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.

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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

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Where Writers Write: Chin-Sun Lee

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

Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 

This is Chin-Sun Lee. 

She is the author of the debut novel Upcountry (Unnamed Press 2023), and a contributor to the New York Times bestselling anthology Women in Clothes (Blue Rider Press/Penguin 2014). Her work has also appeared or is forthcoming in The Georgia Review, The Rumpus, Joyland, and The Believer Logger, among other publications. She lives in New Orleans. More at

Where Chin-Sun Lee Writes

Years ago, when I lived in New York City, I always wrote at my desk—a thick piece of curved glass I splurged on and placed in a tiny nook in my entryway. In 2016, I moved to New Orleans, and though I still have that desk, now I change things up and write in different spaces depending on my mood. I think I became averse to writing at that desk because, for the first few years living here in Nola, it was my daily station where I worked a remote job moderating a virtual writing room. Thus, it became associated in my mind with that job and not my creative work. I also find that now I dislike facing a wall (though that was never an issue in New York), and even putting up a mirror didn’t really help.

So, nowadays, if I’m home, I usually write at my dining room table, where I can spread out all my notes and reference materials. I tend to do my serious drafting at that table, and sadly, when I’m under a deadline, I also eat there as I continue working. When I’m just editing or revising, I prefer a more relaxed space, so I’ll often sit on my daybed cross-legged, with my laptop on my knees, or on the sofa in my front parlor—unless it’s summertime, when that room becomes too warm.

In the last few years, I’ve found when I write at coffee shops, I can be really productive—which is funny, because in New York, I had the opposite experience, where the ambient noise, music, and conversations would distract me. But now I just wear earplugs or headphones, and I can totally tune out everything else. It also gets me away from all the distractions I indulge in at home: checking social media, digging in the fridge, playing with my cat, and so on.

My go-to spots in my hood are either the Orange Couch, which has a minimalist office vibe, or a newish place near me called Baby’s, for its chill retro ambiance and fantastic coffees, teas, and snacks. Both of those places also stay open later than most coffee shops here, which close at 3pm (I am not an early riser, so there’s no way I’m getting out of the house before 11am, unless it’s Mardi Gras). And where I do really get work done? On airplanes and trains! Having nothing else to do and nowhere else to go just allows me to hyperfocus. I don’t travel as much as I’d like to, but when I do, I always get a ton of work done.



A middle-class ex-Manhattanite, a cash-strapped single mother, and a young member of an obscure religious "sect," become entangled in a Catskills town.

Claire Pedersen and her husband are relocating from NYC to the Catskills--they have found a terrific deal on a property in foreclosure. The house has been in April Ives' family for three generations, but the single mother of three children from two different fathers needs the money. Claire and April are instantly antagonistic, but the sale proceeds, and renovations begin.

Soon after, Claire's husband develops an erotic fascination with Anna, a young member of a nearby religious community called The Eternals. Two marriages--and one pregnancy--swiftly and dramatically end. Claire is left to finish the renovation and salvage the life she had imagined. April, meanwhile, is dealing with her ex who has just been released from prison on a drug charge and the decision of whether or not to let him build a relationship with the son he has never known.

Life "upcountry" means close encounters between disparate social classes: Claire and April navigate mutual dislike and unanticipated empathy. The house remains a sore point for both. Anna is the unhappy fulcrum between the two older women. Shunned from The Eternals since the incident with Claire's husband, she yearns to return to their protection. Anna's strict views on transgression and penance are baffling to April; for Claire, Anna remains the embodiment of her ruined marriage.

Monday, November 6, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Dev Murphy


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 Dev Murphy. Dev is the author of I’m not I’m not I’m not a baby (Ethel 2023). Her writing and illustrations have appeared in Brink, The Cincinnati Review, The Guardian, ANMLY, Tarpaulin Sky, Diagram, and elsewhere. She was born and raised in rural Ohio, but currently resides in Pittsburgh, where she works as a how-to writer for wikiHow. Find her online at 

What made you start writing?

My older sister writes too, so I wanted to copy her, probably. But I also distinctly remember reading Holes in like third grade and marveling at how everything came together and thinking Wow, this is what you can do with a book. And I wanted to do that. I don’t really write stuff like Holes though, ha. And then my grandmother would give us books all the time, for birthdays and Christmas. She gave me a lot of fantasy and poetry, like Hans Christian Andersen and Millay, which has definitely influenced me as a writer.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing I’m usually working—I write how-to articles for wikiHow (yes, it’s a real job)—or I’m making perfume or drawing. My book has lots of abstract comics scattered throughout, actually.

Describe your book in three words.


Describe your book poorly.

Sad fearful woman believed in God one time; makes mistakes occasionally; doodles about it.

