Bit Flip

This week’s other featured books, “Andrea Hoffman Goes All In,” by Diane Cohen Schneider, ” Bicycles of the Gods,” by Michael Simms and “Tune in Tomorrow,” by Randee Dawn, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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PUBLISHED IN: August 16, 2022

THE AUTHOR: Mike Trigg

THE EDITOR: Developmental editor: Joshua Mohr. Copyeditor: Ryan Quinn.

THE PUBLISHER
: SparkPress, an award-winning independent publisher

SUMMARY: Bit Flip is a fast-paced corporate thriller that offers a satirical critique of Bay Area start-up culture. Lured to Silicon Valley to “make the world a better place” during the dot-com boom, Sam Hughes is a high-flying executive at a venture-backed technology company.  When an onstage meltdown leads to his unexpected firing, Sam plunges into a midlife crisis and begins to see his life in the Bay Area’s tech bubble in a new, cynical light.

Just as he’s wondering if his startup career and marriage might both be over at fortysomething, an inadvertent discovery pulls him back into his former company. Once back, Sam discovers the real machinations of the founder and venture investors that led to his ouster, and wonders if he was brought back only to be the patsy. 

Driven by his desire for redemption, Sam unravels a conspiracy of fraud, blackmail, and manipulation that leads to tragic outcomes—threatening to destroy not only the company but also his own moral compass. Entangled in a web of complicity, Sam is ultimately forced to choose between his family and his dreams of entrepreneurial success.

THE BACK STORY: Like Sam, the protagonist in Bit Flip, I came to Silicon Valley in the late 90s full of conviction about how technology was transforming the world. Over the next 25 years, I was a founder, employee, and executive at over a dozen technology startups of different stages, and I’ve seen just about everything. Frequently, I would share funny, crazy, or just eye-rolling stories with my wife and friends. They would tell me, “you should write a book” so I started capturing fictional versions of these anecdotes. A little over three years ago was when I started writing the novel in earnest. A large part of what motivated me to write Bit Flip was the lack of fiction titles about Silicon Valley. While there are a lot of nonfiction business books, biographies, and memoirs about Silicon Valley, I found relatively few novels. Further, most books and media coverage either celebrates or vilifies the personalities and culture of the tech industry. I wanted to write something that was more nuanced. That was both authentic to technology insiders yet also approachable to anyone. Judging from the reaction to the book so far, I think I hit the mark. Readers seem to really resonate with the satirical critique of Silicon Valley, but also enjoy the pace of a corporate thriller.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title Bit Flip has always held significance for me from the very beginning. A “bit flip” is a technical term when a bit, represented in binary code as a 0 or 1, flips from 0 to 1 or back again. Here the term is used metaphorically to refer to a 180-degree change of heart. This bit flip is exactly what I personally went through when I transitioned from my career in technology to pursue writing full-time, which is why I also use that term as the title of my author’s blog at www.miketrigg.com/blog. But that change of heart is also very much the story of the protagonist Sam, who flips several times over the arc of the story.  

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I think what makes Bit Flip unique is its relatability, particularly for people in the tech industry. It is fast-paced and high-stakes, but doesn’t rely on an overly far-fetched premise like a lot of books in the thriller genre. The escalation of action is unpredictable yet very believable, gradually leading to a really dark place for the characters. For people in the tech industry, it is disconcertingly easy to imagine going down a similar slippery slope. That said, the themes of the story are really universal, not just in the professional realm but as a domestic drama as well. Ultimately, Bit Flip is a story about personal ambition. How far we will go in the name of pursuing it, and what we are willing to sacrifice along the way.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“As much a compelling narrative as it is a critical analysis of contemporary capitalism, this story worries over the coming future, in which technology could take over much of what people used to do. This helps to make Bit Flip an engrossing novel that satirizes the pretensions of tech bros and billionaires.” —Foreword Clarion Reviews, 5/5 stars

“Mike Trigg’s novel Bit Flip is exceptionally well-written, with a satisfying balance of action, intrigue, back story, characterization, and description. He weaves together several compelling story elements, some of them technical in nature, with ease and the manner in which he wraps up the narrative is both concise and provocative.” —IndieReader, 5/5 stars

“In Bit Flip, Trigg aims some wickedly smart satire at the dark beating heart of Silicon Valley, and exposes a lot of moral gray areas along the way. This is the kind of book that’ll make you very afraid—and very angry—about the win-at-all-costs ethos at the core of our self-righteous tech culture.” —Rob Hart, author of The Warehouse and The Paradox Hotel

“Mike Trigg turns Silicon Valley upside down in a bitingly funny, sharply observant tale of dark corporate intrigue lurking beneath dazzling California sunshine. With vivid storytelling and propulsive narrative, Bit Flip grabs you from the first page and keeps you hooked until its unforgettable end.” —Margaret O’Mara, author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America

AUTHOR PROFILE:  I grew up in the Midwest, mostly in Appleton, Wisconsin. My mom is from Minnesota, my dad is from Michigan, and I went to college at Northwestern University in Chicago, so I have deep Midwestern roots, just like the main character in my book. Sam, the protagonist of Bit Flip, is from Ohio and there are several chapters that take place in his hometown. It was important to me in the narrative to show the values, perceptions, and motivations that upbringing instilled on his character. My wife is from the Bay Area, and we both went to UC-Berkeley for graduate school. So that gave us quick roots here, and it has been home ever since. Our two boys were both born here in Menlo Park. One is in high school and the other is in college, coincidentally in Ohio, so the Midwestern connection is coming full circle.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: In Bit Flip, I really wanted to capture the entire spectrum of mixed emotions I have about the tech industry. Like a lot of people, I became increasingly disillusioned about tech’s negative effects, including wealth inequality, gender discrimination, erosion of privacy, political manipulation, and the psychological impacts of tech addiction, just to name a few. For people working in the tech industry, these factors have contributed to what I describe, and have written about, as Silicon Valley’s identity crisis https://www.miketrigg.com/blog/silicon-valleys-identity-crisis. Many in tech pursued this industry to “make the world a better place,” but these negative side effects of Big Tech are increasingly impossible to ignore and conflict with that altruistic goal. Just like Sam, those of us working in the tech industry need to understand how we are complicit in these negative side effects and act with the highest integrity. I hope my book helps shed light on how personal ambitions can have unintended consequences the lead to these larger problems.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: The first chapter is available in Amazon’s Look Inside feature. Link:

https://www.amazon.com/Bit-Flip-Novel-Mike-Trigg/dp/1684631777/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=ur2&tag=storypodca-20&linkId=2P4S6EY6B462X4AR&asin=1684631777&revisionId=&format=4&depth=1


LOCAL OUTLETS
Books Inc https://www.booksinc.net/book/9781684631773

Book Passage https://www.bookpassage.com/book/9781684631773

Kepler’s Books https://www.keplers.com/book/9781684631773

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Bit-Flip-Novel-Mike-Trigg/dp/1684631777

Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bit-flip-mike-trigg/1140789247

Target https://www.target.com/p/bit-flip-by-mike-trigg-paperback/-/A-85611703

Bookshop.org https://bookshop.org/books/bit-flip/9781684631773

Island Books https://www.islandbooks.com/book/9781684631773

Gramercy Books https://www.gramercybooksbexley.com/book/9781684631773

PRICE: $17.95 paperback; $9.99 e-book

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Visit my author’s site at www.miketrigg.com, where you can sign up for my newsletter and email me.

