New Release News: Add the Spy Thriller Red Widow by Alma Katsu to Your Must-Read List! #RedWidow #AlmaKatsu #spythriller @almakatsu


So excited to share some recent book mail of another anticipated read for me this year, a spy thriller called Red Widow by the acclamied author Alma Katsu. I purchased it, and it arrived last week, but things were a little nuts at our home so I didn’t get a chance to show it off or say happy belated book release to my friend Alma, who is an amazing writer and such a stellar person! As an author she’s put out three major books in three years, two during a pandemic (The Deep and Red Widow). This third book is all thriller – a contemporary spy thriller with a female lead – and I’m so excited to dive into it!!! I hope you will too. Congratulations, Alma!

Alma has worked in government intelligence with various agencies or consultancy for thirty years so she knows what’s she putting in her fiction! And it’s going to be made into a TV show on Fox! So if you like this genre, now is your chance to read the book first, which I recommend. 

From the publisher:

An exhilarating spy thriller written by an intelligence veteran about two women CIA agents whose paths become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division–one that’s coming from inside the agency.

Bookpage said:

“Katsu’s real-life experience and skill at maintaining taught, nail-biting tension make Red Widow a standout espionage thriller.”

Publisher’s website (Putnam/Penguin) for a list of purchase options: 

https://bit.ly/3978UWN

or go to your local indie bookstore or Barnes and Noble which will have or can order! Several DC area bookstores offer signed copies. 

And to head to Alma’s website, go HERE.

Red Widow, About –

Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during an assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague–now Chief of the Russia Division–recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, where she was known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been exposed–including one of her own–and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.

Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow,” the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she unearths a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it….

Alma Katsu, Biography –

Alma Katsu’s books have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal, been featured in the NY Times and Washington Post, been nominated and won multiple prestigous awards, and appeared on numerous Best Books lists including NPR, the Observer, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Goodreads, and Amazon.

(Photo credit: Patrick Milliken)

RED WIDOW is her first spy novel, the logical marriage of her love of storytelling with her 30+ year career in intelligence. As an intelligence officer, Ms. Katsu worked at several federal agencies as a senior analyst where she advised policymakers and military commanders on issues of national security. The last third of her government career was spent in emerging technologies and technology forecasting. She was also a senior technology policy analyst for the RAND Corporation and continues as an independent consultant and technology futurist, advising clients in government and private industry.

Ms. Katsu also writes novels that combine historical fiction with supernatural and horror elements. THE HUNGER (2018), a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party, was named one of NPR’s 100 favorite horror stories, was on numerous Best Books of the Year lists, and continues to be honored as a new classic in horror. Her first book, THE TAKER (2011), was named one of the top ten debut novels of 2011 by Booklist.

Ms. Katsu has relocated from the Washington, DC area to the mountains of West Virginia, where she lives with her musician husband Bruce and their two dogs, Nick and Ash.

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Thanks again for stopping by! I love the times I can help bring more audience to women in history or women making history! This was a scheduled post so by the time anyone is reading this, I’ll be on the road for a safe (distanced, masked) trip with my kiddos after a very long year of quaratine so my daughter can check out a few unversities she considering applying to! Take care and have a good spring break or Easter! I’ll be back with more posts in April.

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Release Day: The Women of Chateau Lafayette by NYT best-selling author Stephanie Dray is Highly Anticipated Read for 2021 #histfic #histnov #TheWomenofChateauLafayette

Readers! I’m so thrilled to say that author Stephanie Dray’s (NYT Bestselling co-author of America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton) newest historical fiction novel, The Women of Chateau Lafayette, is now on sale! Happy book release day to Stephanie – it’s so perfect this just squeaked its arrival in to coincide with women in history month too. I had my copy pre-ordered, and by time you’re reading this, I may have it lovingly in my possession (sorry, delivery driver for ripping it out of your hands!!). This is one of my most very anticipated reads of 2021, not only because I love all of Dray’s books (I do!), but also because I’m a big Lafayette fan like she is as well AND love WWII fiction and this combines both. And then she said castle in the heart of France and my eyes bulged out. I’m going to be interested to see how she interweaves several major decades in history together (1774, 1914, 1940). It seems like her most ambitious book to date!

I must say I learned it from my son though, who spent much time while going to his university in Washington DC studying at Lafayette Park (which houses his statue) in front of the White House (pre-virus and government blow up days circa 2019 by the way!) and showing me all the French architecture that Lafayette inspired in the city while also tetlling me of his good deeds. Beautiful – I fell in love with it everywhere I looked each time I visited DC, and his life story. Now, we get to learn about the women in his world as well, which is so very special! As it’s women in history month (at least for this one last day in March still), it’s the perfect time to release it, though it will be on everyone’s reading lists all year long I bet!

