Tuesday, November 13, 2018

R. E. Stearns

R. E. Stearns is the author of Barbary Station and the newly released Mutiny at Vesta. She wrote her first story on an Apple IIe computer and still kind of misses green text on a black screen. She went on to annoy all of her teachers by reading books while they lectured. Eventually she read and wrote enough to earn a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Central Florida. She is hoping for an honorary doctorate.

When not writing or working, Stearns reads, plays PC games, and references internet memes in meatspace. She recently moved to Denver, Colorado, USA with her husband/computer engineer and a cat.

Last month I asked Stearns about what she was reading. Her reply:
Since it’s October as I write this, I want to tell you about a couple of horror stories I recently read. The first is The Haunting of Blackwood House by Darcy Coates (2015), a creepy and charming haunted house ghost story. It begins with well-loved haunted house tropes: a woman buys a decrepit old house for a bargain price, footsteps sound from where nobody should be walking, furniture wanders, cell phones are as dead as the house's former residents.

However, Coates sidesteps or inverts a lot of annoying haunted house tropes, especially ones about the living characters, and that’s what I found so fresh and exciting about this ghost story. The homebuyer, Mara, is clever, brave, and independent. As a rational thinker, she investigates the creepy goings-on cautiously, resulting in multiple suspenseful scenes that gave me goosebumps. I love the character development as she is forced to accept that something in Blackwood really is out to get her. None of the characters are the people that decades of cheap horror thrills have led us to expect, and I loved all of them. Well, most of them. You’ll see.

Like The Haunting of Blackwood House, my nonfiction recommendation, Hugo-nominated Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate by Zoë Quinn (2017) tells exactly the its title describes. Between 2014 and 2016, Quinn’s ex-boyfriend mobilized thousands of sadists to terrorize and lie about her. Her well written account immerses the reader in that experience, then explains how to help if somebody you care about is targeted.

Like Quinn, I’m a queer woman, gamer, and creator who lives most of my life online. I picked up Crash Override to find out what garbage might land on my virtual or physical doorstep if my books get too popular. Aside from the sadists’ psychopathic and stalkerish behavior, the horrific part comes from how, just like in horror fiction, the real-life criminal justice system was ignorant, condescending, and generally unhelpful. Quinn’s narrative style is deeply moving, and she tells her own story in the audio version. Crash Override is an insightful but horrifying piece of recent internet history with mitigation tactics that are still useful today.
Visit R. E. Stearns's website and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Barbary Station.

The Page 69 Test: Mutiny at Vesta.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 11, 2018

James Tucker

James Tucker is the author of the acclaimed Buddy Lock thrillers Next of Kin and The Holdouts. He holds a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School and has worked as an attorney at an international law firm.

Currently he manages real estate strategy at a Fortune 50 company, where his work includes frequent travel throughout the United States. Fascinated by crimes of those in power, he draws on these cases for his novels.

One of four fiction writers awarded a position at a past Mentor Series at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Tucker has attended the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop in Portland, where he was mentored by author Walter Kirn. He lives near Minneapolis with his wife, the painter Megan Rye, and their family.

Recently I asked Tucker about what he was reading. His reply:
Recently, I read Exit West, Mohsin Hamid’s book about immigration to the West. In these times when the movement of people is demonized, it’s important to understand why people journey to the West, risking everything for a dream.

Another recent favorite: Don Winslow’s The Force, about a crooked NYPD cop and his equally crooked crew. Turns out they have a code of honor greater than you might expect. An inside look at the police in America’s largest city, together with drugs, crime, redemption, and failure. When you finish one of Winslow’s big works, you’re exhausted but moved.

The Redbreast, one of Jo Nesbø’s best Harry Hole novels. The pain and deception of World War II leads to murder today. An amazing audiobook.

Looking forward to: James Ellroy’s The Storm. Ellroy is a master novelist whose work encompasses nearly every aspect of American society. It burns with rage, love, and disgust.
Visit James Tucker's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Holdouts.

The Page 69 Test: The Holdouts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 9, 2018

Eugenia Kim

Eugenia Kim's debut novel, The Calligrapher's Daughter, won the 2009 Borders Original Voices Award, was shortlisted for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was Best Historical Novel and Critic's Pick by The Washington Post. Her stories have appeared in Asia Literary Review, Washington City Paper, and elsewhere.

Kim's new novel is The Kinship of Secrets.