Andrea Hoffman Goes All In

THE BOOK: Andrea Hoffman Goes All In

PUBLISHED IN
: 2022

THE AUTHOR: Diane Cohen Schneider

THE PUBLISHER
: She Writes Press is a hybrid model independent press named the 2019 Independent Publisher of the Year by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group. Working with them has been fabulous– extremely professional and extremely supportive. Brooke Warner is the publisher and Lauren Wise is my project manager.

SUMMARY: Andrea Hoffman is an overeducated, underemployed, and unmotivated recent college graduate—until a harrowing robbery blasts her out of her funk and into a job in the finance world of early-1980s Chicago. At first, it seems like a bad fit. But the world of finance has its own weird charm, and she grows increasingly fascinated by the strange language of trading, the complexity of the stock market, and her colleagues, who navigate it all with ruthless confidence. Even though she has two strikes against her—Jewish and female—Andrea’s quick wit and strong work ethic propel her into an actual sales job and her career takes off. But this is the Wall Street of the eighties, and along with making a lot more money, Andrea adopts a new, fast life of cocktails, cocaine, and casual sex. Drunk on her achievements, she gradually realizes that at some point, she’s going to have to decide what success really means to her.

This is a coming-of-age novel as Andrea learns to move away from her parents’ expectations and establish a life for herself on her terms. It is also very much a workplace novel. In many books, the main characters have a job but the realities of working aren’t explored. The workings of Andrea’s office, the details of her job and the setting of the world of finance take center stage in this novel.  Anyone who has had a love/hate relationship with their work will relate to Andrea’s struggles but also her feeling of connection with her office family and the satisfaction she gets from her success.


THE BACK STORY
: When I was working on Wall Street, I would write down descriptions of the people in a meeting I was attending or a colorful phrase a trader would use.  Years later, when the book and then the movie adaptation of Wolf of Wall Street came out, I realized that I had been there during that time (1980’s)  and as a woman, I had a very different story to tell.  Luckily, I had saved all my old notes but before I could start writing, I had to teach myself how to write a novel!  I started with books from the library and eventually took courses and workshops. At one point I had an agent who “got close” but failed to sell the manuscript.  A few re-writes later, She Writes agreed to publish it. I think the whole process took about a dozen years. If you believe in your story, don’t give up!


WHY THIS TITLE?: I had always thought the title of this novel was The Laws and Effects of Money. It comes from a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that states,  “In its effects and laws, money is as beautiful as roses.” However, nobody ever liked the title. Everyone said it sounded too much like non-fiction. Finally, I conceded and started trying to find a new title that was fun but didn’t sound like porn. Andrea does Wall Street?  Nope. The Money Honey? Eeew.  Then, this popped into my head and frankly, I can’t imagine the book being called anything else.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?
 While a lot of books these days are incredibly brilliant and worthwhile reading, they aren’t exactly fun. My favorite thing to do is make someone laugh and although this book does have some tense, scary and even tragic moments, overall it’s fun and Andrea is funny and someone you can happily root for.  Also, I don’t think the world of finance and investing is well known to many people. Andrea  Hoffman Goes All In is not a textbook but I do think people will enjoy visiting a world they don’t often read about.

REVIEW COMMENTS

“This book is going to take you on a fabulous 80s adventure in the heart of the go-go Wall Street era, when finance was the wild west and the cocaine cowboys were in charge. But wait–what about the women? Andrea Hoffman Goes All In answers that question…(as she) brings us the financial world we never knew, a world she knows well, her own world of money, love, ambition, excess, and success, reimagined. By turns hilarious, poignant, deep, charming, and brutal–and always true–Andrea Hoffman will keep you guessing, and keep you up all night.” —-Bill Roorbach, author of LUCKY TURTLE and LIFE AMONG GIANTS

“Ms. Cohen Schneider evokes both the ebullience and the excess of that era [1980s], all the while charming the reader with her heroine’s trajectory through her twenties. I found myself rooting for her, sympathizing with her, and fondly remembering my own less-than-straight path through life. An engaging coming-of-age story that will appeal to all ages.”      — Deborah Goodrich Royce  Award-winning author of Ruby Falls and Finding Mrs. Ford

“…this tale is ultimately a charming probe into a young woman’s pursuit of what she wants to do and who she wants to be… Schneider has created an endearing, authentic lead.” Kirkus Reviews 

AUTHOR PROFILE:  Diane Cohen Schneider is very proud to have come from Downers Grove, a smallish suburb just outside of Chicago, IL.Even though she lived most of her life in Stamford, CT., she still roots for the Cubs, the Bulls and the Bears.  Diane left Chicago to earn an economics degree at Brandeis University and returned for an M.B.A. at Northwestern’s School of Management. Then she put her schooling to good use working as an Institutional  Equity Salesman. Yes, she’d never heard of that job either until she became one! After leaving Wall Street, she found hadn’t lost her love of money management and continued to teach personal finance wherever they’d let her. Diane says her job during these years, her job was “facilitator” as she facilitated the lives of her husband, three kids, various cats, and the world’s most wonderful yellow lab. It was during this time that she started to study writing and began her novel. She and her husband  recently moved to Santa Fe, NM where there are three hundred days a year of sunshine and a vibrant and supportive writing community.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Everybody is familiar with our legal system and medical system from watching hours of medical and legal dramas on T.V.  The language and practices are second nature to most people. But, there hasn’t been a big hit about working in money management. (Please don’t use The Wolf of Wall Street as an example of what goes on in the investing world!) I wanted my novel, not to be a textbook, but make people slightly more familiar with the world of finance and thus slightly less intimidated by it.  I think people’s financial health is absolutely as important as their physical health and hope this book makes them interested enough to learn more about it.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Please read a sample chapter of my book on my Amazon listing. https://www.amazon.com/Andrea-Hoffman-Goes-All-Novel/dp/1647420997


LOCAL OUTLETS: I hope you shop at your local bookstore but you can also use the links: Andrea Hoffman Goes All in a book by Diane Cohen Schneider (bookshop.org) and Andrea Hoffman Goes All in | IndieBound.org  to support independent booksellers.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and everywhere online books are sold. 


CONTACT THE AUTHORdianecohenschneider.comdianecohenschneider@gmail.com or dianecohenschneiderauthor on Facebook.

