Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Islands of New York City With Nick Kolakowski

 I love local oddities. The small things full of mystery or malice that sit in big cities that everyone sees, but that are so a part of the landscape that your eyes just pass over them. I'm not talking about oddity museums. Those places are cool, but they have the feeling of trying just a little too hard. Of curating the unknowable (an action that then makes it all kind of bland). I'm talking about the places out there in the world. Places you can go to, if you only know they're there. The Paris catacombs. The Sedlec Ossuary. Or, closer me, the Villisca Axe Murder House. 

But my favorite oddity has always been the islands of New York City. 

In one of the densest cities in the world, and there's all this land out there, untouched, unused, abandoned. Sometimes for good reason. Sometimes because of bureaucratic hiccups. Sometimes because it's just always been that way.

Nick Kolakoski, the author of Hell of a Mess, out now from Shotgun Honey, shares my fascination, and we recently traded emails talking about the islands of New York City, where Hell of a Mess reaches its bloody, thrilling climax. 

Make sure you pick up Hell of a Mess when you're done reading. But now, please enjoy Nick and I chatting about the islands around New York. I promise you'll learn something, and you'll be even more excited about Nick's book when you're done. 

Hell of a Mess features... I was going to say, "one of my favorite weird New York tidbits", but it's actually just one of my favorite weird tidbits, period; the islands of New York City. As someone who has been in NYC a long time, and as someone who grooves to a lot of similarly weird things as I do, what can you tell me about the Islands of NYC? How many are there? 

NYC is ultimately a constellation of islands poking into the Atlantic. Some of the biggest are instantly recognizable—Manhattan, Staten Island, etc. But there are a cluster of little ones sprinkled in New York Harbor and Long Island Sound that have been used for all kinds of liminal purposes over the years—for prisons, as pauper’s graves, as holding places for the mentally ill and the desperately sick. 

With the exception of Governor’s Island, which was primarily a military facility and sits off the tip of lower Manhattan, and Roosevelt Island, which sits smack-dab in the middle of the East River, most of these islands are relatively out of sight. You see Riker’s, the prison island, when you land at La Guardia, but otherwise it’s at the far end of a closed-off bridge; you can’t really get a close-up view of Hart or North Brother, because they’re closed to civilian traffic. So there’s an inherent spookiness to them.  

What's the coolest island of New York? The scariest? 

Governor’s Island is easily New York’s coolest almost-deserted island. It has a Civil War fort, the crumbling remains of a military base (complete with admirals’ mansions), ridiculously landscaped hills, and a “glamping” compound where you can stay in a huge tent for some insanely high fee per night. There are great art exhibitions, outdoor movies, and a near-total lack of cars. It is, in short, an absolutely perfect place to spend an afternoon, especially if there’s an exhibition of some sort. 

Hart Island is the scariest of all the islands around New York. Even more than Riker’s, it’s the point of no return. There are more than one million people buried on the island in communal graves, with 1,500 added to their number every year. Whatever happens, you don’t want to end up on Hart.

Do you know anyone who has been to any of the islands? Or did you go to one of the islands for research for Hell of a Mess? 

The climactic action of “Hell of a Mess” is set on North Brother Island, which is strictly off-limits to anyone who’s not a city employee. North Brother Island was a quarantine facility—it hosted Typhoid Mary—and a rehab facility, but now it’s abandoned. It has a lot of bad karma, over and above the people forcibly kept on it for decades—in 1904, a huge passenger ship named the “General Slocum” caught fire and burned in Long Island Sound, and the bodies ended up on the shores of North Brother Island.

Today, its buildings (such as a hospital and a lighthouse) have crumbled back to nature, and all the roads and former paths are overgrown. It’s the perfect place to set up a cat-and-mouse situation without any hope of outside help, especially in the midst of a hurricane, which is why I used it for the book. Since I couldn’t actually go to the island, I relied on photographs (there are many), as well as firsthand accounts, video, and articles in places like Atlas Obscura.

How did you decide to incorporate the islands of New York City into Hell of a Mess? Did it happen organically, or is this something you've been wanting to work into something for a while? 

I spend a lot of time on Roosevelt Island, which at one point was another infamous “plague island.” For decades, it hosted a sanitarium for the infected on the southern end of the island, and a mental institution on the northern end, with a prison somewhere in the middle. Now it’s a beautiful, quiet space with funky apartment buildings, a cancer center, and the FDR Memorial. I’d wanted to set a story or part of a novel on Roosevelt Island, but I couldn’t quite make it work.

