Friday, November 30, 2018

David Drake

The Army took David Drake from Duke Law School and sent him on a motorized tour of Viet Nam and Cambodia with the 11th Cav, the Blackhorse. He learned new skills, saw interesting sights, and met exotic people who hadn’t run fast enough to get away.

Drake returned to become Chapel Hill’s Assistant Town Attorney and to try to put his life back together through fiction making sense of his Army experiences.

He describes war from where he saw it: the loader’s hatch of a tank in Cambodia. Drake's military experience, combined with his formal education in history and Latin, has made him one of the foremost writers of realistic action SF and fantasy. His bestselling Hammer’s Slammers series is credited with creating the genre of modern Military SF. He often wishes he had a less interesting background.

Drake's new novel is The Spark.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Drake's reply:
Grand Illusions by David M. Lubin

A brilliant study of how American art reacted to World War I. This wide-ranging book (it covers film and literature as well as paintings, sculpture, and propaganda posters) considers not only the works but the artists who made them. These are subjects I know something about, but Lubin informs and enlightens me in every paragraph.

Don’t Eat Me by Colin Cotterill

Latest in a series of mysteries about a septuagenarian Lao coroner, the first set in 1975 immediately after independence at the end of the Viet Nam War. Cotterill is London-born but living in Thailand. The themes and subjects involve Southeast Asian cultures and the impact of Western cultures on them. They are a warts and all view of Third-World socialism and very funny among the bleakness.

Probably the next best thing to learning a foreign language for being introduced to an alien culture--and extremely entertaining as well.
Visit David Drake's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Rosemary Simpson

Rosemary Simpson is the author of two previous historical novels, The Seven Hills of Paradise and Dreams and Shadows, and two previous Gilded Age Mysteries, What the Dead Leave Behind and Lies that Comfort and Betray. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Historical Novel Society. Educated in France and the United States, she now lives near Tucson, Arizona.

Simpson's newest Gilded Age Mystery is Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Simpson's reply:
I just finished reading Feared: A Rosato & DiNunzio novel by Lisa Scottoline and The Darling Dahlias and the Poinsettia Problem by Susan Witting Albert. I'm about halfway through both A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman and Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird. Since I usually have at least two or three books going at the same time, and I keep yearly lists of what I want to read and what I've read, that should give you an idea of how wide my tastes in fiction are. Most of my non-fiction choices are research tomes for the Gilded Age Mystery series I write for Kensington Books or to explore other historical eras in which to set a novel or another series I'm thinking about developing.

I'm always interested in how other authors grow their protagonists in long-running series. As far as mysteries and thrillers go, I read everything from the really noir to a wonderfully distracting series like The Darling Dahlia books. I can sink into my rocking chair and let Susan Wittig Albert transport me to Depression era Alabama with the assurance that nothing really terrible will happen and that when I've finished the book I'll feel as though I've lived through some of those trying days. Cozies make a great contrast to books like Feared, where the plot demands that the reader be educated in the finer points of the lawsuits that the protagonists' firm pursues. But even while I'm working to untangle the intrigue, I'm noting just how much the author expands on the three main continuing characters as she carries them from book to book. And how much is left for the reader to wonder about.

A King's Ransom is the fifth volume in Penman's Plantagenets series, a sweeping historical novel that takes Richard the Lionheart from his captivity in the Holy Roman Empire to his death seven years later. I bought it as soon as it came out in March of 2014 and tucked it away on my bookshelf where I could glance at it every day until exactly the right moment came to read it. Which turned out to be a few days ago, when I cleared my desk and computer of deadline material and decided it was time to treat myself. Not too fast, not too slow. Just a few chapters a day to make the almost 700 pages last. And even though I was relishing A King's Ransom, when I saw Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen on the library's new books shelf, I knew I had to have it, also. The title piqued my interest, and the jacket blurb lured me on. Based on a true story, it's another historical novel, this time told in the first person. The hook is that the narrator is an ex-slave who enlists in the U.S. Army at the end of the Civil War in order to find freedom in the West. And she's a woman who has to preserve her disguise as a man!
Visit Rosemary Simpson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Kate Heartfield

Kate Heartfield is the author of the historical fantasy novel Armed in Her Fashion and two time-travel novellas from Publishing, beginning with Alice Payne Arrives. She has also published several dozen short stories and an interactive novel for Choice of Games. A former journalist, she lives in Ottawa.

Recently I asked Heartfield about what she was reading:
I'm just about to dig in to an advance reading copy of Mahimata by Rati Mehrotra. She's a very talented Toronto writer. Mahimata is the sequel to Markswoman, a fantasy novel about a sisterhood of elite, knife-wielding warriors. I'm looking forward to more of the nuanced character relationships and thoughtful worldbuilding.