Please don’t miss The Women of Chateau Lafayette, an epic saga based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy. Featuring “America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman” and his wife, our French Founding Mother Adrienne Lafayette, this story combines history, romance, thriller, and mystery. Let me know if you grab a copy or what you thought about it if you’ve already read it in the comments below.

Trailer –

ABOUT The Women of Chateau Lafayette

A founding mother…

1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband, the Marquis de Lafayette’s political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary…

1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing—not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France firsthand, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what’s right.

A reluctant resistor…

1940. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan’s self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.

Intricately woven and powerfully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we take from those who came before us.

ADD TO YOUR GOODREADS

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Stephanie Dray, Biography –

STEPHANIE DRAY is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction.

Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. Now she lives in Maryland with her husband, cats, and history books.

For more, go to: StephanieDray.com.

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Thanks again for stopping by! I’ll have an interview with Stephanie in the near future about her new book! I’ll also have some more posts, in various genres as I work to make the blog more productive. This week my kids are on Spring Break and I’m taking the week off with them. We’re going to road trip (safely) and have a much needed break. See you back here soon…..

If you’d like to receive these posts via your e-mail, and aren’t already, please sign-up on the right side of the page!

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Cover Love: The Collector’s Daughter – A Novel of Discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb by Gill Paul #histfic #TheCollectorsDaughter #KingTut #womeninhistory @gillpaulauthor

I was excited when I saw best-selling and reader-loved author Gill Paul announce that she’d be publishing The Collector’s Daughter: A Novel of the Discovery of Tutankhamun Tomb this year! It’s historical fiction surrounding the opening of King Tut’s tomb featuring Lady Evelyn Herbert, who grew up in Highclere Castle (the real Downton Abbey). I think most people know by now how much of a fan I am of Egyptology, Egyptian history, and Egypt in general. Anything related to archeaology is going to be a must read or watch for me and the mysteries and stories surrounding King Tut are no exception.

If you’re anticipating this now as much as I am, here is the gorgeous cover to make you even more interested! For me, I love the aquas and oranges (two of my favorite color combos) and how she’s looking out the window on the Nile. Makes me wonder what she’s thinking about. Read on below to learn more about the book and how to pre-order for its September 2021 release.

About The Collector’s Daughter

Bestselling author Gill Paul returns with a brilliant novel about Lady Evelyn Herbert, who grew up in Highclere Castle—the real Downton Abbey—and became the first person in modern times to enter the tomb of Ancient Egyptian king Tutankhamun.

She is the daughter of the Earl of Carnarvon, brought up to make her society debut and follow it with a prestigious marriage. But popular and pretty Lady Evelyn Herbert has other ideas. First she falls for a man her mother doesn’t approve of, then she accompanies her father to Egypt, leaving behind the world of etiquette and chaperones to work alongside archeologist Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings.

In November 1922 the extraordinary happens when they discover the burial place of Tutankhamun, packed full of gold and inconceivable riches. Eve is the first to crawl inside, the first person to see the treasures in three thousand years. She calls it the “greatest moment” of her life—but soon afterwards a string of tragedies leaves her world a darker, sadder place.

Newspapers claim it is “the curse of Tutankhamun.” Howard Carter says no rational person would entertain such nonsense. Fifty years later, an Egyptian academic comes asking questions about what really happened in the tomb in 1922. And that visit unleashes a new chain of events threatening Eve’s happy life, and making her wonder if there could be some truth behind the stories of an ancient curse. 

Information and Pre-Order –

Publication date: September 7, 2021 in the US and Canada and September 30, 2021 in the UK. 

Pre-order HERE for the US

Pre-order HERE for the UK

Link to sign up to Gill’s newsletter HERE.

Gill Paul, Biography –

Gill Paul’s historical novels have reached the top of the USA Today, Toronto Globe & Mail and UK kindle charts, and been translated into twenty languages. She specializes in relatively recent history, mostly 20th century, and enjoys re-evaluating real historical characters and trying to get inside their heads.

Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A History of Medicine in 50 Objects and series of Love Stories. Published around the world, this series includes Royal Love Stories, World War I Love Stories and Titanic Love Stories.

Gill was born in Scotland and grew up there, apart from an eventful year at school in the US when she was ten. She studied Medicine at Glasgow University, then English Literature and History (she was a student for a long time), before moving to London to work in publishing. Her first novel was written at weekends, but she has now given up the ‘day job’ to write fiction full-time. She also writes short stories for magazines and speaks at libraries and literary festivals about subjects ranging from the British royal family to the Romanovs, and about writing itself.

Gill swims year-round in an open-air pond – “It’s good for you so long as it doesn’t kill you”– and loves travelling whenever and wherever she can.

