Monday, May 29, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Nina Schuyler


I had retired the literary Would You Rather interview 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 Nina Schuyler. Nina’s novel, Afterword, will be published May 2023 by Clash Books. Her novel, The Translator, won the Next Generation Indie Book Award for General Fiction and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Writing Prize. Her novel, The Painting, was shortlisted for the Northern California Book Award. Her short story collection, In this Ravishing World, won the W.S. Porter Prize for Short Story Collections and the Prism Prize for Climate Literature and will be published by Regal House Publishing in 2024. She lives in California.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I walk a lot, miles and miles, always with a pen (see below) and paper just in case. But rarely do I write anything down; I let my mind wander and become diffuse. I live in a place with a lot of trees and green, all different shades. Birds, coyotes, deer, and raccoons, they are neighbors. People in my area love to grow flowers and there are a handful of master gardeners, so in the spring in summer, there is immense color. To move from the white page with black text to the proliferation of color is astonishing. To go from the imagined to the real, it’s what my body and mind crave when I’m not writing. 


Do you have any hidden talents?

I live with three males, my husband and two sons, which means I’ve cultivated lowering the toilet lid to an art. It’s a necessity so the fumes of piss don’t overtake the house. I also invested in the slow-lowering lids and attached them myself, so when the lids hit the toilet seat there is barely a whisper. It’s like a leaf falling. The slow-lowering lid is an art in itself, defying gravity, and deciding on its own terms how it will fall. There’s a lesson there somewhere.


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

I have a favorite pen, the Pilot Precise V5 RT (sounds like a jet plane), and when I discovered it, I bought 20, plus ink refills. I have far too many but my anxiety about losing my favorite pen and running out of ink is alleviated, which, I think, was the point of the purchases. Though it might also be that I always need my favorite pen with me, so there’s one at my desk, several in my backpack, my coat pocket, in my car, and on my nightstand. If I find one of the 20 has migrated to somewhere else in the house, I quickly return it to its home. I don’t trust my family to give it the same respect.


Describe your book in three words.

Love, AI style


If you met your characters in real life, what would you say to them?

To Virginia, who is 75 years old and a pioneer of artificial intelligence, I’d say: do you see equations everywhere? Is everything translated into numbers? I’d ask: with your blinding intelligence in this area, where are we headed? Should a machine be held accountable for its actions? What will be the relationship between humans and machine? I’d ask: if you wrote a novel and put yourself in it, would it be like the one I wrote? What did I overlook? I’d say: I admire and adore the depth of your love and your ambition and your intelligence.


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

Oh, yes! Virginia and Haru, her math professor whom she fell madly in love with, are fascinating! They live the life of the mind and are far smarter than me. It would be so stimulating to meet them. I think I’d form a book club and give Virginia and Haru a novel to read. Perhaps we’d read The Door, by Magda Szabo, with her very complicated female character, Emerence. Or maybe one of the Elena Ferrante books, My Brilliant Friend. I think Virginia would love that book with the girls’ fight for an expansive life. We’d sit and talk for hours about life, death, AI, the eroticism of the ideas, and what is intelligence, exactly. I’d marvel at the acreage that their minds travel with their history of abundance and intense deprivation, and what ultimately gave them deep pleasure.


What is your favorite book from childhood?

So many! But I’ll go with the Cowboy and His Friend because I still have the book and the teal cover is so water-marked, it looks like I read it many times and at least a couple of times in the bathtub. It’s about a boy and his imaginary friend, the Bear, and they do everything together. Perhaps this was the first nudge that the imagination can fill a void, the lack that Lacan speaks of. Perhaps this was the beginning of understanding that the imagination can create an entire world that is utterly compelling.


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

A goat. My friends and I bought our good friend, Libby, a goat, for her fifth or sixth birthday. I’m not sure why we did it, but it was a fun goat and she got to keep it for a while. Somehow it knew how to play tetherball, batting the ball hung from a string on a pole with its head. It was full of life and played well with a gaggle of young girls who loved it. I think, ultimately, she gave it to a farm.


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

I’d ask that younger self: What gives you pleasure? Follow that. Early on, I was a reader and I writer. I would write in a little sketchbook that I hid under my bed. No one knew. I’d write little things about the day, bits of dialogue, strange things that I couldn’t make sense of. It was there; my love of reading and writing at the very beginning of my life, but it took a long time—travels through the study of economics, finance, and law—before I found it again.


Are you a book hoarder or a book unhauler?

Hundreds of books live with me. When my family and I had to move, it was an agonizing and long-drawn-out ordeal of which books could come along with me, and which ones had to be given back to the world. I moved pounds of books. I have a special bookshelf for the 50-plus books that matter the most, that resonated or vibrated something incomprehensible inside. I don’t know why they made their mark, and I’m not interested in deconstructing it, but rather I’m happy that they make me feel more alive. I often feel they contain a more real reality than reality itself, whatever that means.


