Obama Conspiracies… and a free book

In an era where the outlandish and fantastic has permeated our media 24/7, where mind-bending conspiracy theories shape our views, THE OBAMA INHERITANCE writers riff on the numerous fictions spun about the 44th president… [C]ontributors spin deliberately outlandish and fantastic twists on many of the dozens of screwball, bizarro conspiracy theories floated about the president during his years in office and turn them on their heads. — Maureen Corrigan, NPR

9781941110591_cvr-189It’s release day for a new short story anthology edited by one of our own — Gary Phillips — who conceived of this wild gathering of tales based on conspiracy theories that were floated about Barack Obama, our 44th President. It’s had a nice reception so far, including this week’s review on National Public Radio. Maureen Corrigan highlighted the first story in the collection by our own Kate Flora, calling it a “truly fabulous story” and reading a sampling of it. (We are all thrilled!) Corrigan’s take on the anthology? She calls it  “15 stories so sly, fresh, and Bizarro World witty, they reaffirm the resiliency of the artistic imagination.”

You can read her full review HERE

Also in the anthology are mystery great Walter Mosley, our own Lise McClendon, and a diverse group of writers including Danny Gardner, Christopher Chambers, and, well, here are all the stories:

Michelle in Hot Water by Kate Flora
. . . The Continuing Mission by Adam Lance Garcia
True Skin by Eric Beetner
Evens by Nisi Shawl
A Different Frame of Reference by Walter Mosley
Brother’s Keeper by Danny Gardner
Forked Tongue by Lise McClendon
Sunburnt Country by Andrew Nette
I Know They’re in There! by Travis Richardson
The Psalm of Bo by Christopher Chambers
At the Conglomeroid Cocktail Party by Robert Silverberg
Deep State by Désirée Zamorano
I Will Haunt You by Anthony Neil Smith
Give Me Your Free, Your Brave, Your Proud Masses Yearning to Conquer by L. Scott Jose
Thus Strikes the Black Pimpernel by Gary Phillips

Other reviewers say…

“Pulp fiction for the post-Obama era . . . Readers who enjoy political satire in its many varied forms will certainly enjoy this collection.” —Booklist

“The stories are adrift with white supremacists, secret locations, strange conflicts, and subtle aliens. . . . Truly excellent.” —Publishers Weekly

“A mashup of genre fiction . . . imagines the consequences of white supremacist politics on American society.” —Kirkus Reviews

Already a bestseller on Amazon! Check it out HERE. On Barnes & Noble & iTunes!

Support your local independent bookstore by buying it there!

One last thing! The darkly comic serial killer tale, written by five of us from this group, is FREE this week. Its tone works well with the Obama Inheritance – get them both!

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Beat Slay Love: One Chef’s Hunger for Delicious Revenge

Thalia Filbert is a pseudonym for Taffy Cannon, Kate Flora, Lise McClendon, Katy Munger, and Gary Phillips.

FREE ON AMAZON for a limited time.

This incredibly sly mystery has everything you’d want when you bite into a dish: suspense, spice, and a new take on an old classic…  Beat Slay Love is the perfect read.” — Bestselling author Charlaine Harris

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Books, workshops, and more stories

A round-up of author/member activities

Kate Flora reports that her new book (a co-written project) is now out in Good Man with a Dog Cover-2the world: A Good Man with a Dog: A Game Warden’s 25 Years in the Maine Woods by Roger Guay with Kate Clark Flora. Skyhorse Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-5107-0480-0

She also has a short story, Anonymous, in the Malice Domestic collection, Murder Most Conventional.

 

 

44FunkBBGary Phillips has several short stories coming out over the summer and into the fall including his second Decimator Smith story in Black Pulp II (an anthology he co-edited); his first Sherlock Holmes story in Echoes of Sherlock Holmes, edited by Holmesophiles Laurie King and Les Klinger; a car and crime tale in The Highway Kind from Mulholland Books; with the peripatetic Robert Randisi, has his third Silencer (a character who is a homage to 1970s paperback vigilantes) outing in 44 Caliber Funk; and a tale in the Bronze Buckaroo collection that revives the black cowboy character popularized in several 1930s films played by singer-actor Herb Jeffries — who wasn’t any parts black but that’s a story for another time!

Katy Munger is busy conducting a number of special events, workshops, readings, and appearances as part of being named North Carolina’s Piedmont Laureate for 2016. To read her blog and obtain the latest information on upcoming events as well as how to register for them, please visit the Piedmont Laureate website

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Taffy Cannon is pleased to announced that her nonfiction guide, SibCare: The Trip You Never Planned to Take will be published shortly. This guidebook for people dealing with sibling illness or disability can be previewed at SibCare.org.

