Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dave Connis Connis writes words you can sing and words you can read. He lives in Chattanooga, TN with his wife, Clara and a dog that barks at non-existent threats.

His new novel is The Temptation of Adam.

Recently I asked Connis about what he was reading. His reply:
I've recently decided to branch my reading out from fiction because I've been on a straight diet of fiction since high school. I'm 27.

I recently finished Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and it was phenomenal. I wanted to read it because it paints an insider picture of the people I live around and helped me understand the layers of hurt and hopelessness that I'm seeing in the houses down the street. Because of how much Hillbilly Elegy impacted me, I decided to go on a non-fiction binge.

I just finished Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams. It was heartbreaking and hopeful all at the same time. I still think about her story and how it seems the one common thing that helps people crawl out of dark places is someone holding up a light, illuminating a different path.

I'm reading H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald and it has some of the most captivating writing I've read in a long time and it's made me want to write in third person.
Visit Dave Connis's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Temptation of Adam.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Elizabeth L. Silver

Elizabeth L Silver is the author of the memoir, The Tincture of Time: A Memoir of (Medical) Uncertainty, and the critically acclaimed novel, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Silver's reply:
After three years of reading so many memoirs, I’m currently reading a mix of fiction and nonfiction now and loving it.

Right now I’m in the early-middle of Celeste Ng’s new novel, Little Fires Everywhere, which is everything as good as the reviews say. I can’t put it down. It’s about a family in a wealthy enclave in Ohio, where class, race, and relationships are put on trial.

I’m also re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, in part because I read it so long ago while much younger, and at the time, didn’t fully understood its import, relevance, or power. Given the current political climate and the extraordinary TV adaptation, I felt the need to reconnect with it. It’s a book with a message, but lost in the political current is the fact that it’s a tremendous novel. As a writer, there is much to learn from Atwood, and this novel is one of the best teachers out there.

On the nonfiction end, I just finished A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf by Emma Claire Sweeney & Emily Midorikawa, a book that explores the forgotten friendships between female writers. So much real estate in literary history is given to the legends of male writers, such as the friendship between Hemingway and Fitzgerald, that the authors, friends themselves, wanted to dig into history to find the legends behind the female friendships, which certainly existed. In full disclosure, the authors are friends of mine from graduate school, which makes this book all the more meaningful to read.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. This book falls under: How have I never read you? It is the book that started so much of the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s, and when read today feels so understood, but at the time, it was a revelation and a shock to society. Sometimes thoughts and concepts are so ingrained in our culture that we don’t know when we first heard or read them. This book is responsible for so much of early feminist theory, and even though there have been hundreds of followers since, Friedan is the mother of so much feminist nonfiction.
Visit Elizabeth L. Silver's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

My Book, The Movie: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

The Page 99 Test: The Tincture of Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 20, 2017

Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt is a Hugo Award-winning SF and fantasy author, and has been a finalist for World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Stoker, Mythopoeic, and Nebula Awards, among others. He is the author of over twenty novels, and his work has been reprinted in The Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and other nice places.

His new novel is The Wrong Stars.

Recently I asked Pratt about what he was reading. His reply:
I'm writing a sequel to my space opera novel The Wrong Stars right now, and it's better for me to read things outside the sub-genre I'm writing to avoid thematic and stylistic cross-contamination.

I've been re-reading a triumvirate of old favorite books lately: Connie Willis's time-travel middle ages black death novel Doomsday Book, Jerome K. Jerome's 1890s fictionalized travelogue humor classic Three Men In a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), and Willis's quasi-sequel to Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, a much funnier and less bleak time-travel novel set in the Victorian era, in which Jerome K. Jerome and his friends make a cameo appearance. You can see why they had to be read together.

Doomsday Book is Willis's second-most emotionally devastating book (Lincoln's Dreams is the first most devastating), a book about pandemics and death and sorrow, but also about the importance of helping your fellow humans even when there's no real hope of success, or even survival. While reading that book, about a flu pandemic in the future and the black plague in the past, everyone around me came down with a cold and I saw way more rats down by the railroad tracks than usual.

After that, Three Men in a Boat was a lovely palate cleanser: a book where the stakes are much lower, where the worst thing that happens is people falling into the river and losing their hats, and where the humor still feels as fresh as if it were written yesterday instead of over a century ago. It's been one of my favorite books for over twenty years and it never fails to delight me, and you can go grab a free ebook of it over at Project Gutenburg. (Be warned: like many books of its era, it's got some sexism and racism issues.)

