Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Books I've read: The Weight of Blood

This author is an insta-read for me ever since I read her book, Allegedly.  So when I saw this one in the library, I pounced.   Kind of a modern-day Carrie, the book jumps around through time as investigative journalists try to uncover what really happened at a Georgia high school prom.  A prom that ended with a town in ruins and several dead bodies.

Maddy is an outcast at her high school.  Her clothes are wrong, her ideas outdated and her repeated absences (always on rainy days) are explained away by a vaguely threatening auto-immune disease.  Maddy tolerates the low-key bullying because she has bigger things to worry about.

Until a rainstorm comes out of nowhere while she's outside running for PE and the secret she and her White religious fanatic father have been keeping for years is revealed: Maddy is bi-racial.  

When a video of the bullying and teasing Maddy receives as her secret comes out goes viral, some of her classmates get together to try and prove that their town isn't really as racist as it might seem on the surface.  For the first time the school will host an integrated prom - up until now, white kids went to the country club for prom while Black kids went somewhere else.

The girl who comes up with the idea even manages to convince her Black quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date to prom.  For the first time Maddy begins to wonder if she might be able to have a normal life, if she might be able to find genuine happiness in a world that has been nothing but cruel to her until now.

But Maddy has a secret. And when things at prom do not go as planned and a cruel prank is pulled on Maddy, she lets loose, leaving a trail of corpses in her wake.

I enjoyed this one.  There was enough supernatural spookiness to call it a horror, while it was grounded in reality and had a lot to say about racism and the difficulties faced by those trying to make a change to this way of thinking.  I do feel like Maddy's father was a little over the top, that his treatment of her seemed Victorian and made him into something of a cartoon villain.  But he isn't in the book that much...

So I'd recommend this one.

But don't just listen to me.  Her's the blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson ramps up the horror and tackles America's history and legacy of racism in this suspenseful YA novel following a biracial teenager as her Georgia high school hosts its first integrated prom.

When Springville residents—at least the ones still alive—are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation … Maddy did it.

An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she's dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.

After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High's racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their host the school's first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it's possible to have a normal life.

But some of her classmates aren't done with her just yet. And what they don't know is that Maddy still has another secret … one that will cost them all their lives

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Weekly Goals 19-2-24

 This is the week it all starts.  The Festival kicks off tomorrow with the first show, with the official opening on Friday.  This weekend is going to be the biggest and most stressful part of the whole thing, with shows at every one of our venues plus the Writers programme taking over a three-screen movie theatre for three days.

So this week my goal is to get through this opening week and weekend without any major drama.  There are two functions in the mix, alongside all the regular stuff that goes into running a Festival. I keep waking up at 2am and remembering things I haven't done yet and then thinking of more things I need to do.  Hopefully I can get through all these today and tomorrow morning, before I have to go and set up at the first venue..

What are your goals this week?

Friday, February 16, 2024

Celebrate the Small Things 16-2-24


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small Things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!  And we're almost through all the ticketing for the Festival!  I'm hoping to bash out the last of it this afternoon, before I go to the movies, and then it will just be the last minute stuff that comes through during the Festival itself.  Definitely not going to go into work on Sunday.

It all kicks off this week.  First show opens on Tuesday with the actual festival opening on Friday.  It's going to be a busy few weeks until it finishes on 17 March.  I may miss a blog post here and there, so if I'm not posting on my regular day, that's why.  It's going to be an amazing few weeks of art and culture.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Books I've Read: Now is Not the Time to Panic

I really enjoyed Kevin Wilson's previous book, Nothing to See Here (the one about the kid that spontaneously combust), so when I was doing an event at a bookstore last week and saw this, I knew I had to buy it.  I do not regret it.

Set in the present day and in 1996, the book is about a weird event that happened in a small town one summer and caused far-reaching repercussions.  It opens with a journalist calling a now-adult Frances Budge and asking questions about the summer in question.  Having never told anyone about it, Frances is terrified that the truth will come out and that it will shatter the life she's built for herself.

In 1996, sixteen-year-old Frankie is facing a long, lonely, boring summer in her small town.  The most exciting thing she can think of to do is to write her subversive Nancy Drew fan fiction in which Nancy is the perpetrator of the crimes.  But then she meets Zeke.

Zeke is an artist who is only in town for the summer while his parents decide whether or not to divorce after Zeke discovers his father is having an affair.  As lonely as Frankie, Zeke gravitates toward her and they are soon spending every day together.

An abandoned Xerox machine in Frankie's garage leads them to experiment with words and images until they come up with an enigmatic, yet strangely beautiful phrase that Zeke illustrates.  They make copies and hang them all over town.  At first people are curious, but not really afraid.  But as the summer goes on and these posters keep going up and spreading through the town like wildfire, rumours begin circulating: it's a satanic cult, it's a heavy metal band, it's a message from aliens...

