Teetering on the Nightstand: Barbara Winkes talks about works from Tess Gerritsen, Alexandra Sokoloff, Christina Dalcher and more

What are some of the titles in your current TRB pile?

Where Are You, a romance about college best friends that fell in love, but lost touch and meet again in the present, Breaking Steele (#3 of the Jasmine Steele Mysteries), and Rise of the Darkwitch (LGBT YA Fantasy). What’s next will depend on time and mood, but with Halloween approaching, the fantasy novel might be a good idea.

What book are you currently reading?

The first book in Max Ellendale’s Four Point Trilogy. A female cop hunting a serial killer? I’m there. I’ve always thought of this premise as a metaphor of the fight against patriarchy (at least in fiction, it usually comes with the desired outcome).

414myifeqnlWhat do you hope to add to your TBR pile soon and why?

I’m always up for the next good thriller, but I’ve come across a book called Vox, a dystopian novel. Women are only allowed to speak a 100 words a day, and the main character is challenging that rule. It might make me too mad at the moment. Alexandra Sokoloff’s The Huntress/FBI thrillers look interesting to me (a female serial killer, vigilante justice), and so does The Book Addict by Annette Mori (a lesbian romance with a bit of magic. I have read more by this author, and her stories are always outside the box. Since I’m not a genre purist, I appreciate that). I have my comfort genres, but I also like contrast.

Bonus: Which author do you want to see have a new book out soon?

I’d love to see a new book in Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series. I have a few favorite serials. Coming back to them is always like meeting with old friends you haven’t seen in a while. I find it very comforting – even if the content isn’t. And a new book by Karin Slaughter that featuring Lena Adams (for the same reasons).

 

Check out Barbara’s Q&A about Cypher!

 

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Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings.

Discover a variety of genres, serial and standalone. Women loving women always take the lead.

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Online Issue 15

 

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Darrin Doyle’s short story collection, Scoundrels Among Us, hit shelves this week and Darrin is here to talk about the common thread that ties these stories together. “A lot of fiction contains somebody doing something bad or wrong, but often they’re making bad decisions for themselves (or to themselves). My collection features many folks (mostly men) behaving in creepy, questionable, violent, or otherwise unseemly ways.”

I found the collection to be a celebration of the absurd and highly entertaining. Darrin also shares what’s on his TBR pile – including works such as Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves, Christine Schutt’s All Souls, Christine Sneed’s The Virginity of Famous Men and Katie Chase’s Man & Wife.

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Hunter Shea admits his love for Real Housewives and talks about the scariest night of his life and inspiration for Creature. Hunter also talks about his cats, Iris and Salem, in this author assistant feature.

Judy Penz Sheluk talks about her writing companion, a pup named for a character from NCIS: Gibbs

James Oswald talks about writing from the female perspective, insights from social media and claims to be “rubbish” at performing one specific author task.

Reviews:

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse reviewed by Sandra Ruttan

Scoundrels Among Us by Darrin Doyle reviewed by Sandra Ruttan

Solemn Graves: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery by James R. Benn reviewed by Theodore Feit

The Sinners by Ace Atkins reviewed by Theodore Feit

A Book To Look Up

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What is ‘voice’ anyway?

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Thoughts on Horror

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I suspect there could be as many conversations about what horror is as there are about what noir is. Laura Lauro’s tweets pointed me to the Aeon.co article by M.M. Owen, which is well worth a look.

“Horror is what anthropologists call biocultural. It is about fears we carry because we are primates with a certain evolved biology: the corruption of the flesh, the loss of our offspring. It is also about fears unique to our sociocultural moment: the potential danger of genetically modifying plants. The first type of fear is universal; the second is more flexible and contextual. Their cold currents meet where all great art does its work, down among the bottomless caves on the seabed of consciousness. Lurking here, a vision of myself paralysed in the dirt, invisible to those I love.”

 

Online Issue 14

TSP OI14 coverAuthor Lee Murray talks about her novelInto the Sounds, and how traveling has shaped her life and writing, the actor she’d pick to play her protagonist for the series and her faithful author assistant, Bella.

Stuart R. West drops by to talk about his faithful companion, Zak, and his novels Secret Society (which may be one of the most original takes on a serial killer story) and how a real-life ghost town inspired Ghosts of Gannaway.

Jon O’Bergh is back to share the music his characters in The Shatter Point would listen to.

S.D. Hintz is also giving us the goods on the nosey neighbors who inspired The Witching Well and the reason he may just live in the creepiest house, ever.

ICYMI, Brian talked to Steph Post and Nik Norpon about their tattoos. And there’s a new story up at Zombie Cat: Waiting on the Stress Boxes by David Hagerty.

Goldilocks and the Dark Barometer

Every now and again, someone writes about the darkness that permeates Young Adult fiction. This leads to speculation about whether it is too dark, and summaries on the topic. I could do likewise, but I felt  already did that so well, I don’t need to.

