Thursday, June 29, 2017

Blog Tour: Mind Virus

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....

This installment of The Page 69 Test is part of the Mind Virus Virtual Tour, 
which runs from 6/25 - 7/10. 


In this installment of Page 69, 
We put Charles Kowalski's Mind Virus to the test.

Set up page 69 for us:

Robin Fox and his colleagues at the interagency HIG (High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group) are questioning a terror suspect, called “Harpo” because he hasn’t said a word since his arrest. Their polygraph team has just given him the Silent Response Test, asking him questions and showing a video meant to provoke strong emotional responses, while closely observing and recording his vital signs and facial expressions.

What’s the book about?

Robin Fox, peace-loving professor of world religions, was once a decorated military interrogator, but he found the Bronze Star on his chest no compensation for the scar on his heart, and he has been striving ever since to make amends for his complicity in war crimes. But when an unidentifiable suspect tries to disperse a deadly virus in downtown Washington – the same one used in an attack on American forces in Iraq that Fox foiled – Fox is unwillingly drawn back into the shadowy world of intelligence.

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?

This is a turning point in the story, where the FBI and CIA get their first major clue that the suspect may not be what they think he is. When they show Harpo a back-alley YouTube clip making a mockery of Mohammed, his reaction is very different from what they expect, as we see when the scene continues:

“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” Fox asked.
 “Maybe,” Kato said in a voice that sounded as mystified as he felt. “That looks like Action Unit 12A, neutralized.” 
“Which means?” asked Adler. 
“A trace contraction, quickly suppressed, of the zygomaticus major and risorius.” 
“In English, please?” 

“She said,” Fox translated, “that he was hiding a smile.”



Charles Kowalski is almost as much a citizen of the world as his fictional character, Robin Fox, having lived abroad for over 15 years, visited over 30 countries, and studied over 10 languages. His unpublished debut novel, Mind Virus, won the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Award and was a finalist for the Adventure Writers’ Competition, the Killer Nashville Claymore Award, and the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association literary award. Charles currently divides his time between Japan, where he teaches English at a university, and his family home in Maine. 

Mind Virus is scheduled for publication by Literary Wanderlust on July 1, 2017. Other novels and short stories by Charles Kowalski: “Let This Cup Pass From Me”, “Arise, My Love”, “The Evil I Do Not Mean To Do”.

Charles can be found at his website, and on Facebook and Twitter (@CharlesKowalski).

Monday, June 26, 2017

Blog Tour: The Adventures of Juicebox and Shame

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. 

Today's Where Writers Write is part of The Adventures of Juicebox and Shame virtual tour. 

This is Liv Hadden

Liv Hadden has her roots in Burlington, Vermont  and currently resides in Georgetown, TX with her partner and two dogs, Madison and Samuel, where she is an active member of Writer’s League of Texas. Her 2016 release In the Mind of Revenge received high praise from Blue Ink Reviews, Writer’s Digest, Kirkus ReviewsindieBRAG and five stars from Foreword Clarion Review.

Incredibly inspired by artistic expression, Hadden immerses herself in creative endeavors on a daily basis. She finds great joy in getting lost in writing and seeing others fully express themselves through their greatest artistic passions. It’s no wonder she teamed up talented tattoo artist Mo Malone (who scribed a majority of Hadden’s body work) to create her latest release The Adventures of Juice Box and Shame.

Where Liv Hadden Writes

So, I was supposed to have taken cool pictures of all the places I was writing during an epic month-long road trip I took a couple weeks ago…but, I didn’t. I’m one of those people who barely take any photos of their vacation, share maybe like 2-3, then get hounded by their family to share their non-existent trip photos for months.

Instead of seeing all those cool unique places I wrote, I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for the normal, old, regular places I write. But, since I’m a writer, I’ll add a little zest so they seem a bit more…intriguing.

The Desk: For when I’m feeling oh so serious.

Sometimes, you gotta get real. It’s time to honker down for the long haul and get some words on pages like it’s your job. I mean, it is my job…but I use my desk when I feel like being a bit corporate and breaking a real sweat.

Requirements when using The Desk:
·         Warm tea
·         Cold water
·         Productivity Journal
·         A rad Spotify station based on The Devil Makes Three or Jack Johnson
·         Lip balm, cuz who can write with dry lips?

