For the first time, I decided to sign up for the Goodreads Challenge.
This is a big thing for me. I don’t like committing to a ‘challenge’ because then it begins to feel like a chore, and honestly, I didn’t need the online book-guilt if I didn’t complete the challenge and have to live with the ‘I thought you were an author, don’t authors like to read?’ bit from my peers. But, fortune favors the bold, so I took on ten books and then was promptly thrust into a pandemic where I became a full-time freelancer.
It was a bit of fate that I got involved in a couple of book clubs. I’d always wanted to be in one, but it always felt like a far-off activity that sounds fun but really isn’t. The ones I have been involved in were full of people who didn’t read the book and generally wanted to drink wine and gossip (which, nothing against that, but hey I spend time reading a book-club book I wasn’t fond of to begin with and which wasn’t in the genre I enjoy, so I want to talk about the book, damnit). Also and frankly, I wasn’t really interested in most book club books. Instead of reading, say, Dune, we were picking up the latest Oprah sensation. Blerg. But this time, I decided to give it a chance. I was going insane being inside my house and talking to myself about books.
And, to my surprise, it has been enjoyable. So while I haven’t read much SFF so far in 2020 for pleasure, I have read a lot. I’m not going to review many of them in detail…because…well…no one wants to hear my take on a bunch of books that I didn’t really care for, but I have read a bunch of stellar poetry. Here’s a list that graced my eyes this past year:
tenderminded, non-compliant by Catheryn Tarazi
A self-published collection of poems that spoke to my aging millennial soul. There’s a lot that resonated with me inside these poems, mainly dealing with purpose, disappointment, and foraging for hope when there feels like there might not be any. There’s a lot of fighting for personality, about being crushed under how life just didn’t work out the way you’d hoped, and forgiveness towards your childhood dreams for not coming true. It’s a beautiful collection.
A four year old once told me, with all the sincerity she could muster, that
her heart hurts
and i almost said out loud: holy shit is this where it starts?
is this how it all happens? Feelings are feelings, no matter how small
the person who feels
them, so it must be true that she could look at me describe the side effects
of my solitude, the
pitch perfect tone of my exhales hitting empty walls, bouncing back towards
and whispering in the night, “You need to get your shit together.”
Boy with Thorn by Rickey Laurentiis
I stumbled on this one after discovering a snippet of one of their poems, Southern Gothic, which simply gave me the chills:
About the dead having available to them
all breeds of knowledge,
some pure, others wicked, especially what is
future, and the history that remains
And I usually follow those chills to their inevitable conclusion. I’m not a big poetry fan, rarely do I get the same overwhelming surge of emotionality that I receive from fiction, but to quote Emily Dickinson:
“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?”
This book took a couple of reads from me. I had to read a poem, let it simmer, and then come back and read it again. But it was completely worth it.
Ghost Stories by Taylor Lear
Oh god…if I could write a love story to this author I would. I absolutely adore every single piece in this book. It’s about billed as “a collection of love stories, told in poems, from one would-be lover to another.” I could wax and wane about the beauty of The Lighthouse Keeper for eons (and did so to my husband, who didn’t get the same response from it). It’s full of that breathless waiting—begging to express what lingers in the heart, the agony of if or when it is expressed that it’s not enough, the terror of rejection. Mythology oozes from the tales, pulling on ancient stories to explain little everyday emotions clogged in the throat.
I am building a lighthouse here, upon this rock
this spiny sea, this spine-flung end of the world, this edge
of space where there is only white vinyl paint and tallow-fat
to burn for shipcalling. Please don’t come, do not come asking
for me to love you in a picket-fenced way, do not hope for
well-tended roses in my mouth when you will only find
alewives and eelgrass instead
So good. Go find it.
Here’s the rest of my Goodreads list:
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
- Deadmen Walking by Sherrilyn Kenyon
- More pirates please! And more plot. But what a cool cast of characters.
- A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
- I get the Kell/Holland vibes people have told me about. Pretty good, I enjoyed it, even if I didn’t find it as groundbreaking as people had told me it was. But I’m a picky bitch, so.
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
- Found it to be white bread at first, and then suddenly I was crying at the end, so that means it was pretty darn good, right?
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
- Blerg. Some interview with the author said that when she writes, its like building a house and she’s wallpapering the inside of a room while the rest of the house is still a wooden structure…which accurately describes this novel for me.
