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Writing Bloc’s Best of April 2019: Contributors Share their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads April 2019 Edition. Welcome to our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of April, we hear from Michael, Jacqui, Becca, and Robert.

Michael’s Pick for April: The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

Yes, I know, it sounds strange to recommend a popular series that sold over 23 million copies and was turned into four high-grossing movies, but hear me out. I first read The Hunger Games when the first wave of buzz crested, and when I read it, I lumped it in with the Twilight series (which I don’t personally care for). I think I did this because their popularity and their target audiences seemed to overlap, so I was curious as to what all the buzz was about. The buzz was probably part of what put me off. I think I was expecting a perfect novel the first time—my head wasn’t in the right place. I was ready to criticize the book at every page, and most of my criticism was undeserved, although, I still stand by my opinion that a lot of the names in these books are ridiculous. (I mean, “Peeta?” I keep hearing Lois Griffin’s voice from Family Guy saying this when she’s saying “Peter” in her accent.)

This time around, I picked up the novel because one of the stories I’m writing has a young female protagonist, and I was looking for recommendations for comparison novels. Enough people recommended The Hunger Games for me to give it another chance. And I’m glad I did.

Is it perfect writing? What is perfect writing, really? It’s told in first person present tense from the perspective of a teenage girl in the midst of a cruel dystopia on the brink of an uprising, so it’s written in an appropriate tone. I appreciated the writing this time around, enough to get over the horrible names. (Plutarch Heavensbee…for real?)

All in all, I fell into the story. It’s well-paced, gripping, and, once I finished the second book I realized that it’s also carefully planned out. The Hunger Games series has impressed me like no other story in that I’ll admit that I got it wrong the first time. I wasn’t in the right headspace to appreciate these books, and now I am, which is a much better and happier place to be. I’d much rather be a person enjoying stories instead of criticizing them. Suzanne Collins helped convert me from a critic to a fan. I’m happy to say I was wrong.

Jacqui’s Pick for April: Devil’s Call by J. Danielle Dorn


“Why is it every time a madman’s prayers are answered, a witch burns?”

I’ll start with full disclosure: J. Danielle Dorn is a fellow Inkshares author, so I may be a bit biased. That said, Devil’s Call is sinister, satisfying, genre-bending read unlike anything I have ever picked up and I highly recommend it.

Billed as “The Revenant with witches,” Devil’s Call is part horror, part western, part feminist revenge soul candy that, if you are anything like me, will have you fully enthralled.

Written as a raw, first person confessional to her infant daughter, Devil’s Call follows protagonist Li Lian, as she avenges the death of the child’s father. I devoured Li Lian’s journey in just a few days, and can’t recommend enough this tale by a truly original voice.

Becca’s Pick for April: How to Not Always Be Working by Marlee Grace

This tiny book is a quick, inspirational read, which started as a zine and sticks to its roots. I purchased this book after hearing Grace speak on the WMFA Podcast on finding balance in one’s life as a creative person. If you read this thinking it will be an end-all, be-all guide, you will be disappointed. If you read this like it’s a conversation with a kind, reflective friend, you will be thrilled.

The book includes some short exercises to help readers reflect on what in their life is work and what is relaxation, as well as the gray areas where those overlap. I found it helpful just to think about, which is Grace’s point– she’s all about the noticing. In line with its origins as a zine, the book includes some things that might seem random to those not familiar with the genre– a section on herbal infusions, an appendix with relevant poetry. I enjoyed all of it, though, as well as the feelings of nostalgia tat the format inspired.

This is a nice read for folks whose work and pleasure are overlapping, as many authors’ are. Come to it prepared to walk away without any conrete “answers” but wth a renewed commitment to self-care and self-compassionate productivity.

Robert’s Pick for April: This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab

Kate Harker and August Flynn’s families rule opposite ends of Verity, a grisly metropolis where violent acts summon real monsters: bloodsucking Malchai; clawing Corsai; and soul-stealing Sunai. The truce that keeps the families at peace is crumbling, and August is sent to spy on Kate. But when Harker’s men try to kill her and pin it on the Flynns, August and Kate find themselves running from both sides, in a city where monsters are real…

This Savage Song is another powerhouse from Schwab and I loved every second of it. Prior to this book, I’d read her Shades of Magic series, which is a stunning urban fantasy trilogy, and I was excited to dive into a different Schwab world. This Savage Song did not disappoint.

Set in a grim world of the future, where the US has separated into independent territories, the story takes place mostly within V-City; a territory divided in two by a shaky truce. It is a city where violent acts give birth to literal monsters. Where some monsters dream of being human. And some humans are… well, monstrous. In the middle of this we meet two youngsters on opposite sides of the divide, who despite everything, forge a connection and must learn to trust each other. The characterizations are deep and wonderful, the world gloriously dark and unique, and the plot sucks you inexorably toward the epic ending.

This Savage Song is the first of two books.