Bicycles of the Gods

THE BOOK: Bicycles of the Gods: A Divine Comedy

PUBLISHED: August 16, 2022

THE AUTHOR: Michael Simms

THE EDITOR: Kimberly Davis

THE PUBLISHER: Madville 

SUMMARY: In Bicycles of the Gods, the main character, Jesse, presents an earthly incarnation of Jesus Christ come to earth in the body of a 12-year-old boy in the company of Xavi, who is the earthly incarnation of Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds, also a 12-year-old boy. The pair stand on a hilltop above the city of Los Angeles contemplating how best to destroy it as a precursor to destroying the entire world to rid it of humanity so it can refresh and rebuild. Xavi is ready to get on with the task The Big Guy, God, has assigned them, but Jesse has a problem. He isn’t sure that everyone deserves to be destroyed.

THE BACK STORY: I woke one morning with an image of two boys riding their bicycles up a hill that looks down on a large city. One boy, Xavi, dismounts and strikes a match, but the other boy, Jesse, stops him from setting fire to the dry brush. Right away I knew that these two boys were Shiva and Jesus, and this was the beginning of a story about the apocalypse. Ancient stories of these two gods have always imbued them with human characteristics. The temptations of Christ make sense only if he experienced them as a man, and portraying Jesus as a twelve-year-old Latino in Los Angeles (The City of Angels) shows us how he would react to being an adolescent in America today. Like any 12-year-old, he has Daddy issues, extreme in his case, since his father actually had him die on the cross in his last human life. He’s embarrassed by his mother’s sexuality. He’s devoted to his best friend. He’s baffled and outraged by the flaws of our society, such as racism and classism. Like any adolescent, he has a fragile idealism which is constantly being shattered by the greed, cruelty and dishonesty of adults. Xavi (Shiva), on the other hand is coming into his sexuality, but with the powers of a god he is able to perform sexual deeds far beyond what is normal for a human. A lot of the humor of the novel arises from the tension between who these two characters appear to be and who they actually are.

WHY THIS TITLE:  Both the bicycles that the boys ride, the Merida 96, and the motorcycles the Sisters of the Piston ride, the Harley Fat Boys, are actual models that one can order online — although they’re very expensive. I thought it would be funny to have American ingenuity invent vehicles that even the gods covet.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: I’ve been surprised by the many readers who say they love The Sisters of the Piston, a motorcycle gang known as Nuns with Guns, an order of badass elderly nuns trained as special-op warriors — feminist vigilantes who ride Harleys and save women and children from oppression and violence. Anyone who is Catholic has known nuns who are fierce as hell. When I was active years ago in the sanctuary movement on the Texas border, it was nuns who organized and led us. I’ve been active in grassroots progressive politics for over forty years, and I’ve never known more committed activists than the nuns who smuggled refugees across the border and gave them shelter. The Sisters of the Piston are a composite of the nuns I knew and the historical Knights of the Templar, as well as the Sōhei, the Buddhist warrior monks of feudal Japan.

REVIEW COMMENTS: 

“A playful, provocative, and imaginative discursus, Bicycles of the Gods is an affront to racism, sexism, classism, ageism, and heterosexism as it posits a Divine who will not be captured and used by white supremacists for their own purposes. Michael Simms has created an engaging new world order that functions within our familiar one.” — Rev. Dr. Moni McIntyre, author of Social Ethics and the Return to Cosmology

“Whether Michael Simms is writing a personal essay about growing up with autism or poems about our dying planet, a barfight, or the mystery of a hummingbird’s radiance, he is a master storyteller whose narratives hold memorable moments full of fresh and telling details that unlock the heart. And now, in Bicycles of the Gods he has invented a new genre-apocalyptic satire. The novel is hilarious at times, but make no mistake, Simms is serious as a heart attack in a hurricane. It tells an old story in a completely new way, exploring issues of faith, politics, trauma, imagination, and the triumph of love over tyranny. ” — -Peter Makuck, author of Wins and Losses: Stories.

“Set in today’s digital-age Los Angeles, with a delightful cast of characters, including celestial ones “in disguise to make it easier to move through the world,” you will encounter The Big Guy, Maria, Jesse, Xavi, Luke, and Abe, as well as Christine, Mikey, Patrick, the Six Sisters of the Piston, Father Jack, Stefan the Poet, Birdie, Dharma the Dog, and Caruso the Parrot, all of whom are caught up in the tragic-comic battle between the forces of Good and Evil, Light and Darkness. Michael Simms has given us a frolicking and “novel” approach to the Apocalypse of John that offers a front-row seat to the shenanigans of the times in which we are presently living. Bicycles of the Gods deserves its own Broadway billing as both “Dantean” and “Shakespearean.”—Rev. Dr. Charles Davidson, author of Bone Dead andRising: Vincent van Gogh and the Self Before God 

AUTHOR PROFILE: Michael Simms is the founder of Vox Populi, an online forum for poetry, politics and nature, as well as Autumn House Press, a nonprofit publisher of books. He’s the author of three full-length collections of poetry including American Ash and Nightjar (Ragged Sky, 2020, 2021); the co-editor of a college textbook about poetry; and the lead editor of over 100 published books, including the best-selling Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, now in its third edition. In 2011, the Pennsylvania Legislature awarded Simms a Certificate of Recognition for his contribution to the arts. He is also an environmental activist, having twice addressed the Allegheny County Council on the issue of fracking in public parks.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Once I started telling the story I knew that the reader would be in suspense, wanting to know whether the world actually ends, as Xavi wants, or whether Jesse would find a way to save it. I wasn’t sure how this tension would be resolved until I was almost finished with the first draft. I wanted to let the story tell itself, rather than force a pre-determined resolution. 

The deities of the story, besides Jesse and Xavi, include Mikey, the Archangel Michael who, like Jesse and Xavi, also occupies a twelve-year-old boy’s body; Maria and Jose, Jesse’s mother and stepfather who live in an abandoned mission in the Sonoran desert; and The Big Guy (God) and his brother Luke (Lucifer) who continue to enact their eternal competition to rule the world. 

But the emotional center of the book is the story of the mortal characters. Stefan Józef,, a homeless ex-vet who lives in a cave beside the freeway, writes poems that no one reads except the angels in heaven who put them to celestial music. Jesse takes Stefan under his wing and assures him of the importance of his work. Christina O’Malley is a social worker who falls in love with the young poet and he with her, but they’re aware of the difficulty of their making a life together. And Stefan’s dog Dharma, brave, loyal and loving, proves to the humans that it is possible to live a life of faith and service. Also, there is Reverend Sheffield, a black preacher who leads the migrants across the Otay bridge to freedom; Father Jack, a Catholic priest and friend of Stefan’s; Marta, a veteran who lost a hand in Iraq and is intent on killing the man who beat her mother to death; and Birdie, a day care worker who is known to be the most compassionate person in the world and who may or may not be an agent for God. 

There are also cameos by dozens of celebrities, including Albert Einstein, John Wayne, Abelard and Heloise, Walt Whitman, and Cleopatra. 

The climax of the novel is a huge battle that takes place both on the mortal plane and on the celestial.

