Saturday, December 2, 2023

What I Read in November

Unsurprisingly, I just couldn't keep up the reading pace! Getting through 13 books each month in September and October was huge for me! For November, I clocked in a not-too-shabby total of 10 books (I read two of those for potential publicity so won't include them here). 

Let's see what I read in November, shall we? 

The Keeper by Boris Bacic

I read They Came From the Ocean a few weeks ago and enjoyed it so much that I immediately looked for another Boris Bacic book to buy, and landed on this one. I mean, Lighthouse horror... c'mon you guys, how could I say no?!

Sadly, I wish I had. The writing was subpar. The twist was pretty predictable. And the spooky stuff just wasn't spooky enough.

At least it was cheap.

When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord

Read this cover to cover in one day because it was just that good. It sucks that I am super late coming into this one. I have no excuse other than it just happened to fly under my radar for way too long!

The book opens as Lumen, now a married woman and mother of a young son, reflects on her experiences growing up in a small town with a very peculiar ritual. There, every child, without exception as they hit puberty, enters a year-long phase referred to as "breaching", where on the nights of a full moon, they tear from their homes and run wild in the streets and woods, terrorizing their bodies and the bodies of other breaching teens. It's viewed as a necessary passage into adulthood, a social norm, and Lumen wanted nothing to do with it. Already an outsider amongst her peers, having been raised by a single dad and being small for her age, she was determined to escape the animalistic urges when they hit her.

We follow Lumen as she revisits her memories from that strange time while simultaneously coming to terms with the woman she's become and the secrets she's been harboring since escaping her hometown.

While slow to reveal itself, When We Were Animals is stunningly violent and graphic. It's a captivating and lyrical coming of age story unlike any other.

To Be Devoured by Sara Tantlinger

I've had this book on my radar for so long and finally found someone on pango who was selling it!

What starts out as a sapphic, slightly obsessive love story quickly takes a dark and unsettling turn into body horror and mutilation, fantasies about roadkill, and oh yes, even some cannabalism.

This book was so fucked up and I loved it so much! Except for the scene with the menstrual blood. That, of all the things in this gross and demented story, icked me out.

Not for the weak of stomach but oh that prose. It was written so beautifully for something so gross and twisted!

Bloom by Delilah S Dawson

I remember walking the bookshelves at BAM and stumbling across this one in the horror section. I hadn't heard a thing about it and worried that it sounded a little too romancey for me, but it was in the HORROR section so I figured eh, why not, and bought it. And I'm glad I did because this one was a win!

It's a sapphic love story that starts out all cutesy and flirty and curious with weird boundaries that quickly becomes obsessive and extremely manipulative that then becomes damn right straight up horrific!

If you're an anticipatory reader, you'll figure this one out reaaaally early on but I don't think that spoils the ride at all. Honestly, it moves kind of slowly so even if you do have it pegged right, you won't know just HOW right you pegged it until those final few pages.

It's worth it. I promise. It all comes together when it's ready.

You gotta tell me what you think when you read it!

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

This was one of the longest shorter books I've read in a while. I can normally devour a two hundred paged book in a day but Nightbitch seemed to never want to end. It just kept going and going and going and going, which really sucks because I had high hopes for it and am so disappointed.

Initially, I was drawn in by Yoder's writing style and the mother's body dysmorphia for the first 70 pages or so but good loooord does she drag this shit out.

The only character who really had any depth and development was the mother and she was extremely unlikeable and an honest to god nutcase. As a SAHM, with a barely there husband who travels for work all week, we meet the mother right as she finds a new patch of hair at the base of her neck and a sore bump at the base of her spine and begins to believe she is becoming a dog.

What starts out as an intriguing premise crosses over into eyeroll and let's-get-on-with-it territory pretty quickly. For almost the entire length of the novel, I just wanted to scream 'someone get this looney bitch to a doctor already' because she's completely off her rocker and yet no one seems to notice. How her husband and the library moms haven't called social services on her, I'll never understand.

I know most of you have already read and loved this one but it just tried my patience a little too hard.

Are there any popular books out there that missed the mark for you?

