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Tin Man: A Book Review

What’s better as a ‘start of the summer book’ than one covered in glimmering sunflowers? I’m a big fan of Impressionist art and Van Gogh is definitely a favorite, so I must confess this may be my favorite book cover of the year, so far. I was fortunate to see some of his work a few years ago as a collection was on tour and it is even more mesmerizing in person. Long heralded for his use of color, you see it vividly come to life in bold brush strokes that shouldn’t mean anything, but together they mean everything.

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The brush strokes are layered, swoop after swoop of color. Sometimes colors you wouldn’t have chosen, but their existence on the canvas is what makes the portrait truly stunning. The novel Tin Man, by Sarah Winman, is “Sunflowers” come to life. This novel is so quietly stunning and perfectly petite, I will be rereading it for years. The humanity Winman was able to capture with such a surprising feeling of simplicity is marvelous.

Like the book jacket says, “This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that.” This is a tale of two twelve-year-old boys who bond through life’s challenges and life’s beauties. Ellis and Michael are fast friends who run amok through Oxford, swimming, cycling, sharing a love of poetry until something shifts and they are more. Fast forward into adulthood and Ellis is married to Annie, a girl who became their third Musketeer, but Michael is gone. What has happened in the years between and after? The answer is where the painting analogy really gets cooking. Winman effortlessly weaves the lives of the boys together by telling their story in stunning vignettes and memories. And as it unfolds you find yourself heartbroken and tenderly hopeful all at once. Like a painting, it is beautiful at first glance, but you know each time you return for another look there will be a deeper richness waiting to be discovered.

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The complex relationships aren’t dramatic or overdrawn, they are so damn true and I have rarely met characters so realistically drawn. I want to hug them, all of them, and thank them for their lives lived within the walls of this beautiful little book, and for allowing me to read them.

If you want to know what it would feel like to read art, this is the book.

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A Story, Spoken: Chapter Five

Annie has agreed to a date with Gavin, the handsome handyman from Cheney’s store, but a trust has been broken. Will Annie’s dreams be collateral damage? If you haven’t caught up, you can read the first four chapters here: Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four. Let’s see how Annie’s doing…

It wasn’t just that he picked his teeth with his thumbnail at the table, or that he tried to order for me, it was the way he laughed. I had put myself together, changing my outfit three times, rushed out the door with a fib ready on my lips if Nan asked who I was meeting. I had stumbled through the awkward realization that a smile and a cute butt was not enough for me, even for a “distraction from my life” date.

Gavin hadn’t stopped talking about himself since we’d arrived at the restaurant. We slid into a booth at the back of  Jimmy’s Family Cafe and perused the menu as he continued with his life story — how he had started the handyman business two years ago, how he still didn’t regret not going to college because he didn’t see the point, how loving and present his mother was in his life, but his dad was a hardass who died young and wasn’t missed. I couldn’t tell if it was nerves or if he always spilled his guts like this on a first date, but I was grateful because the more he talked the less I had to. I prayed silently that he had enough material to get us to the check so I wouldn’t have to answer or avoid painful questions about the current state of my family life.

But it wasn’t to be. Just as I was biting into the burger he’d cracked a joke about when I didn’t choose a salad on the first date, he zeroed in on exactly the last thing I wanted to discuss.

“So Cheney told me you have some internship next year for writing or something. What’s that about?”

My eyes rolled before I could stop them and he laughed. A loud guffaw, smile broad on his face, not realizing that I hadn’t joined him in his amusement.

“No, I don’t.” I took the bite and looked down at my plate while I chewed, occupying myself with squirting ketchup on the plate for my fries.

“You don’t, huh?” I glanced up to see him watching me, waiting for me to elaborate.

“Nope.” I popped a fry into my mouth and smiled through my chewing hoping he’d move on if I didn’t react.

“So you don’t want to be a writer?” His elbows were on the table now, food left untouched because he’d found a better treat in bothering me about things I’d rather him not know. I was furious with Cheney for putting me in this position and furious with Gavin for not getting the hint.

“I did,” I thought a short answer would give him enough satisfaction to move on, “but life happens, you know? A lot in my life changed very quickly, and now it doesn’t make sense for me to go. So that’s that.”