I'm about halfway through Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog right now. It's one of my favorite of her novels in her romantic comedy mode, hilarious and refreshing and sweet and absurd, with subtle jokes and overt slapstick both, and I laugh aloud every few pages. I haven't read it in over a decade, so I've forgotten enough details for it to all be fresh again. You could do worse than to follow my reading order here; you might also add Willis's collection Fire Watch, which includes some stories set in the same time-travel universe. Her later duology Blackout/All Clear is set in that milieu too.
Visit Tim Pratt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Tina Connolly

Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked series from Tor Teen. Her novels have been finalists for the Nebula and Norton awards.

Her latest novel is Seriously Hexed.

Recently I asked Connolly about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve been catching up on a bunch of books by friends recently, so I’d love to mention a couple of those!

Jade City by Fonda Lee comes out this month as well, and I’ll share the blurb I sent in for it: “A sweeping saga of ambition, loyalty, and family in a gritty, densely-imagined island city. Fonda Lee explores the tension between what is owed to family, country, and yourself in a high-stakes, high-octane game of power and control.” Mix in magic, kung fu, and the Godfather and you’ve got this book. But Fonda has, like a hundred blurbs on this book already, all talking about how great it is. Go check it out.

Firebug by Lish McBride – There are four books set in Lish’s Pyromantic universe, and now that I’ve read this one, I’m looking forward to the rest! Ava can start fires with her mind, which makes her very deadly—and very valuable, to some very bad people. The characters are funny, snarky, and delightful. Lish and I had a great time recently discovering that we had some similar elements in our books, and I really think that if you enjoy the Seriously Wicked series as an example of magical, funny, younger YA, you would enjoy this older YA series as well. Looking forward to devouring these!
Visit Tina Connolly's website and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Seriously Wicked.

The Page 69 Test: Seriously Wicked.

The Page 69 Test: Seriously Shifted.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cherise Wolas

Cherise Wolas is a writer, lawyer, and film producer. She received a BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and a JD from Loyola Law School.

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is her debut novel.

Recently I asked Wolas about what she was reading. Her reply:
I think I’ve read every day of my life since I was five. Although I dip into nonfiction occasionally, my lust is for gorgeously deep, beautifully written, powerful novels that open up new worlds, present unexpected and original truths, peopled with complex, multi-faceted characters who defy easy categorization, the way people are in real life. I adore novels that get me thinking, about the world of the novel, of the world beyond the novel, and of my own work. I adore novels where the words sparkle like gems, where the sentences are jewels, where enormous care has been taken, not only with the story, but in the telling of that story.

Right now, I’m rounding toward the finish line of Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. Despite years of education and my own dedicated reading, I’d never read him. He dropped into my life unexpectedly while I was watching a movie in which a character pulls a copy of Buddenbrooks from his ex-wife’s bookshelf. Nothing more is said about the book, but something clicked for me. The movie didn’t hold my attention, but I will always think of it fondly because it brought me to Thomas Mann.

Having just published my first novel, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, it felt like a serendipitous symmetry when I learned that Buddenbrooks was Mann’s first novel.

It is a story that portrays the lives, loves, loyalties, masked and unmasked desires, and the values, morals, and mores of four generations of a wealthy north German merchant family. Presented as a family saga, it delves into the conflicts that arise from family ties, from pride of position, from failed love, from the limitations that existed even for the well-born in German bourgeois life. It is an intimate portrait of characters the reader comes to know well. Happiness, that elusive quality, bleeds out of this family as the years pass, and it is heartbreaking to know they are aware both of this bleeding and their inability to staunch it. The time period encompassed is from 1835 to 1877, and I imagine the groaning of anyone reading this. But the story and the writing are as current, as modern, as anything being written today.

Mann’s narrative is masterful, often ironic, incredibly rich in details, and cinematic. He handles his characters with a clear-eyed approach that permits us to see them fully and to understand their myriad, often competing, aims. This book portrays drama the way I understand drama—small dramas that create or undo lives.