Lonely for the man who once held her heart, artificial intelligence pioneer, Virginia Samson creates an AI version of her deceased husband. When she’s approached by a Chinese-based company, she’s moved to give them her beloved’s algorithm so they can build an AI companion for the aging population. Soon, Haru starts spying on Chinese citizens, funneling the information to the Chinese government. When Virginia frantically tries to rebuild him, she uncovers his terrible secret, forcing her to decide whether to keep him or kill him. Afterword explores what it means to be human and is a moving testament to the deeply human desire for belonging, companionship, and love. 

buy the book here:

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Indie Spotlight: Victoria Costello


Welcome to our Indie Spotlight series, in which TNBBC gives small press authors the floor to shed some light on their writing process, publishing experiences, or whatever else they'd like to share with you, the readers!

Today, Victoria Costello is sharing a little insight into how Irish slang and how it ended up finding its way into her forthcoming book Orchid Child.

Ten Bits of Irish Slang That Found Their Way in My Novel


As a third-generation Irish American author inspired by my grandparents’ journey across the Atlantic to replicate their lives in fiction, the Irish voices I heard while researching and writing this story felt oddly familiar and unfamiliar—at the same time. Capturing their vernacular, as an outsider, was a daunting challenge I hope I met reasonably well. But hanging out with the Irish characters I created was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Be it a sexual inuendo, or a simple put down, nobody delivers their slang as artfully as the Irish. Here are ten that made it into my forthcoming novel, Orchid Child.


1.      eejit  To my ears, eejit adds an extra layer of scorn to the tamer idiot. Such as when Liam, an Irish teenager, uses it with his younger, American friend, Teague, who complains about being drawn into Liam’s computer hack of the mental health clinic where both are patients. “You’re the one who gave me the password, eejit.”


2.      feckin’ No translation needed, with or without the apostrophe. As when Ellen, the apothecary’s daughter, frets about having to put off her wedding due to the outbreak of violence connected to the 1920 Irish Rebellion. “Ellen pictured walking down the aisle wearing Mam’s dress. If the feckin thing still fit. Between her nausea and bulging middle, Ellen felt less like a bride every day.”


3.      craic Meaning the news. As when the novel’s two brothers, Colm and Michael, trade information to escape a British attack on their town, one asks “What’s the craic?”


4.      Jacks, Tans, both refer to Brits in a not nice way, but Jacks conflates the Union Jack with the Irish word for toilet, while Tans refers to the notorious mercenaries known as the Black & Tans, who ravaged the Irish population during the rebellion.


5.      yoke, works like an all-purpose thingy, such as when the Druid Chief, Finn tells Teague to “pick up that yoke for me.”


6.      beor Meaning slut. Used by Archie, an English grad student studying at the same Irish university where the novel’s protagonist Kate, a disgraced neuroscientist, is conducting the study she hopes will salvage her career. As in “…the ginger beor who got the boot from her lab in NYC because she slept with the boss.”


7.      gobshite Slang in the UK, AU, and Ireland, for a big talker, someone the speaker considers as dumb as shit. Used contradictorily by Archie when he describes Kate as “a gobshite with a massive brain.”


8.      dinger, mot, lashing One more dishy sentence from Archie, now talking about his one-night stand with Kate. “She’s a right little dinger who’s quite the mot after a good lashing.” So many words for a fallen woman, and yet not a one for the fallen man?


9.      PP Ryan, a small-town shrink, is at a pub with his old friend, Dermot who asks for advice on how to please his unhappy wife. To which Ryan says, “Derm, I think you better take that one to your PP.” Meaning, the parish priest, of course.


10.  A nun’s gee. This last nasty bit of slang fit the character so well, I felt compelled … A relative of Kate’s is talking about the united front presented by Kate’s mother and aunt in a family quarrel back home, when he says, “Those two were as tight as a nun’s gee.”


Orchid Child is Victoria Costello’s enchanted family saga; a story told in three voices, one per generation, over a century. Publishing June 13, find out more here.


Victoria Costello is an award-winning writer and educator living in Ashland, Oregon. Her non-fiction work has appeared in various publications, including the Huffington Post, and her debut title, A Lethal Inheritance, A Mother Uncovers the Science Behind Three Generations of Mental Illness was released in 2012 with Prometheus books. Orchid Child is her first work of fiction.


Monday, May 22, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Patricia Clark


I had retired the literary Would You Rather interview 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 Clark. Patricia is the author of The Canopy (Terrapin Books, 2017), her fifth book of poetry, which won the 2018 PSV Book of the Year Award, and three chapbooks, including Deadlifts (New Michigan Press, 2018). She teaches in the Writing Department at Grand Valley State University in Michigan where she is also the university's poet in residence. She has won The Fourth River’s Folio Competition, Mississippi Review’s Poetry Prize, second prize in the Pablo Neruda/Hardiman Prize from Nimrod, and was the co-winner of Poetry Society of America’s Lucille Medwick Prize. She has completed residencies at The MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Ragdale Colony, and The Tyrone Guthrie Center in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland. She was also the poet laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan from 2005-2007, and for many years she coordinated Poetry Night, part of GVSU’s Fall Arts Celebration.

