Winter Wonders and Spiritual Blunders

Discover (or Rediscover) the Joy of Wonder

This month, I invite you to celebrate your sense of wonder with one of the best books I’ve read all year, Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. In fact, it took me all year to read it. Not because it wasn’t wonderful. It was! But rather, it’s one of those books that taps so deeply into the creative process you’ll want to read it slowly, in bits and pieces, and not necessarily in chapter order. This book is far more than an instructional manual for writers. Its highly visual presentation celebrates the writer’s wandering and wild mind and our need, as imaginative thinkers, to be both artistically free and disciplined. In keeping with the holiday season, I’ll call it a nutcracker for the analytical brain. A great Christmas gift for yourself or the creative writer in your family. Or me, for that matter, since I borrowed it from a friend, and now I have to return it. Interesting note: By the time I finally finished reading the book, the publisher released a revised and expanded edition

(Rating: Delightfully Mind-Blowing!)

Upstate NY is a Great Place for Stark Landscapes and Bleak Stories

I oughta know. I grew up there. And Christmas is a fine time of year to perseverate over God, religion, faith, what we believe in, and why we believe it. So, in the spirit of self-examination, I’m recommending a super depressing little indie drama called First Reformed, released earlier this year, starring Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried. I loved the way the movie began as one thing, stumbled into something weirdly awkward, and then rolled headlong into the entirely unexpected. Hawke plays the reverend Ernst Toller, a deeply troubled man, running away from his tortured past, only to discover that his past and God are both conspiring to destroy him. It takes a perfect storm of inner and outer conflict, and a fair bit of coincidence, to trip this guy’s wire, but it’s a helluva trip. This is not a holiday movie by any means, but I invite you to take a step back from the consumerism of the season and watch this film. Think about where you fall on the spectrum of hope and despair, which I think is what this movie is really all about. You can view it for free on Amazon Prime. Interesting note: Don’t be too disappointed that Hawke’s stylish movie-poster goatee does not appear in the film. 

(Rating: Break Out the Jim Beam!)

Advertisements

Wicked Italians, Jewish Lore, and American War

NickWickIf you’re a true coffee lover like I am, I’m sure you get a kick out of discovering new brews. Nothing goes better with reading and writing than a good cup of java. In November I found Wicked Joe, a family owned coffee company that appears to be both socially conscious and Earth friendly.  They offer several varieties. I tried their Wicked Italian (naturally!)—organic fair trade, whole bean, dark roast—and brewed it French press style as recommended. (Rating: Delish!)

November’s Reads

AWJK

While enjoying Wicked Joe’s delizioso Italian dark roast, you might as well pair it with some savory Jewish folk tales. Jonathon Keats delves into ancient Jewish lore in The Book of the Unknown: Tales of the Thirty-Six. You won’t need a course in Judaism 101 to get a kick out of these short fantasy tales of unruly magic and the truly bizarre. Just an open mind, a vivid imagination, and a willingness to suspend all manner of disbelief.
(Rating: Great fun!)

No book could be more timely than Omar El Akkad’s American War, offering a speculative glimpse into the next American Civil War (circa 2074). What will become of our society if we can’t put an end to our anger, hatred, and divisiveness? Akkad’s extrapolation, frightening as it is, is probably not the worst case scenario. If you’ve been following the decline of American politics and civil discourse lo these recent years, this novel won’t make you feel any better about it, but it’s a thought-provoking journey nonetheless.
(Rating: Go there if you dare!)

Monsters and Blondes

MC-Frankie

October gave me two great books. First, hats off to Mary Shelley and the 200th anniversary of the novel Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus. If you haven’t read the book in a long time, get the recent Penguin edition that reprints the original 1818 text with a new intro. Then, as a companion piece, watch the National Theatre’s live stage play on the big screen, Frankenstein, 2018 Encore. I saw it with friends at The Little Theatre during my visit upstate. You might need to hunt around for a theater that’s showing it, but it will be worth the effort. Promise!

I became a Michael Connelly fan a few years ago, and he’s now my favorite working writer of detective fiction. I’ve been knocking off his books in no particular order. I recently read The Concrete Blonde, a Harry Bosch novel, the third if you’re counting (originally pubbed in 1994). It’s one of the best I’ve read in the series so far. If you aren’t familiar with Connelly, check out his work, and read this exquisite feature piece in The Guardian

fsf-11-2018One final note to my cherished few readers. Here are the ordering and social media links for the Nov/Dec F&SF where my Italian folktale “The Baron and His Floating Daughter” appears. It’s a great issue. Enjoy!

New Nick Story in F&SF

NickFSFHappy to announce that the 2018 Nov/Dec issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction has landed, and my story is in it. I’m thrilled to be among some of the finest short fiction writers in the field, including one of my personal favorites, Jeffery Ford. Special thanks to editor C.c. Finlay and all the readers who love the short form as much as I do—and still don’t mind reading stuff in print. : )

First page sneak peek! 

Baron01

Yoga and Aliens

September 2018 has given me two great books to remember. One of them, Annex, is by my super talented science fiction pal Rich Larson.

9-18-bks

The yoga book from DK has some surprisingly good vegetarian recipes and dietary advice in the back, along with tips on breathing and meditation. Like most yoga books I find, I try not to let all the poses I can’t do depress me. : /

Vege

Find il mio amico Rich Larson on tumblr!

Richannex1

Me and Lee!

Nick-Lee

Lucky Break!
I met my favorite mystery author Lee Child at the Vinoy in downtown St. Pete this past weekend. He was there for the World Mystery Convention, Bouchercon 2018. I wasn’t attending the conference, but I was meeting a couple of my pals for lunch, and I spotted him in the lobby just hanging around. I turned into a total fanboy and told him how much my dad and I loved his books. He was incredibly gracious. He even agreed to this photo. What a great guy! Thank you, Lee Child. : )