Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Where Writers Write: Claudia Smith

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

Where Writers Write is a weekly series that will feature a different author every Wednesday 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 Claudia Smith. 

Her stories have been published in several journals and anthologies; her short short collections, The Sky Is A Well And Other Shorts and Put Your Head In My Lap are available from Rose Metal Press and Future Tense Books respectively. She is currently working on a book, Quarry Light, with Magic Helicopter Press. More about her can be found at

Claudia sent us a video, which gives us a peek into her writing space:

Where Claudia Smith Writes

(not sure why it uploaded to YouTube sideways but there ya go!)

Next week, come see where Mark Maynard  finds his writing mojo.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: Could You Be With Her Now

Read 1/15/13 - 1/16/13
3 Stars - Recommended to fans of the emotionally charged and slightly taboo
Pgs: 180
Publisher: Dzanc Books 

While reading Jen Michalski's Could You Be With Her Now, I found myself oscillating between a slew of emotions, which, for me, is the mark of an talented writer. Unafraid of the strange and uncomfortable, Jen pushes and pounds against the walls that separate the acceptable from the unacceptable with these two novellas.

In I Can Make it to California Before it's Time for Dinner, Jen introduces us to Jimmy, a mentally handicapped teen (think 5 year old Jack of Room and Lenny from Of Mice and Men, all rolled into one)  whose knowledge of the world is limited to the street in front of his house and the shows he watches on TV. This naivety leads to the accidental death of a neighborhood girl when he heads out in search of his tv show "girlfriend" after a fight with his brother. Guilt ridden and fearful of the consequences Jimmy will face, his brother tells him to hide behind the schoolyard until things blow over but Jimmy loses his way and gets picked up by a sleazy truck driver with bad intentions.

May- September deals with the unlikely pairing of two women and the relationship that develops between them as they begin working together. Alice, a young writer who has just broken up with her girlfriend, is hired by Sandra, an intense and particular older woman, to write her memoir. As their awkward friendship develops into something more, they struggle to let go of their individual baggage and the unspoken taboos that come with the territory.

While both are well written and open our eyes to the delicate, fragile side of humanity, my favorite of the two - I Can Make it to California... - will drown you in an ocean of emotion. Unaware of the ugly and inappropriate side of human nature, Jimmy's childlike ability to trust strangers and believe what is told to him is almost too painful to bear and its simplistic point of view makes your heart bled for him as events begin to unfold. As I read, I was finding it harder and harder to breathe, feeling my throat constrict with disgust and my stomach sour as I watched every parent's worst nightmare unfolding before my eyes.

May-September offered my brain a welcomed reprieve by switching gears and gracefully dealing with a more appropriate (and for me, slightly less realistic) form of human interaction. While their relationship is incredibly tender, I had a very difficult time understanding what attracted Sandra to the much younger woman, even as I questioned Alice's infatuation with her.

As a woman in my mid-thirties, I feel I am right on the cusp of the age-gap crisis. On one side of the fence are the twenty-somethings. While they are not entirely taboo, the early twenties are longer attractive to us. They are too untouched by life, too wide-eyed and fickle, too chiseled (yes, believe it! It is possible). On the other side hang the forty and fifty-somethings. Closer to us in age and maturity, defined much more by what they've done than what they wish to be, their life experience is more of an aphrodisiac.  Look at Viggo Mortenson, George Clooney, Michelle Pfifer, and Sharon Stone. Amirite? Ladies, wouldn't you take Robert Downey Jr over Ashton Kutcher? Johnny Depp over Robert Pattinson?

But someone who is on the early side of their twenties falling in love with someone who's settling into their sixties? I have a hard time processing that. The age gap is just too incredible, the personalities and interests just too vast and divided.

Kudos to Michalski for giving me ALL THE EMOTIONS. Whether you fall into these two stories willingly, or struggle to catalog and exercise all of the demons you are dealing with as you make your way through, one thing is certain. Michalski will make you feel. And feeling... well, feeling anything feels good.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Gabriel Böhmer's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Books & Booze  premiered as a new mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC back in October. The participating authors were challenged 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. 

Beetle Days’ Books & Booze

You’ve not read my novel. There’s a good reason for that. It’s not out yet! But it is currently a Kickstarter project, and you can pre-order a copy. I got in touch with TNBBC, and after checking out my page, Lori was kind enough to let me contribute to the site. Thanks Lori!

