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THE COURAGE TEST Official Nerd Blast

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Arwen Elys Dayton


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Dan Poblocki


Elana K. Arnold


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SPURT Official Blog Tour

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THE FALL Official Nerd Blast

Sunday, March 26, 2017

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

Series: Blink
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Blink (May 9, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310758661
ISBN-13: 978-0310758662


"You won't be able to put this book down. This heartfelt read totally sucked me in. A (Prince) Charming read." -- Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan

"Honest, fun,and entirely compelling, this is a story about how being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to a whole lot of right. Tatum is a character you'll relate to, cheer for, and want to befriend." -- Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, author of Firsts

"Tatum's complex and realistic relationships with her friends, family and the potential love interest will have you savoring every chapter while heavily anticipating the next. It Started With Goodbye is an adorable and clever contemporary that will enthrall you with its fairytale-esque charm." -- Ami Allen-Vath, author of Liars and Losers Like Us

"I loved this fun, contemporary take on the Cinderella tale that explores what it takes to be yourself while finding your place in life, love,and your family. June's characters are vividly drawn, complex people that you'll want to root for, and Tatum's story will strike a chord for anyone who's felt like they were misunderstood." -- Lisa Maxwell, author of Unhooked, Sweet Unrest and Gathering Deep

"A sweet and satisfying portrait of family, friendship, and discovering your own path. Tatum's journey from fear and disappointment to honesty and freedom to be herself is one that will resonate with many readers." -- Ashley Herring Blake, author of Suffer Love

"A fresh, charming debut, brimming with friendship, family, and love." -- Marci Lyn Curtis, author of The One Thing

“You won’t be able to put this book down. This heartfelt read totally sucked me in.” --Miranda Kenneally, bestselling author of Catching Jordan

“Tatum’s complex and realistic relationships with her friends, family, and a potential love interest will have you savoring every chapter while heavily anticipating the next. It Started with Goodbye is an adorable and clever contemporary that will enthrall you with its fairytale-esque charm.” --Ami Allen-Vath, author of Liars and Losers Like Us

“Honest, fun, and entirely compelling, this is a story about how being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to a whole lot of right. Tatum is a character you’ll relate to, cheer for, and want to befriend.” --Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, author of Firsts

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.
You can purchase It Started With Goodbye at the following Retailers:

Book Nerd Spotlight

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.

Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and daughter.

Her debut novel, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, will be published by Blink/HarperCollins on May 9, 2017.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Night Magic by Jenna Black

Series: Nightstruck (Book 2)
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen (May 30, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765380064
ISBN-13: 978-0765380067

Praise for NIGHT MAGIC

“Suspenseful and savage―Jenna Black does horror right!”―Kimberly Derting, author of the Body Finder series

"Effectively blending grisly horror, teenage dilemmas, and a touch of romance, Black has built a genuinely scary city where the night literally has teeth.”―Publishers Weekly

Jenna Black returns to the quarantined city of Philadelphia, where an unsuspecting seventeen-year-old has unknowingly unleashed a dark power that transforms the city into a monstrous hellscape in Night Magic.

Philadelphia is locked in the grip of an evil magic that transforms its streets into a nightmare landscape the minute the sun sets each night. While most of the city hunkers down and hopes to survive the long winter nights, Becket Walker is roaming the darkened streets having the time of her life.

Once, the guilt of having inadvertently let the night magic into the city―and of having killed her onetime best friend―had threatened to destroy her. But now she’s been Nightstruck, and all her grief and guilt and terror have been swept away―along with her conscience. So what if she’s lost her friends, her family, and her home? And so what if her hot new boyfriend is super-controlling and downright malevolent?

Mesmerized by the power and freedom of not having to care about anyone but herself, Becket is sinking ever deeper into the night magic’s grasp. But those who love her refuse to give up on her―even if she’s given up on them. If they can’t find a way to help Becket break the night magic’s hold, the entire city might soon find itself shrouded in perpetual night. But the last thing Becket wants is to be “rescued” from her brand new life, and she will fight tooth and claw to stay exactly where she is.