“Does Cheney know you aren’t going?”

“Yes, and I don’t know why she would tell you otherwise.”

“Well,” he said with another laugh, “seems like it’s for the best anyhow.”

“What does that mean?” I wiped the burger grease from my hands.

“I don’t know.” Gavin finally picked up his own burger, looking for something else to fill his mouth now that the words were running short. “Your heart doesn’t seem to be in it anyway. And I get it. Life does happen, and hobbies take a back seat when it does. That’s just how it goes, right?”

I felt like I’d been slapped.

“Hobbies?” I glared, no longer the least bit concerned about making a good impression.

“Yeah, writing, gardening, that kind of stuff. Sometimes we’ve just gotta get to work and push through and not get too caught up in time-fillers. Idle hands and all that.” Another bite. A drip of pink juice from his undercooked burger slid down his chin, but he didn’t seem to notice taking another bite before even swallowing the first.

“Writing isn’t my hobby. It never was. It’s what I wanted to do with my life. It’s what I studied at college. Everything I ever wanted to accomplish in life came down to being a writer.”

That laugh. It crept under my skin and needled its way into my heart so swiftly I was shocked at the surge of anger that swept over me.

“What the hell is so funny about that?”

“I’m sorry,” another chuckle, “no need to get your panties in a twist. Maybe I’m just naive about that kind of life. Hard work for a hard buck, that’s how I was raised.”

“And you don’t think writing is hard work?”

“Putting words on paper? I mean, I never liked it in school, but it’s just telling a story, right?”

I breathed in and out, using the gift of his momentary silence to try and steer myself away from yelling.

“You know what,” I set my napkin on top of what was left of my food and reached for my purse, “I could spit a lot of names at you right now, and I’m really tempted, but most of the words coming to mind are probably over your head, so I’ll keep this simple. Go to fucking hell you ignorant piece of shit.”

I didn’t wait to hear his response. I was across the restaurant and out the door in seconds and let each stomping step it took me to get home fuel the fire of astounded anger. I still had the consciousness to open the door quietly and softly open Nan’s door to make sure she was asleep before shutting myself into my room and pulling down the typewriter from its recent home in the back of my closet.

I set it down on mom’s secretary desk I’d squeezed into the corner and retrieved a small stack of blank paper from an open package on a shelf. I fed the sheet in and sat staring at the blank page, fuming, grasping for words, any words that I could pour onto the page.

My mind was a blur of pain and a deep feeling of betrayal. Cheney had told my secret. She had hung me out to dry and allowed me to be bombarded by a cute smile with a limited vocabulary for her own damn pleasure and I couldn’t stand the way it was making my stomach churn.

I typed a few words of frustration and crossed them out. I typed a sentence or two about what writing was or wasn’t and crossed those out too. I sighed and tried to put words to the storm of memories and fears about my mother that had consumed me over the last several months, but I didn’t get past “M-o-m” before I was sobbing and I couldn’t see the paper through the tears.

I stood up and pushed my hands through my hair, understanding why women in old movies tore at their hair in desperation after heartbreak. I stared at the typewriter, blurry until I swiped away the tears with the neck of my shirt. I knew now that everything that had happened, everything I felt, it had broken me. The life I’d imagined was dead. Just like my mother.

I pulled out my phone and opened my email app. I quickly read through the draft I’d typed earlier in the week but hadn’t had the guts to send. It was for the best, though. If I didn’t let go, I’d just keep hurting and I couldn’t bear anymore hurt.

I hit send and watched as the bar creeping along the bottom of my screen filled and my formal decline of the internship flew off to New York in my place.

Unbury Carol: A Book Review

I am so very glad that I chose to engage with my readers and include you guys in deciding what books I read and review. I’ve been exposed to some really amazing books thanks to you, so first, I’d like to say thank you! I’m branching out more than ever and finding some real gems. Like this one! Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman was April’s pick and I dove headfirst into this thriller and held on for a wild ride.

