Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Trailer Park Tuesday: World Gone Water Jaime Clarke


Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.



Jaime Clarke, co-owner of Newtonville Books and author of Vernon Downs, has come out with a prequel to his debut novel. World Gone Water expands the character of Charlie Martens, first introduced in Vernon Downs, a young man grappling with how to navigate the world. For the trailer to promote World Gone Water, Clarke enlisted the help of some author friends--and by “some,” I mean “a lot.” For your convenience, here’s the list of cameos, in the order of appearance:
Mary Cotton
Alden Jones
J. Robert Lennon
Maile Chapman
Frederick Barthelme
Andre Dubus III
Brock Clarke
Molly Antopol
Ed Park
David Bezmozgis
Jac Jemc
Shelly Oria
David Ryan
Nathaniel Rich
Hannah Pittard
Dennis Lehane
Katherine Hill
Victoria Redel
Gary Shteyngart
Scott Cheshire
Joseph Salvatore
Celeste Ng
Matthew Specktor
Kent Wascom
Vendela Vida
Josh Weill
Darin Strauss
Max
Moon Unit Zappa
The trailer is narrated by actress Thora Birch (American Beauty, Ghost World) who reads from the opening chapter while a rapid succession of clips shows fellow authors silently reading from the pages of the book. It’s the same technique Clarke used for the Vernon Downs trailer. Nothing against Ms. Birch’s vocal talents (which are quite good indeed), but I think I would have preferred to hear the authors themselves reading aloud. Rather than concentrating on the words coming from Birch’s mouth, I found myself watching the readers, some of whom really read the words, others who just playact (the precisely-timed eyebrow arch, the studied turn of a page, etc.). I had to go back through the trailer a second time with my eyes closed to concentrate on what she was saying (the nervous excitement of a prom date, as it turns out). But maybe that was just me, maybe I allowed my attention to slip as I tried to identify the authors, maybe I was distracted by Kent Wascom’s scene-stealing peacock. The point of any trailer is to get me interested in the book and to make sure I remember it the next time I’m browsing a bookstore. If so, then well done, Mr. Clarke.

P. S. To read an excerpt from World Gone Water, head over to Lit Hub.

P. S. S. To read a group interview with Clarke and some of the authors in the trailer, head over to The Brooklyn Rail.


Monday, August 31, 2015

My First Time: Lenore Myka


Dennis P. Callahan
My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands.  Today’s guest is Lenore Myka, author of King of the Gypsies, a story collection forthcoming from BkMk Press. Raised outside of Buffalo, New York, Lenore describes her upbringing as Polish-American Catholic, and says of her outlook on life, “I am hung-up on fairness in the world, despite being told from an early age that life isn’t fair.” She has published fiction in such journals as Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, and The New England Review. She has won fiction awards from Cream City Review and Booth Journal, and her work has been listed as notable from Best American Short Stories and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is a graduate of the University of Rochester, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and Warren Wilson College’s MFA program, and she served in the Peace Corps in Romania. Myka lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. King of the Gypsies is her first book. You can find her online at lenoremyka.com.

My First Story

My first complete story came to me around the age of four. I don’t recall the title of the story but clearly recall its plot: a black mustang saves a herd of purple mustangs from an evil cowboy bent on turning them into dog food. Today, the obsessive perfectionist of a writer in me wonders: Why wasn’t the hero of the story distinctly purple, rather than the commonplace herd? I suspect the answer to this perplexing question had much more to do with my love of the color at the time than it did some specific craft choice. At that early age I did not yet understand the study of craft. Instead, I wrote in that happily enviable state of young writers, oblivious to the dangers of it, believing instead that what I was doing was inherently good.

“Horses can’t be purple,” said my older brother Philip, peering over my shoulder.

Undeterred, I worked on. Today, I like to think that even at such a young age I inherently understood that I was, after all, writing fiction and could make my horses whatever color I chose. I also like to believe I was building a defense against criticism, intuiting that this would be a valuable skill for a young writer to cultivate.

Like Egyptian hieroglyphs, I drew the story, rubbing my Crayola crayons into tiny nubs with my enthusiasm. Each page was a new turn in the narrative: The cowboy rounds up the poor purple horses. The black mustang appears at the field where the herd should be, only to find it empty. Later, the black mustang discovers hoof prints that indicate distress and a forced departure by the herd. I can’t imagine that my drawing skills at the time were significantly better than my ability to write, but in my mind’s eye, the evil cowboy had a perfectly characterized frowny face and an oversized hat that made him the buffoon, while the black horse was stunning—muscles rippling, mane and tail suspended in the air, forever flowing.

When I was finished, I dictated while my older sister Jennifer filled in captions for each page. I recall us sitting on the floor of the family room, Jennifer cooing encouragingly and uncharacteristically. Within a few short years she’d begin locking me out of her bedroom, but on that day she was the closest a four-year-old could come to an arts patron. In fact, when she was finished writing, she held up the book and suggested that it be published.

“Yes,” she said, agreeing with herself. “I think we should send this off to some publishing houses immediately.” She turned around. “Don’t you think, Mom?”

Our mother was seated on the couch behind us, reading Good Housekeeping. My passion for books comes directly from this woman who to this day still reads voraciously. But imagining a four-year-old, really any four-year-old, as a serious writer worthy of public attention and accolades is difficult for even the most imaginative of mothers, not to mention my own.

May-be,” my mother said in that vague, noncommittal tone she has mastered over the years, the one that suggests an open door but is really nothing more than an aversion from having to give her honest answer. Or maybe she understood the hardships of serious writing, the inconceivable odds of my ever getting published, no matter how good my writing might happen to be, and was just being a mother, trying to protect me.

“We can talk about it later,” she said, “once your father gets home.”