- Bitterrroot by Susan Devan Harness
- I thought I’d hate this book. It blew my mind. This memoir was so touching and beautiful and while I’m not Native or an adopted child, some of her experiences resonated so strongly to me and aligned with a couple of interactions that I have had personally. It’s a Montana book, which might be why I connected with it so much, but damn, that sensation of detachment and loss in a state so big and flat just got me.
- The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
- Good. Solid. Dreamlike. I couldn’t get my footing in the narrative sometimes and the whole thing felt like a smear and wash of color and images, but I think that’s the point of the story that is so wrapped up in immigration and fleeing your home and PTSD and losing everything.
- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg.
- I thought there would be more lesbians. Can we get more lesbians, please?
- The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan
- Psychiatry is a trap. Medicine is a trap. But you should still be hopeful while you’re drugged out of oblivion and misdiagnosed and everything that has made a splash is because of ego.
My novel, Sharks of the Wasteland, released yesterday! Lots of positive pre-reviews are rolling in, which I read even though my editor told me to never read reviews, but I did anyway! September 1 was full of shark-stuff in celebration. I wore my whale-shark leggings. My puppy had her favorite hammerhead shark toy. There was a lot of love and support for the project, and even a Facebook post in the process behind creating the cover art, which made the day that much better.
For me, a book release is a stressful affair. It’s amazing to see your imagination-child bound and printed, but at the same time it also feels like you’ve put a piece of your inner soul on the shelf are willingly encouraging people to read and judge it. So much work has gone into the novel in the background where no one can see, and while it released today, the production of it has been going on for more than a year, so it is with immense relief and yet excitement that I see it on the shelves. I’m very proud of it. I hope you’ll take a moment and give it some love, too.
Here’s how things break down if you’d like to support the book and want to know the best way to do so:
- Want to buy local? Call up your local bookstore. Ask them to order the book in for you. They’ll realize there is a market for the book and possibly order more for other interested customers.
- Buy from the Outland Entertainment website. That’s our direct sale line. They get the most profit because there are no middle men involved! Yay!
- Buy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, or any other online retailer you prefer.
- Check it out from your local library or on Hoopla! Even if you don’t want to buy it, you can still read it and enjoy it! Seriously, as an author, that is still considered support.
- Please leave a review! A couple of words can make my day. Thank you for your support!
Den of Geek was gracious enough to host my cover reveal of my new post-apocalyptic science fiction novel, Shark of the Wasteland, releasing from Outland Entertainment in September 2020! I talk about the inspiration behind the cover, how it ties into the story, and you can read this lovely piece here: https://www.denofgeek.com/books/sharks-of-the-wasteland-cover-reveal/
Also massive thanks to the Outland Team, and especially Alana Joli Abbott for fantastic editorial skills and Jeremy Mohler for crafting this beautiful cover. Preorders are open on Amazon now here: https://www.amazon.com/Sharks-Wasteland-Cataclysm-Cycle-Gwendolyn/dp/1947659847
I’m excited for my new novel, Sharks of the Wasteland, to join the ranks of the Outland family alongside our amazing post-apocalyptic science fiction books! Den of Geek will graciously host a cover reveal tomorrow, May 19 at 12pm ET, so be sure to check out their website and blog to see what this fantastic cover (created by Jeremy Mohler) will look like!
My short story, “What Nightmare are You Living In?” was featured on Starship Sofa this past summer. It’s a wonderful little story about monsters with bottle cap eyes and a retired soldier whose life isn’t what he thought it was going to be. Listen to it here.
While Outland Entertainment isn’t currently open to general submissions, we are always really eager to look for new talent—and we’re especially eager to expand our novel offerings to better represent diverse voices. To this end, I am participating in this year’s #DVpit, alongside editor Alana Joli Abbott, to represent Outland Entertainment. Each of us has written up our Manuscript Wish List (#MSWL) and tweeted out our short versions, but here they are in full.
Gwendolyn N. Nix: My love of science fiction and fantasy began with Tolkien, Weis, and Herbert, strengthened with Neil Gaiman, and darkened with Anne Bishop, Jacqueline Carey and Laurell K. Hamilton. Right now, I love heart-wrenching stories, gorgeous writing, with strong character interaction and development. Give me your grimdark tales, dark fantasy romances, your horror sagas, your weird space operas. LGBTQIA+ and diversity welcome.
