Be sure to pick up the Holiday 2019 issue of Carmel Magazine, found everywhere along the California Central Coast and abroad. Writer Renee Brincks did a fantastic writeup for the book and it was awesome to be included once again in such an illustrious publication. Can’t find a print copy? Read it online here: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1182230-cm-sm-ho19-nov/66
There are times when you start reading a book without knowing what to expect. Such was the case with D.E. Night’s young adult (YA) fantasy book, The Crowns of Croswald. It was familiar yet wholly new at the same time – and it turned into an energetic, comfortable reading experience.
This review comes from a writer and reader who rarely dip his toes into the genre. When it comes to fantasy and YA fiction, my experiences primarily orbit Lord of the Rings, Narnia, The Kingkiller Chronicles, and the Harry Potter series.
It’s the latter I felt largely influenced The Crowns of Croswald and in the beginning those similarities were strong, even for someone who has not read the Harry Potter (HP) adventures for years. I found myself feeling as though I’d been transported back to those days of Hogwarts, to that memorable era when I read the first three HP books to my daughter. And this was not a bad feeling at all.
In fact, the more I read, the more I was engrossed in Night’s tale, told simply and elegantly, and found myself absorbed by it. This is not HP at all, but an original story told in that cozy YA style (imagine HP as a genre), and done quite well. The author’s world-building game is top notch.
The book’s chapters are dotted at the outset with charming illustrations also reminiscent of the small drawings seen at the top of each HP chapter. Only these illustrations are done to enhance the story of Ivy Lovely, a young woman who has no idea how exciting her life is about to become. When we first meet her she’s hidden under a magic-killing screen, little realizing her potential as she toils in Castle Plum’s kitchen ensuring each dragon-cooked meal is as tasty as possible. Her only real friend at this point is the woods dwarf, Rimbrick, who offers her hints to her own destiny, not to mention all the books she can handle. It’s when she’s kicked out of Castle Plum that her life begins to change, particularly when she lands in the magical Halls of Ivy, a school where anything can happen and usually does thanks to the scrivenists – sort of like wizards but here the wands are quills – sort of. At school she befriends the witty Fyn Greeley, gets into a bit of trouble, and more importantly seeks to unlock the mysteries of her past, why she was brought to the school, and deal with the nefarious Dark Queen. More happens, a lot more, but readers will have to discover those gems for themselves.
Another point I enjoyed was the use of the name D.E. Night, which readers of Croswald will discover is a name used in the book itself. Early on, in fact, Rimbrick hands off three books for Ivy to read. Each is written by Derwin Edgar Night. The subtle inclusion of the author into the work reminded me of Doyle’s inclusion of Watson into the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, a trick I can get behind with ease. It’s a great way to supercharge the imagination for readers.
Those looking for a well-paced read in the vein of authors
J.K. Rowling and Patrick Rothfuss (without the adult-level syllabus) look no
further than D.E. Night’s plucky Croswald series, now at two books and
Dietrich Kalteis has produced another gem with his latest historical crime novel, “Call Down the Thunder,” out this month from ECW Press. Read the description below followed by an excerpt of the novel courtesy of ECW. Find your copy here!
Sonny and Clara Myers struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on: their land’s gone dry, barren, and worthless; the bankers are greedy and hungry, trying to squeeze them and other farmers out of their homes; and, on top of that, their marriage is in trouble. The couple can struggle and wither along with the land or surrender to the bankers and hightail it to California like most of the others. Clara is all for leaving, but Sonny refuses to abandon the family farm. In a fit of temper, she takes off westward in their old battered truck. Alone on the farm and determined to get back Clara and the good old days, Sonny comes up with an idea, a way to keep his land and even prosper while giving the banks a taste of their own misery. He sets the scheme in motion under the cover of the commotion being caused by a rainmaker hired by the mayor to call down the thunder and wash away everyone’s troubles.
Call Down the Thunder book excerpt:
Not getting out of Kansas tonight. The dusk was coming on.
sat on the bumper. The steam had stopped rising from under the hood. Had only
been the one truck drive by since she broke down. Likely end up sleeping in the
she heard it, coming from a long way off, raising dust behind it. An old
Packard with the square cab, the headlights high and on either side of the
windshield, the kind of truck they used for delivering the post when she was a
kid. This one painted brown, gold lettering down the wood-
paneled sides. The driver slowed to a stop and leaned across the seat, calling
out the window.
kind of scorn would likely have the man driving off. Clara smiled and said,
“Darn thing started clunking and blowing steam, then quit. Sure be grateful in
case you got some water to spare, mister.” Clara sizing the man up, medium
height with a hawk nose, bug eyes and bushes for eyebrows and sideburns, looked
lucky day. Water’s my game,” he said, pointing at the lettering down the side.
