[Q&A with the author] The All-Night Sun by Diane Zinna @DianeZinna #TheAllNightSun

I’m so excited to be sharing this Q&A with the wonderful Diane Zinna, author of The All-Night Sun.

Q&A

Q: What inspired you to write The All-Night Sun?

A: The idea for the book actually came to me in a dream, though it grew into something very different in the writing. I’d dreamed of two friends traveling together by train. I dreamed that one of those women snuck off to reunite with a lover in an underground Parisian bathroom filled with art—dream stuff. In the writing, the bathroom became Stockholm’s art-filled subway. The lover remained. The friend, waiting upstairs, her jealousy rising, remained.

Q: How long did it take you to write your debut novel The All-Night Sun?

A: It took about a year to write the first draft, but the story went through many years of revisions, mostly in its structure. I had written it toggling back and forth in time. As a book about grief, that felt right to me, the way intense, vivid memories can interrupt our day-to-day. Someone who read it early on suggested a linear format, so I pulled it apart and did it that way to see how it might work. It was a helpful exercise in that I was able to close some plot holes, but it didn’t feel like the same story anymore. I know as writers we are told to drive forward, always forward, but moving back and forth in time was part of what gave this book energy. After taking it apart for someone else, it took me a long time to put it back together in a way I loved again, but I’m so glad I did.

Q: Do you have a routine of writing at a certain time for a couple of hours or do you do it spontaneously?

A: I have always longed for a regular practice, but so far I haven’t been successful at keeping to one. I’ve always worked full time, and the writing of this book overlapped having my daughter and dealing with illness, and there’s always the stuff of life that interrupts us. When generating new work, I tend to write in short bursts. When I’m in an editing phase, I can write for hours and that process just overtakes everything I’m doing. I have even been known to write with the laptop open in the car, squeezing in words at red lights.

Q: Was there a particular scene which you found hard to write (spoiler-free if possible)?

A: The last chapter was difficult because I longed to give Lauren a good ending. I felt that if anyone deserved that, she did. I knew that some people were not going to find her to be a “likeable” narrator, and I liked her very much. I wanted her to be okay out in the world without me when I was finished. In early drafts, my last paragraphs tried to do too much. I hinted at who she later married, showed her starting over as a teacher in a new school, showed her with new friends, even new hobbies.(I had her scrapbooking!?) But I always knew that this book was about coming right up to the edge of being okay after grief—coming to the lip of it and finally taking that first breath after so long being underwater. So that’s how I ended it—with Lauren’s first, deep breath.

Q: Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

A:  Lauren is another version of me, I think. I too lost my parents too early, though not in the way it’s described in the book. The memorization of things, the TV always on, how she was constantly teaching herself new things to occupy her mind—that was all very much me. But for me, that drive also became an obsession with work and service.I worked three jobs. I volunteered as much as I could. I tried to help others dealing with loss. But all of that also served as a way of hiding my grief away, and like Lauren, my pain often burst out at inopportune times.

Q: What authors made you fall in love with reading?

A: Early on for me, it was Ray Bradbury. I checked out a copy of The Illustrated Man from my elementary school library and never returned it. I felt like that book had found me, and I still have it. One of my favorite Bradbury stories, “All Summer in a Day,” appears in The All-Night Sun. My early reading was this really formative mix of dark science fiction and Sweet Valley High books. In high school, I loved The Once and Future King for its romantic sense of being held by the natural world, and a science fiction novel called A Canticle for Leibowitz, that was about hope during a dark time. These two books also imparted structure lessons to me I still think about a lot.

Q: Are you currently reading anything – if so, what are you reading at the moment?

A:  I’ve been reading a lot of books that are debuting in 2020, into this pandemic time. One thing I was grateful to discover is that there are opportunities to connect with other writers who are debuting in your year. In our 2020 Debuts group, we started out sharing the normal joys and anxieties, but now we are supporting each other through cancelled book tours, delayed publication dates, and format changes. With so many bookstores closed, many of us will never have the experience of walking into a bookstore and seeing our books on display. I hope readers will seek out the 2020 Debuts on social media—there are so many extraordinary stories waiting to become part of someone’s heart.

Thank you so much to Diane for taking the time to answer these questions for Breathing Through Pages!

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this Q&A!

THE ALL-NIGHT SUN

Forthcoming from Random House, July 14th, 2020

All the buy/pre-order links for The All-Night Sun are below!

Add ‘The All-Night Sun‘ to your TBR:  

*Pre-order ‘The All-Night Sun‘ here:

*Pre-order ‘The All-Night Sun‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Diane Zinna is originally from Long Island, New York. She received her MFA from the University of Florida and went on to teach creative writing for ten years. She was formerly the executive co-director at AWP, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, which hosts the largest literary conference in North America each year. In 2014, Diane created their Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, helping to match more than six hundred writers over twelve seasons.

Diane lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her husband and daughter. The All-Night Sun is her first novel.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[Q&A with the author] Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart @Doug_D_Stuart #ShuggieBain

I’m so excited to be sharing this Q&A with the wonderful Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain.

📸 Amy Chin

Q&A

First of all, huge congratulations on your debut Shuggie Bain! It’s already out in the US and Australia and it will be out in the UK in August!

Q: What inspired you to write Shuggie Bain?

A: No one particular thing. I grew up in Glasgow in the 1980’s but have lived in New York for the past twenty years. I think I was grieving for the boy I once was, for the people I grew up around and the city I love. I was just overwhelmed with a need to set it all on the page. I actually started with (what is now) chapter thirteen, where the characters Leek and Shuggie go to the closed down colliery and Leek teaches his young brother how to walk like a proper man. Then the rest of the book seemed to flow from there and there was no stopping it.

Q: How long did it take you to write your debut novel Shuggie Bain?

A: Like most writers I worked full time – except I worked in the fashion industry. It took me ten years to write Shuggie Bain;fashion is a really intense industry, and NYC is a really restless city, so I always had to be quite selfish in order to steal some time to actually write. I wrote Shuggie in the margins of the day. Once the book had its hooks in me the rest of my working week felt like an obstacle to overcome before I could return to my characters. There were periods where their stories swallowed me so completely. Writing this book definitely tested my marriage – my obsession with my writing has ruined many family holidays!

Q: Do you have a routine of writing at a certain time for a couple of hours or do you do it spontaneously?

A: I write full time now so I try to have the discipline of arriving at my desk after breakfast every morning. But I’m not too hard on myself if it doesn’t come to anything. Thinking and living and stepping back to consider your work are as necessary as writing itself. I’m both an early morning thinker and a late in the day writer – I’m useless after lunch so I try to keep the afternoon for admin and allowing my mind to wander. Because I live in a chaotic city, I find my most valuable tool is noise cancelling headphones. When I have those on, I can focus for hours. Any time I get stuck, I go out for a walk and New York usually presents me with some unexpected human behavior that inspires me.

