The Dog Stars: more post-apocalyptic reading for you and yours

Hi, peeps!

So I was reading the latest issue (September 2012) of Outside Magazine (cuz it’s one of my faves) and I came across a little piece in “Dispatches” about how contributing writer Peter Heller has just published his first novel. (It’s in THIS issue)

I’m a fan of Heller’s nonfiction work, so I was intrigued, especially when I heard that The Dog Stars is a post-apocalyptic novel.

SOURCE: (re-sized here)

And then, lo and behold, he’s been all over NPR the past couple of days. So if you’re not sure you want to purchase this book, or if you’re interested in more about it and in Heller, check these out:

” ‘Dog Stars’ Dwells on the Upside of Apocalypse”
We’re in the middle of a golden age (if that’s the right term for it) of doomsday narratives. …the world is regularly being smashed by asteroids, ravaged by viruses and overrun by zombies. Pop culture’s embrace of end times has become, if not casual, then matter-of-fact. The apocalypse is a given; get over it already.

Getting over it already is the challenge facing Hig, the narrator of The Dog Stars, Peter Heller’s crackerjack new novel set a decade or so after an epidemic wiped out 99 percent of the U.S. population. With its soulful hero, macabre villains, tender (if thin) love story and action scenes staggered at perfectly spaced intervals, the story unfolds with the vigor of the film it will undoubtedly become. But it also succeeds as a dark, poetic and funny novel in its own right.
SOURCE: Jennifer Reese, “Upside of Apocalypse,” NPR (link above)

Heller was also interviewed at Fresh Air, which aired yesterday in my time zone. There, he talks about growing up in New York with his yearning for the outdoors and exploration, his work in nonfiction and journalism, and then his novel. You can catch that RIGHT HERE, baby. Hit the link for audio and also written highlights of the chat.

I’ll be picking this up soon.

Happy reading, happy writing!

“Crime in the City” plus other stuff

Hey, kids! Hope things are groovy with you and yours this Friday.

So, for reals. NPR has this series it’s been doing called “Crime in the City.” It’s interviews with crime writers talking about their fictional detective and the cities in which they set their novels. Freaking AWESOME. Today was an encore presentation of an interview with author Colin Cotterill, who writes mysteries based in 1970s Laos.

Listen to it HERE.

Other authors in the series include Karin Slaughter, Mike Lawson, Benjamin Black, and Jo Nesbo. Cities like Oslo, Moscow, Athens, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dublin, and Seattle. And other places like Brattleboro, Vermont. I mean, for reals. I totally love this series. I’ve been introduced to some awesome authors and fictional detectives. And I secretly wish NPR would send me out to interview them. (Hello? NPR? Are you listening?) So go check out Crime in the City. I think you’ll dig it.

Another fun tidbit, via Publishers Weekly: 6 famous authors who kept their day jobs.

And Fridays for the next few weeks over at Women and Words I’ll be interviewing some authors! Today is lesfic romance author Janet Albert. Check it out.

Happy reading, happy writing, happy Friday!

Finding your fiction in nonfiction

Hey, folks–

I read a lot of different stuff, all the time. Part of my regular reading material is nonfiction, not just because it’s interesting but because real life provides a lot of interesting story ideas. Especially since I write genre fiction. So here are a few articles I’ve recently read that maybe you’ll find give you some ideas. Especially if you write genre fiction, too.

The Vanishing,” by Bob Briel, Outside (July 2012)
In the stunning and remote wilderness along northern British Columbia’s Highway 16, at least 18 women — by some estimates, many more — have gone missing over the past four decades. After years of investigation, authorities still don’t know if it’s the work of a serial killer or multiple offenders. BOB FRIEL drives into the darkness for answers.

I’m also a huge fan of travel writing. Try this one (winner of the bronze Solas award, by the editors of Travelers’ Tales):
Letting Go on the Ganges,” by Kristin Zibell
A recently divorced woman finds endings and beginnings in India.

Mexico Feeds Me: Exploring Mexico’s Culinary Heritage,” by Javier Cabral (Saveur, first published in issue #138)
In rural Zacatecas, Mexico, a young writer explores his heritage by cooking the rustic, boldly flavored dishes of the region.

I’m also a westerner born and bred, so I’m a sucker for a western-flavored essay.
West to East, and a world away,” Charles Finn (Writers on the Range, in High Country News, February 17, 2012)
After 20 years in the West (and he’s come to love it), a writer has to go back East.

And maybe something you didn’t think you’d ever WANT to think about: Jailhouse food.
An Insider’s Guide to Jailhouse Cuisine,” by Sean Rowe (Oxford American [the Southern Magazine of Good Writing], originally appeared in Issue 61, The Oxford American Best of the South issue, 2008)
The author spends time in jail, and offers us this slice of life in the big house and the role of food therein.

So there you are, peeps. Maybe you’ll find some…ah…food for thought in some of these pieces and BOOM the next plot for your next novel will hit you.

Happy writing, happy reading!