Why do you write?

I write to figure out myself, the world, things that happen, things I wonder about. If days go by without writing, I’m unhappy and clueless. I need writing as a regular practice. It’s the way I exist.

What made you start writing?

I was a bookworm as a child and it didn’t occur to me for a long time that I could be a writer. When it did occur to me, I thought that nothing could be more fantastic than giving readers the thrill of reading my words the way books/reading gave me that thrill. I still hold to that: want to give readers an “ah ha!” moment that helps them see the world in new ways.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing I like to go for long walks, to garden, and especially to read. Another thing I love to do is travel. I’m happiest when I have a couple of upcoming trips, especially international ones. The last thing I’d do is clean my house.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I’m a pretty good baker. Almond tarts, cinnamon rolls, layer cakes, etc.

What’s your kryptonite as a writer?

Kryptonite for me as a writer is sitting and thinking too much. For me, that sows self-doubt and negative thinking. It’s better for me to just launch in and begin writing. That’s my method.

What is your favorite book from childhood?  

I was a big fan of The Once & Future King by T.H. White, his retelling of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a novel by Hilary Mantel called A Change of Climate, because she just died and I want to know her work better. I’m also reading Stephen Fry on Greek Myths and various books of poetry.

What is under your bed?

There’s only dust and some dog hair, I suspect. I try never to look under there!

Do you DNF books?  

Yes! The older I get, the more I realize how precious time is. If a book isn’t rocking me somehow, it has to go.

What are your bookish pet peeves?

Mostly when there is bad writing. What’s that? Writing that doesn’t ring true in details and character, poor plots and too many words to get to the point.



Patricia Clark's poems immerse the reader in the living world through the quality of her attention and appreciation. And she includes us humans with wit and wisdom. In Les Rochers de Belle-Ile, she writes: Both the sea and the rocks/ show age/ It's a tired scene of their/ coming together...No escaping how the sea/ throws you repeatedly on the rocks/ of all you're stupid about. There's hard-won intelligence here. We see it in people sharing a meal and being especially kind to each other after a suicide: lots of please and thanks/ as we handed food around/ basket of steaming bread/for buttering. Always, there is a deep understanding of our interconnections, as in this lovely and evocative final stanza of "Near the Tea House at Meijer Japanese Garden," now tracing a pale blue vein/ under the skin like a leaf's midrib. We would do well to take Patricia Clark's guidance: The charge: note what is here, what departs.

  ~Ellen Bass (blurb on back cover)


There is an unmistakable ardor for sentience in the gentle, exactingly poised voice of this book, its lyrically charged strophes demanding attention not only to its graceful syntax, but also to its halting apprehension of tiny bits of this world—the clap of a bamboo bell spilling its water on stone in a Japanese garden, the purple rib bone at the underside of a maple leaf, the human ashes that rush in a river to the sea. I am reminded of Chopin’s Nocturnes; each poem finely wrought as an exquisite music that is elegiac, valedictory, and yet absent of mourning. This is an astonishing, Heraclitean book.

— Garrett Hongo, author of Coral Road --


Wednesday, May 17, 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 Another Life, and demonstrate how to cook good eatin's with a solar oven!

Another Life takes place in an eco-village in Death Valley, the hottest place on the planet. Early in the novella, my protagonist shows a new resident around town, and together they prepare lunch using a “solar oven,” which cooks purely with the heat of the sun.


 He looked around at the several dozen meals baking in the sunlight. “This is weird.”

“Weirder than air conditioning your house when it’s a hundred degrees outside, and then warming up your oven to four hundred degrees?”

 He seemed to think about that for a second, then stuck his lower lip out and gave a conceding nod.


Solar cooking is something I do every summer in my backyard. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico—not nearly as hot as Death Valley, but still a desert with plenty of sun. Solar cooking reduces fossil fuel usage and strain on the energy grid—that’s incredibly important for my characters, who live in a near-future deep in the throes of climate change damage, and in an off-grid, self-sufficient community. It’s equally important to me, as someone who desperately wants to develop eco-friendly habits and shape a better future. Plus, solar cooking tastes amazing!


Anything that can be cooked in a regular oven can be cooked in a solar oven. It’s more akin to a crock-pot, only instead of plugging it in, you set it outside with mirror panels that concentrate sunlight. My corgi sometimes sniffs around it, but animals and insects don’t tend to bother a solar cooker—probably because it quickly gets too hot! Solar ovens can be used in any climate on a sunny day, but they tend to work best between April and October (in the northern hemisphere, anyway), and between 10am and 4pm.