Grey Dog by Elliott Gish

In Grey Dogs, we meet Ada, a school teacher who has moved to Lowry Bridge to escape a horrible indiscretion in the hopes of rebuilding her reputation. She moves in with a childless christian couple named the Griers and learns they had boarded the previous teacher, who left in the middle of the night to return home to care for her ailing mother.

As Ada begins to settle into her new routine, she starts to experience odd things that defy explanation - a swarm of crickets that disappear almost as suddenly as they had appeared, a dying rabbit in the middle of an undisturbed blanket of snow, and a deer that appears to birth a deformed human child before expiring. She also swears there's something out there in the woods, stalking her, just out of sight.

Intially, she keeps these peculiar encounters to herself for fear that the Griers and the rest of the towns people will think she's gone mad, until she uncovers a bizarre sentence scribbled into one of the old teacher's book of poetry, and learns that the Grier's once had a son who died under strange circumstances. These discoveries, along with the increasing terrors she keeps falling victim to, find our Ada quickly unraveling.

It sounds pretty good, right? While it's not a bad read, it's not a great one either. The book is saturated in grey - grey skies, grey faces, grey clothes, grey everything. I'm not kidding. The color grey was used to describe EVERYTHING in those first handful of pages.

Putting aside the grey overload, though, the breadcrumbs that Gish left for us to follow were just enticing enough to keep me reading, even beyond the few points where I was seriouly beginning to consider DNFing. I wanted to know where this was going, if what Ada was experiencing was real or all in her head, if there really was something deeper and darker going on in that place...

Do I regret seeing it through? I'm not really sure. I don't know what I was expecting but the ending we got certainly wasn't it.

Moths by Jane Hennigan

Pandy fiction where the silken threads from a rare breed of poisionous moths affects only human males (and birds), either killing them in their sleep or driving them into violence and madness... uhm yes please!

Like most pandemics, it hits fast and countries all over the world are forced to jump into action to protect the women and isolate the men while they try to figure out how this is spreading, in order to slow the death count, and determine why it's only impacting males.

The book starts about 40 years post-pandemic, following a carer named Mary, who works at one of the facilities that houses the uninfected men, where she and other staff members do their best to provide the men the best life they can while protecting them from the constant threat of the moths. Yes, even 40 years later, the world hasn't figured out how to exterminate the species or properly vaccinate or cure the men. And through some creative flashback chapters, we learn more about Mary and her life before the pandemic, and how women have managed running the country without the men post pandemic.

While wiping men off the face of the planet is not new in fiction (Afterland, The End of Men, The Men), Hennigan breathes new life into the genre. One where the men don't know any other life. And where the women are taught about them in school, but unless they sign up to Contribute (become impregnanted with a male child that will immediately be turned over to the goverment and raised in one of the facilities) or visit the facilities for recreational sex, they may live their entire lives without ever having seen one in person.

When Mary learns from a new co-worker that there might be a vaccination after all, and that the women who are running the country are willing to kill to keep it hidden, she finds herself heading down a path from which she might never return.

After 40 years of keeping the men contained and calm, what would happen if they were reintroduced into society?

It's really good you guys! You gotta give this one a read.

The Bullet Swallower by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this book.

It's a well paced western with some cool magical realism elements mixed in. Moving between two timelines, the reader follows the Sonoro bloodline - in 1895, we ride along with Antonio, a bandido who is on a mission to avenge his brother's death, and in 1964, we're with Jaime, Antonio's grandson, an actor who discovers the gruesome truths about his grandfather and decides Antonio's story must be shared with the masses, against his father's wishes.

There's violence and greed and revenge and a mysterious stranger named Remedio, who once made a decision that went against his nature and is now destined to follow the ripple of its effects through the Sonoro generations until its debt is paid.

Sounds intriguing, right?!