You can purchase Night Magic at the following Retailers:

Book Nerd Spotlight

Jenna Black is your typical writer. Which means she's an "experience junkie." She got her BA in physical anthropology and French from Duke University.

Once upon a time, she dreamed she would be the next Jane Goodall, camping in the bush making fabulous discoveries about primate behavior. Then, during her senior year at Duke, she did some actual research in the field and made this shocking discovery: primates spend something like 80% of their time doing such exciting things as sleeping and eating.

Concluding that this discovery was her life's work in the field of primatology, she then moved on to such varied pastimes as grooming dogs and writing technical documentation. Among her other experiences . . .

Ballroom dancing.
Traveling all seven continents. Yes, even Antarctica.
Becoming a Life Master in Bridge.
Singing in a barbershop chorus.

Read the true story of Jenna's first trip out of the country by herself at the age of 16: 
Jenna's Zaire Adventure. And remember, insanity is a good thing for a writer.

She's also a proud member of the 
Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, and would love for her readers to support her fellow authors!

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Wish You Were Here by Renee Carlino

Book Nerd Spotlight

You know when you’re looking at someone and you can’t help but smile at how oblivious they are to their own charm? That’s what was happening to me, and it was making me feel…happy. Euphoric. Something indescribable. It was like we already knew each other, like we had met in a previous life. Memories that didn’t exist began exploding in my mind like fireworks.

Charlotte has spent her twenties adrift, searching for a spark to jump-start her life and give her a sense of purpose. She’s had as many jobs as she’s had bad relationships, and now she’s feeling especially lost in her less-than-glamorous gig at a pie-and-fry joint in Los Angeles, where the uniforms are bad and the tips are even worse.

Then she collides—literally—with Adam, an intriguing, handsome, and mysterious painter. Their serendipitous meeting on the street turns into a whirlwind one-night stand that has Charlotte feeling enchanted by Adam’s spontaneity and joy for life. There’s promise in both his words and actions, but in the harsh light of morning, Adam’s tune changes, leaving Charlotte to wonder if her notorious bad luck with men is really just her own bad judgment.

Months later, a new relationship with Seth, a charming baseball player, is turning into something more meaningful, but Charlotte’s still having trouble moving past her one enthralling night with Adam. Why? When she searches for answers, she finds the situation with Adam is far more complicated than she ever imagined. Faced with the decision to write a new story with Seth or finish the one started with Adam, Charlotte embarks on a life-altering journey, one that takes her across the world and back again, bringing a lifetime’s worth of pain, joy, and wisdom.


Villains was an unpretentious tavern with live music about five blocks from our apartment in the Arts District of Downtown LA, where Helen and I had been living together for the last eight years. I’d heard of other people’s friendships imploding after they became roommates with their BFFs, but Helen and I were always joined at the hip. We’d known each other since we were little kids growing up in the same suburban cul de sac, and we’d been together through twelve years of grade school and four years of college at UCLA. If we had any problem, it was that we were maybe too comfortable with the idea of becoming spinsters together.

Helen loved Villains because, deep down, I was pretty sure her Plan B was to become some rock god’s muse. Whenever we’d go to a concert, she’d stand in front of the crowd near the stage and sway back and forth in an attempt to get the attention of the lead singer. It wasn’t subtle. I’d usually sit at the bar and watch the spectacle from afar.

When it came to dating, I always waited to be approached. I’d had boyfriends, but nothing had lasted longer than a year. I had a way of turning every date into a yearlong relationship instead of getting out early, when I knew it wouldn’t last. I just couldn’t get into the one-night-stand scene. But Helen had no rules about anything. I envied her for that.

After our shift ended, we went back to our apartment and peeled off a layer of tortilla soup, got ready, and headed to Villains around ten. I was wearing my party uniform—black blouse and jeans—and Helen was in a red, high-waisted, A-line skirt and sleeveless white blouse with platform heels. She always looked way hipper than me.