 

 

The Bluejay Shaman new coverLise McClendon is finishing editing her next Bennett Sisters novel to be released in August. In the meantime she’s serializing her first mystery, The Bluejay Shaman, on Wattpad, as part of the Smashwords/Wattpad Mystery/Thriller promotion. This novel debuts Jackson Hole art dealer, Alix Thorssen, working in western Montana to clear her brother-in-law, an anthropology professor at the University of Montana, of murder of a New Age seeker. Check it out on Wattpad — it’s free!  In preparation for the new novel subscribers to her newsletter will receive a free e-book copy of Blackbird Fly, the first Bennett Sisters novel. Sign up here.

Lise will again be leading a day-long novel workshop with Deborah Turrell Atkinson at the Jackson Hole Writers Conference on June 22. Details here.

BSL AUDIO CoverThe five Thalia Authors Co-op authors who wrote a novel together as Thalia Filbert— Kate, Katy, Taffy, Gary, and Lise– would like to thank readers who have generously offered their reviews and comments on this unique project. Beat Slay Love: One Chef’s Hunger for Delicious Revenge is still free for Kindle Unlimited readers and as an audiobook for new Audible subscribers. We’d love to hear what you think of it! Write a short review like Martha did:

Tasty novel
By Martha Mon May 5, 2016
As one who has followed cooking shows and loves mysteries, this gave me a wonderful taste of both. There were absolute laugh out loud moments that had my tears flowing! Thank you. Please write another.

 

What makes for a good villain?

hannibal-lecterA good villain is essential to my genre (mystery or crime fiction). In fact, a good enough villain can make a writer’s career—just ask Thomas Harris about Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. But as memorable as Hannibal was, to me the most effective villains are neither obvious nor completely irredeemable. Their evil takes on a far more subtle form. They look and act just like you or me, or they evoke feelings of sympathy—forcing us to look at the world in a more nuanced way than we are allowed to otherwise. Maybe that is why I prefer the villain in Harris’s second book, Red Dragon. He embodied one of the most intriguing kinds of villains: one that is absolutely and completely lethal, yet one you cannot help but feel sorry for.

Unfortunately, such villains are endangered species in our current cultural climate, whether fictional or real. We live in a very polarized world and people are defensive about their worldviews. So many people today cling to the notion that their values and norms are the only acceptable way to live a life. To accept the notion that evil can look, talk, think, and act just like they do is to reject the very point of their lives. They want to be able to blame someone who looks or sounds different as the root of their troubles, or even as the root of all evil. They want a villain that looks like their version of a villain. They do not want to look into a mirror.

Ironic, isn’t it, when you consider the fact that we almost always kill our own kind? Or that the most dangerous villains, those capable of infiltrating and destroying your entire world, are smart enough to know that first they must fit into it?

Sympathetic villains are equally hard to find, both in real life and in literature. They force us to look inside ourselves for why we feel connected to them—and very few people are willing to admit that, perhaps, we all have the seeds of darkness within us. Sympathetic villains also force us to acknowledge that we as a species may have a hand in creating our villains by the way we treat one another or allow others to be treated.

To acknowledge that a villain is not entirely unlike us, or that their evil may have been prevented, is to admit that we are neither invincible nor on the right track as a society. So it’s just a whole lot easier to attribute a villain’s behavior to being born bad, or being born insane, or being born to insanely bad parents. Meanwhile, the truth, like a great fictional villain, is far, far more complicated.

Good and evil. Black and white. Truth and fiction. The lines get blurred. And good writers make the most of that ambiguity.

I have my favorite fictional villains. What I’d like to know is: who are yours? I’d love to hear about some of your favorite villains from books and movies you’ve seen and why you find them so memorable. Let me know and, in the meantime: don’t look behind you. You never know who might be standing there.

Happy Halloween from “Thalia Filbert”

The five of us who co-wrote Beat Slay Love as Thalia Filbert want to wish you all a haunting Halloween, full of spooks, goblins, witches, and things that go bump in the night.

Or just a funky monster or two. 🙂 Click on the image to watch the video. Happy Halloween!

 

Gettin’ Our Group On


Adobe Photoshop PDFOn October 1st, a new novel by members of the Thalia Press Authors Co-op called Beat Slay Love will debut. It’s going to be a fun read because it combines the world of celebrity cooking with sex — and what could possibly be better than that? (Pre-order the eBook now. Online print orders will open soon.)

 

There are so many cooking metaphors I could use to talk about the process of writing this novel, a journey that involved five separate authors, all with their own long list of previously published books: me, Thalia co-founder Lise McClendon, Taffy Cannon, Kate Flora, and Gary Phillips. Instead, though, I see the creation of this novel as a metaphor for the overall authors co-op we have forged here at Thalia. When we first got together to write the book — a process that began and then lived in the virtual world since we are scattered across America — we were not quite sure what we wanted to do. It was much the same way with our co-op. We knew that we wanted to share ideas, support each other, and cheer each other on. But beyond that: we just had to dive in. We were creating something new and who knew where it would lead?

