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When She's on Top by C. X Brooks coming Sat. 4/14 from BlackOpalBooks.com


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Who Sees What and Why

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=287395

In fiction and non-fiction this week's reviewed titles explore unconscious preferences shaped by an assortment of influences. Conversations about the consequences of decisions made based on unconscious biases seem to be trending this week. 





Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Guilt-Free Friendships Feed the Soul

Toffee Bars drizzled with melted dark chocolate and salted caramel, that's how good my closest friends make me feel about life.


Here's my complete reply to the Fupping.com query:

Ask yourself if being around this person inspires you to be the bravest, strongest, most intelligent, most merciful, most generous, liberated and honest version of yourself. If the answer is yes, invest in maintaining and deepening your emotional connection to them even when you're geographically separated. 

Schedule a tech-free meal. All devices off and out of sight. 

Listen actively to whomever is speaking without focusing on what you plan to say in response or what you need to do later. 
No scorekeeping about who reached out to whom first or last time. If they're on your mind, send a text, an e-mail or (gasp!) an actual paper greeting card that says you're thinking of them or that you just saw, heard or did something that reminded you of them or of some earlier adventure/funny mishap with them.

Extend the benefit of the doubt to each other that communications silences aren't automatically a sign of trouble in the friendship. Life is hectic. Sometimes people choose to huddle-up for personal reasons that have nothing to do with you. 

Value friendship quality over quantity. Prioritize spending time with people who've seen you at your worst and remain your trusted friends. Who can you look in the eye as you reveal your deepest fears, weaknesses, flaws, and embarrassments and see empathy (and possibly some amusement depending on the circumstances), not judgement, reflected back to you?   

Do you feel energized or depleted after spending time with them?

Offer to others the enriching friendship you want to receive. If it's not reciprocated, wish them well and move on toward other people who will. 

My fundamental friendships are with people I've known since 4th grade, high school, and college undergrad with a few more established as an adult in the workplace and through other friends.  

Ultimately, the question is this: At the end of your life will you wish you had spent more or less time with this person? 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Conversing with Dr Nat Tanoh about The Day of the Orphan



I am quite delighted with MediaDiversified's review of my novel - ‘The Day of the Orphan.’ The review demonstrates a great combination of telescopic and panoramic literary sensibilities.  The blend and cross integration of topicality, themes, story and characters are teased out quite nicely. And certainly, even the faintest comparison to a literary masterpiece such as ‘The Pilgrims Progress’ is high praise indeed. 

The review's assertion of 'present-day relevance’ is indeed something I sought to convey. There is far too much going on in this world that requires our attention. Thus, like Saga in my novel and his band of young Orphan warriors, we must have the courage of our convictions, rally similar minded folk and stand up against the so many wrongs that are being perpetrated with such impunity in the name of security and stability in almost all societies today. The 'Our Lives Matter Movements' which the review mentions is an excellent case in point. Maybe I am also permitted to give MediaDiversified a thumbs-up? 

The review depicts the novel as a possible 'blueprint for revolution.' 'Revolution' is a mighty word indeed with immense historical connotations. Mention of the French Revolution or Russian Revolution, for example, makes us sit up and think sweeping, epoch-shaping, cataclysmic history. But if we qualify the meaning of the word 'Revolution,' then The Day of the Orphan could indeed be viewed contextually as a blueprint for reversing the harrowing fortunes within a given society; Revolution in a microcosm. In actual fact, it came as a bit of a shock to me that the very prescription I devised in the novel for Saga and others to be rid of tyranny was almost exactly what happened in Zimbabwe last year to restore democracy when Robert Mugabe was removed from power. It literally happened just as I had written, prior to its actual occurrence in real life. Does such breathe some life into MediaDiversified's contemplation of 'blueprint' as well as a tiny bit of life imitating fiction? 

Coming back to things one wishes to convey, I believe authors strive to write whatever they wish to share, satisfactorily. They must to some extent satisfy themselves first that what they seek to depict or share is satisfyingly presented in their view. This is not an attempt to play with words. Satisfying yourself as an author and satisfying your readership can be viewed as intrinsic and extrinsic sides of the same coin that evolves in an interactive dynamic. To my mind, they are not mutually exclusive; they are interwoven, no matter how subtly so.
I salute MediaDiversified with great enthusiasm. 

