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Jacqueline West, Writer

Bestselling author of The Books of Elsewhere and Dreamers Often Lie

The Not-So-Big Bookish Wrap-Up of 2015

December 24, 2015    Tags: , , , ,   

So, it’s been a crazy year. I’ve read fewer books, written fewer stories and poems, traveled less. But I also moved to a new home, finally finished a book that was eight years in the distilling, and kept a tiny new human being alive. And I became something new too–it’s been like opening a door expecting to find another room, and instead finding another world. It’s been the biggest, quietest, longest, fastest, rawest year of my life.

2015. You’ve been a good one.

As has become my tradition, here’s a list of what I read this year (a zillion board books not included). It’s scantier than usual — for obvious reasons. Rereads are marked with asterisks, and read-alouds are in bold:

THE ART OF ASKING – Amanda Palmer
THE BOOK OF THREE (THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN #1)* – Lloyd Alexander
THE LAST REPORT OF THE MIRACLES AT LITTLE NO HORSE – Louise Erdrich
REBEL BOOKSELLER – Andrew Laties
THE BLACK CAULDRON (THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN #2)* – Lloyd Alexander
LAUGH LINES: SHORT COMIC PLAYS – Eric Lane and Nina Shengold, ed.
REVOLUTION – Russell Brand
YES PLEASE – Amy Poehler
STUFF AND NONSENSE – A.B. Frost
WISH YOU WERE HERE: THE OFFICIAL BIOGRAPHY OF DOUGLAS ADAMS – Nick Webb
THE CASTLE OF LLYR (THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN #3)* – Lloyd Alexander
KURT VONNEGUT: THE LAST INTERVIEW (AND OTHER CONVERSATIONS) – Tom McCartan, ed.
THE APE’S WIFE AND OTHER STORIES – Caitlin R. Kiernan
THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY – Gabrielle Zevin
SOUL ON FIRE: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF PETER STEELE – Jeff Wagner
HOW TO BE PARISIAN WHEREVER YOU ARE – Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, Sophie Mas
HALF MAGIC – Edward Eager
TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS: ADVICE ON LOVE AND LIFE FROM DEAR SUGAR – Cheryl Strayed
THE INNER VOICE: THE MAKING OF A SINGER – Renee Fleming
UNFATHOMABLE CITY: A NEW ORLEANS ATLAS – Rebecca Snedeker and Rebecca Solnit
TRIGGER WARNING: SHORT FICTIONS AND DISTURBANCES – Neil Gaiman
THE HALLOWEEN TREE – Ray Bradbury
MOONWALKING WITH EINSTEIN: THE ART AND SCIENCE OF REMEMBERING EVERYTHING – Joshua Foer
TARAN WANDERER (THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN #4) – Lloyd Alexander
I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN – Jandy Nelson
TRAVELING MERCIES * – Anne Lamott
THE SECRET HISTORY OF WONDER WOMAN – Jill Lepore
THE REAL BOY – Anne Ursu
DEAD WAKE: THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE LUSITANIA – Erik Larson
TEA WITH MR. ROCHESTER – Frances Towers
THE ART OF NEIL GAIMAN – Hayley Campbell
THE HIDDEN LIFE OF DOGS – Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
COLLECTED POEMS: 1934 – 1952 – Dylan Thomas
THE POISON EATERS AND OTHER STORIES – Holly Black
PROXY – Alex London
PERSONAL EFFECTS – E.M. Kokie
GET IN TROUBLE – Kelly Link
THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE: ESSAYS – Ann Patchett
FAMILY MAN – Calvin Trillin
I AM MALALA – Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
VOYAGERS: PROJECT ALPHA – D.J. MacHale
THE SIGN OF THE CAT – Lynne Jonell
TELEGRAPH AVENUE – Michael Chabon
THE MAP TO EVERYWHERE – Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis
WHAT TO EXPECT: THE FIRST YEAR – Heidi Murkoff
PERFECT DRAGONFLY: 15 YEARS OF RED DRAGONFLY PRESS  – Scott King, ed.
ZERO TO FIVE: 70 ESSENTIAL PARENTING TIPS BASED ON SCIENCE – Tracy Cutchlow