But at the dinner table that night, my story wasn’t mentioned. Even Jennifer seemed to have forgotten her role in its potential rise, talking instead about a summer camp she’d hoped my parents would consider. Forlorn, I mixed my peas with my mashed potatoes and shoveled the concoction into my mouth, trying to assuage my disappointment.

At four my mind was oddly like a goldfish’s: I quickly forgot about the publication fantasies my sister had planted, though I continued to write. There would be other stories—a mystery about a lost teddy bear, a family picnic to Lake Erie; more horse stories (all writers have our preoccupations). I wrote consistently, daily, for hours at a time, with a concentration and focus that today my adult self wishes I could muster. I filled notebooks and piled them up like widgets, evidence of my hard labor.

Recently, when cleaning out their house, my parents sent me some of those notebooks. I had told them to just throw the damn things away, to not waste the postage, but when I received the package of two cloth-bound journals, I felt overwhelming relief they had not obeyed my orders. Flipping through those pages, I was reminded of something I heard in a radio interview with a well-known poet. When asked why she chose writing, the poet responded: “I didn’t choose it so much as it chose me.”

I cannot think of better proof that writing chose me than my first story, and all the many stories that followed. On that day, writing about the black mustang and his purple herd, I followed an impulse that dogged me throughout my adolescent and teen years, on into adulthood, an impulse that dogs me still. Now, whenever I feel self-doubt about my vocation (which, as a writer, happens most days), I remind myself of this time when even at an early age I was compelled to put the stories in my head mysteriously to paper. It is this thought that provides comfort in my darkest moments, that encourages me to get up and write the next morning, and the next, and the next.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Sentence: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson


Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.

(This week, I’m going to break with tradition and present not just one sentence, but an entire paragraph from Smith Henderson’s debut novel, Fourth of July Creek, in which he describes the fictional town of Tenmile, Montana.)


He liked the Sunrise Cafe for its coffee and smoky ambience and the way his arms stuck to the cool plastic tablecloths in summer and how the windows steamed, beaded, and ran with tears when everyone got out of church and came in for breakfast on a cold morning. He liked how Tenmile smelled of burnt leaves for most of October. He liked the bench in front of the tobacco shop on the square and how you could still send a child to buy you a pouch of Drum from inside with no problem from the proprietor. He liked the bowling alley that was sometimes, according to a private schedule kept only by them, absolutely packed with kids from the local high school and the surrounding hills who got smashed on bottles of vodka or rotgut stashed under their seats and within their coats. How much biology throbbed and churned here--the mist coming off the swales on the east side of town and a moose or elk emerging as though through smoke or like the creature itself was smoking. How the water looked and how it tasted right out of the tap, hard and ideal, like ice cold stones and melted snow. How trout looked in that water, brown and wavering and glinting all the colors there were and maybe some that didn't really exist on the color wheel, a color, say, that was moss and brown-spotted like peppercorns and a single terra-cotta-colored stone and a flash of sunlight all at once. That color existed in the water here.

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson


Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Freebie: Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt


Congratulations to Jerri Bell, winner of last week’s Friday Freebie contest: Above the Waterfall and Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories by Ron Rash and Darkness the Color of Snow by Thomas Cobb.

This week’s book giveaway is Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt. A thousand fans of The Sisters Brothers just stood up in unison, like meerkats, sniffing the wind. Yes, it’s true: the Man Booker Prize shortlister is back with a new book and one lucky reader will be enjoying it a couple of weeks from now. What’s Undermajordomo Minor all about, you ask? Read on for more information about the novel.

A love story, an adventure story, a fable without a moral, and an ink-black comedy of manners, Undermajordomo Minor is Patrick deWitt’s long-awaited follow-up to the internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed novel The Sisters Brothers. Lucien (Lucy) Minor is the resident odd duck in the bucolic hamlet of Bury. Friendless and loveless, young and aimless, Lucy is a compulsive liar, a sickly weakling in a town famous for producing brutish giants. Then Lucy accepts employment assisting the Majordomo of the remote, foreboding Castle Von Aux. While tending to his new post as Undermajordomo, Lucy soon discovers the place harbors many dark secrets, not least of which is the whereabouts of the castle’s master, Baron Von Aux. He also encounters the colorful people of the local village—thieves, madmen, aristocrats, and Klara, a delicate beauty whose love he must compete for with the exceptionally handsome soldier, Adolphus. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery, and cold-blooded murder in which every aspect of human behavior is laid bare for our hero to observe. Undermajordomo Minor is an adventure, a mystery, and a searing portrayal of rural Alpine bad behavior, but above all it is a love story and Lucy must be careful, for love is a violent thing.

Here’s what some smart folks are saying about the book:

Undermajordomo Minor wears a fairytale cloak, but at its wondrous and fantastical heart lies an unexpectedly moving story about love, home, and the difficulty of finding one’s place in the world. Elegant, beautifully strange, and utterly superb.”  (Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven)

“An electrifying adventure, both tender and profane. Nervy, hilarious and utterly unpredictable, Patrick deWitt has served up another dazzler.”  (Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette?)

Undermajordomo Minor is brutal, brilliant, sly, absurd, and poignant. It’s both gripping tale and hilarious subversion. Once again Patrick deWitt proves his wild, original talent, generous wit, and exquisite control.”  (Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask)

If you’d like a chance at winning Undermajordomo Minor simply email your name and mailing address to


Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Sept. 3, at which time I’ll draw the winning name.  I’ll announce the lucky reader on Sept. 4.  If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Matthew Neill Null’s Library: The Condominium of Oblivion


Reader:  Matthew Neill Null
Location:  Provincetown, Massachusetts
Collection Size:  I’m afraid to count. There’s no ideal number—it will be too many or too few.
The one book I'd run back into a burning building to rescue:  There’s no particular book I’d rescue, since the replaceability of books is one of my favorite features of these weird little objects. That said, I do have a 1940 first edition of W. E. R. Byrne’s West Virginia history/travelogue Tale of the Elk. Byrne, a politician and lawyer, follows the Elk River 172 miles from headwaters to mouth, and records in whimsical fashion the people and animals he encounters. I’m fond of this copy because it belonged to my grandfather, and my family has fished and camped on the Elk for generations. No, they didn’t make it into the book.
Favorite book from childhood:  I had a set of animal encyclopedias, circa 1960, a hand-me-down from my dad’s childhood. In hindsight, the information was hilariously outdated, but I enjoyed reading about the exotic beasts and looking at the plates. Some were of taxidermy, and I remember that the antlers of the white-tailed deer were firmly planted backward on its skull.
Guilty pleasure book:  Non, je ne regriette rien.