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Carol has a secret. A secret clutched so tightly in fear of what ifs, but will her allowing only a few people in her life to know the truth ultimately cause her death? From time to time, with very little warning, Carol falls into a death-like coma and dwells in a world of darkness where raspy breathing she suspects is her own slowed exhalation is her only companion. She can hear the world around her, but cannot move or speak until she wakes again, days later as if nothing was amiss. Her mother long in her grave, and her best friend newly departed leaves her gold-digging husband as the only person in her life that knows her secret, and when she falls into yet another trip to her inner prison, the opportunity is too much for him to resist. An old lover, the final keeper of Carol’s wicked secret, is notified of her death and races time and the looming gravediggers to halt the unthinkable horror of being buried alive.

This book held many surprises, not just as the plot untwisted to reveal the wholly unexpected ending. A vague setting with a western, post-civil war feel lends to the mystery and plays up the magical realism. The reader is thrust into a world where the towns are small and the Trail that connects them is wild and dangerous, home to the many outlaws who prey on the accepting occupants of a time when the law is lenient and questions thought impolite.

Malerman’s prose is loose and billowy with a casual air that disarms you, making the moments of sharp clarity, the harsh realizations, all the more gutting. You know, and you don’t know how the story will unravel and I found myself gasping, mouth open in surprise anytime I dared think I had it figured out. A backward whodunnit where your exclamations at the players still putting the pieces together are as deaf to you as Carol’s yelling from the darkness, Unbury Carol is a fun and soulfully creepy tale. I found the deranged villains perfectly believable with a toe into unnaturally sinister, a personified voice of the past that cruelly twists doubts into the fissures of the would-be hero’s mind.

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A step toward Stephen King, a Tim Burton dream, this strange and unusual story is utterly creeptastic. Malerman manages to make a two-day quest up a long dirt road feel like the ultimate test of patience and trust as you hope just one of the many threads of spun plot leads to Carol remaining above ground and not clawing for her life under six feet of earth. I recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone who likes that prickly feeling of suspense but prefers to skip outright terror.

A Story Spoken: Chapter Four

Well, I have returned from my hiatus. Thank you very much for being patient with me! I really needed the rest and time away from the blog to work on my book…and be distracted by all the things I want to do around the house…and my kids…and my husband…and, well, you know how life goes! I’m excited to get back into the groove and share more books, chapters, and all the wonderful writerly things!

Let’s catch up with the girls and see how things are faring after Annie and Cheney argument on the way to The Hummingbird Boutique. If you haven’t read my previous chapters, you can catch up here: Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three.

The bell tinkled as I opened the door and danced again as I shut it behind me against the rain. My teeth chattered, the A/C chilling my drenched clothes, and I rubbed my hands together as Cheney headed for the back room of the boutique.

“Hi, sweetie! Oh, it’s so good to see you.”

Cheney’s mom cantered around the checkout desk and gave me a hug that was more patting my wet shoulders than an embrace. She held me at arm’s length, looking me up and down, judging the state of my clothes and lack of makeup, no doubt.

“Is it really that cold?” she raised an eyebrow as another shiver ran through me.

“Not outside. We just got caught in the downpour running to the car.”

She was already walking back around the desk, and I realized her question had been rhetorical. All these years of friendship with her daughter and she still hadn’t shaken the grudge she’d held against my mother. I shook my head, never understanding the pettiness this woman was capable of or how she’d managed to raise a child as kind as Cheney.

“Before I forget,” Cheney re-emerged from the stockroom with a stack of mail in her hand. “I have a book for Nan that I found online. I hope she won’t mind that I went ahead and ordered it, but if I keep clicking without buying something, I’ll lose it forever.”

She sorted through the mail as she talked, looking up every now and then, occasionally gesturing with an envelope.
“Well, that might explain the credit card bill you keep complaining about.” I chuckled at her silly, if not generous, logic.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She swatted my arm with the mail still in her hand, glancing at her mother to see if she’d heard.

“Anyway, it’s an audio slash hard copy combo that’s supposed to teach the basics of how to read braille!” She turned to face me with this last bit, eyes wide and mouth open with anticipation of my reaction.

I tried to match her enthusiasm, “Cheney, that’s so sweet of you. You really need to quit buying stuff for us though. You’re gonna go broke.” I eyeballed Ruth as I whispered the last bit. She had moved on to another part of the store, straightening and refolding odds and ends on the small sale display by the door.
“You’re no fun. Why can’t you just accept it and say thank you?” She pouted at me, still irritated by our conversation in the truck and using her gift as an outlet.
I stopped and turned to her, letting my hands fall to my side in mock exasperation.
“Thank you, Cheney. You’re the very best. No one is better at picking out gifts than you. No one, not ever.”