Anne Lamott, Lloyd Alexander, and Michael Chabon were as wonderful as ever, but for me the standouts of the year were Kelly Link’s short story collection GET IN TROUBLE, which was gorgeous and strange and brilliantly crafted, like everything she does (I’m still thinking about “The New Boyfriend”), Ann Patchett’s THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE, which had passages that made me smile, get teary, and actually say “AMEN!” out loud, and THE SECRET HISTORY OF WONDER WOMAN, which was so blow-you-out-of-the-water fascinating and encouraging that I wish I could scatter copies from a hot air balloon, watching them fall into the hands of present and future feminists and comic book fans alike.

As for Beren, current favorites are THE MITTEN, THE SNOWY DAY, and anything with ducks in it.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and peace, wonder, and joy to everyone. See you in 2016.

Beren and Cmas Tree

 

 

Spectacles

Getting ready for DREAMERS OFTEN LIE

December 6, 2015    Tags: , , , ,   

So much stuff to quickly and excitedly share:

    • Last month, I attended the NCTE convention in Minneapolis, where I signed advance copies of DREAMERS OFTEN LIE, had fun at the Penguin/Nerdy Book Club cocktail party, and talked all things YA with teachers, librarians, and my amazing editor (Hi, Jess!). Here I am with the big DREAMERS poster that now lives in my home library and reminds me that this is all actually finally happening.

DREAMERS at NCTE

  • My husband/home tech support/web designer/human firewall has been busy designing a page for DREAMERS on my website. It’s got preordering info, Shakespearean links and references (including a list of all the quotes used within the book), a theatrical glossary, and more. And it’s pretty. Go look.
  • Jaye Stuart, the protagonist/star (she’d prefer that) of DREAMERS, is starting an Instagram account of her own. You can follow her at bluejaye.dramaqueen.
  • My spring calendar is quickly filling with more events, including the much loved and recently revived Books & Breakfast (Saturday, February 13th, from 9:00 – 12:00). Visit the site for a complete list of attending authors, registration info, and more.

There. Now off to make a fresh pot of coffee and decorate a Christmas tree.

Spectacles

Glad to live in a world where there are Octobers

October 15, 2015    Tags: , , , , ,   

Anne Shirley Octobers
(Anne Shirley and I are kindred spirits.)

It’s my favorite month. Blustery days. The light that falls through red and gold leaves. Jack-o’-lanterns and cider and eerie stories read while wrapped up in a blanket. Beren highly recommends BabyLit’s Dracula; he’s been practicing counting wolves and castles and rats and garlic blossoms, and occasionally howling like a true little child of the night. I highly recommend Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll — twisted, brilliant, beautiful, and terrifying comics that take folk and fairy tales to even darker places — and Get in Trouble, Kelly Link‘s latest collection of gobsmackingly good short stories. Or, of course, you could read The Books of Elsewhere. I hear they’re perfect for Halloween season. Especially Volume Four. (And if you liked them, you could recommend them to other readers, which is the best possible Halloween gift you could possibly give an author. Just saying.)

Bear and Dracula

October is also the month of the Twin Cities Book Festival. If you’re anywhere in the area, come to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on Saturday the 17th for a truly incredible day of readings, signings, panels, talks, and bookish fun. I’ll be moderating a Middle Grade Adventures panel featuring Lynne Jonell (The Sign of the Cat), D.J. MacHale (Voyagers: Project Alpha), and Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis (The Map to Everywhere), and in true middle grade style, we’re going to play Truth or Dare. Come join the fun: 12:15 p.m., 10/17, Middle Grade Headquarters. (And the whole incredible day is FREE!) Lots more info here: http://www.raintaxi.com/twin-cities-book-festival/

Along with the leaves, events for the next school year are beginning to pile up… Keep an eye on my appearance calendar if you’d like to know where I’ll be.