As I read Buddenbrooks, I have been debating a couple of things: Would this masterpiece, if written by a woman today, and published now, be sloughed off for inhabiting so thoroughly the realm of the domestic, deemed unimportant? I think it’s more likely than not. Recently, there have been some long books written by men about the domestic, books lauded, applauded, and awarded, and it saddens me to realize that had those same books been written by women, they likely would not have enjoyed such rapturous commendations. Second, I’ve been wondering what if Thomas Mann submitted Buddenbrooks to his agent and publisher today? Would he be told It’s too long. Where is the big betrayal? Where is the sex appeal? Please go back and cut, cut, cut. Very possibly. And yet, it’s exactly the length it should be, and reads faster than any thriller I’ve read in the last ten years. This book is, wonderfully, and strangely, a kind of thriller, a sort of detective novel, a biography, a memoir, a roman a clef, a bildungsroman. It is a rare sort of juicy tale.

And as Mann brilliantly culls, tills, and cultivates the domestic, we are privy to numerous betrayals, deep disappointments, longings for real love, for place, for serenity, for hope for the future. Thomas Mann pulled open the heavy curtains in those large rooms in those large houses in that unnamed German town and 116 years after it was first published in 1901, the impact of his novel still stunningly brings us into an entirely fascinating and utterly political world. Not all that different from our world today.

I already have my copy of Mann’s The Magic Mountain on my nightstand.
Visit Cherise Wolas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Lynne Constantine

Lynne Constantine is part of the duo writing as Liv Constantine, author of The Last Mrs. Parrish: A Novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I usually have a few books going at a time: one or two non-fictions (one usually pertaining to writing craft), and a novel. Currently, I’m reading Emma in the Night, a psychological thriller written by Wendy Walker, an author who also lives in Connecticut. I enjoy reading fiction in all genres, but lately have focused more on psychological thrillers since that’s what I write. One reason is that I believe it’s important to know what others in your genre are writing. The other reason is that I’m I firm believer in supporting other authors. I met Wendy at a recent book event at the Northshire Bookstore in Vermont. After hearing about her pitch to the audience, I was sold as well. There were five other authors there and we all bought each other’s books. I have a special bookcase dedicated to books written by friends. Happily, that number grows every day, whether it’s authors I know from conferences, book signings, or have met through social media.

The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass is the non-fiction book that is sitting on my desk now. I’ve heard Donald speak at conferences and have been impressed by his command of story and how to make the words convey feeling to the reader. This one I’m taking slow, savoring each chapter and letting the lessons resonate with me. My writing mentor used to joke that I have a book addiction, especially to craft books. I’m more selective these days, but I still can’t resist checking out a book whose title speaks to me.
Visit Liv Constantine's website and Lynne Constantine's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Lynne Constantine & Greyson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Jake Burt

Jake Burt teaches the fifth grade in Connecticut.

The newly released Greetings from Witness Protection! is his fiction debut.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Burt's reply:
Like most authors, I have a TBR pile that's in danger of toppling over and crushing me; if nobody hears from me in a few weeks, look under the mound of kidlit in my basement. I know it's a wonderful problem to have, and it's one I frequently exacerbate by interrupting the natural progression whenever a book by a favorite author comes out. That's what just happened to me - a gigantic meteor slammed into my good readerly intentions, forcing me to put everything else on hold until I finished Philip Pullman's La Belle Sauvage.

Like so many readers, I fell in love with Lyra Belacqua from the first pages of The Golden Compass, and I've harbored as vested an interest in her well being as one can for a fictional character ever since. I named my cat after her. I tried to name my daughter after her, but my wife nixed it. So you can well imagine the voracity with which I devoured Philip Pullman's newest work. In doing so, I found it messy, meandering, and stunningly gorgeous. I cried multiple times, and felt that glorious constriction of the chest whenever Lyra, here in infancy, was in danger. That Pullman could have that effect on me, even though I already knew Lyra's fate as surely as I know anything, is a testament to the world he's created and the characters he's populated it with.

La Belle Sauvage is masterful, and I'm contemplating reading it again, even though that's not fair to Oddity by Sarah Cannon.

I'm fortunate to get ARCs of MG fiction from other friends on the author circuit, and Sarah's debut novel is one I've enjoyed so far. The strange little town in New Mexico she's concocted throws curveballs at you every few sentences (the story begins with fifth grade students facing down a leap of leopards in the gym, all as part of a school-sanctioned safety drill...), and though it's a lot for my semi-calcified brain to absorb, I'm certain that the far more elastic imaginations of her target audience will eat up Ada's adventures.

Up next after Oddity on the ol' pile are Cat Valente's The Glass Town Game and F.C. Yee's The Epic Crush of Genie Lo...unless, of course, I can't help but read La Belle Sauvage again...
Visit Jake Burt's website.