Q: Was there a particular scene which you found hard to write (spoiler-free if possible)?

A: There is a scene near the beginning of the book where young Shuggie is playing near an old dis-used washing machine. He is bullied by an older boy. I found that scene particularly jarring because it deals with both abuse and homophobia – and it is really the turning point forShuggie. After this he is marked in his coal-mining community as too effeminate, as being ‘no right’. This was a hard scene to write becauseits always harrowing to steal the innocence of a child. Instinctively, all you want to do is protect your characters.

Q: Do you see yourself in your character Shuggie?

A: I think many writers pull from real life. Shuggie is too kind and too patient to be anything like me, he endures incredibly painful things with such grace,and I think they would make me crumble.

It’s not that I see myself in Shuggie, but that I see my life and my experiences growing up in Glasgow in all the characters. I tried to be as authentic and truthful as I could in re-creating the millieu – I hope that is one of the strongest things you will feel from the book. Sometimes in order to do that I needed to remove myself as the author to ensure I didn’t have too much intrusion. I wanted the reader to feel as though they were in the room, I never wanted them to have a sense that a writer was telling them this story and standing between them and these characters.

Q: What authors have influenced you and made you fall in love with reading and eventually writing a novel?

A: Growing up poor I rarely saw books that portrayed families like my own and that always made me feel so lonely. The first time I read Barry Hines’s A Kestrel for a KnaveI suddenly understood the power of literature because I felt seen. Later, when I discovered Agnes Owens and James Kelman, I saw that a writer can capture working-class lives with all the dignity and urgency and importance that we usually give to middle class characters. Poverty is just as worthy of the page as privilege is. I think the biggest influences on me as a writer have been Alan Warner, Irvine Welsh, Cormac McCarthy and Agnes Owens. I don’t know if this reflects in my work, but I admire their ability to look difficult things straight in the eye and write about it without embellishment. As a writer, everything you read has an influence on you – even if that feeling is about rejecting what you read.

Q: What are some of your favourite books?

A: There are so many to mention. Whenever I read queer or working-class characters on the page, I feel incredibly seen. I am always drawn to urgent working-class protagonists: Alexander Trocchi’s Young Adam, Phillipp Meyer’s American Rust, Agnes Owens’s Gentlemen of The West, Barry Hines’s A Kestrel for A Knave. (Ken Loach’s adaptation ‘Kes’ is an incredible film.) I try to read as much queer fiction as I can: James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt, The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst, Alexander Chee’s Edinburgh, Colm Tóibin’s The Story of the Night.I LOVE Thomas Hardy: but am especially fond of Tess of the D’Ubervilles or Jude the Obscure. Arabella Don is one of my favourite characters ever. Of all the Scottish books that have had influenced me, I really admire Alan Warner’s Morvern Callar and Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing. Any fan of Elinor Oliphant should read Galloway’s book.

Q: Are you currently reading anything – if so, what are you reading at the moment?

A: There have been so many great books published recently but I love: Real Life by Brandon Taylor, The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, and Mary South’s short story collection You Will Never Be Forgotten is so exciting and strange. At the moment I’m finding myself in need of some comfort from what I read so I’m re-reading The Persian Boy by Mary Renault and Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt. I find McCann’s book comforting and disturbing at the exact same time – and I love that. It’s a gay love story that is both immersive and propulsive. I’m obsessed with Jacob Cullen! If I had the money, I would commission a trilogy!

Q: Is there a lingering idea for a future novel?

A: There is! I am at work on a gay love story set amongst the territorial gangs of Glasgow. It’s about two young men who are in love and are divided by sectarian lines. It has been described as Romeo and Juliet with homemade tomahawks and shanking blades!

📸 Amy Chin

Thank you so much to Douglas for taking the time to answer these questions for Breathing Through Pages!

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this Q&A!

US cover

UK cover

Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie’s guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good–her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamourous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion’s share of each week’s benefits–all the family has to live on–on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs. Agnes’s older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is “no right,” a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her–even her beloved Shuggie.

A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of Edouard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.

SHUGGIE BAIN is already out in the US and Australia and will be out in August in the UK. All the buy/pre-order links are below!

Add ‘Shuggie Bain‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘Shuggie Bain‘ here:

*Pre-order ‘Shuggie Bain‘ here:

*Pre-order ‘Shuggie Bain‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Douglas Stuart is a Scottish – American author. His short story, Found Wanting, was published in The New Yorker magazine.

His debut novel, Shuggie Bain, is published by Grove Atlantic in the US and Picador in the UK. It is to be translated into Swedish, Norwegian, Italian, German and French. He wrote Shuggie Bain over a ten year period and is currently at work on his second novel.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Douglas was raised in some of the city’s most deprived housing schemes, including the now demolished Sighthill tower blocks. After receiving his MA from the Royal College of Art in London he has lived and worked in New York City.

Find him on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[Q&A with the author] The Body Politic by Brian Platzer @bplatzer #TheBodyPolitic

I’m so excited to be sharing this Q&A with the wonderful Brian Platzer, author of The Body Politic.

Q&A

Q: What inspired you to write The Body Politic?

A: For two years, I was dizzy all day every day. My vision was blurry, I couldn’t be alone with my kids, teach, write, or carry on a conversation in person or over the phone. I was lonely and scared–feelings exacerbated by the combination of constant suffering and the existential horror of not knowing if the suffering would last forever. After I finally found the medications that now give me a few hours of clarity each day, I wanted to process both my perspective and those of my wife, friends and family who’d endured it all with me.  Then Trump was elected, and the parallels between my illness and the political moment just snuck up on me. There was a comparable frustration, dread, disorientation, and uncertainty. Telling these two stories together put human emotions and decisions on a political scale and contextualized the characters in way that makes their story feel way more alive.

Q: How long did it take you to write your novel The Body Politic?

A: About 4 years!

Q: Do you have a routine of writing at a certain time for a couple of hours or do you do it spontaneously?

A: I have a few hours of clarity every morning, so I teach two mornings a week and write the other three mornings.  Then I edit in the afternoons.

Q: Was there a particular scene which you found hard to write (spoiler-free if possible)?

A: All the scenes involving the kids made me really emotional.  I hate thinking about what my kids went through when I was sick.

Q: Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

A: David, one of the protagonists, is pretty much just a taller, friendlier, sadder version of me.

Q: What authors have influenced you and made you fall in love with reading and eventually writing a novel?