Dr. Nat Tanoh

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Spring into Summer Roundup



Sci-Fi and Parables about Class Hierarchies
May 2018

Castes of Characters

Stalemate (Clockwerk Thriller Book One) by Thomas Webb
Cobble Publishing LLC  May 2018
adult sci-fi & fantasy

Stalemate is a super fresh steampunk alternate history of the U.S. Civil War in the years 1863 to 1864. And wait—there’s so much more to this fast-paced reimagining of a nation divided. The opening scene quickly develops into an immersive chaotic battle reminiscent of Terminator. Brisk prose supports a narrative sprint that reinforces a sense of urgent mayhem in the challenging circumstances Union Colonel Julius Montclair, Princess Ayita, Scarlet, Copperhead, and company are overcoming.

In tone of unexpected artistic range, Stalemate follows in the tradition of Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series. There are clever nods to Yoda from Star Wars, Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid (Welcome, Cobra Kai!), a little Kung Fu with David Carradine, Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins mysteries, and even a bit of a “Deep Throat” vibe from Watergate infamy. Its tangible elements of emotional depth interwoven into the action sequences should also appeal to fans of Meljean Brook’s Iron Duke series.

Often the most engaging steampunk fiction blends the primitive tech of the past with modern sensibilities and integrates that mix into an organic social commentary about the evolution of human society, revealing that some things remain unchanged over generations. From superficial “it” factors in the marketing of political candidates as one character remarks on pages 41—42: “… A face simply made for a daguerreotype. With that jawline and that hair? He has ‘president’ written all over him.” to deeper, more complicated issues of the racial hierarchy of extended families in Louisiana’s Creole society, Stalemate is layered in provocative ideas.

The author conveys a clear and steady undertone of the racial strife at the core of the divide between the Union and the Confederacy without including the expected, explicit racial slur until beyond the halfway point in the story. Usage of incidental standard profanity is minimal almost to the point of nonexistence. Some passages are poetic in composition as in this phrase seemingly inspired by Emily Dickinson on page 184, “Like some hell-beast belching smoke and brimstone, the locomotive roared by.”

The ending of this first entry in the Clockwerk Thriller series lays a strong foundation for future intriguing installments.

Inclusion Roll Call: named indigenous people, interracial* people, all socioeconomic classes from subsistence to privileged elites, non-hetero people**, and people of all ages and body types***
*Actually interethnic since humans are all members of one species
**Rendered in stereotypes reflective of an unconscious, hetero-centric hypermasculine bias
***A featured character who is obese is described in terms that reflect the unconscious bias of someone who is very physically fit and/or fat-phobic.

The Tyre by C. J. Dubois and E. C. Huntley
Thistle Publishing  31 May 2018
multicultural literary fiction

Events in The Tyre occur mostly in spots along the road to the Indian (as in India, not indigenous North Americans who were misidentified by Columbus) state of Kerala between what seems to be the fictional city of Radapakkam (as a stand-in for the actual city of Kadappakkam?) and Puttur in the state of Karnataka. It’s a path that crosses multiple Indian states of geography, commerce, and social caste. This parable about a husband, wife, son, and daughter—Ranji, Meena, Santosh, and Surya—does the same.

The immediately obvious tale focuses on Ranji’s quandary about whether to accept the circumstances of his family’s circumstances as struggling untouchables or to strive for more without landing them all into a Notorious B.I.G. “Mo Money Mo Problems” situation as he’s warned against by an itinerant wise man. (Every parable requires at least one.) When a tire rolls off the back of a truck and lands practically at Ranji’s feet it seems like an answer to his prayers. Or is it? The possibilities spin Ranji into a whirl of brooding obsession only a little less intense than Gollum’s fixation on “my precious” in The Lord of the Rings.

More subtly, references to the story of Sita from the Hindu epic tale Ramayana about a desirable woman who accompanies her husband into exile tells a deeper story of the precariousness of safety and privilege for women in Indian society. That ancient literary nod is supported by a more current one to writer-director Madhur Bhandarkar’s 2007 film Traffic Signal about the trickle-down effects of economic oppression and entrenched caste systems that make upward mobility nearly impossible. Peacock symbolism associated with Lakshmi connects the navigation of Ranji’s and his family members’ separate and shared journeys to patience, kindness, and luck.

Told with compassion for and amusement by human foibles, this English translation of The Tyre (from French?) offers readers a charming tale about recognizing the value in the gifts of life’s present circumstances.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Books, Dancing, Authors & More Books!