Once inside the bar, she shouted, “Damn it!” I followed her gaze to the stage where an all-girl band was setting up.

“Bummer,” I said.

“Let’s leave, Charlie. This is lame.”

“No, I like it here. It’s so close to our apartment. Don’t make me go back out there.”

The lead singer approached the mic and tapped on it. “Check, check.” When she tore off a crazy guitar riff, Helen’s face lit up. “Okay, fine. We can stay for a while, but we’re getting shots!”

Remember how I said Helen had no rules? She liked attention, and it didn’t matter who it came from. We sat at the bar and took shot after shot, forgetting all about tortilla soup, Luc, and the messiness of our lives. An hour into the set, Helen left me to approach the stage. She stood near the front and tried desperately to get the lead singer’s attention, but the woman wasn’t having it. Maybe she was straight? After more shots and watching Helen’s pathetic attempts to catch the singer’s eye, I found myself sitting in a booth, comforting a rejected—and very drunk—Helen.

“Why doesn’t anyone want me?” she slurred. “Not even that gay chick with the guitar.”

“Well, no one hit on me either.”

“No one ever hits on you, Charlie! You’re stand-offish!”

“What? No I’m not,” I whined.

“Your eyes scream, ‘Stay away, I hate one-night stands.’”

“Everyone hates one-night stands. They’re awkward as hell.”

“You’re just a prude.”

“Ugh. Let’s go home, I’m over tonight, and I don’t want you throwing up in this bar.” Between Helen, my brother, my mom, and Helen’s mom, I got enough crap about the state of my love life.

“No, I wanna dance.” Helen slid out of the booth and fell directly on her ass with a thump. I pulled her up by the armpits, wrapped my arm around her waist, and started dragging her toward the door. We were making a scene, but Helen was finally getting her wish: the lead singer was staring at her, along with everyone else in the bar.

“I got it, I got it,” she said.

“I don’t think so, babe. You can’t even walk.” I propped the door to the bar open with my foot and led her out onto the street.

“I think I got roofied,” she slurred as her head lolled against my shoulder.

“I think it’s the ten shots you took, not to mention the vodka from earlier.”

We turned a corner and I looked up just in time to see a guy standing directly in front of us with his head down, staring at something written on his palm. “’Scuse us,” I muttered, trying to navigate around him, but he was standing in the middle of the sidewalk, holding a bag full of what looked like Chinese takeout.

“Yum, is that Chinese food?” Helen asked.

The guy looked up at her strangely and then looked down at the bag in his hand. He was wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a black hoodie, which shadowed his eyes. Not the most fashion-conscious outfit. “Oh this? Yeah, it is. Are you hungry?”

I started pulling Helen forward, “Come on,” I whispered. “You can’t eat some random guy’s Chinese food on the street.”

She stumbled but caught herself before falling over.

The man walked to her other side. “Let me help you,” he said.

“No, no, we’re fine,” I protested, but Helen had already slung her arm around his shoulder. She reached up and pulled his hood back, and he turned toward her, nonplussed, his striking brown eyes wide with curiosity. He was undeniably good-looking, and would be in anyone’s book. “I’m Adam,” he said. “Let me help you.”

“Nice to meet you, Adam. I’m Trixie and that’s Dottie. I think we got this.” I said.

Adam grinned. Two deep dimples punctuated his cheeks. “Trixie and Dottie, for real?”

“Yep,” I said curtly.

Helen rolled her eyes. “That’s Charlotte and I’m Helen.”

I elbowed her in the ribs. She leaned in and whispered, “He has Chinese food and he’s cute.” She said the last part a little too loud, which made Adam smile.

“Adam, do you live around here?” I asked.

“Yeah, I live on Molina.”

“Why were you headed in the opposite direction then?”

He looked straight ahead so I couldn’t see his face. “I must’ve gotten flipped around.” I looked at him curiously. Maybe he’s new to the neighborhood? That would explain why I haven’t seen him around.

“You wanna eat at our apartment?” Helen slurred.