The Couch: For when I want easy access to my fridge.

I’m hungry. Yes, right now. I was hungry thirty minutes ago, and I’ll be hungry in ten more. Basically, I’m always hungry. Working from the couch is a great way to get some work done and eat at the same time. You just go around the corner and there it is, a mecca of personally selected items to delight my mouth and satiate my bottomless pit of a stomach. I try not to write on the couch too often for fear I’ll wake up one more and be stuck in my bed, which is a place I do not like to write.

Requirements when using The Couch:
·         Warm tea
·         Cold water
·         A dog to cuddle with
·         A napkin
·         A plate to refill
·         Delicious food

The Chair: For when I need to channel my inner JK.

There are times I look at that pillow and think, “I’ll never write anything as good as Harry Potter. Just stop writing and go read HP—it’s probably more productive anyway.” But, if I sit on the pillow, I think, “You are full of so many good ideas! Keep writing and putting your work out there. Soon, you’ll find the best idea you possible can and write a super rad book.” I can’t decide if it’s because my butt has magical properties, or if the pillow does, but I try not to ask too many questions.

Requirements when using The Chair:
·         Warm tea
·         Cold water
·         Productivity Journal
·         My phone in case I start to feel so positive I have to take a selfie
·         tiny snack bowl…to discourage too much eating, but allow myself a few treats

You may have noticed that warm tea and cold water are requirements for every writing area. That’s because I have a twitch when I work: I periodically have to drink something. I don’t know the physiology behind this, but writing makes me soooooooo thirsty.  I’ve finished an entire mug of tea just writing this post. As you can imagine, I avoid frequenting coffee shops too often as I’ll drop $40-$50 way too easily just in tea.

In short, I write in highly exclusive places that offer unlimited tea and food. And that, my friends, is real privilege.


Illustrator Mo Malone
Malone has been making art since she was a kid. Offered a tattoo apprenticeship while obtaining a B.F.A. in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University. Malone briefly diverted from tattooing to be an elementary and middle school teacher,  an experience she greatly enjoyed, but ultimately came back to her artistic roots. She has tattooed at Rick’s Tattoo in Arlington, Virginia (where she got her start), Iron Age Studio in St. Louis, Missouri and Triple Crown Tattoo in Austin, Texas where she met Hadden.

A lover of travel, her craft has taken her all over the world, to include a dozens of tattoo conferences spanning from New York to Moscow. You can now find Malone back in St. Louis at Ragtime Tattoo. She has recently joined Evil Prints to expand into screen-printing, and when she’s not working her magic in the art world, you can find her feeding her adventurous spirit BMXing at her local skate park or wandering the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Page 69: The Killbug Eulogies

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 Will Madden's The Killbug Eulogies to the test!

Set up page 69 for us:

Kitt’s father, a champion ragnarite miner, had made enough money to send him on a three-year tour of the galaxy as a teen. Not as affluent as other space tourists or as poor as interstellar vagabonds, Kitt spent the time isolated and alone, studying flora and fauna, missing the homeworld. Having experienced the wonders of nature across countless planets, he returns to find his own desolate and monochrome, his people backward and boorish.

What’s the book about?

The Killbug Eulogies tells of soldiers who grew up together on a mining planet, who now fight giant space insects in a galactic war. The characters’ darkly humorous stories are told in funeral speeches after they’ve been killed in gruesome ways. For instance, when we meet Kitt, he had captured a thorbeetle, which generates electricity through a fission reactor in its abdomen. He was trying to use it to boost the power generator when it impaled him, cooked him from the inside out until he exploded in a shower of ground meat. The mourners at his funeral try not to be distracted by the tempting aroma.

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 so. In different ways, the characters in this book clash with the rigid values and belief systems of the working class world that produced them. Suspicion meets almost any unique experience the men could use to bolster their chances of survival. When Kitt drags the thorbeetle into camp to rectify a power shortage, he has the satisfaction of menacing the others with a dangerous monster only he has the skill to handle. Buried insecurities and festering resentment have made the soldiers hostile to their own salvation. The page gives a window to the mutual failure of empathy at the root of the problem.