Groovy Writing Links!

Hi, kids–

Got some groovy linkage here you might find useful for your writing and publishing selves.

Keith Cronin tells us: DARE TO SUCK! Great advice, because all writers (at least all the ones I know) go through a phase where everything they write or try to write feels like it’s no better than drunken monkey poo thrown liberally across greasy burger wrappers. That’s okay! Write it anyway! Or skip the scene that’s giving you nervous hives and write another one. The important thing is to keep writing, because you need that momentum (and if you want to find out more about Keith, click here).

Lydia Sharp says: It’s okay to watch movies and TV shows! Cuz you can learn cool things that translate into fiction writing! I agree. Catch her post about 5 ways novelists can benefit from doing that. And find more Lydia here.

Meg Wolitzer at the New York Times gives us some food for thought about the state of women’s fiction and women writing fiction. Go see. And find out more about Meg Wolitzer here.

The problem of knock-off ebooks at Amazon (that is, copy-cat books based on legitimate titles that Amazon posts). Check the comment thread, too, on that one. I guess my question on that one would be: If you know the title and author of the book you want, why would you buy a knock-off with a slightly different title/author? Hmmm.

And Stevie Carroll has a discussion about female friendships in fiction going over at Women and Words. Readers, you might want to check that out and offer suggestions to Stevie and others about books that have female friendships. Find Stevie at her LiveJournal here.

All right, friends. Happy reading, happy writing, and happy Tuesday! And please do feel free to provide links you think will benefit us here in The Situation Room in the comments. Cheers!

Cool issue of Writer’s Digest

Hey, peeps!

Hope your week is treating you well. Mine’s outta hand, but no worries.

So I finally got around to reading the May/June 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest. Writers, if you buy one issue of this magazine this year, make it this one.

There’s a big ol’ piece called “The New Era of Publishing: Making It Work for You” by literary agent April Eberhardt. It’s a good primer for coming to grips with how publishing is changing, and what that means for you in terms of finding the right model for how you want to proceed as an author, regardless of where you are in your writing career.

There’s also an article by e-publishing guru Jane Friedman, called “The Basics of DIY E-Book Publishing,” which is another crash course in that subject, with Jane’s easy-to-understand info and tips. You can find her HERE, too, for more awesome-ness from her guru-ness. (No, SRSLY. Jane Friedman is considered an authority in e-publishing. She’s currently a professor in e-media at the U of Cincinnati and a former editor of Writer’s Digest.)

The next piece is called “Today’s Best Strategies for Savvy Self-Publishers,” by Joel Friedlander, author of a book on self-publishing and an award-winning book designer. Go see.

And one of my personal faves, WD’s best websites for writers. This is their 14th annual “101 Best,” broken down by category like “Creativity,” “Everything Agents,” “Online Writing Communities,” “Jobs & Markets,” and “Publishing Resources.” A couple that readers here might find intriguing include WOW! Women on Writing, an ezine that supports women through every step of the process. Go here. The current issue is about the art of storytelling. Novel Rocket offers tons of interviews and advice from published authors and literary agents. Grammar Girl (she is freaking supercalifragilisticexpealidocious) takes on grammatical quandaries that authors of all levels deal with. Check it out. And one more, to whet your whistle — Coalition of Independent Authors, a group of self-published writers who created the Coalition to gain exposure for their work.

That is just a taste of the 101 entirely useful sites in this list. The catch? You have to actually purchase the print copy of this mag, as these groovy tips are not available at the website. However, there are lots of cool things on the site for writers in terms of tips, writing prompts, exercises, and workshops to consider. So even if you opt not to subscribe or buy this issue, the Writer’s Digest site offers some good info for all kinds of writers.

Happy writing, happy reading!

Letters to friends

I was looking for something writer-ish, maybe a tip to share with all of you who are writing or want to write. But instead, I found these two amazing blog posts that I wanted to share instead.

The first is by Victoria Oldham, who blogs here. Vic generally gets me thinking when she posts, even if it’s something humorous. She has a lyrical writing style, whose cadences are reminiscent of poetry. This post is no exception. Here, she writes a letter to a young butch, and it’s about claiming space, living, nurturing your identity, and finding your armor.


The second is by Jack Andrew Urquhart, a gentleman whose writing I just discovered today. He blogs here. In this, his short story “Letter to a Friend,” the main character (told in first-person POV) remembers a man with whom he fell in love, something that caught him completely off guard, as you’ll see. Urquhart has a hypnotic, gripping narrative style rich in imagery, sparse and clean in language, but deep in impact.


Word therapy, for this Easter and Passover weekend.

Happy reading, happy writing.

The Hunger Games and other dystopian ruminations

Hey, kids–

Some of you may be sitting in line right now to get into the next showing of the movie The Hunger Games. Some of you may have read the trilogy already, by Suzanne Collins.

Some of you may have been under a rock for the past…well, a while. Collins’ book The Hunger Games was first released in 2008, and started making a lot of buzz in YA circles, though it’s found a much larger audience with whom its themes resonate.
Want to know more about why that might be and what that’s about? Read on!