I bowed to her with flourish.

“There is that better?” I lifted myself back up and laughed when I noticed Ruth staring at me with a sternly raised eyebrow.

“Do you really think she’ll like it?” Cheney came around the counter and walked past me to the rotating card stand by the front door, adjusting the placement of a couple knick-knacks on a table as she passed by.
“Honestly? I don’t know. I hope so. That actually sounds really cool. She’s just been so against even trying to do anything like that. She always claims that as a purist, she couldn’t possibly enjoy the experience of reading when she can’t see the words.”

I heard Cheney chuckle behind me as she moved on to a different display.
“She does listen to audiobooks she checks out from the library from time to time, but she’s quick to find something to get frustrated by with those, too. The narrator speaks too slowly, or they do too many voices for the different characters and that’s distracting.”

I sighed thinking of all the late fees I’d had to pay when she’d talk herself into trying another one, get halfway through a book, and then forget to return it. She’d almost asked about the one Nan was listening to when they’d left but didn’t feel like having another bitter conversation about books. Nan didn’t refer to her blindness until it gave her a good excuse.
“Mostly, I just read to her. She’s not very picky, so I’ll just read aloud from whatever I’m already reading, and we make an old-school evening of it. Really she just needs a bonnet to complete the picture.”
“That’s so sweet that you do that. It would suck to not be able to do the one thing you really love anymore.”

I looked up when she said that, but Cheney didn’t let on if she had intentionally thrown the internship in my face again. Not wanting to give her a chance to realize it if she hadn’t, I half-joked a distraction.
“Well, at least she can still smoke,” I mumbled. Cheney laughed, but I could only manage a half smile, and I knew it didn’t reach my eyes.

“Where’s the desk? I want to measure it to make sure it’ll fit before I take it home.”

I turned away, ready to finish up and move to lighter conversation that could carry into lunch. Away from Nan’s eyes or internships to easy stuff I could nod through more convincingly.

The bell chimed again and I turned to see a man with day old scruff on his face and a backward ball cap walk through the door. He nodded with a half smile as he passed us, and walked toward the register where Ruth was clicking on the computer. I turned to look at Cheney whose eyebrows had disappeared under her bangs.

“Cu-ute.” she mouthed, lips pursed in an exaggerated “o” shape. I shook my head, trying to deter her from making a fuss. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d tried to set me up with a stranger, but it was the last thing I wanted to deal with right now. Even if he did have a nice smile. She ignored me and walked over to join them at the counter throwing me a mischievous look over her shoulder, shaking her hips in an exaggerated saunter until the man turned around and she stopped suddenly. I turned to face the window, hiding my laugh at her getting caught.

I wandered through the store while they talked, Ruth pointing toward the back wall and nodding along to whatever the man was saying in response. I was fiddling with a tangled tassel on the corner of a throw pillow when Cheney called over to me.

“Hey, Annie!”

Shit. I squeezed my eyes shut, for a moment, bracing myself for the awkward moment of forced civility with a stranger before turning to face my dearest friend and her good intentions.

“Yeah?” I forced the corners of my mouth into something resembling a good-natured, I’m friendly, but please don’t talk to me too long, smile and walked over to join them. The man returned the gesture, though his looked far more genuine.

“Annie,” Cheney took hold of my forearm when I got close enough and pulled me the last few inches to stand close to her and the gentleman. “This is Gavin. Mom hired him to help us with the new display shelves. Gavin, this is Annie.”

After having made eye-contact when I first stepped up, my eyes had begun to wander while she made introductions. I knew it gave my nervousness away, but I couldn’t help it. Cheney had always been the social one who never seemed to meet a stranger. I, however, met them all the time and while I wasn’t quite shy, I didn’t like being thrust into small talk with an expectant spotlight over my head.

His hand appeared before me, forcing me to look up. I shook it and smiled again, fumbling somewhere between awkward and annoyed. He did have very nice eyes.

