spiegel


When most people get bored, they eat. When I get bored, I brainstorm new series and features for the blog, and THEN eat. A couple years ago, as I was brainstorming and contemplating what I wanted to eat, I thought how cool it would be to have a mini-foodie series where authors share the things they like to eat. Photos and recipes and all. And so I asked them, and amazingly they responded, and I dubbed it EAT LIKE AN AUTHOR. 




Today, Jennifer Spiegel, author of the recently released And So We Die, Having First Slept, shares what she likes to eat most: 


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



I am known for making exactly one dish.

And it’s beautiful.

Quiche. My quiche runneth over.



I’ll put anything in it: organic shredded pepper jack, chicken sausage with garlic or sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, sautéed spinach and onion and mushroom. Good stuff. I mean, it’s gorgeous! Despite my uber-traditional family unit (a mom, a dad, two kids, two cats, one dog, four glow fish named Sprite, Siri, Galaxy, and Fish Stick), and our seemingly orthodox gender roles, I avoid cooking and baking whenever possible. We eat a lot of burritos and spaghetti. However, I love “The Great British Baking Show,” chiefly for its character development and weird English dishes (Blood Pudding! Suet! Game Pie!).

But there is nothing about my eating habits to suggest that I write. Except for the incessant cup of coffee by my side. I can, perhaps, create some writerly edicts related to my food intake:



  •     We have bad reputations as drunks and smokers, so whenever you eat a salad, post a photo of it on social media and be sure to mention that there’s kale in it. (I eat a lot of salad and kale!)



  • ·         When you go to Trader Joe’s in the autumn, be sure to appreciate the sensuality and color and aesthetic thrill of pumpkins and cranberry and all that other stuff that you know you’ll never make. (If I were to suddenly start cooking, I’d like to make it artful to reflect my sense of beauty, right?)

  • ·         Occasionally, make a pizza. As with your writing, be unruly, bold. But remember that a pizza is still a pizza. (My cuisine is frightfully ordinary, but extraordinary too—if you know what I mean.)


I wish I could call myself a foodie. I wish I could reveal a sophisticated palate, or tell you about my experiences with French cuisine. I love good food. I really do. I am enamored by chocolate hazelnut whatever, and Chicago hotdogs, and chicken and waffles, and sweet potato fries, and street tacos, and lobster tail, and sprigs of this or that.

Alas, this particular writer is more of a voyeur than anything else. Don’t eat like me. Let me eat like you.

I want to know what you are eating. I want to eat like you.  



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

Jennifer Spiegel is the author of three books, The Freak Chronicles (stories),  Love Slave (a novel), and And So We Die, Having First Slept (forthcoming in December from Five Oaks Press). She’s also half of the book-reviewing duo, Snotty Literati.For more information, go to www.jenniferspiegel.com

Friday, November 16, 2018

Where Writers Write: Maria Romasco Moore

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 Maria Romasco Moore. 

Maria's stories have appeared in The Collapsar, Diagram, Hobart, Interfictions, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and the Lightspeed anthology Women Destroy Science Fiction. She is an alumni of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and has an MFA from Southern Illinois University. She currently lives in Columbus, Ohio with her partner Axel and cat Gamma Ray. She likes silent films, aquariums, and other tiny windows into other worlds. Learn more at https://mariaromascomoore.com/










Where Maria Romasco Moore Writes




Often, when I try to write at home, the dishes get done instead. Clean dishes aren’t an entirely undesirable outcome, but no one is going to publish them in print.



Whenever possible, I like to write far away from household chores. I write on trains, scribble ideas in notebooks on buses or subways. I’ve written in laundromats, at softball games, and during classes I am teaching.  



Sometimes I write outside, on my $30 ebay junkmachine (an alphasmart) which is terrible for editing but perfect for freewheeling first drafts and is unaffected by the glare of the sun. Down the street in the middle of a tiny traffic circle is a miniature park with a bench. Sunlight through leaves is the best office decoration I could ask for.