In the meantime, I'm finishing up Every River Runs to Salt by Rachael K. Jones. This is a novella, a length I really enjoy as both a reader and a writer. And this novella is a must-read, about a woman who steals the Pacific Ocean in a jar and has to face the consequences. It's about the geography and culture of the United States, in a very deep way, and as a Canadian, I'm sure there are subtleties I'm missing. But I'm fully enjoying the prose, the story-craft and the characterization.
Visit Kate Heartfield's website.

The Page 69 Test: Alice Payne Arrives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

James Alan Gardner

James Alan Gardner is a 1989 graduate of the Clarion West Science Fiction Writers Workshop, and has had several science fiction stories and novellas appear in publications such as Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Amazing Stories, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He is the author of Expendable, Commitment Hour, Vigilant, Hunted, Ascending, Trapped, and Radiant. He was the grand prize winner of the 1989 Writers of the Future contest, has won the Aurora Award, and has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

Gardner's new novel is They Promised Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I aspire to write action-adventure stories that have both humor and heart. I therefore aspire to read such stories whenever I can find them.

So I’ve been reading the Murderbot novellas by Martha Wells. There are four of them: All Systems Red, Artificial Conditions, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy. They’re science fiction, taking place several centuries from now when humans are spread across the stars. The hero is Murderbot—a security unit, part machine, part organic, which has hacked its control chip so that it no longer has to obey human commands.

Despite its name, Murderbot doesn’t want to kill people. It just wants to watch its favorite soap operas and avoid being captured or destroyed by the corporation that manufactured it. But Murderbot gets entangled in a series of adventures during which it gradually develops emotions and awkwardly learns to handle them.

Murderbot doesn’t become human. It doesn’t want to be human. But it becomes endearingly sympathetic in its grumpy intimacy-fearing way.

Exit Strategy brings Murderbot’s story to a satisfying resting-place, but I doubt that it’ll be the final book. Too many readers (like me) want to see more of the charming hacker/killer/misanthrope. I hope the series continues for many years to come.
Visit James Alan Gardner's website.

The Page 69 Test: They Promised Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Erica Wright

Erica Wright's latest crime novel The Blue Kingfisher is filled with "substance, entertainment, and chills-a-plenty" according to The Seattle Review of Books. Her debut, The Red Chameleon, was one of O, The Oprah Magazine's Best Books of Summer 2014. She is also the author of the poetry collections Instructions for Killing the Jackal and All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned. She is the poetry editor and a senior editor at Guernica Magazine as well as a former editorial board member for Alice James Books.

Recently I asked Wright about what she was reading. Her reply:
I started Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway on a Megabus from Atlanta to Knoxville. Twizzlers, Coke Zero, and multiple uninterrupted hours of reading time. Minus the questionable bathroom, it was pretty close to a perfect afternoon. Which is to say, I’ve been looking forward to the new Gran novel for five years, and The Infinite Blacktop was worth the wait. The novel follows the world’s best private investigator: the broken, irrepressible, unapologetically unlikable Claire DeWitt. There are three interlaced mysteries, and one gives readers a clearer view of DeWitt’s background, specifically her only unsolved case, the disappearance of her best friend when they were both still teenagers. Gran writes like no other, smoothly taking the turns on this wild ride of a novel.

Hala Alyan’s new collection of poems The Twenty-Ninth Year weaves the political with the personal to create a compelling meditation on our world. In “Step Eight: Make Amends,” she examines the particulars of a marriage as well as the larger concept of mercy. It ends with a command: “You wake up everyone you know in America.” The line feels like plea and prayer at once, not a nudge but a gut punch that asks us if we’re paying attention. And if not, these poems can show us how.
Visit Erica Wright's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 23, 2018

S.L. Huang

SL Huang is an Amazon-bestselling author who justifies her MIT degree by using it to write eccentric mathematical superhero fiction. Her debut novel, Zero Sum Game, is recently out from Tor, and her short fiction has sold to Analog, Nature, and The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016. She is also a Hollywood stuntwoman and firearms expert, with credits including Battlestar Galactica and Top Shot.

Recently I asked Huang about what she was reading. Her reply:
I've talked in a lot of interviews about what fiction I've been reading lately, so I thought I'd talk a little about the nonfiction I'm finding most compelling.

I write a lot of science fiction and fantasy. And my favorite inspiration books for that, hands down, are the popular science books of theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku. Dr. Kaku has a fascinating, readable style, and he seems as excited about extrapolating into the future as we fiction writers are.

