March 20, 2015

Book Review: New Yorked by Rob Hart

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a little girl, growing up in New Jersey, right across the river from Staten Island. If you went to the small, oily waterfront in my hometown, you could see it. It was right there.

Author Rob Hart grew up on that little (big) island, around the same time as me. The worlds of our youth were, therefore, quite similar. We share memories of New York City in its pre-Rudy Giuliani years, when subways were dark and graffitied. When used hypodermic needles made the Long Island beaches minefields of disease and depravity. When 42nd Street was a mess of hookers, drug dealers, and peep shows.

And you know what?

Rob Hart and I share the same nostalgia for those years.

Yes, yes, I know. New York City is arguably better now. It's safer. It's cleaner. It's a place people move TO, rather than a place they run FROM.

But still. Those years. Those dark, gritty, dirty, filthy, rotten years.

I miss them.

I do.

There was something special about the city back then. You could make it as an artist, living off a couple bucks a day, hunkering down in a shitty apartment, eating Ramen and drinking coffee. The city felt more alive then, at least in my memories. It felt like even the streets lived and breathed.

I mean, they certainly smelled, didn't they? 

Anyway, I digress. Because the thing is? It was fun (and even a little thrilling) to find this nostalgia for a lost city woven artfully through the pages of Hart's upcoming novel, New Yorked (out June 9, 2015). To find a book that accepts New York City's contemporary status as a haven for hipsters and Starbucks and chain stores, but which does so with righteous indignation.



For Hart's narrator, part-time PI Ash McKenna, inhabits this contemporary Manhattan, frequenting places like Alphabet City (off-limits to child-me, for its dangerous residents and pervasive drug use) and a bar called Apocalypse, while navigating a treacherous road of fedoras and skinny jeans. 

And McKenna hates it. He misses those darker, grittier days. He misses the same things I miss.

This was an incredible treat to find in a book. Hart gives my nostalgia words. Images. Sights and smells. 

He gives it clout. 

He also manages to be one of the few writers I've seen successfully talk about 9/11, about the loss and suffering surrounding that terrible day, without...well, without pissing me off. Because Hart was there, just like I was. He's able to talk about these things because he knows. Hart's experiences lend the entire book an authenticity that a non-native writer would struggle to achieve. Hart's narrator feels authentic because Hart is authentic.

And the New York of Hart's novel is alive. 

It breathes.

It smells. 

And that's what it's all about.

New Yorked is a great example of the noir writing. It's part murder-mystery, part scathing look into a community ravaged by addiction and desperation. When Ash McKenna is implicated in the murder of his wishful-thinking-girlfriend, Chell, it becomes his mission to clear his name...and to kill Chell's killer. 

Along the way, he runs with a crowd of the most colorful characters I've had the pleasure of reading. With names like Bombay and Tibo, Lunette and The Hipster King (yes, you're supposed to read that with more than a hint of irony), they're diverse in skin color, style, and yes, sexuality. Each character is as well fleshed out, with background and motives and opinions, as Ash McKenna himself. And I love Hart's bravery, taking all these awesomely wild people and mashing them together into one roller-coaster story. 

In this day and age in which we hear all about diversity in literature, Hart's not just preaching it: he's writing it.

And that's a hugely important distinction to make.

I loved this book. I read it in about three sittings, which is damn near miraculous for me. Hart's prose is tight and dark. His roads are long and winding. And the final destination keeps you guessing.

It's going to be a few months until Hart's book hits bookshelves everywhere (and I do mean everywhere...though is publisher, Polis Books, is considered a small press, they're doing a lot of things right, including getting their books into bookstores), but I want you to remember this: if you're looking for something exciting in scope, plot, and diversity, you need to read New Yorked by Rob Hart.

So go ahead!What are you waiting for? It's available for pre-order NOW!

March 13, 2015

My Visit to the John L. Dart Library

I did something cool last night, and it was all because a friend of mine was sick.

What a bummer, to have something so special come out of someone being sick.

But how cool, too, right? Silver linings abound everywhere, don't you think?