And for even more autumnal richness, The Books of Elsewhere, Volume Five: Still Life is a finalist for this year’s Silver Falchion Award, as well as being up for the Reader’s Choice Award — go and vote, if you’re so inclined.

Happy October to all you kindred spirits out there.

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Cover Reveal (and much more): DREAMERS OFTEN LIE

September 4, 2015    Tags: , ,   

DreamersOftenLie_Comp_reveal

Here it is.

The Shakespearean YA novel that I’ve been mentioning (briefly, bashfully) for years has a name, a release date, and a cover–and holy cats, is it a gorgeous one. DREAMERS OFTEN LIE, coming from Dial Books for Young Readers on April 5, 2016.

You can read the opening pages and hear more about the book at EW.com: http://www.ew.com/article/2015/09/03/dreamers-often-lie-excerpt. (Thanks to Lindsay Boggs, my magic-making publicist at PYRG, for this incredible launchpad!)

This is a book I began almost eight years ago, while I was teaching Shakespeare to my high school English students and directing school plays. It was repeatedly nudged to the back burner while I finished THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE and moved and traveled and toured and had a baby, but each time I lifted the lid on that slowly simmering pot, something new was rising to the surface. I think it has finally boiled down to something pretty cool.

Please go and read the sample, pre-order if you like–or better yet, mention the book to your favorite local booksellers and librarians.

It’s very different from THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE…but I’m excited to see this book travel out into the world and into the hands of a whole new set of readers (and maybe to some old ones, who are ready for something else dark and odd and twisty).

Thanks for the love, everybody.

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A brief hello from the land of revisions, board books, and packing tape

August 12, 2015    Tags: , ,   

Holy cats, it’s been a while.

I just managed to weather final revisions on the YA novel, Ryan’s scary bout with Lyme disease, buying a new house and packing up an old one, and a few more months of babyhood, and suddenly it’s mid-August. Everything’s on the upswing now — YA novel in copyedits, husband recovered, move rapidly approaching, baby getting bigger and more fun with every hour that passes — but this summer has felt like one long log-rolling competition. I’m starting to look forward to fall, when I can lounge in front of the fireplace (!!) in our new library (!!!) with a baby in my lap, and maybe everything will slow down for a few minutes. Or maybe not.

Proof of Beren’s increasing fun-ness: He’s starting to love books (– and not just sucking on their corners, although he loves that too). As you can see from this photo, he’s a quite a discerning reader already.
Beren reading skeptical
…I’m just not buying the characterization here.

Because god knows he’s reading more books than I am these days, I present the first edition of BEREN’S BABY-SIZED BOARD BOOK REVIEWS.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK: Full of great messages about kindness, interdependence, and the importance of toads. Plus, it forces your parents to make a wide variety of animal and vehicle noises! You’ll want to hear it again (and again and again and againandagainandagain).

WHERE’S SPOT?: I don’t want to be hyperbolic here, but this may be the single greatest mystery since The Hound of the Baskervilles. Is Spot under the stairs? In the closet? Under the rug? You’ll be on the edge of your seat/mother’s lap until the stunning conclusion!

ORANGE PEAR APPLE BEAR: A compelling story told in only five words. If Hemingway had written a children’s book, this would be it.

PAT THE BUNNY: A true classic. A feast for the senses. The standard by which all others can be judged. At that climactic scene where Judy touches Daddy’s scratchy face? Gets me every time.

Beren reading ABCD

 

More news on the YA front to come. For now, it’s back to packing…

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Cover Reveal: BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

March 10, 2015    Tags: , ,   

I promised some writing news, and here it is!

Been There, Done That cover
This is Book 1 of BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, a forthcoming collection for young readers. From the BEEN THERE, DONE THAT website:

Have you ever wondered where authors get their ideas? Or how those ideas become stories? Now you can find the answers with this collection of short stories, as authors reveal the real-life experiences that inspired them! Some stories imitate the events almost exactly. Others use just a detail to spark an idea. But all the stories in Been There, Done That prove one thing: that inspiration can come from anywhere.