BookExpo, WFUV #FUVBoat, and BookCon Panel Discussions

Congested traffic and the late arrival of my mass transit choice combined with another person’s (in line in front of me!) registration woes kept me from attending “Being a Person Is Hard” with Tom Papa (of “Marriage Ref” fame), but while waiting to disembark, my seat mate recommended two interesting books to add to my TBR list: Daughter of the Cold War by Grace Kennan Warnecke and Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. So that gave me my book fix for Friday.

The mad dash to the Javits Convention Center to catch the end of BookExpo very conveniently placed me within a few blocks of Pier 40. Hornblower Cruises and Events provided a lovely floating venue for the annual WFUV #FUVBOAT dance party. Their roster of djs uploaded one fab tune after another and didn’t miss a beat between spin duty hand-offs during the three hours of shaking it in the packed dance flour (with equally enthusiastic participation by most of the men, which is rare compared to my experiences in other dance events). Total bonus of making friends with an assortment of brilliantly vivacious women: a high school dean, a charter bus business owner, and their two friends.

Gorgeous night views of the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges, the new Seaport like a jewel suspended from Pier 17, and the Statue of Liberty offered a captivating tableau of engineering and architectural brilliance against the backdrop of crisp, clear night on the Hudson River.

Sweaty, happily exhausted, and home a little after midnight, then a shower, and late into bed at 1:45 a.m. for an early rise at 4:30 a.m. to catch the first train into Grand Central to watch The Today Show at the #TODAYplaza. Sheinelle Jones, Dylan Dreyer, and D.C.’s own Craig Melvin were even more professional and engaging in-person than they are on television. A little glad-handing and exchanges of greetings before heading back to Javits for BookCon.

The Ultimate Guide to Turning Your Manuscript into a Published Success

Acquisitions manager Justine Bylo provided a tantalizing overview of reasons for author newbies and seasoned veterans to consider the Ingram Spark platform for their publishing projects.

Takeaway advice from J.B. for self-pubbers: “Own your ISBNs.”

Defying Borders

Panel discussion takeaway: Generating imagination and empathy by reading books about other kinds of people.

Tommy Orange’s book was labeled “historical” fiction on a list of recommended titles, but the author doesn’t feel it’s an accurate designation because indigenous people are often thought of as existing only in past tense (outside of reservations).  

Tor Presents: LGBTQ+ Authors on Gender and Identity in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Provocative question from moderator to panelists: Does Sci-Fi fail with inclusivity more often than other fiction because there’s more to unpack?

Reading recs from panelists: Octavia Butler, Julia May, Diane Dwayne, Bebop (from Archie’s Sonic Universe #29?

Memorable quote: “Sexuality is not a spoiler.”
(My apologies for not remembering which panelist said this.)

Diversity in Graphic Novels

Sadly (and ironically) this panel discussion got derailed before it started by a setup oversight that prevented Tee Franklin from having access for her motorized scooter to the elevated platform where the table was situated. After some juggling of positions to the same level with the audience, T.F. shared her feelings of being “a problem” (even though she is 100% NOT a problem) because some version of this lack of accommodation keeps happening at events where the organizers who’ve invited her to participate don’t make sure that she has equal access. She (understandably) choose not to participate in the panel, although she did recover her bonhomie by the time for her autographing session.

Her absence was a loss for all of us.  

It was a prime example of the need for conscious consideration of the need for all kinds of people with every level of physical ability in event planning.  

Diverse Voices in Mystery

Marquee author: Walter Mosley
Author revelations: Kellye Garrett and Joe Ide

Kellye Garrett’s remark about reclaiming the multifaceted humanity of black female characters beyond the sassy best friend who says, “Girlfriend…” all the time really resonated with me.

Optimistic takeaway: Millennials expect diversity in casts of characters.

Women of Mystery and Thrillers

Moderator: Mackenzie Dawson, NY Post editor

Panelists: Megan Abbott, Sandra Brown, Sara Blaedel, Karen Ellis, Kate Kessler

Shared reaction among panelists to this question from men: How does such a nice woman write about such brutal crimes?

Sunday 6/3
Marvel: From Prose to Panels

·         The moderator is the creator of Powers of a Girl, which is scheduled for an early 2019 release.
·         Rainbow Rowell writes Runaways, but she and her writing partner don’t watch the HULU show to preserve their clarity in the context and timeline of their version of the Runaways universe.
·         Charles Soule has a new novel out called The Oracle Year about someone who can predict the future.
·         Brandon T. Snider’s new release for kids is Grow Up, Ant-Man!

Fierce and Fabulous: Find Your Inner Beyoncé!

Memorable quote: “The purpose of writing is to encourage empathy.”