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Writing Bloc’s Best of February 2019: Contributors Share Their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads February 2019 Edition. Welcome to the seventh post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of February, we hear from Becca, Jacqui, Cari, and Michael.

Still not sure what to read next? Check out Writing Bloc’s 2019 Writers as Readers Challenge.

Becca’s Recommendation – Lipstick Brigade by Cindy Gueli

In Lipstick Brigade: The Untold True Story of Washington’s World War II Government Girls, historian Cindy Gueli brings to life this important part of World War II history. I have a professional interest in these 100,000 women who moved to Washington D.C. to fill important clerical positions: my novel, Rock of Ages, follows a Government Girl. My interest is also personal. My beloved grandmother was one of them, classifying fingerprints for the FBI.I picked up Gueli’s book as research, hoping to make my own book as historically accurate as possible, but ended up feeling more deeply connected to my grandma, who passed away two months ago.

Gueli explains the political and personal forces which drew the women to the nation’s capital, an important government and military hub. She describes in detail their often monotonous jobs, the crowded and expensive living conditions in the bustling wartime city, the sexual and social traditions the women challenged, and the media portrayal of Government Girls that the real women contended with. She does it all with an eye to the influence of gender and race. Gueli is an excellent historian and an engaging writer.As I read about beauty seminars hosted for Government Girls, I began to understand my grandma’s fascination with Avon products and saw the time she took me for a makeover in a new light. She brought with her the experience of being a 19-year-old woman from rural West Virginia, on her own in a big city for the first time, learning beauty standards. 

Reading about the cost of various amenities in D.C. at the time, I was able to make more sense of the letter my grandma kept detailing her raise and of her story about her $25 a month room. My grandma’s independence, patriotism, resourcefulness, and fashion sense all make more sense to me after having read this book. At a time when feeling close to my grandma is especially meaningful, I am grateful. My novel, too, will no doubt benefit from Gueli’s extensive knowledge.Readers interested in 1940s history, labor history, and feminism will certainly enjoy this thorough, readable book.

Jacqui’s Recommendation – Beartown by Fredrik Backman

“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil.”
― Fredrik Backman

Ever since reading A Man Called Ove years ago and absolutely loving Backman’s style, I’ve had several of his books on my to-read list, but they kept getting pushed to the back-burner for some reason. I think because deep down I knew that when I chose to enter another Backman book, I wouldn’t come out unscathed. There are certain authors that you know can wreck you, leave you reeling for days. Fredrik Backman is apparently one of them for me, and he is quickly becomming one of my favorite authors.

It’s hard to explain what exactly it is about Beartown that resonated so deeply. On its surface it’s a story about a hockey team and a devastating event that rocks a small town, but it is so much more than that. It is a story about the many, often contradictory, layers we have as humans. It is a story about the sometimes-toxic world of sports and tribalism. It is a story about snap judgements and self reflection. Highly recommend.


Cari’s Recommendation – Duped by Abby Ellin

Author Abby Ellin almost married a con man – she tells her story in this part-memoir, part-fascinating fact book about liars. While there are other books out there about liars and their motivations, this one stands out because of its strong storytelling and clear, engaging style. Highly recommended for writers – if you’re looking for a reasoning behind your deceptive character’s motivation, you’ll be able to find it here.

Michael’s Recommendation – Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler

I recently found Octavia Butler’s work thanks to friend recommendation. She was a powerhouse in science fiction, and all of her works are worth praise. Most of her stories feature complicated characters exploring issues that mirror current events, and her characters are rich and diverse, unlike the campy science fiction stories she fought to counterbalance. This recommendation is truly for Octavia Butler’s entire catalogue. From Kindred (1979) to Fledgling (2005), you can’t go wrong with any of her stories.

The reason for specifically pointing out Parable of the Talents is that it shows some of the author’s uncanny ability to predict future events by exploring her world at the time of her writing. Parable is actually a sequel to Parable of the Sower, and it was written in 1998. Part of the story features a dystopian take on a future America featuring a presidential candidate hellbent on controlling the population by use of virtual reality and shock collars. This power hungry candidate also used an interesting slogan to push his agenda: “Make America Great Again.” Yes, she wrote this in 1998. Now go read her work. Unfortunately, we lost this literary giant in 2006, but thankfully she left a lot of work behind for us all to marvel at and enjoy.

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Writing Bloc’s Best of January 2019: Contributors Share Their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads January 2019 Edition. Welcome to the sixth post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of January, we hear from Michael, Becca, and Jacqui. Still not sure what to read next? Check out Writing Bloc’s 2019 Writers as Readers Challenge.

