Online Issue 17: “Living My Best Life”

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This issue begins and ends with mourning. We mark the passing of long-time reviewer and crime fiction enthusiast, Theodore Feit, with his final review.

We’re also reeling with the fresh pain from the news that Evie Swierczynski has passed away after her fight with leukemia. Many years ago, I was hired to travel to Philadelphia and interview Duane Swierczynski for a magazine feature. I got to meet his children and Meredith. I’m lucky enough to say I’ve known Duane for many years, and yet I do not know him and his family well … and yet Duane’s posts over the past several months have made many of us feel as though Evie was a part of our family, because he captured her spirit and shared her with us all.

All I really know today is that their grief is unfathomable. In the days and weeks ahead I’ll be thinking of Duane, Meredith and Parker as they begin the unfathomable journey forward without Evie.

One thing Duane mentioned months ago was that Evie always said, “Living my best life.” For her, it was a statement of sarcasm in response to misfortunes. (DS FB June 7)

May we all cherish the moments we have and truly live our best lives.

Scroll down a bit and you’ll see a list of ways to pay tribute to a loved one’s memory.

Sticking with the Music Theme

Paul D. Brazill’s Supernatural Noir is out in stores now, and he’s sharing his new work’s playlist with us.

Author Interviews

Kelli Owen talks being a Nerdy Klutz, how that impacts her zombie apocalypse plan, and what a vampire story has to do with prejudice.

Brian Lindenmuth chats with Terrence McCauley about writing westerns.

Robert White talks about Thomas Harris, David Lindsey and Martin Cruz Smith, his protagonist’s biggest fear, and how real life events inspired Northtown Eclipse.

When The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale Collide: Barbara Winkes talks about her Dystopian tale, Cypher.

Reviews:

Sandra Ruttan takes a look at In The Galway Silence, the latest Jack Taylor novel by Ken Bruen.

Brian also has a horror review column up, just in time for Halloween.

And, in sad news, the review of The Line by Martin Limon marks Theodore Feit’s final review. Our condolences to Gloria on Ted’s unexpected passing last month. He was a long-standing reviewer who was committed to sharing his love of books, and will be missed.

Actors Wanted

Tom Leins picks the Actors who Could play Joe Rey, the Gunrunner, Slattery and Wila.

To Be Read Features

Wondering what some of your favorite author are reading these days and hoping to crack open soon?

What Do John Verdon, Annette Dashofy, Gwen Floria, Eric Beetner and Kyle Mills Have in Common? JJ Hensley talks recent reads and more.

J.L. Abramo talks about global events that impact his current reading, works by Erik Larson and Bryan Burroughs and his hopes for new Tim O’Brien novels.

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When The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale Collide: Barbara Winkes talks about her Dystopian tale, Cypher

Cyphercover1 (2)SR: What’s your new book about?

BW: Cypher is a dystopian novel in which some citizens have signed many of their rights to the “City” government. They give up their names, and become numbers instead, which puts them at the mercy of the Identity Agency. Ami went into the program after being pressured by people close to her, and her fate worsens from there. Katlena, who is an inspector with the Identity Agency, still believes in the system, and she thinks that if she rises through the ranks, she can help change it to the better. Both of them have secrets they guard closely. Mutual attraction might put them at risk, and it’s unclear whether they can trust each other—or who the enemy really is.

SR: Was there a specific issue or incident that really motivated you to write this particular story? What was the prompt?

BW: Part of it was that The Hunger Games, many years after I’d read The Handmaid’s Tale, got me back into reading dystopian fiction. I always add suspense and romance to my books, not matter the main genre. Finally, I looked back on my own experience of being unemployed for a while, and the toll it took at times. It’s not hard to feel like a number—even though my life, of course, was far from Ami’s.

SR: How do you think your protagonist would respond if aliens landed in the center of town on page 57?

BW: Both Ami and Katlena have seen strange things in their lives, but I’m sure that would freak them out on a deeper level. Page 57, it’s the morning after, and Katlena wakes from a nightmare. That would be an interesting time to add aliens…

SR:  Your protagonist has to flee the country. Where are they headed to and why that location?

BW: Mexico perhaps. If I believe HGTV, they could get affordable housing close to the beach, and I think they’d be able to go there with the funds they have.

SR:  What conspiracy theory is your protagonist most likely to believe in? Roswell? JFK? Princess Diana? What about you? Any conspiracy theories that you think might have some truth to them?

BW: These days, I’m extra careful, because there’s so much of it out there and online, sometimes you have to remind yourself that there is still an objective reality. I try to check myself and not fall for something that’s too easy or too good to be true.

SR:  Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or end up in prison?