Takeaway concepts from multiple panelists: Girls and women should stop asking permission and apologizing for taking up space.

Provocative idea: Dismiss the notion that there are “girl” books and “boy” books, especially in which girls are expected to read about boys, but boys aren’t expected to reciprocate.

Romance and the Resistance

Moderator: Tina Jordan, NY Times editor
Panelists: Aya De Leon (Thanks for the free book!), Sarah MacLean, Ronnie Lauren, K.M. Jackson, Donna Kauffman

Provocative question from moderator to panelists: Are romance novels inherently political as they reflect the evolution of the women’s movement?
K.M. Jackson’s writing supports the case for the cheerful black woman.

Donna Kauffman stated that everyone falls in love with someone or something, which makes romance the most realistic fiction genre.

Gems from Sarah MacLean: “Romance centers the female gaze on women in positive ways more so than any other media.” and “Orgasms are two for one, women to men in romance, which should apply in real life.”

Vintage Carol Hanisch quote sited more than once: “The personal is political.”

Re-Orientation: LGBTQ Creators of Mass Media, Culture and the Stories People Want to Read

Moderator: Emily Jordan, Salon

Damon Suede quote: “Romance is the literature of hope.”
Damon Suede hashtag-worthy terms: Bland-Aid, gayelles

Dhoinelle Clayton talked about the need for targeted beta sensitivity readers and reviewers from marginalized groups. She also discussed racial and queer coding for stories that operate on multiple frequencies.

Mackenzie Lee discussed the navigation of queerness in the 18th c. at a time when the specificity of vocabulary didn’t exist yet.

Harper Miller’s writing supports sex-positive characters who are secure within themselves.   

Reading recs from the panelists: Coffee Will Make You Black, Odd One Out, Tiger’s Daughter, Fingersmith, Fire and Stars, The Prince and the Dressmaker  

Toxic Male Syndrome

All of the panelists discussed ways of re-inventing and subverting unhealthy “alphahole” tropes in romance fiction.

Being alpha is not synonymous with being toxic, but the two terms often get conflated in romance fiction.  

Reading recs from panelists: Sinner by Sierra Simone, A Distant Heart, The Metamorphoses trilogy, books by Ruby Lane, The Prey of the Gods, The Rook by Daniel O’Malley  

Random update from my visit to OverDrive booth 1258: Libby is the new and improved “one-touch” update that’s coming soon. Among other desired functionality, users will be able to load multiple library cards from different library systems into one account. Yay! (Yes, I cheat on my primary library with other library systems.)

The preceding offers just a taste of all of the bookish deliciousness that BookExpo and BookCon provided to book readers, authors, fans, and publishing professionals. It was an entertaining and educational weekend. Apologies for any errors with quotes or attributions. Fandom-induced adrenaline rushes combined with sleep-deprivation was the most likely source.

Many thanks to https://mediadiversified.org/ for making it possible for me to attend by signing off on my press credentials. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

BookExpo & BookCon or Bust!

So my sangria goggles might have made the idea of hand decorating "I <3..." woven yarn bracelets as tokens of appreciation for people who are kind enough to share their #bookloversconfess tales with me this weekend better in theory than in execution. 

#BookExpo #BookCon #bookloversconfess 

Booklovers’ True Confessions

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in order to keep reading a book?

Have you ever taken a sick day from work or skipped school in order to finish reading a book?

Have you ever lied to friends or family about having other plans so you could stay home and read?

Have you ever used your time in a public restroom stall to read?

Have you ever used money that was supposed to pay for something else to buy books?

How many books (digital or physical) do you take with you on vacation?

For seasoned booklovers: Have you ever bought a book, read it overnight, then returned it to the store for a refund the next day?

For BAME/non-Anglo booklovers: Do you ever skim or skip repetitive physical descriptions of pale skin and light eyes?

Have you ever kept a library book for your own personal collection?

Has your personal collection of books overflowed your bookshelves?

Are there stacks of books all around your home?

Are you a book hoarder? (Are you in denial about being a book hoarder?)

Have you ever bought a book as a gift for someone else, then kept it for yourself?

Have you ever wanted to scold someone who was abusing (cracking the spine, folding the pages, etc.) a book?

What’s your favorite book title?
Mine is Reckless Eyeballin’ by Judith Smith-Levin

What’s your favorite first line of a book?
Mine is “The most beautiful women in the world were African.” Rose by Martin Cruz Smith  

Do the staff members at your local library branch call you by name?

Do the clerks at your local book store know you by name?

Are there 100+ titles on your TBR list?