I also really like the idea of setting something on Governor’s Island. During the pandemic, I toyed with the idea of setting an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery on it, but again, nothing quite worked. 

Clearly, I had islands on the brain. When it came time to write “Hell of a Mess,” I knew I needed an isolated place for the finale—a location where characters could stalk one another, and even set off a few explosions, without calling down the NYPD and the FBI within minutes. Of course, I instantly thought of an island. Why not North Brother? It’s appropriately dark and overgrown, with no help in sight. Plus, there are lots of death traps you can set up in an abandoned hospital.

Can you recommend any other books, either novels or non-fiction, about the Islands of NYC?

Chris Holm’s “Child Zero” also has its climax on North Brother Island. I’m reading that book as soon as it came out, because I love Chris’s stuff, and I get to that part and start screaming—literally screaming—first, because he did such an amazing job, and it’s suspenseful as hell, but also because I realized I no longer had a unique lock on the location. But it’s fine; I heartily recommend that book for anyone who’s a fan of science-infused thrillers, or just thrillers in general.

Finally, are there any other weird New York City landmarks or legends that you hope to include in future works?  

I haven’t discounted using Governor’s Island in something. A closed-room mystery. Friggin’ vampires. Whatever—it’s too great a location. 

Thank you to NIck Kolakowski for stopping by today. And don't forget to pick up Hell of a Mess! Also, if you have any favorite NYC Island stories, drop them in the comments. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Colleges and Black Cinema

I’m on the road as I write this, in California visiting prospective colleges with my son, who’s about to be a high school senior. So far the trip has been smooth, with no chance meetings with anyone that have led to Tony Soprano like activity away from the actual college touring. I’m glad about that.

Besides the schools, I did visit, for the first time, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, where they have, among their regular galleries, an exhibition that just opened called “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971”, an exhibition that, as the museum describes it, offers “a rigorous and celebratory exploration of the achievements and challenges of Black filmmakers in the United States from the dawn of cinema to the Civil Rights movement”.  It’s a fascinating exhibition, one in particular I wanted my son to see, charting as it does all sorts of little known facts about Black actors and actresses and filmmakers from the silent era till about 1971. And of course I’m not talking about representation only in Hollywood films but in such works as race films, the hundreds of movies made from the silent era till the early 1950s that were produced for Black audiences and had Black casts and consisted of people talking as people talk, not as Black characters in so many Hollywood films of the era talked. Comedies, musicals, mysteries, thrillers, adventure films, melodramas — race films covered them all, just as Hollywood did. I’m ready to try to track some of these films down to watch when I get back home (I haven’t seen all that many of them over the years), and I mean beyond the films of the Black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, the best known and among the most prolific of the race films filmmakers.

The exhibit had a number of good posters on display as well as everything else, and a few particular favorites of mine I took photos of. They’re from Hollywood films, I have to say, and, yes, films involving crime.

Then there was this, not related to a crime film, but a poster I couldn’t help but gape it.

High praise, I guess, to portray the then heavyweight champion of the world as taking on the entire Axis. But anyway, this and other telling curios help make this exhibit a must if you happen to be in Los Angeles anytime in the near future.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The End is Near

 The Walking Dead

“Days Gone By,” the premiere episode of The Walking Dead, debuted in October of 2010, thus thrusting the show’s death-grip onto millions of fans.  Imagine, a show about humans, loved ones, rising from the dead to feast on fellow humans, shockingly splayed against physical reminders of what our world was, keeping a grip on an audience for so long. The apocalyptic imagery becoming iconic. The view of Rick, a lone horseman, riding towards Atlanta, a city overrun by the dead. The burnt black cars and signs of violent struggles in the slow lane out of town. Those first few years felt unchartered, the show at once disturbing and moving, while walking us through the devastation. Addictive.


See the barn scene in Season 2, when Rick tells Carl to take the gun. Tells him the harsh truth about the world they live in and how everyone dies, no matter how hard you try or hope. No matter how much you love someone they will pass, because everyone dies. The heartbreak of a father having to tell a son this truth at such a young age. The two sitting quietly looking out over the farm, you can see there’s a chill in the air, with Rick’s fatherly voice unrelenting in its honesty. The slow, faltering piano sounding very much like a breaking heart.