Beetle Days is a satire about the greed and herd mentality one so often sees today. Told as a fable of talking sheep, people, and dissatisfied beetles. Beetles that don’t stand in queues. Insist on free air travel. And steal things whilst mouthing off.

The book’s a bit experimental. Sometimes silly. Sometimes sad. About here. And there. Me. And you. And booze certainly plays a role. Here are some of the characters you can encounter and their TNBBC drinks!

Abaddon’s Last Tipple
-1.5 oz Absinthe
-Raw Cane Sugar Cube
-Soda Water
-Handful of Snow
-1 Stick from Outside (It can be a Cinnamon Stick if you must)

You’ll need
-Absinthe Glass
-Absinthe Spoon
-Ice Pick?

Get your snow, or use an ice pick on your freezer to make some (good exercise), and place in glass. Pour in the Absinthe. Spoon goes on the glass and the sugar on the spoon. Slowly add the soda water to dissolve the sugar. Get your stick and dip it in Absinthe. Light on fire. Hold a few seconds. Marvel at sparkly fire! Throw it in.

Who’s Drinking? Abaddon, the Death Watch Beetle

He’s an old beetle that lives in the rafters of the farmhouse. He has a deep kind voice, but if one listens to his words, it becomes clear that he’s a pest of the highest order. He likes to wait for John (our human protagonist) to fall asleep and then tells him strange and terrible things. Not loud enough for John to register his words, but loud enough for them to echo in his dreams.

Abaddon would like to tap on wormwood, but he’ll settle for a nice drink of Absinthe. He generally keeps it traditional, but his favorite accompaniments are fire and snow.


Sangria Valais
-Glass of Chasselas White Wine
-Handful of Alpine Strawberries
-1 oz Kirsch
-1 tbs Raw Cane Sugar (to taste)
You’ll need
-Trustworthy Cat
-Wine Opener

Plant your strawberry bushes. Employ your trustworthy cat to guard them. Give her license to kill if beetles show up. And instruct her to purr lots. The vibrations and frequency will deter most pests. Now wait for a few months until the fruit arrives. Is it there? Is it ripe? Good. Harvest! Sloppily throw everything into a glass and enjoy.

Who’s Drinking? Françoise, the Valais Blacknose

She’s a sheep. She’s not terribly bright, but very nice. And she can talk.

While extensive research has concluded that the difference between speaking and mute animals is negligible, it’s of note that discount supermarket chains were the sole sponsors of the study. Luckily, John refuses to eat Françoise. And instead, she runs a landscaping business. But in all honesty she just demolishes gardens and hopes to be paid.

The combination of ingredients in the Sangria Valais reminds her of home. And it’s just this kind of nostalgia that goes well with slow and steady intoxication.


Bourbon and Strange Ice
-Quality Bourbon
-2 tsp Raw Cane Sugar

You’ll need
-Plastic Container (4X the Dimensions of an Ice Cube)
-Good Kitchen Knife
-Heavy Book on Hypnosis

Plant your orange trees and mint bushes. Your cat watching the strawberries? Good. Up the kitty treats to watch these as well. Harvest! Cut some orange rind and wash with the mint. Coarsely chop the rind. Bruise the mint by wrapping in a towel, placing on the floor, and throwing your hypnosis book as high as you can (ideally landing on the leaves). This will ensure even bruising… I think. Throw rind and mint into your plastic container and add the sugar. Add water. Put in freezer. As it’s beginning to solidify mix well so everything’s even. Once solid, you’ll have a nice chunk of ice riddled with mint and rind. Throw into an old fashioned glass and pour bourbon over. Play my song More Whiskey, and find a nice view and keep refilling!

Who’s Drinking? John, the Person

He doesn’t travel well. He sleeps, but never deeply. And always has strange dreams because of Abaddon. He finds both these issues remedied somewhat with books on hypnosis, and a few good drinks. Sometimes he feels full and bad in the mornings as a result. So please drink responsibly.

John finds beetles quite irritating and wishes they would stop taking stuff from his apartment. There are nice things in John’s life as well though. Like the talking sheep, and the farm, and the bird of prey that visits him but never says anything, despite being well versed in the classical languages.