LOCAL OUTLETS: White Whale Bookstore, Pittsburgh

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: 

Madville: 

https://madvillepublishing.com/product/bicycles-of-the-gods/Amazon:

PRICE: $19.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Michael Simms

https://www.michaelsimms.info

Tune in Tomorrow

THE BOOK: Tune in Tomorrow: The Curious, Calamitous, Cockamamie Story Of Starr Weatherby And The Greatest Mythic Reality Show Ever,

PUBLISHED IN: 2022

THE AUTHOR: Randee Dawn

THE EDITOR: Michael Rowley, Jim Killen

THE PUBLISHER: Solaris, an imprint of Rebellion Publishing. Rebellion is the leading European games development company, and Rebellion Publishing is the winner of Best Independent Press from the 2020 British Fantasy Awards.

SUMMARY: Starr Weatherby is a struggling actor who just can’t get her big break. She found her spark for acting during an improv class where she had to perform as a singing mango – and ever since then, her mantra for finding strength in adversity has been: Be the mango! Fortunately, she was also discovered during that improv performance – and is now the new hire on a reality TV “docusoap” no one seems to have heard of: Tune in Tomorrow. And there’s a good reason for that – Tune in Tomorrow is a show made by mythical creatures, for mythical creatures – starring humans.

After getting over her initial astonishment at working in a fantasy world, Starr quickly rises to become a fan favorite – but there are serious speedbumps: Fiona, the show’s veteran diva, is having an All About Eve moment and will do anything to ensure Starr doesn’t usurp her position on the show; the “interns” (actually helpful Brownies) are thinking of unionizing; Nico, the show lothario seems to have a dark agenda – and what did happen to Starr’s predecessor Amelia, who vanished one day? No one will explain.

Meanwhile, the show itself is in danger of being canceled – and is already starting to fall apart. How will Starr survive, win an award that will allow her to appear on the show indefinitely – and save Tune in Tomorrow from being axed? She’s gonna have to be a really good mango to make this all work!

THE BACK STORY: I’ve been a writer for a long time, and have novels that got me an agent – but never a publisher. They were still fantasy, and largely based on rock stars and Irish folkore, but they weren’t selling. So my agent – the brilliant Bridget Smith – suggested I try something a little different. That much can be enough to shake loose the cobwebs. Simultaneously, I’d started working with an online text-based “choose your own adventure” style game company called Choice of Games. I came up with the bones of Tune in Tomorrow as a possible game for them. But the coding of it all overwhelmed me, and I took the story and decided to turn it into a novel. After all, it was already outlined! The nature of the story also insisted on it being bigger than life and funny, so that was new to me as well. I never thought I could be intentionally funny, and of course what I think is hilarious not everyone will. Bad straight fiction is just that, bad; bad funny fiction is embarrassing. But based on feedback, I think I might have just written something “funny as hell,” as the delightful author Zin E. Rocklyn calls the book in her blurb.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Tune in Tomorrow is the phrase many old fashioned soap operas, or cliffhangers, used to use when they were on the radio and in the earliest days of TV. We’re so used to binge-watching and

being told a whole story in one go that we forget what it was like to only get one hour, or one half-hour, of TV a week – and have to wait another seven days to continue the story! The show in the book is a soap opera that’s perceived as real-life human behavior by the mythics who watch it, and reality TV is just the latest iteration of soap operas anyway. So it fit perfectly!

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Funny fantasy is a little hard to find. There are great ones like The Princess Bride and anything by Terry Pratchett but Tune in Tomorrow gives the funny fantasy genre a modern upgrade, thanks to the pop culture references and TV setting. Plus, there’s a little bit of everything in there for everyone: a maybe-murder mystery, backstage shenanigans, a love triangle, centaurs playing capture the flag, and even a reference to Che Guevara.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Dawn balances over-the-top drama and comedy with genuine intrigue to create a fun story with plenty of heart. Fans of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett will want to snatch this up.” – Publishers Weekly

“I thought I’d seen everything in the galaxy of reality TV, until Randee’s book!” – Andy Cohen, Host / Executive Producer, Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen and New York Times bestselling author

“Randee Dawn has single-handedly created a glittering new genre: the Backstage Comedy Fantasy Romance — and I want more!” – Ellen Kushner, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Thomas the Rhymer and Swordspoint

AUTHOR PROFILE: Randee Dawn has been writing about the glam world of entertainment by day and fantastical fictional worlds by night for many years. She’s a TV and movie addict with a soft spot for musicians, and is nosy enough to always have tons of questions to ask any creator or star she comes across. During the recent pandemic lockdown her natural baking inclinations turned into full-blown obsession, and she makes regular sourdough bread, mango cakes and ice cream for her party guests.

Her first published book was The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion, co-authored with the late Susan Green. Law & Order is another long-time obsession, and she’s even appeared in one episode. In the courtroom. In the background. As a sketch artist. Next time, her mom has said, “Tell Sam Waterston to move over so we can see you better.” She’s also had short stories published in outlets and anthologies including Dim Shores, Children of a Different Sky, Where We May Wag, Fantasia Divinity and Samhain Secrets. She is the co-editor of Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles.

As for that showbiz stuff, her articles have been published in Variety, the Los Angeles Times, Today.com and Soap Opera Digest, among many others. She resides in Brooklyn, New York surrounded by her brilliant spouse, her fluffy Westie, many books and never enough mangoes.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I’ve been writing stories since I was old enough to make them up about my stuffed animals, and sharing them with friends since middle school. But in a professional context, it took me a very long time to be willing to share my fiction with outsiders. I was very precious about my work and didn’t understand the true value of editing and revising. Tune in Tomorrow is the result of a many, many years-long learning process, during which I discovered a whole community of writers and editors who actually really mean well and want you to succeed – without them, I might still be in my room writing stories for an audience of one. The accomplishment of having a novel out, I know, is as much a combination of talent as it is luck – but what few people understand is just how persistent and bull-headed you have to be to get those words out in the world. On the one hand, anyone can go on Amazon and self-publish anything in a matter of minutes – and that makes it seem deceptively easy. But someone willing to go through the evolution of writing, then writing again, and again (Tune in Tomorrow has no fewer than 11 revisions), then showing it to an editor, beta readers, an agent and then hear that there are more edits from a publishing house that wants to put it into the world – deep breath – well, that is a commitment. It’s also a filtering process: You filter your story until it shines like pure gold, and you – if you’re lucky – come out on the other side with a story you can be proud of. Publishing may be the end goal, but the journey is about so much more than that.

SAMPLE:

WHERE TO BUY IT:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tune-Tomorrow-Randee-Dawn/dp/1786186306/

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tune-in-tomorrow-randee-dawn/1141411341 Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781786186300

Powell’s: https://www.powells.com/book/tune-in-tomorrow-9781786186300

PRICE: $16.99 – $14.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

https://twitter.com/randeedawn https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRandeeDawn https://www.instagram.com/randeedawn/ https://www.tiktok.com/@randee.dawn https://www.bookbub.com/authors/randee-dawn https://randeedawn.com/contact/ https://randeedawn.com/newsletter/

Weather Report, August 15

(Photo from Dreamstime)

Our currently featured books, “East of Troost,” by Ellen Barker, “Sticky Fingers,” by Tom Bentley and “Pharoni,” by Colin Dodds, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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UPCOMING FROM SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, AUGUST 16-22

“BIT FLIP,” BY MIKE TRIGG.