A: James Baldwin, Philip Roth, Rachel Cusk, W Somerset Maugham

Q: What are some of your favourite books?

A: Giovanni’s Room, American Pastoral, Outline, The Razor’s Edge

Q: Are you currently reading anything – if so, what are you reading at the moment?

A:  I’m reading the great Rachel Monroe’s Savage Appetites

Thank you so much to Brian for taking the time to answer these questions for Breathing Through Pages!

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this Q&A!

In the bestselling tradition of The Interestings and A Little Life, this keenly felt and expertly written novel by the author of the “savvy, heartfelt, and utterly engaging” (Alice McDermott) Bed-Stuy Is Burning follows four longtime friends as they navigate love, commitment, and forgiveness while the world around them changes beyond recognition.

New York City is still regaining its balance in the years following 9/11, when four twenty-somethings—Tess, Tazio, David, and Angelica—meet in a bar, each yearning for something: connection, recognition, a place in the world, a cause to believe in. Nearly fifteen years later, as their city recalibrates in the wake of the 2016 election, their bond has endured—but almost everything else has changed.

As freshmen at Cooper Union, Tess and Tazio were the ambitious, talented future of the art world—but by thirty-six, Tess is married to David, the mother of two young boys, and working as an understudy on Broadway. Kind and steady, David is everything Tess lacked in her own childhood—but a recent freak accident has left him with befuddling symptoms, and she’s still adjusting to her new role as caretaker.

Meanwhile, Tazio—who once had a knack for earning the kind of attention that Cooper Union students long for—has left the art world for a career in creative branding and politics. But in December 2016, fresh off the astonishing loss of his candidate, Tazio is adrift, and not even his gorgeous and accomplished fiancée, Angelica, seems able to get through to him. With tensions rising on the national stage, the four friends are forced to face the reality of their shared histories, especially a long-ago betrayal that has shaped every aspect of their friendship.

Elegant and perceptive, The Body Politic explores the meaning of commitment, the nature of forgiveness, the way that buried secrets will always find their way to the surface, and how all of it can shift—and eventually erupt—over the course of a life.

All the buy links for The Body Politic are below!

Add ‘The Body Politic‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘The Body Politic‘ here:

*Purchase ‘The Body Politic‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Brian Platzer is the author of BED-STUY IS BURNING (’17) and THE BODY POLITIC (’20) from Atria/Simon & Schuster, and THE TAKING THE STRESS OUT OF HOMEWORK (’20) from Avery/Penguin Random House. Brian has an MFA from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, and a BA from Columbia University. His writing has appeared often in the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, as well as in the New York Times, The New Republic, Salon, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and two young sons in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, teaches middle school English in Manhattan, and suffers from chronic dizziness.

Find him on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[BOOK REVIEW] The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo @ClaireLombardo #TheMostFunWeEverHad

There’s something about family dramas/dysfunctional families that immediately catches my attention but even so I’m very picky because I prefer family dramas set during a longer period of time because I feel like they cover more ground and get more precise or dissect the family better. The Most Fun We Ever Had was that book, it ticked all of the boxes for me. Family life in itself isn’t that much fun but adding to it the ‘getting into the psyche of the characters’, discussing certain topics over decades is what makes it fascinating (at least to me). The Most Fun We Ever Had offers so much brain food with the topics it discusses (familial bonds, affairs, adoption etc) and that’s what I appreciated a lot.

The story revolves around Marilyn and David Sorenson and their four children. It goes from the present (2010s+) where we get to see an ‘arrival of a newcomer’ to the past (1970s+) where we get the story of Marilyn and David. The way Lombardo switches from past to present is gorgeous, she manages to keep us in the loop on all happenings which I appreciated while reading. The way Lombardo writes about siblings is so accurate and fascinating. While reading I highlighted many quotes and my copy is filled with sticky notes. The perception of children is something I was surprised to see in the book whilst reading and it’s something I loved because oftentimes we’re oblivious to how much information children absorb and how much of that information stays with them like a scar, etched in their brain. The main topic of the novel is love. Sibling love, spousal love, parental love. It all stems from Marilyn and David and it was so interesting reading about how their daughters lives are followed by their love. Each one is aware that Marilyn and David are something else, something special, that their love is something special. Their daughters are Wendy, a widow and a bit of a drunk, Liza, an educator who’s pregnant but not sure if the man she’s with is the right one, Violet, a retired litigator who has a new role as a housewife with two boys and Grace, a college-aged youngest daughter who hasn’t been telling the truth to her family. Lombardo presents the reader with a lot of information but does it in a way that isn’t overwhelming because you find yourself wanting to know that information, even more than what you’re presented with.

The novel as a whole works beautifully and presents the Sorensons in all their glory – their failures, hopes and more. I couldn’t stay away from the Sorensons because I always wanted to know more, to get another peek at their lives.

This review is a bit of a mess I believe so moral of the story – read it! If you love family dramas this is a MUST READ.

My rating:

Add ‘The Most Fun We Ever Had‘ to your TBR: 

*Purchase ‘The Most Fun We Ever Had‘ here:

*Purchase ‘The Most Fun We Ever Had‘ here:

*Purchase ‘The Most Fun We Ever Had‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Claire Lombardo is a fiction writer, teacher, and Post-It enthusiast. Her debut novel, The Most Fun We Ever Hadwas released in June 2019 and debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List. It has been translated or is forthcoming in over a dozen languages, and is currently being adapted for a series on HBO with Laura Dern and Amy Adams co-producing and Lombardo writing.

Claire is a 2017 graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and has been the recipient of an Iowa Arts Fellowship, a Sun Valley Writers’ Conference Fellowship, and a Key West Literary Seminar Scholarship. She has taught fiction writing at the University of Iowa and the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. Her short fiction has appeared in or is forthcoming from, among others, PlayboyBarrelhouse Magazine, Little Fiction, and LongformHer short story, “I Only Want to Talk About the Nice Things,” was one of 2016’s Best of the Net, and was #1 on Longform‘s 2015 fiction list.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[BOOK REVIEW] Schrödinger’s Dog by Martin Dumont transl. John Cullen @otherpress

Schrödinger’s Dog is Martin Dumont’s debut novel. Told in first person it follows Yanis, a cabdriver, who is a single parent to Pierre. In the early days when Pierre was younger his dad used to take him everywhere in his taxi and they had fun together – but the one thing they both love most  is diving. Their mutual love for diving is something they both come back to even now when Pierre is in his twenties. Yanis mostly works nights as a cabdriver so that he can have time to see his son during the day. Pierre has friends, he goes out and Yanis can’t always watch him carefully. Yanis and Pierre are great divers, Pierre (because of his age) is even better than Yanis and can last longer underwater. One day when diving Pierre complains that his back hurts and that they should stop – this is worrisome to Yanis because Pierre never complains when it comes to diving. From this moment on, Pierre begins to get worse and ends up in hospital. Yanis does his best to help his son, but at what cost?