When I really need to concentrate, I toddle over to that old standard: the coffeeshop. My current favorite is The Bitter Barista. It is a pleasant walk from to my apartment and is excellent for dog and passerby watching. They technically have wifi but I pretend they don’t.



I go to the library almost as frequently as the old men who are there every day from dusk to dawn. My local branch has had new construction going up across from it for the last year. I remain willfully ignorant of the wifi password.



I started writing my forthcoming book, Ghostographs, during a one month stay at an old house in Pittsburgh. It was a sort of artist/writer’s collective which called itself the Cyberpunk Apocalypse. Only one out of three bathrooms in the house worked (and even in that one, the toilet seat had fallen off and had to be balanced precariously on the bowl). There was a hole in the ceiling, no heat, and almost definitely black mold. I huddled beside a space heater in a small third floor room. The task of attempting to clean the place was too monumental to consider, and there was (despite the lack of other amenities) a dishwasher, so I was not tempted to do chores and I got along just fine



Someday, perhaps, I will live in a fancy apartment with a dishwasher of its own and then when I try to write at home, the clothes will get folded, and the baseboards will be dusted, and all the books in my collection will be organized first by title, then by author, then by color, then by how much they did or didn’t make me cry.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

Goodreads Choice Award Ceremony - Here and Gone



Readers, I apologize for the delayed recap of the most awesome, most outstanding, super amazing Goodreads Choice Awards Ceremony that took place last week in NYC. 

Here's the highlight reel: 




Doors opened at 530pm for presenters. Yes, I said presenters! Goodreads Community Manager Emily, who did a bang up job putting the whole shingdig together, asked me and two other site influencers to present an award each to some of the authors at the event. Is that not the coolest thing ever??? So what you see above is the invitation to the 10th Anniversary ceremony, my name tag, a print out of my presentation speech (squee!), and a souvenier photo from a green screen booth that my hubby and I took. 



True to my nature, we were really early. so we took a walk around the space, snapping shots and soaking it all in. Little by little, the place began to fill up with Goodreads Influencers (power users of the site, like me!), authors, publishing staff, and Goodreads staffers. 



Pictured above, in the first photo, are the other two lucky and lovely ladies who presented that evening, Karen Brisette and Emily May. In the second photo, we are joined by Jeffrey, another site influencer, and Goodreads staffers Emily and Emily. Tee hee... so many Emilies. The Emily that is third from the left is the Community Manager who pulled this all together!


Then there was some mingling.... until it was time to present! Otis, the founder and CEO, kicked things off with a presentation about the site and the awards... and then.....



I got to lead off by presenting the Goodreads Achievement Award to Neil Gaiman! Of course, Neil wasn't in the crowd, he was on site at the film location of Good Omens, but he sent over an acceptance speech for us to watch. Emily May presented to Colleen Hoover (romance author), and Karen presented to Veronica Roth (of the Divergence series). Both of their authors were present and they got to hand them those cool glass awards you see the girls holding! 


After the awards were issued, there was a brief raffle, and they showcased the Goodreads Choice Nominees for each catagory for this year's awards. The evening then opened up for more networking. 



As we said our thank you's and goodbyes, I snagged a photo with the girl who pulled it all off, Emily, and with Otis (far right). And the staff sent us home with some goodies in a swag bag, pictured bottom middle - A book, a pair of wireless Goodreads earbuds, a charging power pack, and a journal, along with some chocolate, bookmarks, stickers and buttons. 

All in all it was all pretty dreamy, and is an evening for the record books. If it wasn't already clear, Goodreads really cares about its relationship with its users and customers. The staff continue to impress me with their thoughtfulness and their interaction with us is so genuine and passionate... they are always seeking ways to keep users like me engaged with the site and a continued part of its growth. I was thrilled to have been included in this once-in-a-lifetime experience!!!

And sadly, now... I have to slink back into "real" life..... until the next time!!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Goodreads Choice Awards Ceremony - Go Lit or Go Home

Monday has finally arrived, you guys! 


Tonight, I will be strutting in style at the Goodreads Choice Awards Ceremony in NYC. So today, I will be spending most of the morning freaking out about it and pulling my final outfit together. I'll be rubbing elbows with Goodreads staff, authors, and fellow site users like myself. There will be appetizers, drinks, and awards!! I can't wait!!!