The season 2 death of group sage and moral compass Dale Horvath sent viewers into absolute grief. After standing against the violent, chaos brought by antagonist Shane, Dale wanders from the house and into the quiet, misty fields, distracted by his disappointment in his fellow survivors and at a loss from their apparent ethical decline. He’s attacked by a roaming walker and brutally, mortally wounded. Ultimately, after much suffering, he is euthanized by Daryl Dixon with a bullet to the forehead. He dies in agony, with the group frenzied and wailing, confirming there is not always a happy ending.


“Killer Within” finds the survivors enjoying the small victories they have fought for when the rug is pulled from underneath them, once again. The prison yard, just recently cleared, is sabotaged and a mass of walkers are unleashed on our odd, feral family. The group is divided, then separated, and a pregnant Lori is taken to safety by the truly fearless Maggie and Lori’s son, Carl. The choices made by the trio while hiding away from the swarm of walkers is so personal and poignant that it is impossible not to be affected. When Lori’s baby cries out as only Carl and Maggie walk from the deep dark of the prison, Rick collapses in grief.  His misery is palpable.

Hope and Humanity

The group fights their own internal demons, whether they be prejudice, greed, addiction, or pride. And the outside world is constantly beating on the doors and rattling collective swords. Yet, by always choosing to gather and work as a community, whether building their homes or defending them, the heroes of The Walking Dead not only survive, but continue to look and fight for meaning and purpose. When they step back from the brink and make the humane choice they move forward as people, and further separate themselves from the mindless flesh-eating monsters living around them, which for me, has always been the main point of the story.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Castaway: the Art of the Slow Start


By Claire Booth

I recently re-watched Castaway for the first time in years. It was as good as I remembered. It was also a lot slower than I remembered. And I mean that in a good way.

Nowadays the plane crash would take place within the first 10 minutes. There would be a brisk, stylishly edited montage to show how devoted Tom Hanks’s character is to his FedEx job and then blam, the plane goes down. 

I totally overdressed for this place.
Know how long director Robert Zemeckis takes to get to that scene? 21 minutes and 46 seconds. It’s not 21 minutes and 46 seconds of slow drag either; they’re good scenes, full of plot points and character development and foreshadowing.

I don’t think there’s any way a film paced like that could get made today. People—from studio executives to viewers—would demand that the action start much, much sooner. Which is too bad. There’s a place for a movie (or a book) with a steady build before it drops you off the cliff. To me, that means I’m in good hands, and I’m in for a hell of a ride.

See? A hell of a ride!

Saturday, August 27, 2022

What Do You Do With Your Book Annotations?

Scott D. Parker

I write in my books.

There, I said it.

Ever since I can remember, I read my school books with pens or pencils or highlighters to mark passages and help me learn them for exams or papers. Heck, I’d often read magazines with a ballpoint pen and underlining special lines of text or ripping out pages that had recipes.

As I started writing and publishing in earnest, I eventually started reading fiction with a pencil in my had. For this, it’s almost always pencil. I actually like the sound and feel of a pencil scraping across the pages and I’m underlining a particular good turn of phrase.

I have also been known to markup books as I break them down and try to figure out why, say, Dan Brown’s prose seems so effortless or how a Clive Cussler novel was structured. It’s like homework, but, you know, fun homework.

When ebooks popped into my life, I kept up the practice. What’s nice about the Kindle Paperwhite is that you can go into your own account via a browser and see your annotations and, most importantly, copy and paste them into a word file.

Why? So I can have my own personal reference notes for anything I read.

But for those of you who write in your books, what do you do about all those annotations? I recently finished a trio of similarly themed books: two by Steven Pressfield (Turning Pro and Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be) and Atomic Habits by James Clear. All three of these books are fantastic and are chock full of great action items.

I marked up Clear’s book a LOT. I bought the physical copy of all three of these books and now it’s time for my next step of archiving my annotations.

I dictate my notes and passages from the book into a text file via my iPhone.

I strictly use a text file on the phone mainly because I don’t want to mess with formatting. I just want the words. Later, I’ll copy the plain text into a word file and apply some formatting like chapter headings and sub-headings. Since Clear uses a few charts and diagrams, I’ll also likely snap photos and insert them into the word file.

That might sound like a lot of effort, but I find that (a) I don’t mind and (b), it enables me to digest the content at least three times. The first is when I read it. The second is when I dictate the text, and the third is when I format it. And, yes, old-fashioned person that I am, I will also likely print it out and keep it in the book. I also keep the digital copy in a Dropbox file so that I can access the content wherever and whenever I am.

Anybody else do something like this?