What I did decide was that I would focus on reading some popular YA authors and titles and see what I thought. So, reads over the past few months classified as YA have included Nightwolf, Salt, The Fragile Ordinary, The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Out of all of these offerings, Nightwolf is probably the darkest. Salt has monsters and The Forest of Hands and Teeth has zombies, but Nightwolf focuses on real horrors some kids today live with, and although it isn’t pure noir, there is a sense of hopelessness and futility that permeate the story. It isn’t what I’d call cheery. The other titles have varying degrees of hope – for resolution of problems, for overcoming difficult situations, for the future. I didn’t find any of this unrelentingly dark.

Now, your mileage may vary. But here’s the thing. Young people are dealing with a lot of crap. We did, too, in our day. They’re trying to figure out who they are, what they want out of life and what others expect of them. They have to make decisions that will shape their entire future. And they’re looking at a war of words between politicians that might lead to war with North Korea and all kinds of other crap going on that could change their future. They want to assume control of their lives but they aren’t adults, so they’re caught between taking responsibility for their actions and having limited authority for their choices.

And everything they do is presented on social media for all the world to see.

Frankly, the stuff I’ve heard about via the kids over recent years has been numbing. They are far more aware of a lot of crap than I ever was. And I specifically started watching The Walking Dead because their biomom was watching it with them when they were eleven. Brian and I always felt we should have some sense of what they were watching and being exposed to so that we could have informed conversations about it, so a show I’d resisted watching became part of our regular viewing. (And they had some good seasons, so for a while it wasn’t a chore at all.) Frankly, if they can watch that when they aren’t even teens, it’s got to be pretty damn hard to top that level of darkness in fiction.

People read for all kinds of reasons, and one of those reasons is to escape. Another is to learn about things they otherwise wouldn’t get answers about. And another is to help them process things they’re dealing with.

Hells bells, I’m just glad to see young people reading. You want to read dark? Read on, I say.

Reviews:

Review: Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

 

Review: The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young

 

Review: Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

 

Review: The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer

 

Review: Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

 

Review: Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind by Reed Farrel Coleman

 

Bye Bye Kindle Boards

From their new terms of service:

“You agree to grant to KBOARDS.COM a non exclusive, royalty free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to reproduce, distribute, transmit, sublicense, create derivative works of, publicly display, publish and perform any materials and other information you submit to any public areas, chat rooms, bulletin boards, newsgroups or forums of KBOARDS.COM or which you provide by email or any other means to KBOARDS.COM and in any media now known or hereafter developed. Further, you grant to KBOARDS.COM the right to use your name and or user name in connection with the submitted materials and other information as well as in connection with all advertising, marketing and promotional material related thereto, together with use on any other VerticalScope Inc. web sites. You agree that you shall have no recourse against VerticalScope Inc. for any alleged or actual infringement or misappropriation of any proprietary right in your communications to KBOARDS.COM.”

You have to email and ask for all your information to be removed. Always nice for some assholes to come along and change the terms of service after the fact so that people’s information is already being sold. Jerks. Time to sign off.

Hulu Programming Campaign for Letterkenny

Now, Brian’s new favorite show is a Canadian show called Letterkenny. The first two seasons are on Hulu, and he wants them to get all the seasons added. So here’s hoping some of you will have a full appreciation for the quirky humor and jump on the bandwagon. Season 1 has a running joke starting episode 2 that has payoff in the final episode of the season…. just brilliant. These clips have nothing to do with the ostrich fucker, or my favorite joke about a certain book, or even the super-soft birthday party, but they do help set the tone of the show.

 

Now, this one… maybe not young kid friendly. But a great illustration of ‘show not tell’ writing. I know exactly what Wayne and Daryl think about Squirrely Dan’s revelation about his sexual experience without so much as a word from either of them.

 

Review: Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

The teenage years can be tough enough. Kids must find their way, determine the right path for their future, and many will fail to fulfill their parents’ expectations in the process. When you add in the fact that Indi’s parents are missing and presumed dead and he is one of four siblings, including one sibling who is much younger, things get complicated. Indi and his older sister, Beleza, assume responsibility for twelve-year-old master thief Oscar and six-year-old Zulu.

51uwkhh0yzlWhy hasn’t social services or someone else stepped in to get all of these kids proper care, you might wonder? Well, that’s kind of hard when they have spent most of their life living on vessels hunting ocean monsters with their parents.

And we’re not just talking about big marine mammals that might be daunting. We’re talking about morde d’eaus and El Diamante and a whole host of other monsters responsible for making whole ships disappear, as well as the occasional cat.

Beleza is on a mission that Indi thinks is crazy. She wants to hunt down the monster that presumably killed their parents.

In his heart, however, Indi isn’t that convinced about their mission or their capabilities. There’s a part of him that wants a different life for them all, so he obsesses about reading his parents’ journal to try to find clues to the treasure they told their children they had secured for them.

Indi meets an attractive young woman named Hura and his relationship with her may ultimately help hasten their victory… or the death and destruction of his whole family.