Monday, November 27, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Rebecca Macijeski


I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Today we are joined by Rebecca Macijeski. She is the author of Autobiography (Split Rock Press, 2022). She holds a PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has attended artist residencies with The Ragdale Foundation, The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Art Farm Nebraska. She has also worked for Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry newspaper column, as an Assistant Editor in Poetry for the literary journals Prairie Schooner and Hunger Mountain, and is the recipient of a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Nominee, her poems have appeared in The Missouri ReviewPoet Lore, Barrow Street, Nimrod, The Journal, Sycamore Review, The Cincinnati Review, Puerto del Sol, and many others. Rebecca is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of Creative Writing Programs at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. 

Why do you write?

 I write for too many reasons to count. I’m gonna sound a little like that Terry Tempest Williams essay now. I write because it’s the best way I know to feel present and centered and okay; it helps me integrate the world I’m experiencing inside myself with the world that goes on outside myself. I write because it renders real and tangible the thoughts I make inside my head. I write because it’s exciting and affirming to discover that I sometimes make sense. I write to grow the good parts of my imagination and try to burnish out the bad parts. I write to celebrate the capacity we each have to hold what is beautiful and raw and joyous and horrible and unknowable all at once. I write to connect with other writers, but also to help readers see some more wonder in themselves. It’s too easy to feel small and futile and broken. Writing, unlike other expressive forms, comes alive when we take it into our minds. That feels like a superpower. There are times in my life when reading helped me feel purposeful, like I was part of something bigger or that I could look at myself as stronger, more capable. I write to hopefully help my readers feel that way about themselves. I hope that my writing serves as an invitation for us all to look at ourselves with a greater sense of wonder and confidence.

Describe your book in three words.

Love your brain.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

I wish I knew how many things people say you “have to do” you don’t actually have to do. You don’t have to talk to that relative on the phone. You don’t have to read every sentence of every page of the book that’s assigned for class. You don’t have to cook dinner tonight just because you had already planned to cook dinner. You don’t have to get up early. You don’t have to take the laundry out of the dryer as soon as the buzzer goes off. You don’t have to change how you do things because one person is unreasonable and can’t understand where you’re coming from. You don’t have to police your feelings (but you also don’t have to be ruled by them). You don’t have to have a to do list every day. You don’t always have to know what your next project or task is. You don’t have to care about everything all the time.

Summarize your book using only gifs or emojis.

🧠🌿🌱 🧠⭐️✨ 🧠🔭 🧠👁️ 🧠🐙 🧠🪺 🧠🚦🎡

If you could spend the day with another author, who would you choose and why?

Ross Gay. I love the sense of wonder and scale he brings to the world of his writing. There’s this absolutely perfect YouTube video of him reading “Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt” when he interrupts his own poem after he looks down in genuine delight to discover that he’s wearing a button-up shirt. I aspire to that level of presence and joy. Whether I’m reading one of his poems or essays, I feel immediately part of something bigger, more consequential, more special. I feel invited to tune my attention to the delight and joy and resonance in my life. I want to look at everything I love the way he looks at sunlight and faces and growing things. His writing also has this great capacity to hold all kinds of things at the same time—the joyous and terrible, the very big and the very small. I’d love to connect to that perspective. Plus, with all his knowledge of plants, I’d like to hope we could make some pretty delicious meals to share with everyone we could find.

What is your favorite way to waste time?

I have two—being in good company, and learning something random. I define “good company” lots of ways—seeing a good friend for happy hour, putting a favorite show on in the background while I hang out with the cats, communing with nature on a good walk around the neighborhood, etc. I also love learning about random cool things via a podcast, a documentary, whatever. I always love a good take on popular neuroscience, space theory, the Dutch tulip crisis, all of it.

Are you a toilet paper over or under kind of person?

Over. It’s the only way. I’ve got to be able to pull that little exposed tab of paper and see it dispense neatly in that satisfying clockwise roll. Luckily my spouse and I agree on this important tissue issue. I’m not sure what would happen if we didn’t.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

This might not be the sexiest or flashiest answer, but I’d like to have the superpower to remove financial barriers. Can’t afford to move to start a new life? Poof. Not a problem. Need to replace your pipes after storm flooding? Bam. There you go. Poverty mindset affecting your ability to succeed at school or in your therapy journey? Doesn’t matter anymore. Here’s the capitalist nonsense dollars you need for your dreams to match your reality.