A few days ago, I shared with you the amazing book purse that Novel Creations custom made for me. Today, I figured I'd give you a little peek at the other items I've aquired for the occasion. I'm warning you... I'll be decked out head to toe in bookish, literary goodies. Check it out....




Novel Creations, Jules Verne Book Purse: 


About Novel Creations: 

Working for a used book store, I would bring home the books they wanted to throw away. I just could not see them taking a dive in the dumpster. Eventually, I had to come up with an idea to recycle them. I found directions on how-to-make-your-own book purse and I knew that was it. Well, following those directions, I ended up making a HORRIBLE book purse. Nothing like the photo that was shown. After many mishaps and lots of improvements, I was able to make a book purse and good enough that family and friends wanted me to make them one! Because of my love of books, it was time to start sharing this creative bookish accessory with other book lovers and my Etsy shop was born in the year 2008. My book purses have been showcased numerous times on BuzzFeed, Geek.com, Chicago Times, L.A. Times, USA Today and Horror Finds.



Mohawk Scarves, Book Print (Dictionary) Scarf: 



About Mohawk Scarves:

The most identifiable thing about me, beside my awesome rambunctious boys, is my purple Mohawk. Being stopped often about either my hair or my scarf, I knew marrying the two was the perfect option for my little shop. After selling scarves locally I decided to venture out not only on Etsy but with what I handcraft for purchase. The profit I make goes toward my growing boys, participating in operation Christmas child, and our hobbit style home building process.



The Enchanted Page Decoupage Shoes: 



About The Enchanted Page: 

Unique items for the book lover's home and wardrobe.





Cute Polish Newspaper Nail Art: 



This is the one piece of my outfit I had to design all on my own. The video makes it seem super easy... and I assume with lots of practice I can probably get them to come out better, but not a horrible first attempt. Keep in mind I NEVER wear nail polish and when I do it typically looks like a six year old applied it, so I'm pretty chuffed with the results. heheheh.




I decided to keep the dress super simple. It's a sleeveless black slip dress (with pockets!) and I'll throw on a black waist belt with a silver buckle to round it all out. I promise to share photos later this week so you can see how it all comes together. But right now, it's time to have a panic attack about how I'm going to wear my hair and makeup!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Badbass Book Purses, Biatch



Hey you guys! I received some pretty incredible news over the past few weeks and have been dying to share it with you all. But being unsure of just how much I can divulge beforehand, I wanted to give you a tiny little teaser....

As a long-time user and active moderator on the Goodreads website, I've been dubbed a "Power User", which is pretty badass all on its own, right?! Some of you may remember when they flew me and a handful of other users out to the California headquarters back in 2017 for a meet and greet with the team, and a brainstorming sesh?

Welp, Goodreads is upping their game and hosting a Choice Awards Ceremony in NYC this coming Monday. It's invite-only, and sounds like it's going to be the bash-to-end-all-bashes - power users, authors, and Goodreads staff members will be there in full force, and I swear, it's been totally taking me back to those whole when-i-was-a-kid-and-i-thought-christmas-would-never-come days.

To keep myself occupied and to make the wait for Monday a little less excruciating, I started searching the web for bookish attire... book-print dresses, scarves, shoes, whatever! I figure it this way... if I'm going to a once-in-a-lifetime book bash, I'm going to go in style! YOLO, biatches!

One of my very first searches landed me in this cool etsy shop called Novel Creations. It's run by Karen, and she custom designs handmade book purses. I immediately fell in love with this Jane Austen purse...


But as adorable as it is, I am ashamed to say I haven't actually read anything by her, and how embarassing would it be to be hanging out with all these like-minded book people, and have one of them ask which of her novels I liked the best, only to smile meekly and admit I'd not cracked one open yet. So I continued to snoop through the site until I landed on the perfect bag! Not only is it completely friggen decedant, but it's one of my all time favorite classic authors....

Behold....

The Jules Verne Book Purse!!!!



