Saturday, December 5, 2020

An Advent Calendar of Stories

Scott D. Parker

As of today, we have only twenty days until Christmas. Shopping will definitely look different this year. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been ordering many if not most gifts online. Some of the mad rush as we count down the days until the 25th will shift.

In our entryway, we have an Advent calendar. Ours is a homemade one where each day, we get to place an ornament on the tree. There are a myriad of other Advent calendars: Legos, chocolate, wine, you name it.

One of the most unique focuses on stories. Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have, for the second year in a row, created an Advent calendar type project. Truth is, it started on Thanksgiving day and extends to New Year’s Day, but all that means is extra stories. Rusch and Smith curated lots of stories, sifting out the best ones.

After you sign up via Kickstarter at the level of your choice, you’ll get an email every day. In the email, Rusch writes an introduction and then gives you a BookFunnel link. From there, you can download the story onto the device of your choice. I use my Kobo reader and it works seamlessly.

So, if you are in the mood to get a story a day this Christmas season, head on over to the webpage and sign up. It’ll make each day of this month fly by.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Beau is all in on Three-Fifths


This week, Beau takes a look at John Vercher's THREE-FIFTHS

“Vercher's first novel gets Agora Books, a new imprint dedicated to diverse crime fiction, off to a fast start…Vercher builds strong, multifaceted characters with bold strokes and using the tools of noir to present what is finally a full-blown tragedy. This powerful exploration of race and identity pairs well with Steph Cha's superb Your House Will Pay (2019).” —Bill Ott, Booklist (STARRED Review)

“Vercher deftly explores identity and the ethics of accountability in this debut. Fans of realistic social issue narratives will be immersed in the moral dilemmas of this timely novel.” —Library Journal (STARRED Review)

“Vercher’s debut novel is a blunt-edged thriller…A sad, swift tale bearing rueful observations about color and class as urgent now as 24 years ago.”—Kirkus

“John Vercher has such love and compassion for his characters in Three-Fifths that I couldn't help but be sucked into their lives from the very first pages. It's so incredibly suspenseful that I was continually surprised by the story and deeply moved by the time I turned the last page.” —Attica Locke, author of BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD and HEAVEN, MY HOME

A compelling and timely debut novel from an assured new voice: Three-Fifths is about a biracial black man, passing for white, who is forced to confront the lies of his past while facing the truth of his present when his best friend, just released from prison, involves him in a hate crime.

Pittsburgh, 1995. The son of a black father he’s never known, and a white mother he sometimes wishes he didn’t, twenty-two-year-old Bobby Saraceno is passing for white. Raised by his bigoted maternal grandfather, Bobby has hidden his truth from everyone, even his best friend and fellow comic-book geek, Aaron, who has just returned home from prison a hardened racist. Bobby’s disparate worlds collide when his and Aaron’s reunion is interrupted by a confrontation where Bobby witnesses Aaron assault a young black man with a brick. Fearing for his safety and his freedom, Bobby must keep his secret from Aaron and conceal his unwitting involvement in the hate crime from the police. But Bobby’s delicate house of cards crumbles when his father enters his life after more than twenty years.

Three-Fifths is a story of secrets, identity, violence and obsession with a tragic conclusion that leave all involved questioning the measure of a man, and was inspired by the author’s own struggles with identity as a biracial man during his time as a student in Pittsburgh amidst the simmering racial tension produced by the L.A. Riots and the O.J. Simpson trial in the mid-nineties.


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

An Old Pleasure, Rediscovered

Brooklyn, where I live, is not bad when it comes to having independent bookstores, at least by today's diminished standards.  I have a few that by bike I can reach in ten to fifteen minutes. Earlier this year, I was happy to see that in downtown Brooklyn, in a mixed-use complex called Citypoint where there are stores, bars, lots of eating places, a Trader Joe's, and an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, a new large indie bookstore was being readied for opening. This store is McNally Jackson Books, of which there are four in New York City, two in Manhattan and two in Brooklyn. Before the pandemic hit, I went to Citypoint, for a bite or a drink or a movie, all the time, and when I saw that an indie bookstore I know and like was coming there, I was excited.  Like, I suppose, nearly everyone, I buy a large number of my books from Amazon, and I promised myself that I'd frequent this McNally Jackson store -- near me, no excuse not to go often -- on a regular basis.