Alana Joli Abbott: Although I love traditional Western fantasy, I seek out stories from underrepresented voices, especially those steeped in mythologies and cultures outside my own experience, to see how they can expand my favorite subgenres: high fantasy, epic fantasy, space operas, and weird Westerns. I look for complex characters with agency that represent multiple genders and ethnicities, and smart stories with humor and hope.
Solicited Submitting to Outland
If we reach out to you on #DVPit and you decide to submit—first, thanks so much for entrusting us with a peek at your manuscript! We want to see your synopsis and the first three chapters of your completed manuscript. We are not currently interested in seeing works in progress for the purposes of this event.
That’s it! If you’re a writer doing #DVPit, have a fantastic time and best of luck to you in finding the perfect home for your novel. If you’re a reader, tune into #DVPit and see all of the cool things people are writing!
Originally published August 8, 2014
Updated note: My great-uncle, Peter Setera, was a barnstormer and in 1928, at the age of 33, he went up in flames as he hit the ground. My dad’s a librarian, so I get lots of fun facts 🙂
For the past two weeks, my work has been consumed with aviation. Research, profiles, aircraft engine facts…I feel like I could rattle on about F-16s and C-130s at any given time. After collecting data on wingspans and figuring out just how fast Mach 2.5 really is (1,930 mph thank you very much), I gathered some interesting information about barnstorming, a particularly influential piece of aviation’s history that I thought I’d share.
At the start of World War I, the Allies quickly realized they needed to gain some kind of tactical advantage over the highly successful German zeppelins used for reconnaissance missions, bomb raids, and scouting for enemy artillery fire. By targeting London, German airstrikes infused fear into their enemies while igniting the imagination of many in regards to a different form of warfare.
For the Allies, air warfare appeared questionable. Many older commanders were hesitant to employ the newer technology, but change needed to happen to shape the outcome of the Great War. At first, aircrafts were used for reconnaissance missions, spotting, and observation, but later evolved into being used in bomb raids and aerial attacks. This took off, especially when aircrafts and pilots began carrying grenades and grappling hooks, and later upgraded to handheld firearms, and finally, the machine gun.
As the War came to an end, manufacturers in the United States had produced a huge number of planes, in particular the Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplane, which had been used to train pilots. Usually costing around five thousand dollars, the U.S. federal government sold these planes at a fraction of the cost, some down to $200, to veterans, servicemen, and civilians.
First designed and built in 1915, The JN “Jenny” was a two-seater biplane mainly used as a training airplane for the army, but later modified to be an aerial ambulance. Classically recognized with a front propeller and dual wings, the JN “Jenny” became an incredibly popular and famous aircraft during World War I.
While the aircraft industry boomed during wartime, afterwards, many airplane companies went broke, flooding the market with even more discounted planes for sale. Many pilots put their aviation skills to good use by gaining employment as crop dusters, mail carriers, and as good old-fashioned smugglers. Others flew around the country selling airplane rides. Landing in a farmer’s field, the pilot would negotiate with the farmer for the use of his field as a temporary runway and arena to showcase his plane. These ‘barnstormers’ then created a buzz in the nearby towns or farms by dropping handbills advertising the pilot’s daring aviation feats, marketing plane rides, and stirring up a carnival-like ambiance. In some instances, pilots were forced to land in fields because they simply ran out of fuel. Thus, the farmer was stuck with the grounded flyer until the pilot could make enough money to buy enough fuel to leave.
On the other hand, wing walking started with Ormer Locklear as a means to repair his plane mid-flight in World War I. By literally climbing out of his cockpit mid-air, walking along the wing, and attending to the mechanical problem, he soon began a trend that quickly transform into handstands and parachute jumps.
With rising popularity, barnstormers cashed in on their fame by forming troupes of elaborate flying circuses known for their stunt pilots’ aerobatic maneuvers, such as plane dives, loop-de-loops, and barrel rolls. Wing walkers, usually beautiful women, strong men, or even the pilots themselves, would walk, dance, or perform acrobatic stunts along the plane’s wings while in mid-air. In time, stunts became so incredible that they ranged from planes flying side by side and each pilot exiting their cockpit, wing walking, and trading places with each other to wing walkers being picked up by other planes, much like a trapeze artist. Some of the most famous flying circuses were “The Five Blackbirds,” “The Flying Aces Air Circus,” “The 13 Black Cats,” and “Gates Flying Circus.”