BW: Since they are working to change the system, and their opponents aren’t happy about it, prison is a likely prospect if they don’t succeed.

SR: What’s your protagonist’s greatest fear? Why?

BW: In the beginning, the greatest fear for both of them would be related to their individual stories—how events could affect their life plans. Later on, it’s the fear of losing each other.

SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?

BW: All of my works have women coming together to work toward a common goal, if it’s cops hunting a serial killer or characters of a different background hoping to change society to the better (in the case of Cypher, undo some of the cruel reality that is part of their world). I even did it with vampires and witches in RISE. It’s important to me to convey that vision, even if it doesn’t always happen in the real world. I’d like to think that most women and men would prefer equality, but I focus on women(-loving women) protagonists in my books.

SR:  Cage match between you and your protagonist. It’s a fight to the death. Which one of you will be left standing, and why.

BW: I’d like to think we’d both turn on the villain that organized the match—though I’d have to admit that the majority of my characters would be better equipped to fight said villain.

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

BW: I think every book I loved, or left me with a strong emotional reaction, has shaped that desire. It’s a rush to experience those reactions while writing and creating a world out of nothing, and it’s even more of a rush when readers “buy it”—pun intended. When a reader tells me they couldn’t put the book down, it makes me completely giddy—because I know how that feels.

SR:  What’s the best thing about writing?

BW: Writing.

SR:  What’s the worst thing about writing?

BW: Not writing (for whatever reason).

SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?

BW: Sometimes I take a look, sometimes I don’t—it’s often a spur of the moment decision. Sometimes I’m far behind the trend and quickly have to finish the books, because the movie is coming out in a couple of weeks…As for marketing, not all mainstream trends apply to lesbian fiction (where all genres co-exist under that one roof). For example, romance is always the biggest seller here and there. However, when a friend mentioned domestic suspense on social media—often a female protagonist finding out her husband might or might not have some dark secrets—I realized I hadn’t come across any stories of the kind in F/F fiction. Of course, equal marriage written into law isn’t that old, so we have a lot of catching up to do on HEAs first.

SR: What movie or TV world do you wish you could live in? Why?

BW: Ocean’s Eight. How much fun would that be?

SR: You strike it rich. What charity are you going to create or support?

BW: I would love to give a ton of money to organizations that care for women who have experienced violence, be it random, in the home or in a war zone. I think you need to build a good, free society from the ground up, and that includes the eradication of child “marriage,” expanding choice and so many other things. LGBT organizations. Invest in science and also conveying to the public why it matters…how much money are we talking again? I’d also love to go beyond and be able to produce media, increase the representation of lesbian characters in all genres. I have many ideas.

SR: What factors influence you when you’re choosing a book to read?

BW: The blurb, most of all. If the characters sound compelling and I want to know more about them, I’ll want to check out the book.

SR: Where can people catch up with you?

BW: Come talk to me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/barbarawinkes) or Facebook  (www.facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraWinkes), or follow me on BookBub (www.bookbub.com/profile/barbara-winkes) to stay up to date with new releases and sales.

 

Barbara Winkes has visited us to talk about Secrets, done Secrets casting call, chatted about The Amnesia Project and talked about The Amnesia Project’s soundtrack.

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.

Online Issue 5

What is Furry Noir? You know you have to click now to find out.

Bill Kieffer talks about Mount TBR, what you’ll find there and bookcrossing.

Is My Colorblind Rainbow one of the best book titles ever? Chanel Hardy talks about her inspirational YA story.

Which protagonist is cranking up Ruth Etting, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong? Find out here.

What do Lisbeth Salandar and Arya Stark have to do with Secrets? Find out here.

Casting Call: Find out which SVU actor Barbara Winkes would pick for one of the lead roles in Secrets.

Don’t forget! Enter now to win a signed copy of Here and Gone.

Reviews:

Did you miss it? I’ve been trying to get Brian to blog more about music for a long time. He has his own system for finding obscure genius and up-and-comers before they make it big. His first music post installment is available here.

On Monday I blogged about using thematic writing to help enrich your books and to help you promote them more effectively. The timing was perfect. The Historical Novel Society just ran a feature on the latest books from Susan Meissner and Mindy Tarquini, who talk about using historical settings in their works. Both Meissner and Tarquini, who had short stories published by Spinetingler Magazine, placed their works during the influenza pandemic in 1918 and 1919.

Congratulations

Now that it’s public I can congratulate my sister on her new position as the cataloguer and collection development for a public library in Alberta. Yes, she’ll be working closely with other staff to decide which books to stock. No, I can’t give you here phone number. She makes this move after years of working as a media specialist in the public school system.