There’s a whole lot to applaud in this fast-paced YA adventure/coming-of-age story. Some may wish for more descriptive details about the monsters and hunts; I appreciated the minimalist approach that gave us just enough to entice our imagination and didn’t get bogged down with excessive details while moving through a hunt or attack. Moskowitz also avoids excessive introspection, which has its perks, too. Mentally and emotionally, we’re right where the protagonist is, and that makes his decisions more credible. Nothing is held back; anything Indi must discover feels like a full revelation to the reader as well.

Under the surface of a revenge/monster story, this is a tale about figuring out who you are, family obligations, principles and forgiveness. Every member of Indi’s family must decide what lines they’re willing to cross and what’s important to them.

I loved this story. Now, it may (or may not) matter to you to know a few things about me to understand how significant that statement is. I’ve flown in an ultralight.I’ve traveled by bus, plane and train. Extensively. 26 countries on 4 continents. And I’ve been out on the open ocean. I’ve sailed in the Irish Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. I’ve traveled over the Atlantic and crossed the English Channel.

The only kind of travel I have a problem with is by water. Not boating on lakes… boating on the ocean. I get seasick. Majorly. I’ve never overcome it.

So this book starts off with these kids on a boat and… you see, a lot of times when I get review copies I just take them and forget what they’re about. I put them on a list in order of release and work my way through. If a book isn’t working I pass and move on and then give it a second try and either read it or abandon it. So, between getting Salt and reading it, I only recalled it was YA.

I started the book and felt nauseous just reading.

And then I turned the page and there were monsters! And we were right into the middle of an attack and I was sold.

Of course, the other thing you may (or may not) need to know about me is that I almost drowned. I’m not talking about I had a little scare in a pool when I couldn’t touch bottom for a second or anything like that. I fell down a waterfall. A group of people formed a lifeline on shore and pulled me out after I was sucked down in a whirlpool.

So there’s a scene in the book that made me squirm, but it’s a testament to Moskowitz’s skill set, that she knows how to set a scene in such a way that the reader feels they are right there. That’s a testament to her skills. I loved this book. Sit down, strap yourself in and brave the high seas with Indi and his family to find out whether or not they can locate the treasure, the truth about their parents and fulfill the revenge mission Beleza has started them on.

Review: The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young

614af1ibwhl-_sy346_“I am Comet Caldwell.

“And I sort of, kind of, absolutely hate my name.”

Thus begins Comet’s journey in The Fragile Ordinary. Comet is a 16-year-old girl from Scotland with two disinterested parents who prefers escaping into the world of books or writing poetry to socializing. This can get her in a bit of trouble with her friends, Vicki and Steph, who are trying to pull her out of her shell. When a new boy at school makes Comet’s heart beat faster and her skin turn redder than its ever been, Comet struggles to understand and control her response to Tobias King. When King is assigned the seat next to her in one of her classes and they have to work on a project together she discovers there’s much more to the American “bad boy” than meets the eye.

Comet’s story is relatable for many teens who are trying to figure out who they are and struggling to adjust to the changes that growing up brings. Young walks a very fine line, presenting these teens as real without overusing curse words or overemphasizing some of the teen perils that are touched on. From Comet to Tobias to Vicki to Steph, all of the main characters in this book will have to grapple with who they are and what they want from life to some extent, and teens will relate to the challenges they’re facing themselves as they figure out their plans for the future. Bullying is a reality at school, and nobody pretends to have the perfect answer for how to deal with the problem. Just going through the thought processes for the decisions that Comet and others make may help some readers feel as though they aren’t so alone, and may give those struggling with similar issues ideas for how to resolve their own problems.

Family issues are front and center. Comet’s disinterested artsy parents are more wrapped up in each other than anything else and are anything but typical. Her neighbor is more of a parental figure than Kyle or Carrie, as Comet has been instructed to call Dad and Mom. As Comet gains confidence she confronts her parents about how they treat her, and comes to terms with what that means for her relationship with them moving forward.

Tobias comes off like a bad boy and definitely has an attitude. Once Comet starts to get to know him, all of the reasons for his anger make sense. I don’t want to say too much there because of potential spoilers, but this was a really believable and compelling part of the story. Both Comet and Tobias are dealing with imperfect parents and coming to terms with how their parents have – for better or worse – shaped their lives. Tobias also has family in town, and his cousin has a bad reputation. When his cousin’s mom is diagnosed with cancer things spiral, and both Tobias and Comet struggle with how to help him.

The dynamics between the three girls are also pretty interesting. Comet is better friends with Vicki than Steph, who is self-absorbed and likes to be the center of attention. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a future where Comet and Steph have completely drifted apart. One of the things Comet really has to think about throughout the story is how her decisions (to withdraw, stay home and read, not go to parties or socialize) are affecting her friendships.

Overall, Comet matures and blossoms in this coming-of-age story, while grappling with some big decisions and big problems. Whether you’re a teen whose drifting apart from your more sociable friends or someone who’s being bullied or worried about a peer who’s having serious family problems or a parent trying to understand your teenager, you’ll find some keen insights woven into the fabric of this engaging story.