“That’s okay,” Adam said. “I’ll just walk you to your place.”

“It’s right up here.” I pointed to the steps leading up to the front door of our building. “This is good here; I’ll get her up the rest of the way.”

He stopped, looked at the side of our building, and crooked his head. “Ahhh, man, I love that mural. It’s like wolves dancing in a bed of flowers.”

I followed his gaze to the large, abstract mural that took up the whole side of our building in a riot of grays, pinks, oranges, and blues.

“We always thought those streaks were blood,” Helen said, making sweeping motions with her hand.

“That’s a pretty gruesome interpretation. Those are pink and red flowers, obviously,” he countered. “Their beauty is meant to emphasize the equally wild beauty of the wolves.”

I tipped my head and squinted. “Now that you mention it, they do look like flowers. But why are the wolves angry if they’re dancing in a field of flowers?”

“Maybe they’re allergic,” Helen offered.

“Who says they’re angry?” Adam replied. “The flowers are rising up from the ground to embrace them. To me, they look happy.”

I stared at him as he stared at the mural, completely transfixed. Silence washed over us as we stood in the street, two best friends and a stranger sharing an oddly sincere moment together.

“Well, it was nice meeting you, Adam,” I said, gently breaking our collective daze. “Thanks for your help.”

“No problem. It was nice to meet you, ladies.” He nodded at us, gave a little wave, and headed up the street. But as we turned and made our way up the stairs, we heard Adam call out, “Oh, I almost forgot!” He jogged back toward us, pulling a take-out container from his plastic bag. “Here, I told you I’d share.” He held the little carton out to me and looked into my eyes with total sincerity. He pushed his thick, wavy brown hair back with his other hand, and I felt something pull within me.

“That’s okay.”

“No, we’ll take it!” Helen swatted at the box, ripping it from Adam’s grasp.

He chuckled at her and then turned his attention to me. I couldn’t pull my gaze from his, from that face full of kindness, those eyes that turned down slightly at the corners, giving him a slightly sad air. I should’ve felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t.

You know when you’re looking at someone and you can’t help but smile at how oblivious they are to their own charm? That’s what was happening to me, and it was making me feel…happy. Euphoric. Something indescribable. It was like we already knew each other, like we had met in a previous life. Memories that didn’t exist began exploding in my mind like fireworks.

I smiled at him; he smiled back. There was some sort of affinity between us, but I didn’t know where it was coming from, exactly. I didn’t know this guy half an hour ago, but now I needed to know him.

He glanced past me at the mural, and then he searched my eyes, squinting. “Have we met before?” he asked.

Excerpt provided by the publisher.

You can purchase Wish You Were Here at the following Retailers:

Author Spotlight
Photo Content from Goodreads

Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and the bestselling author of Sweet Thing, Nowhere But Here, After the Rain, Before We Were Strangers, and Swear on This Life. Her next novel, Wish You Were Here, comes out on Aug. 15 and can be preordered now.
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Friday, March 24, 2017

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge

Book Nerd Spotlight

From the award-winning author and New Yorker contributor, a riveting novel about secrets and scandals, psychiatry and pulp fiction, inspired by the lives of H.P. Lovecraft and his circle.

Marina Willett, M.D., has a problem. Her husband, Charlie, has become obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft, in particular with one episode in the legendary horror writer's life: In the summer of 1934, the "old gent" lived for two months with a gay teenage fan named Robert Barlow, at Barlow's family home in central Florida. What were the two of them up to? Were they friends--or something more? Just when Charlie thinks he's solved the puzzle, a new scandal erupts, and he disappears. The police say it's suicide. Marina is a psychiatrist, and she doesn't believe them.

A tour-de-force of storytelling, The Night Ocean follows the lives of some extraordinary people: Lovecraft, the most influential American horror writer of the 20th century, whose stories continue to win new acolytes, even as his racist views provoke new critics; Barlow, a seminal scholar of Mexican culture who killed himself after being blackmailed for his homosexuality (and who collaborated with Lovecraft on the beautiful story The Night Ocean); his student, future Beat writer William S. Burroughs; and L.C. Spinks, a kindly Canadian appliance salesman and science-fiction fan -- the only person who knows the origins of The Erotonomicon, purported to be the intimate diary of Lovecraft himself.