Michael’s Recommendation – Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Black and white image with young girl levitating inches above the ground.I love weird stuff, I’ll admit it. And this book sounded weird from out of the gate, which made me surprised that it had become popular enough to not only become a bestseller, but to be produced into a Tim Burton film. There is something to the presentation of this book alone that piques the curiosity, and though the old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover” should apply, I still knew I’d be reading this book as soon as I laid my eyes on it. It’s filled with odd and creepy old pictures that the author collected over time and strung together to make a story. I thought that was a cool and unique approach to writing a book, and I must say, it paid off.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children pulls off a haunted vibe without the story being horror. After his grandfather dies in a gruesome manner, Jacob, the sixteen year-old protagonist, is set on following clues his grandfather left behind to discover an old orphanage in Wales. At first, all Jacob finds is the bombed out ruins of the orphanage, yet there are indications that the children may somehow still be alive nearby. After hunting for clues and searching the small island, Jacob soon finds himself in an entirely new world confirming all the stories his grandfather told him – stories he was sure were nothing more than fairy tales.

The story is mysterious, creepy, unique, and downright strange. It has its own brand of thrills I’ve never encountered in another book. I’m not saying this book is the peak of every aspect in its story, but it is definitely effective in its choice of storytelling elements. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing the series. The fourth book, A Map of Days, was just released.

Becca’s Recommendation – How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

George and Irene’s mothers created them to be soul mates– but are they? This is the central question of How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky, the second novel from the author of Shine, Shine, Shine. 

The book explores the ideas of fate and compatibility through George and Irene’s story, from before their births until they meet again as adults, when they are both astrophysicists. What results is an enjoyable, smart romance novel, though Netzer’s approach is a twist on the genre.

Unlike other books which on their surface appear pulpy and end up having a deeper meaning (I’m thinking Laney Wylde’s After Twelve series–legal dramas that surprise readers with a deeper theme of racially motivated police violence), How to Tell does the opposite. On its surface a deep artsy book, at its core, Netzer gives readers a satisfying love story.

Jacqui’s Recommendation – Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

“We have an obligation to read for pleasure. If others see us reading, we show that reading is a good thing. We have an obligation to support libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not support libraries you are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.”

– Neil Gaiman

When this little number arrived in my mailbox, and I promptly curled up on the couch and read it in about thirty minutes. Neil Gaiman has held onto his place as one of my favorite authors for over fifteen years (so much so that my son is named after one of his characters in Stardust). Art Matters is a collection of Neil Gaiman quotes and longer passages, accompanied by illustrations from artist Chris Riddell.

It is enchanting from start to finish, and a must-read for all writers and artists out there who have ever struggled with imposter syndrome and how to define success. A wonderful book to keep on the side table for those times when you just need a few words of encouragement to put you back on the right path and to remember that what you are doing matters.

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The 2019 Writer’s Reading Challenge

It’s that time of the year when reading challenges are popping up on lots of blogs. There are so many great ones and I especially love the emphasis I’m seeing on underrepresented voices. As someone who’s gotten more serious about my writing in the last year, I’ve realized that this means getting more serious about reading.

As a kid, I’d sometimes go through a book a day– Goosebumps or Babysitter’s Club. In high school, I devoured my English class reading lists, always reading ahead of the class in 1984 or 100 Years  of Solitude.  Though I continued to read after graduation, the demands of college, then grad school, then parenthood slowed my pace waaaay down. Now I’ve been intetionally kicking it back into gear. If you’re a writer who, like me, wants to read to improve their writing, I’ve created this challenge for YOU– I hope it encourages you to push your limits with reading in a way that maximizes your efforts and deepens your involvement in the writing community!

  1. Beta read for another writer
    This will be more than worth the effort when you have a beta reader for your own book. It’s also incredibly helpful to see books in their unpolished form. Plus, won’t it be cool to be on someone’s acknowledgments page?
  2. Craft book
    My favorite is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
  3. Reread a book that inspired you to become a writer
  4. A “bad” book
    Don’t spend a lot of time on this one, but it can be nice to both give your brain a break and remind yourself of things you don’t want to do.
  5. A comparable title to your work in progress
  6. A fiction book with a similar setting
  7. A nonfiction book with a similar setting
  8. Read something out loud
    This is a nice way to really slow down and absorb the language of a book.
  9. A recent bestseller or breakout title in your genre
  10. A classic of your genre
    Something you’re embarassed not to have read yet. Maybe the book everyone says, “Oooh, like ______?” when you tell them about your own work.
  11. Something independently published
  12. The published book of a writer friend
  13. A book that’s been on your to-read list for a long time
    Get rid of the block that’s been stopping you from reading other things!
  14. A book by a woman of color (1)
  15. A book by a woman of color (2)
  16. A book by a woman of color (3)
    Don’t skimp! I want you to read (at least!) three of them!
  17. A book by an LGBTQ author
  18. A book renowned for beautiful language
  19. A book renowned for its social message
  20. Something out in 2019 that you preorder
  21. Something out in 2019 that you buy on publication day
  22. A book recommended by, or named as an influence on, a favorite author

You get an extra point for each review you write and each tweet or email you send to an author! Share your progress with #WritersReading2019 and Have fun!

 

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Writing Bloc’s Best of November: Contributors Share Their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads November Edition. Welcome to the fifth post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of October, we hear from Jacqui, Robert, Michael and Becca.

