In order to push the boundaries of my own reading habits – I think like many folx I can get stuck in ruts – I joined two online/virtual book clubs during covid. I have found them an excellent way to encounter genres and writers I might not otherwise take a chance on.
Lawson’s book deals deftly with a topic that is hard to find the humor in – depression. Yet she keeps us laughing. . . when we’re not crying.
Groff’s book is of a very different nature: historical fiction set in a nunnery in the dark ages. An example of the range that book clubs can bring into one’s life.
Another set of different sort of books. The maid, while a murder mystery, tends to be a lighter read. The Survivors, a much darker suspense.
Book clubs can be an interesting way to stretch your reading in new directions. And many make their reading list public, so you don’t have to join the club to benefit from the ideas for new titles.
Today, a new addition that pays tribute to and builds on the Lovecraftian universe, written by husband and wife team Jim and Cassey Rudkin.
But first, a brief explanation for those who are not up to date on their H.P. Lovecraft. Cthulhu was introduced in 1928 with The Call of Cthulhu. A supernatural being, Cthulhu has a head like an octopus with multiple tentacles around his mouth; his figure is somewhat human, but he has significant claws for hands and feet, and a basic set of wings.
Their writing backgrounds include not just fantasy and romance, but also horror, and technical communication (not always the same – horror and tech comm – just sometimes an overlap.) They have an insightful interview with the Great Lakes Horror Writers Association from the Summer of 2021: http://glahw.com/friends-of-glahw-jc-rudkin/
Current projects include both a sequel to Cthulhu and a horror story. Updates will be featured here when available.
I personally will be following JC Rudkin’s writing and look forward to more from this dynamic writing duo; I’ve ordered a paperback to go with my e-book of Cthulhu, because I needed something for them to sign.
Being a writer is like so many things, both complicated and simple. First the simple – writers write. The biggest difference between a ‘real’ writer and everyone else is that others may want to write, but they don’t actually write. It isn’t enough to want, one must do. Just as one cannot be a lumberjack if they do not cut down trees, or a rancher if they never own cattle, one cannot be a writer without writing.
More complicated though, is first – who gets an opportunity to write? Who has access to the mentors, time, access to agents and publishers? Many of us who write have to do so alongside working jobs that pay the bills, many are also raising children and/or caring for other vulnerable family members. Writers have many obstacles between themselves and finding readers. Writing is in many ways the simple part, everything that comes afterwards is much harder.
When one doesn’t see published writers who seem similar to one’s self, it is easy to believe that publishing is a dream beyond reach. Or if one does not see other writers acknowledging the struggles one faces one’s self, then one may not believe that others would be interested in the kind of stories one has to tell. Or one may believe they do not belong.
As a writer who has several identities that are typically marginilized, I like to spend at least part of my time and money supporting other marginilized writers – or writers who started from a marginilzed position and have worked so hard they have become successful (by publishing standards at least. Personal life is just that – personal. We don’t necessarily know the struggles a writer continues to face.)
If you don’t know Roxane Gay, then you need to. She will be remembered as one of the significant literary figures of our time. And she’s just a very good writer.
Next to writing the most important thing a writer can do is read. Personally I think it helps to read good writing by great writers, which is another reason I recommend Dr. Gay’s work. She is both a writer of color and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, so she will either expose you to viewpoints you may not otherwise encounter, or share viewpoints that you already share.
I am among the many writers who live with mental health challenges; our community has a powerful advocate who informs and entertains with her humor. Jenny Lawson is also the owner of a thriving independent bookstore in San Antonio, Texas. (The staff is very responsive to online orders, of which I have made a number.)
Of course there are many more writers who write from positions in marginlized communities. Some have had the opportunity to become known, others are still trying to breakthrough. What I would like to see is the sharing of names and book titles so that we can help build each other up.
If you are a writer who is part of a marginilzed community, please say hello, so we can begin to recognize your name. If you have a book out, please share the title. And if there is a writer you particularly enjoying or that you’ve recently discovered, please share their name/book here in the comments. The more recognition we give each other, the more likely we are to connect with new readers.
Background: In third grade I started writing mystery stories with my friends as characters. At that point I can say I was writing specifically to entertain people.
In sixth grade I had the best teacher of all time, who not only laughed at my stories but encouraged me to write more. In seventh grade my English teacher told me “If you miss being a journalist, you’ve missed your calling.” (I’m not a journalist, but I’ve always broadly interpreted her statement to mean “being a writer.”) In high school I realized that this was what I wanted to do with my life.
Thanks to some discouraging words (“You can’t make a living writing”) and a nagging fear that maybe I wasn’t that good, I lost sight of this dream for a while and didn’t re-commit to writing till sometime in my late 20s.
Writing Highlight: I think I’m pretty good at capturing moments in time, writing realistic dialogue, using natural (not forced) humor, and getting my themes across without beating the reader over the head with them. I strive for smooth narratives that won’t trip the reader up.