Where the idea of a group novel led to ultimately was an experience that proved more fun than I ever thought possible and, eventually, a damn good book. I am proud of what we have written and very proud to be associated with so many fine writers.

We begin Beat Slay Love by throwing ideas on the table and poking at them with five different sticks (or forks, if you prefer). Somewhere early on, the idea of a riff on the title Eat Pray Love was born. Out of that, food emerged as a predominant theme (no surprise to those of you who know us). When it turned out that several of us authors were Food Channel enthusiasts, the idea of someone killing celebrity chefs was a natural winner. Like so many of the moments we had writing this book, I no longer remember who had that actual idea, or who moved the ball down the field at which point (other than the fact that Lisa McClendon acted as den mother, chief scheduler, and marketing strategist supreme). But I do know that we quickly agreed on a central concept, sketched out the central character and motives together,  and that I had the honor of kicking things off by turning in the first round of pages to the others.

For me, the assignment could not have come at a better time. I was looking at three half-finished books of my own, and trying unsuccessfully to decide which one to finish. I was not feeling the drive to do much of anything, however, and might well have ended up sitting on my ass for the entire year had I not felt a sense of obligation to the other authors on this project that motivated me to get said ass in gear. To my surprise, knowing it was a group project and that others would soon see my words, there was absolutely no pressure on me when it came to writing. It was just plain fun. I could let my scenes unfold and, if faced with whether a plot twist was too much, could let it ride and keep going. After all, four very smart writers were coming in after me to clean up. I had a blast with my turn. I almost hated to let go — but not quite. There was something reckless and irresistible about releasing your precious pages to others and surrendering your words to their will. Now I could sit back and relax, yet what I had written would lead to more.

In the months that followed, I lost track of who wrote when. I do know that the order of writing fell into a natural progression and that, somehow, it all worked out. People wrote when they could and let go when someone else was ready. No one kept track of page count and, so far as I was concerned, had no idea of what was happening in the story until it was their turn again. After about eight months of round robin writing, I got the book back at the very end and was given the task of wrapping things up. And that’s when the real magic happened.

The collective unconscious at work?

My first thought upon reading the two hundred or so pages that four other authors had helped write was pretty simple: “Have we lost our damn minds?!” The story had gone in so many unexpected directions that would never have occurred to me. It had stretched across America, invited in a cast of entirely new and unexpected characters, and then there was the sex. Yes, some of us wrote about the food we love… some of us wrote about the shopping we love… some of us had fun alluding to real food celebrities… and one of us, I choose not to know which one of us, liked to write about sex. Lots of sex. Fairly graphic sex. At every chance they got, it seemed. What was I going to do with that?

And then it hit me: sex, love, food, death. These are the impulses that drive us. These are the forces of life. It was entirely appropriate for sex to play a dominant role in this book. This book was all about impulse control — or the lack thereof.

With that revelation, it was as if every writer contributing to this project had somehow sensed an invisible path leading us forward toward an inevitable conclusion. Every single one of us had sensed the connection between those drives, consciously or not, and it showed in our writing choices. We had actually built the bones of a book that made perfect sense, without knowing where we were going or exactly why. It was crystal clear how it needed to end.

I like to think this happened because we are all good authors and we have all built many a book before. Somehow, we all understood that food itself is a metaphor for sex, love, and even death. So, in the end, our book became very much about that. And we got there, together, by trusting each other to deliver both good and meaningful writing, even when it was funny or clearly ridiculous on the surface.

The process was not seamless. I sensed unspoken tussles at times when it came to shaping specific characters. Was the character good? Was the character bad? Was the character important? More than any other element of the book, there may have been disagreement among us on individual characters. And, yet, in the end I believe that every single character became the person they needed to be for this book. Probably because we are all experienced enough as authors to understand that, when characters want to take off, you should let them. There’s usually a good reason for it. That’s why, when it came time to wrap the book up and find a conclusion, I found myself turning to characters I had not even created. They had been imagined and fleshed out by my writing partners. And what wonderful characters they had given me. It all came together in the end.

I hope that you will read Beat Slay Love and enjoy the unfolding of the story as much as I did. And if you are a fan of our work — with five authors, surely you follow one of us? — Perhaps you will join us in announcing the publication of our new book by signing up at Thunderclap to have a notice automatically posted on your Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr page come October 1. All you have to do is visit our book on Thunderclap and click the button for the social media outlet of your choice. If you like, you can write a short post to introduce the notice on our book and then you’re done. Thunderclap will post it automatically when the time comes. Everyone who shares in this Thunderclap campaign will receive a PDF cookbook from Thalia Press, called “Thalia Filbert’s Killer Cocktail Party,” full of deliciously sinful drinks and appetizers, some featured in the novel. Trust me, these recipes are good!

