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.

 

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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.