Bourbon has just the flavor and kick for right before bed. The fresh ingredients, grown in John’s backyard, finish everything off nicely. Goodnight, Sleep tight. Don’t let the beetles bite.


Better Coffee (for the Teetotal)
-Roasted Coffee Beans (less than two weeks old)
-Sugar (if you must)

You’ll need
-Antique Handheld Coffee Grinder (Such as a Zassenhaus grinder)
-Stovetop, Semi, or Fully Manual Espresso Maker
-An Opinel Pocket Knife

Grind your coffee beans. Use your Espresso maker (you know how to do it). Cut a thin sliver of rind from the lemon. Wash it! Who knows what beetles have climbed all over it?! Pour your coffee shot in an appropriate vessel. Throw in the lemon rind. Add ice if you like. 

Who’s Drinking? Everyone

Otherwise they’ll need a nap. And the modern world isn’t comprised of enough hours in the day for that sort of thing. And beetles will take their stuff.


Writer Gabriel Böhmer was born in Zurich, and has lived in London, Buenos Aires, and Boston. He used to work in the consulting industry but left in 2011 in pursuit of his own work (a production company in its start-up phase) making things and writing. He enjoys long distance running, building fires (to cook things), and banging on random objects to see what sound they'll make.

Beetle Days is currently a Kickstarter project. The campaign ends Feb 15th. Official Site. Twitter

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Where Writers Write: Colin Dickey

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

Where Writers Write is a weekly series that will feature a different author every Wednesday 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 Colin Dickey

Colin is the author of Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Cabinet, TriQuarterly, and The Santa Monica Review

He is also co-editor (with Nicole Antebi and Robby Herbst) of Failure! Experiments in Aesthetic and Social Practices. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, he now lives in Los Angeles.  Author photo by Seth Sherwood.

 Where Colin Dickey Writes

I write—habitually, necessarily, endlessly, pathologically—in cafés. Of all sorts—corporate coffee shops amidst commuters getting their morning double half-caff venti sugar-free lattes; hipster cafes with their hand-picked fair-trade small-batch really-expensive pour-over coffee; and every where in between. Mom and pop cafes that make terrible mochas and have décor left over from a hellish mid-80’s yardsale. Places packed to the gills with college students surfing the web. Places that were hip when Nirvana’s Nevermind was released and haven’t bothered to update anything since then. I can only spend a few hours at a time in any given coffee shop, which means that when I’m under a deadline I’ll hit three or four coffee shops in a day, starting in the morning and going until the last one closes at 10 or 11 p.m.  Which means in such cases I’m usually over-caffeinated and a little nauseous.

My writing life consists of wobbly tables, the barrista who thinks that playing Counting Crows on repeat is appropriate, west-facing windows that obliterate the world with sunlight in the late afternoon, a mental cartography of where the most electrical outlets are, and who has the best pastries.

I can’t write at home, which is a shame. But at home I’m surrounded by things that make me happy and distract me, and especially in the late afternoon my house makes me want to nap. Nor can I write in libraries. I’ve come to realize that places like that—quiet places like my house or a library or a place suited to writing—all have the same problem: a kind of stifling quietness, an oppressive weight that makes it more, not less, difficult to concentrate.

What’s important for me about coffee shops is the ambient noise and motion, the sense that things are going on around me. I tune most of this out with headphones, but even in the background it helps to remind me that the world is in motion, that the day is passing me by and I need to stay focused, and that someone is watching me play yet another game of Sudoku. It doesn’t matter if this isn’t true; it helps me to internalize the vague, disinterested stares of those around me.

The problem with writing at home is that it’s just me. Ditto with the library, where the goal is to obliterate anybody but you. But reading, at its heart, is a not-entirely-equitable relationship between reader and writer, between oneself and one or more perfect strangers. I love being in cafes because I never forget about that relationship, that there’s always someone at the other end of the page.

Check back next week to see where Claudia Chen finds her inspiration.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Audio Series: Lynn Melnick

Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen." is an incredibly special one for us. Hatched in a NYC club during BEA week, this feature requires more work 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, Lynn Melnick reads two poems from her debut collection If I Should Say I Have Hope, published by Yes Yes Books.