I use a “hot pot,” which sits inside a fan of foldable reflective panels. This is the style I describe in Another Life, with the characters tossing together a bunch of vegetables with oil and herbs and then carrying their pots outside. Other designs include the tube-shaped GoSun, box-styles, and parabolic reflectors. There are also plenty of DIY designs that you can build from household items. I saw one once built from an old dresser drawer and a mirror.


My favorite things to cook in a solar oven are banana bread, miniature pizzas, and roasted vegetables. You might think the sun would dry food out, but it’s quite the opposite! Solar cooking keeps food moist without the need for added water.


Here’s an easy recipe to get you started on your solar cooking journey! 

Scale as needed.



Beyond Beef Crumbles


Yellow Squash

Fingerling Potatoes

Cherry Tomatoes



Fresh Rosemary

Salt and Pepper

Olive Oil



Slice zucchini and squash to rounds, potatoes into fourths, and shallot into rings. Add cherry tomatoes and plant-based crumbles, then toss with olive oil, rosemary, and minced garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook in solar oven for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add a dollop of Tzatziki sauce and enjoy!




Finding out who you were in a previous life sounds like fun until you’re forced to grapple with the darkness of the past. Galacia Aguirre is Mediator of Otra Vida, a quasi-utopian city on the shores of a human-made lake in Death Valley. She resolves conflicts within their sustainable money-free society, and keeps the outside world from meddling in their affairs. When a scientific method of uncovering past lives emerges, Galacia learns she’s the reincarnation of Thomas Ramsey, leader of the Planet B movement, who eschewed fixing climate change in favor of colonizing another planet. Learning her reincarnation result shakes the foundations of Galacia’s identity and her position as Mediator, threatening to undermine the good she’s done in this lifetime. Fearing a backlash, she keeps the results secret while dealing with her political rival for Mediator, and outsiders who blame Otra Vida for bombings that Galacia is sure they had nothing to do with. But under the unforgiving sun of Death Valley, secrets have a way of coming to light.

Purchase a copy here


Sarena Ulibarri is a writer and editor from the American Southwest. Her short stories have been published in DreamForge, GigaNotoSaurus, Lightspeed, Solarpunk Magazine, and elsewhere, and you can find her non-fiction essays about climate fiction in Strange Horizons and Grist. 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. Two novellas are due out in 2023, Another Life from Stelliform Press, and Steel Tree from Android Press. Find more at

Monday, May 15, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Melissa E. Jordan


I had retired the literary Would You Rather interview 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!

Melissa E. Jordan was primarily raised in Connecticut, and currently lives in the northwestern part of the state. Her recent poetry collection, Red Low Fog/Transcript (Animal Heart Press, 2022) is a hybrid poetry/fiction collection in the form of a documentary transcript. Each interview subject speaks in their own specific category of poetry. Her previous collection, Bain-Marie (Big Wonderful Press) was published in 2015. Jordan’s poems have appeared in The Cossack Review, The Dillydoun Review, Open: Journal of Art & Letters, Word Riot, Otis Nebula, Terrain, Off the Coast, Rat’s Ass Review, and elsewhere. Jordan, who has worked as a newspaper reporter, freelance journalist and as a communications specialist for an anti-hunger agency, is currently working on a graphic verse novel/alternative history project with her husband, the writer/illustrator Michael A.Reilly. 

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

 Probably what every writer who picks this question will answer: Invisibility.

 The unrestricted ability to closely observe people without having to participate in any way? That's such an intoxicating idea. (I don’t know about other folks, though, but I’d rather stick to strangers. The old adage about never hearing something good about yourself when you eavesdrop is a wise one.)


Describe your book in three words.

 Fictional verse documentary


Describe your book poorly.

 Dude tries to blow up an Adirondack ski lodge and people react to it, often while rhyming!


If you could cast your characters in a movie, which actors would play them and why?

 Julia Garner, with her scrappiness and clouds of curls – plus a verified ability to do a fierce Southern accent – would be ideal for Delphine, the young children’s book author who is essentially the heroine of Red Low Fog/Transcript. Domhall Gleeson would be fantastic as her troubled husband, in both his initial charming mode and his later, Travis Bickle-like tirades.

 For the documentarian/narrator (Alex)  Diego Luna would be dreamy. I’m not sure about casting Alex's wife and artistic partner, Birget, but an actor from one of those Nordic whodunits would probably be ideal! (Or Anna Torv, who’s actually Australian but can seemingly do any accent.)  

 While writing the fifth main character in RLF/T, Harry Ange. I often pictured John Lithgow. He’s gentle but a bit acerbic, which JL could do in his sleep. (He’s also my mother’s cousin, and the character himself felt a bit like family when I was spending time with him.)


What genres won’t you read?

 Super-gorey thrillers. Even though the mysteries I read don’t have to be completely cozy, crime novels with torture and body horror are beyond the pale for me. Especially when the psychos specialize in turning young women into interesting corpses, or in kidnapping children.


 What’s the single best line you’ve ever read?