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Thanks for stopping by. I hope to have more posts for you coming soon! I should have one tomorrow but then I’m putting work aside and taking Spring Break with my kids. I might do a little post about our road trip when we return. 🙂

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Guest Article: Omani Mau Street Cats in Oman and A Memoir About Saving One by Chitra Ramaswami. #CatMemoir #CatsofTwitter #RescueAnimals @womenonwriting @KMSgroi

I have an interesting guest article for readers today about Omani Mau street cats and the story of a memoir that came out of recusing one!

Struggling to come to terms with an unexpected diagnosis, author Chitra Ramaswami had returned home to Oman seeking a sense of familiarity. What she discovered instead was a very special cat who changed her life. Rumi is an Omani Mau, and while there are many types of Mau cats, this type is a street cat in Oman. These cats are often discarded, mistreated, and abused on the streets (mostly in the captial of Muscat) and left to fend for themselves in horrible conditions. Chitra had never had a cat, and didn’t plan on one. Then, she had to learn to take in one who has problems of his own dealing with abuse from children that left him with an injury, along with harassment from stronger cats as he was forced to survive on the streets. Look at him here in this photos, he’s so cute!

Rumi. Photo provided by author.

Chitra and her sweet street cat learned to love each other, and eventually, she wrote a book about their story, which was recently published! I haven’t read the book, but the story seemed like one I wanted to help spread, since I not only love advocation for cats, but I also love to support women authors, authors from diverse backgrounds, and fellow rescue cat owners!

If you’d like to learn a little more about what an Omani Mau is like, please read on for Chitra’s article!

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Ever heard of the Omani Mau?
by Chitra Ramaswami, author of But First, Rumi

Oman is a Middle Eastern country lying on the east of the Arabian Sea. The land’s trademark is its rather untouched stretches of beaches and mountains, a rarity in today’s times. Known for its hospitality, don’t be surprised if you’re invited over to a local’s house for a cup of coffee and homegrown dates. However, the street cat of Oman, otherwise called the Omani Mau is a treasure relatively unknown to the rest of the world.

A DNA test conducted on Rumi, an Omani Mau of internet fame, by Basepaws – a pioneer in feline genetic testing has yielded fascinating results. Rumi’s genes reflect an interesting mix of qualities, likely due to the mating of the local street cat with cats who’ve accompanied their humans as they migrated to Oman over the years from all over the world. Anyone who has interacted with an Omani Mau will agree that the standout traits in Rumi’s DNA are indeed commonly seen in the local Mau (meaning street cat in Arabic)

So, what are these unique traits?

Making its debut, here is –

The Omani Mau checklist:

  • The Straight – A Immunity Scorer: Known to have robust immunity, it’s no surprise, Rumi’s DNA tested negative for 17 common feline genetic diseases.
  • The Smooth Talker: Most Maus are expert conversationalists like the Thai and Siamese cats. Chatting with the humans or even with each other from time to time, these felines don’t like to leave much unsaid.
  • The Dog-like Cat: Expect a Mau to follow their human from room to room and stay close. They are deeply loyal, much like the Royal Peterbald, and have no qualms expressing their affection for you. “Aloof” is not a word you associate with this lot.
  • The Gymnast: Maus are all muscle with athletic bodies like the African Savannah and are highly trainable. They are happiest when given sufficient playtime when they can leap to their heart’s content.
  • The Desert Cat Advantage: Additionally, the Omani street cats appear to be slender versions of the original desert cat – The Arabian Mau and have retained many of their characteristics. With slanted, almond-shaped eyes and wild cat spots, these felines are head turners for sure. They also have large ears, allowing them to release excess heat and tolerate higher temperatures better than the average cat.

Now, wouldn’t you like to get to know an Omani Mau? I’d say, start with Rumi.

If you’d like to read Rumi’s story, please click on the link below:

But First, Rumi is available worldwide on Amazon as e-book and paperback. Also available in select bookstores.

About But First, Rumi

Print Length: 158 Pages

Genre: Memoir

When Chitra discovered a stray cat in need of help, she never thought they’d wind up saving each other. Struggling to come to terms with an unexpected diagnosis, Chitra returned home to Oman seeking a sense of familiarity. What she discovered instead was a very special cat who changed her life. But First, Rumi is the story of how, day by day, Rumi and Chitra got to know one another, and as she learned to love the little stray, she began to see greater life lessons about herself, her family, her home country and her place in the world. 

What unfolds when girl and cat meet? What happens when you follow your heart? What if the world is not as it seems? Is it worth taking a chance? 

Chitra Ramaswami, Biography –

Chitra Ramaswami was born and raised in the Middle East by Indian parents, and her childhood was spent reading every book she could lay her hands on or writing stories and lines of poetry. As a result of traveling the world extensively and being a natural linguist, she is an amalgamation of many cultures and tastes and is constantly looking for the next experience she can immerse herself in.

Chitra Ramaswami, author.

When she isn’t writing, Chitra rides horses, climbs mountains and is a passionate advocate for the Omani Mau/ street cat. She currently lives in New York with her husband and a very spoiled cat and hamster duo. 