Book 1’s theme is friends and family relationships, and it will be released on November 3rd (but you can pre-order it now!)My story will be included in Book 2, which has a school theme and will be coming out early next year. Here’s the amazing line-up of authors: http://www.beentheredonethatbooks.com/#!book-2-authors/c21zy. (Wendy Maas! Bruce Coville! My fellow Endangered Author C. Alexander London!)

Now back to staring at a baby.

Spectacles

Quiet Time

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Things have been pretty quiet around this blog for a while, and for once it isn’t my fault — it’s this guy’s.

J and Beren bed

We had a baby last week. It still seems like a vaguely impossible, too-good-to-be-true thing. Every time I bend over his bassinet and discover that he’s really there, it’s a delightful surprise.

His name is Beren, from the legends woven into The Lord of the Rings, and we think he’s pretty much the greatest.

Ryan and I have fallen into Baby World, where time seems to zoom forward during the day and tick backward at night, where yoga pants are formal wear and a walk around the block requires as much preparation as a polar expedition, and our schedules are filled with items like “Take a shower” and “Eat a sandwich” and “Change the socks you’ve been wearing for three days,” and we end up skipping about half of them, because we’ve got better things to do. Anne Greenwood Brown, one of the wonderful writers in my critique group, says that babies are like campfires; you just sit and stare at them, hypnotized by every wriggle and flicker. She’s dead on. We can hardly stand to look away.

So…that’s where most of my time, energy, and brain power has been going for the past several weeks. Luckily, Beren arrived between rounds of revision on the YA novel, and I’ve pared down my travel and appearance commitments for the remainder of the spring, so I can just nestle down inside the house with this tiny new person. So far, I’m loving this quiet time.

Of course, things aren’t actually quiet. Friends and family drop in to shower us with food and gifts and stare at the campfire for a while. And then there are the noises Beren makes. Sometimes he sounds like a squeaky door hinge, and sometimes he sounds like a baby pterodactyl; sometimes he chirps like a bird, and sometimes he hums and smacks his lips like a greedy little gourmand.

There will be more writing news here in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, I’ll be here, in my wrinkly pajamas, staring at a baby.

Beren on bed

Spectacles

Big Bookish Wrap-Up of the Year

December 29, 2014    Tags: ,   

We had a sludgy brown Christmas here in Red Wing, but as I type this, snow is falling, and an untouched layer of whiteness covers the world outside my windows. AT LAST.  I’ve been waiting–at first hopefully, then hungrily, then poutily, then trying to pretend that I didn’t care, even while using each evening’s early-falling darkness to imagine that everything outdoors was blanketed in snow–and now, with a cup of coffee beside me and Brom Bones snoring softly at the other end of the couch, I am content.

It’s been a strange year. And a speedy one. (My last post here had to do with All-Hallows Read, which shows how the final months of 2014 slipped away from me entirely.) The end of a five-book, thirteen-years-in-the-preparation series. Two cross-country tours. More school visits than I can count. New writing projects. Hard losses. One very big, slowly approaching gain. But whatever was happening around me or inside of me, written words kept me company, as they always have.

They’re a lot more reliable than snow.

Here’s what I read this year (rereads marked with asterisks, and read-alouds in bold):