Jacqui’s Recommendation – The Humans by Matt Haig

Humans, as a rule, don’t like mad people unless they are good at painting, and only then once they are dead. But the definition of mad, on Earth, seems to be very unclear and inconsistent. What is perfectly sane in one era turns out to be insane in another. The earliest humans walked around naked with no problem. Certain humans, in humid rainforests mainly, still do so. So, we must conclude that madness is sometimes a question of time, and sometimes of postcode.

Basically, the key rule is, if you want to appear sane on Earth you have to be in the right place, wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and only stepping on the right kind of grass.

I was first introduced to Matt Haig when I read his book of essays, Notes on a Nervous Planet. I instantly loved his writing style, and wanted to give one of his novels a try. I’m thrilled that I did, and I’m sure I’ll be reading his whole arsenal in the future.

I read The Humans in about three sessions, and it was a blissful combination of raw emotion and comedic timing. The Humans tells the story of an alien who takes over the body of a mathematician who is on the brink of a life-altering discovery. His mission? To stop this discovery from getting out to the general public by silencing anyone who knew of the breakthroughs that the mathematician had made. .

Through the lens of this extra-terrestrial, the reader views the human species – quirks, faults, and all. Through this novel we answer the question – why would anyone ever choose to be human?

 

Robert’s Recommendation — Redshirts by John Scalzi

Cover of Redshirts by John Scalzi

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that:

  1. every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces
  2. the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations
  3. at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

At first glance, Redshirts appears to be a simple spoof of Star Trek, specifically, “What would happen if the often-memed ‘redshirts’ realised their only reason for existence was to die dramatically on an away mission?” This alone would make the book worthy of examination, but I came to realise it was more. The premise may be whimsical, but Scalzi has written a solid narrative that stands alone, even if you’ve never watched an episode of Star Trek.

I listened to the audiobook version of this novel, narrated by Will Wheaton (Will-Friggin’-Wheaton narrating a Star Trek spoof people!), and it was brilliant. You can read more of my thoughts here.

 

Becca’s Recommendation — The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas took over my mind for the two weeks it took me to listen to the audiobook. Every night at bedtime, I would eagerly plug in my headphones, excited for the next chapter. It was hard to turn it off to go to sleep. Thomas brings the realities of police brutality to life through the eyes of Starr Carter, a sixteen year old girl who witnesses her childhood friend killed during a traffic stop.

Starr confronts the arguments we hear all the time– her friend’s life didn’t matter because he was a drug dealer, police officers are scared too, if people just obeyed the law, things like this wouldn’t happen, and more. And through Starr, we see incredibly clearly the fallacy in all of these.
Thomas shows the complexities of Starr’s life in the hood, and the codeswitching she must perform to assimilate in her wealthy white school, in a way that helps white readers like myself challenge their assumptions about race and poverty.

Especially moving is the tribute at the end to real victims of police violence. Viewing this major problem in our country through the eyes of a relatable young character makes the serious subject matter digestible and approachable This book should be required reading at every high school and college, and really, for every person in the U.S.

 

Michael’s Recommendation – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Wow. I was blown away by this book, and I have no idea why it took me so long to read it. Not only is this a jaw-dropping analysis of the human condition, the role of free will versus societal blending, and evil itself, but the novel is written in an amazing and unique form. Written in first person, the story takes you through the perspective of Alex, who is a fifteen year-old in a dystopian future in which he and his “friends” get together and commit crimes and perform acts of violence on random people. When Alex’s friends turn on him and leave him to be caught by police, he is sentenced to fourteen years in prison for the murder of the woman whose house he was caught at. Interested in a shortened sentence, Alex agrees to be the first in an experimental “Ludovico technique” in which he is trained to be physically repulsed by violence and acts of criminality.

The novel is beautiful in that it includes Alex’s own dialect and slang, called Nasdat, which incorporates a wide enough vocabulary for some versions of the novel to include a glossary. However, the way the story is written and the events are described, there is no need for a glossary while reading. The character’s actions and perspective are clear enough that you can finish an entire page and look back at it realizing that you aren’t entirely sure of the meaning of half the words on the page, yet the understanding of what was written is clear as day. It’s a short book, and a real horrorshow to read.

An extra bit worth mentioning if you read A Clockwork Orange…

The version I got was at a secondhand store for a dollar. It was printed in 1972. The book is split into three parts, each consisting of seven chapters, or so I expected, but the third part in my version stopped at chapter six. I was curious about this and found out that copies of the book printed in the United States prior to 1986 omitted the final chapter, and this is the version Stanley Kubrick’s film is based upon, as well as the version Anthony Burgess loathed. I hopped over to the library and read the last chapter, and I can say that both versions of the novel are quite interesting. If you pick up a copy with the 21st chapter, stop at 20 and consider your thoughts before finishing the book as the author intended. Interesting stuff, indeed, and worth a conversation over. Either way, read this book.