Find her online at her website.

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On March 15, the Women on Writing blog, The Muffin, celebrated the launch of Chitra Ramaswami’s book But First, Rumi. Go HERE to read an interview with the author, find out more information about this touching memoir, and win a copy for yourself, as well as see the upcoming tour dates! 

Thank you to Women on Writing for asking me to participate! Now I’m going to go learn more about Omani street cats and how I can help them, how about you?

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Guest Article: Tracy Fahey Discusses Contemporary Body Horror in Literature and Her Collection, I Spit Myself Out. #WiHM #HookonWiHM #womeninhorror @TracyFahey

Author and gothic expert Tracy Fahey is a woman in horror who always interests me. I suppose it’s because my first love in horror myself is the gothic sub-genre, but also Tracy always has intelligent and thought-provoking things to say. It’s why, besides wanting to support her, I invited her to write another article for this site during the time frame of her latest release, a collection of female body horror. I knew she’d discuss something that would be make me want to think a bit harder, challenge me. She didn’t disappoint, but extended my thoughts of the pre-conceived boundaries of body horror I had in my mind. And she’s cited one of my favorite stories, and biggest influences, in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman Perkins!

I hope you enjoy it and check out Tracy’s collection too!

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I Spit Myself Out: Contemporary Female Body Horror
by Tracy Fahey, Author of I Spit Myself Out

My new collection, I Spit Myself Out, is yet another addition to the rich tradition of writing the female body in horror. Earlier seminal work includes Charlotte Gilman Perkins’ masterful short story of 1892, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” perhaps the finest portrait of patriarchal repression of post-partum depression ever written. Similarly, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) telegraphed anxieties about female autonomy, while Madge Piercy’s 1976 speculative feminist classic, Woman on the Edge of Time, contrasted the wretched life of protagonist Connie Ramos inside and outside the asylum she is confined to with the utopia of Mattapoisett.

In recent years, there has been a renaissance of work on the theme of female body horror. This can be viewed as a direct response to the increasing anxiety surrounding women’s rights. Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was recently adapted for TV. This powerful series, with its contemporary setting, speaks to real, current fears about female reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, and control. Since 2018, female protestors against the erosion of body rights under the Trump regime have worn the iconic Handmaids’ garb of white bonnets and red robes to signal their visceral fear of a new Gilead made reality. Atwood was spurred on by the march of current events to write a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale thiety years later, The Testaments (2019). In an interview with Laura Lynch, Atwood said of writing this sequel:

I was no, no, no, no, no for a while, but then No. 1: history changed. Instead of going away from Gilead, we turned around and started coming back towards Gilead.

This vision is echoed in Christina Dalcher’s Vox (2016) where women are literally silenced, forbidden to read, and their conversation limited to under a hundred words a day. In Gwendolyn Kiste’s The Rust Maidens (2018) girls begin to transform and to disintegrate, in tandem with the decline of their hometown. Similarly, Georgina Bruce’s magnificent collection, This House Of Wounds (2019), presents a series of visions of the female psyche as riddled with pain, both physical and mental.

In writing I Spit Myself Out, I was conscious of this tradition. There are definite influences that permeate it (there are shades of “The Yellow Wallpaper” in the titular story, and an Atwoodeque fear of the subjugation of the female body in the perimenopausal story ‘Becoming’). However, in this collection, I wanted to find new ways to articulate these concerns. My first influence was Julia Kristeva’s essay ‘The Powers of Horror,’ and in particular by the way she explores the notion of the abject; that which is of us, but which the body casts off.

 “I” do not want to listen, “I” do not assimilate it. “I” expel it. But since the food is not an “other” for “me,” who am only in their desire, I expel myself, I spit myself out, I abject myself with the same motion through which “I” claim to establish myself. That detail, perhaps an insignificant one, but one that they ferret out, emphasize, evaluate, that trifle turns me inside out, guts sprawling; it is thus that they see the “I” am in the process of becoming an other at the expense of my own death.

Justin Park’s wonderful cover design of I Spit Myself Out perfectly captures Kristeva’s idea of the difficulties that arise when we separate ourselves from what we abject. In this collection I wanted to look at these liminal areas of the female body – the skin as membrane, abraded and permeated, eating disorders that purge the body, and, of course, blood rituals that mark the passage of the body from puberty to menopause.

Ancillary to this was my own cultural background of Irish Catholicism and its problematic attitudes to the female body. So this collection is also rife with images of miraculous cures, stigmata, statues, stained glass, and shrines. It also betrays my interest in both forensics (explored in the story ‘The Wrong Ones’) and morbid anatomy (as featured in ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’). The final font of inspiration for this collection was the troubled relationship between the body and the mind. Characters in I Spit Myself Out inhabit an uneasy world where their bodies become theatres of pain, places that play out the tension between the expectations of society, the desire to conform, and the rebellious refusal to do so.