Not only is the purse gorgeous, but look at that packaging job... tucked loving into a box full of shredded book pages (I asked Karen if those were the pages that were once part of the Verne book, and the answer is yes, along with the pages of other books she was producing at the time!)

Just look at this thing, you guys!







If you dig this purse, I strongly recommend you check out Karen's shop! Karen has been an absolute doll and the work she does is just amazing.

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Here's a little more about her and her shop:


Repurposed Book Purses and Book Clutches by Novel Creations.

A New Chapter In Purses 

I handcraft these unique purses from actual hardback books and leather-bound books. These recycled book cover handbags and wallets make for a special bookish gift idea, or the most eye-catching pocketbook you will own. A literary chic style that book lovers adore! 

Book-loving Brides, writers, and bibliophiles enjoy a wonderful way to show off their great taste in books and literature and lets you enjoy a piece of your favorite books and poetry as you go about your day. 

Now creating Book Wallets from mini-hardback books, mini-leather bound books and paperback books! 

Novel Creations Since 2008 A New Chapter in Purses
www.etsy.com/shop/novelcreations


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And... as if she can't get anymore awesome... she's given us a coupon code to share with all of you! 
Get 15% off anything in her store using this code: 




If you end up purchasing a book purse or clutch from Novel Creations, we'd love to hear all about it! Share in the comment section below!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Where Writers Write: Rita Dragonette

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 Rita Dragonette. 

She is a former award-winning public relations executive turned author. Her debut novel, The Fourteenth of September, is a woman’s story of Vietnam which will be published this fall by She Writes Press. She is currently working on two other novels and a memoir in essays, all of which are based upon her interest in the impact of war on and through women, as well as on her transformative generation. She also regularly hosts literary salons to introduce new works to avid readers.










Where Rita Dragonette Writes




As I move off the cusp of transitioning from a consultant/part-time writer into full-time author status, I’ve been able to indulge a bit and turn my home office (a next-door condo) into a place with everything I always wanted in a writing space: lots of light, art for inspiration, a huge bulletin board for my outlines and notes, a giant desk, and lots of surfaces for all the stuff that surrounds a writer. What I particularly love are the ceiling-high bookshelves that make me feel like one of Max Perkins’s clients from the ’20s or ’30s. Hey, we’re writers . . . we imagine!




Planning this ultimate space was part of a process. I still struggle with establishing an intractable minimum three hours in the early morning as a writing schedule. I’m convinced that’s what is required to produce consistent work, and it’s my goal. So, it was important to make my work space esthetically pleasing, inspirational, comfortable, and a pleasure to spend so much concentrated time in, day in and day out. For example, I’ve filled it with art—mostly from great friends, including the four photographs that face my desk from brilliant photographer Karen Thompson. Looking up to see that genius as I stare off into space helps keep me on task. Once I’m here, I never want to leave and only depart when my neck and back decide they’ve had it for the day.



Practically speaking, after working on my dining room table for so long, I now am able to totally trash my work space (I’m a piler) and just close the door. What a luxury.

But to get started each morning I also needed to make sure my work space was sufficiently alluring not only to work in, but also to get me into. I have a tendency to go through the “concentric circles of procrastination” (my term for, first, I’ll clean out the refrigerator or pay all my bills), and that all-important boost to get me out of my kitchen, away from my newspaper, and down to the work of writing has to be wonderful or, in my case, musical.




Music was important to keep me in the mood while I was working on my novel, The Fourteenth of September. The story is set in the 1969-1970 time frame and those Soundtrack of Our Lives tunes are integral to the story. I can’t play music while I write (since I’d be singing along), but songs play in my head, scene by scene. I have even taken the seminal vinyl albums of the time and preserved their covers on a full wall as if they were art—and some of them genuinely are (Revolver, In Search of the Lost Chord). Knowing they are there, in the morning, after the newspaper, propels me towards my office. I open the door and pass the wall, scan the album covers and invariably a song “jumps out,” and lodges itself in the stereo of my mind to keep me company as I set up for the day…and I’m there.

It’s heaven.