Here's the story. On Monday, my sweet friend S.K. Falls texted me. She was supposed to give a talk at the John L. Dart Library in downtown Charleston Thursday night as part of their Celebrating Her Stories series for Women's History Month. Unfortunately, S.K.'s house has been hit by several of the Elementary School Plagues currently making their rounds, and she and her family were down for the count.

Would it be possible for me to give a talk there instead? So as to not leave them hanging?

Well, I doubt I could ever say no to S.K. - EVER - as she really is the sweetest, so I went ahead and said yes.

When I learned the talk was to be 45 minutes, followed by a Q&A, I started to get worried.

When I spoke with the lovely Kim and Ty at the library, and they told me the next speaker in the series (the following week) was going to be a Civil Rights activist who helped integrate the Charleston County school system....well, then I panicked.

Because...compared to THAT, what could I possibly have to contribute??

But I was already committed, and what's more...I wanted to do it. I wanted to see if I could say something meaningful, something helpful, or even just something fun.

And I was committed.

And panicking.

Oh my God, there was so much panic.

I had to call my brother.

I'm so glad I did. He suggested I read in addition to talking (I'm a writer, after all), and he suggested I have some kind of visual aids. He gave me some timeline considerations, and many other helpful tips.

I made a plan. I was supposed to be talking to young adults and adults, so I thought about talking about some heady stuff. Heavy stuff. I planned around that, for the most part...

And then I arrived at the library last night, and all my plans pretty much went out the window.

But still. It all worked out in the end.

For as it turned out, it was more of a (very small, very intimate) audience of KIDS and a few young adults.

All that heady, deep stuff that I had planned for the second half of my talk? Gone. Because it was just too much for the little ones.

But that was FINE! Because I love kids! I love hanging out with them, hearing what they think, and for the most part they were an awesome audience.

So now let me add: the John L. Dart is in an almost exclusively black part of town. I was the only white girl in the room. I felt my difference as much as I'm sure the children often feel theirs.

And it was GOOD that I felt a little different. Too often I'm too complacent, too comfortable in my mostly-white world. It was nice to be the odd girl out. Because as much as I believe skin color doesn't matter, and everyone's the same, looking different, for once, was a good reminder that on some level...it still does matter. Because if we can't ACKNOWLEDGE our differences, how can we later CELEBRATE them? How can we say, yes, we're different, and that's okay. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. And yes, maybe there's a tiny barrier between us at first, based on our appearances, but yes, we need to SMASH that barrier down, every single time we feel it.

Me? I tried to make us all laugh, to get over any lingering nerves I felt. I opened with an embarrassing story about myself, and then I talked to them about my early influences. I told them about watching all the horror and sci-fi movies with my dad wen I was a kid. I told them about how, when I sat down to write a book on a dare, I couldn't write more than a few pages without...zombies.

I read to them from the opening pages of Zombie Days, Campfire Nights (editing out the curses and the actual sex-scene).

It was the first time I'd ever read ANY of my Undead America series to an audience, and I was pleasantly surprised. I actually LIKED my own words!

And so did they!

In fact, when I stopped, someone in the audience actually said, "That was so cool."

No, my friend. What YOU said was ACTUALLY so cool.

Anyway, then we headed into deeper stuff. I told them about being the only Jewish kid in my class growing up. I told them how I still hate Matzoh, after being the only one who had to eat it during Passover.

And I told them about the scariest day in my life, when our synagogue was smashed up and spray painted with Swastikas (one of the librarians was kind enough to pull out an encyclopedia to show them a picture of a Swastika when I failed MISERABLY at drawing one), and I was only ten years old and I thought the Holocaust was coming for me.

I think they got it.

And then? Then I ran out of time, because 45 minutes FLEW by, and I answered some questions, and was completely thrilled when some of the kids were EXCITED to receive copies of Zombie Days as door prizes, and they asked me to sign their copies...and then?

Then one of the kids, a ten-year-old boy who had begged to be allowed to stay for the program....then he gave me this:


Yep. It's fan art.

I'm so in love with this piece of paper I could scream.