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Meet the Authors Behind Writing Bloc’s Escape! An Anthology

Cover for Escape! An Anthology by The Writing Bloc

Writing Bloc’s Escape! An Anthology is available for preorder now for your favorite ebook format (the Kindle link is separate, just click here)! The ebook is only $2.99 during this preorder phase, which is a steal for all of the stories you get from the amazing authors below. On New Year’s Day, the price goes up to $5.99, so grab your ebook today! Be sure to check out all of the author bios below, visit their sites, preorder Escape! An Anthology, and get the book to download automatically to your e-reader on New Year’s Day! Keep your eye out for the upcoming announcement about the print version…details coming soon!

For now, cheers to all these wonderful authors for their contributions to this amazing collection of short stories!

Jason Pomerance, Author of “Mrs. Ravenstein”

Photo Credit: Steven Murashige

Jason Pomerance has written film and television projects for numerous studios and production companies, including Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, FremantleMedia, and Gold Circle Films. His first novel, Women Like Us, published by the Quill imprint of Inkshares, debuted in 2016, and his novella Falconer was published in four parts on Nikki Finke’s site for showbiz fiction, Hollywood Dementia. He’s currently working on a new novel. Visit Jason at www.jasonpomerance.com, or on Instagram (@whowantsdinner), and Twitter (@whowantsdinner — and yes, Jason is always hungry!).

Jason’s “Women Like Us” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/womenlikeusnovel/

Buy Women Like Us in our store!

Susan Hamilton, Author of “Chrysalis”

Photo Credit: Dean Cerrati Photography

Susan K. Hamilton is the author of Shadow King, Darkstar Rising, and the forthcoming The Devil Inside. She lives outside of Boston with her husband, Jeff, and their cat, Rio. An avid equestrian, when she’s not tapping away at a computer, chances are you’ll find her at the barn. She loves fun movies, pizza, and pretty much any furry creature on the planet, and is currently working on a new, follow-up project to Shadow King.

Susan Hamilton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealSKHamilton

Susan Hamilton on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hamiltonsusank/

Michael Haase, Author of “Cedric”

Photo Credit: Margaret Haase

Michael Haase is the author of the forthcoming book, The Man Who Stole the World, to be published by Inkshares. Michael is a happy husband, father, musician, and spontaneous comedian who does nerdy stuff like study computer programming in his spare time. He lives intentionally near Cleveland, believe it or not

Michael Haase on Twitter: https://twitter.com/authormikehaase

Michael Haase on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMichaelHaase/

Michael’s blog: https://talltalestold.com/

 

 

Peter Ryan, Author of “The Time Behind Dying”

Photo Credit: Neil Cole

Peter Ryan is a sci-fi lover, motorbike rider, darts player, and T-shirt designer, as well as being an English professor at a university in South Korea. He grew up in Perth, Western Australia, and has traveled much of the world. While on the move, he has done a variety of jobs, including sales support at an insurance company, laborer on the building sites of London and Melbourne, chauffeur/minder for an English lord, and business English consultant in Shanghai.

Peter Ryan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SyncCityJack

Peter Ryan’s website: http://www.synccityjack.com/

Buy Sync City in our store!

 

Deborah Munro, Author of “Ambition”

Deborah Munro is a scientist and biomedical engineer from Oregon who recently expatriated to New Zealand. She is passionate about writing, especially hard science thrillers that engage readers on current issues.

Deborah Munro on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DebMunro_Author

Deborah Munro on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DeborahMunro.Author/

 

Durena Burns, Author of “I Wish It Happened”

Durena Burns currently lives in Southern California and has worked for special education in elementary. She mostly writes biographical stories about her family. Her first published book ‘Call Me Whitehead’ is about her late uncle’s experiences as a black man in the Vietnam War.

Durena’s “Call Me Whitehead” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CallMeWhitehead/

Ferd Crôtte, Author of “Captiveedom”

Ferd Crôtte is an Internal Medicine hospitalist physician and is the author of ‘Captiveedom’ in this anthology. His debut novel, Mission 51, is currently in production by Inkshares. Ferd and his wife Gail live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Ferd Crôtte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FerdCrotte

Ferd Crôtte on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FerdCrotteMission51/?ref=br_rs

Christopher Lee, Author of “The Gilded Tower”

Photo Credit: Stacey Eichenauer

Christopher Lee is the independent author of Nemeton and Bard Song. Outside of his gig as an author, he is an avid history buff, amateur mythologist, bardic poet, Holistic Life Coach, Reiki Master/Teacher, Mindfulness Practitioner, and keeper of the old ways.

Christopher lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife and two cats.

Christopher Lee on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristLeeEich

Buy Nemeton: The Trial of Calas in our store!

Mike Donald, Author of “Something In Mind”

Mike worked for the BBC as a sound mixer, wrote for comedy sketch shows, and developed sit-com ideas. Brought up in Scotland and England, he worked as a script analyst for gap finance company Aramid Capital, and has written many award-winning screenplays.