Space is at a premium in Provincetown, on this frail spit of sand with water on three sides, so it’s fitting to have a couple of cheap bookshelves elbowed into the corner of our smallish condo. My library is functional and charmless. It doesn’t bother me—I only want books around that I will re-read many times over, and I relentlessly cull the rest. The presence of bad books makes me uneasy—they could infect the entire household! I wear out interlibrary loan, and if I find a book I love, I’ll go out and buy it.


The shelves have become a natural depository for objects I’ve found while fishing the beach—such as this dogfish jaw—or further afield. Petrified wood and a shed mule deer antler from Wyoming. Coal from the ghost town of Thurmond, West Virginia. Snakeskins from various places. Fossils, various. A rattle from a snake that struck at my bare ankle in Bath County, Virginia. And a stamped coaster that Lookout Books made for the release of my first novel, Honey from the Lion, with an image that recreates a font on the book cover, a silkscreen by the British artist Alexander Heaton. It’s too pretty to hold a drink.


On the top shelf of the bookcase, you can see the oil lamps that are in regular use through winter. The Provincetown power-grid is made of Popsicle sticks and bubble gum. Any big storm, the main line goes down at Truro. We’re the furthest town, so we’re always last to get it back on.

I don’t arrange the books, but looking over the shelves, I see a pattern to certain shelves, a loose constellation of theme. I have a soft spot for great books that, for whatever reason, never found readers beyond a token few. I’ve toyed with an essay called “The Library of Oblivion,” about luminous books that came through the breach and entered the world, only to vanish, leaving no wake behind them. John Ehle’s The Land Breakers, an American epic. Malcolm Braly’s stunning prison novel On the Yard. Paula Nangle’s The Leper Compound. Mark Costello’s The Murphy Stories. Ron Hansen’s Mariette in Ecstasy. Leonard Gardner’s Fat City. Julie Hayden’s The Lists of the Past. Andrea Lee’s Interesting Women. Keith Waldrop’s Light While There Is Light: An American History, which should be required reading for all humanity, for its candor and its empathy. All of Evan S. Connell and Glenway Wescott, of whom Gertrude Stein wrote, “[Wescott] has a certain syrup but it does not pour.” Or, even worse, writers who long labored on incredible novels but never lived to see their publication: Tomasi de Lampedusa’s The Leopard and G.B. Edwards’s The Book of Ebenezer Le Page leap to mind, two books that stagger the reader with their understanding of village gossip and and its power to cohere a place. William Gass’ Omensetter’s Luck, for the first 90 pages alone. Walter Abish’s How German Is It.


And I can’t forget Andrew Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance, shoved into the LGBT sections of used book stores, where most will never see it—it’s hard to believe it was Holleran’s first novel, the pages are written with such skill. Maybe someday, somehow, these deserving books will have a revival, such as what happened to Stoner, another novel that deserves immortality. What binds them all? Bad luck, maybe, or a lack of their period’s zeitgeist. I’m still trying to explain it to myself. They are as brutal as they are lyric, unsentimental, unsparing. Perhaps these books cut too close to the bone. Yet all ripple with life. They are a form of art that does not comfort, does not soothe.

Among them, I see foreign writers who may be read elsewhere, but not so much in America. Authors like Henry de Montherlant. Maria Beig’s Hermine and Lost Weddings, two astonishing novels of women’s lives in rural Swabia, cutting and true as a blade. Bruce Chatwin. Jaroslav Hašek. Tayeb Salih. Hubert Butler’s Independent Spirit: Essays. Pitigrilli’s Cocaine, rescued by New Vessel Press, which is doing incredible work. Ryszard Kapuściński. Henry Green’s Concluding and Loving. Tadeusz Konwicki’s A Minor Apocalypse. Pär Lagerkvist’s Barabbas. Patrick White’s Voss, which Shirley Hazzard called a masterpiece, and I listen to everything Shirley Hazzard says.


Read them all! You won’t be disappointed.

Summer is slipping away, but I want to read Vivian Gornick’s The Odd Woman and the City and Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August before August is gone.


Matthew Neill Null is a recipient of the Mary McCarthy Prize and the Michener–Copernicus Society of America Award, and his fiction appears in American Short Fiction, Ecotone, the Oxford American, Ploughshares, The PEN /O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Best American Mystery Stories 2014. A native of West Virginia, he holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he is currently the writing coordinator. Honey from the Lion is his first novel.


My Library is an intimate look at personal book collections.  Readers are encouraged to send high-resolution photos of their home libraries or bookshelves, along with a description of particular shelving challenges, quirks in sorting (alphabetically? by color?), number of books in the collection, and particular titles which are in the To-Be-Read pile.  Email thequiveringpen@gmail.com for more information.

Author photo by Rebecca Gayle Howell


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Trailer Park Tuesday: Married Sex by Jesse Kornbluth


Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.