Recently I asked the author about what I was reading. Her reply:
Since 2017, there seems to have been an explosion of Korean American writers with debut work or new books, both fiction and nonfiction. This trend seems to also be reflected in the larger Asian American writing community as well, but there have been so many Korean American new publications I haven’t yet had the opportunity to expand out of this specific category. The acclaimed best-seller, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, stands out, as does Alexander Chee’s collection of essays, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. In the past two months, I’ve read several other KA authors, and this list happily continues to grow. I regularly read poetry to inspire my writing practice, and at the moment it is Jane Kenyon’s Collected Poems, and Monica Youn’s (another Korean American) Blackacre. I also have to read student work, but this semester I’ve been blessed with hard-working and talented students who make reading their work a pleasure. I did reread my own novel in its new hardcover form, and was relieved to see that I think it holds up.
Visit Eugenia Kim's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Kinship of Secrets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Diane A.S. Stuckart

Diane A.S. Stuckart is the New York Times bestselling author (writing as Ali Brandon) of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series. She’s currently writing the Tarot Cats cozy mystery series published by Midnight Ink. A Texas native, Diane received her BA in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and now lives in the West Palm Beach Florida area with her husband, dogs, cats, and a few beehives.

Stuckart's new book is Fool's Moon, the first Tarot Cats Mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Stuckart's reply:
I’m always so envious of pages-long writing lists posted by readers. Once upon a time, I used to be like that, reading a dozen or more titles a month. But now that I’m a writer with little spare time, most of my reading consists of online advice columns (of course, we serious column readers all go to the comments section for the real skinny on the problems du jour). Still, I manage to squeeze in the occasional book or two every few weeks.

Most recently, I’ve been flipping through the just-released Naked Tarot by Janet Boyer. Subtitled, “Sassy, Stripped-Down Advice,” I picked up this book for some no-frills interpretations of the Tarot—needed, since my human protagonist in my new Tarot Cats Mystery series is a Tarot card reader. While I’ve studied up on Tarot on and off for many years, I’m more of a deck collector. This book gives me lots of ideas on how my character, Ruby Sparks, can confidently deal with her Tarot clients despite being a relative newbie as a reader.

A few weeks ago, I jumped into the literary wayback machine and read (for the very first time!) Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. I’d seen bits and pieces of the various Thin Man movies over the years. My particular interest in the book was to get a sense of the Charles’s dog, Asta, for a blog piece I was writing on animal characters in mystery novels. Not only did I learn that “book” Asta is a female Schnauzer, and “film” Asta is a male wirehaired terrier (why? why?), I also discovered that the “book” Charleses drink like fishes. (Somehow, I didn’t remember that much booze flowing in the movies.) But my amazement at the copious flow of literary alcohol aside, I left with major respect for Hammett’s crisp yet poetic prose that so cleanly evokes his classic characters and situations.

Finally, I recently had the chance to read and blurb a non-fiction book by a writer friend of mine. Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition will be out in November. It’s written by Nancy J. Cohen, a prolific author of cozy mysteries. This slim (130 pages) volume is packed with great advice for the beginning cozy writer, breaking down the genre into its basics and clearly explaining mystery writing concepts. For a highly accessible how-to writing manual, you can’t go wrong with this book.
Visit the official Diane A.S. Stuckart website.

Coffee with a Canine: Diane Stuckart & Ranger, Delta, Oliver and Paprika.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Jennie Liu

Jennie Liu is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Having been brought up with an ear to two cultures, she has been fascinated by the attitudes, social policies, and changes in China each time she visits. She lives in Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons.

Liu's new novel is Girls on the Line.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Last month I started a novel and quickly realized that I had already read it. And that much of what happened in the novel was gone from my brain. It was only a two-year-old book! That sort of disturbed me. I call myself a greedy reader, but my mind has been so busy the last months with writing and life, I’ve decided to step back from galloping through books and be bit more intentional.

So, I started re-reading The Paying Guest by Sarah Waters. This was a blind grab a few years ago, and I was immediately drawn in by the vivid writing and surprising turn of events. (It also has one of the most sensual love scenes I’ve ever read—a lesbian one!) This novel is a study in craft for me, particularly how Waters expresses the emotions of a reserved person.

Despite trying to slow down, two days ago I heard an interview on Fresh Air with Jarrett J. Krosoczska’s about his YA graphic novel/memoir Hey Kiddo. I had to run out and get it right away. My kids loved his other books, and lately, addiction and homelessness has been popping up in many of my conversations since my other job is in a hospital and I live in a downtown area. My 12yo boy took it from me before I finished, but I love how Krosoczska depicts his family life and problems without completely processing his feelings in words at each scene. That seem very real to me.

Yesterday, my 12yo just finished Dorothy Bryant's The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You. He put it down and said, “I’m going to be thinking about this for a long time!” My husband had given it to him, and this morning he (my husband) told me about some of the brutal and/or graphic scenes in it, but he assured me it was an amazing story of personal transformation. I have been trying not to fret about the content of the novels my 12yo reads, but I had to start this one this morning, not only because my guys were really moved by it, but also because I want to know what hard stuff my boy has in his head.
Visit Jennie Liu's website.