Schrödinger’s Dog is a short book but a powerful one. The writing style in it is gorgeous so kudos to the translator! The chapters are relatively short so you can definitely read it in a few hours but the story inside is quite sad. I found Yanis to be so dedicated to helping his son and I loved that about him. I feel like his actions could be justified because if a person is brought into that situation they’d always do things to make their loved ones feel better. I really loved hearing Yanis talk about the times spent together with his son as well as Yanis’ descriptions of what diving means to him, how it transports him. Ah, that ending…

Definitely recommend.

I would like to thank the publisher (Other Press) for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by the fact that I got this book from the publisher.

My rating:

Add ‘Schrödinger’s Dog‘ to your TBR: 

*Purchase ‘Schrödinger’s Dog‘ here:

*Purchase ‘Schrödinger’s Dog‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Martin Dumont was born in Paris in 1988 and spent many years in Brittany, where he fell in love with the sea. In addition to writing, he works as a naval architect. Schrödinger’s Dog is his first novel.

John CullenJohn Cullen is the translator of many books from Spanish, French, German, and Italian, including Susanna Tamaro’s Follow Your Heart, Philippe Claudel’s Brodeck, Carla Guelfenbein’s In the Distance with You, Juli Zeh’s Empty Hearts, Patrick Modiano’s Villa Triste, and Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation. He lives on the Shoreline in southern Connecticut.

[BOOK EXTRACT] The Pharmacist by Justin David @Justin_Writer @InkandescentUK #ThePharmacist

I’m very excited to share with you today an extract of Justin David’s The Pharmacist! 