 The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.

― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume


Do you think you’d live long in a zombie apocalypse?

 I’ve wondered about this! I think the two types of people with the best shot of survival are either the usual fearless warrior types – or those who would find the smallest space and hole up for the duration. I’m exceptionally good at the latter.


If you could remove one color from the world, what would it be and why?

 Lime green. I tend to have childishly violent reactions to anything in the neon family.


 If you could time travel, would you go back to the past or forward into the future?

Absolutely, the past. Right now I’m researching 1600s New England for an alternative history project, and the longing to be transported there, even briefly, is overwhelming. (I should say, especially briefly, all things considered.) I’d also love to wander around in “clan of the cave bear” territory.


Are you a book hoarder or a book unhauler?

 I’m definitely a book hoarder by nature, but right now I’m facing a big unloading in the coming months. My husband and I are in the process of getting our home ready for sale, and hope to be traveling in a van or boat later this year. So we’re facing the torture of parting with books, after the luxury of completely filling this massive wall of built-in bookcases we were lucky enough to have for many years.

 Our rural post office has its own version of a little free library, so we’ve started going down there with tote books full of old DVDs and paperback mysteries. It’s oddly liberating so far, but that’s because I haven’t really sacrificed meaningful ones yet.


Melissa E. Jordan’s Red Low Fog / Transcript tells the story of a bombing at a ski lodge in upstate New York, which is entwined with the love story of Thomas Kearne (who is a suspect in the bombing) and his wife, Delphine Kearne (whereabouts unknown). Drawing on the traditions of urban myth, documentary, fairy-tale, small-town gossip, folklore, and reality TV, Jordan leads us through multiple twists & layers of intrigue and mystery.

buy the book here:

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Luanne Castle


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 Luanne Castle. Luanne's poetry chapbook Our Wolves was recently published by Alien Buddha Press. Her collection Rooted and Winged (Finishing Line Press) was published fall 2022. Kin Types, a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Her first collection of poetry, Doll God (Aldrich), won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Poetry. Luanne’s Pushcart and Best of the Net-nominated poetry and prose have appeared in Copper Nickel, American Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, River Teeth, TAB, Verse Daily, Saranac Review, and other journals. 

Describe your book in three words.

picking apart mythologies


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

The poetry of Sylvia Plath, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Diane Seuss, Audre Lorde, John Donne, Natasha Trethewey, Linda Hogan, Victoria Chang. Um, I better stop, but there are more. My favorite novel is Harriet Arnow’s The Dollmaker. In memoir, The Liar’s Club, Reading Lolita in Tehran, A Girl Named Zippy, and many others.


What is your favorite book from childhood?

Sung Under the Silver Umbrella was a children’s poetry anthology that introduced me to poems I loved to read aloud. Jo’s Boys, by Louisa May Alcott, was my favorite children’s novel.


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

Years ago, when toilet paper often had designs printed on it, it became clear that the paper goes over. However, my husband insists that it goes under. This is because once he takes a position he sticks with it, even when proven wrong. So I go along with this one because it is, after all, only toilet paper. He thinks he wins every time he enters the bathroom, never noticing the bigger issues I win. This is why we’ve been married for a very long time.


What would you do if you could live forever?

I probably wouldn’t do much. Or I would lie on the couch with my cats and read all day. Since I know that my time is limited—more limited with every day—I have motivation to accomplish my goals. If I had all the time in the world, my motivation would disappear.


If you could remove one color from the world, what it would be and why?

If I removed one color, the color wheel would disintegrate and we would live in a monochromatic world. Each color depends on other colors for their existence. So I would never do that. However, if I could remove one food, I would. It would be lima beans.


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

I wish I knew how fast my life would pass, that it doesn’t hurt to ask, and that it’s ok to be a late bloomer.


Do you DNF books?

Olive Kitteridge. I just could not get into the characters of that book. I like to read mysteries for relaxation, and sometimes I will read a cozy that is so flat and mindless that I see no point in continuing it.


What are your bookish pet peeves?

I am not saying that a writer should never edit their own book. However, most writers would benefit from hiring a good editor. I’ve read arguments against that because of the cost versus what profit the writer will net. Who cares? If you are asking other people—strangers, most often—to spend time reading your book, make sure it has a minimum of grammar and punctuation errors, please. I feel disrespected when I read a novel with more than a handful of these kinds of mistakes. If you have so little respect for your readers, then why should they respect your writing?


Are you a book hoarder or a book unhauler?

Unfortunately, I am the former. I am hoarding my childhood books, my children’s books, my mother’s childhood books, my grandmother’s books, and yes, my great-grandfather’s books from the 19th century. I hoard the books I used for teaching college English, and even the theory books I read for grad school. Please help me before I am buried in books.