Like Connie Ramos, like Offred, like the unnamed narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the women of I Spit Myself Out face their anxieties about what it is to be female, they find their voices, and, ultimately, they spit their stories out.

I Spit Myself Out, About –

Eighteen unsettling narratives map the female experience from puberty to menopause.

I Spit Myself Out is a collection of female-voiced stories exploring the terror that lurks beneath the surface of the skin. In this collection, an Anatomical Venus opens to display her organs, clients of a mysterious clinic disappear one by one, a police investigation reveals family secrets, revenge is inked in the skin, and bodies pulsate in the throes of illness, childbirth and religious ritual.

Disturbing and provoking in equal turns, I Spit Myself Out reinvents the body as a breeding ground of terrors that resurface inexorably in the present.

You can order it at hyperurl.co/ezgri7, or you can order directly from the Sinister Horror Company

Tracy Fahey, Biography –

Tracy Fahey is an Irish writer of Gothic fiction.  In 2017, her debut collection The Unheimlich Manoeuvre was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. Her short fiction is published in over thirty American, British, Australian and Irish anthologies.

She holds a PhD on the Gothic in visual arts, and her non-fiction writing is published in edited collections and journals. She has been awarded residencies in Ireland and Greece. She has written two collections, New Music For Old Rituals and The Unheimlich Manoeuvre, the mini-collection, Unheimlich Manoeuvres In The Dark, and the novel, The Girl In The Fort.  

Her new collection, I Spit Myself Out is published by the Sinister Horror Company in February 2021.

You can read another article by Tracy, about Doppelgangers, which she wrote for this site last year, HERE.

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I’ll be celebrating #WomeninHorror and #BlackHistoryMonth in both February and March specifically here, but also still promoting #WomeninHistory month which is March as well. But you know me, I promote women and diversity all year long anyway. But feel free to follow along on my page for Women in Horror for this special honorary time.

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“Tentacled Stars and Madness” and “Generational Loss” – My Two Award Eligible Poems from 2020 #SFPA #Poetry

As I’ve mentioned several times this year already, 2020 was a dry desert as far as new writing from me after the four years before that increasingly produced all types of work from short stories to poetry. It was just a hard year for everyone, and our home was no less struck in certain ways. On a positive, I also had a lot of work come in as far as editing as well, but it did limit my writing time as much of my free time went to family situations.

I did write a couple poems in 2020, and two I’m proud of were published on the Spreading the Writer’s Word website, during the monthly Ladies of Horror Fiction writing prompt project. I wanted to share them here with my followers as well as mention that they are two of my poems eligible for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s annual Rhysling Award. I would be happy for any fellow SFPA members and readers to also give them a read for consideration. I’ve been enjoying reading through all the posted eligible works myself in the last few months.

But my hope is for all to enjoy my celestial thoughts and mind. Let me know if you liked them! And keep your eyes peeled because I’m writing more already in 2021, as least poetry wise, and I have plans to publish some of my work from the stacks I wrote in 2019! I hope that my writing freeze is over, but keep the inspiration and motivation coming please!

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Tentacled Stars and Madness

I twisted the handle,
and I floated toward the stars,
toward the particles,
toward the tiny fires,
and I landed with one foot upon
the twinkling glow.

I outstretched my arm to the abyss,
and a tentacle clasped my hand,
and I laughed, being pulled away
into the midnight expanse of iridescent
nothingness

or is it encompassing, life painted as a cerebral hemorrhage,
an image emblazoned on our mind of what God is or the gods are,
of our existence.

I rotate through the soft air, looking upward from my back
as the sky creature pulls me toward oblivion,
as if I don’t even care to know where I go,
but enjoy the spontaneity.

The symbols etched in the stars as I go by – I finger them,
the runes of the galaxy;
my brain on fire, each synapse bursting open,
and yet, I’m unburdened.

In its lair, finally, it wraps its long arms around me and crushes,
bright lights flash before me, around me,
my mind downloading all of humanity’s curses and wishes,

and then,

I’m gone, floating in some communal stomach cavity, disintegrating to smaller pieces,
but becoming part of a bigger cosmos we could only dream of understanding…

…from our tiny window below.

–Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi / Nov 2020

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If interested, I also had another prose poem on Spreading the Writer’s Word that would be eligible as well. I was able to write it to my good friend and exceptional poet Christina Sng’s beautiful artwork.

General Loss

The night was chilly. Foggy. I pulled my wrap tighter around my shoulders as I rocked in my chair and watched my daughters from the porch.

They traveled, little feet and big minds, down the valley and through the woods, then up the mountain. We lived in this place where anything could be imagined, except health.

They were in search of miracles in the twinkling, night sky. Even the cat, who had tagged along behind them knew to look above to the skies and ask the right questions, fib the right lies.