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

Peter and Wendy and Jane Eyre have been favorites for years. I also really love Kate Bernheimer’s Gold Sisters Trilogy, Sabrina Orah Mark’s Wild Milk, Rilke’s Book of Hours. Last year I discovered Barbara Comyns and got obsessed with her. Really I love books that are a bit surreal, spiritual, and lyrical. And sincere: sincerity is probably the most important quality in a book.

What is your favorite book from childhood?

Peter and Wendy, for sure. I also loved The Outsiders. I was so obsessed with The Outsiders, I wrote my own screenplay for it in seventh grade because I didn’t like how Coppola had done it and wanted to make my own movie.

What are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading Cindy Crabb’s Encyclopedia of Doris and just finishing up Joy Williams’ Honored Guest. Beautiful, tender, and funny writers, both of them.

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

Maybe Bernheimer’s Gold Sisters Trilogy, or Comyns’ The Vet’s Daughter. Such brilliant, strange books.

Which literary invention do you wish was real and why?

Hmm. Maybe the door from Howl’s Moving Castle that opens onto different places depending on where you turn the wheel.

What songs would be on the soundtrack of your life?

Honestly, probably the Gilmore Girls background music, all the la la la’s.


Thursday, November 2, 2023

What I Read in October

 So I was wrong you guys! In September I finished 13 books and thought that was going to be the best I'd get for the rest of the year but nope. I managed to read 13 books again in October. One of them was for publicity purposes, so I won't include it here, but dayum! My reading has been on fire these last couple months. Can I keep it up? I don't know but I sure hope so!!

So let's take a look at what I read in October: 

Apparitions by Adam Pottle

Imagine being a young deaf boy, sheltered from the world by a druggie mother who tries to do her best for you but fails miserably. Imagine your estranged father coming to drag you away, kidnapping you, and locking you away in a basement room with a light that never turns off and only a dirty mattress and bucket to piss and shit in. No one ever taught you to sign, to communicate. No one ever taught you anything. All you know is what's inside those concrete walls with you. And the dogs. You also know the dogs. The ones they make you fight, fight and kill before they kill you. Until one night, you are dragged out of the room and into the yard and made to stand by a hole that was dug just for you. Your father with a gun to the back of your head, and you running suddenly, running for your life. Escaping one hell just to be plunged into another. Only you don't know this new place is hell. Not yet. You'll learn that later, after you escape from there too.

A dark, horrifying look at longterm child abuse and trauma, deafness, sexual exploration, and the cult-like manipulation of someone who appears to be your savior but who instead becomes just another kind of captor.

I Saw Satan at the 7-Eleven by Christopher Brett Bailey

his book was absolutely gonzo! A quick, fun romp in which our protagonist accepts a ride in Satan's little red Corvette and ends up having the worst, and best, time of his life. Prepare for insane amounts of alcohol, violence, sexual deviance, and yes, Satan's firey ejaculate.

It reads like lightning and will likely melt your face off.

4 sulfur smelling stars!

Little Miss Apocalypse by Danger Slater

Danger Slater knocked it out of the universe with this one. I've been a big fan of his writing for years and this is quite honestly his best book yet! It's by far my favorite. And that's saying a lot because I love everything he's written.

Good lord! Channeling the wonder of 80's John Hughes films, our protagonist Elizabeth believes she's living smack dab in the middle of one - she's a loserish high school girl who's madly in love with the jerkwad basketball star Trevor. He's got a steady girlfriend and doesn't even know she exists but she won't let those social odds stand in her way. While she's obsessively planning their first kiss, her sidekick goth pal Stevius, who is secretly pining for her, agrees to help make her dream of going to the prom with Trevor come true, with world-annihilating repercussions.

This was the most fun I've had reading in a while! It's cutesy, it's crass, and it's full of creative new alt words for our unmentionables. Vaginas are now cupcakes, buttholes will forever be turd cutters...

If Little Miss Apocalypse wasn't on your radar before, it is now. Get this novella into your TBR! You deserve this!

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

This was my first Riley Sager novel and overall, I really enjoyed it. It was fast paced, despite the fact that almost the entire thing is set inside a car, lol. The first half of the book gave off serious "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" vibes - a guy and a girl on a long road trip together, the narrator is obviously very unreliable, the tension is palpable, we know something super weird is transpiring but we're not really sure what... I was totally hooked.

But my feelings started to change once we get to the twist(s). And that ending? That's the kind of bow we wanted to tie this story up in? Naaah. I wasn't a fan.

Five star read up front, the twisty stuff was ok, not super great but I rolled with it, and then the ending was just a two star wtf for me.

So while I liked it, I'm just not sure I liked it enough to want to run out and by more of his backlog.

Have you read this one? Did you feel the same? Or are my expectations just too high?

Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies by EM Roy

Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies just released this week. I was in the mood for a quick creepy read and I had the digital review copy on my phone. This hit the spot! It was so good, I practically read it in one sitting.

It's a queer, small town, urband legend, cryptid cosmic horror story. I know it sounds weird but trust me on this, it fucking works!

Leo and her girlfriend Tate are no strangers to trauma. While Leo is trying to put distance between hers, Tate's all about exploring and understanding it. Scared of the forest, yet intriqued by the local disappearances and deaths that have been reported in the woods surrounding the town's cemetery, Tate convinces Leo to go on a walk that ends with Tate going missing and Leo under suspicion.

Leo refuses to believe Tate's dead but she can't remember what happened in those last moments they were together. In an attempt to jog her memory, she leverages some of Tate's recent research into the town's history, and her parents' gruesome deaths, and uncovers a unique link between that and the strange door she and Tate stumbled across while out there.

What are some of your favorite 'small town with dark secret' stories?

I Died Too, But They Haven't Buried Me Yet by Ross Jeffery

Grief horror for the win!

Henry is grieving. His daughter Elsie went missing 12 years ago and every year on the anniversary of her disappearance, he buries another piece of her. His ex-wife's moved on but he's stuck in this terrible cycle of regret and pain. The only relief seems to come during the time he spends with his friend Josh at their grief counseling group meetings, but honestly, it's just an excuse to hit the bar afterwards and soak his sorrows in alcohol.

That is, until a stranger named Rowen pops by one evening and offers Henry the opportunity to join a seance - promising him some much needed closure. If she comes through, he'll be able to grieve her properly. If she doesn't, it might mean she's still out there, alive somewhere.

And oh boy, does Elsie ever come through! Henry is now being haunted by her, but in ways he never could have imagined.

This one takes its sweet old time, a slow burn for sure, but one that I read in nearly one sitting. It was a solid 4 star read for me until we hit the twist at the end and then BAM! Jeffery took the whole thing to a new level and there went my head and my heart!

Get this on your radar. You won't want to miss it. I promise you.

They Came From the Ocean by Boris Bacic

I picked this up as an ebook for a couple bucks because it sounded like it'd be a fun, campy horror novel and as long as you go in knowing that, it'll totally meet, and possibly exceed, your expectations. I really enjoyed this one.

Our narrator Ellie takes what appears to be her dream job with a mining company stationed 8,000 feet under the ocean. When one of the maintenance guys disappears while performing a routine repair on one of the drills, Ellie and a handful of others convince their chief to let them go out there and attempt to rescue him. No one seems to question the fact that he only had 8 hours of oxygen when he went out there, and didn't activate his distress signal until nearly a day later. Or that he seems to be 3,000 feet further down from where he should be... they just know he's alive and they've got to try to save him.

What initially felt like a good idea quickly becomes a chilling, claustrophic nightmare as Ellie and crew realize they may never make their way back up towards the surface. Their search finds them exploring a hollowed out underwater mountain, complete with strange obelisks and hieroglyphics on the walls. It doesn't take long for the crew to realize that they are not alone down there in the deep inky darkness. Something is out there stalking them and you'll never guess what it is!

If jellyfish and shark weren't enough to keep you out of the water, whooo boy! This book sure will! You'll be gasping for air in no time.

Let Him In by William Friend

Ugh. Not as good as I was hoping it would be and definitely a book I could have waited to buy once it came out in paperback. Sigh.

Alfie is left to raise his young twin daughters on his own after his wife passes unexpectedly in the cellar of their home. One evening, months after her death, the girls sneak into his bedroom claiming to have been spooked by a man standing at the foot of their bed. The man slowly becomes a new oppressive presence in the house, an 'imaginary friend' the girls refer to as Black Mamba, who can shape shift into anything he wants and who demands a seat at their dinner table.

With no one to turn to, Alfie calls on his sister-in-law Julia, a psychotherapist, for help and soon discovers there might be more to Black Mamba than he originially thought.

While atmospheric and unsettling, Let Him In rarely goes much farther than that. Sure, it keeps you guessing, right up until the last page, but there's no real pay off. All that lead up for ... what, exactly?

Good enough to get to me to read it cover to cover in one day, but it left me all kinds of let down.

Have you read it? Did you feel the same way?

The Employees by Olga Ravn

A space novel but told solely through interviews and recordings with the human, and humanoid, crew members over a period of eighteen months. Because we're just thrown right into it, it takes a handful of pages to get a grasp on what's happening, but hang in there. It's quite the read!