PAGE 69: 


Will Madden is a Nashville-based author, originally from the Bronx, New York. He holds a degree in something ridiculous from a fancy institution of higher education. By day he performs menial labor so that by night he has enough brain power to deliver the hard-hitting truths about the struggles of imaginary monsters. He juggles and knits.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Christopher David Rosales' 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, in honor of  "Name Your Posion Day", Christopher David Rosales' is throwing a drink at his novel Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper


Old Fashioned Paloma

The cocktail I pair with my novel Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper is an Old Fashioned married to a Paloma. A Paloma is typically 2 ounces of tequila, 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice, a pinch of salt, and 6 ounces of Jarritos grapefruit soda. It’s a favorite drink in Mexico, and while camping in California my friends and I would always make them on the cheap using tequila and Squirt.

With the help of my friend, poet and bartender Derrick Mund, we concocted something new. Though the Paloma was the main idea, we muddled grapefruit rind in sugar to create a syrup along the lines of an Old Fashioned, and added some bitters too. The grapefruit rind you see as garnish, Derrick shaped into a rose for my last name, Rosales.

Old Fashioned Paloma Recipe

2.5 oz Raicilla or Mezcal
 .5 oz Grapefruit Simple Syrup
One Dash Plum Bitters
One Dash Grapefruit Bitters
One Dash Angostura Bitters
Stir Ingredients and Strain Over Ice
Garnish with Grapefruit Twist

This is a drink heavily influenced, like the book, by my nostalgia for Paramount, California (in L.A. County) and all of our old family parties. The song, “Cucurrucucu Paloma”, was one of my grandmother’s favorites. When cleaning out her garage after she passed away, I found a cassette tape loaded up on sides A and B with all of the alternate versions of that song recorded through the years. This version, featured in the film Habla Con Ella, was my favorite:

Dicen que por las noches

No más se le iba en puro llorar
Dicen que no comía
No más se le iba en puro tomar
Juran que el mismo cielo
Se estremecía al oír su llanto
Cómo sufrió por ella
Y hasta en su muerte la fue llamando
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay cantaba
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay gemía
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay cantaba
De pasión mortal moría
Que una paloma triste
Muy de mañana le va a cantar
A la casita sola
Con sus puertitas de par en par
Juran que esa paloma
No es otra cosa más que su alma
Que todavía espera
A que regrese la desdichada
Cucurrucucú paloma, cucurrucucú no llores
Las piedras jamás, paloma
¿Qué van a saber de amores
Cucurrucucú, cucurrucucú
Cucurrucucú, cucurrucucú
Cucurrucucú, paloma, ya no le llores

It’s a song about love, passion, and mourning. It’s equally sad and sweet.

Now, full disclosure: I love puns much more than most writers will admit (Silence the Bird . . . / Paloma is Spanish for Dove), but the Old Fashioned Paloma pairs well with my novel for more reasons than that. The song, “Cucurrucucu Paloma” is about contradiction. As the singer begs the dove not to cry, he is issuing the very cry in his request.  Similarly, my novel is about both lament at war and fulfillment of peace. It is about tragedy and hopefulness in a time of civil strife. And it’s about a community who love to celebrate with each other, who love to sit around and tell their own story, likely with a drink in hand.


Christopher David Rosales' first novel, Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper (Mixer Publishing, 2015) won the McNamara Creative Arts Grant. Previously he won the Center of the American West's award for fiction three years in a row. He is a PhD candidate at University of Denver and has taught university level creative writing for 10 years.. Rosales' second novel, Gods on the Lam releases in June, 2017 from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Word is Bone, his third novel, is forthcoming 2018 from Broken River Books.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Review: Woman No. 17

Listened 5/18/17 - 6/4/17
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended / mondo mommy issues
11.79 hours
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Pheobe Strole
Publisher: Random House Audio
Released: 2017

Quite the departure from her debut novel CALIFORNIA, a dystopian future that delved into the lives of huband and wife doing everything they can to survive,  Edan dissects the intersecting lives of two women with mondo mommy issues in WOMAN NO.17.

Lady is the well-to-do mother of two with MAJOR relationship issues. There's the enignmatic and mute-by-choice eighteen year old Seth, son of the mysterious Marco who left Seth and Lady high and dry before his first birthday, and Devin, her not-yet-three year old chatterbox, son of soon-to-be-ex-husband Karl (holy crap with the em-dashes, right?!).