Eugene Cobb, Rainmaker.
out, he stuck a bowler on his head, came around the front bumper and said his
name, looking over the old Hudson, never seen something on the road with this
little paint left on it.
huh?” She smiled and said her name.
with the note of the skeptic, Clara.” Pulling open his passenger door, Eugene
took a canteen from behind the seat, giving it a shake and offering it to her.
make it?” Taking it, she smiled and had a drink. Couldn’t believe how good it
felt going down.
it fresh this morning.”
me ask, how you go about making it rain, Eugene?” She drank some more.
a finger, he wanted her to follow to the rear of his truck, flapping back the
musty canvas. Behind some packs and tubs of supplies stood a kind of mortar on
a tripod, strapped to the truck’s floor. A simple affair of a tripod base, a
long barrel and a bipod mount. The thing painted black with his name painted
gold along its barrel.
like a cannon?”
more an artillery gun, fires a flat trajectory. Roundshot mostly.” He climbed
up in back. “What I fire’s more of a canister shot, what I call my Cobb-busters.”
sky, of course.”
I ask why?” She drank some more.
it to concuss, see? Makes it rain.”
looked up at the cloudless evening, the moon and stars starting to show.
see you’re a doubting Debbie.”
seen a fella do it, blast the sky, is all.” She looked at the tubs of sulfur
and black powder, bottles of colored liquid, some labeled ether.
them special, my Cobb-busters.” Reaching a hollow tube with welded propellent
fins, his name down the side. Cradling it in his arms, he explained about
removing the explosive, how he repacked it, then dropped it in the cast-iron
tube, how it hit the firing pin and shot into the heavens, the special blast
bringing about the rain. Saying, “I calculate the trajectory, windspeed and
velocity, you see?” Smiling, Eugene set the missile back down, pushed a pack
aside and came up with a jug, sloshing it around, holding it out.
. . . for your radiator.”
make it?” She smiled again, handing the canteen back.
the empty canteen to the corner, he hopped down, took the jug over to her
truck, looking under the folded hood. He scraped remnants of seeds and nuts
from the radiator, pointing to where some rodent had chewed through the tubes.
leaned in and saw what he was pointing at.
buggers built nests, see there?”
far you figure I’ll get?”
wondering how you got this far.” Shaking his head, he set the hood down. “Need
a new hose, at least that.”
I’m damn out of luck.”
I can offer you a lift.”
looked up the road, then back the way she’d come, then at him. “Where to?”
Cosplayers Shouldn’t Kill is my latest short story for the fantastic Shotgun Honey crime fiction website. Inspired by cosplayers like Ya Ya Han and other creative souls, this short tale follows a thug for hire named Sam when he pays a visit to the infamous San Francisco Comic Con.
There’s always that one sibling. It seems there’s one in every nuclear pod. In That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist by S.W. Lauden, we’re introduced to Jackson Sharp the moment he breathes free air for the first time in a long while. Only he may not be breathing it for much longer thanks to his brother, Jamie, who has a heist in mind that’s sure to make any fan of the Beatles froth at the mouth. Should things go wrong, Jack will end up right back in the bowels of Oklahoma State Penitentiary, where neither of his siblings ever care enough to visit.
With a setting near Tulsa, Lauden’s toe-tapping, gritty novelette is like the Outsiders on a punked-up, rockabilly high. It’s a smooth crime story with a playlist sure to get a song or two stuck in your head while you read.
That’ll Be The Day drops June 18th. Boogie on over here for your copy. My interview with the man himself, S.W. Lauden, is below.
WHITEHURST: Besides short stories featured in anthologies, you’re the author of three books in the Greg Salem series and two Tommy and Shayna novellas. Why write a novelette?
LAUDEN: I didn’t exactly set out to write a 17,000-word story, but I always knew it would end up somewhere between a short story (5,000 words) and a novella (30,000 words). My other books have all been published by indie presses, but I’ve been interested in the idea of self-publishing for a while. With a story like That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist—an odd length and a super niche-y subject—I decided it was time to give it a whirl.