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Emily the Criminal

As a father with a 26-year-old stepson who has school loans to pay off and as the father of a son, almost 17, who is going into his senior year in high school, I wonder how high the education-related debt between the two will be by the time the younger one finishes college.  Or gets a Master's, if he does that.  At age 60, it's difficult not to envision spending the rest of my life helping to pay off my kids' school loans, a situation countless parents face in this country.  It's just a wonderful situation: your kids leaving school and starting out in adult life saddled with loans, and the parents, as they age, getting closer to the end of things but still working away, burdened with the same loans.  It's hardly a situation that's news to anybody in the United States, but I mention it as my lead-up to saying that a few days ago, I saw the new film Emily the Criminal, starring Aubrey Plaza, where the main motivating factor for the title character (Plaza) is to find a way to get out from under the $70,000 in school debt she has to pay off.  

Living in Los Angeles, Emily works as a so-called independent contractor for a catering company.  Her hours can be cut anytime and without warning by the person in charge there.  She has trouble passing background checks for well-paying jobs because of a DUI on her record as well as a felony conviction for assault.  Both offenses, when we hear the circumstances behind them, don't seem to merit the punishment of ruining a person's entire life, but so it goes.  Someone who went to a pricey art school and graduated from it with a degree, whose drawing and paintings we see are good but who recently has been doing very little art because of all the stresses in her life, is facing an existence that feels like a trap. When a co-worker at the catering job hooks her up with what he describes as a "dummy shopper" operation that pays $200 cash for each shopping foray, Emily goes to see what the alleged work is, and she finds that it's actually a credit card fraud ring fronted by a guy named Youcef.  Youcef is quite upfront with all the prospective phony shoppers.  What they'll do, he says, is illegal, no question about that, but it is safe.

Well, not as safe as first promised, as it turns out.  Emily starts going into stores, and eventually a car dealership, to buy high-end stuff with fraudulent credit cards.  In classic film noir fashion, what begins as something small grows in criminal scope. Things go wrong.  But Emily, we find, has the backbone for this kind of thing, and she only gets tougher and more inventive as dangerous complications arise.  She goes all in on the criminal activity, determined to save enough money to free herself from her financial predicament so she can get back to doing some art and travel to places she wants to visit, like South America.

Emily the Criminal is low-key but tense.  Aubrey Plaza plays things seriously and with a tenacity one completely understands.  In a system this screwed-up, are you not justified in saying to hell with the niceties and to hell with "playing by the rules", whatever that's supposed to mean? Plaza makes sure she keeps her character thorny but you definitely pull for her because, damn, at bottom, in her analysis of things, she's right. And the very last scene, delivered deadpan like the rest of the film, is pitch-perfect, done with just the right irony and cynicism. Once again, someone who made their name doing comedy is superb in a non-comedic role, and for writer/director John Patton Ford, the film is quite a strong first feature. Emily the Criminal delivers. 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Surprising Humanity of Resident Alien


Scott D. Parker

I really enjoy being surprised by stories and characters.

I started watching the TV show Castle because of the premise and Nathan Fillion, but over time realized that Stana Katic’s Beckett was a deeply emotional character that arguably had the biggest character arc of the entire series. John Scalzi’s novel Redshirts was advertised as a Star Trek parody but ended up delivering an emotional ending so vivid that on the day I finished the story, I couldn’t even talk through the ending to my wife without breaking down.

Add to this list the TV show Resident Alien on the Syfy Channel (still dislike that styling). Billed as a starring vehicle for Alan Tudyk, Resident Alien follows Tudyk’s alien character as he crashes in a small Colorado today. He assumes the physical form of the town doctor—Harry Vanderspeigle, a human who does not survive—and attempts to go about his mission to destroy all humans. In the process, however, he meets and interacts with the residents of Patience, Colorado, and learns what it means to be human and all the messiness therein.

Let’s be honest: Tudyk is a gifted actor who can make you laugh so hard you’ll stomach will ache. A great example of this is the movie “Death at a Funeral,” the original British version. Here, Tudyk’s Harry has an odd way to “smiling,” a childlike wonder at the world, a love of “Law and Order,” and a penchant of saying exactly what he’s thinking without any nuance. In every episode, there will be moments that will definitely make you laugh out loud.

A show like this might need someone of Tudyk’s caliber to get it greenlit, but the supporting cast is what makes the difference, and in Resident Alien, the cast is wonderfully just…normal. And human.