Click on the Soundcloud link to experience poems from If I Should Say I Have Hope as read by Lynn Melnick.

The word on If I Should Say I Have Hope:

The title of Melnick’s stunning book is a microcosm of the poems within—the uncertainty of If I Should Say followed by the defiance of I Have Hope. Her poems follow moments of unmooredness ("I am best / when I dabble in consciousness and a soundly / spinning room") with blinding insight (“You wouldn’t know happy if it kissed you on the mouth”)—tiptoeing followed by a kick to the head. On the melancholy-go-round of these poems, there’s a swan-seat for sadness but also a tiger called Beauty and a horse called Hope. The unexpected music and syntax of Melnick’s work will make you want to ride/read it again and again.

- Matthea Harvey
*lifted from goodreads with love

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review: The New hunger

(Not the actual cover image)
Read 1/12/13 - 1/15/13
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to fans of Warm Bodies, zombie lit, and prequels that refuse to give it all up
Pgs: 128 (E-novella)
Publisher: Zola Books
Release Date: 1/28/13

It's the early days of the collapse. The streets are littered with corpses, buildings have been looted and cleaned out, and the dead are slowly taking to their feet.

Twelve year old Julie rides in the SUV with her parents as they move from city to city in search of safe zones. She misses her friends and her school, but is learning to adapt to this hard, new life. Somewhere else, Nora and her little brother Addis pick through stores and buildings in search of food and temporary shelter, always on the lookout for other survivors. They are starving and scared, and are being followed by a silent large man with a gaping hole in his gut. Meanwhile, in the woods, a tall man begins to stir, a new kind of life animating a body that was once dead. He has no memory of who he is but immediately feels a strong desire to find others.

As these characters make their way towards each other, awful and unexpected things will happen and as the dead become more aware, underestimating their power and hunger can be fatal.

The New Hunger behaves very much like a prequel - giving its readers a glimpse into each characters' back story, building the tension and expectations typical of a zombie apocalypse that pushes these separate groups together - while still screaming for even more back story and falling this short of  leaving off where Warm Bodies began.

Fans of Warm Bodies will be happy to find themselves falling back into Isaac Marion's capable hands, trusting the decisions he makes along his destroyed and demolished landscapes, eagerly anticipating his every twist and turn. Never read Warm Bodies? No worries, The New Hunger works very well as a stand-alone novella too. Zombie fiction lovers who pick this up are guaranteed to find something to sink their teeth into.

Other recommended Warm Bodies / zombie / prequel-ish online samplings can be found here: Boarded Window and here: I am a Zombie Filled with Love

Go get your zombie on!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Death of a Ladies' Man

Read 1/8/13 - 1/12/13
3.5 Stars - Recommended to readers who like their love complicated and devious
Kindle eBook
Publisher: 3AM Press

Dear dirty politician,

Did you really think you could fuck around on your wife, for years no less, and not get caught? Haven't you witnessed enough of your brothers falling from grace for the exact same thing? What makes you so special, that you should be spared the same embarrassment?  Because you were careful? Because you took precautions? Ha!

Once a cad, always a cad, amirite? So sad, really. The shame and humiliation your family had to suffer, all because of your selfish acts.. your inability to keep it in your pants.. your obsession with the female sex organ. You got so used to having whoever you wanted, whenever you wanted, that you let it cloud your thinking. The power of your position went straight to your... head. It boiled your blood, didn't it, the desire? To have sex with a hot woman, any woman? It started to drive you mad, didn't it?!

Seeing a lovely lady and expecting, convincing yourself that she wanted you as much as you wanted her. What gave you the right? It certainly served you right, you fuck up. You horny bastard. You give men a bad name. A bad rap. You're the reason wives worry when their husbands call from the office and tell them they're "running late". You and your cheating ways.

And your wife, man, did she make it easy for you, or what? No balls on her, that one. The less she knew, the better and how lucky for you that she never questioned or cared what you were up to when you were away from home for so long. Poor girl, no self esteem, no self respect. And willing to stand behind you through almost all of it. Why am I not surprised that this added fuel to your cheating-fire instead of filling you with guilt?

Oooohhh, but the guilt eventually found you, didn't it? No matter where you hid or how hard you tried to outrun it. It worked its way into you and consumed you and made you mad with it.