EXTRACT

At last, together in the same space, Billy drinks red wine with his new friend. It’s as if they have always known each other. In this short space of time, he’s learned that Albert’s favourite authors are Genet and Proust, that he never eats red meat on a Sunday and that he once had dinner with Dusty Springfield.
Billy stands in the open bay window where Albert had stood earlier. He wonders where Jamie could have got to. Maybe he’d had to work after all. This is happening more frequently since he started that blasted job at the Walter’s Gallery. He’s so good at his job, they just want more and more of him. The thought lingers at the back of his throat like a bit of dry bread until he washes it down with a zealous gulp of red wine.
Cradling the glass, he leans out into the sunshine, intermittently eyeing up a neighbour washing his car. The street is ablaze with gold and green—dappled sunlight pushing through the gaps in the foliage of the sycamores lining the street. Albert stands, holding the bottle of red wine. ‘Vada the bona dish on the omi-palone!’ he says, extending every vowel sound, curling his words like ornate calligraphy. He’s come to stand next to Billy, to stare down at the neighbour. The palm of Albert’s hand gently rests on his back, warmth spreading through the fabric of his vest. Billy turns and presses his arse against the windowsill. ‘Eh?’
Albert pours more wine into Billy’s almost empty glass. ‘I said, look at the rear end on that gorgeous queen.’ Albert puts the bottle down and gulps his wine.
It takes Billy a moment to register. ‘Ah, Polari. I haven’t heard that for ages,’ he says, but still feels a little bewildered. ‘Who?’
‘That guy next door.’ Albert nods his head towards the man in the street. ‘Don’t pretend. I saw you. Couldn’t take your eyes off him.’
Billy looks over his shoulder at the man who has dropped his sponge and now has his mobile phone clamped to the side of his face. He’s sneering and flaring his nostrils, looking busy. He takes lots of very quick, small steps, down the tree-lined street, shoulders pivoting forwards and backwards. After having been misled by an image of butch masculinity, this little display makes them both giggle. Billy turns back to see Albert smiling to himself, walking across the room to throw his hat on a coat stand. ‘Dolly capello, old fruit,’ Billy says, complimenting Albert on his hat. They both suddenly crack into laughter, surprised but united now, across the generation gap, by the ancient gentleman’s slang.
For a moment there’s a silence in which they stand looking at each other. ‘So, what do you do?’ Albert finally says.
The question makes Billy squirm. He ponders a second before announcing, ‘I’m an artist.’ He knows if he’s ever going to live the life he wants he must get used to defining himself so. It seems such an airy-fairy thing to say—not really a proper job.
‘I knew you had to be a painter. First time I met you, in the hall, I smelt the turps. Though, I suppose when I saw you loitering in the flower market, from the way you were dressed, I thought you might have owned one of those trendy art galleries on Columbia Road.’
‘You saw me?’ Billy acts surprised, but of course he knows that Albert had seen him that day. He covers a smile with his hand.
‘Oh come off it. You were watching me!’ Albert teases. ‘You even nodded at me.’ His eyes glint and his cheeks flush pink perhaps with the wine. ‘But didn’t you say you were on holiday, the other day?’
Billy explains that he works part-time for an arts trust.
‘Must be difficult,’ Albert says. ‘Working in an office as well as fitting in your creative activities.’
He’s relaxed, even though the old man continues to fire question after question at him. There seems nothing guarded about Albert. From the outside, who would guess they only just met?
Billy looks around the room. It’s a large space with bare floorboards and a thick rag rug in the middle. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves run along the left-hand side of the bay window. In front of the window there’s a tatty cream chaise longue, and in the corner, to the right, a writing bureau, on top of which sits an emerald green glass vase, containing eight bright pink gerberas. Billy counts each stalk and wonders if Albert has always chosen that colour.
‘I’m easing myself into the painting again,’ Billy says. ‘But no doubt just as I build enough momentum to work towards the next show, I’ll run out of money and be back to the grind.’
‘Got to stay positive, Billy. You’ll make it work.’
Billy continues to gaze around the room. In front of the bookshelves, there is a well-worn ox-blood leather Chesterfield and a standard lamp with a dusty cream shade. On a glass-topped coffee table sit a few books and a scattering of magazines. Some of them are pornographic, which strikes Billy as rather unusual. Is Albert too lazy to clear up, or is he making a statement?
‘But you’ll continue to paint?’
Billy nods. ‘Right! That’s enough,’ he says, flopping down onto the Chesterfield, halting further interrogation. ‘You’ve been quizzing me ever since I arrived. What about you?’
‘Me? I’m an open book. Not all that interesting, mind.’ Albert bites his bottom lip as if to feign shyness. ‘I am all your failed expectations in a man,’ he says sadly. Billy lifts the bottle of wine and Albert pushes his glass towards him. He pours two more glasses and Albert swallows almost half of his in one gulp.
‘Well, you must have a pretty pension to keep this place on. What did you do? I mean work-wise—for a living?’
‘Life doesn’t cost a lot now. There’s no mortgage on this place. But there are no savings and no pension either, only what I get from the state and that’s next to nothing. I’ve done some acting. Used to be a singer. All a blur now. I managed a very nice restaurant in Soho, once. But mainly, I just got by.’
‘Just got by?’ Billy questions. ‘I can hear the jangle of old money in your voice.’ 
‘Darling Boy!’ Albert says, pointing his finger. ‘You must not make assumptions about people based on the way they speak.’
‘I had you down as an aristocrat. Blue blood.’
‘We’re not all high fliers, Billy. I’m just a survivor.’
‘Well at least you have your home. How are you surviving?’     
Albert pauses in contemplation. Billy doesn’t know much about him, but he senses Albert is about to open up. ‘Billy, I hardly know you. But I feel we have a connection.’
‘Me too.’ Billy gives him a sexy little smile, confirming a mutual trust.
‘Okay, well if you can keep a secret…’
‘I thought you were an open book?’ Billy sits forward keenly.
‘Everyone has things that they keep to themselves.’ Albert slumps next to Billy on the Chesterfield and starts to talk, slurring his words a little. ‘I think it’s really important, at whatever cost, to be true to oneself. I hate spending my time in drag for other people’s convenience.’ Albert sloshes back more wine. ‘I mean drag in terms of putting on a performance. You know, like wearing a mask, covering up the self.
‘This is the way I see it. Most folks want to get married and have babies. So they have a baby, and they do everything they can to mould it, shape it, and dress it into what they think it should be. And they set this child on a path towards where they think it should be going.
‘You know, one is lucky if you grow up feeling comfortable being that person, being that shape, being on that path. And you can forget to think for yourself. One can get so far down that path with the job and the wife and the car, that before you know it, the whole process starts again, of making more babies to mould and shape, mould and shape… and oh…’ He pauses and swallows, then continues almost without drawing breath. ‘But for some of us, no matter how hard we try, we just don’t fit a particular shape. And we start thinking for ourselves. And we come to a fork in the road. And you just know you’ve got to make this choice, because when you’re different, if you wear those clothes and stay on that path, when you know you really should be somewhere else, then you’re just doing drag. Do you see what I’m talking about Billy?’
Billy is completely absorbed. ‘I think so. Yeah. But I don’t really understand what this has to do with money?’
‘Well, when you make that choice, when you take that fork in the road, you might have to turn around to your folks and say, ‘Yes, thanks for that. But no.’ With that, you’re on your own. Surviving means you might end up doing things you had never expected.’
Billy waits for a moment, expecting a punch line. ‘So come on then. What’s your secret?’
Albert turns to Billy and looks directly at him. ‘I’m in pharmaceuticals.’
Billy narrows his eyes at Albert.
‘You ever go dancing?’
‘God—all the time,’ Billy says.
‘You knowThe Palais? On Kingsland Road?’
‘Yeah. Been there lots of times. There’s a fantastic Trance night on Fridays.’
Albert’s eyes widen. ‘You’ve never seen me there?’
‘You?’
‘Yes, me, strangely enough! Old man in a Panama. Impossible to miss.’
‘No.’
‘I deal drugs in there.’
Billy feels his chin drop. ‘You’re kidding?’
‘Close your mouth, Billy. You look like you’re trying to catch flies.’ Albert swallows more wine.
‘I don’t understand.’
‘It’s not hard, Billy. Every Friday night I go to The Palais and I sell drugs to the clubbers.’
‘What kind of drugs?’
‘What kind of drugs do you think? Coke, speed, pills. A little bit of acid sometimes, but mainly E’s.’
‘Albert… you’re an old man,’ Billy says.
‘Thank you for pointing that out.’
Billy rolls around, uncoiling in his place on the Chesterfield. ‘Well, of course—a very well-preserved old man,’ he giggles.
Albert smiles, his eyes sparkling, full of danger.
Billy sits quietly staring at him, pondering the old man for several minutes. Albert smiles back without complaint, until Billy asks, ‘What are E’s like?’
‘You mean you’ve never done one?’ Albert runs his fingers through silver hair.
‘Never done anything, except a bit of grass.’ Billy looks at the clock on Albert’s bureau. They have been chatting for hours. An empty bottle of wine stands on the coffee table and a second, half empty, is in Albert’s hand refilling Billy’s glass. The sunlight is changing. It’s lower now and passes through the window, causing Billy’s wine glass to sparkle like a giant ruby.
‘I thought you said you’d been to The Palaison a Friday night?’
‘I have, but I’ve never done an E.’
‘You? A man in his twenties, dancing around half-naked in The Palais, never done an E?’
Billy laughs. ‘Well, I suppose, in the past, my attention was mainly on my work. The students who did drugs at art college didn’t get first class degrees. It would have been no good, me doing drugs. I can’t even open a box of chocolates without finishing the lot.’
‘Ha. I see. But most people who hang out on the club scene, especially those of your age, have tried it at least once. Part of the territory.’
Billy shrugs. ‘Never been offered.’
‘Never lived.’ Albert chuckles and strokes Billy’s head.
Billy is alert like a boy on his first day of school. ‘Tell me what it’s like,’ he says, lightening the tone of his voice, playing innocent. He kicks off his trainers, falls back onto the sofa and breathes in sun-warmed leather.
‘Hard to say. Like nothing you’ve ever felt in your life. Like being in a dream state.’ Albert flutters his hands in the air, pretending to scatter fairy dust. When his hand drops, it falls casually onto Billy’s shoulder. Billy allows it to rest there.
‘Can’t you be more specific? Dream state? Call yourself a drug dealer?’
‘I’m an expert on all drugs,’ Albert says. He undoes the top buttons of his shirt and removes his cravat. For a man of his age, Billy notes, his skin is in very good condition—only a slight sagginess where one might expect to see a more developed dewlap. His strong jawline reminds Billy of Marlon Brando. ‘I’ve never ingested any substance without first knowing about all the highs and the side effects. But with E, the experience is slightly different for everyone. Generally, with ecstasy, it’s all about empathy. If people around you are enjoying themselves, chances are, you’ll pick up on that vibe.’
‘They make you feel horny, don’t they?’ Billy asks, still playing dumb.
‘Yes. There’s that too.’ Albert smiles.
A July breeze of warm air moves through the open window. Sounds float in from the street—birdsong, traffic, the wind through the trees.
‘What else? People die, don’t they?’
‘There are risks, I suppose, but really, the few deaths that have occurred have been the result of carelessness. Overheating, or else over-hydration and all that stuff.’
‘You trying to sell to me?’   
‘Darling Boy, I’m not a drug pusher. I sell to those who use them. If you want to try one, you are more than welcome.’
Billy is surprised by this suggestion. A man of his age, sitting around popping Es, seemed unconventional to say the least. ‘Don’t you worry about stuff?’
‘Like what?’ Albert says, clearing his throat.
‘Short-term memory loss. Alzheimer’s. You read things, don’t you?’
‘When you reach my state of decrepitude, you stop worrying. Look at me, I’m seventy. Nothing wrong with my memory. And, Darling Boy, for every brain cell that has died, a new door has opened to a magical world.’
There’s a wry twinkle in Albert’s eye. ‘People who do drugs always say stuff like that,’ Billy says, deliberately juvenile.
‘I’ve explored corners of my mind which would’ve been otherwise unreachable. It has helped me to recall events from my childhood with incredible clarity.’
‘What about the hard stuff? Done that?’
‘I’ve done everything,’ Albert says.
Billy rubs the insides of his legs in anticipation. ‘Everything?’
‘We live in a chemical world, Billy Monroe. Everyone needs some kind of medicine.’ Billy forgives him the use of his surname. It makes him feel like a pupil being addressed by a teacher but he knows that Albert is playing his game.
‘What for?’ Billy asks.
‘When I’m tired, I snort a little speed. When I’m restless, I have a bit of pot. And if I’m feeling stuck. I mean, if I feel troubled by something, I’ll smoke a bit of opium to help me get through it. If I can’t sleep, I slip a little something in my tea.’
‘Speed? When you’re tired?’
Albert shrugs. ‘From time to time. Gets the vacuuming done.’
‘Albert Power!’ There, switching roles—he’s equal now. ‘You must have a liver like a piece of leather.’ He sits forward, trembling.
Albert stands, moves to the writing bureau, pulls open the front and lifts out a tiny bag of white tablets, shaking out a handful before disappearing through a beaded curtain into the kitchen. A moment later, he returns with two pint glasses of water and sits down next to Billy. Albert places his hand over the table and lets the tablets fall onto the glass surface. For a moment, Billy looks at them. Then he leans and picks one up, rolls it between his thumb and forefinger and examines its tiny logo.
‘Mitsubishi. Bona doobs!’
‘Eh?’ Billy misses the slang again.
‘Don’t you know your Polari, Darling Boy? Doobs. Drugs. These are good ones. Pure MDMA. Lovely trip.’
Billy’s mobile phone buzzes in his pocket. He pulls it out to read the text message. It’s from Jamie.
Really sorry, Billy. Had to work late.
I’m not going to make it.
Billy frowns and stuffs the phone back in his jeans.
‘Problem?’ Albert asks.
‘Not at all.’ He smiles coyly, puts the pill to his mouth, lets it touch his tongue. ‘It tastes bitter,’ he says, pulling a face.
‘Swallow it.’
The glass of water trembles in Billy’s hands. Albert swallows his pill and smiles. ‘See? Not dead yet.’