I have Married Sex. The book by Jesse Kornbluth, that is. But I also have married sex. The act. I love married sex (the act) and I’m pretty sure I’ll like Married Sex (the book) because I’ve been a fan/follower of Kornbluth’s cultural blog, Head Butler, for a number of years. Whether he’s talking about pepper mills or Emmylou Harris, the guy knows his stuff. He can come butle around my house anytime he likes. But back to Kornbluth’s Sex. It's been near the summit of Mount NeveRest, my perpetually-growing To-Be-Read pile, for several months--ever since I got an advance copy--but I just haven’t managed to squeeze in enough time for it yet (sorry, Jesse!), but I will soon. Because this is some Sex I really look forward to having. (Have I wrung the entendres dry yet? No? Okay, I’ll keep going.) This Sex promises to be smart and fun and literate. I mean, you can’t go wrong with a novel whose first line is “The most beautiful woman in the world is a woman reading a book.” Let’s get it on, readers!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Sentence: The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy


Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.



They rode through forests that had burned down to blackened lances and others electric with the yellow-and-red music of fall. They rode across glinting fields of obsidian that looked as though the night froze and fell and shattered.

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy


Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Freebie: Above the Waterfall and Something Rich and Strange by Ron Rash and Darkness the Color of Snow by Thomas Cobb


Congratulations to Barbara Aiello, winner of last week’s Friday Freebie: The Sweetheart Deal by Polly Dugan.

This week’s book giveaway is the triple crown of Above the Waterfall and Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories by Ron Rash and Darkness the Color of Snow by Thomas Cobb. Read on for more information about the novels and the short story collection.

In Above the Waterfall, a poetic and haunting tale set in contemporary Appalachia, New York Times bestselling author Ron Rash illuminates lives shaped by violence and a powerful connection to the land. Les, a long-time sheriff just three weeks from retirement, contends with the ravages of crystal meth and his own duplicity in his small Appalachian town. Becky, a park ranger with a harrowing past, finds solace amid the lyrical beauty of this patch of North Carolina. Enduring the mistakes and tragedies that have indelibly marked them, they are drawn together by a reverence for the natural world. When an irascible elderly local is accused of poisoning a trout stream, Les and Becky are plunged into deep and dangerous waters, forced to navigate currents of disillusionment and betrayal that will force them to question themselves and test their tentative bond—and threaten to carry them over the edge. Echoing the heartbreaking beauty of William Faulkner and the spiritual isolation of Carson McCullers, Above the Waterfall demonstrates once again the prodigious talent of “a gorgeous, brutal writer” (Richard Price) hailed as “one of the great American authors at work today” (Janet Maslin, New York Times).

And now a word about Something Rich and Strange: From the acclaimed, New York Times bestselling award-winning author of Serena and The Cove, thirty of his finest short stories, collected in one volume. No one captures the complexities of Appalachia—a rugged, brutal landscape of exquisite beauty—as evocatively and indelibly as author and poet Ron Rash. Winner of the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, two O Henry prizes, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, Rash brilliantly illuminates the tensions between the traditional and the modern, the old and new south, tenderness and violence, man and nature. Though the focus is regional, the themes of Rash’s work are universal, striking an emotional chord that resonates deep within each of our lives. Something Rich and Strange showcases this revered master’s artistry and craftsmanship in thirty stories culled from his previously published collections Nothing Gold Can Stay, Burning Bright, Chemistry, and The Night New Jesus Fell to Earth. Each work of short fiction demonstrates Rash’s dazzling ability to evoke the heart and soul of this land and its people—men and women inexorably tethered to the geography that defines and shapes them. Filled with suspense and myth, hope and heartbreak, told in language that flows like “shimmering, liquid poetry” (Atlanta Journal Constitution), Something Rich and Strange is an iconic work from an American literary virtuoso.

Like No Country for Old Men and Snow Falling on Cedars, Darkness the Color of Snow is a haunting, suspenseful, and dazzlingly written novel of secrets, corruption, tragedy, and vengeance from the author of Crazy Heart—the basis of the 2009 Academy Award-winning film. Darkness the Color of Snow is an electrifying crime drama and psychological thriller in which a young cop becomes the focal point for a community’s grief and rage in the aftermath of a tragic accident. Out on a rural highway on a cold, icy night, Patrolman Ronny Forbert sits in his cruiser trying to keep warm and make time pass until his shift ends. Then a familiar beater Jeep Cherokee comes speeding over a hill, forcing the rookie cop to chase after it. The driver is his old friend turned nemesis, Matt Laferiere, the rogue son of a man as beaten down as the town itself. Within minutes, what begins as a clear-cut arrest for drunk driving spirals out of control into a heated argument between two young men with a troubled past and ends in a fatal hit and run on an icy stretch of blacktop. As the news spreads around town, Police Chief Gordy Hawkins remains certain that Ronny Forbert followed the rules, at least most of them, and he’s willing to stand by the young cop. But a few manipulative people in town see opportunity in the tragedy. As uneasy relationships, dark secrets, and old grievances reveal themselves, the people of this small, tightly woven community decide that a crime must have been committed, and someone—Officer Ronny Forbert—must pay a price, a choice that will hold devastating consequences for them all.

If you’d like a chance at winning all three books, simply email your name and mailing address to


Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Aug. 27, at which time I’ll draw the winning name.  I’ll announce the lucky reader on Aug. 28.  If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Trailer Park Tuesday: Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck and Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor


Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.



As those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know by now, I’ve gone full-immersion into the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay this month. I started by dipping into the Library of America edition of her Selected Poems and then my fever intensified when I went inside Nancy Milford’s pitch-perfect biography of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Savage Beauty. Along the way, I decided to cap off my Millay feast with Erika Robuck’s novel Fallen Beauty, which imagines an encounter between Millay and a small-town seamstress (and fallen woman) named Laura Kelley in the late 1920s. Both women are at precarious times in their lives--Millay is struggling with her latest collection of poetry, The Buck In the Snow, and Laura is dealing with the stigma of having a child out of wedlock. Though the trailer isn’t new (Fallen Beauty came out last year), I wanted to share it with you in hopes it will lead you to discover not only Millay’s work (she’s fallen out of fashion these days, it seems), but also Robuck’s novels in which literary figures like Hemingway and Fitzgerald interact with “regular people” in inventive ways. Her latest is called The House of Hawthorne and it’s about you-know-who.