My Book, The Movie: Girls on the Line.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 5, 2018

Jennifer Estep

Jennifer Estep is the New York Times bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series; the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series; the Crown of Shards epic fantasy series; the Black Blade young adult urban fantasy; and the Bigtime paranormal romance series.

Estep's new book is Kill the Queen, the first title in the Crown of Shards series.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Estep's reply:
Over the past few months, I’ve been reading the “James Bond” graphic novels published by Dynamite Entertainment, including James Bond: Kill Chain by Andy Diggle and Luca Casalanguida.

I’m a big Bond fan, and the comics/graphic novels really capture the spirit of the classic Bond stories/movies. Plus, it’s interesting to see the different writers’ takes on Bond and the other characters and how the artists bring the action/fight scenes to life.
Visit Jennifer Estep's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 4, 2018

P. J. Vernon

P. J. Vernon was born in South Carolina. He holds a PhD in immunology and published science before turning his hand to publishing fiction.

His new novel is When You Find Me.

Recently I asked Vernon about what he was reading. His reply:
The Girl From Blind River by Gale Massey

Massey’s debut has been a long time coming for me, and I’m knee-deep in one hell of a beautifully crafted work of “Grit Lit” by a very talented author. This novel yields an unflinching look into how the families we’re born into shackle us. Bleak. Raw. The tension in this one builds like a wave closing in on the shoreline, and I’m very much looking forward to experiencing the ending.

Recently finished:

#FashionVictim by Amina Akhtar

A wickedly delicious and darkly humorous story of murder and high fashion. Think Devil Wears Prada meets American Psycho. Compulsively written with the vicious voice of real-life former fashion editor and all-around fabulous woman, Amina Akhtar.

What She Gave Away by Catharine Riggs

A heart-wrenching suspense hinging on a zero-sum game between two very different women. The past is patient, and this gripping novel by Catharine Riggs—who I was lucky enough share a panel with at Bouchercon—explores what happens when it finally catches up.

Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World by Thomas F. Madden

It’s not all toxic relationships and terror in suburbia on my bookshelf. I love historical non-fiction. Go digging far enough, and you’re bound to find a tragic past in every city. But none quite so epic as the “narrative arc” of Byzantium-turned-Constantinople-turned-Istanbul. I’m obsessed with this city and harbor secret dreams of writing a re-imagining of its 1453 sacking by the Ottoman Empire (don’t tell my agent).
Visit P. J. Vernon's website.

The Page 69 Test: When You Find Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 3, 2018

D.S. Butler

Born in Kent, D. S. Butler grew up as an avid reader with a love for crime fiction and mysteries. She has worked as a scientific officer in a hospital pathology laboratory and as a research scientist.

After obtaining a PhD in biochemistry, she worked at the University of Oxford for four years before moving to the Middle East.

Butler's new novel is Bring Them Home.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve just finished reading the first two books in the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s unusual for me to pick up a fantasy book, but I’d heard such good things about the series. I didn’t want to put the books down. They are long, but I found them very fast paced. The story follows Kote, an inn keeper, who is more than he seems on the surface. Kote recounts his life story to a chronicler describing how he became a powerful wizard. I read the books quickly and loved Rothfuss’ writing style and vivid details, but now I join the huge number of people waiting for the third instalment to be released.

Crime fiction is my favourite genre to read. I like the clear line between right and wrong and the satisfaction of the bad guys getting punished, something that doesn’t always happen in real life. I’m a huge Peter James fan, and I’ve just started reading Absolute Proof, which is about finding proof of God’s existence. It’s a thriller and is very different to his police procedural series, but I’m already hooked.
Visit D.S. Butler's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bring Them Home.

The Page 69 Test: Bring Them Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Beth Cato

Nebula-nominated Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the new Blood of Earth Trilogy from Harper Voyager. Roar of Sky, the finale of the trilogy, is now available. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cats.

Recently I asked Cato about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently finished up two fantastic, starkly different books. MJ-12: Endgame wraps up Michael J. Martinez's Majestic-12 trilogy about superhumans working as agents in the Cold War of the late 1940s and early 1950s. He does a fantastic job of utilizing the tense politics of the time period, and not just when it comes to America and Russia. These books go all over the place, including Syria, East Germany, and the Korean War. The superhero battles are like icing on the cake.

I was also fortunate enough to read a galley of the tenth book in the Flavia de Luce mystery series, The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley. I don't read a lot of standard mysteries, but I adore Flavia. She's a preteen girl with a passion for poison and a knack for finding dead bodies. The setting of 1950s rural England and a quirky cast adds a cozy, fun element to it all. The first book in the series is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.
Visit Beth Cato's website.

The Page 69 Test: Breath of Earth.

The Page 69 Test: Call of Fire.

The Page 69 Test: Roar of Sky.

--Marshal Zeringue