Bit Flip is a fast-paced corporate thriller that offers a satirical critique of Bay Area start-up culture. Lured to Silicon Valley to “make the world a better place” during the dot-com boom, Sam Hughes is a high-flying executive at a venture-backed technology company.  When an onstage meltdown leads to his unexpected firing, Sam plunges into a midlife crisis and begins to see his life in the Bay Area’s tech bubble in a new, cynical light.

“ANDREA HOFFMAN GOES ALL IN,” BY DIANE COHEN SCHNEIDER.

Andrea Hoffman is an overeducated, underemployed, and unmotivated recent college graduate—until a harrowing robbery blasts her out of her funk and into a job in the finance world of early-1980s Chicago. At first, it seems like a bad fit. But the world of finance has its own weird charm, and she grows increasingly fascinated by the strange language of trading, the complexity of the stock market, and her colleagues, who navigate it all with ruthless confidence. Even though she has two strikes against her—Jewish and female—Andrea’s quick wit and strong work ethic propel her into an actual sales job and her career takes off. But this is the Wall Street of the eighties, and along with making a lot more money, Andrea adopts a new, fast life of cocktails, cocaine, and casual sex. Drunk on her achievements, she gradually realizes that at some point, she’s going to have to decide what success really means to her.

“BICYLCLES OF THE GODS,” BY MICHAEL SIMMS.

 In Bicycles of the Gods, the main character, Jesse, presents an earthly incarnation of Jesus Christ come to earth in the body of a 12-year-old boy in the company of Xavi, who is the earthly incarnation of Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds, also a 12-year-old boy. The pair stand on a hilltop above the city of Los Angeles contemplating how best to destroy it as a precursor to destroying the entire world to rid it of humanity so it can refresh and rebuild. Xavi is ready to get on with the task The Big Guy, God, has assigned them, but Jesse has a problem. He isn’t sure that everyone deserves to be destroyed.

“TUNE IN TOMORROW,” BY RANDEE DAWN.

\Starr Weatherby is a struggling actor who just can’t get her big break. She found her spark for acting during an improv class where she had to perform as a singing mango – and ever since then, her mantra for finding strength in adversity has been: Be the mango! Fortunately, she was also discovered during that improv performance – and is now the new hire on a reality TV “docusoap” no one seems to have heard of: Tune in Tomorrow. And there’s a good reason for that – Tune in Tomorrow is a show made by mythical creatures, for mythical creatures – starring humans.

East of Troost

Ellen Barker

This week’s other featured books, “Sticky Fingers,” by Tom Bentley and “Pharoni,” by Colin Dodds, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

THE BOOK: East of Troost.

PUBLISHED IN: 2022

THE AUTHOR: Ellen Barker.

THE EDITOR: Heather at She Writes Press.

THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press, 2019 Independent Publisher of the Year.

SUMMARY: Who would leave Silicon Valley for Kansas City—especially the east side of Kansas City, an area most white locals avoid? Only someone who suddenly can’t afford anything else and who also has a shred of emotional attachment to the neighborhood, just enough to make it seem like home. It’s a struggle: a white woman in her childhood neighborhood, which is now mostly Black. An expressway slices through the area now, bringing noise and separating the residents from the commercial district.

Unknown to her, the neighbors wonder what a white woman is doing here, moving into an abandoned house that wasn’t even for sale, with nothing but what she brought in her car. Then a break-in occurs, not an unusual event in this neighborhood, and barriers are breached. She makes friends with the elderly teacher next door, who is relieved to see her long-vacant house occupied, the grass mown, repairs being made. And there is a mystery about the break-in, which lingers until the end of the story.

Meanwhile, we follow the narrator’s new reality through her eyes: the good, the bad, and the cringe-worthy. We fall in love with her German Shepherd sidekick and worry with her when trouble comes calling. We relive her teen-age years when the neighborhood demographics changed and see what red-lining meant for Black and white families. Finally, we are relieved when the mystery is resolved in a way that no one expected.

THE BACK STORY: At first, I wanted to write a new future for the house I grew up in, which is now abandoned and derelict. The neighborhood is . . . sketchy, but not hopeless. I started on page one, with my fictional narrator walking in the front door. The rest of the story unfolded as I wrote, and of course, the parts where the narrator looks back on her teenage years in that neighborhood are my own personal memories.

WHY THIS TITLE? Troost is a street in Kansas City, Missouri. “East of Troost” was the section where Black people were allowed to live. Oh, and where a new north-south freeway was built, razing thousands of houses. It didn’t work out well for white families who already lived there or for the Black families trying to live ordinary lives there. It’s where I lived during the earliest difficult years. And it’s a thing: People still use the phrase, as in “I don’t go east of Troost.” In July, United KC hosted a “Walk for Unity” to promote racial reconciliation along Troost. Black and white, everyone walking together, meeting and talking.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? East of Troost is a novel wrapped around a memoir. It’s about today, rooted in yesterday. It’s a hopeful story about starting over, where starting over involves a lot of YouTube videos on home repair, with side trips to the police station, the zoo, and the past. It’s also funny, with a heroine you can root for and a dog who is a trusty companion even if he is afraid of stairs.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“The pace was perfect, and there was never a dull moment. The momentum suited the story exceptionally well. Ellen Barker wrote an emotive tale with a fascinating protagonist and a powerful message.” —Readers’ Favorite, 5-star review

“Ellen Barker has written a book that should give women of a certain age and privilege a lot to think about. What happens when you try to go home again, and what can you learn in the process?” —Beth Lisick, author of Edie on the Green Screen and New York Times bestseller Everyone into the Pool

“A quiet, candid recalibration of memories against a changed landscape, Ellen Barker’s East of Troost is a journey both touching and powerful, reminding us how gentle courage and faith in humanity can overcome the fear of what divides.” —Lorraine Devon Wilke, author of The Alchemy of Noise

AUTHOR PROFILE: I grew up in Kansas City, east of Troost. Thanks to a generous scholarship, I earned a BA in Urban Studies at Washington University in Saint Louis, the first college graduate in my family. My high school grounding in 1960s social justice and my college classes in economics, sociology, and urban history kindled a fascination with how American cities work, and don’t. But my voracious reading habit is what led to writing this novel, the sort of fiction I love to read: a compelling storyline shot through with insights beyond my own.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: The policy that split Kansas City along Troost Avenue, and slicing the east side with an expressway, sowed fear and anger and blame. It was systemic and systematic racism, and it generated personal fear and hatred that drove racist behavior for decades. It gutted a long corridor of the city. I wanted to take a look at that, both today, and back in the late 1960s when the worst of it was happening. Because it didn’t just happen in Kansas City. Everyone I talk to says: “yeah, that happened in my hometown too.” It’s part of how we got to where we are today, why we still, fifty years later, need to hold up signs reminding each other, and even ourselves, that Black Lives Matter.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

God, what have I done? I’m standing just outside the front door of the house I had closed on less than an hour ago. This is a moment of truth. As soon as I open the door, I will know if this is a complete disaster or just a potential one. I’ll be able to see half of the house without actually stepping inside, so the first look will tell all. Or enough, anyway.