A Question For The Masses

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Head over to Twitter to share your opinion. I have to admit it would probably appeal to me. I aim for short breaks and I have the attention span of a gnat when I’m strictly listening to audio. This doesn’t apply to music but years of tuning out teachers because I was 10 steps ahead in class and could follow instructions from a book conditioned me to zone out.

 A.P. Bio Renewed

I’ve found myself watching more comedies over the past two years. I credit the political climate for this trend.

Loving Patton Oswalt as we do, we decided to check out A.P. Bio. We hoped it could help fill the gap between seasons of The Good Place. It was a rough start but it has gotten better. The writers and directors need to understand something, though. The whole revenge storyline? Weakest part of the show. Beyond done with it.

One of the absolute gems? Heather. I’m not alone. More Heather. More students. Less stupid revenge story.

 

Opinion: No, We Haven’t Reached All Readers

 

 

There isn’t much you can say when the likes of Adrian McKinty don’t have a publisher in the U.K. except what the fuck? And there are a lot of reasons Gabino Iglesias is cussing at editors that he names. While my objective here isn’t to simply point to things I’ve said, this does bring to mind a recent discussion on Twitter about failings of the publishing industry and how far behind it is when it comes to understanding segments of our population.

The discussion centered on the response of the publishing industry to the popularity of Roseanne and the reasons behind the success of the show’s comeback. All of a sudden publishers realized there was a whole world outside of New York City where people thought differently and had other interests.

This is why I’m going to maintain that no, we have not reached all potential readers. There are people out there who would buy books or borrow books from libraries (and drive up demand because of volume of requests) if they found books that spoke to them. The publishing industry has had its head up its ass on some things and it needs to get its head out of its ass to survive. There should be books out there for everyone. People are more likely to buy and treasure and recommend books that speak to them. And if you’re only speaking to the population of NYC that’s very nice for them, but what about the rest of the country? Or even North America? Or Europe and the other continents on this planet? It seems to me that publishers would be far more effective with selling books and reaching new readers to increase profits if they hired some sociologists to break down the cultural groups within the country and the priorities of those cultural groups, as well as their typical beliefs and customs. Not all Americans think the same way. And, shock of horrors people, individuals who are part of a group that’s experienced racial or gender prejudice or discrimination due to their sexual orientation have specific interests. Male authors have been called out for how they describe women in literature. We need to start thinking about the way that we’re presenting pertinent social issues in our fiction if we don’t want to alienate readers. That doesn’t mean pretending that sexism and racism don’t exist but it does mean we need to make sure we aren’t glamorizing it. I’ll make a face about a lot of stupid jokes about Canadians but every now and again something just crosses a line for me. It’s a statement that’s so stupid it isn’t even funny; it’s just pathetic, particularly since something more accurate would have been more effective in its place. We all have lines and when publishers fail to realize this and exclude whole segments of the population they are reducing their potential book sales.

In the same way that little Susie and May want dolls that share their hair and skin color, readers want characters they can identify with. And if the entire world you write about involves white protagonists, black criminals and Chinese Americans who own Chinese restaurants then you aren’t presenting the world I live in. Or the world I want to live in.

P.S. Television has been on to this for a long time. And its enjoying another golden age. Publishing needs to get with the program.

Have You Entered?

final day enter 2018 international book awards

Today is the final day to get your entry in for the International Book Awards. Don’t miss out. Visit their website to find out about eligibility and how to enter.

Staying With That Wednesday Theme…

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I can’t imagine how it’s going to end well on The Americans. Stan will be under the gun when it’s revealed he’s been chumming around with Russians for years, assuming he lives to face that discovery. And the stench of death lingers over Elizabeth, and not just because of all the people she’s killed. She’s expected to take her own life rather than be captured and that could be on the horizon for her.

And Paige… She’s going to screw up so badly she could be responsible for getting herself killed. Or her mother. With only a handful of episodes left we’re on the edge of our seats waiting to see how its all going to pan out. One thing is for sure – I’m really going to miss The Americans. And kudos to the crew because, while I’ll miss the show, that’s because they knew to end on a high note and not drag the show out just for the money, ala Walking Dead last season.

Thoughts On A Celebrity I Do Not Care About

While I hate to come across as though I’m setting up rules about what people are allowed to talk about, I am beyond sick to freaking death of hearing about Kanye Fucking West. Let’s not validate this whiny beeyatch by talking about him. Who the hell is he anyway? The guy who robbed Taylor Swift of her moments when she won some awards? The guy who’s always criticizing Swift? Does he make music himself or just bitch about everyone else in the world? Scratch that – I so do not give a shit so don’t answer.

But if anyone – anyone -is going to talk about Kanye and all his fucked-up-ness, then let it be Ta-Nehisi Coates.