As we are introduced to Lady, we discover that she is contracted to write a book about her experience raising a child with selective mutism. Having pushed Karl out of the house and onto his sister's couch, Lady is feeling the pressures of overcoming her writer's block while minding her two children and places an ad for a live-in nanny.

Enter "S.". After having her heart broken by her artsy-fartsy boyfriend and now suffering from a complete loss of what to do with herself, Esther Shapiro, a twenty-something performance artist, has decided to become her mother. Like, literally. She will need to look and act like her mother did when she was her age and in order to fully become Katherine, S. answers Lady's ad and gets hired on as a full-time nanny, just like her mom had once done.

S. lands the job and moves into Lady's cottage. The women start bonding immediately - Lady clueless to S.'s little game, and S. busy balancing her relationships with Lady, Devin, Lady's hubby Karl, and her ever growing attracting towards the moody, just-this-side-of-legal, Seth. This should be fun, right? And oh boy is it ever!

The drama slowly unfolds before us in the rotating POV's of Esther and Lady. While the immediate connecting thread is the ladies horrendous relationships with their mothers, it's clear neither woman is capable of maintaining or nurturing relationships of any kind with any one. I'm pretty sure we've known people who clam up or freak out at the first sign of intimacy, or people who are extra clingy and super paraniod about you not liking them as much as they like you, even in platonic friendships. Those are not new concepts. But Edan takes things to a whole other level, and not just between Esther and Lady. Oh no! There's a shitload of messed up mind gaming going on in these pages, between EVERYONE!

The feel and mood of WOMAN NO. 17 is so different from CALIFORNIA that it's difficult to recognize them as being penned by the same author. Both novels are effectively written and showcase what human beings are capable of when they are able to move and breathe freely, within especially constricted environments. But it's the angles from which Edan examines her characters that distances each novel from itself.

Somewhat predictable but always clever and witty, WOMAN NO. 17 is the perfect read for those who enjoy watching people fucking with, and being fucked with by, the people they should be able to count on most.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Indie Ink Runs Deep: Erika T. Wurth

Every now and then I manage to talk a small press author into showing us a little skin... tattooed skin, that is. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. Whether it's the influence for their book, influenced by their book, or completely unrelated to the book, we get to hear the story behind their indie ink....


Today's ink story comes from Erika T. Wurth, author of the very-soon-to-be-released collection of interconnected stories Buckskin Cocaine

My grandmother had what was essentially an arranged marriage at 14. Though Native Americans did do this traditionally, traditionally it was done by someone just trying to make sure you weren’t marrying a cousin. But as things became bad for Indians, and Natives feared for survival, those arranged marriages became more compulsory, and my great-grandmother, who was raising her, made sure she was alone enough with her much older beau to guarantee a pregnancy. He was a drinker, and when she was almost due he walked up the porch steps and kicked her in her pregnant stomach. She left him, and the baby survived, though the Catholic Church excommunicated her. Ironic, considering that that was also something that for Natives was compulsory (Catholic schools) and had been for my grandmother though she went through the relatively milder day schools for urban Indians, instead of the nightmarish boarding schools that Indian children were forced to attend. What’s always killed me about this is that my grandmother’s grandmother had had an arranged marriage, and she had hated her much much older husband so much, that she had stripped a bullet, melted it, and poured into his ear while he was sleeping, which killed him. She had also owned an Indian whorehouse (which is where her son – who was Apache and Chickasaw, met his wife, a well-off Cherokee runaway who had ended up working there). My grandmother went on to marry my mother’s father, and though I think there were many beautiful parts to her life, she was always sad. She had been a jazz singer, and had had a contract to go to New York before her arranged marriage. But she couldn’t afford to get there. When I was 6, she raised a gun to her temple, and when her husband tried to stop her, one way or another, that gun went off and killed her. When it came time to write my novel Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend, about a 16 year old girl from a small town who rants and raves about druggies and early pregnancy – but who is a drug dealer who gets pregnant – there was only one name I ever considered for her. And a few years later, I knew that her named belonged on my body, forever. 