What do you think of it? Let me know below in the comments!

The Pharmacist is available from Amazon, Gay’s the Word & www.inkandescent.co.uk 

Stay ahead of the plot and sign up to their mailing list for information on future publications

Follow them on Facebook (@InkandescentPublishing) Twitter (@InkandescentUK) & Instagram (@inkandescentuk)

Make sure to follow other bloggers on this tour!

Add ‘The Pharmacist‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase the ebook version of ‘The Pharmacist‘ here:

*Purchase ‘The Pharmacist‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Justin David is a writer and photographer. A child of Wolverhampton, he has lived and worked in East London for most of his adult life. He graduated from the MA Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, has read at Paul Burston’s literary salon, Polari at Royal Festival Hall, and is a founder member of Leather Lane Writers. His writing has appeared in many print and online anthologies and his debut novella was published by Salt as part of their Modern Dreams series.

Justin is one half of Inkandescent–a new publishing venture with his partner, Nathan Evans. Their first offering, Threads, featuring Nathan’s poetry and Justin’s photography, was long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. It was supported using public funding by Arts Council England and is available in paperback and ebook.

Find him on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[BLOG TOUR: BOOK REVIEW] Overdrawn by N.J. Crosskey @NJCROSSKEY @legend_press #Overdrawn

I’m a bit late with the blog tour but better late than never! I believe it was Laura Pearson raving about Overdrawn that attracted my attention towards it so I googled it and requested a copy from the publisher. Luckily I’ve been sent a copy to read! Ahh what a story!

Overdrawn is set in a society where when you reach a certain age (which puts you into the old category) there’s a program called Moving On where you can go die peacefully and leave your children with a better future. The system works by using EPs (earning potential) which is determined by your education, health etc. In this society lives Henry Morris whose wife shows signs of advanced dementia which can be controlled with medication but the medication costs and Henry does everything he can to secure that she has her medication but he’s running out of options. Kaitlyn is a young woman who works as a waitress in order to keep her brother, who’s in a coma, plugged on life support for as long as he needs until he wakes up. The chances of him waking up are very slim but Kaitlyn is determined to do whatever to keep him in hospital because there’s still a chance he’ll wake up. One day Henry and Kaitlyn meet in a very awkward kind of way and from then on their lives become linked.

What to say!? Overdrawn is such a touching book. The whole idea of the book is something I’ve thought about myself but not to this sort of extreme where the government has the power to force you to move on. The society in which our characters live in is scary and cruel – a place where in order for your children to have a better future you are praised if you decide to literally sacrifice your own. Both Henry and Kaitlyn are such real and raw characters and their stories resonate with the reader. I loved Henry and Kaitlyn’s first encounter especially the part where he left her the tip and sort of woke up something in her. The whole friendship between these two characters was something I loved reading about as well as finding out more about them as a dynamic. I was initially into the idea both Henry and Kaitlyn had but as the story progressed and Kaitlyn got to meet Chloe (Henry’s wife) I got scared about how they’d do what they planned. I loved Chloe as a character so much – such a wonderful intelligent woman who has so much love in her heart. I loved reading parts with Chloe and laughing with her. The couple of chapters towards the end were a bit rushed to me but they were so emotional! I felt such sadness towards the end but also joy [people who’ve read the book will understand]. Crosskey is a wonderful storyteller!

Overdrawn is for readers who enjoy reading stories that have a heart to them, stories that leave you thinking.

I would like to thank the publisher Legend Press for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating:

Add ‘Overdrawn‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘Overdrawn‘ here:

*Purchase ‘Overdrawn‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

N.J. Crosskey is the author of Poster Boy (coming April 2019) 20180428_220837and Overdrawn  (September 2019)

A mother of two crazy children, N.J has worked in the care sector for almost twenty years and is now fulfilling her life-long dream of becoming a novelist.