Another new literary-encounter novel which has caught my eye is Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor, published this summer by Penguin Books. Here’s another instance where a famous author and a domestic encounter each other in the pages of a novel. In this case, it’s Emily Dickinson and her Irish maid. Young Ada Concannon goes to work in the Amherst, Massachusetts household in the 1860s and finds it’s a strange place where the spinster poet wears only white and avoids the outside world at all costs. The trailer, which O’Connor herself put together, moves a little too quickly in places, but it’s beautiful nonetheless and gives you a good idea of the book’s tone. I’m adding Miss Emily to the pile of “reclusive female poets and their encounters with mortal beings” books I want to read this year.


Monday, August 17, 2015

My First Time: Lauren Baratz-Logsted


My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands.  Today’s guest is Lauren Baratz-Logsted, the author of more than 20 books for adults, teens and children. Her latest book is the novel The Sisters Club, which officially hits bookstores tomorrow. Over the years, Lauren has worked as a Publishers Weekly reviewer, a freelance editor, a (sort-of) librarian, and a window washer. Her first novel, The Thin Pink Line, about a woman who fakes an entire pregnancy, was published by Red Dress Ink in 2003. You can read more about her life and work at www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBaratzL.


My First Time Negotiating a Book Deal

They say only a fool represents herself in a court of law and that only a fool represents her own interests with book publishers. Well, count me a fool.

By late 2001, I’d been trying to get published for seven years, when I began reading reviews for books from a new publisher, Red Dress Ink, and I thought they’d be a perfect fit for one of my previous efforts, The Thin Pink Line, a dark comedy about a woman who fakes an entire pregnancy. At the time, I was working with an agent on another book, but I asked him to read my trunk novel with a view toward pitching it to RDI. Long story short, he couldn’t see what set it apart from other novels out there and he told me he knew for a fact that RDI wasn’t interested in books with a London setting, which mine had. I decided he was all wet and decided to pitch it to them myself.

The following May I got the call. Boom! They wanted to do a two-book deal with me.

On the advice of a best-selling publishing friend, I did try to go back and get an agent for it. But the truth of the matter was, most of the agents I talked to simply annoyed me. And the one I really liked? She said, “I can’t say that if I get involved now, I won’t louse things up for you somehow. Because the truth? You’ve done something an agent might not have been able to do for you in this crazy publishing climate: you got yourself a two-book deal. So look out for the option clause, and the reversion of rights, and call me when you’re a bestseller.”

I decided to be a fool. I decided to represent myself in contract negotiations.

While waiting for the contract to arrive, I read 700 pages of publishing law, taking notes all the while. When the contract came, I read every single word, finding 17 points I wanted changed in my favor. I called the editor up and said, “When this conversation is over, we’ll go back to the friends-and-fun of doing books together, but right now we need to talk business.” And then I began going through my list, point by point.

I was met with resistance on some points. Whenever I did, I suggested she ask someone else if what I was asking for was possible. When we got to the part about me wanting greater royalty percentages at appropriate splits for hardcover–mine was to be their first-ever hardcover; they’d only done trade paperback before–her response was, “I don’t think we can do that.” Me: “Ask.” I got it.

Not far into my list, she realized she was out of her depth with the legal language and kicked me upstairs to someone in the legal department. Halfway through my list, she stopped me with: “I’ve never seen an author do anything quite like this before.” Me (worried that maybe I’d sink my own deal by demanding too much): “Do you think I’m being too picky?” Her: “No. I think it’s the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen. Do you know how often, after signing, authors come back and say, ‘I wish I hadn’t signed away this?’ or ‘I wish I’d asked for that?’ And I always feel bad for them. I wish I could help them out but there’s nothing I can do at that point. So keep going. Now, what’s next on your list?”

By the time we were done, I’d won 15 of my 17 points. And the two I didn’t? They were just pie-in-the-sky anyway. Here’s a rule of negotiating for you: Always ask for more than you need, because then you’ll hopefully be left with what you really want.

The Thin Pink Line went on to sell 170,000 copies worldwide and the points I’d argued in my favor made a massive difference in what I received as a result.

I’m still proud of that contract.

And guess what? I’m a fool again! A year ago January, after spending most of my career with an agent, I decided to go it alone again. I’ve since negotiated the re-release of four of my backlist titles with Diversion Books, including The Thin Pink Line, and two new titles, including The Sisters Club.

Oh, and I also recently sold a new book, acting on my own behalf, to a Big Five. Boom!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Sentence: The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy


Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.



The stars are like a fistful of salt flung across a black blanket.

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy


Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Freebie: The Sweetheart Deal by Polly Dugan


Congratulations to Andrew Beck, winner of last week's Friday Freebie, Orient by Christopher Bollen.

This week's book giveaway is The Sweetheart Deal by Polly Dugan. Read on for more information about the book Elin Hilderbrand, author of Beautiful Day, called “the most romantic story I've read in years.”

Leo has long joked that, in the event of his death, he wants his best friend Garrett, a lifelong bachelor, to marry his wife, Audrey. One drunken night, he goes so far as to make Garrett promise to do so. Then, twelve years later, Leo, a veteran firefighter, dies in a skiing accident. As Audrey navigates her new role as widow and single parent, Garrett quits his job in Boston and buys a one-way ticket out west. Before long, Audrey's feelings for Garrett become more than platonic, and Garrett finds himself falling for Audrey, her boys, and their life together in Portland. When Audrey finds out about the drunken pact from years ago, though, the harmless promise that brought Garrett into her world becomes the obstacle to his remaining in it.

You can also read more about The Sweetheart Deal in last month’s edition of Front Porch Books here at The Quivering Pen.