I almost wish your wife had found out before the rest of us did. It might have been your saving grace.

A disgusted non-voter.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Where Writers Write: Kathleen Rooney

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

Where Writers Write is a weekly series that will feature a different author every Wednesday 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 Kathleen Rooney

She is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a three-person team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She is wearing a mustache in her author photo to celebrate the release of her sixth and latest book, Robinson Alone, a novel in poems based on the life and work of the poet Weldon Kees. She lives in Chicago with her husband, the writer Martin Seay. 

Where Kathleen Rooney Writes

Earlier this spring, I read Edna Ferber’s novel So Big, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1925. In it, Ferber has the unhappy and unlikeable title character Dirk “So Big” DeJong, during his soon-to-be-abandoned studies to become an architect, express his distaste for the type of structure in which I have my writing space:  

His contempt for local architecture was now complete. Especially did he hold forth on the subject of the apartment-houses that were mushrooming on every street in Chicago from Hyde Park on the south to Evanston on the north. Chicago was always very elegant in speaking of these; never called them ‘flats’; always apartments. In front of each of these (there were usually six to a building), was stuck a little glass-enclosed cubicle known as a sun parlour. In these (sometimes you heard them spoken of, grandly, as solariums) Chicago dwellers took refuge from the leaden skies, the heavy lake atmosphere, the gray mist and fog and smoke that so frequently swathed the city in gloom. They were done in yellow or rose cretonnes. Silk lampshades glowed therein, and flower-laden boxes. In these frank little boxes, Chicago read its paper, sewed, played bridge, even ate its breakfast. It never pulled down the shades.

Unlike Dirk—whose opinion Ferber clearly intends for the reader to disagree with—I love my solarium on the third and top floor, even when it’s not sunny. Rainarium, windarium, cloudarium, snowarium—this room is my favorite place to write. 


Check back next week to see where Colin Dickey gets his writing on.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Audio Series: Tod Davies

Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen." is an incredibly special one for us. Hatched in a NYC club during BEA week, this feature requires more work 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, Tod Davies reads to us from her novel Lily the SilentShe is the author of Snotty Saves the Day, and Lily the Silent, books one and two of The History of Arcadia series. She believes that imagination forms stories, and that stories form reality--which means that imagination forms reality. So it's not at all strange that the world of Arcadia, which has discovered the same principle to be true, should be sharing their fairy tales with our world through her.

By the way, she not only believes in mermaids, she has met one recently, and can guarantee that the Arcadian description of them, related in this recording, is completely true.

Click the soundcloud bar to experience an excerpt of Lily the Silent, as read by Tod Davies.

The word on Lily the Silent:

Lily leads a serene life in Arcadia until the forces of Megalopolis invade. Rescued from slavery by a prince of Megalopolis, Lily is sent to retrieve a very important key. Aided by her friends, her dog Rex, and even Death herself, Lily's adventures take her from the Moons to the Bottom of the Sea, and finally back to Megalopolis, where she faces the decision of her life. Will she choose True Love and relinquish the key to those in Power or will she risk everything for who she is and return the key to Arcadia?

Narrated by Lily's daughter, Sophia the Wise, this is a story about a girl who learns to live by her own light and--no matter how reluctantly--become the queen her people need. Full of Arcadian legends, it is also a fairy tale within a fairy tale about a troubled world not unlike our own, as well as a beautifully illustrated prequel to "Snotty Saves the Day," which critics and booksellers hailed as "Lewis Carroll with footnotes by Jonathan Swift," while comparing it to authors whose work can be savored by readers of all ages: Susanna Clark, C.S. Lewis, George Orwell, and L. Frank Baum.

Tod Davies lives with her husband and her two dogs in the alpine valley of Colestin, in Oregon, where she discovered the first Arcadian manuscript, and at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, in Boulder, Colorado.