WICKED PLANTS – Amy Stewart
MANHOOD FOR AMATEURS* – Michael Chabon
QUIDDITCH THROUGH THE AGES, THE TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM – J.K. Rowling
THE VAMPIRE LESTAT* – Anne Rice
THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG – Muriel Barbery
THE STRANGE CASE OF EDWARD GOREY – Alexander Theroux
GOBLIN SECRETS – Will Alexander
BOXERS AND SAINTS – Gene Luen Yang
EMMY AND THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING RAT – Lynne Jonell
WONDER WOMAN 1 & 2 (Blood and Guts) – Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiary
ADVENTURES OF A CAT-WHISKERED GIRL – Daniel Pinkwater
SPIN – Robert Charles Wilson
QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT WON’T STOP TALKING – Susan Cain
THE PLEASURES AND SORROWS OF WORK – Alain de Botton
SIN AND THE SECOND CITY – Karen Abbott
THE FOURTH STALL – Chris Rylander
A RELIABLE WIFE – Robert Goolrick
BAD MOTHER* – Ayelet Waldman
THE CHILDREN OF ODIN – Padraic Colum
CULTURE SHOCK: JAPAN – P. Sean Bramble
BRADBURY SPEAKS: TOO SOON FROM THE CAVE, TOO FAR FROM THE STARS – Ray Bradbury
COUNTRY GIRL – Edna O’Brien
THE MASTER BUTCHERS SINGING CLUB – Louise Erdrich
THE DROWNED WORLD – J.G. Ballard
TOM WAITS ON TOM WAITS: INTERVIEWS AND ENCOUNTERS – Paul Maher Jr., Ed.
VIRGINIA WOOLF: A BIOGRAPHY – Quentin Bell
DANSE MACABRE – Stephen King
THE BOOK OF JEZEBEL – Anna Holmes, Ed.
A WOLF AT THE TABLE – Augusten Burroughs
THE OCTOBER COUNTRY – Ray Bradbury
FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB – Antony John
A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE: A GAME OF THRONES – George R. R. Martin
THE OLD WILLIS PLACE – Mary Downing Hahn
CAUTIONARY TALES FOR CHILDREN – Hilaire Belloc and Edward Gorey
THE GHOST IN THE GLASS HOUSE – Carey Wallace
ROOFTOPPERS – Katherine Rundell
SKELLIG – David Almond
THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES*  – Nathaniel Hawthorne
SONG WITHOUT WORDS: DISCOVERING MY DEAFNESS HALFWAY THROUGH LIFE – Gerald Shea
FAR FROM THE TREE: PARENTS, CHILDREN, AND THE SEARCH FOR IDENTITY – Andrew Solomon
COUNTY O – Robert Hedin
THE TRIP TO ECHO SPRING: ON WRITERS AND DRINKING – Olivia Laing
WHAT’S THAT PIG OUTDOORS: A MEMOIR OF DEAFNESS – Henry Kisor
THE APOTHECARY – Maile Meloy
SCARY, NO SCARY – Zachary Schomburg
DOLL BONES – Holly Black
WOULD COULD THAT BE AT THIS HOUR? – Lemony Snicket
THE CABINET OF EARTHS – Anne Nesbit
GALVESTON – Nic Pizzolatto
WE WERE LIARS – E. Lockhart
EON – Alison Goodman
A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT – Linda Urban
HOW I LIVE NOW – Meg Rosoff
DOLL BABY – Laura Lane McNeal
CLEMENTINE – Sara Pennypacker
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY* – Roald Dahl
PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS – Patricia Reilly Giff
DIAL-A-GHOST – Eva Ibbotson
WISCONSIN LORE – Robert E. Gard and L.G. Sorden, collectors
DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD – Roald Dahl
ALABASTER: GRIMMER TALES – Caitlin R. Kiernan
WAIT TIL HELEN COMES* – Mary Downing Hahn
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT – Erich Maria Remarque
THE GHOST OF CRUTCHFIELD HALL – Mary Downing Hahn
MADE FROM SCRATCH: DISCOVERING THE PLEASURES OF A HANDMADE LIFE – Jenna Woginrich
CHANGING MY MIND: OCCASIONAL ESSAYS – Zadie Smith
THE BLUE JAY’S DANCE: A BIRTH YEAR* – Louise Erdrich
DEMIAN – Herman Hesse
CARSICK – John Waters
DANIEL DERONDA – George Eliot
SEX, DRUGS, AND COCOA PUFFS: A LOW CULTURE MANIFESTO – Chuck Klosterman
CLASS MATTERS –  Correspondents of the New York Times
SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS – Laura Amy Schlitz
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Stieg Larsson
UNACCUSTOMED EARTH – Jhumpa Lahiri
THE MAN IN THE EMPTY BOAT – Mark Salzman
SEX & VIOLENCE – Carrie Mesrobian
OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS: A JOURNAL OF MY SON’S FIRST YEAR* – Anne Lamott
REIGN OF ERROR: THE HOAX OF THE PRIVATIZATION MOVEMENT AND THE DANGER TO AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS – Diane Ravitch
THE BEST OF FRIENDS: MARTHA AND ME – Mariana Pasternak
SEXUAL POLITICS – Kate Millett
THE UNLIKELY ADVENTURES OF MABEL JONES: THE VOYAGE OF THE FERROSHUS MAGGOT – Will Mabbitt
NEW ORLEANS CITY GUIDE: AMERICAN GUIDE SERIES – Federal Writers’ Project/WPA, 1938
AN ACCIDENTAL ADVENTURE #3: WE GIVE A SQUID A WEDGIE – C. Alexander London
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS – Stephanie Perkins
TALES FROM MOOMIN VALLEY – Tove Janssen
THROUGH THE WOODS – Emily Carroll