Summoning gods or demons or angels or creatures, they had no preference. Brave souls with hearts like a fortress and energy like a magnet. The clouds swirled above and the fog dissipated below, and the sounds of far off waves suddenly became war drums.

My young ladies, my hope, my solace, plead in our tongue to the blackened sky that was illuminated by an unnatural light. Asked for their life-giver to be spared the disease of this Earth, to endeavor together to another vastly realm where resolute ladies (and their cats, their protectors) reigned immortal.

Where no tears were cried for death or cough, no graves buried or mourning of loss. Where people worked and lived with passion and grace, mercy and empathy, a true human race.

–Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi / 2020

If you’re interested in the SFPA, click to get details, or HERE, to learn about Rhysling and other awards.

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Clever Girl by Stephanie Marie Thornton Cover Revealed! #HistFic

This seems THE year for female spy novels in the historical fiction genre! And I, for one, am loving it. In that vein, it’s cover reveal day for CLEVER GIRL by Stephanie Thornton. Stephanie had been one of my favorite authors for many years. You’ll find it here below; isn’t it amazing!?

Available September 2021, this is, according to Stephanie, “Elizabeth Bentley’s wild ride of a spy-turned-informer story.”

Now available for preorder:

Penguin Random House: http://bit.ly/3rjPbde
Amazon: https://amzn.to/3cHn9El
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/3aD2hvd
Books-a-Million: http://bit.ly/3cOq8uZ
Bookshop.org: http://bit.ly/3jjGBZ3
Hudson: http://bit.ly/3pSwInE
Indiebound: http://bit.ly/3jjwoMk

From the cover:

A thrilling tale of love, loyalty, and espionage, based on the incredible true story of Elizabeth Bentley, a Cold War double agent spying for the Russians and the United States, from USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Marie Thornton.

1963: Reeling from the death of her mother and President Kennedy’s assassination, Catherine Gray shows up on Elizabeth Bentley’s doorstep demanding answers to the shocking mystery just uncovered about her family. What she doesn’t expect is for Bentley to ensnare her in her own story of becoming a controversial World War II spy and Cold War informer…

Recruited by the American Communist Party to spy on fascists at the outbreak of World War II, a young Bentley–code name Clever Girl–finds she has an unexpected gift for espionage. But after falling desperately in love with her handler, Elizabeth makes another unexpected discovery when she learns her lover is actually a Russian spy. Together, they will build the largest Soviet spy network in America and Elizabeth will become its uncrowned Red Spy Queen. However, once the war ends and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. become embroiled in the Cold War, it is Elizabeth who will dangerously clash with the NKVD, the brutal Soviet espionage agency.

As Catherine listens to Elizabeth’s harrowing tale, she empathizes with her, that is, until she uncovers startling revelations that link the two women’s lives in shocking ways. Faced with the idea that her entire existence is based on a lie, Catherine realizes there can be many sides to the truth. And only Elizabeth Bentley can tell her what that truth really is.

Talk soon!

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Guest Article: Indie Horror Fundraiser and Scholarship for Women in Horror by Andrew Fowlow, The Book Dad #HookonWiHM #WiHM

I have some exciting news and a really cool announcement for my fellow women in horror! There is an exciting project, headed by horror reviewer and freelance writer Andrew Fowlow, in which you can buy some super cool women in horror merchandise all for a great cause, in order to offer a scholarship and in-kind editing and marketing gifts to help a woman in horror pursue her writing and publication efforts, and beyond that, to help spread the word about the mighty power that is indie horror!

Andrew is here at Hook of a Book to introduce himself to us and explain the fundraiser and scholarship. Those of you who know me know that after my ten years in the genre as an editor, author, PR professional, and more in the horror genre that I wouldn’t be partnering with Andrew if I didn’t believe in his energy, enthusiasm, and heart for the community as well as his skills, drive, and desire to help others. As well, of course, I believe in his professional skills he’s honing not only as a freelance writer, but someone who is learning and excelling in the ropes of marketing. Andrew writes for various publications such as Lit Reactor and HorrorDNA, among others. The horror newsletter he’s recently started for the genre is amazing and sign-up MUST for anyone (you’ll find that link below).

And finally, I am really happy to see in the last few years the amount of men who are stepping up in horror to support women in horror. When we all support and respect one another, the community flourishes.

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Now that I’ve introduced Andrew, I’ll let him have the floor…..

Indie Horror Fundraiser and Scholarship for Women in Horror
by Andrew Fowlow, The Book Dad

If you don’t know me, my name is Andrew, otherwise known as ‘The Book Dad,’ and I am a reviewer of horror fiction. It is my intent to support those in the #HorrorCommunity anyway I can while on my literary journey to reading all things terrifying and suspenseful!