What made you start writing?

At first it was the actual tangible part, the handwriting. I loved the feel of a pen in my hand, holding it just the right way, and making letters take shape. There were handwriting competitions in my grade school. One year I won. I got a congratulations letter from the principal. Pretty nerdy, I know. But it helped teach me to love the physical process. After that it grew into something deeper. I fell in love with how writing was a way to build my own reality, or to render my own version of reality that was better, kinder, stronger, more full of imagination. I loved that I could take the ideas and thoughts that lived only in my own mind and make them make sense out of my own mind. I guess I was always a weird little meta kid, but I felt like I was powerful when what began inside me could continue outside me. It made me feel like I mattered, like the way I thought mattered. As I grew older and dedicated myself more formally and more fully to what writing could bring me, I began to see writing as my best way to communicate what I choose to care about and celebrate in this world. Writing has literally brought me almost everything I love. Writing has brought me to two graduate degrees, offered me the chance to travel to unexpected parts of the world, introduced me to my partner, and led me to a a career I love. Writing helps me learn how to create the life I want to live, and it helps me understand the power we all have to connect to each other. Writing is, and I’m risking hyperbole here, everything. Writing is everything.


Autobiography is a celebration of the experience of discovering, recovering, and re-envisioning the self. At the center of these poems is the impulse toward imagination as a vital tool for reconciling what it’s like to move through the world from a neurodivergent perspective. Rather than offering more traditionally accepted or expected narrative constructions of what builds a life, these poems are interested in exploring selfhood through metaphor. Each poem argues a different way to see the brain as a temperamental collaborator in the creation of self. The brain and self are interlinked, but not entirely unified or harmonious; their relationship becomes complicated—sometimes friends, sometimes adversaries, always searching for new methods to grapple with reality.

buy a copy here

Monday, November 20, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Kerry Neville


I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Joing us today is Kerry Neville. Kerry is the author of two collections of stories, Necessary Lies, which received the G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize in Fiction and was named a ForeWord Magazine Short Story Book of the Year, and Remember to Forget Me. Her work has appeared in publications such as The Gettysburg Review, Epoch, Triquarterly, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and elsewhere.  Her fiction and nonfiction have been named Notables in Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays. In 2018, she was a Fulbright Fellow at University of Limerick in Ireland, where she was Visiting Faculty in the MA in Creative Writing Program. She is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of the MFA and Undergraduate Creative Writing Program at Georgia College and State University.

Why do you write?

I love the shaping power of language, how a word, a sentence, a paragraph, a story or essay can gather all that feels chaotic and unwieldy into a meaningful (and often hopeful) shape.


What do you do when you’re not writing?

I teach in an MFA and undergraduate creative writing program (get to do what I love!), am a single mom, entertain my energetic dog, play tennis (great for stress), go for long wanders in the woods, and obsess about someday living in Ireland—west coast, County Clare.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I am an excellent baker of desserts (though a most mediocre cook). I love following recipes—the exacting specifications for cakes and tarts and pies. And if followed correctly, reliable and delicious results. Though I did have an epic fail in my attempt at baking Irish scones—flattened hockey pucks.


What’s something that’s true about you but no one believes?

I had a bona fide exorcism.


Describe your book in three words.

Exile, connection, and empathy.


What is your favorite way to waste time?

Binging mystery series on BBC and Acorn—four or five episodes on a rainy weekend day is heaven.


What is your favorite book from childhood?

It would have to be the entire Nancy Drew series which I read and reread, often devouring a book in one go on a Saturday afternoon—and then forced my younger sister to participate in my made-up sleuthing adventures around my neighborhood in Queens. 


What are you currently reading?

Dinosaurs, by Lydia Millet!


What is under your bed?

A lot of dog hair, stray socks, a lost earring or two, and on a good night? Lacy undies.


What’s the weirdest thing you’ve given/received as a gift?

A long-ago boyfriend gave me a copy of William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues as my going away present for graduate school. I was moving across country and that seemed to me to be some sort of warning or directive, as well as a sign that after 3 years he didn’t know me at all. I broke up with him two weeks later.