Mike Donald on Twitter: https://twitter.com/smokingkeys

Mike Donald’s website: http://www.touchwoodpictures.com/

Buy Louisiana Blood in our store!

 

Christopher Hinkle, Author of “Cowboy For A Day”

Born in the backwoods of West Virginia, Chris Hinkle is a country boy down to his molecular structure. He now lives in New Zealand where he works for the Government and puts forth a reasonable effort at masking his inner-hick for the benefit of those around him.

Christopher Hinkle on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christopherhenckel

 

 

Evan Graham, Author of “Breach”

Photo Credit: Plain Jane Photography

Evan Graham is the author of upcoming science fiction thrillers Tantalus Depths and Proteus. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Education Studies from Kent State University, where he triple-minored in English, Writing, and Theatre. He currently lives in rural Middlefield, Ohio and is extensively involved in local community theatre, both on the stage and behind the scenes.

Evan Graham on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorEvanGraham/

Tahani Nelson, Author of “The Faoii Of Ashwood”

Tahani Nelson is a Writer, Teacher and Nerd in rural Montana. Her debut series, The Faoii Chronicles focuses on strong female warriors in epic fantasy.

Tahani Nelson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TahaniNelson

Tahani’s “The Last Faoii” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheLastFaoii/

Buy The Last Faoii in our store!

 

 

Michael James Welch, Author of “Convict 45”

Photo Credit: Annette Sargent

Michael James Welch is a proud Western New Yorker, an even prouder snowflake, and above all, husband and father to a wonderful family. His first novel, PrOOF, will be published by Inkshares in 2019-20. He feasts on your derision and bathes nightly in your disdain.

Michael James Welch on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mikexwelch

 

Cari Dubiel, Author of “Art Imitates”

Photo Credit: Ed Dubiel

Cari Dubiel juggles writing, librarian-ing, mom-ing, and bassooning in Northeast Ohio. Her novel, How to Remember, is in production with Inkshares. She is a past Library Liaison to Sisters in Crime and the co-host of the ABC Book Reviews Podcast.

Cari Dubiel on Twitter: https://twitter.com/caridubiel

Cari Dubiel on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/caridubielauthor/

Becca Spence Dobias, Author of “Aspirant”

Photo Credit: Linda Abbott Photography

Becca Spence Dobias grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Southern California where she writes hard and moms harder. Her debut novel, Rock of Ages, is in production with Inkshares.

Becca Spence Dobias on Twitter: https://twitter.com/totallynotbex

Becca Spence Dobias on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeccaSpenceDobias/

 

 

 

 

Grace Marshall, Author of “The Marking”

Grace Marshall is an author, mother, and TV enthusiast. She writes technical documentation as her primary profession but has also been known to post randomly on her site escapeoftheinnermonlogue.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Lee, Author of “A Grave Ordeal”

Photo Credit: Megan Annis

Daniel Lee is the author of the novel AFTER DEATH, which won First Place in the Nerdist Sci-Fi Contest and is forthcoming from Inkshares. He lives in Los Angeles, where he makes his living as an editor of movie trailers. See more of his work at Dan-Lee.net

Daniel Lee on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dannyboylee

Patrick Edwards, Author of “Wendell, Wendell, & Wendell”

When he’s not busy mushing words into silly stories, Pat spends his time battling inter-dimensional shadow monsters and having tea parties with his two daughters. His debut novel, Space Tripping, is currently available wherever books are sold. Check him out on Twitter @ThePatEdwards

Buy Space Tripping in our store!

 

 

Kendra Namednil, Author of “Catching”

Photo Credit: Arthur Koch

Kendra Namednil was born in Northern California and began writing when she was 26, publishing her first full novel at 30. She has volunteered for many organizations, though her greatest joy was working with behavior-plan dogs with the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Kendra Namednil on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kendra1337

Buy Borehole Bazaar (A Vow Unbroken) in our store!

Jason Chestnut, Author of “Like Clockwork”

When not working on computers to pay the bills, Jason Chestnut is a writer, musician, avid reader, and gamer. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife Shannon, their two kids and lazy pug.

Follow Jason Chestnut on Twitter: @atomicboywonder

 

 

 

 

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Lists

Recommended Reading for a Post-Trump Future

When I was coming up with this reading list, I toyed with several different directions that I could go. I considered a reading list comprised of novels loosely related to mine. Perhaps consisting of science fiction or dystopian reads with political themes, but with a slightly different twist. I considered other dystopian novels inspired by current events at the time they were written. Then, while turning to my bookshelf for inspiration, I thought about the various books I have reached for these past two years. About the books that helped keep me grounded or allowed me to open my eyes to the experiences of others when I was craving precisely that. I realized this was the type of list I wanted to build.

I hope a few of these books find their way onto your bookshelf, and that you reach for one when you need it. Whether you want to blanket yourself with inspiring words when anxiety is on the rise and the news is moving too fast to keep up with, or when you’re seeking to stretch those empathy muscles by pushing beyond your comfort zone, or you simply want to read a poignant story about the beauty of monarchs and the importance of conservation—this reading list is for you. Happy reading!