Sara Tomko plays Asta Twelvetrees, a Native American nurse who works with Tudyk’s Henry very close. She’s a town native—nearly all the characters are, a trait that plays into the interactions—who gave up her daughter when she got pregnant in high school, the father being a pretty abusive guy. That decision haunts Asta as it would anyone, which is especially hard when the daughter is now in high school herself.

Asta’s best friend, D’Arcy Bloom (Alice Wetterlund), owns the town bar after a skiing accident at the Olympics derailed her career. She’s a borderline alcoholic who so often makes the wrong decisions that you basically think her lot in life is already cast. She thinks that, too, so when she interacts with everyone, there’s general assumption D’Arcy will just always choose wrong.

Sheriff Mike Thompson (Corey Reynolds) and Deputy Liv Baker (Elizabeth Bowen) provide a steady dose of comedy (just in case you think I’m only zeroing in on the everyday drama). Mike’s a veteran cop from Washington, DC, who left the big city for the small town after his partner was killed. He often doesn’t have the right ideas but hides that fact behind over-the-top bluster. Liv is basically ignored by Mike even though she has her brain in the police game and is often correct about the central mystery of the story: what really happened to the real Harry and why are the government officials snooping around. Bowen deadpan delivery, laced with a real-world resignation that she knows she’s too good for the department but doesn’t know how or where to move.

The mayor is a young Ben Hawthorne (Levi Fiehler), a slight man who likes to make candles and takes a backseat in nearly everything and from everyone, especially his more dominant wife, Kate (Meredith Garretson). He dated D’Arcy when they were in school together and Kate sometimes wonders if there’s still a spark.

There a pair of child actors work mentioning as well. Judah Prehn plays Max Hawthorne, the only child of the mayor and his wife. He and his best friend, Sahar, (Gracelyn Awad Rinke) can see Tudyk’s true alien form. Initially they’re scared but soon some to realize they can get things just by threatening Henry.

This may seem like a lot but the story lines are woven pretty well. There is the overarching story of Tudyk’s true mission and which humans ultimately come to know the truth. That’s almost always played for laughs and the laughs are full and genuine.

But it’s the small moments that makes this show rise above others and shine, and this week’s episode was a great example. Asta did a thing that tormented her so Harry used his alien ability and wiped her memory of the incident. The ripple effect meant she missed not only that memory but other things as well, things that hurt others. It was then that Asta told Harry that everything humans experienced, the good as well as the bad, is equally important. For Harry, he’d just as well just be happy, yet that’s not always possible.

D’Arcy’s actions the past few episodes, relationship-wise, were like walking on thin ice. Would she keep making the bad decision and self-sabotaging her life? That’s what she’s always done and there was a moment in this week’s episode when she fell back into the same habit. She had a moment of reflection and made her choice.

Lastly, there was a recurring theme of death, specifically end-of-life. Henry doesn’t understand it and wants to just have it happen away from him. But as a doctor, he needed to be with a dying man who told Henry how good his long life was and how ready he was to see his deceased wife.

Within the span of about ten minutes of the episode, I went from laughing and literally holding my sides to wiping away the sting of tears.

That’s the kind of show Resident Alien is because that’s the way life is. This is a great show and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Goodbye, Saul

I started watching Breaking Bad in it's second season, after binging the first on Blu-Ray, so I can say with confidence the first time I saw Saul Goodman on my TV was either very late at night on April 26, 2009, or early the next morning.

That's. God damn, man. That's 13 years. 

And tonight, we said goodbye to him. 

Personally, I thought it was a wonderful finale. It was slower than the Breaking Bad finale, both more obvious on a plot level, but deeper with its characters, and on an emotional level, it worked beautifully. We finally saw Better Call Saul show a man finally accepting who he is, what he has done, and then deciding to stop running from everything he's been running from. But it was also more than that. Ultimately, this show (and I don't believe this was ever the creator's intentions) became about more than Jimmy and Saul and Chuck. It became about Kim, too. And the slow-motion doomed love between Jimmy and Kim. 

That scene of them smoking together, one last time? That's the heart of the show right there. That's the real, hidden heart of Saul Goodman. 

13 years is a long time to know a character. I'll miss this show a lot. I'll miss these characters. But it ended with us knowing right where they are. Where they deserve to be, probably. 

But I'd like to think, maybe it's hope, actually, that this wasn't Kim's only trip to see Jimmy. That, maybe, there will be a few more cigarettes shared in silence. 


