Square Pig in a Round Hole-June 19, 2021

I’m taking a break this weekend from the celebration of band names in order to participate with the Writing Against the Darkness team in The Longest Day, a dawn-to-dusk fundraising event for the Alzheimer’s Association. The team will gather virtually at 5:26 am on Saturday, June 19 to work together on our own writing projects until about 9:00 pm, when we will total and report our combined word count. (The official Longest Day is Sunday, June 20, but we’re doing our event on Saturday so the dads on the team will be free to celebrate Father’s Day.) Last year, we churned out about 89,000 words and raised about $5000 for Alzheimer’s research, care, and support. We hope to beat both those numbers this year!

And … we’re also giving away books! All donors to any team member will be entered in a drawing for their choice from a selection of books by participating authors. Donors to my fundraiser will also be entered to win my Daughter of Magic trilogy: signed paperback copies of Daughter of Magic, Wizard Girl, and Death’s Midwife.

Learn more and donate here.

I’ll be back next week with more band names. As ever, wash your hands, wear your mask, get your vaccine, and if you are able, please buy music and merch while we wait for a better day.

Two last things before you go:

  1. My new thing in 2021 is The Rage Brigade, a Facebook group for conversation about fantasy, science fiction, superheroes, and music (and the intersections thereof). If that sounds like fun, come join us here.
  2. I share highlights from this blog in my quarterly author newsletter, The Storypunk Report, as well as news of what I’m writing and reading, upcoming events, and other goodies, including “Wizard in the Mosh Pit,” an exclusive short story just for subscribers. Click the link to check out the first ten issues and subscribe here for future issues. (Or just follow the blog for your weekly dose of band names.)

Review: Denial Kills

Denial Kills: An Anthology of Poetry and Short Fiction (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2021)

In these pages, authors and poets point us to the dangers of refusing to see what is right before our eyes. Editors Viveca Shearin, Zack Dye, and Benjamin Gorman bring you the works of Jessica Mehta, Lydia K. Valentine, Kaia Valentine, Claudine Griggs, Ayodele Nzinga, T. J. Berg, Zach Murphy, Joanna Michal Hoyt, Simon J. Plant, Huda Tariq, Ndaba Sibanda, Sarah Jane Justice, Fable Tethras, Joann Renee Boswell, Eric Witchey, Janet Burroway, Mike Jack Stoumbos, Koraly Dimitriadis, Heather S. Ransom, Kate Maxwell, and Bethany Lee. New York Times bestsellers and those published for the first time, from across the United States and around the world, come together to question, explore, illuminate, and demystify.

FDR told us we have nothing to fear but fear itself. But there is another sinister threat that can be deadly. Denial, when allowed to fester, can have serious consequences. For example, a woman who refuses to see the ugly truth about her doomed engagement can end up trapped in a miserable marriage. A wife who refuses to accept that her husband is unfaithful can find herself confronted by his lover, by her own jealousy, and by her own willful ignorance. Denying women the rights to their own bodily autonomy can cost us our happiness, our sanity, and our lives. Denial can take many forms. And when one isn’t careful, denial can most surely kill.

Available on Bookshop.org HERE.

Available on Powell’s in hardcover HERE and in paperback HERE.

Available on Barnes and Noble HERE.

Available on Amazon HERE.

Available on Kindle HERE.

My review:

Once again, an anthology from Not A Pipe Publishing provides a diverse array of responses to the theme. This time, we see denial in all its forms, whether personal or societal: about trauma, about cancer, about racism, about relationships that aren’t what they appear. About the fragility of freedom, about who belongs in Heaven, about dementia. About education, about “how we’ve always done things.”  Some takes are bitter, others almost sweet when it isn’t too late to change course.

Every piece is strong and worth a read. Here are four that made a lasting impression on me:

“Motherhood” by Fable Tethras follows a pregnant teenager as she is detained in a prison/school/hospital for those who would terminate their pregnancies or who are not deemed suitable to raise a child once it is born. It was chilling to watch the protagonist’s choices limited and limited again even as she dreamed of a possible new life after pregnancy.

“The 100th Heroine” by Heather Ransom opens like a slasher movie, then soothes with the revelation that the character is taking part in a theatrical re-enactment of a historical event. Horror returns as more is revealed about this annual event, until the rug is pulled out one more time.

“Oracles” by Janet Burroway is an elegantly told tale of a young woman intellectual in the 1950s, misreading the signs about her own future with the fellow intellectual she hopes to marry.

“Scorched Earth” by Zack Dye layers present-day climate-change denial under a story of domestic disharmony and reconciliation set in a future when agricultural land is burned on a regular schedule to prevent wildfires. Two burns, five years apart, provide the backdrop to one family’s small dramas as they prepare to evacuate.

I received an advance review ebook from the publisher.