With the publication of REMEMBER TO FORGET ME comes the highly anticipated follow-up to Kerry Neville's award-winning debut, NECESSARY LIES. In this new volume, Neville peers with a steady eye into the universal struggle to lead a life of purpose and dignity. In "Zorya," we are drawn into the world of a former Ukrainian sex worker whose determination to embark on a new path with the dream of supporting her son and aging mother ends up subjecting her to even greater affronts. "Indignity" takes us into the mind of a Polish widow who comes to the United States determined to start her life anew only to discover that her job as caregiver puts her into a painful collision with her past. In "Lionman," we witness a circus freak whose unexpected chance to satisfy his hunger for human connection leads to a nearly inconceivable revelation. And in the title story, a devoted husband thinks he has survived life's final assault by consenting to have his beloved wife institutionalized for dementia—only to find that it's just the beginning of his heartbreak. With enormous compassion, Kerry Neville penetrates deep into the lives of people shattered as much by yearning as by loss. These are stories you won't soon forget.

buy a copy

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Page 69 Test: Tandem

 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 Andy Mozina's Tandem to the test. 

Set up page 69 for us


On page 69 of Tandem, Mike, the perpetrator of a drunk-driving hit-and-run, faces Claire, the mother of one of his victims, at the funeral for her daughter, Emma. Mike has killed Emma and her boyfriend, Jeremy, on a tandem bicycle by a state park on a foggy night. Mike is remorseful, but thus far he’s been unable to confess to Claire, who happens to be a neighbor of his. Because Emma’s death is the talk of the neighborhood, Mike convinces himself it would somehow be suspicious if he didn’t attend the funeral.


What is the book about?


            Tandem is about the aftermath of a drunk-driving hit-and-run. The chapters alternate between the point of view of the perpetrator, Mike, an economics professor at a small college in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Claire, the mother of one of the victims and a curator at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art. His guilt and her grief draw the two of them together.

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


Yes! It’s as if this page were engineered in a lab simply to pass the Page 69 Test! This is the first instance of Mike rationalizing more contact with Claire than is probably advisable. Another rationalization informs this scene: his attempt to focus on what Claire and her husband, Ryan, need is part of the deal he made with himself when he decided not to turn himself in after the crash. He thinks he can do more good outside of prison than in prison and pledges to “love his way out of” his guilt by atoning for his crime through good behavior toward others. His desire to “love” Claire in this way only leads him to get more deeply involved in her life. This is aligned with the central theme of the novel: can love, or the performance of love, atone for hidden guilt?




Then it was his turn to approach Nathan who was in a suit, with his hair slightly gelled and combed off his forehead. He looked handsome, his face open and shiny, like a seed inside a green bean.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said.

Nathan shook his hand, said thank you, and abruptly sawed his forefinger against the side of his nose, readying himself to dispatch the next person in line.

“I’m so sorry,” Mike said to Ryan, looking into his weak, slate-gray eyes. He clasped his hand firmly and, with perfect timing, cupped his left hand against Ryan’s shoulder. Ryan moved into a brief hug, which surprised him. They weren’t close. But that’s evidently what Ryan needed, and maybe Mike’s focus on being loving to Ryan had done something to his body language, which had brought out a reciprocating loving response from Ryan.

As he stepped in front of Claire in her short-sleeved black dress, he tried to focus on what she needed now. He made brief, acute eye contact. Her irises were a bright yellowish brown—gold, really, her eyes were golden. He had never even heard of a person with golden eyes, much less seen them. He had talked to Claire a few times before but never noticed.

“I’m very sorry,” he said and looked down. She did not hug him. She said, “Thank you,” softly but clearly. His eyes swelled again. He stepped away and childishly knuckled his right eye with his fist.

He stopped by the open coffin, but he looked at the cream-colored lining past Emma’s head, not at her face. He didn’t know what would happen if he looked at her real face. He touched the side of the coffin. “I’m so sorry,” he said in his mind.

He bowed his head and drifted through thick air, past people he couldn’t look at, until his shoes were clicking across the funeral home’s parking lot.