Okay, open the door. The late-afternoon sun, warm on my back, streams in around me and lights the room. Walls and ceiling are stained from a roof leak, and I can see plaster rubble on the floor. The room smells of damp and cigarette smoke and something else, maybe mice. It does not smell like home.

I back up a step and take a deep breath, trying not to panic, not to second guess what I have just done: bought my childhood home thirty-seven years after moving out to go to college and thirty-four years after my parents sold the house and fled the increasingly dangerous and unfamiliar neighborhood where they had spent their entire married life. I close my eyes, loosen my grip on the doorknob, and step inside. Continue reading the Amazon preview here: https://www.amazon.com/East-Troost-Novel-Ellen-Barker/dp/1647422299/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= LOCAL OUTLETS:

In Kansas City, where the story takes place: Afterword Tavern and Shelves: in store or order online at https://bookshop.org/books/east-of-troost/9781647422295

In Saint Louis, where the author went to college: Subterranean Books: in store or order online at https://store.subbooks.com/search/site/east%20of%20troost (paper or ebook)

In the Bay Area, where the author lives now: Books Inc. (Mountain View store) : in store or order online at https://www.booksinc.net/book/9781647422295 (paperback)

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Indie stores: Check your local bookseller or use Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/east-of-troost/9781647422295

PRICE: Kindle: $9.99, Paperback $17.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: ellen@ellenbarkerauthor.com

Sticky Fingers

THE BOOK: Sticky Fingers, Confessions of a Marginally Repentant Shoplifter

PUBLISHED: July 21, 2022

THE AUTHOR: Tom Bentley.

THE EDITOR:

Jodi Fodor (developmental)

Beth Balmanno (copyediting)

THE PUBLISHER: The Write Word Publishing [self]

SUMMARY: There’s only one thing more excited than a kid in a candy store: a kid in a candy store who can steal as much candy as he needs. The same kid later realizes that budgeting for high school is so restrictive—why not just steal all those shiny little (and big) things that caught his eye? 

Tom Bentley was that kid. He was a dedicated, accomplished shoplifter through his high school years, so much so that he treated it as a business, taking orders for record albums, tape recorders, clothes, liquor and all sorts of glittery little gewgaws from his peer clients, and instructing a small team of fellow five-fingerers in matters of the trade.

During the four-year period between age 15 and 19, Bentley was a lunatic thief, and became more and more brazen: He dribbled basketballs out of stores, marched out holding new briefcases as if he were a businessman, strolled out with completely unrolled sleeping bags—it was quite mad. 

He only stopped—temporarily—after spending a few days in jail for stealing a bottle of Scotch. Budgeting as a high school student can be so restrictive: Bentley felt that stealing all the things he “needed” seemed to be a reasonable answer. Even after graduation.

That was Bentley’s first experience running a business, and it was a successful one—with some unsuccessful consequences. Another detail: he was a Catholic altar boy from a nice, middle-class Southern California family too. That didn’t seem to help with the shoplifting.

Bentley developed some intriguing shoplifting techniques and shares them here. (Caution: don’t try this at home—or in any stores!) Spend some time, from the late 60s to the early 80s, journeying with Tom Bentley as he goes from Southern California to Canada to Las Vegas to Seattle, pilfering all the way.

Sticky Fingers has examples of colorfully bad judgment, the cracking of the social contract, pangs of conscience and humor—it’s lively, surprising and fun. And mostly illegal.

THE BACK STORY: I was a raised in a conventional middle-class family in the suburbs of Southern California, by parents who were kind and attentive. Man, did I get even with them! My motivations to be a thief ranged from seeking thrills, ego pettings from peers, skills development, thumbing my nose at propriety and society, and intrigue at trying every type of liquor retailers could offer. Without paying for it.

It took me years to figure out that what I was doing wasn’t right. This is my account of a sustained period of petty crime, getting away with it, not getting away with it, getting away from my conscience and not getting away from my conscience. The getting in most instances was good at the time.

WHY THIS TITLE: My original title was “Stolen Sugar,” because the original promptings of my pilfering derived from my crazed sugar interests. Not having the money to pay for candy, I stole it. But the cover designer, Linda Secondari at Studiolo Secondari suggested that “Sticky Fingers” was more evocative, and would work all with the cover motif. It took me a while to agree—about five seconds.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It has atmospheric reflections on the 70s and 80s, vivid descriptions of high school pressures and pleasures, near-unbelievable moments of thievery—and it’s funny.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

5.0 out of 5 stars You’ll laugh. You’ll gasp. You’ll gasp louder.

Reviewed in the United States on July 21, 2022

He may have been a teenaged thief, but Tom Bentley’s voice and rich use of language is all his own in this detailed confessional–a reflection of things taken, impressions that stuck, and other events brimming with “intoxication, euphoria, fear, confusion and glory.” I was glued to every page.

5.0 out of 5 stars This book stole hours of my life… and I’m so gladReviewed in the United States on July 24, 2022

There are two things I love: chocolate and a great read. This book has all of that and much more – Tom Bentley does a great job vividly capturing a time and a place (SoCal and other West Coast locales in the 60s and 70s) and sharing hilarious (and sometimes poignant) tales of his misspent youth. He had me rooting for his countless heists, small and large, and praying he wouldn’t get caught. I won’t spoil anything, but suffice to say, what was captured was a moment in time when things were carefree, a bit wild, and a whole lot of fun. Cheers to Bentley and a delicious book that proves that while crime doesn’t pay, it rewards you with a ton of excellent stories well worth sharing.

4.0 out of 5 stars All you wanted to know about shoplifting but were afraid to ask…Reviewed in the United States on July 23, 2022

Verified Purchase

A fun read about a fairly complicated boy growing to adulthood in Southern California suburbia in the 60’s. The book captures that period where the world was a safer place for kids and especially an era where kids were under less supervision and therefore able to make many more mistakes. And Bentley’s recounting of these mistakes is spot on.

5.0 out of 5 stars Way more than the story of a petty thiefReviewed in the United States on July 21, 2022

If you grew up in suburbia in the 60’s and 70’s you will find this book endearingly familiar. You will reflect back at your teenhood friends and recognize them in the band of rogues Mr. Bently so lovingly depicts. You will remember the era of adventure, when all was possible and freedom from authority was the ultimate goal. You may even see a bit of yourself in the mischievous and daring lad, while he pushes the envelop of what the establishment finds acceptable.

4.0 out of 5 stars All you wanted to know about shoplifting but were afraid to ask…

Reviewed in the United States on July 23, 2022

AUTHOR PROFILE: Tom Bentley is a business writer and editor, an essayist, and a fiction writer. He’s had hundreds of freelance pieces published–ranging from first-person essays to travel pieces to more journalistic subjects–in newspapers, magazines, and online.  