Erika T. Wurth’s published works include a novel, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend and two collections of poetry, Indian Trains and One Thousand Horses Out to Sea. Her collection of short stories, Buckskin Cocaine is forthcoming. A writer of both fiction and poetry, she teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and has been a guest writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Boulevard, Drunken Boat, The Writer’s Chronicle and South Dakota Review. She is represented by Peter Steinberg. She is Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee and was raised outside of Denver.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bronwyn Reviews: The Meursault Investigation

Translated from the French by John Cullen
Publisher: Other Press
Released: 2015

Reviewed by Bronwyn Mauldin

Even if you’ve never read Albert Camus’ The Stranger, you probably have an opinion about it. It’s one of the great works of the Western canon, the one that was many people’s first introduction to existentialism. Perhaps you even know its famous opening line:

Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.  
(translation by Matthew Ward)

In The Meursault Investigation, Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud has taken on the sacred cow that is The Stranger, exploring the life of its murder victim, an unnamed Arab. By giving this man a name and a life, Daoud demands that we look imperialism in the eye and see it for what it is, see its lingering effects in the life of one rather ordinary Algerian man. This book is a good story and it is also metaphor, as was Camus’.

The narrator is Harun, younger brother of the man Meursault killed. Harun is an old man by the time of Daoud’s novel, and he tells his story to an unnamed stranger in a bar. They drink cheap wine in a bar in Oran as Harun tells his family’s tale and finally gives the victim his name: Musa.

You can turn that story in all directions, it doesn’t hold up. It’s the story of a crime, but the Arab isn’t even killed in it – well, he is killed, but barely, delicately, with the fingertips, as it were. He’s the second most important character in the book, but he has no name, no face, no words. Does that make any sense to you, educated man that you are?

Daoud brings Musa to life, and makes visible a family tragedy, ripple effects of two crimes: the murder of a man and the refusal to give him a name. Without a name or a body, Musa’s mother is never able to secure a pension. Bitter and impoverished, she searches everywhere for her son, then later for the man who killed him. Harun eventually studies French in order to read to his mother two brief newspaper clippings about the murder that she carries every day close to her heart.

In both novels, punishment is not about the crime, but about societal norms. Meursault is convicted not of murdering an unnamed Arab but of being indifferent to his mother’s death. When Harun finally metes out his own mother’s rough justice, he is not exonerated but he is set free because Algeria has just won its independence from France in a brutal war.

At points, The Meursault Investigation tightly parallels The Stranger in structure, plot, and language. Daoud, it seems, is testing us: Do we read the same events differently if the person telling them is named Harun and not Meursault? How do we imagine a pretty, independent young woman named Meriem compares to a pretty, independent young woman named Marie? Is standing up to the pieties of an imam the same as standing up to those of a priest?

But Harun is not an Algerian version of Meursault. Where Meursault is ambivalent, Harun is angry. Where Meaursault is passive and blindly honest, Harun is self-aware and working hard to prove his case. Meursault’s mother may be dead from her very first appearance, but Harun’s is eternally alive, eternally searching for her son Musa. 

Bronwyn Mauldin is the author of the novel Love Songs of the Revolution. She won The Coffin Factory magazine’s 2012 very short story award, and her Mauldin’s work has appeared in the Akashic Books web series, Mondays Are Murder, and at Necessary Fiction, CellStories, The Battered Suitcase, Blithe House Quarterly, Clamor magazine and From ACT-UP to the WTO. She is a researcher with the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and she is creator of GuerrillaReads, the online video literary magazine.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Book Giveaway: Borne

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

It's the beginning of a new month and you know what that means..

Time to give away our July Author/Reader Discussion novel!

We will be reading and discussing Borne
with author Jeff Vandermeer. 

Jeff's publisher MCD/FSG are making 10 hard cover copies available for US Residents 
(sorry, International folks!)

We're especially excited to have Jeff back as a guest for our #AuthoReadeR discussion!!!

If you haven't been privvy to all the buzz, here's what it's about

"Am I a person?" Borne asked me.
"Yes, you are a person," I told him. "But like a person, you can be a weapon, too." In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.
One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts—and definitely against Wick’s wishes—Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford. 
"He was born, but I had borne him."
But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same. 


This giveaway will run through June 9th.
Winners will be announced here and via email on June 10th.


Here's how to enter:

1 - Leave a comment here or in the giveaway thread over at TNBBC on goodreads. (Remember, you must be a resident of the US to request the signed paperback.)

2 - State that you agree to participate in the group read book discussion that will run from July 24th through July 30th. Jeff has agreed to participate in the discussion and will be available to answer any questions you may have for him. 

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


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