Born and raised in Milwaukee, Andy Mozina majored in economics at Northwestern, then dropped out of Harvard Law School to study literature and write. He’s published fiction in Tin HouseEcotoneMcSweeney’s, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. His first story collection, The Women Were Leaving the Men, won the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award. Quality Snacks, his second collection, was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Prize. His first novel, Contrary Motion, was published by Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House. His fiction has received special citations in Best American Short StoriesPushcart Prize, and New Stories from the Midwest. He’s a professor of English at Kalamazoo College. Find him online at    

Monday, November 13, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview series: Patricia Bossano


I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Joining us today is Patricia Bossano. She is an award-winning author of philosophical fiction and supernatural escapes, some of them en español. She lives, and writes, in California with her family.

What made you start writing?

Since elementary school I loved scribbling in notebooks, sometimes journal-like entries, and sometimes actual stories, but not until my early 20s did I become obsessed with the idea of writing to publish a book. It took me until my 40s to make that happen.


If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

The power to stop procrastination in its tracks, for sure!


What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer?

Money spent on editing services is always the best investment.


Would you and your main character(s) get along?

We most definitely do! Love & Homegrown Magic (thank you for featuring this book!) is my fifth published novel; an ancestral cleanse covering 7 decades in the life of a folk-magic practitioner. It is based on 3 factual events in my mother’s life, she is the head of a sisterhood that includes my two sisters and me.


Describe your book in three words.

Sisterhood – Moonlight – Roses.


Do you read the reviews of your books, or do you stay far far away from them, and why?

Reviews for my books are not in the hundreds so I’m always tempted to check them out. What I have gathered from reading them is that my writing is not for everyone—sometimes I get 2-star reviews for the same reason others give me 5 stars. Clearly, my goal as an indie author is to cultivate the audience that loves my work, and just keep writing for them 😊


What are some of your favorite books and/or authors?

My love of books and my writing have been influenced by (in order of appearance in my life) Henri Chariére, Alexandre Dumas, Gabriel García Márquez, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, Isabel Allende, Stieg Larsson, and others.


What genres won’t you read?

Might be the wrong thing to say, because I write young adult fiction/fantasy for fans of the supernatural, but I tend to stay away from YA—I don’t want to be swayed by other voices in the genre I write.


Are you a toilet paper over or under kind of person?

Love this question, lol, and I’m answering it because it’s a pet peeve of mine. There totally is a right and wrong here, and *under* people are sooo wrong! It is always, OVER.



From the ashes of burned letters comes a celestial romp, spanning seven decades and two continents.

Love is the guiding force, even when Maggie, ever the planner, chooses her mind over her heart. Family comes first and she has always known her purpose is to be a guiding light to her siblings and, one day, her children. But a dash of destiny, and two loves blessed by the stars tug at Maggie’s heartstrings in a way she could never have planned for.

Wander into her magical garden, where thorns and perfumed blossoms coexist, through Love and her Homegrown Magic.



“She thought of the rose cuttings on the kitchen windowsill. They didn’t look like much—four bags of dirt with a dried up twig sticking out of each one—but Maggie could see what they would become; soon they would produce leaf shoots, meaning the roots had taken hold, and for a blinding moment the symbolic vision took her breath away.

Her life, at present, didn’t look like much either, but Maggie knew in her heart that it would bloom, beyond her wildest expectations.” –From Love & Homegrown Magic

For a signed copy of “Love & Homegrown Magic” go to:

During checkout, don’t forget to let the author know to whom she should dedicate the book.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Eat Like an Author: Sarena Ulibarri

 When most people get bored, they eat. When I get bored, I brainstorm new series and features for the blog, and THEN eat. A few 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, Sarena Ulibarri joins us to share a little insight into her forthcoming book Steel Tree, releasing in December! 