Monday, May 8, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: DEAN DE LA MOTTE


I had retired the literary Would You Rather interview 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 DEAN DE LA MOTTE. Dean was born and raised in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and studied English, French, and comparative literature at UC Santa Barbara, UNC Chapel Hill, and the University of Poitiers, France.  He has published articles and books on nineteenth-century French literature and culture, as well numerous essays on the teaching of literature, including Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

 The father of two grown children, de la Motte lives in Newport, Rhode Island, and spends most summers in France.  Oblivion: The Lost Diaries of Branwell Brontë (Valley Press, 2022) is his first novel.


What do you do when you’re not writing?

I teach, I read, I cook.


Describe your book in three words.

Ambitious. Astonishing. Unputdownable.


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

After a couple of drinks, yes.


What are you currently reading?

Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt’s La Part de l’autre (2001); just finished James Robertson’s News of the Dead (2021).


What genres won’t you read?

Theatre. Fantasy. Works seemingly written only for women, or only for men for that matter. Self-improvement texts. Books about money. Religious, pious, or inspirational works. Most poetry.


What’s the one book someone else wrote that you wish you had written?

Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.


What’s the single best line you’ve ever read?

The final line of Wuthering Heights: "I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."


Do you think you’d live long in a zombie apocalypse?

I’d be dead in about two minutes.


If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?

Pasta fra diavolo and a bottle of red wine.


If you could time travel, would you go back to the past or forward into the future?

Into the past, preferably mid-nineteenth-century Paris with tons of cash on hand.



Oblivion: The Lost Diaries of Branwell Brontë is both a compelling reconstruction of the life of the famous literary sisters' often-misunderstood brother and a dramatic, sweeping portrayal of a century in rapid transition to modernity. It is a meticulous, loving tribute to the language, structure and themes of the Brontës' own works, as de la Motte at times weaves the very words of their correspondence, novels and poems seamlessly into his lively narrative.

Oblivion traces Branwell's meandering journey across the north of England, from the Fells of the Lake District to the ocean cliffs of Scarborough, from the smoky streets of industrial Halifax to the windswept moors above Haworth, encountering such notables as Hartley Coleridge and Franz Liszt. Through him we meet poets, sculptors, booksellers, prostitutes, publicans, railway workers, farmers, manufacturers and clergymen; through his experiences we contemplate the ineffable but fleeting ecstasy of sex, the existence of God, the effects of drugs and alcohol and the nature of addiction itself, the desire for fame, and the bitter resentment of artists and intellectuals who feel unappreciated by an increasingly materialistic, mechanised society.

This sprawling story is a moving, thought-provoking page-turner that seeks not only to understand the roots of Branwell Brontë's tragic end but also to unearth the striking similarities of character between him and his now-famous sisters.


Buy a copy here:

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Books I Read in April

April flew by in the blink of an eye. That said, I managed to outread last month, with a whopping 12 books! I have no idea how I pulled that off but I'm certianly not complaining.  Two of those were books I read for publicity purposes, so they won't appear here on this list. 

Ok! Let's check out what I read!!

Maeve Fly by CJ Leede

I was so close to DNFing around the 40% mark because the book was just moving along sooo slowly but I'm glad I hung in there. The last 30% more than made up for it!

In it, we meet Maeve - ice princess at a famous theme park by day, depraved murderer by night. No, seriously. She spends her evenings sexing it up with men she meets in California dive bars, and brutally mutilates people from time to time to satisfy her inner "wolf". It starts with Hilda, the home aid who upsets Maeve when she tries to convince her that it's time to let her very ill and comatose grandmother go. She tricks the woman into following her down to the basement and swings a mace into her skull. Then she meets her work-bestie's brother Gideon and falls into a twisted and violent relationship with him. And it just gets grosser and gorier from there.

File this one under extreme horror - prepare yourself for pipes and mice, curling irons as sex toys, and dangling eyeballs, for starters. This will most defintely not be for everyone. But for those of you who it IS for... I see you.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

I'm not entirely sure what I just listened to. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I restarted the audio about halfway through because I wasn't sure I was following along correctly, but a second listen didn't seem to clear things up too much more for me. A cleric named Chih is sent out, or just decided to set out, to record history and encounters a woman named Rabbit, who was hand-maiden to an Empress. From there, most of the book is Rabbit tellling Chih all about her time with the Empress and the ways in which the Empress broke the mold and bucked the expectations of her role, I think.

Fucking hell if I know, though. And I guess I'm in it for the long haul, regardless, because I bought the first three audiobooks in this series as a bundle on Chirp because they sounded pretty rad.


At least they're short, right?!

The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

A stunning novella.

In it, we travel alongside a mute mermaid and a mysterious plague doctor as they move through snowy, unfamilar territory. When they stumble across a group of children playing a murderous game of "pig", they are brought before the children's keepers, a threesome of sinister surgeons referred to as "the saints". These surgeons are terrible beings, doing terrible things, and our two companions quickly realize that they must rely on one another if they plan to survive.

This is definitely not your disney brand mermaid, folks. You won't want to get on this one's bad side. Trust me.