If you’d like a chance at winning The Sweetheart Deal, simply email your name and mailing address to


Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Aug. 20, at which time I’ll draw the winning name.  I’ll announce the lucky reader on Aug. 21.  If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Front Porch Books: August 2015 edition


Front Porch Books is a monthly tally of books--mainly advance review copies (aka "uncorrected proofs" and "galleys")--I've received from publishers, but also sprinkled with packages from Book Mooch, independent bookstores, Amazon and other sources.  Because my dear friends, Mr. FedEx and Mrs. UPS, leave them with a doorbell-and-dash method of delivery, I call them my Front Porch Books.  In this digital age, ARCs are also beamed to the doorstep of my Kindle via NetGalley and Edelweiss.  Note: most of these books won't be released for another 2-6 months; I'm here to pique your interest and stock your wish lists.  Cover art and opening lines may change before the book is finally released.  I should also note that, in nearly every case, I haven't had a chance to read these books.  I'm just as excited as you are to dive into these pages.


A Slant of Light
by Jeffrey Lent
(Bloomsbury)

Jeffrey Lent’s new novel came out this past April, but I’m including it here because: A) a copy from the publisher just landed on my front doorstep a week ago; and B) I’m such a die-hard fan of Lent’s work (Lost Nation, in particular) that I will never skip an opportunity to share his work with others. Set in western New York just after the Civil War, A Slant of Light opens with a scene of violence so shocking--blood spills all over farmer Malcolm Hopeton’s dusty courtyard by page 3--that will either turn readers away from the novel or send them spiralling into the rest of the pages. Me, I am definitely in the latter camp.

Jacket Copy:  At the close of the Civil War, weary veteran Malcolm Hopeton returns to his home in western New York State to find his wife and hired man missing and his farm in disrepair. A double murder ensues, the repercussions of which ripple through a community with spiritual roots in the Second Great Awakening. Hopeton has gone from the horrors of war to those far worse, and arrayed around him are a host of other people struggling to make sense of his crime. Among them is Enoch Stone, the lawyer for the community, whose spiritual dedication is subverted by his lust for power; August Swarthout, whose wife has left earthly time and whose eye is set on eternity; and a boy who must straddle two worlds as he finds his own truth and strength. Always there is love and the memory of love--as haunting as the American Eden that Jeffrey Lent has so exquisitely rendered in this unforgettable novel. A Slant of Light is a novel of earthly pleasure and deep love, of loss and war, of prophets and followers, of theft and revenge, in an American moment where a seemingly golden age has been shattered. This is Jeffrey Lent on his home ground and at the height of his powers.

Blurbworthiness:  “A somber and breathtaking Hardyesque vision of a little-known American past, Lent’s newest epic unfolds with the assured timelessness of a classic...Many sentences demand rereading for their sheer beauty, and each love story--some tragic, others newly born--has a poignant emotional charge. Lent offers eloquent insight into what makes his characters tick, yet enough unknowns remain to keep the novel unpredictable through the final pages.” (Booklist)


I Was a Revolutionary
by Andrew Malan Milward
(Harper)

At first glance, they look like clouds--burnt orange by sunset and piled high as peaks of whipped cream. But when I look closer at the jacket art for Andrew Malan Milward’s short story collection, I realize those clouds are actually plumes of billowing smoke. Which leads me to think these pages burn with intensity, and not just in the book’s first story “The Burning of Lawrence.” Smoke gets in my eyes...and I like it.

Jacket Copy:  A richly textured, diverse collection of stories that illuminate the heartland and America itself, exploring questions of history, race, and identity. Grounded in place, spanning the Civil War to the present day, the stories in I Was a Revolutionary capture the roil of history through the eyes of an unforgettable cast of characters: the visionaries and dreamers, radical farmers and socialist journalists, quack doctors and protestors who haunt the past and present landscape of the state of Kansas. In these stories—which have appeared in Zoetrope All-Story, The Best New American Voices, FiveChapters, Story, American Short Fiction, and Ninth Letter—the award-winning writer Andrew Malan Milward crafts an epic mosaic of the American experience, tracing how we live amid the inconvenient ghosts of history. “The Burning of Lawrence” vibrates with the raw terror of a town pillaged by pro-Confederate raiders. “O Death” recalls the desperately hard journey of the Exodusters—African-American migrants who came to Kansas to escape oppression in the South. And, in the collection’s haunting title piece, a professor of Kansas history surveys his decades-long slide from radicalism to complacency, a shift that parallels the landscape around him. Using his own home state as a prism through which to view both a nation’s history and our own universal battles as individuals, Milward has created one of the freshest and most complex story collections in recent years.

Blurbworthiness:  “Spanning a hundred and fifty years in the history of Kansas, the eight vivid and masterfully linked stories in I Was A Revolutionary are a stunning example of the importance of ‘place’ in literature. Without a doubt, Andrew Malan Milward is one of the smartest and most inventive writers working today.” (Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff)

Opening Lines:  In the photograph from 1912, taken forty-nine years after the raid, the remaining men kneel, sit, and stand in wide rows three deep. As I count it, there are nearly fifty men in all. The photographer had to move the camera so far back that their expressions are only the ghosts of expressions. You can tell they are hardened, though—gaunt and weathered; these are faces upon which to break firewood. Some look as though they might be smiling, others grimacing. By virtue of their posture and the positioning of their heads, one gives off an air of pride while his neighbor communicates shame. By this time they were old men in suits with canes and prickly gray beards. Before the raid they had been farmers, had survived the bitter fighting of the Civil War, and now they found themselves in a new world, with Europe fixing to blow like a powder keg. These men survived the raid, but they weren’t survivors of the raid. They were what was left of Quantrill’s band of 450 men who rode through Lawrence, Kansas, in August of 1863 and murdered most of the men and boys in town.


The Hundred-Year Flood
by Matthew Salesses
(Little A)

I’ve been a fan of Matthew Salesses ever since I read The Last Repatriate, his novella from Nouvella. His short story collection with the terrific title, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, is on my short-list to read. So now I’m adding his first full-length work of fiction, The Hundred-Year Flood, to the list of books I’ve made it my mission to read in 2015. Talk about “most-anticipated”!