Both titles will be published in 2019 by Legend Press.

N. J. Crosskey is represented by Emily Sweet Associates

Find her on: Website and Twitter.

[BLOG TOUR: EXTRACT] Three Days in Florence by Chrissie Manby #ThreeDaysinFlorence @HodderBooks

I’m very pleased to share an extract of Chrissie Manby’s Three Days in Florence with you today!

SYNOPSIS:

When a mini-break becomes make or break…

Kathy Courage has never visited the famous Italian city of Florence before, so she’s thrilled when she and her boyfriend Neil are invited there for a wedding. Unfortunately, with Neil’s constant complaining and his teenage children in tow, it’s not exactly the romantic break Kathy was hoping for.

But when a mix-up with her flights leaves Kathy stranded in the city, she decides to embrace the unexpected and stay on alone.

What follows is a life-changing few days in the Tuscan sun, as Kathy begins to question the choices that have led her here. With the help of the colourful Innocenti family, who offer Kathy a place to stay, she gradually begins to realise that there’s a much bigger world out there, if only she can be brave enough to explore it.

Could Italy hold the answers to her future happiness? Or is Kathy destined to return to her old life?

BOOK EXTRACT

Thoughts?

Follow other amazing book bloggers on this blog tour!

Add ‘Three Days in Florence‘ to your TBR: 

*Purchase ‘ Three Days in Florence‘ here:

*Purchase ‘Three Days in Florence‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Chrissie Manby is the author of twenty five romantic comedies including A PROPER FAMILY HOLIDAY, THE MATCHBREAKER and SEVEN SUNNY DAYS. She has had several Sunday Times bestsellers and her novel about behaving badly after a break-up, GETTING OVER MR RIGHT, was nominated for the 2011 Melissa Nathan Award. Chrissie was raised in Gloucester, in the west of England, and now lives in London. Contrary to the popular conception of chick-lit writers, she is such a bad home-baker that her own father threatened to put her last creation on http://www.cakewrecks.com. She is, however, partial to white wine and shoes she can’t walk in. You can follow her on Twitter @chrissiemanby, or visit her website http://www.chrissiemanby.co.uk to find out more.

[BLOG TOUR: EXTRACT] Careless Whisper by T.S. Hunter @TSHunter5 @RedDogTweets #SohoNoir

I’m so excited to share an extract of T.S. Hunter’s new Soho Noir thriller – Careless Whisper – as part of my blog tour stop with you all!

SYNOPSIS:

LOOSE LIPS COST LIVES.

It’s 1986, and Adam Cave, lead singer of the pop sensation Loose Lips, is struggling to stay in the closet, especially as his group is going through a messy split, and media speculation about the reasons behind it are high.

Joe Stone is assigned to Adam as a runner for the behind-the-scenes, warts and all expose of the recording of the bands last album, and an unlikely friendship begins to form.

But when Adam’s manager, Jack Eddy, is found dead in Adam’s hotel room, in what looks like a sex game gone wrong, Joe turns to his flatmate, Russell, to help him clear the pop star’s name, and keep his secret.

Russell, meanwhile, has a secret of his own. He’s just been for a test, the results of which may change his life forever

BOOK EXTRACT

Thoughts?

Follow other amazing book bloggers on this blog tour!

Add ‘Careless Whisper‘ to your TBR: 

*Purchase ‘ Careless Whisper‘ here:

*Purchase ‘Careless Whisper‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Claiming to be at least half-Welsh, T.S. Hunter lived in South Wales for much of his latter teens, moving to London as soon as confidence and finances allowed. He never looked back.

He has variously been a teacher, a cocktail waiter, a podium dancer and a removal man, but his passion for writing has been the only constant.

He’s a confident and engaging speaker and guest, who is as passionate about writing and storytelling as he is about promoting mainstream LGBT fiction.

He now lives with his husband in the country, and is active on social media.

Find him on: Goodreads and Twitter.

[BLOG TOUR: EXTRACT] Wanderers by Chuck Wendig @ChuckWendig @RebellionPub @Tr4cyF3nt0n #TheWanderers

I’m so excited to share an excerpt from Wanderers by Chuck Wendig with you all! Ahh! I am so in love with it so far and I cannot wait to share my review with you soon as well! Thank you so much to Tracy Fenton at CompulsiveReaders for organising the blog tour!

BOOK EXTRACT

1

The First Sleepwalker

Last night’s amateur astronomers got a treat in the form of clear skies, a new moon, and Comet Sakamoto. The last three Great Comets were Lovejoy in 2011, McNaught in 2007, and the famous—­or infamous?—­Hale-­Bopp in 1997, which of course spawned the Heaven’s Gate cult, whose members committed mass suicide in the belief it would allow them to hitch a ride with an extraterrestrial spaceship following that comet. You’re listening to Tom Stonekettle of Stonekettle Radio, 970 BRG.

—­Stonekettle Radio Show, 970AM WBRG, Pittsburgh

June 3

Maker’s Bell, Pennsylvania

Shana stood there looking at her little sister’s empty bed, and her first thought was: Nessie ran away again.

She called to her a few times. Honestly, after Nessie had stayed up late last night to watch the comet through Dad’s shitty telescope, Shana figured the younger girl would still be in bed, snoring up little earthquakes. She wasn’t sure where the hell else Nessie could be—­Shana had been up for an hour already, making their lunches, finishing the laundry, putting the trash and recycling together so she could haul it up the long driveway for tomorrow’s pickup. So she knew Nessie wasn’t in the kitchen. Maybe she was in the upstairs bathroom.

“Nessie?” She paused. Listened. “Nessie, c’mon.”

But nothing.

Again the thought: Nessie ran away again.

It didn’t make much sense. First time Nessie ran away, that made sense. They’d just lost their mother—­lost her in a very literal way. The four of them went to the grocery store, and only three of them came back. They feared Mom had been taken and hurt, but eventually security cameras from the Giant Eagle showed that nobody kidnapped her; she strolled out the automatic doors like nothing was wrong and then walked out of their lives
for good. Mom became a big question mark stuck in their cheeks like a fishhook.

But it was clear that their mother didn’t want to be a part of their lives anymore. That, Shana knew even then, had been a long time coming, but the realization did not hit Nessie—­and still had not reached her, even now. Nessie believed then that it was Dad’s fault. And maybe Shana’s, too. So two years ago almost to the day, after school was done for the year, Nessie packed a backpack full of canned goods and bottled water (plus a couple of candy bars), and ran away.