“Hi, there. It’s nice to meet you, Annie.”

His voice had that born and raised twang to it that told me he must have just been a few years ahead of us in school because, while I couldn’t recall having seen him before, there was no doubt he was a local.

“You, too, Gavin,” I managed after clearing my throat.

“Annie, you should have him take a look at your desk before we load it up. Didn’t you say one of the drawers was stuck?” Cheney grinned from ear to ear before nudging me toward the secretary desk we’d come for that did not, and had never had a drawer stick.

Gavin followed me over to the back corner where Ruth had stuck a “sold” sticker on the scratched up surface of it. It had seen better days, but it had been a favorite of mine from Nan’s house. Mom always said it had character. She’d even added a bit of her own when she was a young girl and feeling rebellious. She’d shown me once where she’d carved her initials on the underside of the desk when Nan had sent her to bed without supper after she’d sassed her too hard one day. She’d been so mad and desperate to get back at her, she secretly defaced the old thing. Nan never found out, as far as I knew.

“Well, here it is,” I turned to face Gavin, resting my hand on top of the desk. “But, there’s nothing wrong with the drawers, as you’ve probably guessed.”

He had the grace to laugh at that.

“Yes, ma’am. I figured that was the case.”

I nodded with a sheepish look. I didn’t know why I felt guilty, but he seemed like a perfectly nice man who didn’t deserve to have his time wasted.

“Look, I know it wasn’t your idea, but…” Gavin broke into a wide grin, dropping his hands into his pockets before pulling the trigger. “You feel like humoring your friend? Can I take you to dinner on Friday? Nothing crazy, no strings. Just some company from a pretty lady for a meal we’d both be eating anyway.”

I laughed and was surprised to find I didn’t want to say no.

“Sure. I think I can make that work.” I smiled and rolled my eyes when Cheney’s bouncing back by the register told me my face had already given away her success. Gavin turned to look and chuckled himself, waving, which she returned with an insufferable smile.

“Well, here.” Gavin pulled his phone from his pocket and handed it to me after pulling up the right screen. “Just put your number in here and I’ll give you a call tomorrow to figure out timing.”

I typed in my phone number, adding “Annie” to the contact name before handing it back.

“Great. It was nice to meet you, Annie.”

“It’s nice to meet you too, Gavin. Try not to look too smug when you leave? She’s already going to be a pain in the ass about this as it is.”

“I’ll do my best,” he laughed, sliding his phone back into his pocket and turning toward the door.

“Thanks, again, Mrs. Stevens,” he hollered back toward the open storeroom door with a wave, and I saw Ruth pop her head out for a moment to return it, hand over the receiver on the office phone.

Cheney skipped over to meet me after the door shut behind Gavin, fluttering her eyelashes in mocking flirtation.

“Oh, my. Does someone have a date?”

“Shut up, Cheney. I can’t believe you did that!” I shoved her gently as she exploded into giggles. I hiked the strap of my purse higher on my shoulder, waiting for her to hurry up with her gloating so we could go have lunch already and I could get back to Nan. She wiped tears of laughter from under her eyes but quickly flashed to a deep frown when I reminded her that if I even ended up going to dinner, that was where it would end.

“Oh, why?” she pouted.

“Because of Nan! Have you not been listening? I still haven’t figured out a long-term solution for me getting a job and how that’s going to work with her appointments and all that. I don’t have time for dating right now. I don’t even know why I said yes to begin with.”

Her smile returned with my last sentence, “Because he’s cute and charming and that’s good for you! Come on, Ann. You need a little fun in your life. I can’t be around all the time,” she swept her hair back in full diva glory and walked back to the office to retrieve her purse.

“You, know,” I called after her, “if this works out, I’ll just have one more reason to stay.”

Cheney walked out of the room with the shocked face of someone who’d just been had. I knew the likelihood of me actually being interested in someone enough to make life-changing decisions for was slim to none, but payback was payback and the look she had as her error registered was so very sweet.