Mike Madrid, a native San Franciscan, is the author of "The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines."
*lifted from goodreads, with love

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Review: Wool Omnibus

Read 12/25/12 - 12/30/12
4.5 Stars - Highly Recommended / for the cautious, curious, and malcontent
Pgs: 532
Publisher: Self published

When you look at Hugh Howey's Wool Omnibus sitting on the couch beside you, you think "whoa, how am I ever going to finish this brick?" A large and daunting presence in any review pile, I decided to tackle this monster during Christmas break, when I had 5 lounge-around-the-house-and-do-nothing-all-vacation days laid out ahead of me. I was feeling the beginnings of what soon developed into Strep Throat and wasn't moving off of the couch unless nature, or my stomach, called, so it seemed the perfect time to crack that spine and dive into things. (and for the record, I totally didn't crack the spine. I am not a book abuser. It's not in my nature. Actually, I don't think I am physically capable of cracking spines. Books or otherwise. I've tried. I start to break out in a sweat and my hands begin to shake as I force them to bend the book apart. I cringe and look away, and just. can't. do. it.)

I'm not ashamed to admit that Wool and I started off a little rocky. The first line - "The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death..." - felt strange, as if I'd just walked into the middle of story-time and had to scramble to figure out what the heck was taking place. Wait. Who was Holston? Why was he climbing to his death? What do they mean, climbing? Climbing what? Where the heck is he? Stop. Stop the story. I need to know.

I read on, just a few pages, then found myself flipping back to that first line and reading it all, all over again. I blame part of it on my being under the weather and not at my reading best. I blame the rest of it on good ole fashioned impatience. Because I hate not knowing things. I hate feeling like everyone (yes, even fictional characters) knows more than me. And I hate to wait. Little did I know that making one wait is what Wool is good at. Or that most of the characters would turn out to know a heck of a lot less than I did...

Wool is a self published author's dream. What began for Howey as a stand alone, self published novelette back in 2011 quickly grew into a five-part series as he worked to meet the demand of his readers. That five-part series was then optioned for film in 2012 and picked up by Random House for a hardcover release this month in the UK. Not too shabby for a book that started its life as a 49 page story about an undefined apocalyptic event that destroys the earth and forces its survivors to live underground, huh?

Over 140 levels below the surface of a ravaged earth, a society of people have managed to eek out a living that somewhat resembles our own within the concrete confines of the Silo. They work, they go to school, they eat, and they sleep. There are mechanics and IT personnel, doctors and nurses, farmers and couriers. Cameras, placed outside the Silo at ground level, project images of a nearby destroyed city inside its walls. It's the only contact these people have with the outside world. Rules have been put in place, everyone is expected to obey the laws of the Silo; the Mayor and her sheriffs are the enforcers, and all criminals are sent out to clean. To even speak of the outside can be grounds for banishment.

Fear of the outside keeps the people in line, keeps the peace, quiets the questions. The people have been locked away within the Silo for so long that none of them have ever known any other life. They wouldn't know what to question. There are rumors of past Uprisings. Of groups of people who rebel against the laws and demand to know what the Silo's government is hiding. Secrets that a select few appear to be protecting. But each time, the history books are wiped clean and somehow peace is always restored and the hush of normalcy returns.

Holston, the man who is climbing to his death at the start of Wool, has stumbled upon a secret and it has been eating him alive. And if you only read that first 49 page story, what you won't know, dear reader, is that  we are witnessing the very beginning of the next Uprising...

Reminiscent in some ways of M. Clifford's The Book - another self-published novel that deals with a twisted, manipulative government and a futuristic, dystopian society of people  - Wool worries at the frayed edges of man's sanity. How long will people allow themselves to be herded along like mindless sheep? Is man bound to repeat history when the past has been hidden from him? Can a powerful few ever truly keep mankind in check? Is the threat of death enough to stunt human curiosity?

Over the course of Wool Omnibus's 500+ pages, Howey toys with those very questions and tugs his readers down along the dark and difficult stairway of the Silo to discover the answers. And discovery came quickly to me, because I was barely able to put the book down after starting it. A quick paced, lightening fast read for those who are not content with waiting.

Whether you are a fan of the Wool series, dystopian novels, or self published literature, come join TNBBC between January 15th and January 30th, as we host Hugh Howey in a two week long discussion of those very things AND MORE.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Molly Tanzer's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Books & Booze  premiered as a new mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC back in October. The participating authors were challenged 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. 

Molly Tanzer's Infernal!