From what I can gather, something's happened on Earth and a bunch of scientists and blue collar workers boarded a space ship. Robotic co-workers were hatched and continue to be subjected to a series of upgrades and reboots as together, they locate a new planet and begin to collect 'objects' from its surface. These objects are stored in a couple of rooms aboard the ship, and seem to have a positive impact on crew morale. Over time, however, the ship's employees, human and humanoid both, develop slightly obsessive behaviors towards the objects, which appears to then impact the way they work with and behave towards each other.

Oooh that ending, you guys! What a stellar and stunning way to tell the story of space exploration and mental dysphoria - in people and machines alike.

If you enjoy science fiction and non traditional storytelling, this is a must-read for you!

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

In The Silent Companions, we meet the pregnant and recently widowed Elsie as she moves into her dead huband's crumbling mansion with his cousin Sarah. She and Sarah are eager to explore the property and all the rooms of the house and stumble across a locked attic door. When they ask the house staff about it, no one seems to have a key. Then one night, while chasing a strange hissing noise that was keeping them awake, Elsie and Sarah end up in front of the now unlocked attic door and locate some strange relics up there - a diary of Sarah's ancestor Anne, and an odd, slightly creepy wooden painting of a young woman.

Sarah becomes obsessed with the secrets the diary's been keeping and Elsie develops a growing fear of the 'companion' painting, which seems to be moving around the place on its own, popping up in rooms it wasn't in previously, while more creepy 'companions' begin appearing around the house too, blocking doorways, stationed on stairways, always where you'd least expect them. And then some of the stable animals and staff start turning up dead...

It's atmospheric and mysterious and it flips between three timelines - opening with Elsie at the insane aslyum, and then moving between that storyline to Elsie and Sarah's time at the creepy manor and Anne's timeline during the period in which she wrote the diary.

Is it a haunted house story? Is it a possession story? Is it the story of a woman slowly losing her mind? Sounds like a pretty compelling read, doesn't it?

But for some reason it just fell a little flat for me. I think part of it is the time period - where the men treat the women like hysterical lunatics and the women prance around without a care in the world and everyone has servants and act all hoity toity and become easily put out whenever things don't go their way. It's just so tiresome.

Where's my fainting couch? I'm feeling a little peaked.

Strega by Johanne Kykke Holm

Gorgeous cover. Interesting premise. Boring execution.

This is another book I bought in hardcover but should have waited to grab. The description makes it sound more weird and creepy than it actually was, so I had much higher hopes for it and was a little let down with how it all played out.

Nine girls respond to advertisements for seasonal help at a remote hotel located in the village of Strega. They are instructed on maidy things like how to properly wash sheets, present food, speak when spoken to, etc. The women that run the hotel are a bit brutish and cruel, maintaining a strict schedule for the girls, and the girls form pretty quick bonds with one another... smoking on their breaks together, walking through the grounds, musing on life and death, and reading books to each other. They follow their maidy routines day in and day out to prepare for guests that never arrive.

Until one evening, when the hotel hosts a party and one of the nine goes missing. Then the girls spend the rest of the novel trying to discover, somewhat unenergetically, what has happened to her.

Mostly told in first person plural, the reader feels distanced from the action on the page, if you can define what's happening here as 'action'. There doesn't seem to be much, if any, character development. It's almost as if the group of girls were basically one big inseparable protagonist. Outside of the prose itself, which I was quite drawn to, it makes for a very slow and tedious read. They just seemed to hover and experience time, and things in general, passively.

Don't believe the blurbers for this one - it didn't transport me, it wasn't evocative, and it definitely didn't leave me breathless.

The Paleontologist by Luke Dumas

The Paleontologist was one of those books I was eyeing for a bit before I requested it on netgalley, wondering if it would be too sciencey for me. Turns out, I was worrying about the wrong things. While fully enjoyable, it starts off strong but then gets a little too bogged down in the supernatural stuff for my tastes.

Simon is returning to Pennsylvania and the Hawthorne Museum of Natural History nearly twenty years after his little sister Morgan's disappearance. Taking the job as Director and Curator will allow him to not only pick up where his predecessor left off, preparing the bones of their most recent discovery, but it also gets him closer to uncovering what exactly happened to Morgan all those years ago when she was snatched out from under his watch in that very building.

When Simon arrives at the Hawthorne, though, it's closed due to the pandemic and he learns it's in severe financial distress. As he settles himself into his basement office, he begins to hear strange noises that he initially shrugs off as old pipes and boilers, only to learn from the sole maintenance employee Maurice that there's something much more sinister stalking the halls of the museum.

His determination to locate his sister's killer finds Simon face to face with forces he never expected to encounter. Hell, forces he may not be able to survive...

While I had anticipated this would be more of a dark thriller - a sort of who-dun-it murder mystery - it quickly switched gears on me. Think Night at the Museum but with less laughs and a whole lot more prehistoric supernatural horror. Within these pages are ghosts that won't be easily sated.