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

“Reading isn’t important because it helps to get you a job. It’s important because it gives you room to exist beyond the reality you’re given. It is how humans merge. How minds connect. Dreams. Empathy. Understanding. Escape.”

― Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet

In this series of essays, Matt Haig tackles anxiety in the age of social media and news overload. If I had to select one book to sit on tables in doctor’s offices, mental health facilities, dentist’s offices, salons, that weird spare room at the mechanic’s next to the vending machine, or anywhere else someone is left waiting… it would be this one.

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

More and more, as I think about history,” he pondered, “I am convinced that everything that is worth while in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever. But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever.”
― Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here

Originally written in 1935, this novel that explores how quickly democracy can be dismantled stands the test of time.

Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration, edited by Rose Brock

“So what is Hope Nation? Simply, it’s a collection of unique and personal experiences shared by some of my favorite writers for teens. Stories of resilience, resistance, hardship, loss, love, tenacity, and acceptance—stories that prove that sometimes, hope can be found only on the other side of adversity. I’m so grateful to each of these talented writers for sharing their own paths to hope.”

― Rose Brock, Hope Nation

As with any compilation, some essays hit harder than others, and with a collection like this one, readers will certainly find those that reach out and pull them in for personal reasons. My favorites included The Kids Who Stick by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, Don’t Listen to the A**Holes by Atia Abawi, and Baseball Pasta by Christina Diaz Gonzalez.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

“It’s hard not to feel humorless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away. The problem is not that one of these things is happening; it’s that they are all happening, concurrently and constantly.”

― Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

In the current climate, talking directly about sexual assault, feminism, and misogyny has to happen if progress is to be made. Roxane Gay gives us the opportunity to approach these heavy topics with a dash of humor, and to recognize we are all human and we aren’t going to get it right 100% of the time.

All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds

“Had our hearts really become so numb that we needed dead bodies in order to feel the beat of compassion in our chests? Who am I if I need to be shocked back into my best self?”

Jason Reynolds, All American Boys

This moving YA novel, written from two vastly different perspectives, transports the reader into the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing fight for racial equality in our country.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

“Being privileged doesn’t mean that you are always wrong and people without privilege are always right. It means that there is a good chance you are missing a few very important pieces of the puzzle.”

― Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race

If you’re ready to dive head-first into race relations(and learn about privilege, police brutality, microaggressions, and bridging the gap), this book is for you.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

“Science doesn’t tell us what we should do. It only tells us what is.”

― Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior

This is my favorite novel tackling the topic of climate change. Follow a young-woman’s paradigm shift as she discovers her family property now falls within the flight path of migrating monarchs.

American Like Me by America Ferrera

“I was beginning to learn that bravery is like a muscle, and once you flex it, you can’t stop. And being authentic requires a lot of bravery.”

— Reshma Saujani, American Like Me

Compelling first-hand accounts of what it is like to grow up in America for those who may not always feel like they meet the standard mold of an American. Voices such as Lin-Manuel Miranda and Issa Rae chime in.

 

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Best Of Lists This Month's Reads

Writing Bloc’s Best of October: Contributors Share Their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads October Edition. Welcome to the fourth post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of October, we hear from Jacqui, Michael, and Robert.

Jacqui’s Recommendation – Women Like Us by Jason Pomerance

My recommendation this month is Women Like Us, an endearing debut by author Jason Pomerance. Pomerance’s writing is rich and engrossing, and he draws you into the world he has created with a gentle ease. I truly enjoyed his style and will be picking up anything Pomerance comes up with in the future.

Women Like Us follows the story of a woman in her 30s who is re-examining certain choices she made in her past. She then sets out on a mission to reconnect with her teenage son, who is being raised by her ex-mother-in-law.

Each chapter of Women Like Us was so packed with self-reflection-inducing emotion, that I found myself feeling a bit like a freshly squeezed orange each time I closed the book for the day. There were multiple times I thought the story was veering towards a cliche, but Pomerance time and again flawlessly weaved in a different direction. I found myself wanting to know more about what inspired Pomerance to create these deeply-developed and refreshingly-human characters. A breezy but powerful read that suggests it is never too late to right past wrongs and encourages expanding the traditional definition of family.

 

Michael’s Recommendation – Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

Respect the children’s picture book genre.

I have read a couple of other books this month, both of which left a great impression on me, but neither could compare to this incredible piece of literature. I have a couple of young kids, and we picked this up from the library based on a librarian’s suggestion (can never go wrong with that, in my experience). After the first reading, we almost immediately popped over to Amazon to grab a copy for ourselves. The love for this book swelled within us that quickly.

Yes, I know, you’re probably thinking that you wouldn’t get a children’s book unless you have children, but I urge you to at least give this book a chance by reading it in your local library, kids or not. Its images and art are unique and wonderful. The perspective is brilliant. And the message is urgent.

