So Many Things…

mailboxes in a row.

The latest newsletter is out, wrapping up July. This month, in addition to my news, I talk about some books I’ve read. There is cosy mystery, steampunk paranormal, literary fiction, poetry, and science fiction. There has to be at least one title to your taste, yes?

A book open with candles on each side. Behind is an old world map. with a hot air balloon and ships flying with balloons and gears. Very steampunk.

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King of the Hollow Dark by Cat Hellisen

A young woman with tan skin and hair flying back, has her eyes closed, looking serene. Tiny lights are scattered throughout.

~We will pretend that constellations are not slowly vanishing from the skies.~

~Never make the mistake of underestimating the sheer strength of someone who has been dance training since they were eight. They will kill you with the arch of their foot and a flick of a wrist.~

~Every year, I remember more, and every year I am scared of what I see. I see things that never happened to me.~

~You’d think that there’d be a little dignity in death, but apparently not.~

~I’d lost my mother, and instead of holding it together like I thought he was supposed to, my dad kinda got lost along the way too. Not dead lost, of course. Just lost in the dark lost.~

~I wish I could help, because there’s nothing as depressing as watching the world fall down around you and know there’s literally nothing you can do to help.~

~Tomorrow is a day that never comes.~

Still Life by Sarah Winman

Cover shows a parrot in the middle, orange and blue. The white background is framed with blue and leaf and orange fruits, like the edge of a painted china plate.

~Oldest story in the world, said Evelyn.
Which is?
Grief, Temps. Just a lot of fucking grief.~

~Words are gold dust…~

~Does this mean I’m yours now? said the kid.
No. We’re sort of borrowing each other, he said.~

~Col said you can’t died three times and I said he’s the proof: the bloke had a heart attack in the bath, reached for the ledge, got electrocuted by the heater, shot back into the water and drowned.~

~Inceipit vita nuova, she said. So begins a new life.~

~The walk revealed the pain of solitude that had not only lain central in her lifetime but in her mother’s and her mother’s mother, too.~


Soulless by Gail Carriger

London Trafalgar square in the background in the foreground the profile of a white Victorian woman in maroon dress carrying a black parasol

~To put the pudding in the puff: she had retreated to the library, her favorite sanctuary in any house, only to happen upon an unexpected vampire.~

~”Why is it, Miss Tarabotti, every time I have to clean up a mess in a library, you just happen to be in the middle of it?~

~She would have colored gracefully with embarrassment had she not possessed the complexion of on of those “heathen Italians,” as her mother said, who never colored, gracefully or otherwise. (Convincing her mother that Christianity had, to all intents and purposes, originated with the Italians, thus making them the exact opposite of heathen, was a waste of time and breath.)~

~”How ghastly for her,” said Alexia, driven beyond endurance into comment. “People actually thinking with their brains, and right next door. Oh, the travesty of it all.”~

~Many a gentleman had likened his first meeting with her to downing a very strong cognac when one was expecting to imbibe fruit juice – that is to say, startling and apt to leave one with a distinct burning sensation.~

Murder Most Tangled by Fiona Snyckers

Illustrated cover with a young red-haired witch and a cat and wool with knitting needles in front of a fully stocked bookshelf.

~[Her coffee machine] even used real tea leaves, compressing them into a wad and forcing hot water through them…Apparently, they would prefer a few teabags dumped in a pot and scalded with boiling water.~

~She had hoped to do book launches and readings, but publishers were strangely reluctant to send their big-name authors to appear at an obscure bookshop in a little-known village that could only be reached by ferry.~

~The queen bee of the society was undoubtedly the chairwoman who had introduced herself to Luna as Mrs. Bob Woodruff. For a confusing second, Luna had thought that her first name was Bob…~

~Had murder by knitting needle really happened down stairs?~

Too easy to accidentally include spoilers, so only took quotes from the first four chapters.

Unbecoming by Joanne Fedler

Cover has black background made of a chard log. At the top is a ragged strip of flame. The title is white with greenery peeking through and there is a brown moth to the left.

~”Where do you want to be taken?”
“To a conversation that hasn’t happened yet. It’s not like we have all the time in the world. Why do we keep rinsing and repeating? I’m tired of nice, polite exchanges.”~
~If someone’s life collapses in on itself, and no one notices, did it really happen?~

~Urination, like defecation, menstruation, childbirth, is surely a more intimate experience, between you and the earth, not a flamboyant, swashbuckling gesture from up high. Perhaps pissing on two feet is what drives men to fencing and paragliding.~

~[H]e is the person waiting for me. And when someone is waiting for you, you are not the sole shareholder of your own time. You are not free to do with it as you will. You have an investor. You are expected back.~