Two of my longtime favorites by Dr. Kaku are Physics of the Future and Physics of the Impossible. In the first, he talks about what's likely to come true in the coming century, including expansions of space travel, medicine, and artificial intelligence. But for those who want to dive even further into the realm of "what if," Physics of the Impossible speculates about technologies that currently feel far outside our realm. Just how impossible are these advancements, Dr. Kaku asks, and then provides the answer, splitting up science fiction staples like force fields, teleportation, and time travel into categories according to whether they actually violate the laws of physics or whether they're technically possible but we just don't see how to get to them yet. When I was reading Physics of the Impossible, I wanted to read—or write!—an entire library of stories based on Dr. Kaku's reality-based imaginings.

Now I've just started a third Kaku book, The Future of the Mind. Subtitled "The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind," it promises to delve into questions of consciousness and neurobiology that scientists don't yet fully understand. It also speculates further afield on topics like telepathy and telekinesis, and I'm excited to read about just how realistic those so-called superpowers might be.

The human mind has always fascinated me. My debut thriller, Zero Sum Game, explores questions of mind control and manipulation, and I've written more than one near-future science fiction story about the possibilities (and dangers) that might come with more advanced mental health treatment. The brain compels me and intrigues me—there's so much we don't understand, and yet it's such a personal part of each one of us.

I can't wait to see what future fiction The Future of the Mind might inspire for me, and I highly recommend Dr. Kaku's work to any writer—or anyone who simply wants to spend an afternoon delighting at what might be possible.
Visit S. L. Huang's website.

The Page 69 Test: Zero Sum Game.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Abbi Waxman

Abbi Waxman is a chocolate-loving, dog-loving woman who lives in Los Angeles and lies down as much as possible. She worked in advertising for many years, which is how she learned to write fiction. Her latest novel is Other People’s Houses.

Recently I asked Waxman about what she was reading. Her reply:
Most of the time I'm reading crime fiction. I don't write crime fiction, but my mother did, and it's what I grew up on. I tend to favor Golden Age writers, ranging from Christie to Wentworth to Marsh, with a generous helping of Rex Stout, who isn't strictly speaking GA, but is probably my favorite. I think Nero and Archie knock Holmes and Watson off their pedestal with ease, and I've read every book in the series at least a dozen times, literally.

If I'm writing a book I can't read contemporary fiction, as either I become deeply depressed because I'll never write anything as good as what I'm reading, or I worry that I will steal the best bits without noticing (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it). I also read a lot of non-fiction, because it feels like quality food for my brain, whereas the fiction is delicious but possibly less nutritious fare. Having said that, I tend to read popular non-fiction that is a pleasure to read, like Michael Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell, Oliver Sacks (may he rest in eternal peace) and writers like that. I truly believe Michael Lewis is one of the best writers currently working; his ability to simplify concepts and information without writing 'down' to his readers is enviable and doubtless a lot harder than he makes it look.

Even though I've been a working writer all my life, (first advertising, then novels) I still get totally lost in a book. I have friends in the film business, and it ruins their ability to watch movies. They notice too much. Maybe I'm just a bad reader, but I get swept along and bewitched. Books are cheaper than cocaine, just as delightful, and far less damaging to the nasal passages.
Visit Abbi Waxman's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Abbi Waxman & Daisy, Jasper, and Wilbur.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Rysa Walker

Rysa Walker is the bestselling author of The Delphi Trilogy (The Delphi Effect, The Delphi Resistance, and The Delphi Revolution). Timebound, the first book in her CHRONOS Files series, won the Grand Prize in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Her career had its beginnings in a childhood on a cattle ranch, where she read every book she could find, watched Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, and let her imagination soar into the future and to distant worlds. Her diverse path has spanned roles such as lifeguard, waitress, actress, digital developer, and professor—and through it all, she has pursued her passion for writing the sorts of stories she imagined in her youth.

Walker applied the Page 69 Test to The Delphi Revolution and reported the following:
I’m almost always in the middle of three books at once--one audiobook, one fiction, and one non-fiction. I tend to listen while in the car or cleaning house, and I switch back and forth between the non-fiction and fiction on the Kindle depending on my mood.

On audio, I’m currently enjoying Storm Glass, the first book of the Harbinger series by Jeff Wheeler. I loved Wheeler’s Kingfountain series, and have now passed it along to my oldest son, and this new tale is shaping up to be equally good. World-building is always strong in Wheeler’s books, and this new series is as richly detailed as Kingfountain, with characters that quickly became real to me. As an added bonus, the voice artist, Kate Rudd, is one of my very favorites (which is why she narrates most of the books that I’ve written). Once I follow Kate into a story, the road trip becomes shorter, the chores become lighter, and I walk around with headphones on until we reach the end.