He is the author of All Roads Are Circles, a coming-of-age novel, and Flowering, a collection of short stories. His Think Like a Writer: How to Write the Stories You Seespeaks to finding and cultivating your writer’s voice. His novel Aftershock is about three lives tossed asunder by the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. His newest novel, Swirled All the Way to the Shrub, is set in Prohibition-era Boston right at the Great Crash. Mr. Bentley would like you to pour him a Manhattan right at five. You can see his lurid website confessions at tombentley.com

AUTHOR COMMENTS: This isn’t how I’d recommend a teen start their first business, but as circumstance would have it (well, I guess I can’t really blame circumstance) stealing and selling shoplifted goods was my first enterprise. The work made for a bumpy ride, but come along—you will be both horrified and amused.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

LOCAL OUTLETS:

https://books2read.com/u/bz19x9

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:

PRICE:

$2.99 ebook

$14.99 print

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

www.tombentley.com

bentguy@gmail.com

Pharoni

THE BOOK: Pharoni

PUBLISHED IN: September 20, 2022 (preorder now!)

THE AUTHOR: Colin Dodds

THE PUBLISHER: Dodds Amalgamated

SUMMARY: When Harry Injurides returns from the dead, it sends his friends in strange directions – before long, tech empires built on digital pain and reluctant religions lead those friends into a vicious conflict that forever changes what it means to be human.

THE BACK STORY: This is a personal story, the most personal novel that I’ve written in a while. I’m a writer and an artist now in middle age, and so are a lot of my dearest friends. I wanted to write about what’s happened to us. But I also knew that’s not enough. No good story consists of just what happens to the characters.

The resurrection came to me in a dream, and dropped the characters in an untenable situation where they had to become something other than just sadder and older.

I started sketching it in December of ’19, and was writing it as the world shut down in spring of ’20, and finished the first draft a few weeks before my son was born in June of that year.

It’s a book that takes place in the near future. So I was writing at a moving target, as all of us had to continually reconsider the shape of that time to come, as well as the past that would inform it.

WHY THIS TITLE: The title of the book changed a bunch of times from draft to draft. There’s a massive supernova visible in the night sky throughout most of the book, and that was part of the title. But Pharoni was always in the title, somewhere.

Pharoni is the last name of the main character and narrator, Tommy Pharoni, who attains the respectability to be called Thomas Pharoni for a short turn in the book.

The word “pharoni” is the Italian plural of pharaoh. And the contradiction of that intrigued me. A pharoah is the tippy top of the organization, and the book is about ambitions – artistic ambitions, worldly ambitions, spiritual ambitions, frustrated ambitions, ambitions quietly pursued through decades, and ambitions and ambitions too profound to even mention until they’re achieved.

At the same time, you really can’t have multiple pharaohs for very long, without major problems arising for everyone involved, which is what happens in the book.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Someone could want to read it because they have their own ambitions and want to see what might happen to them. Or maybe they don’t have ambitions and want to revel in what happens to ambitious people.

Maybe they want to hear about how hard it is to translate a person into an idea. Or maybe they want to know what brings the CEO of a bank to a homeless encampment in the wee small hours in the morning. Or maybe they want to know what could make all the computers become so sad.

Lots of reasons.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Completely fresh and utterly surprising, Pharoni is an off-the-wall novel that will keep you scratching your head until the last unpredictable scene.” – Indies Today (5/5 Stars)

“(T)he storyline itself is ingeniously mysterious… miraculous spectacles in quick succession… sharply limns… the spirit of New York… provocatively mocking the ambition of artists…” – Kirkus Reviews

“Filled with fascinating ideas… technology transmitting pain… that a modern-day religion would be subsumed into corporate ‘wellness’… he writes about them with zest.” – Indie Reader

“A mercurial story that takes many satisfyingly surprising twists and turns… religious, social, psychological, and criminal processes come to life… intrigue and wry humor… a strange journey, indeed.” – Midwest Book Review

“Pharoni, with its philosophical and social commentary, shows the face of the world that we often ignore… captures readerly attention until the very end” – Independent Book Review

AUTHOR PROFILE: Colin Dodds has written several books, including Ms. Never and Windfall. He grew up in Massachusetts and lived in California briefly, before finishing his education in New York City. Since then, he’s made his living as a journalist, editor, copywriter and video producer. His work has appeared in Gothamist, The Washington Post and more than three hundred other publications, and been praised by luminaries such as David Berman and Norman Mailer. Colin’s poetry collection Spokes of an Uneven Wheel was published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company in 2018. His short films have been selected by festivals around the world and he once built a twelve-foot-high pyramid out of PVC pipe, plywood and zip ties. Forget This Good Thing I Just Said, a first-of-its-kind literary and philosophical experience (the book form of which was named a finalist for the Big Other Book Prize for Nonfiction) is now available as an app for the iPhone. He lives in New York City, with his wife and children. See more of his work at thecolindodds.com.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: This is a good book. It has some stuff in it you won’t find anywhere else.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: You can get the first bit here.

LOCAL OUTLETS: https://bookshop.org/books/pharoni/9780578287669

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/presale/1147081 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B191YGG5?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420 https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pharoni-colin-dodds/1141467331 https://books.apple.com/ca/audiobook/pharoni/id1625288007 https://www.indiebound.org/book/9798822604360 https://thecolindodds.com/2022/05/20/pharoni-a-new-novel-coming-in-september/

PRICE: $9.99-$25, depending on the format and the seller

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Email List Signup: https://thecolindodds.us15.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=5e0bcd443e9884cc888c39ddf&id=17f35e4d74

Email: talkto@thecolindodds.com

Weather Report, August 8

(Photo from the Kansas City Star)

Our currently featured books, “The Fun Master,” by Jeff Seitzer, “Finding Grace,” by Maren Cooper and “Indiana Nocturnes,” by Curtis L. Crider and Kevin McKelvey, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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“EAST OF TROOST,” BY ELLEN BARKER.

Who would leave Silicon Valley for Kansas City—especially the east side of Kansas City, an area most white locals avoid? Only someone who suddenly can’t afford anything else and who also has a shred of emotional attachment to the neighborhood, just enough to make it seem like home. It’s a struggle: a white woman in her childhood neighborhood, which is now mostly Black. An expressway slices through the area now, bringing noise and separating the residents from the commercial district.

Unknown to her, the neighbors wonder what a white woman is doing here, moving into an abandoned house that wasn’t even for sale, with nothing but what she brought in her car. Then a break-in occurs, not an unusual event in this neighborhood, and barriers are breached. She makes friends with the elderly teacher next door, who is relieved to see her long-vacant house occupied, the grass mown, repairs being made. And there is a mystery about the break-in, which lingers until the end of the story.

“STICKY FINGERS,” BY TOM BENTLEY.

There’s only one thing more excited than a kid in a candy store: a kid in a candy store who can steal as much candy as he needs. The same kid later realizes that budgeting for high school is so restrictive—why not just steal all those shiny little (and big) things that caught his eye? 