The Salt Grows Heavy is lush and lyrical, dark and disturbing, and chock full of blood and body horror. You'll not want to miss this one!

Parasite by Darcy Coates

My husband walked into my antilibrary and saw me staring at my stacks of unread books. He asked what I was doing and I told him I was trying to pick my next read. He said he wanted to pick it for me and chose this one based solely on the title. And what a choice it was!

While the book was quite chunky (clocking in at over 420 page), it read like lightning. Coates wastes no time getting the action going and once it starts, there's no stopping it!

Told in five separate stories from five different outposts, all detailing the same catastrophic alien takeover, we're initially introduced to a small group of women stationed on a remote moon, doing a sweep of the surface to extinguish any lifeforms that may have travelled there on random space junk or comets and asteriods. These lifeforms are typically non-threatening, non-sentient plant life or sludgy stuff that, if left undealt with, could infest the planet and gunk up their equipment.

While on a routine tour around the moon, one of the women comes into contact with something they've never seen before - a large black gooey entity with exploratory tentacles that launches itself at her when she comes within range. There's a struggle, a lot of screaming, and the diagonstics from her suit show that its integrity has been compromised. One of her partners races to her location in an attempt to save her, but the goo tries to attack her as well, and she has no recourse but to flee to the safety of the base. Shortly after, the initial woman knocks at the air lock begging to be let in. Only it's not her. Not really.

How do you fight a monster who looks and sounds like the people you know and love? One that can mimic them to a T, their memories and mannerisms?

Space horror for the win!

Confession - I've only read this and SA Barnes' Dead Silence, but I want more! What other space horror novels would you recommend I pick up?

Nothing But the Rain by Naomi Salman

Nothing But the Rain is a strange apocalyptic novella clocking in at just under 100 pages. Perfectly digestible on this lazy Easter Sunday afternoon.

In it, we follow Laverne, who is keeping a daily journal to remind herself of all the things she might forget. She can't remember when it started. No one can. But they do know that for every drop of rain that hits your skin, you'll lose a recent memory, though there's no way to know which ones it'll take. Stand outside long enough and the rain will wash you clean... completely.

What she does know is that they're quarantined. And it rains every. single. day. And that they have a buddy system in place where neighbors go out to check on other neighbors, dressed up in whatever they can concoct to protect themselves from the wet. They still have power, and food, and bottled water but no cell service. TV's not running either. And the soliders stationed outside the town borders are shooting anyone who approaches. Is this some deranged government experiment? Or a new chemical weapon? Or the beginning of the end of the world?

Laverne writes it all down. Not in the hopes of figuring it out. She's not necessarily seeking answers. She just wants to ensure she survives.

What's intriguing about Nothing But the Rain is that we're limited so strictly to Laverne's experience that we find ourselves questioning what is reality vs what could be the delusions of an old woman. It's tender and tense and atomospheric at all once.

Highly recommend.

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Sorrowland brings a crap ton to the table - the treatment of black americans, individual sexuality and identification, cultist behavior, trauma, albinoism, and government sanctioned testing on humans - so much so that, as you might expect when you try to juggle too many things at once, the story starts to crumble under the weight of everything it's trying to convey.

Without giving too much away, we meet Vern, our protagonist, who is hiding in the woods as she gives birth to twins. She has escaped her husband, who is the leader of the bizarre cultish community she has been raised in, and is doing her best to survive. She is haunted by strange visions and is being hunted by an unknown fiend. As she and her children try to make a home for themselves in the forest, Vern becomes sick with something that is slowly devouring her while simultaneously changing her, both inside and out.

Forced out of hiding, she tracks down two women who knew her childhood friend Lucy, who had also managed to escape Blessed Acres, and with their help uncovers a truth that will crack her, and her understanding of the things she's experiencing, wide open.

While I didn't hate Sorrowland, I also didn't really love it. I guess I had high expectations for it and it fell a little flat, which was disappointing. The storytelling itself was somewhat unbalanced, with some parts that chugged along more quickly than others. And there was a really weird and rather long section in the book where Vern is in the throws of a particularly strong vision and she interacts with the "ghosts" while having phone sex with the woman she is developing a relationship with. While it's not the only sexual encounter in the book, it was a very odd one and I wasn't sure what value it added to the overall storyline, other than just making us uncomfortable.

I'd love to hear what you thought if you read it!

Troll by Dave Fitzgerald

Told in second person, Troll is a brick of a book, clocking in at 580 pages, and delves deep into the mind of an honest-to-god asshole. Oh, sorry. Deep into YOUR mind. Because you're the asshole. And there is no escaping yourself. There's also no escaping all the porn and drugs and bowel movements and, well... did I mention assholery?