The Page 69 Test: Greetings from Witness Protection!.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Valerie Constantine

Valerie Constantine is part of the duo writing as Liv Constantine, author of The Last Mrs. Parrish: A Novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I usually have a few books going at the same time and always make at least one of them non-fiction. I just finished Year of the Fat Night: The Falstaff Diaries by stage actor Antony Sher. It is the recounting of the year he spent preparing for the role of Falstaff for the stage production of Henry IV Parts I and 2 for the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford. These are two of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and I also had the chance to see Sher perform Falstaff in Part 2 last year, so that made the book even more enjoyable.

Also on my bed stand is Karin Slaughter’s newest release The Good Daughter. I’m half way through and, as always, impressed with her writing, her knowledge and her literary allusions. I think she is one of the finest authors writing in the thriller genre.

The other book, passed along to me by my husband, is Five Days in London: May 1940 by John Lukacs. This is an account of the days from May 24 to May 28, 1940 when the members of the British War Cabinet debated whether to negotiate with Hitler or to continue the war. The tense talks over these hours show a picture of a new and bull headed Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, whose courage and determination changed the course of history. I do love reading about men and women who have impacted our world so powerfully for good.
Visit Liv Constantine's website and Valerie Constantine's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Valerie Constantine & Zorba.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 13, 2017

Kali Wallace

Kali Wallace, for most of her life, was going to be a scientist when she grew up. She studied geology in college, partly because she could get course credit for hiking and camping, and eventually earned a PhD in geophysics researching earthquakes in India and the Himalayas. Only after she had her shiny new doctorate in hand did she admit that she loved inventing imaginary worlds as much as she liked exploring the real one.

Wallace's new novel is The Memory Trees.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
These days I find myself usually reading more than one book at a time, most often some thick, meaty nonfiction that takes me weeks to finish alongside several pieces of fiction.

On the fiction side of things, I just finished a pair of novellas by Sarah Gailey, River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow. In the late 19th century, the U.S. government came up with a plan to import hippopotamuses into Louisiana swamps to breed for meat. The plan was real, but it was never carried out in real life. In a stunning example of "I am so jealous I didn't think of that" creativity, Gailey imagines that the infamous and utterly terrible Hippo Plan was enacted, and the result is a fast-paced, rollicking, wild west-by-way-of-the-deep south kind of historical adventure tale full of greed and vengeance and a little bit of romance, with a diverse cast of likeably shady characters led by--obviously--a dashing hippo wrangler. Obviously. Who else?

Both novellas are delightful, fun, a bit silly but still heartfelt, and have succeeded in giving me a deeply entrenched fear of being killed by a rampaging feral hippopotamus.

On the nonfiction side, I've reading about an altogether different sort of massive mammal and its place in American history: Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America by Eric Jay Dolin. Learning about the history of whaling is one of my stranger habits, the sort of habit I refer to as "research" in polite company, but really I do just because it's fascinating. As of right now I've only just begun the book, so we're still at the stage of early American colonies having legal fights over who has the right to beached whales, but I know that things are going to get rather more exciting--and a great deal more brutal--very soon.
Visit Kali Wallace's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Todd Merer

In his thirty years as a criminal attorney, Todd Merer specialized in the defense of high-ranking cartel chiefs extradited to the United States. He gained acquittals in more than 150 trials, and his high-profile cases have been featured in the New York Times and Time magazine and on 60 Minutes. A “proud son of Brooklyn,” Merer divides his time between New York City and ports of call along the old Spanish Main.

Merer's first novel is The Extraditionist.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I like mysteries and thrillers with strong, eccentric lead characters who are loners and who straddle the bright line between law and criminality. I also love historical nonfiction, particularly about the Civil War. The following are next up on my reading list (I’m a fast reader, so within a month I’ll be drawing up another list):

December 6th by Martin Cruz Smith

Fatherland by Robert Harris

Dirty White Boys by Stephen Hunter

The Counterfeit Agent by Alex Berenson

The House of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake

God is a Bullet by Boston Teran

Creole Belle by James Lee Burke

Mr. Lincoln’s Army by Bruce Caitlin

Hell or Richmond by Ralph Peters

A German Requiem by Phillip Kerr

The Secret Lovers by Charles McCarry

Yes, most of these books are several years old—now that I’m no longer an attorney, I’m catching up on all the authors I love.
Learn more about The Extraditionist.

My Book, The Movie: The Extraditionist.

--Marshal Zeringue