It’s crazy — as I type this list, I can suddenly recall exactly which book I was reading at the gate in Reagan International Airport, or Richmond, or Phoenix; which book was with me on a balcony on Jekyll Island, Georgia, or in a teeny white cottage in coastal New Hampshire, or in a patisserie in the French Quarter; which books I read to Ryan in the car on Thursday night trips between Minneapolis and Red Wing and which ones he read to me in the kitchen while I made dinner.  Thank goodness for books. Without them, a lot more of this year would be a blur.

There are lots of wonderful things on this list, including some old favorites, but a few first-time reads that stand out in my mind are David Almond’s SKELLIG, a British children’s novel published in 1998 that is so spare and subtle and strange and beautiful I’ve had trouble describing it without getting teary, THE MASTER BUTCHERS SINGING CLUB, which is one of those books that is so perfectly constructed that you don’t even notice the complex, distinctive writing until it knocks you over with its beauty (and then does it again and again), and THROUGH THE WOODS, Emily Carroll’s 2014 graphic novel, which uses that increasingly well-worn trick of re-imagining fairy tales, but in a way that feels entirely sharp and fresh. Distinctive, rich, eerie, and lovely.

Wishing you a New Year full of good stories–both the true and the almost-true kind.

snowy christmas light

Spectacles

All Hallow’s Read Giveaway

October 30, 2014    Tags: , , ,   

I’m overdue for a tour recap, but this is just a mini-post to spread the word that over at my main Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jacqueline-West/112573782122159?ref=bookmarks ) between now and noon on Halloween, you can enter to win one of two signed paperback copies of THE STRANGERS, along with some creepy books of my choice.  Go forth and comment!  Happy All Hallow’s Read!

raven_all_hallows_read_poster_by_blablover5-d7xwiid (Poster via Introverted Wife.)

Spectacles

Now entering the October Country

October 7, 2014    Tags: , , ,   

…one of my favorite places to be.  (And here’s something great to read while you’re there.)

With October in Minnesota comes the Twin Cities Book Festival: a big, free, day-long event at the State Fairgrounds on Saturday, October 11.  All the info you possibly want is here.  The lineup of authors is incredible, and I’m honored to be included.  Here’s what’s going on at Middle Grade HQ:

Capture

I’ll be telling lies (and some truths) with Margi Preus and S.A. Bodeen from 12:00 – 12:45, and you can find me at the signing tables afterward.  Then be sure to head over to the Teen Tent and/or the Children’s Pavilion, where you won’t be able to swing a book bag without hitting an amazing author. (This is not one of my lies.)

Reviews of STILL LIFE are still coming in — including a recent one in Newsday that concludes, “This exciting book will have you on the edge of your seat.”  Nice to hear, and a nice place to hear it from.

Spectacles

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