It’s not what you’re probably expecting, either. It’s not a book about environmental issues. It does mention to take care of the place, as it’s all we have, but the end message is all about humanity and how we carry on through generations. I’m being intentionally vague so as not to spoil the book for anyone.

But it is as advertised: notes for living on planet earth. It’s a welcome. And its simple messages and reminders are worth revisiting, even as adults. So treat yourself to a children’s book this month, especially if you haven’t read one in a while. Aren’t some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned encapsulated within a book you cherished in your youth?

Robert’s Recommendation – Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff

Cover image from Lifelike by Jay KristoffOn an island junkyard beneath a cigarette sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Seventeen-year-old Eve isn’t looking for secrets; she’s already too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she spent months building is a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her grandpa alive was the handful of credits she just lost to the bookies. Worst of all, she’s discovered she can destroy machines with nothing more than her mind, and a bunch of puritanical fanatics are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

This is my first Kristoff novel and it will not be the last. Wow. This book was so good it blew my mind. There’s a lot of Idiocracy in the world, but… darker. Much darker. In inexperienced hands, this could have come off cheesy, but it doesn’t. The characters are a sarcy delight and the story is an intense rollercoaster. And that ending… Holy Hell.

(Also, Kristoff just recently tweeted he’s finished the sequel.)

Check it out on Amazon and Goodreads.

 

 

 

 

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Best Of Lists

The Twenty Books that Most Influence Us

Here at the Writing Bloc we have a growing community of authors, aspiring authors, and avid readers. We’ve tapped into that community and asked them to tell us which books have been the most influential to their own writing. The question prompted a fascinating conversation in our Facebook group and the creation of this impressive list. Check it out, then feel free to join the conversation on FB.

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Best Of This Month's Reads

Writing Bloc’s Best of September: Contributors Share Their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads September Edition. Welcome to the fourth post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of September, we hear from Michael, Jacqui, and Robert.

Michael’s Recommendation – The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty

“‘I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, yellow, red, green, or purple.’ We’ve all said it. Posited as proof of our nonprejudicial ways, but if you painted any one of us purple or green, we’d be mad as hell.”

This novel is one of the newest novels I can say changed me. I remember these books growing up, and I’ve had a few claim the “changed me” title within the tail end of my twenties, but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit back after closing the back cover of a novel and say honestly to myself while tapping the center of my chest: “Something’s different now.” And I’m still processing what, exactly, has been changed by The Sellout, but that’s the beauty of it: There’s no way I can process it all in one reading. This is definitely a book to have on the shelf and read annually.

But don’t take that as to mean this book is unapproachable. It’s truly the opposite. This story is incredibly approachable, engaging, entertaining, hilarious, and one of the most wonderful pieces of satire I’ve read in my life. Written from the perspective of Me, a black man on trail at the Supreme Court for owning a slave, the novel rushes, ducks, and weaves in between nearly every bit of racism experienced in the past few centuries with incredible wit, insight, intelligence, and flow. Paul Beatty is a master of language. He chucks it around with a curve I’ve never read anywhere before. This novel is equal parts biting satire, concussive commentary, and historically accurate mayhem. I could not recommend this book more.

Jacqui’s Recommendation – Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

My recommendation this month is for Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel. I’ve been powering through a lot of heavy reading material lately, and this smart, timely romantic comedy was a breath of fresh air.

I devoured this quirky, delightful story that followed socialite Maxine Simmons from Palm Springs, CA to Scottsdale, AZ. Mr. and Mrs. American Pie was satisfying from the first page to the last and, in several instances, I found myself awkwardly laughing out loud while reading it in public places.

I was hooked into the self-discovery journey of Maxine, a car-crash-that-you-can’t-look-away-from of a character. I’m beyond excited to see this gem adapted to the screen, as it has recently been optioned by Lara Dern and Platform One Media for a TV-series adaptation.

*Disclaimer – Juliet McDaniel and I are both Inkshares authors.

 

Robert’s Recommendation – Space is Cool as Fuck by Kate Howells

I found out about this book randomly through social media when an author posted about the advanced review copy they’d received. I instantly knew I had to have it and was surprised that (at the time) it was a little hard to track down. Since then it seems to have become more readily available, so you’re all in luck.

If you grew up with a love of space, you’re going to want this book. Gloriously irrelevant yet chocked full of amazing facts and artwork, it is a joy to read and looks stunning in its oversized hardcover format.

Taking all the best bits of science and fusing it all together, Space is Cool as Fuck will be finding a permanent home on living room tables around the world. With a brief history of the whole universe, you’ll be left scratching your head and gazing up in absolute wonder.

Everything you thought you could never understand about the universe is explained in plain-old filthy English. Giving you a little taste of the glorious reality you inhabit by providing an introduction to some of the incredible stuff out there.

I mean, look at this thing!

Pick it up from Amazon (or your favorite book retailer).

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