WHITEHURST: What was your inspiration for That’ll Be The Day?
LAUDEN: Late last year I got offered the chance to co-edit an essay collection about power pop with Paul Myers (it’s called Go All The Way and Rare Bird Books will publish it this October). Re/discovering bands like Raspberries, The Knack, The Records, Shoes, The Shivvers, Dwight Twilley, The Bangles, Teenage Fanclub, Fountains of Wayne, New Pornographers, etc. quickly became an obsession. I didn’t plan for my power pop research to also become a crime novelette, but I’m really glad it did. It was a blast writing about the Sharp brothers, their failed music career, and the life of crime that followed.
WHITEHURST: Your knowledge of music, bands, and instruments is solid. What’s the story there?
LAUDEN: Most of my life has been organized around music. I had older brothers that got me into classic rock and heavy metal as a kid, before I discovered punk in junior high. From there I was off to the races, listening to a lot of glam rock, post punk, new wave, power pop, alternative rock, Brit pop—you name it. I started playing drums in bands in high school and didn’t stop for any real length of time until my early 40s. I got to make a few records and tour, etc. Given all that, I suppose it’s no surprise that a lot of my crime fiction revolves around music and musicians.
WHITEHURST: What’s next for you?
LAUDEN: I recently played drums on a record for an LA-based garage rock/power pop band called The Brothers Steve. We’re self-releasing a limited run of vinyl in late July, but songs will start popping up in various places between now and then. We definitely won’t be touring (too many adult responsibilities for anything crazy like that), but we might play a couple of shows here and there.
LAUDEN: Thanks for reading the book and inviting me to your blog!
BIO: S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including Bad Citizen Corporation, Grizzly Season and Hang Time. His Tommy & Shayna novellas include Crosswise and Crossed Bones. A new novelette, That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist, will be released on June 18, 2019. S.W. Lauden is the pen name of Steve Coulter, drummer for Tsar and The Brothers Steve. More info at http://swlauden.com.
It’s super easy to blame the media for not covering the news we want. Whether or not it’s true, we blame them because they’re an easy target – a blobby, nebulous entity with an ulterior motive. And even though we live on a planet where everyone videos everything, where everyone wants to be an influencer, and everyone under 50 wants to enjoy viral Brad Pitt-level success, there remains a need for journalism.
Why didn’t the media cover Puerto Rico better?
Why isn’t the media coming down harder on Trump after that crazy speech?
The media won’t cover female presidential candidates?
Why isn’t the media right where I want them to be right when I expect it?
Is it possible those who ask aren’t watching or reading enough news? Are they asking “Where’s the media coverage of (this story) or (that story)?” on social media because they only get their news from social media? Does it need to be written that news on social media is cherry-picked and not all-inclusive of the journalistic engine at large?
Does it need to be written that news agencies follow trends like the rest of us, reporting on news that affects our daily lives, and even news we’ve told them we want to read? The Kardashians are famous because we’ve made them famous.
Listen, the media are people who report the news. Their role is not to editorialize your interests. They try, but they often fail. And it’s not their job. A reporter reports.
Imagine if no one offered news anymore and your only source of information came from social media. How much of it would you believe? Forget a socialist society, forget living under a dictatorship, we’d all be a labor class ruled by a few rich people who consider us no better than bugs. We’d be uninformed, uneducated, and have no voice.
That’s what the news is, a voice for the voiceless. It strives to create an informed populace. On it’s best day, it’s there to tell you why things happened the way they happened. On its worst day, it grovels to those who want to kill the messenger, then bitch when there’s no mail.
When complaining of media neglect, or a lack of reporting on something you find important, check yourself first by following simple rules of conduct.
Were these news agencies absent from this story because they’re understaffed? These days many are
Check online to verify your claim of news-neglect. There are probably stories
Question the source. Where did you get the information you’re sharing?
Lastly, question the motivation. Is there a reason this wasn’t covered in a satisfactory way? Remember the 2016 election; if you found it on social media and you can’t tell it’s from a reliable news agency, it’s click bait
If there’s one thing to take away from this rant it’s this; your blobby entities need support. We have to fight the trick. The real blobby, nebulous entity is the group trying to convince the public not to believe what they read and to even hate those who strive to give you a voice.