 

The House of Broken Angels: A Book Review

As I have jumped head first into this whole “being a serious writer” thing, I’ve exposed myself to pretty incredible literature that I can’t believe I’ve been missing. I think I’ve mentioned before that I had a decades-old habit to only read old classics, or best sellers long after they’ve lost their new book luster. I think I had some twisted sense of responsibility to catch up somehow with all the books I’d missed before I read the new stuff. Like that makes sense, or is even remotely achievable. Along with featuring new publications in my book reviews, I’ve been listening to several podcasts about the current goings-on in the literary world and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been starving myself. Yes, the classic greats will always be great, but there are some truly incredible authors living right now, publishing right now, creating right now, that are simply too good to miss.

That is my disclaimer and poor excuse for never having read anything by Luis Alberto Urrea until now. Holy cow, can this dude write. I mean, it says “Pulitzer Prize Finalist” next to his name on the cover, so I should have known, but sometimes there’s a certain…pretentiousness in books with that honor…or books even close to that honor. There was nothing pretentious about this book. The House of Broken Angels is humble even in its striking beauty.

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The story spans two days with the De La Cruz family as they come together for a final birthday celebration for the ailing grand patriarch Big Angel. A week before the party, his mother passes away at nearly a hundred years old sweeping the family up in a blur of reminiscing and dreaming of what the future holds.The partitions between the aging generation that made their way to America from Mexico in their youth and the younger ones who barely speak Spanish are blurred, as the De La Cruz house bulges with familia and theatrics of emotion.

A slow read, its lingering sentences draw you to read them again just to bask in their light. This is a book you read a bit at a time, letting each moment sink in before you continue. The structure reminds me of music composition. The first third of the book serves as an overture, explaining the scope of the story, introducing themes and revealing backstories of the many players. You are then submerged in a dance of perspectives as you jump from character to character, what they see and experience in the forty-eight-hour period. You fall in love with their individualities, their simple pleasures and jagged pains, known, but not acknowledged by the others.

I felt entirely immersed in the culture of this family, each person so distinct but part of a powerful whole that leapt from the page. I stopped reading at one point and announced to my husband, “This man needs to write a screenplay.” The dialogue and simple painting of the picture are so pure and perfect I couldn’t help but make small exclamations of pleasure, adoring the very act of reading his work.

This is not what I would call an easy book, but it’s not hard either. The language is easy, the story is a meandering family fable with sharp gut-checking moments when a revelation hits true north. A stunning story that deserves to be savored for every delicious word. Luckily, it’s written in bite-sized portions, easily consumed in spare moments, but the words will follow you off the page to percolate through your mind long after closing the book.

As fate would have it, while I was reading The House of Broken Angels, I listened to another podcast, not literary-related, yet they referenced and quoted Urrea’s book The Devil’s Highway as they spoke about the history of border control and immigration from Mexico. Just the small bits they read were enough to prove that this guy is not a one-hit wonder. I will be reading as much of Urrea’s writing as I can get my hands on.

Research

I have something of a love/hate relationship with the word “research”. On one hand, it can be quite thrilling to pull on the thread of a question into discovery and knowledge. On the other, it can be tedious, frustrating, and downright difficult. Research is a necessary part of writing, though, no matter what you’re writing about. We could go down the road of ethics and research, but I’ll save that for another time. Just suffice it to say, I am not a fan of cherry-picking.

It’s a running joke with some of my writer friends and me to compare the often hilarious and random things we’ve Googled in the name of research. In the age of data mining and internet surveillance, I’m just glad I have written proof of why I look up the things I do…like…data mining and internet surveillance.

Sometimes it’s in the process of pulling the thread that ignites inspiration. An answer to one question leads you to another you weren’t aware of before. And sometimes there isn’t answer readily available. That’s most frustrating when you feel like it’s because you’re not asking the right question. Then there’s the balance of what is worth pulling at, and what’s only serving as a distraction so don’t actually have to write.

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I’m working on a project in the realm of post-apocalyptic and I wanted to know how long the power grid would work without someone running it. I don’t know how that process works. Not a bit. How much is automated, how much requires that someone push a button, how often does that button needs to be pushed? I know I could run after the answers, but ultimately, for my story, I just needed an endpoint for the power. Texas has crazy weather, an entire tornado season. Residents are quite used to various power outages. The quiet heroes that rush out to handle repairs after a storm would get their belated appreciation if they were suddenly not around to fix things up again. Problem solved, research rabbit hole averted.