Next Project: In early 2021 I plan to release a novel that I consider the funniest thing I’ve ever written. It’s a satire of professional sports called Fluffball! Or, How Five Really Tall Guys and an Immortal Chinese Philosopher Opened the Door to a Parallel Universe and Saved Professional Nerf Basketball, More or Less.
After that release will be a novel much more grounded in reality called Kerouac’s Ghost.
Death, including murder, are part of western life. Especially in 1850 Wyoming territory. That doesn’t mean you have to take the loss of a friend lying down.
Annie and Luke Hunter along with their foster brother Joseph Peopeo, raise Appaloosa horses and cattle east of the Laramie Mountains. Annie’s beau, Adam, is coming home from the California gold fields to help run the ranch but the stagecoach he’s on is attacked, and Adam is shot.
Family is the bedrock of their life and soon Annie, Luke, and Joseph are trying to uncover who targeted Adam.
Was one of the other two men on the stagecoach part of the gang: Mr. Garrett the photo maker, or Henry Little Light who says he’s seeking work? Does the new woman at the saloon, May, know more than she’s saying?
Where are the shooters hiding now?
While Annie runs the ranch with the help of teen sister and brother Janie and Gerry Moran, Luke and Joseph follow the tracks through the prairie and foothills only to find themselves led back to their own ranch. But will they arrive in time to help Annie?
A few Reviews:
L’Amour Fans Will Enjoy Oslund’s Western Reviewed in the United States on July 6, 2019 Verified Purchase This story of good guys in pursuit of a murderer lopes along the rolling plains and rivers around Laramie with charm, warmth, and gunplay. Oslund shows a firm command of the genre, and readers who like westerns will enjoy this one.
Wonderfully written historical western mystery novel Reviewed in the United States on October 15, 2016 Verified Purchase Wonderfully written historical western mystery novel! Not your typical western, the characters in this book have depth and are very relatable. I love the fact that the author included so many diverse characters and tackled some of the social issues of the time. Refreshing to see strong female leads and males with a conscious. If you’re looking for an escape from your reality, this book is easy to get lost in. A must read!
A winter storm blows a new stranger onto the Hunters’ ranch. He claims to have bought-out the Hunters’ long time friend, Mr. McLennan, but the old trapper never mentioned moving. When Luke and Joseph ride out to McLennan’s cabin, a grave isn’t the only surprise waiting for them.
While the men are gone, Annie and her new helper Emma face their greatest challenge yet. The stranger steals a horse and kidnaps Emma, leading Henry on a desperate chase. Annie guards their home while minding her new baby and the teen brother and sister, Gerry and Janie Moran.
All this turmoil leads to one more first: a trial in Fort Laramie. Who will be called to give testimony and what will the outcome be?
The trial isn’t the only concern for the family, as Luke’s head seems to be turned from Doc’s daughter Caroline to Miss Hanson, the clerk at the Fort Laramie trading post. Will spring see a new house being built on the Hunter ranch?
A wedding, a trial, and an unexpected addition to the ranch are all possible before the winter is over!
Background: I have always loved stories and wanted to be a writer from an early age. In college I was an English major, but after I graduated, I had no ideas and didn’t write much of anything until the “chaos years” when my kids were small. Once I had kids it seemed like a good idea to just start writing. A fateful dream with two wizards and three plot twists sent me into the fantasy genre.
Writing Highlight: my first published novel, The Gospel According to St. Rage, is a book about a girl who starts a garage band and gains superpowers; that book actually got me writing songs! I’ve always sung but I’d never had much success with songwriting. Writing this book I discovered that if I wrote songs from the point of view of my protagonist, I was more successful.
Next Project: I am pegging away at the third Daughter of Magic book in my fantasy trilogy. The first two are Daughter of Magic and Wizard Girl.
A note about Karen is that she has contributed to a number of anthologies; in fact it was the Paws and Claws anthology from Cake & Quill which first caught my eye. This is one of nine (and counting) anthologies that Karen has contributed to!
Proceeds from Paws and Claws go to Bob’s House for Dogs, which offers hospice care for elderly dogs.
Note Karen is featured as the writer on the top margin, left, on the cover of Strongly Worded Women.
Genre: Speculative/Science Fiction (and one horror story).
Background: I’ve been interested in writing since I was in elementary school. I remember writing a terrible romance story, and my mom finding it. I was mortified. I didn’t write again until I was a teenager.
I then wrote on and off until I hit my early twenties. I sent one story into Aboriginal Science Fiction magazine. I got a personal rejection, which I was pretty proud of. Unfortunately, it got lost in time. I stopped writing for a while, dealing with real-life and all that crap, but started again in my 40’s. I wrote a novel I wasn’t happy with, then started writing short stories.