As a heartbroken Marina follows her missing husband's trail in an attempt to learn the truth, the novel moves across the decades and along the length of the continent, from a remote Ontario town, through New York and Florida to Mexico City.

The Night Ocean is about love and deception -- about the way that stories earn our trust, and betray it. 


“A beauty of a tale…A book full of pleasures…Dashing, playful and cleverly imagined, The Night Ocean emerges as an inexhaustible shaggy monster, part literary parody, part case study of the slipperiness of narrative and the seduction of a good story.”— D. T. Max, The New York Times Book Review

“The plot unfolds like a series of Russian nesting dolls, and thrillingly so: Like the best of Lovecraft, this novel questions the capacity of language to describe reality with accuracy…The Night Ocean proves to be more than a great read—it’s a timely meditation on the challenge of separating artist from art and the limits of human understanding.” —Chicago Review of Books

“[La Farge] carries it all off with breathtaking skill and panache.…[S]pare yourself the trouble of trying to divine what’s true and what’s fiction in “The Night Ocean” and just go along for the ride.”The Washington Post

“La Farge’s rabbit-hole mystery ranges from ancient cultures to modern chat rooms, but hangs together in one woman’s absorbing voice.” —New York Magazine, “8 New Books You Need to Read This March”

“With this intoxicating trip into the twin worlds of imagination and reality, La Farge gives new meaning to fan fiction in his exploration of the world of H.P. Lovecraft and the legacy he left behind.” —Newsweek

“This is a formally and emotionally limber novel that pulls you in as a black lake might, except that it’s also funny, and transformative, and illuminating—it’s a book of spells if I’ve ever read one.” –Lit Hub

“[La Farge] has surpassed himself. The Night Ocean is the ultimate crossing of the hazy boundary between reality and fantasy….A mighty boon to horror geeks like me who misspent a good portion of our youths reading the pulp fiction of Lovecraft and his unholy minions.” BookPage

“What a great book…Highly recommended but be prepared.” The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society

“Remarkable…The Night Ocean is a fabulous novel, in the quite literal meaning of that: it’s about tricksters and literary hoaxes and secret identities, but it’s really about the fables we make to construct, or discover, or invent ourselves, and about how much we can really get away with.” Locus

“This many-layered literary mystery is chockablock with surprise appearances.” —BBC.com, “Ten Books You Should Read in March”

“As we traverse a shifting narrative web that spans continents, decades, and spiritual dimensions, La Farge’s inventive and absorbing fifth novel reveals that questions relating to love and horror are not always mutually exclusive.” —Chronogram

“The universe of The Night Ocean is vast....In a complex, high-concept narrative littered with famous figures, La Farge leaves readers ever uncertain as to who’s telling the truth—and ready for the next twist.”—Elle

“Throughout, the novel wobbles between richly researched historical fact… and brilliantly imagined fiction. It will escape no reader that The Night Ocean is itself a work of passion, wordsmithery, and obsession — a kind of story within a story, if you will, of the sort that Lovecraft would have, well, loved.” —The Week

“Intricately constructed…His sure-handed world-building [and] empathy…suggest a circle of La Fargeans will someday soon emerge.” —Albert Mobilio, Bookforum

“Was H.P. Lovecraft, the great American horror writer, gay? That’s the question at the start of this ingenious, provocative work of alternative history from La Farge …Like Lovecraft’s ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’ the novel consists of several sub-narratives, ranging widely in time and place. But instead of a revelation about humanity’s diminished place in an impersonal universe, La Farge delivers insights into the human need to believe in stories and the nature of literary fame, while consistently upsetting readers’ expectations….[H]e outdoes his predecessors with this crafty mix of love, sex, and lies.” —Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