Other things are important enough to get nitty gritty with. For the same story, I’ve looked at how to siphon gas, and learned that most modern cars are incredibly tricky to collect from. But I understand the mechanics of how it would need to be done. I also know the most efficient way to butcher a chicken, if you’re green to animal husbandry and still want a degree of separation from what you’re doing. Yes, it’s still gross.

It’s important to know these things in detail because it lends authenticity to the story. One could argue that most readers wouldn’t know the difference, but I don’t think that gives your readers enough credit. I couldn’t explain half of the things Mark Watney pulls off in The Martian, but it was perfectly clear to me that the author, Andy Weir, knew what he was talking about. Without the research, his novel would easily have fallen flat. Shortcuts and loopholes are not the way to gain the trust of your audience.

What I’m getting at, is while research might not be the most glamorous part of creating, it’s still an irremovable part of good writing. The senses come alive when the details are true. The inner turmoil of battling your domesticity, years of buying fully clean and butchered meats from a refrigerated cooler at an air-conditioned grocery store, to feed your starving belly, to confront the death required for life — well, it doesn’t become real to the reader or the writer until you can smell the animal, hear it’s cry, feel the strain of muscle as a life is swiftly ended. It’s not always pretty, in fact, it rarely is. Life is messy, and good research aids in capturing the raw realness of it.

The magic happens when you can turn the facts and figures into movements and emotions. When you know how to butcher that chicken, but also how the character lives through it. You know the words she whispers over and over to talk herself into it. You know if she cried during the act, if she waited until she was poised to take her first bite of the bounty, or if she displaced the act entirely and never shed a tear.

Even the most apt writers of emotion and conflict have nothing to react to without the details of circumstance. The children of research and the fodder for creation, it’s all in the details.

I’ll end today by saying that I’ve no clue if any of this is interesting to you. It fascinates me. I could talk about all the tiny little bits of writing all the livelong day. So much of what I share here isn’t profound or even far beyond common sense, but I guess, if nothing else, it’s my perspective. It’s what makes me tick. It is a catalog of all the things I found engaging enough to comment on. So there.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find out how a generator runs and what can go wrong with one.

Children of Blood and Bone: A BONUS Book Review

This is a total indulgence, but I can’t help but talk about this book. It wasn’t what you guys voted for this month – that review is coming up next week – but after all the buzz, I couldn’t wait to read this one! I could hardly put it down during Spring Break, and I haven’t really shut up about it since. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is a debut novel and the first of the Young Adult trilogy, The Legacy of Orisha. It’s a fantasy novel inspired by West African culture, so it combines the familiar feeling of your favorite quest sagas with a refreshing new look at magic and how it works in this intricately created world.

Adeyemi is an incredible talent with deep wisdom and clarity that she steeps into every page. The symbolism is stunning and powerful and the characters are a force to be reckoned with. Perfectly flawed and wonderfully redeemable, you are cheering for these people not just because you fall in love with them, but because you come to care so deeply about their success. Each has their own motives and unique personalities that create a dynamic that feeds the fire from the first page.

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A quick summary: Magic has been dead in the land of Orisha since Zélie Adebola was six. Her mother was part of the magi, a people gifted with a variety of powers from the Gods, but when a vengeful king eradicates them, the whisper of magic fades into nothing.

Now a young woman with a knack for finding trouble, Zélie discovers a way to bring magic back to Orisha. She races against the threat of the King, and his dutiful Crown Prince to restore power to her people. With the help of her brother and a rogue princess, perhaps her deepest desire is finally attainable.

I went into this book expecting it to be decent, but how could it possibly live up to the hype? It far surpassed my expectations, and dare I say…this is the best YA I’ve read since Harry Potter.

You can watch the book trailer here. You can follow Adeyemi on Twitter @tomi_adeyemi and I highly recommend you do. She couldn’t be more charmingly enthusiastic about how her book is being received. There may or may not be a video of her dancing in a wombat suit when Children of Blood and Bone hit number one of the New York Times Best Sellers List…

Please check it out. I’m reluctant to even share that Fox has already bought the film rights because this is something that needs to be read. Adeyemi has told a story that needs to be heard with every bit of richness she brings to the page.

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.