As you know, it’s #WiHM (Women in Horror Month) and I wanted to do something special for our ladies of the macabre! I created a RedBubble store with a few designs for folks to show off their love for HORROR FICTION! There are stickers, to be read (tbr) cart magnets, mugs, t-shirts, you name it.

Find it all at:

thebookdad.redbubble.com

Cool, right?

So, where does the money go?

Scholarship for a Woman in Horror!!

ALL MONEY EARNED IN FEBRUARY AND MARCH WILL GO TOWARDS A FEMALE HORROR WRITER TO HELP FUND THEIR NEXT PROJECT!!

I want to help a woman in horror get their book in readers’ hands. That could mean splurging on a fancy cover, getting a Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) membership, funding an audiobook, WHATEVER THEY WANT!

In addition, FREE EDITING PACKAGE:

The lovely Erin Al-Mehairi from Hook of a Book Media has graciously offered a free developmental and copy editing of a book 100k words or less (over is negotiable) for the chosen writer (with minor guidelines such as when the editing is negotiated for would be based on her current client schedule). This is a huge savings and you will receive an edit from a known and established editor in the genre.

In addition, also, FREE MARKETING PACKAGE:

I, The Book Dad, will also offer up my time to assist with the following:

✅ Marketing Strategies

✅ Full Media Kit

✅ Press Releases

✅ Newsletter

✅ Website/Landing Page

✅ Social Media Campaigns

I invite any female horror writer to email me: Andrewfowlow@gmail.com with their details and a brief pitch telling me what they are working on. Please, don’t be shy. I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Throughout the next two months, I will run a social media campaign to decide on a winner so keep watch. This will be a fun opportunity and I’m excited to connect with you all!

Again, if you don’t know me, that’s ok, you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Goodreads or sign-up for my horror fiction newsletter for more content from those in the #HorrorCommunity.

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Thank you so much to Andrew for running with this idea to help a woman a horror. I’m happy to be a part of it and good luck! Get those pitches in to Andrew for consideration and watch social media for more about the giveaway.

Remember to showcase those women in horror you love each and every day!

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A Prose Poem: Beneath the Surface of Us All by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

As you’ve probably seen, read, or assumed, I’m going to start using my site more often again, offering you content I hope you enjoy. It’s been ten years with this Oh, for the Hook of a Book! site, and to those subscribers who’ve been with me a number of years, to those who’ve followed my writing journey or book talk, I’m so grateful. Thank you!

With that in mind, I’m also going to start sharing some more of my own work again. I’d really love to hear from you on my writing, or any posts really, in the comments. And feel free to let me know what’s new with you too and point me in the direction of one of your posts to read as well. I’d like to limit my social media use and create and reconnect lasting and living connections through other means.

Photo Credit: Unspash

February brings about Women in Horror Month, and I’ll have some content on my site in celebration of that, but you all know I promote women in any genre and any form all year long. It’s evident on this site for one. One of the groups I like to be involved with is a ladies in horror writing group. Each month we are given photo prompts and we write poetry or flash fiction inspired by it. The support of these ladies is amazing. And it really keeps me writing some months! You’ll find a wealth of women in horror to read or discover on this site.

So….. here is my prose poem for January at Spreading the Writer’s Word.

Beneath the Surface of Us All
by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

She has no cares for earthly exploration whether land or water. Mired with no focus, her mind races with anxiety and pain and chaos enough to fire several universes. She floats through life peering through blinking eyelashes and wondering about the tangible dirt most people grab and can feel running through their fingers. She’s been freed from topography constraints and has submerged into a realm saved for a chosen few in which maps aren’t needed, time doesn’t exist, and movements are fluid.

But she’s cold. Cold of heart, stoic of mind, narrow in her observations. It’s a dichotomy but it’s also a trauma effect. She needs my warmth, my clarity. When I reach out my hand to her, she touches only my fingers briefly and I shiver as electrons shoot up inside me. In her own quest for feeling, she opens the darkest places within me, pulls and widens and prods, but I’m not fearful, as instead I crave it.

I start to question my own world, my life, my surrounding stimuli. I sink into her. And then, she opens her maw, and she eats me whole.

End / Erin Al-Mehairi, Copyright January 2021

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You can read many other free poetry and flash fiction by amazing women twice daily most days, at Spreading the Writer’s Word! Thank you to Erin Lydia Prime, Nina d’Archangela, and all the sisterly writing support found at the Facebook group of Ladies of Horror.

Stay tuned for interviews, reviews, and guest articles from women in horror in February for the 12th Annual Women in Horror Month as well as people of color for black history and appreciation month. If you’d like to be considered for inclusion, please let me know!

If you’d like to see what I’ve done in the past, head to my Women in Horror page.

Have a good weekend!