Tom Bentley was that kid. He was a dedicated, accomplished shoplifter through his high school years, so much so that he treated it as a business, taking orders for record albums, tape recorders, clothes, liquor and all sorts of glittery little gewgaws from his peer clients, and instructing a small team of fellow five-fingerers in matters of the trade.

“PHARONI,” BY COLIN DODDS.

When Harry Injurides returns from the dead, it sends his friends in strange directions – before long, tech empires built on digital pain and reluctant religions lead those friends into a vicious conflict that forever changes what it means to be human.

Writes one reviewer: “Completely fresh and utterly surprising, Pharoni is an off-the-wall novel that will keep you scratching your head until the last unpredictable scene.”

The Fun Master

This week’s other featured books, “Finding Grace,” by Maren Cooper and “Indiana Nocturnes,” by Curtis L Crider and Kevin McKelvey, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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THE BOOK: The Fun Master

PUBLISHED IN
: 2022

THE AUTHOR: Jeff Seitzer

THE EDITOR
: Brooke Warner

THE PUBLISHER: SparkPress

SUMMARY: A self-involved academic struggling to cope with his own neurological problems, Jeff could hardly take care of himself, let alone a child with special needs, when his son, Ethan, was born. But despite multiple surgeries, hospitalizations, serious breathing and swallowing problems, hearing loss, and a challenging social environment in his first months of life, Ethan thrived—all the while teaching Jeff to take things as they came. And eight years later, the arrival of adopted baby sister Penelope took Jeff’s on-the-job training to a whole new level.

THE BACK STORY: While my wife Janet was pregnant with our first child Ethan, I didn’t expect to be much involved in childcare. A self-involved academic with neurological problems, I was too busy with self-care to care for another person. Then, Ethan was born with several life-threatening conditions, forcing him to undergo two emergency surgeries as a newborn. After sharing a special moment with him before the first surgery, I decided to become his full-time caregiver. 

I was in way over my head. Most anyone might have been given Ethan’s all-encompassing medical care. “There are no standard operating procedures” for Ethan’s health challenges, in the words of my mother-in-law Aleta, who also suggested I keep a journal and publish some of the stories I shared with her about being a stay-at-home dad. 

I decided against publishing anything, because our son Ethan didn’t like being the center of attention. As he put it, “some people need to be the main character. But I don’t.” 

I continued to keep a journal, however, in order to remember the love we shared and fun we had together. Then, the unimaginable happened: Ethan drowned on a family-vacation two weeks shy of his tenth birthday. I almost drowned too. Underwater for several minutes, I was pulled to shore with my hands and feet blue from oxygen deprivation. While we were sinking together, my last thought before blacking out was I will not be able to tell his story. I believe that I survived in order to write this book. 

The Fun Master was inspired by Ethan and other children I encountered at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital, who had no time for self-pity, anger, or exclusiveness. Girls with zipper scars on shaved heads giggling while sharing secrets on a hospital elevator; a boy using what little energy he had to play before a cardiology appointment; a toddler, hooked up to mobile monitors, beaming and kicking her legs with excitement while being wheeled down a hallway. If they can manage the business of being kids under such difficult conditions, I decided I should try to do a better job of being an adult. The Fun Master, publishing on August 16th, 2022, the twelfth anniversary of Ethan’s death, recounts my extended on the job training for better adulthood. 

WHY THIS TITLE?: Ethan’s friends called him The Fun Master. Sometimes he had a great play idea; other times he made everyone laugh; still others he added his positive energy and enthusiasm to whatever people were already doing. His instinct was to try to make each moment a positive experience. And he usually succeeded; people always felt better after spending time with him. In an ever more tense and troubled world, we need more fun masters. 

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The Fun Master deals honestly with suffering and loss. It is at times touching and even sad, and yet it is also wryly funny and entertaining. Using irony and self-deprecating humor to portray my parenting struggles lends the work a playful tone and makes evident that humility powered my journey of self-transformation. 

The Fun Master will interest readers of parenting memoirs and people affected by the many conditions treated in the book, such as Charcot Marie Tooth Disease (CMT), pediatric heart conditions, swallowing and breathing problems associated with Tracheoesophageal Fistula and Esophageal Atresia (TEF-EA), ADHD, anxiety, and hearing loss. It will also be of special interest to women who value empathy in men and men interested in changing understandings of masculinity.


REVIEW COMMENTS

“About coping, self-sacrifice, and loss, The Fun Master is a moving memoir by a father who was transformed by his love for his child” Foreword Clarion Reviews

“In this poignant memoir, Seitzer takes us inside the grueling day-to-day of parents turned inside out by the arrival of a child with intense medical needs, while reminding us that even in the most challenging times the joy and humor that children bring always shines through. And the love. The big, life-changing love.” —Nicola Kraus, co-author of The Nanny Diaries

“‘The Fun Master’ brings us face to face with the daily life of parenting a special needs child. Through inspirational writing, you will be taken to the most creative places in your mind and soul following this dad’s transformation through the complex role of fathering. An extraordinary, heartfelt story of loving and letting go.” —Anna Penenberg, author of Dancing in the Narrows

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jeff Seitzer was an expert on the care of the self, himself in particular, before he unexpectedly became a stay-at-home dad. Accounts of his on-the-job training as a full-time parent have appeared in the Omaha World-Herald, Hippocampus, Brevity, Adoptive Families Magazine, and elsewhere. An award-winning teacher, he is also the author of a number of books and articles on law and philosophy and a regular contributor to the CMTA Report. Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, he now lives with his family in Chicago, where he teaches at Roosevelt University. To learn more about Jeff’s life and work, visit: https://jeffreyseitzer.com/

AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 The Fun Master is an ode to the wisdom of children, particularly those with special needs, whose persistent joyfulness under the most trying circumstances taught me how to live anxiety-free. The narrative touches on major issues like parenting roles, gender relations, and attitudes toward disability. However, I do not comment on these and other issues from my current vantage point, nor do I draw from recent research to explore them. Rather, the narrative recounts vividly my immediate reactions to events as they unfolded. The aim is to keep the reader’s attention focused on the positive impact kids had on my development as an adult with special needs. 

SAMPLE: Please refer to the Amazon page: The Fun Master: A Memoir: Seitzer, Jeff: 9781684631490: Amazon.com: Books

LOCAL OUTLETS
Bookshop.org: The Fun Master: A Memoir a book by Jeff Seitzer
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781684631490

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:
Amazon: The Fun Master: A Memoir: Seitzer, Jeff: 9781684631490: Amazon.com: Books
Barnes & Noble: The Fun Master: A Memoir by Jeff Seitzer, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
Target: The Fun Master – By Jeff Seitzer (paperback) : Target

PRICE: $16.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Please feel free to email me at jeff.seitzer5120@gmail.com. I am also on Facebook (@cornhuskerinexile) and Twitter (@urbancornhusker). More information about me and my work, including excerpts from the memoir, are all available on my website, www.jeffreyseitzer.com, where you can also sign up for my newsletter.