“The breadth of La Farge’s research and the specificity of his historical details are impressive: we enter the worlds of science-fiction fandom, internet trolls, literary hoaxes, and ancient Mexican civilizations as [he] deftly weaves in famous figures like H.P Lovecraft, Isaac Asimov, and William S. Burroughs. Only a virtuoso could pull off a story so intricately plotted and so full of big ideas about morality and truth…La Farge is this virtuoso, folding stories inside stories with ease…. An effortlessly memorable novel.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Magnificent. The Night Ocean is an impossible, irresistible novel, a love letter to the unloveable that speaks the unspeakable." Lev Grossman, author of the Magicians trilogy

“A whole damned hustling heart-broken double-talking meaning-haunted world it is a privilege to enter.”  Peter Straub

“Paul La Farge has crafted the perfect novel – a work that constantly twists into unexpected realms, that illuminates the nature of love and deception, and that is as funny as it is profound. The Night Ocean is a gift to readers.”  David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z

“The Night Ocean had me from the first sentence. This immensely original, elegantly written and continually surprising novel casts a spell that keeps us enthralled until the book's brilliant conclusion."  Francine Prose, author of Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932

"The best novel of the year, almost any year. Historical, hysterical, fanatically attuned to the nuances of language and character, its mission, in its own words, is to ‘begin the almost impossible work of loving the world.’ It succeeds and then some, but it does more than that. It opens the window and airs out our stuffy literature. It is a book of light and laughter."  Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story 

"The Night Ocean is straight up brilliant. That's no surprise since it's written by Paul La Farge, one of the smartest, wildest literary talents in the game today….A sly, witty, but still loving send-up of H.P. Lovecraft and some of the grand anxieties of the American 20th century."  Victor LaValle, author of The Ballad of Black Tom

“It has been years since I read a novel with so much joy, impatience and awe. The Night Ocean overflows with difficult love, not least of all that of our narrator, Marina, who indirectly reminds us of how we are pushed around by dreams, ghosts, chance, and history. I have long been a tremendous admirer of all of La Farge's work; this novel is my favorite.”  Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances

“This story delivers thrills, brews intrigue, and takes literature on a wild ride. The Night Ocean is genuinely fantastic.”  Samantha Hunt, author of Mr. Splitfoot

“An electric exploration of horror, obsession, madness, and mystery. A novel that tunnels deeper into the thorny caverns of the human heart than most dare. To read The Night Ocean is to be plunged under a scary smart, morally labyrinthine, and wickedly funny spell. Paul La Farge is one of the most exciting writers working today.”  Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me


My husband, Charlie Willett, disappeared from a psychiatric hospital in the Berkshires on January 7, 2012. I say disappeared because I don’t believe he’s dead, although that would be the reasonable conclusion. Charlie’s army jacket, jeans, shoes, socks, and underwear (though, strangely, not his shirt) were all found at the edge of Agawam Lake the day after he left the hospital. The police say Charlie’s footprints led to the edge of the lake, and nobody’s footprints led away. Even if Charlie could somehow have left the lake without leaving tracks, they say, it’s hard to see how he would have survived long enough to reach shelter. According to the National Weather Service, the overnight low temperature in Stockbridge was 15 degrees, and Charlie didn’t have an extra set of clothes: the girl who gave him a ride swears he wasn’t carrying anything. What’s more, no one denies that Charlie was suicidal. The last time I saw him, in Brooklyn, he told me he’d taken a handful of Ambien, just to see what would happen. What happened was, he slept for twelve hours, had a dizzy spell in the shower, and sprained his ankle. “My life is becoming a sad joke,” he said, “except there’s no one around to laugh at it.” He looked at me entreatingly. I told him there was nothing funny about an Ambien overdose. It could kill you, if you took it with another depressant. “Thanks, Miss Merck Manual,” Charlie said. “I’m still your wife,” I said, “and you’re scaring me. If you really want to hurt yourself, you should be in the hospital.” To my surprise, Charlie asked, “Which hospital?” I thought for a moment, then I told him about the place in the Berkshires.