Continue reading

An ordinary, extraordinary life

Hi, folks–

Major hat tip to Caitlin Kelly, whose blog, “Broadside,” I follow. She posted about an amazing article from the Toronto Star. Or rather, a wonderful tribute to a woman who loved and lived fiercely, and who touched many lives.

Here’s the direct link to this astonishing piece of writing and journalism, this rumination over a woman’s life through those left behind. A reporter at the Star became interested in Shelagh Gordon through her obituary, and decided to find out more about her. The Star interviewed more than 100 friends and family members, to show how a seemingly ordinary life can have an incredible impact.

I’ve posted the beginning below, but please do click the above link to read the rest of it.

“Shelagh was here–an ordinary, magical life”
by Catherine Gordon

I met Shelagh Gordon at her funeral.

She was soap-and-water beautiful, vital, unassuming and funny without trying to be. I could feel her spirit tripping over a purse in the funeral hall and then laughing from the floor.

She was both alone and crowded by love. In another era, she’d have been considered a spinster — no husband, no kids. But her home teemed with dogs, sisters, nieces, nephews and her “life partner” —a gay man — who would pass summer nights reading books in bed beside her wearing matching reading glasses.

Her relationships were as rich as the chocolate pudding pies she’d whip together.

She raced through ravines, airports and wine glasses (breaking them, that is). She dashed off dozens of text messages and emails and Facebook postings a day, usually mistyping words in her rush to connect.

Then, every afternoon, she’d soak for an hour in the bath while eating cut-up oranges and carrots and flipping the damp pages of a novel.

She called herself a “freak,” at first self-consciously and, later, proudly.

But my sharpest impression of Shelagh that day, as mourners in black pressed around me, was of her breathtaking kindness. Shelagh was freshly-in-love thoughtful.

Godspeed, Ms. Gordon. The world is a richer place for you having been in it. May we all live ordinary, magical lives.

Writers are nuckin’ futs

Chuck Wendig agrees.

My particular fave point:

5. Quiet Loners
Whenever they find some whackaloon with a collection of severed heads in his freezer, they always trot out the neighbors and you get that classic line: “He was always so quiet.” And the assumption becomes, oh, that seemingly nice-and-quiet chap next door needed his quiet time because he was too busy with his hobby of decapitating dudes. On the other hand: hey, maybe him being quiet and alone all the time made him crazy. Maybe you spend too long cooped up with yourself the carpet starts moving and the wallpaper shifts and the room starts to whisper, You know what would be awesome? A sweet-ass collection of severed heads. Get on that. This is probably a good time to remind you that writers happen to spend a lot of time alone and cooped up with themselves. Just, uhh, putting that out there. What, this old thing? Just a hacksaw.

I’d add another:

Social Cues
What? Doesn’t everyone ask people at cocktail parties what it would take to get them to drive a car off a suspension bridge or break into someone’s house for the sole purpose of raiding their refrigerator and eating meat naked in the kitchen sink? (true story–that actually happened, but I’m sure a writer somewhere had already put it to paper before that) Writers should go out in public at least three times a week to interact with people who are not writers. Not only does that teach us how to behave like normal people for a few minutes (one hopes), but it can give you lots of good ideas for secondary characters.

Happy reading, happy writing. And put that hacksaw away, where nobody can see it.

When an apocalypse hits…

where will you be?

Hi, folks–

Here we are on zombie and/or apocalypse Saturdays. First, tomorrow is the next episode of AMC’s Walking Dead, which has been on mid-season hiatus until now. So if you’ve been following that, there you go. I’m already getting my therapy lined up…

Second, Tuesdays, the National Geographic channel is airing a program called “Doomsday Preppers.” It’s exactly what it says it is. Each hour features about 20 minute segments with a different person or people preparing for an apocalypse. The form that apocalypse takes (e.g. financial, grid collapse, natural disaster) depends on the people. So you get, say, 3 people an hour who are serious apocalypse preppers. Then the NatGeo crew provides some feedback to each prepper, and offers suggestions (if necessary) to improve their prep. Then the commentator tells you, the audience, what the actual chances are that an apocalypse like the one the people are prepping for will actually happen.

The website (link above) offers a breakdown of the episodes, tips from preppers, and bios of the various preppers. Kind of interesting, if that’s your thing. I rather enjoyed it.

And third, author Julianna Baggott has released Pure, the first in her post-apocalyptic series. It’s getting rave reviews and she has an excerpt posted on her website. Seriously. Check this out. Click HERE for those opening pages.

Wow. Lyrical, tactile, narrative gold. Do yourselves a favor and pick this one up. It’s been optioned for film rights. Personally, I think the book’s vision will be ever Pure-er than any movie could make it, but I’m sure the visual impact of the movie will be pretty darn amazing. 😀

There you go. Some doomsday stuff for you to consider and enjoy, if you’re weird like me.

Happy reading, happy writing, happy watching!