Erin

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Guest Article: Mark Matthews Talks About His Choice of Title for His Book The Hobgoblin of Little Minds @matthews_mark

I have the distinct pleasure of hosting a guest article from Mark Matthews on the occasion of the release of his new novel, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, a psychological horror novel. Mark is always and often advocating for mental health awareness, whether in working in the field, talking about it in articles or social media, or intricately so, in his writing of books and stories or editing of anthologies. I admire Mark for his dedication and thoughts to the human condition and believe he’s a fabulous writer who has important things to say through his words. Pick up a copy of his work, or an anthology with one of his stories, and you’ll see what I mean. Or to get first glimpse, read the article below and pick up a copy of his newest book.

“I Was Told There Would Be Hobgoblins”
by Mark Matthews, author of The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Yesterday, January 28, 2021, was the first full moon of the year! With that, I’m very excited for the release of my new psychological horror novel, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, to coincide with this lunar activity.

The novel has received some great reviews from early readers, but I do fear some elements might disappoint. For example, I imagine eavesdropping on readers and hearing things like:

“I was told there would be Hobgoblins. Where are the Hobgoblins?”

Sorry, there are no Hobgoblins inside.

 “No Hobgoblins!? But there are at least Werewolves, right?”

Well, sort of. But you’ll not find the word ‘Werewolf’ inside, not even once.

No Hobgoblins. Never mentions Werewolves, What the hell?

Let me explain:

The title of the book comes from the phrase “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” For those who’ve read the transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, the phrase strikes a chord immediately.

The concept is a theme throughout the book. This idea that repeating things as they’ve always been done out of mindless repetition stops creativity and ingenuity. The quote is heralded, and ultimately twisted, by a psychiatrist, Doctor Zita. Zita is the villain in the story, to a degree, but certainly a sympathetic character.

Doctor Zita grew up witness to her mom struggling with mental illness. After one of her mom’s many suicide attempts, her dad abandons the family, saying “you fix her” as he leaves out the door. This becomes her driving principle and obsession— to ‘fix’ bipolar disorder, and not repeat the foolish mistakes of ineffective mental health treatment of the past.

“She was going to find a way to fix bipolar disorder. To siphon out the worst parts, and make the best parts boil to the top. She had to try something new, because ‘foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’ The same efforts bring same results.”

According to the Doctor, the symptoms of bipolar do not need to be blunted and minimized the way psychiatry has tried for years, but rather, magnified and harnessed. The boundless energy of mania, the primal passions, acute senses, and savage strength are resilient traits that have helped humans persist.

This is not a belief that I subscribe to, but through the viewpoint of Doctor Zita, I do hope to show empathy for family members who rely on mental health treatment, and have so often been let down by a science that is far from perfect, and at times causes more harm than it does cure. This book shines the light on some dark challenges of mental illness, and portrays it with humanity.

The werewolves inside are definitely beasts, but they are not monsters. They love. They have hopes and dreams. They speak as much as howl. They visit their churches and their childhood homes, mimicking much of their human behavior. They do not grow hair, but they do grow stronger as a predator when the moon is full, and have explosive and vengeful rage, often with the best of intentions but worst of results. They are propelled by boundless energy and amazing powers of perception. All of this is what happens, in a sense, in bipolar mania.

As noted, the word werewolf is never mentioned in the novel, much in the way the word zombie is never mentioned in The Walking Dead. In a sense I did this because there is no such thing as werewolves, right? And I want this story to ring true. It even occurs in a true setting, the abandoned Northville Psychiatric Hospital.  

So, no, there are no Hobgoblins inside, nor any little minds being eaten, but I do think you’ll find that there is so much more.

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, About –

Kori Persephone Driscoe suffered through her dad’s mental illness. All she wanted was for him to get better, but instead he disappeared. Kori trespasses into the abandoned Northville Psychiatric Hospital, the last place her dad was treated, seeking solace and traces of his memory. What she finds instead is something no longer human living deep in the underground tunnels.

During the last days of the hospital, a rogue psychiatrist had been manipulating the mood swings of the mentally ill, transforming patients into savage, manic creatures who seek justice by the light of the full moon. When the creatures hunt for prey, only an escaped patient and her beloved child can help Kori survive. But they better act fast, because the creatures want blood, Kori wants to save her dad, and the whole hospital is about to be blown to pieces and bury Kori alive. 

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds is available at:

Kindle for Amazon – Cover above is Kindle Cover!

Amazon paperback – full wrap cover above!

Or…

Barnes and Noble

Indiebound

Powell’s

Mark Matthews, Biography –

Mark Matthews is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a licensed professional counselor who has worked in behavioral health for over 20 years. He is the author of On the Lips of Children, All Smoke Rises, and Milk-Blood, as well as the editor of the anthology Lullabies for Suffering and Garden of Fiends. His newest work, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, is available as of January, 2021. Reach him at WickedRunPress@gmail.com.

Follow Mark Matthews on Twitter.

Author’s Webpage

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