Two days later, Charlie was on the bus to Stockbridge. He called me that evening. “I feel like I’m in high school again, Mar,” he said. “The food is terrible, and everybody’s on drugs. I nearly had a panic attack, trying to figure out who to sit with at dinner. Who are the cool kids in an insane asylum? The bulimics look great, but the bipolars make better conversation.” “Sounds like you’ll fit right in,” I said, and Charlie laughed. He sounded like himself, for the first time in months. What had he sounded like before that? Like himself, but falling down a well in slow motion: each time I saw him, his voice was fainter and somehow more echo-y. That’s something Charlie might have said; normally, I am more cautious with my descriptions. I have never heard anyone fall down a well. “Are you on drugs?” I asked. “I start tomorrow,” Charlie said. “Wanted to call you tonight, in case there’s anything you want to ask before they erase my mind.” “Don’t joke,” I said. I thought about it. “What’s your favorite nut?” I asked. “Oh, Mar,” he said, “you know the answer to that one.”

Charlie called again two days after that and told me they had him on 2 milligrams of risperidone—which was more than I would have given him, but never mind—and it made him woozy. “But the characters, Mar,” he said, “the characters!” He was taking notes in his ­journal, for an essay he planned to write about his downfall. “Take it easy,” I said. “If they think your journal is antisocial, they might confiscate it.” “I am,” Charlie said. “I’ve only got enough energy to write for, like, five minutes a day. The rest of the time I watch Lost on DVD.” He didn’t talk about his therapy, but I didn’t expect him to. We had always respected each other’s privacy. “How long are they going to keep you?” I asked. Charlie said, “They’re saying a couple of weeks.” I said I would visit as soon as I could, probably the next weekend. Then, afraid that Charlie would draw the wrong conclusion, I clarified: “I just want to know you’re all right, and that you aren’t making the doctors miserable.” Charlie said it was his job to make the doctors miserable. Then he said, “Just kidding. My job right now is to make a world I can live in.” I wondered if he’d picked that phrase up in therapy, and what dopey therapist could have fed it to him. What Charlie needed was exactly not to make a world. He needed to figure out how to live in the one that exists. All of that took probably two seconds. “I’m happy that you’re doing well,” I said, and Charlie said, “Thanks.” We hung up.

That was on January fifth. On the seventh, Charlie forced the lock on his door with a bit of plastic, climbed a cyclone fence, and hitched a ride with a Simon’s Rock student named Jessica Ng. He told her he was meeting friends at Monument Mountain, for an Orthodox Christmas celebration, and she, the fool, dropped him on the shoulder of Route 7. He waved, cheerfully, she said, and walked into the forest. It’s all in the police report. For the police, and Charlie’s mother, and more or less everyone else, the last sentence of the story will be written in the summer, when Agawam Lake warms up, and Charlie’s body rises to the surface. Only I do not believe he is dead.

This, you’ll tell me, is pure wish fulfillment. I feel guilty that I didn’t save Charlie from suicide, so I’ve constructed a fantasy in which his suicide didn’t happen. It’s possible. Just because I am a psychotherapist doesn’t mean that I’m immune to delusional thinking, and I do feel guilty. I lie awake wondering whether, if I’d acted differently, ­Charlie would still be here. If I hadn’t pushed him away in that last conversation; if I had been more patient, more understanding; if I hadn’t moved out when I learned about Lila. Or, I tell myself, because I was patient, was understanding, maybe my mistake was to keep my thoughts too much to myself. When Charlie came back from Mexico City with evidence of Robert Barlow’s miraculous survival, I could have told him the evidence didn’t add up. When he went to see ­Barlow—the person he thought was Barlow—I might have said what I felt, which was, that the story was too good to be true. Even though I know what Charlie would have said: “Mar, you’re being mistrustful. I know it’s hard for you to remember, but there are people out there who aren’t crazy.” And I would have sulked, because I hated when Charlie called me mistrustful. It made me feel small, and it wasn’t true. My real mistake, I tell myself, when midnight comes around, and I get out of bed to drink a glass of wine and listen to the BBC, my mistake was that I believed Charlie too much. Then I remind myself that I loved Charlie because he was so unbearably easy to believe.