The long-awaited opening happened the first week in March, but before I even had a chance to stop by, the coronavirus lockdown went into effect and the store had to close.  It was open then for 11 days.  The bookseller's other three locations were able to reopen in June, when the lockdown eased, but this particular store at Citypoint, because it is in a mall, did not get clearance to open.  That didn't happen until September, and I didn't realize the store had reopened until I swung by Citypoint several weeks after that.  Like most people I know, I don't go out much these days.

Well, a couple Saturdays ago, I finally bicycled over to the new location, and as soon as I stepped inside, I felt both at home and regretful.  At home because it's a lovely and spacious place, lined wall to wall, floor to floor, with books, and regretful because I don't make the effort to go to independent bookstores often enough.  

I realized almost at once how much I miss going to bookstores frequently and just doing the one thing you cannot do through Amazon in a way that's comparable: browsing.  Spending an hour or two in a store, flipping through any number of books, finding a book you didn't know about and getting lost in it for awhile, is something I used to do so often and now, not so much.  And this goes back to before the pandemic, my falling out of the bookstore going habit.  I can't blame it all on Amazon either, because Amazon has been around for years and I used to go to bookstores a lot well after Amazon came on the scene. I'm not sure why I go to bookstores less than I used to; if I had to pick a single reason, I'd say it's because I have so many unread books at home, I think to myself why go to a store to pick up yet another book (unless it's a book I'm going to buy and know I'm going to read immediately).  

Regardless of the reason, I had a wonderful time in McNally Jackson that Saturday and spent a good hour and a half there.  I actually took my time and browsed. No need for something I so essentially enjoy to feel like a retro experience, but it did, a little bit, though that's something I can change by going more.  And I intend to.  We all know how much indie bookstores like this need our support.  The store was nearly empty the whole time I was there, and I couldn't help but wonder what business is like.  The store is in what should be a good location, but because of the pandemic, one worries. I hope very much the location can make it.

Did I buy anything, or only browse?  I bought something, of course.  Only one book for now, because, as I said, with far too many unread books at home...

The Promise, the final work, years in the making, by the great Argentinian writer Silvina Ocampo.  This was plucked from the Latin American and Caribbean fiction section, where I could camp for months and months and thumb through the books if someone brought me food and water.  So much more to explore from there (I mean that one section, not to mention other sections), and that exploration will continue next time.

As I said after paying at the register, though in a friendly, not a Terminator, voice, "I'll be back."

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Special Delivery

Book 4!

Fatal Divisions is here. The fourth book in my Sheriff Hank Worth series comes out Jan. 5, 2021, and I just got my copies. There really is nothing like opening a box and seeing the actual physical book.

Here's what's on the inside flap, which was by far the hardest part to write of the whole process. It's distilling a year of work into three paragraphsso difficult every time. This one took a lot of back and forth with my editor Carl Smith, but I think we nailed it.

Hank Worth has always been committed to his job as Branson sheriff, so getting him to take a break is difficult. But to everyone's surprise he agrees to take time off after a grueling case and visit a friend in Columbia, Missouri, leaving Chief Deputy Sheila Turley in charge. She quickly launches reforms that create an uproar, and things deteriorate even further when an elderly man is found brutally murdered in his home.
As Sheila struggles for control of the investigation and her insubordinate deputies, Hank is not relaxing as promised. His Aunt Fin is worried her husband is responsible for the disappearance of one of his employees, and Hank agrees to investigate.
The search for the missing woman leads to a tangle of deceit that Hank is determined to unravel . . . no matter the impact on his family.

I've never had a book come out at this time of year, so here's my pitch: pre-ordering it for someone you love would make a fabulous Christmas or Hanukkah gift! If you can, consider ordering from an independent bookstore like Face in a Book or Book Carnival. You can also order through Indiebound, or Amazon or Barnes & Noble.