Pirlipat Tarts (Dairy-Free Pecan Tassies)


My novella Steel Tree starts with a winter party, where the farmers for an off-world colony are celebrating after the winter harvest. Several of the characters stuff their faces with “Pirlipat Tarts,” a pastry made from the nuts of the local Pirlipat tree. Steel Tree is a science fiction story based on The Nutcracker, and Pirlipat is a princess who appears in the original tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E.T.A. Hoffman. In that story, Princess Pirlipat is cursed by the Mouse Queen to transform into an ugly doll. (And for a good reason, though no fault of her own.) Similarly, in my book, one of the characters who gobbles up the Pirlipat Tarts accidentally consumes one made with a nut that has a dangerous mutation—and it transforms her into a giant rat.


But don’t worry, most Pirlipat Tarts are perfectly safe, and since the Pirlipat tree only grows on Eta, and not on Earth, we’ll need to substitute pecans, which have an even lower probability of transforming you into a giant rat. This is a dairy-free recipe, because while the farmers of Eta do have chickens, no cows were transported there from Earth. And also because I’m lactose intolerant, like a lot of Earthlings, so this is a tasty treat that won’t ruin a holiday party for me. In my opinion, Violife “Just Like Cream Cheese” Original is by far the best cream cheese substitute (I’ve practically tried them all). For the butter, I used Miyoko’s Plant Milk Butter. My cheese-fiend husband didn’t notice any difference, and even complimented the consistency of the dough. If the plant-based butter and cream are room temperature when you start, they will mix better.


Using a shallow muffin pan, this recipe makes six tassies. Using a mini-cupcake pan, it could yield as many as 24.



For the shell:

½ cup plant-based butter

3 oz. plant-based plain cream cheese

1 cup all-purpose flour


For the filling:

1 large egg (or 1 tbsp egg substitute to keep it vegan)

¾ cup brown sugar

1 tbsp plant-based butter, melted

1/8 tsp salt

¼ tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup chopped pecans


With a whisk or hand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together in a bowl, then combine with the flour. Cool dough in the refrigerator for half an hour.


Crack the egg into a bowl and whisk to mix the white and yolk. Mix in the sugar, melted plant-butter, salt, and vanilla, then fold in the pecans. Cool in the refrigerator.


Pre-heat the oven to 365° F. (And consider pre-ordering Steel Tree, while you’re at it.) Grease a small cupcake pan.


Roll the dough into a ball that will fit in your cupcake pan, and press down in the center to spread it and create a cup for the filling. Make sure the dough cup extends all the way up the sides.


Spoon the filling into the dough cups, about 2/3 of the way full.


Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the tassies take on a light golden-brown tone. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before digging in. Place an extra pecan half on top of each one, for style.




About Steel Tree


The voyage from Earth to Petipa isn’t cheap, but those who can’t afford it can pay off the trip by working the farms of Eta, the fertile moon that feeds humanity’s new colony. Klara Silber’s parents paid their debt, but left her behind, in charge of the orchards and the android nutcrackers. She’s sure if she follows their example, she’ll earn her invitation to ascend the space elevator and join Petipa Colony in no time. Only, the android nutcrackers have been malfunctioning all season, and some of the other farmers have suddenly gone missing.

They were told Eta didn’t have any native animal life, but the annual winter party is abuzz with rumors of large creatures lurking in the shadows. When one of the party guests inexplicably transforms into a giant rat and goes on the attack, Klara is sure the night can’t get any stranger. That is, until a fairy-like creature who communicates through dance appears, and a whole hidden history unspools about how the humans conquered these alien lands. To prevent the nuts that caused the giant rat mutation from being sent to Petipa, Klara needs to get two very different communities to work in harmony, even if it means she may never earn her way to the colony.



Sarena Ulibarri lives, writes, and plants trees in the American Southwest. Two novellas were published in 2023: Another Life from Stelliform Press, and Steel Tree from Android Press. Her short stories have appeared in DreamForge, GigaNotoSaurus, Lightspeed, Solarpunk Magazine, and elsewhere, and her essay in Strange Horizons, “Horror and Hope in Climate Fiction” won the 2023 Utopia Award for nonfiction. As an anthologist, she curated two international volumes of optimistic climate fiction, titled Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers and Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters, and also co-edited Multispecies Cities: Solarpunk Urban Futures. Find more at