We know you. We've met someone like you. We've found ourselves caught up in the web of inescapable conversations with someone like you. Hell, we've run screaming in the opposite direction from someone like you. You're a dick. A weirdly charming but incredibly obnoxious dick. You're an insufferable movie buff with a penchant for pissing other people off. You take the opposite side in every arguement just to get under people's skin. And the one time you find someone who might be willing to put up with your shit, someone who is able to go head to head with the bullshit that constantly spews out of your mouth, you know you're going to fuck it up. You'll full out sabotage it. Because you just can't help yourself, can you?

I can't tell if this review makes it sound as if I didn't like the book. I did! I'm a big fan of Whiskey Tit and the books they put out. And I'm glad to have had the opportunity to support Dave and his new novel! It would have been a solid 4 star read if it hadn't occasionally gotten sidetracked, deviating down rabbit holes and spending pages upon pages on full-out rants. I am not ashamed to admit that I'd find myself skimming a lot of those. I mean, man, already faced with such a heavy page count, I just couldn't afford the time or eye strain (oh if I had a dime for every time my eyes rolled of their own accord, lol) and wanted to get back to the debauchery and aforementioned assholery!

The Net Beneath Us by Carol Dunbar

This was a book I requested from the publisher, thinking it was going to be more about living off the grid and survivalist fiction. Instead, I found myself reading some pretty dark grief fiction. And I didn't hate it!

It focuses on a happily married woman who appears to have it all, and her two young kids, and how thier entire world is turned upside down in the wake of her husband's horrific logging accident. Paralyzed and non-responsive, they make the tough decision to take him off the ventilator. And when he doesn't die, she allows her 'in-laws', with whom she has a strained relationship, to convince her to continue treatment for him, which will only prolong his inevitable death.

Living out in the middle of nowhere, in a half finished house they were building from scratch, she is now faced with finishing what she and her husband started, something she is terribly ill eqipped for, or running back to her old life of comfort.

A very powerful debut that intertwines the beauty of the natural world, and our relationship with trees, into a bleak story about motherhood and parenting and loss.

The Great Transition by Nick Fuller Googins

In The Great Transition, we follow teenaged Emi and her mother and father, Kristina and Larch, as they continue to acclimate within the post-Transition world. Some backstory for context: sixteen years ago the world was on the verge of a full out collapse, referred to as The Crisis. Rather than allow climate criminals to continue to poison the earth, pockets of workers, migrants, and refugees across the globe stood together to save the planet. And Emi's parents were key proponents of that famous revolution.

Now, as Day Zero arrives, a holiday in which everyone parties in the streets together to celebrate the reversal of the Crisis, an unexpected attack takes place in the heart of their city and Emi's mother goes missing. The storyline abruptly shifts from climate fiction to eco-thriller as Emi and her father try to locate Kristina and in the process, begin to realize just how little they know her or understand the kind of danger they both may be in.

Told in flip-flopping storylines that alternate between the perspectives of Emi and Larch, while also bouncing between past and present to build up the reader's understanding of the historic roles both Kristina and Larch played during the Crisis, the flashback chapters became a frequent source of frustration. The deeper into the book we got, the more the flashbacks appeared, which interuppted the forward momentum we were experiencing in the present chapters and created a very choppy, start-and-stop reading flow to the novel.

In spite of that, The Great Transition warns us of the risks of becoming complacent, of ignoring the damage we're causing or waiting for someone else to take it on as "their problem". It's a dystopian survivalist story that shows us what's potentially to come if we continue to choose momentary comforts over a more planet-healthy and sustainable way of life.

The Reason I'm Here by Jarrod Campbell

Listen to this description: his short fictions "traverse the spaces and purposes assumed by the gay male, not least his own" and are meant to subvert standard queer behavior "in favor of honest explorations of desire, amnesia, voyeurism, betrayal, physicality, grief, faith, and uncertainty". I mean, damn, right?!

The opening and title story is the best of the bunch and a great way to kickstart the collection. In it, a man passes out on the street and awakens to no knowledge of who or where he is, with only muscle memory carrying his legs home. His husband is by his side through all the testing as they try to figure out what caused his fainting and amnesia, and slowly feeds him their history little by little, but everything seems a little... off. How do you trust the one you're supposed to love the most when you can't remember a thing? In another, a young taxi driver picks up a stranger who is pining for his lover, and delivers him to an abandoned building only to have him disappear and leave him fareless. When he returns back to base, he recounts the weird encounter to his uncle only to discover he is not alone with his experience. And in the longest story of them all, we meet a young boy who falls hard for the small town pastor until he catches him in bed with an evil entity that appears to have its own sort of power over him.

While the rest of the stories stand up well on their own merit, they don't hold a torch to these three. Together, they tease the reader with a greater sense of strangeness or wrongness, and that made them more intriguing to me. The others were more straight up - stories of wanting and longing, of making the tough decison to help or hurt someone, of obsessing over someone you can't have, of the shocking realization that no good deed goes unpunished....

Jarrod Campbell writes with a precise hand, giving us a sneak peek into the darker, animalistic nature of men and I think we're pretty ok with it.