Jacket Copy:  In the shadow of a looming flood that comes every one hundred years, Tee tries to convince himself that living in a new place will mean a new identity and a chance to shed the parallels between him and his adopted father. This beautiful and dreamlike story follows Tee, a twenty-two-year-old Korean-American, as he escapes to Prague in the wake of his uncle’s suicide and the aftermath of 9/11. His life intertwines with Pavel, a painter famous for revolution; Katka, his equally alluring wife; and Pavel's partner—a giant of a man with an American name. As the flood slowly makes its way into the old city, Tee contemplates his own place in life as both mixed and adopted and as an American in a strange land full of heroes, myths, and ghosts. In the tradition of Native Speaker and The Family Fang, the Good Men Project’s Matthew Salesses weaves together the tangled threads of identity, love, growing up, and relationships in his stunning first novel, The Hundred-Year Flood.

Blurbworthiness:  “A filmic, fast-moving, disjunctive ride, The Hundred-Year Flood rollicks through an exquisitely constructed plot to arrive at a surprising destination. Matthew Salesses writes taut, intelligent, lyrical sentences. He is definitely a writer to watch, and The Hundred-Year Flood is the novel to read right this moment.” (Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown)


Upright Beasts
by Lincoln Michel
(Coffee House Press)

As a follower of Lincoln Michel on Twitter and an admirer of the editorial work he’s done at Electric Literature, I’ve been waiting for the release of his debut collection of short stories with all the anticipation of a kid standing outside the locked doors of a candy store just before it opens. I’m putting this Beast at the head of the line.

Jacket Copy:  Twenty-one genre-bending stories of bestial transformation, accidental murder, erotically-challenged dictatorship, and other tales of darkness, absurdity, and confusion. Children go to school long after all the teachers have disappeared, a man manages an apartment complex of attempted suicides, and a couple navigates their relationship in the midst of a zombie attack. In these short stories, we are the upright beasts, doing battle with our darker, weirder impulses as the world collapses around us.

Blurbworthiness:  “Lincoln Michel’s stories are strange, haunting and often very funny beasts. His prose is rich and also spare. He can kill you in two pages or take you for a long, dangerous, kooky ride—and then kill you. And by kill you, I mean thrill you. Savor this book and welcome Mr. Michel.” (Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask)

Opening Lines:  Time passes unexpectedly or, perhaps, inexactly at the school. It’s hard to remember what semester we are supposed to be in. Several of the clocks still operate, but they don’t show the same time. The red bells, affixed in every room, erupt several times each day, yet the intervals between the disruptions wax and wane with an unknown algorithm. The windows are obscured by construction paper murals. Consequently, the sun rises and falls in complete ignorance of those of us attending the school. Many of us participated in the decorations in some lost point of childhood. A few of us still have dried glue under our fingernails.
     In the room I sit in now, the windows are covered with a glitter and glue reenactment of the colonization of Roanoke by Sir Walter Raleigh. Outside of the window, who knows?
     (from “Our Education”)


The Sunlit Night
by Rebecca Dinerstein
(Bloomsbury)

As a former Arctic resident (I lived in central Alaska for nearly a decade), I know all about “sunlit nights,” those endless summers when sunsets are merely kisses to the horizon and then the big blazing ball of sun is back on shift for another “day.” It’s a surreal world that always threw my circadian rhythms off, even though I knew the near-24-hour sunlight season came around every year. So, I’m totally in tune with what’s going on in Rebecca Dinerstein’s debut novel (set not in Alaska, but on an island in the Norwegian Sea). It’s a novel about people, yes; but I’m sure the landscape will have some psychological effect on them, too.

Jacket Copy:  In the beautiful, barren landscape of the Far North, under the ever-present midnight sun, Frances and Yasha are surprised to find refuge in each other. Their lives have been upended--Frances has fled heartbreak and claustrophobic Manhattan for an isolated artist colony; Yasha arrives from Brooklyn to fulfill his beloved father’s last wish: to be buried “at the top of the world.” They have come to learn how to be alone. But in Lofoten, an archipelago of six tiny islands in the Norwegian Sea, ninety-five miles north of the Arctic Circle, they form a bond that fortifies them against the turmoil of their distant homes, offering solace amidst great uncertainty. With nimble and sure-footed prose, Dinerstein reveals that no matter how far we travel to claim our own territory, it is ultimately love that gives us our place in the world.

Blurbworthiness:  “Lyrical as a poem, psychologically rich as a thriller, funny, dark, warm, and as knowing of place as any travel book or memoir, The Sunlit Night marks the appearance of a brave talent.” (Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated)

Opening Lines:  In the moment after Robert Mason’s condom broke he rolled off me, propped himself on his elbow, and said, “What you do doesn’t help anybody.”


And West Is West
by Ron Childress
(Algonquin Books)

There have been a few books about Air Force drone operators--those military pilots who kill by remote control--but Ron Childress’ debut novel is the one which has really captured my attention. Some of the chapters are short--letters from a father to his daughter--and the prose crackles right from the opening paragraph, so this one looks like it will be a thrilling flight, skimming low across the nap of the earth, hurtling toward the target of my imagination.

Jacket Copy:  Winner of the prestigious PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, And West Is West is an inspired novel about the devastating power of new technology to corrupt innocent lives. When Jessica, a young Air Force drone pilot in Nevada, is tasked with launching a missile against a suspected terrorist halfway across the world, she realizes that though women and children are in the crosshairs of her screen, she has no choice but to follow orders. Ethan, a young Wall Street quant, is involved in a more bloodless connection to war when he develops an algorithm that enables his company’s clients to profit by exploiting the international instability caused by antiterrorist strikes. Though only minor players, the actions of these two people have global ramifications that tear lives apart—including their own. When Jessica finds herself discharged from the service, and Ethan makes an error that costs him his job, both are set adrift, cast out by a corrupt system and forced to take the blame for decisions they did not make. Childress has crafted a terrifyingly real scenario in which characters navigating different worlds are bound together by forces beyond their control.