Excerpted from The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge. Copyright © 2017 by Paul La Farge. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpt content from Penguin Random House.

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Author Spotlight
Photo Credit: Carol Shadford

Paul La Farge is the author of four novels: The Night Ocean (The Penguin Press, 2017); The Artist of the Missing (FSG, 1999), Haussmann, or the Distinction (FSG, 2001), and Luminous Airplanes (FSG, 2011); and a book of imaginary dreams, The Facts of Winter (McSweeney's Books, 2005). He is the grateful recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Bard Fiction Prize, and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library in 2013-14. He lives in a subterranean ‘annex’ in upstate New York, where he is almost certainly up to no good.
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The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

Series: Signal Airship (Book 1)
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Tor Books (May 2, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765388766
ISBN-13: 978-0765388766


“Steampunky navy-in-the-air military tale full of sass and terrific characters. Great storytelling. Loved it.” ―Patricia Briggs

“The Guns Above is a sharp, witty Ruritanian adventure full of flintlock rifles, plumed shakos, brass buttons... and airships! Taking place in an alternate mid-nineteenth-century Europe where dirigibles ply the smoky air over battlefields and women have been grudgingly admitted to the air corps,The Guns Above takes a clear-eyed, even cynical view of the 'glories' of war, complete with blood, shit, shattered limbs, and petty squabbles among the nobility. The aerial combat is gut-clenchingly realistic, the two viewpoint characters are well-drawn and as different as can be, and the action never stops. Hard women learn compassion, soft men learn bravery, and the fate of a nation depends on one rickety airship and its stalwart crew. A winner!”David D. Levine, author of Arabella of Mars

“An engaging gunpowder adventure with a helping of witty Noel Coward dialogue and a touch of Joseph Heller.” ―Tina Connolly, Nebula Award-nominated author of Ironskin

“Wonderfully adventurous and laudably detailed. Bennis paints airship battles so clearly you'd swear they were from memory.” ―Becky Chambers, author of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

“Buckle in. The crew of the Mistral will take readers on adventures they won’t soon forget.” Pip Ballantine, author of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series

“Hold on to your goggles, Bennis' The Guns Above is a nonstop ride.” – Suzanne Lazear, author of The Aether Chronicles Series

“A fast-paced military fantasy, full of colourful characters and quirky humour that had me laughing throughout. Every fan of airships should read this.” ―Marc Turner, author of Dragon Hunters

“Bennis writes a pleasing mix of banter and gritty battle scenes, combining both the adrenaline rush of combat and its horrifying results, and never indulging in too-sudden social victories that might cheapen the longstruggle against embedded prejudice.”― Publishers Weekly

The nation of Garnia has been at war for as long as Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupris can remember – this time against neighboring Vinzhalia. Garnia’s Air Signal Corp stands out as the favored martial child of the King. But though it’s co-ed, women on-board are only allowed “auxiliary” crew positions and are banned from combat. In extenuating circumstances, Josette saves her airship in the heat of battle. She is rewarded with the Mistral, becoming Garnia’s first female captain.

She wants the job – just not the political flak attached. On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat – a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. He’s also been assigned to her ship to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision. When the Vins make an unprecedented military move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself to the top brass?

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Photo Content from Robyn Bennis

Robyn Bennis is a scientist living in Mountain View, California, where she works in biotech but dreams of airships. She has done research and development involving human gene expression, neural connectomics, cancer diagnostics, rapid flu testing, gene synthesis, genome sequencing, being so preoccupied with whether she could that she never stopped to think if she should, and systems integration. 

Her apartment is within sight of Hangar One at Moffett Airfield, which was once the West Coast home to one of America's largest airships, the USS Macon.

Her debut novel, The Guns Above, comes out in May 2017.

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