As the summer goes on and different versions of the poster keep popping up, people become more and more unsettled and on edge.  Copycats proliferate. The entire town is on edge and soon this leads to tragedy.

I really enjoyed this story about the power of subversive art.  Frankie and Zeke were very real characters, dealing with their own problems and their own lives even as the thing they started blows up to be far bigger than both of them.  

It's also a book about the power of an unsolved mystery and the lengths people might go to to find the truth.  And how that truth can be both bigger and less meaningful than you might ever have thought.

The book is also very funny...

So I'd definitely recommend it.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to See Here comes an exuberant, bighearted novel about two teenage misfits who spectacularly collide one fateful summer, and the art they make that changes their lives forever.

Sixteen-year-old Frankie Budge—aspiring writer, indifferent student, offbeat loner—is determined to make it through yet another sad summer in Coalfield, Tennessee, when she meets Zeke, a talented artist who has just moved into his grandmother’s unhappy house and who is as lonely and awkward as Frankie is. Romantic and creative sparks begin to fly, and when the two jointly make an unsigned poster, shot through with an enigmatic phrase, it becomes unforgettable to anyone who sees it. The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.

The posters begin appearing everywhere, and people wonder who is behind them. Satanists, kidnappers—the rumors won’t stop, and soon the mystery has dangerous repercussions that spread far beyond the town. The art that brought Frankie and Zeke together now threatens to tear them apart.

Twenty years later, Frances Eleanor Budge—famous author, mom to a wonderful daughter, wife to a loving husband—gets a call that threatens to upend everything: a journalist named Mazzy Brower is writing a story about the Coalfield Panic of 1996. Might Frances know something about that? And will what she knows destroy the life she’s so carefully built?

A bold coming-of-age story, written with Kevin Wilson’s trademark wit and blazing prose, Now Is Not The Time to Panic is a nuanced exploration of young love, identity, and the power of art. It’s also about the secrets that haunt us—and, ultimately, what the truth will set free.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Weekly Goals 12-2-24

 With this being the last week before we start actual production on the Festival, once again my goals are all largely work-related - as they will be until mid-March now.  I'm going to be too busy for anything else.

This week I want to make sure all the ticketing is done, apart from any last-minute things that might come through, and I want to make sure we have everything set up and in place for the two functions we're hosting during the Festival.  We're struggling a little with having enough staff over the opening weekend, so I may have to shuffle a few people around to make sure we have the right people in the right places at the times we need them.  It would be very useful to have a clone or two at this point as there is one day I'm looking at working across three venues from 7am until 11pm.  

Luckily, after the opening weekend, things are much calmer and easier to manage.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, February 9, 2024

Celebrate the Small Things 9-2-24


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small Things...

What am I celebrating this week?

I'm not sure I am celebrating this week.  I've been so snowed under at work, I haven't had the chance to think much about anything else.  I'm hoping to get a day off over the weekend, but I'm not sure that's going to be possible.  We'll see how much I can get done on Saturday afternoon.

I've had a few more query rejections and am starting to wonder if maybe I need to do some work on the query to see if I can make it more compelling.  I'm not quite at the number I usually advise people to start tweaking at, but it seems like things have changed a bit since I was last querying. But that's going to have to wait until after the Festival.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

IWSG: February 2024

 It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group!

The awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are Janet Alcorn, SE White, Victoria Marie Lees, and Cathrina Constantine!

This month's question is a good one...

What turns you off when visiting an author's website/blog? Lack of information? A drone of negativity? Little mention of author's books? Constant mention of books?

For me, the bigger turn off is not really about the content so much as the design.  So many writer blogs are built in Blogger templates (my own included) that have been customised by the author in really terrible ways.  Coloured fonts on coloured backgrounds are one of my biggest peeves.  If you want someone to read your blog, make it easy to read.  if I visit a blog and find the text in purple on a lime green background, I'm not going to stick around long enough to know if your content is good or not.

The other thing that bugs me is people who try to do too much in a single post.  If you're doing an author interview, do that in one post.  If you're talking about a bookstore visit, make that a single post.  If you're reviewing a book you read, make that a single post.  Some bloggers seem to like to post once a week and stuff everything into one long, confusing, rambling mess.  

If you have that much to talk about, maybe post more often.  You can still do the work one a week, just schedule those posts for different days so readers aren't faced with scrolling endlessly down the screen looking for the part of the post that they're interested in.

If you've got an author website, make sure your contact details are on there.  It doesn't matter if you're published or not.  If someone wants to get hold of you, make sure that information is there for them. If I'm looking for an author to feature in an article or interview, if I can't find a way to contact them easily, I'm going to move on, regardless of how much I enjoy the content on their blog, or their books.

I could keep going, but this is getting long, and maybe rambly, so I'll stop before I become my own pet peeve...

What do you dislike about blogs and websites you visit?