During the 1920’s and into the 1930’s aviation regulations were extremely loose, allowing pilots to do any combination of daredevil stunts that became more dangerous and insane to quench the crowd’s thirst for adrenaline. Once regulations started to be enforced, barnstormers and flying circuses had a difficult time maintaining their audience’s awe while still sticking to these safety standards. Once the military stopped selling Jenny’s, barnstorming steadily decreased into obscurity in the 1940s. Luckily, wing walking and flying circuses continued after World War II to this day.
“Wingwalking History.” Wingwalking History. Silver Wings Wingwalking Team, 2013. Web. 06 Aug. 2014. <http://www.silverwingswingwalking.com/resource_zone.html>.
White, John M. “The History of Barnstorming.” All Things Aviation: Informing, Education, and Entertaining Pilots. N.p., 31 May 2011. Web. 06 Aug. 2014. <http://all-things-aviation.com/flying/history-of-barnstorming/>.
I’m familiar with Sunny Moraine’s fiction and have followed their publications on Apex, Nightmare, and Shimmer. Additionally, I’ve worked with them professionally, and their editorial work is great (highly recommend). Singing With All My Skin and Bone has been on my backlist to conquer since it first published from Undertow Publications and I couldn’t be more happy with the collection. It has everything I wanted: Moraine’s work all in one place where I could read them back to back, not just as quick online magazine skims during my lunch break. Moraine’s style continues to be darkly heartbreaking, like a deep well. You drop a stone or coin into it and the ripples touch more than you thought possible. Plus, the tons of references to Richard Siken’s Crush—how apt is that for me?
My favorite stories, I believe, center around Moraine’s later works. Their voice seems settled and certain compared to some of the other stories, but no matter where you are on the timeline, you know who the words belong to. By far, my favorite story is “Singing With All My Skin and Bone,” an intimate story of rage, blood witchcraft, self-mutilation, and bullying. I can’t say it enough—the voice in this story is so intimate it becomes painful and even as the protagonist wields newfound power with terrible consequences, you can understand why the sublimity experience might be worth it.
The theme of physical self-destruction continues into my second favorite story, “Come My Love and I’ll Tell You a Tale,” where an apocalypse, cannibalism, and heartbreaking love are front and center. Survival lies in the eye of each story’s maelstrom—as in the things people will do to stay alive because it’s in our nature to live—and how to deal with the consequences of choosing to live and not die. In a sense, it all boils down to sacrifice. At first, the main character sounded like a young child to me, who quickly grew into an adult seeking some kind of comfort and acceptance for what she was forced to do.
“Event Horizon” was my third favorite story, mainly because it’s a story I’ve always wanted to write. Hungry houses that must be fed, but will they feed on you? And amidst the sacrifice blooms a hidden love that gets its first taste of rejection. I wish this story was longer—hell, I’d pay greenbacks for a novel—it has that Stephen King IT mentality of experiencing the magical and horrific as a child and finding out it still haunts you into adulthood.
My fourth is a tie between “Across the Seam,” with feet in the legends of Baba Yaga and “So Sharp That Blood Must Flow,” a Little Mermaid re-telling. Watching the little mermaid reject her sea foam fate and turn into a vicious, bloody sea witch made my heart a bit happy. I’m not sure what Young Me would think of it, especially with my infatuation with the Disney re-telling, but Present Me was delighted.
Other notables are “Love in the Time of Vivisection” which feels like an intimate portrait into the life of someone like Jeffrey Dahmer, wielding ultimate power over life and the unwilling (here, willing) victim to satisfy that ultimate insatiable need to control. “It’s Healing It’s Never Whole” felt like a fresh take on the afterlife—but it did have me pondering for a good long while why many times afterlives are created to be a workaholic capitalistic lifestyle, as if finding ultimate satisfaction in work is a kind of heaven unattainable in the real world. “The Throat is Deep and the Mouth is Wide” had me wondering about unanswerable questions, and, if any answer would be good enough to satisfy that hunger to know.
The other stories were entertaining, but what halted their ascension to Favorite heights centered around the fact that they felt more like emotional explorations rather than a story. More like thesis stated facts told in an emotional way, a comment on society, or even just a strange occurrence to create an unsettling ambiance, rather than a tale where I connected with the characters.
Still, this collection made me think and take my time in reading. I couldn’t ask for more. Five glorious stars.