Review: Brief Black Candles

Brief Black Candles (Not A Pipe Publishing 2020) by Lydia K. Valentine

In her debut collection, Lydia K. Valentine wields precise language and classic poetic forms to lay down hard truths about race and racism in America. Many of the poems (“Brief Black Candles,” “Shot after Shot,” “Ferguson, Missouri USA,” “Speaking in Tongues”) deal directly with the many recent police killings of Black people. Other poems about the joys and sorrows of family and love and ordinary life are touched by the extra burden of living while Black.

Valentine has forged art from her experiences. These poems were challenging for this white reader, but the art illuminated the hard truths so I could see them without flinching away. Recommended for readers willing to look.

Review: Shout: An Anthology of Resistance Poetry and Short Fiction

Shout+eBook+Cover+12_15_19.jpg?format=750wShout: An Anthology of Resistance Poetry and Short Fiction (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2020)

Full disclosure: I was excited enough about this project to submit a story. It’s an honor to be included in a collection of such excellent and bracing work.

Each of the 25 works has its own take on the theme of resistance to fascism/authoritarianism/tyranny. Some are cautionary tales of the oppression future Americans may have to live under, some portray active resistance to injustice, and others provide the satisfaction of oppressors brought low by their own hubris.

It’s hard to pick favorites, but I will name a few. I couldn’t stop thinking about “Growth” by Janet Burroway, a grim and heartbreaking look at public utilities we take for granted. How self-sufficient would the average American be with all the comforts of modern life … except sewers and waste disposal? “Shout” by Benjamin Gorman is modeled on the Biblical account of Joshua and the battle of Jericho, but with a different wall and an unexpected Promised Land. “Last of Our Kind” by Heather S. Ransom is a harrowing thriller of smart, capable women on the run from active, deadly misogyny. “The Creamy Ichor Sauce over Lake Michigan” by TJ Berg is a darkly hilarious Lovecraft pastiche with a satisfying end to the corrupt powerful. “No Collision” by Jennifer Lee Rossman also provides comic relief, in the form of a deep space mission and some information the President doesn’t want found.  “Dandelion” by K. A. Miltimore speaks of the value of books and kindness. The final piece, the poem “Anthem” by Bethany Lee, reminds us of what really matters and rhymes love with love.

Whether scary, dark, funny, or hopeful, each piece is encouragement to stand up for what’s right before it’s too late.

Release date: February 2, 2020. On pre-order now:

  • You can pre-order the paperback edition from Powell’s HERE.

  • You can pre-order the paperback edition from Barnes & Noble HERE.

  • You can pre-order the paperback edition from Amazon HERE.

  • You can pre-order the Kindle edition now, HERE.

Review: You’ve never seen a doomsday like it

You've never seen a doomsday like itYou’ve never seen a doomsday like it by Kate Garrett (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2017)

From the back of the book: “These are poems about surviving doomsdays. People use the word doomsday to describe the apocalypse, and apocalypse simply means ‘an uncovering of knowledge.’ Every life has its share of apocalyptic moments—not only great catastrophes, but also small secret revelations, and surprise twists of good fortune as well. They leave you with lessons learned, and stories to tell.”

I’ve often said I don’t trust poetry. Why is it so sneaky, and what is it for, anyway? But I love this idea of personal-sized apocalypses, and surviving to tell the tale. “Doomsday” also implies approaching disaster, and these poems tell of an escape, as in a disaster flick, not without dangers and setbacks, but step by step, poem by poem, reaching for something better. The 22 short poems (again, personal-sized, but not sentimental or self-indulgent) are arranged to suggest a narrative of that hard-fought journey to freedom.

The first poems present a child who can’t afford to be too innocent but who stubbornly forms her own self, chasing pixies in “Adrenaline and Sassafras,” spooking and thrilling cabin-mates in “The devil in the room,” and campground trick-or-treating in the spooky, atmospheric prose poem “Peanut Butter Moon,” in which she emerges “from the trees, one chocolate bar clutched to my chest like a dark moon medal—a consolation prize for coming back from the dead.” Then a teenager takes risks and finds a measure of freedom in “Anarchy called collect and I was happy to answer” and “Mint car.” The title poem has her selling off pieces of her childhood to fund her escape, anticipation and discipline overcoming nostalgia. The escape happens, but leads through peril (“Something you see in movies”), disorientation (“North by Midwest”), and loss (“Meeting Tink at a bar in Heaven”) to grown-up love and home (“A change of habit”, “They say three is a magic number”). In the final poem, “Gravida 5, Parity 3,” the child is now a mother considering the three children she has, the one on the way, and her “little never sprouted” who “was the first, a scout sent to map a universe I’ll never know.” Loss, abundance, and wonder, all compressed and distilled in less than a page.

That, my friends, is what poetry is for. Check it out.