Mixology is a passion of mine, so I was tickled when Lori asked me if I would like to compound some sort of  A Pretty Mouth-themed libation for The Next Best Book Blog. I hadn’t yet designed an Ivybridge cocktail; last year, around the book’s publication I’d been tinkering with The Heavenly Twins  (two cocktails with the same base, titled after a book that planted the seed for A Pretty Mouth in my brain many, many years ago when I was still in grad school) but nothing that was strictly Calipash-themed.

For those of you who have read A Pretty Mouth, or any of the individual stories in the various places they appeared before the collection debuted, you know that the Calipash family is a degenerate but noble line given to occasionally spawning pairs of evil/unsavory twins, usually during periods of English history and literature that are of interest to me personally. (Convenient, that.) For those of you who haven’t read A Pretty Mouth, well, feel free to buy it! It’s available in e- and regular book form … but as I just explained it’s shtick feel free to make the cocktail below and just not really get the joke.

Though there are many—five, to be precise—pairs of twins featured in A Pretty Mouth, I decided to do only one cocktail, based on the original pair: Basil Vincent and his twin sister Rosemary from the original Calipash story, “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins.” Basil and Rosemary will always be special for me for a number of reasons (You never forget your first, right? Or something) and they also work together a lot better than most of the perpetually flaky Calipash spawn. Juxtaposing ingredients harmoniously is an essential part of creating new cocktails, after all.

Here’s a brief description of those original Ivybridge twins for the uninitiated:

“Truth be told, even had Basil been interested in women, his slouching posture, slight physique, and petulant mouth would have likely ensured a series of speedy rejections. Contrariwise, Rosemary was a remarkably appealing creature, but there was something so frightening about her sharp-toothed smile and wicked gaze that no boy in the county could imagine comparing her lips to cherubs’ or her eyes to the night sky…”

(Basil would, of course, be played by a young Jeffrey Combs and Rosemary by Chloë Moretz.)

Anyways! I wanted to design a cocktail that was sweet and sour and bitter and seductive, dangerous and amusing, and also somewhat historically interesting/educational. I must say I’m rather proud of the resulting potent potable. It’s vaguely gimlet-ish but with a few extras that make it a bit more special, and it’ll get you where you need to go.

Some explanation before the recipe:

1.      The “Infernal!” uses as its base “Old Tom” gin. If you’re not familiar with Old Tom, it’s a gin that traces its roots to the 18th century, and was immensely popular during the Victorian era. You can find bottles of Old Tom in high-end liquor stores these days. I think the most commonly-available brand is Hayman’s, but you can also find one these days called Ransom. I haven’t tried that one yet, but I very much want to. Basically, Old Tom gin is sweeter than a London Dry gin like Bombay Dry or, god forbid, Tanqueray. If you can’t find a Tom-style gin, ask your favorite liquor proprietor for a recommendation on a sweeter gin than the usual Dry style one finds most regularly these days. I really like Maxim, which is inexpensive, or Hendricks. But the fad for micro-distilling has provided the home mixologist so many regional options it’s best to ask someone locally in-the-know.
2.      Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur is available in most liquor stores. It’s used sparingly in many classic cocktail recipes, so it’s worth picking up a bottle. Most only call for a teaspoon or less so it’s a good investment.
3.      Real absinthe. Find some. Herbsaint (a common substitute for absinthe, especially in the Sazerac) is, in my opinion too strongly flavored, and as it’s often artificially colored … no thanks! Real, legitimate absinthe is legal and easy enough to find these days, so there’s no reason to compromise. If you’re unsure if you like absinthe, get a little bottle. Lucid, for example, makes smaller bottles, is reasonably priced, and totally good. If you can get Leopold Brother’s absinthe (Colorado peoples especially, I’m looking at you!) it’s amazing, but it’s a small distillery. Just be sure, in the liquor store, to check the back of the bottle (eschew artificial coloring if you can!) and read reviews before you buy.

Okay! Enough chit-chat and noodling. Time to start drinking! Or rather, mixing. Mixing then drinking is preferable, of course.


2 oz Old Tom gin
½ oz basil and rosemary-infused simple syrup (recipe follows)
½ oz lemon juice
½ tsp. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
¼ tsp real absinthe

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice; shake vigorously and pour gently over a cocktail cherry* nestled in the bottom of a chilled cocktail glass.