It was an incredible night. I loved meeting the kids, I loved hearing a bit about their stories, their style, their inspirations. And I hope they enjoyed meeting me. 

And now I'm hoping to take Zoe back, next week. I think she'd love to hear from the Civil Rights activist. I know I would.

March 5, 2015

Cover Reveal: Age of Blood by Shauna Granger

Hey guys! 

I'm always happy to host my super-sweet, amazing friend Shauna Granger here on the blog. Today she's celebrating the cover reveal for Age of Blood, the third and final installment of her Ash and Ruin apocalyptic series. I've read all the books and I will say: they are SUPER exciting and will keep you on the edge of your seat/couch/bed, throughout the whole series!

SO without further ado, here's Shauna with her COVER REVEAL!!!!

****



Hope is a dangerous thing, but powerful. Hope keeps you going. Hope can keep you alive. But hope can shatter your world. Kat and Dylan have found a home, but the monsters are still out there. The pox and plague still ravage the world. They have hope of finding a vaccine, but their encampment isn't equipped to develop it. Dylan is still too weak from the pox to leave the encampment, so Kat must decide between staying by his side and protecting her last remaining family member as he leaves to find supplies. Separated for the first time since they came together, Kat and Dylan will have to fight their own battles to save what is left of their bloody world. Kat will have to hold on to hope that she has anything left to save and someone to come home to. If she can survive. 





Available 5/5/2015




About the series:



There are two inherent truths in the world: life as we know it is over, and monsters are real.

The Pestas came in the night, spreading their pox, a deadly plague that decimated the population. Kat, one of the unlucky few who survived, is determined to get to her last living relative and find shelter from the pox that continues to devastate the world. When it mutates and becomes airborne, Kat is desperate to avoid people because staying alone might be her only chance to stay alive. That is, until she meets Dylan. Dylan, with his easy smile and dark, curly hair, has nowhere to go and no one to live for. He convinces Kat there can be safety in numbers, that they can watch out for each other. So the unlikely couple set off together through the barren wasteland to find a new life – if they can survive the roaming Pestas, bands of wild, gun-toting children, and piles of burning, pox-ridden bodies. 




The world has ended, and hope is the most dangerous thing left.

Battered and bruised after barely escaping San Francisco with their lives, Kat, Dylan, and Blue press north – desperate to reach the possibility of a new home. But strange, monstrous ravens are tracking the remaining survivors, food is becoming scarce, gasoline is running short, and people are becoming suicidal, making survival almost impossible. And the Pestas are growing bolder. Somehow, their numbers are growing. The further north they go, the harder it becomes to ignore the signs that they’ve made a fatal mistake. Kat must face the impossible truth that there is no escape, there is no safe haven, and their worst nightmares don’t come close to their new reality.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

About the author:


Like so many other writers, Shauna grew up as an avid reader, but it was in high school that she realized she wanted to be a writer. She released the first installment of her Paranormal YA Series, The Elemental Series, Earth, on May 1, 2011 and has since released four sequels, with the series coming to an end with Spirit. In December of 2013 she released the first in her Paranormal Post-Apocalyptic trilogy (Ash And Ruin Trilogy), World of Ash. Be sure to also check out her newest series: The Matilda Kavanagh Novels about a spunky witch just trying to pay her rent in West Hollywood. Shauna is currently hard at work on one too many projects, trying to organize the many voices in her head. It's a writer thing.

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About the Cover Artist Stephanie Mooney:



I am a 25-year-old graphic designer, artist, and aspiring author currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m a renaissance girl — a lover of all things creative and artistic. From the moment I learned to use my hands, I was writing stories about princesses and sketching ballerinas. I guess I never really stopped. Most of my training has been informal, and many of my skills are self taught. In 2006-07, I spent a year interning at a church in Louisiana where I worked in their art and design department. In July 2007, they hired me as one of their designers. I worked there for three years, gaining experience in graphic design, advertising, set building, event planning, and product design. From there, I began my career in freelance design. Many of my clients are indie authors looking for affordable cover designs. I love working with authors and getting excited about their stories with them. I’m still building my web portfolio, but I really enjoy designing and developing websites as well.

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