~As Fiona speaks, it is as if she’s describing someone other than me. It’s dislocating in the way of coming across an old photograph and thinking, ‘Who is that?” before realising, “Oh, that was me.’ Was. Not is. Maybe this is what it means to lose yourself, to become bewildered by the way others understand who you are. To see a reflection in the mirror and to have questions, not answers, for the person you see there.~

~There’s a line in Tennyson’s poem, “happy men who have the power to die.” What gives our lives meaning is knowing we don’t have forever.~

~”These breakdowns are never sudden. Things loosen over time due to multiple stressors and factors. What we’re seeing here is where the slack finally let go.”
He was speaking as a blue-collar worker, an oil-grimed tradesman who had engines and probably drivershafts on his mind. But this was some of the deepest and most profound philosophising about the human condition I had ever heard.~

The Martian by Andy Weir

Cover shows an astronaut floating in a red and orange haze with an outline of a mountain in the background.

~If ruining the only religious icon I have leaves me vulnerable to Martian vampires, I’ll have to risk it.~

~How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.~

~Once I got home, I sulked for a while. All my brilliant plans foiled by thermodynamics. Damn you, Entropy!~

~What is it with you and disco? I can understand the ’70s TV because everyone loves hairy people with huge collars. But disco?~

~Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.~

~As with most life’s problems, this one can be solved by a box of pure radiation.~

~I tested the brackets by hitting them with rocks. This kind of sophistication is what we interplanetary scientists are known for.~

Werk It by Tiah Marie Beautement

I am incredibly excited to announce my short story “Werk It” for FunDza is published.

I am not a gay brown teen facing a talent show. However, like the main character, my father died during the pandemic and I watched my father’s funeral via WhatsApp. In weeks surrounding this heavy grief I spend a lot of time watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.

The show had been recommended to me by a writing friend because Season 11 contestant Yvie Oddly has Ehlers-Danlos (EDS) just like me. The show brought an enormous amount of comfort and I often quipped to friends that RuPaul had become my therapist. In the end, the experience inspired “Werk It.” I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 1:

Cover of Werk It shows a person from the waist down wearing black bustier and panty, black stocking legs into killer red platform heels standing on brick paving.

“Theo, have you practiced for the talent show?” Ma called out from her bedroom-now-‘rona-office. “Your teacher says you’re doing great, hey? Just need to keep putting the work in.”

My music teacher’s a total liar, not that I’m complaining. Because since we went back to in-person schooling––mornings for group A (mine), afternoons for group B––Ma’s had the mistaken belief that my trumpet lessons were happening at school, too. The trumpet. An instrument you play with a mask off, then blast lung-scum here, there, and everywhere. Ja, no. Trumpet lessons were still online. Although for the talent show they’d be filming me on the stage, alone, from waaaaay back. Supposedly. If I did it.

Theo!” Ma snapped. “I have a Zoom meeting in 20, get it done now.”

I opened the black case and the sunlight from the window bounced off the brass. It was still as stunning as the day Daddy bought it for me in Chicago. It still made me want to throw up, scream, and cry all at the same time.

“I’ll practice every day,” I’d told him.

“My honour to God, every day,” I’d begged.

I was eleven, visiting him over our winter break (summer there) like I did every year. He worked for the Chicago branch of National Public Radio (NPR), which now also produces podcasts. But he took leave and we had fun. We went to baseball games, both the Cubs and the White Sox, to the museums (Museum of Science and Industry is sick), and ride bikes along their lake that is so big it looks like the sea and has huge ocean liners floating in it. We even went to this massive place where you do mountain climbing indoors. But that summer, it was jazz that had got under my skin.

Not just jazz, the trumpet. How something that could blare so loud and brassy, setting my teeth on edge, could crone so sweetly it was like watching a slow, sensual dance. I was hooked. Addicted. Needed it more, more, more, like my ma needs her coffee, or maybe like how those kids on the street need their tik.

I needed to go to more shows.

Daddy took me. Again, and again, that winter, yet summer, break. I kept begging. I didn’t just want to hear the music, I wanted to learn how to make it. And in the end, he called Ma, she agreed she’d sign me up for lessons, and the man bought me the trumpet. Brand spanking new. I’d been playing it ever since.


Until two months ago, anyway.

Tap, tap, tap, came Ma, her shoes beating out the rhythm of her mood. I knew her hand was going to fall on my shoulder before it touched me.

“He’d be so proud of you,” Ma said. In that voice. The one of hushed pity, that nobody wants to hear. I’ll bet that’s why the blues were invented, because they can express feeling, the harsh edge of grief, without sounding so pathetic. Weak. A tone that just makes you want to be angry at the person speaking.

I shrugged her off. Said, “I’ll practice tomorrow,” and fired up Netflix.

Click to read Chapter 2