Basil and Rosemary Simple Syrup

The leaves of 4 stripped sprigs of rosemary, washed well
1 c natural brown sugar like Turbinado or Demerara**
1 ½ cups water
The leaves of 4 sprigs of basil, washed well

Combine the first three ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 minute, then kill the heat and let steep for 45 minutes. Strain and chill. Store in a sealed Tupperware or mason jar or something, and use within 1 month of making. If you’re not making Infernal!s, use it in place of sour mix in a whiskey sour or Tom Collins, but avoid using Rye. The spicy notes make resultant cocktails taste like those lemon-eucalyptus cough drops. Not good.

*Recommended: Luxardo Maraschino cherries for the cherry in the bottom. Yes, those cocktail cherries you’ve laughed at for being priced around 19 dollars a jar. Trust me, they’re worth it—and more importantly, you’re worth them.

** Not grocery-store brown sugar! If you don’t have natural brown sugar, use regular white sugar.

That’s it! Thanks much to Lori for reviewing A Pretty Mouth and for taking an interest in the project. We’re doing an author Q&A inFebruary so check back for updates on that, it should be a blast! 

Molly Tanzer lives in Boulder, Colorado along the front range of the Mountains of Madness, or maybe just the Flatirons. She is a professional writer and editor, among other things. Her debut, A Pretty Mouth, was published by Lazy Fascist Press in September 2012, and her short fiction has appeared in The Book of Cthulhu (Vols. I and II), Future Lovecraft, and Fungi, and is forthcoming in Zombies: Shambling through the Ages, Geek Love: An Anthology of Full Frontal Nerdery, and The Starry Wisdom Library. She blogs—infrequently—about writing, hiking, cocktail mixing, vegan cooking, movies, and other stuff at, and tweets as @molly_the_tanz.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Where Writers Write: Jane McLoughlin

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

Where Writers Write is a weekly series that will feature a different author every Wednesday 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 Jane McLoughlin

She is an American from Minnesota who has lived in the U.K. for twenty years. She’s written screenplays, radio dramas, and has had several short stories published. She lives in Brighton with her husband and teenage children, and teaches English in a secondary school. At Yellow Lake (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books) is her debut novel.

Where Jane McLoughlin Writes

First, a bit of ancient history: I started writing when my kids were small (they are now VERY big) and so my first writing space was the kitchen table, where I’d bash out short stories on old manual Imperial typewriter. A few of these were published in literary magazines, but it took me longer to finish a story than to grow a baby and, as the stories weren’t all as amazing as my kids turned out to be, my “career” wasn’t particularly lucrative.
Still isn’t, as a matter of fact. But now that I no longer need to use correction fluid, little erasers with brushes, or those weird fiddly tapes, the writing process is at least less cumbersome, less messy (usually; see below) and less time-consuming.

Luckily, I’m still happy writing on a table in the bedroom, or in any room of the house. I don’t need any special equipment other than a fast keyboard and a well-lit screen. I don’t have any pictures around me or favorite mementos. Usually, I’m just surrounded by clutter: a pair of scissors, a coffee cup, part of yesterday’s newspaper, some loose change, a hair dryer, and even a towel and extra keyboard because I usually spill a cup of tea over everything!
So where I write has never been a huge issue for me. How I write is much more important. I need QUIET; no soundtrack, please. I need to be ALONE; no cafes, either. When I started to write neither of those conditions were available to me.

Hey, remember how Mum used to yell at us to leave her alone and be quiet?
Wasn’t that fun?

But there is one writing place that is special to me.

My family has a lake cabin in northern Wisconsin, and this place--the cabin, the surrounding forests, the lake--was the setting for my debut YA novel, At Yellow Lake. I didn’t write the entire book there, but I was looking out at its view while I wrote some of the book’s most difficult scenes.
It’s a beautiful place, as you can see. To use it as a setting where terrible things, as well as good ones, happen to the teenage characters I’d come to know and love should have seemed wrong. I don’t consciously mine my own life when I write. In this case, though, it seemed right to connect scary fictional events to a place where I’ve always felt safe and secure.

Maybe that’s what I need from a writing space: a sturdy anchor, in a calm harbour, so that I can visit dark, dangerous places and still find a safe passage home. 

Check back next week to see where Kathleen Rooney writes.