Thanks for your support, for your help, and for your interest in our book. Let’s hear it for authors who trust, support, and cheer each other on!


Pre-order Beat Slay Love via eBook now. Online print orders will be accepted soon: 

Character Counts Most of All

Jane Austen ADHDI went through a reading crisis this year. Every time I sat down to lose myself in a book, I found my attention wandering after just a few pages. I would check my iPhone for messages, stop by Facebook, and then force myself to sit back down and try again. It drove me nuts. Losing myself in a good book has always been my way of taking a needed break from the world. I attributed my problem to a shrinking attention span brought about by cursed social media. I decided anything more than four paragraphs was beyond my interest, thanks to new media, and bemoaned the loss of my ability to enter the pages of other worlds. Needless to say, this did not enhance my participation in my book club or endear me to friends with new books coming out. “Yes, I bought it and can’t wait to read it.” [“God, please don’t ask me how I liked it three months from now.”]

Thus I sealed my fate and kissed reading a full-length book good-bye. And then I picked up “Death Comes to Pemberley” by PD James. I had no choice, really, as it was my book club’s December selection and I had pretty much disgraced myself with my inability to get into any of the books we’d chosen thus far in 2014. Now, since the Grand Master herself died the day I finished her book, perhaps I feel more comfortable saying what anyone who reads this book realizes by the end: this is a terrible mystery. The plot is tepid at best and the true killer revealed in groanable fashion. And yet, I loved every word of it and could not put the book down. Why? Because PD James did a stellar job of bringing Jane Austen’s characters back to life and giving us a peek at what happened to them after their tales had been told. PD James was impeccably loyal to their essential character, as envisioned by their original creator. Lizzie, Mr. Darcy, Jane, Bingley, even, alas, Lydia and Wickham, never uttered a word out of character or took an action that Austen herself might not have decreed. And while James built her tale around Pemberley and its grounds, she also brought in characters from many of Austen’s other books in peripheral ways. It was pure joy to discover that Walter Elliott and his snobbish eldest daughter were behaving, as ever, in utterly supercilious ways. It rang true that Emma was still telling poor Harriet Smith what to do. The characters were as real to me as ever. Even my outrage at how James handled the character of Colonel Fitzwilliams was assuaged at the end of “Death Comes to Pemberley,” when the motive for his somewhat out-of-character behavior was revealed.

In other words, it took characters created over 200 years ago for me to lose myself in a book again.

I could talk about how astonishing Jane Austin was at creating characters you felt as if you knew, and how skilled she was at revealing their dreams, or the unique ways they interacted with one another. But many people have praised her for these abilities before me and many have pointed out how universal her depictions of relationships remain. Instead, I would like to suggest that feeling connected to the characters in the books we read is at the heart of what keeps us turning the pages and returning to read more. It is especially what keeps us buying books in mystery series that are centered around the same protagonist and supporting cast. The best books in our genre, and those that sell millions of copies even when their plots may lack originality, are all built around characters we care about, identify with, and feel as if we know. Their ability to come to life is what draws us into a book. Caring about what happens to them is what inspires us to keep reading about them.

The lack of depth in character is also what makes us put books aside. With the confidence of a new writer and the cruelty of a closet cynic, I once publicly lampooned Patricia Cornwell for what she had done to Kay Scarpetta by turning her into everything from an expert helicopter pilot to irresistible sexpot to secret agent to deep sea diver and god knows what else. Gone was the soul-searching professional woman seeking respect and the truth. Here was a cartoon character who could leap tall mortuaries with a single bound and hypnotized men of all ages with her steely demeanor.

Plenty of books in the mystery genre make the same mistake of disconnecting their characters from what draws readers to them. Their authors concentrate on what the character can do, or how the world might label them, without ever looking at who they are within. They make their characters unbelievable or, worse, invincible.

The older and wiser among you reading this post will understand me when I say that flaws and foibles are what make other people interesting and most lovable. The same goes for characters in books. For them to be real, we need to know their lost hopes and dreams — we all have them — along with what they fear and how well they maintain their sense of self when interacting with uncooperative others. It is not enough to paint the exterior view. Readers must be able to know what is in their hearts to feel connected to characters. Everything else is just window dressing.

I think to be a truly brilliant writer you have to be connected to the world in exactly 7.2 billion ways: that’s the number of people currently sharing our planet. In other words, you must be utterly fascinated by other people and what drives them. You must care about them all, even the ones you do not know. You must be unable to turn away from the parade of life. You must be driven to be a part of it.

This is why writers who let fame isolate them so often lose what made them special in the first place. To be a good writer of characters, you must be in love with the entire world. You must be willing to be among those you cannot stand and unafraid to lose yourself in those you love. Out of that ether comes the stuff of imagination, the thousands of details and desires that will help you create characters that readers will care about.