Blurbworthiness:  “I’m impressed with the ambitious scope and smart, sophisticated politics of this novel that put it squarely into the category of writing I want to reward with this prize. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. This writer can write; these characters are real; the story is crackerjack.” (Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible and founder of the PEN/Bellwether Prize)

Opening Lines:  They are twined, all but, she and Voigt. He is leaning over her shoulder, his forearm atop her chairback. His lips are so close to her ear that each breath he exhales roars like a gale. This is all she hears inside the dim trailer. The glowing screens before her keep them immobile. They are frozen except for the motion of her hand as she centers the camera. The moment is near. This time he is going to let her do it.
     “Aldridge. Are you ready for your first?”
     “Yes, sir,” Jessica tells Colonel Voigt. They are inches apart. But Sergeant Jessica Aldridge is also eight thousand miles away, ten thousand feet in the air, and so near to the figures on the ground below her that she might reach down and pick them up like dolls.


Darkness the Color of Snow
by Thomas Cobb
(William Morrow)

This is one of those instances where “I came for the jacket, but stayed for the contents.” Initially attracted by that frozen landscape of snow and road on the cover of Darkness the Color of Snow, it didn’t take long for me to realize the words of Thomas Cobb’s novel were equally bleak and beautiful. Something exciting is going to happen in these pages; and when it does, I'll be there.

Jacket Copy:  Like No Country for Old Men and Snow Falling on Cedars, a haunting, suspenseful, and dazzlingly written novel of secrets, corruption, tragedy, and vengeance from the author of Crazy Heart—the basis of the 2009 Academy Award-winning film—an electrifying crime drama and psychological thriller in which a young cop becomes the focal point for a community’s grief and rage in the aftermath of a tragic accident. Out on a rural highway on a cold, icy night, Patrolman Ronny Forbert sits in his cruiser trying to keep warm and make time pass until his shift ends. Then a familiar Jeep Cherokee comes speeding over a hill, forcing the rookie cop to chase after it. The driver is his old friend turned nemesis, Matt Laferiere, the rogue son of a man as beaten down as the town itself. Within minutes, what begins as a clear-cut arrest for drunk driving spirals out of control into a heated argument between two young men with a troubled past and ends in a fatal hit and run on an icy stretch of blacktop. As the news spreads around town, Police Chief Gordy Hawkins remains certain that Ronny Forbert followed the rules, at least most of them, and he’s willing to stand by the young cop. But a few manipulative people in town see opportunity in the tragedy. As uneasy relationships, dark secrets, and old grievances reveal themselves, the people of this small, tightly woven community decide that a crime must have been committed, and someone—Officer Ronny Forbert—must pay a price, a choice that will hold devastating consequences for them all.

Opening Lines:  Patrolman Ronald Forbert sits in Cruiser Four, starting and restarting the ten-year-old Crown Victoria to keep the cabin warm. It will run for five minutes before it stalls out. He’s just on the outskirts or Lydell, half a mile from the Citgo and two miles from the state line. It snowed early in the day, then melted, and now the melt is refreezing into black ice on the highway. He’s on duty partly to hang paper on the drivers speeding to or from the Indian casino twelve miles away, and partly to slow down drivers who aren’t aware of the icy conditions.
     He sees the one-headlight car come over a hill a few hundred yards to the east, then disappear. He turns the cruiser back on and waits for the vehicle to come over the hill just east of him that hides him from view. When the car crests the hill, he lights it up with the radar gun, drops the cruiser into gear, and hits the light bar. As the car, a beater Jeep Cherokee, goes by, he recognizes it. “Shit.”


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sunday Sentence: Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford


Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.



It’s Sunday and therefore it’s Sunday School, and I don’t want to go one bit. It looks like rain, and I hope it will rain cats and dogs and hammers and pitchforks and silver sugar spoons and hayricks and paper covered novels and picture frames and rag carpets and toothpicks and skating rinks and birds of Paradise and roof gardens and burdocks and French grammars, before Sunday school time. There!

Sixteen-year-old Edna St. Vincent Millay writing in her diary,
quoted in Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford


Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Freebie: Orient by Christopher Bollen


Congratulations to Maria Giordano, winner of last week’s Friday Freebie: Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont.

This week’s book giveaway is Orient by Christopher Bollen. Keep reading for more information about the novel...

As summer draws to a close, a small Long Island town is gripped by a series of mysterious deaths—and one young man, a loner taken in by a local, tries to piece together the crimes before his own time runs out. Orient is an isolated town on the north fork of Long Island, its future as a historic village newly threatened by the arrival of wealthy transplants from Manhattan—many of them artists. One late summer morning, the body of a local caretaker is found in the open water; the same day, a monstrous animal corpse is found on the beach, presumed a casualty from a nearby research lab. With rumors flying, eyes turn to Mills Chevern—newly arrived in town from the west with no ties and a hazy history. As the deaths continue and fear in town escalates, Mills is enlisted by Beth, an Orient native in retreat from Manhattan, to help her uncover the truth. With the clock ticking, Mills and Beth struggle to find answers, faced with a killer they may not be able to outsmart.  Blurbworthiness:  “The quaint seaside village of Orient is not as pleasant as it seems, and Christopher Bollen will hold you spellbound as he reveals its secrets. A truly well-crafted and literate murder mystery that recalls the worlds of both P.D. James and Twin Peaks.” (Nelson DeMille)

If you’d like a chance at winning Orient, simply email your name and mailing address to


Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Aug. 13, at which time I’ll draw the winning name.  I’ll announce the lucky reader on Aug. 14.  If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.