Monday, August 15, 2022

Snake Slayer

 By Marietta Miles

A person wearing sunglasses and a hat

Description automatically generated with low confidence


It’s time for a quick shot and this week we’re featuring Oakland writer Rob Pierce. Rob wrote the novels Blood By Choice, Tommy Shakes, Uncle Dust, and With The Right Enemies, the novella Vern In The Heat, and the short story collection The Things I Love Will Kill Me Yet. He has been nominated for a Derringer Award for short crime fiction and has had stories published in numerous crime magazines. His latest release, Snake Slayer, brings together a few of his most popular and most interesting characters. Snake Slayer is about criminals on the run, not just from the law but from other criminals. Two of them are lovers, the third an ex. Deria is psychotic and Vern is her violent ex, who let her go because he thought she lived too dangerously. Russ is the new guy who’s in way over his head. It seems that bad things are about to go down.

What inspired Snake Slayer?

My novella Vern in the Heat, first published in 2015, was about Vern, Deria, their relationship and how she changed. Now, it wasn’t strictly a relationship book, as the plot had a lot to do with criminals and their violent acts, but that was a major part of it for me. This book starts with them separated due to her penchant for violence, which Vern, a violent-when-necessary criminal, considers self-destructive. Deria flat out likes to kill. She also wants to survive, so she can kill more. The specifics of this story started with the beginning, the initial bloodbath from which the rest unfolds. Then the story becomes about what killing does to different people, how they unravel or don’t.

The characters are diverse emotionally and mentally, how do you prepare to write for such different people?

The preparation started while writing Vern in the Heat. I wanted to write a story with different points of view. According to my writing group, I wasn’t always doing it successfully. I was told by a good friend, Sean Craven, to read Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. It came to me like providence, in a free bundle of two dozen books but you had to take all two dozen. So, twenty-three books for Little Free Libraries, one for me. Such a majestic work. Chris Rhatigan, who edited that book and this one, had to work with me extensively on conveying those perspectives. He didn’t say a word about them this time around. It’s possible to learn technique. Doesn’t make me McMurtry by any means, but I’m a better writer than I used to be.

That said, I did have to learn one more character, one significantly different from Deria and Vern. Turned out pretty well, I’d say. The character, not his life.

Which character did you find most interesting?

I love writing Deria. Vern, too, but the focus this time was Deria. She’s an exceedingly angry woman; she hates jocks, which doesn’t bode well for any she comes across. I consider the book a radical feminist diatribe. No idea whether any women see it that way. I like women, though, despite how they’ve come off in certain books. Some things are sadly necessary for the consistency of story. In this book, it’s men who don’t fare so well.

Imagine and share where these characters are right now?

After the last page? No idea. Vern in the Heat wasn’t written with a sequel in mind, neither was this one. There were a lot of scenes cut—this was originally a 65,000 word novel, but too many scenes didn’t work—it ventured into the beginnings of COVID and the characters figuring it would all get sorted out quickly. Maybe I can make some of those scenes work. But I’m currently finishing work on another novel, writing short stories between drafts, and anticipate going back to another “novel” rife with scenes that don’t work, but some that work so well. Always a lot to figure out.

Cheers, it’s been swell.


Snake Slayer is out August 15.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Anything Can Be an Opportunity


By Claire Booth

It was a beautiful Sunday morning. There was a farmer’s market, and foot traffic, and lots of leisurely strolling. What better place to set up a table and sell books?

Me, Danna Wilberg, Richard Meredith, and Cindy Sample at Rick's table outside Face in a Book.

My home bookstore, Face in a Book, uses its location on the main thoroughfare to savvy and generous effect during the summer. Savvy, because it’s capitalizing on the weekly farmer’s market crowds that flow right past its entrance. Generous, because it’s inviting local authors to share in the bounty. They’re the ones on the shady bench outside, getting the chance to talk to readers and showcase their books.

Is there a local bookstore in your area that’s doing something similar? Not capitalizing on a Sunday street market, necessarily, but rather—looking at one beneficial thing and seeing if another beneficial thing could be added to it?

I know many booksellers are already doing this. But if you’re an author, are you? We all could probably do better at looking at unrelated activities/events and seeing if there are hidden opportunities to connect with readers. For example, Cindy Sample (in photo above) once arranged to have a table at a large chain wine and liquor store on National Daiquiri Day (yep, that's a thing) and sold copies of Dying for a Daiquiri, a book in her cozy mystery series.

If you've done something like this, or have a local bookstore that has, I’d love to hear more about it.


Me and Face in a Book's Bookseller Extraordinaire Janis Herbert.