A short-story anthology is my current fiction read. Daniel Arthur Smith’s Tales from the Canyons of the Damned #28 was a perfect fit for my mood. That’s partly because I began it on Halloween and was looking for some creepy short stories, but also because I’m currently working on a dark fantasy series and wanted to keep my mind in the spooky zone.

My non-fiction read right now is Kevin Kruse’s White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism. I initially picked it up as research for my next time-travel book, which will be set partly in the South during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. My intention was to thumb through in search of historical details I could use as background. But as a native of the Deep South and former professor of American government and political history, the book pulled me in, and I’m reading it straight through.
Visit Rysa Walker's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Delphi Revolution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Vicki Delany

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than thirty books: clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy.

Delany's new novel is A Scandal in Scarlet.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Delany's reply:
I am almost finished Hunters in the Dark by Lawrence Osborne. Osborne is a new writer to me, and I picked up this book after listing to him being interviewed on CBC radio. He is English, and lives in Thailand and brings the perspective of an ex-pat to his writing about South East Asia.

I don’t have a lot of experience with South East Asia but I have been lucky enough to visit twice, once to Vietnam and once to Malaysia. I loved it, and am very much looking forward to going back. My experience has been nothing but a tourist on an organized tour, so an insight into the deeper society sounded like a good read to me. Hunters in the Dark is set in Cambodia, and it is absolutely drenched in atmosphere and setting. I’m about 90% finished as I write this. I’m hoping for a happy ending, but might not get it. Osborne is not, shall we saw, an optimist. But he is a first class writer and an incredible interpreter of the human condition.

I’m going on a long plane right shortly, and I’ve stocked up for the trip. I love reading on the plane. It’s the only time when I can get a solid chunk of reading – meaning hours and hours –without being interrupted or distracted. No in-flight Wi-Fi for me.

I bought The Clockmakers Daughter by Kate Morton the day it came out and have been saving it. Morton is possibly my favourite author writing today, although I have to admit I was extremely disappointed by the ending of her last book, The Lake House. Nevertheless, have high hopes for the new one.

The other book I have for the flight is A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley. I’m a cozy writer these days, and I like to check in and see what’s happening in the cozy world every now and again. This is the first in a series that somehow got by me when it first came out.
Visit Vicki Delany's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: A Scandal in Scarlet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Scott J. Holliday

Scott J. Holliday was born and raised in Detroit. In addition to a lifelong love of books and reading, he has pursued a range of curiosities and interests, including glassblowing, boxing, and much more. He is the author of Punishment, the first book in his series featuring Detective John Barnes; Stonefly; and Normal, which earned him recognition in’s Literary Blockbuster Challenge.

Holliday's latest book is Machine City, his second novel featuring Detective Barnes.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Holliday's reply:
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

I tend to return to the stories I love so well. Shutter Island is one of those. Lehane's writing has a beautiful, lyrical quality that I enjoy and the story is such a twisted little gem that it's hard for someone like me to resist. I would recommend the book for anyone who's interested in writing as an example of writing quality, voice, plot, pace, and thrills.
Visit Scott J. Holliday's website.

My Book, The Movie: Machine City.

The Page 69 Test: Machine City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Catriona McPherson

Catriona McPherson was born in Scotland and lived there until 2010, before immigrating to California.  A former academic linguist, she is now a full-time fiction writer, the multi- award-winning and best-selling author of the Dandy Gilver detective stories, set in Scotland in the 1920s.  She also writes a strand of award-winning contemporary standalone novels including Edgar-finalist The Day She Died and Mary Higgins Clark finalists The Child Garden and Quiet Neighbors.

McPherson's new novel is Go to My Grave.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. McPherson's reply:
I'm reading an ARC of Cathy Ace's The Wrong Boy, with a view to blurbing it on the jacket when it comes out. Getting advance copies of books from fellow writers is, on the one hand, one of the best perks of the writing life and, on the other hand, one of the most excruciating and nail-biting chances we take. What if you don't like it? Accepting a book you loathe from a person you love would put you into a horrible predicament. Thankfully, it hasn't happened to me yet. Certainly not this time: Cathy's delve into a tight-knit Welsh village, in the aftermath of a brutal crime, is a treat indeed. The village is by turns charming and claustrophobic, the secrets are juuuust beginning to spill at the point I've got to and the the mystery is completely baffling.

Before The Wrong Boy I read Wild Fire, Ann Cleeves' eighth and final Shetland novel. It's a cracking murder plot and a satisfying end to Jimmy Perez's story - resolved but not tied in a bow. I'm sad that the octet is done but I can't wait to read whatever Ann writes next.

What I'm probably going to read next is Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. What can I tell you? Sometimes I read an ARC before a book is even published and sometimes I'm at the cow's tail!
Visit Catriona McPherson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Go to My Grave.

--Marshal Zeringue

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