Writing Highlight: I’m good at writing morally ambiguous characters. I also live with a science consultant who has been known to point out when my science makes no sense. Usually, I listen. Sometimes, I go with bad science and call it Science Fantasy.
I used to think I was unique in my flagrant use of curse words, but apparently, there are others of my ilk. I was very proud of my last two novels until I realized how typo-ridden they were. I liked the short story I published in LampLight, “Atmospheric Pressure”. It’s creepy and dark. It didn’t hurt that they edited it well. My short in The Weird and Whatnot, “Dance, Monkey, Dance!” is another of my favorites. It is especially better after they illustrated it and formatted it very fancily.
Next Project: My next story, “Better SAF Than Sorry,” is due out in the anthology Imps and Minions at the end of August. I’ve been writing shorts that tie-in to that story and may eventually create a collection of them in the future. While I see my greatest strength in shorts, I am working on a hard corp Science Fiction novel that I’m about a third of the way into.
A note about Margret is that she has a wonderful sense of humor, which I appreciate. Under the “don’t ask” column she confessed she once wrote a ‘cell phone porn’. Since I can’t ask, we’ll let it go at that, but clearly this is a writer who is willing to explore the corners of Speculative Fiction!
Short fiction is an art form that isn’t always popular with writers; I was very excited to discover a writer who is using the format so successfully. For readers, anthologies allow the satisfaction of a complete story in a short period of reading time, as well as the variety of sampling multiple writers in one publication. If you aren’t reading anthologies, you should be!
Background: My grandmother read to me from an early age, so I was in love with clever words from the beginning of my life. As a preteen I wrote plays and poems and won my first writing prize for creating lyrics to a school fight song at age 13. In my young adulthood I wrote screenplays and after that, I wrote short documentaries for non-profit organizations.
One day I pulled out a favorite movie script that hadn’t sold and decided to see if I could use it as an outline for a novel. Within a year I had published my first three novels and was working on the fourth. Nobody has been as surprised as I have, to see how well received my books have been.
Writing Highlight: For decades I’ve been working to produce high quality entertainment with the kind of wholesome worldview my peers and I enjoy. I know the real world contains profane words and sordid events sometimes, but neither I nor my friends and family live in that atmosphere, therefore, we don’t find those things entertaining.
I’m driven to give audiences and readers as much joy as I can pack into every page. Life is hard. What we all need is more good, clean, fun. Writing for stage and screen taught me a lot about dialogue. Here is a link where people can listen to a half-minute of dialogue from the audiobook version of Duby’s Doctor: https://youtu.be/5DajIrIBXO8
Next Project: I’m nearly finished with the long-awaited, much-requested sequel to my first book, Finding Miranda. All the quirky denizens of Minokee, Florida will be back and in rare form in The Mammoth Murders: The Minokee Mysteries, Book Two. The first book has won awards and fans; I’m embarrassed it has taken so long to answer fan requests for a second book.
A note about Iris is that I chuckled when I read that while she doesn’t ‘mind’ cat and dog people, she’s a rabbit and horse person herself. As a current rabbit owner and former horse person myself, this spoke to me. Rabbit-loving-readers unite!
Genre: Mystery (Friendship Can Be Murder series), Romantic Historical Mystery (Dottie Manderson series).
Background: I wrote my first novel Ghosts! Ghosts! Ghosts! in 1970 and unfortunately it is now lost because my mum kept it in a drawer with my drawings, a knitted bookmark and a tea-cozy I made. I started reading adventures at age seven or eight and was reading Agatha Christie by age nine. [Eventually] I remember sitting on my bed in Aldershot, Hampshire, UK, and thinking, I want to write a new story, but what shall I write about? Then I thought, what is it I am afraid of?
Writing Highlight: I had to overcome [close] people telling me that a) I was no good as a writer, b) it was wicked thing to want to write fiction, and c) who did I think I was anyway, thinking I could be a writer? So I destroyed a large amount of my writing, which I now regret.
I have spent years working on books: the first draft of Easy Living was written in 1997 and I was finally ready to share it with the world in March 2019. In my historical mysteries, I am trying to give the reader a fairly authentic yet accessible experience (books written in the 1930s are ‘wordy’ and formal for modern readers.) While I modernize compared to the way things would have been written, I keep manners and lifestyle quite close to how they would really have been.
I also like to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to write.
Next Project: I am currently working on book five of the Dottie Manderson series; it will probably be out in the beginning of September. I have loosely planned at least five more books in that series.
I’m also working on another stand-alone book, set in the mid-1940s, right after the war, (yes, a mystery.) On top of those, next year I plan to embark on another series called the Runaway Writer.
A note about Caron is that not only has she overcome the disparaging remarks of previous critics of writers and her writing, she has a wicked-good sense of humor. I knew she and I would hit it off when I read that when she “isn’t plotting how to kill people” she spends time in the local shops looking for everyday items that have “lethal potential.”
Now that’s my kind of shopping and my kind of creative writer.