They found Nessie four hours later at the wooden bus shelter on Granger, hiding from a sudden rain squall. Shivering like a stray puppy. When Dad picked her up she kicked and thrashed, and it was like watching a wrestler try to pin a tornado. But then he gave up, said to her, “You want to run away, you run away, but if you’re thinking of going after your mother, I don’t think she wants to be found.”

It was like watching a glass of water tip in slow motion. Nessie collapsed in his arms and wept so hard she could only catch her breath in these keening, air-­sucking hitches. Her shoulders shook and she pressed both hands under her armpits as if hugging herself. They got her home. She slept for two days and then, slowly but surely, came back to life.

That was two years ago.

Today, though, Shana could not figure out why Nessie would want to run away again. Girl was fifteen now and hadn’t hit the wall like Shana had at that age—­as Dad put it, Shana “went full teenager.” Mopey and mad and hormones like a kicking horse. Shana was almost eighteen, now. She was better these days. Mostly.

Nessie was still all right, hadn’t turned into a werewolf. Still happy. Still optimistic. Eyes bright like new nickels. She had a little notebook, in which she wrote all the things she wanted to do (scuba dive with sharks, study bats, knit her own slippers like Mom-­Mom used to do), all the places she wanted to go (Edinburgh, Tibet, San Diego), all the people she wanted to meet (the president, an astronaut, her future husband). She said to Shana one day, “I heard that if you complain it reprograms your brain like a computer virus and it just makes you more and more unhappy, so I’m going to stay positive because I bet the opposite is true, too.”

That notebook sat there on her empty bed. Next to the bed was an open box—­Nessie had gotten some package in the mail, some science thing she must’ve ordered. (Shana borrowed a part of it, a little test tube, to hold weed.) Her daffodil-­yellow sheets looked rumpled and slept-­in. Her pink pillow still showed her head-­dent.

Shana peeked at the notebook. Nessie had started a new list: jobs i might like?? Included: zookeeper, beekeeper, alpaca farmer, photographer. Photographer? Shana thought. That’s my bag. A weird flare of anger lanced through her. Nessie was good at everything. If she decided to do the thing that Shana wanted to do, she’d do it better and that would suck and they’d hate each other forever. (Well, no. Shana would hate Nessie. Nessie would love her unconditionally because that was Nessie.)

Shana called out for her again. “Ness? Nessie?” Her voice echoed and nothing but the echo answered. Shit.

Dad was probably already in the so-­called milking parlor (he said if they’re going to be part of the artisanal cheese movement here in Pennsylvania they needed to start talking like it, damnit), and he would be expecting Ness and Shana to staff the little shop up by the road. Then eventually he’d come get one of them to head into the cheese barn to check the curds on that Gouda or get the blues draining—­then mix the silage and feed the cows and ah, hell, the vet was coming today to look at poor Belinda’s red, crusty udders and—­

Maybe that’s why Nessie ran away. School was out already and summer vacation wasn’t much of one: Everything was work, work, work. (Shana wondered if Nessie had the right idea. She could run away, too. Even for the day. Call up her buddy Zig in his Honda, smoke some weed, read comic books, talk shit about the seniors who just graduated . . .)

(God, she had to get out of here.)

(If she didn’t get out of here soon, she’d stay here forever. This place felt like quicksand.)

Of course, Nessie was too good a girl to have run away again, so maybe she got the jump on Shana and was already out in the shop. Little worker bee, that one. What was the song on Dad’s old REM album? “Shiny Happy People”? That was Nessie.

Shana’d already eaten, so she went in search of the little clip-­on macro lens she used over her phone’s camera to let her take photos of things real close-­up, magnified. Little worlds revealed, the micro made macro. She didn’t have a proper camera, but she was saving up to get a DSLR one day. In the meantime, that meant using the phone. Maybe she’d find something in the stable or in the cheesemaking room that would look cool up close: flaking rust, the red needle in the thermometer, the bubbles or crystals in the cheese itself.

It hit her where she’d left the lens last time—­she was taking pictures of a house spider hanging in her window, and she left the lens on the sill. So she went there to grab it—­

Something outside caught her eye. Movement up the driveway. One of the cows loose was her first thought.

Shana headed to the window.

Someone was out there, walking.

No. Not someone.

Little dum-­dum was halfway up the driveway in her PJ pants and pink T-­shirt. Barefoot, too, by the look of it. Oh, what the hell, Nessie?

Shana ran to the kitchen, forgetting her lens. She hurriedly popped on her sneakers and ran out the door to the back porch, nearly tripping on the one sneaker that wasn’t all the way on yet, but she quick smashed her heel down into the shoe and kept on running.

She thought to yell to her little sister, but decided against it. No need to draw Dad’s attention. He’d see they weren’t out in the shop yet and give them a ration of hot shit about it, and Shana didn’t want to hear it. This was not a morning for nonsense, and already the nonsense was mounting.

Instead she ran up along the driveway, the red gravel crunching underneath her sneaks. The Holsteins on the left bleated and mooed. A young calf—­she thought it was Moo Radley—­stood there on knock-­knees watching her hurry to catch up to her tweedledum sister. “Nessie,” she hissed. “Nessie, hey!”

But Nessie didn’t turn around. She just kept on walking.

What a little asshole.

Shana jogged up ahead of her and planted her feet like roots.

“God, Nessie, what the hell are you—­”

It was then she saw the girl’s eyes. They were open. Her sister’s gaze stood fixed at nothing, like she was looking through Shana or staring around her.

Dead eyes, dead like the flat tops of fat nails. Gone was the luster of wonder, that spark.

Barefoot, Nessie continued on. Shana didn’t know what to do—­move out of her way? Stand planted like a telephone pole? Her indecision forced her to do a little of both—­she shifted left just a little, but still in her sister’s inevitable path.

The girl’s shoulder clipped her hard. Shana staggered left, taking the hit. The laugh that came up out of her was one of surprise. It was a pissed-­off laugh, a bark of incredulity.

“That hurt, dummy,” she said, and then grabbed for the girl’s shoulder and shook her.

Nothing. Nessie just pulled away and kept going.

“Nessie. Nessie.”

Shana waved her hand in front of Nessie’s eyes. Wave, wave, wave. She had the thought then, a stray thought she pretended could be true even though she knew deep down it couldn’t be, She’s just playing a joke on me. Even though Shana was the prankster and Nessie’s only real joke was a cabinet of knock-­knock jokes so bad it made their bad-­joke-­loving father wince. Still, just in case, she took her finger and poked Nessie’s nose as if it were a button.

“Boop,” she said. “Power down, little robot.”

Nessie registered nothing. Didn’t even blink.

Had she blinked the whole time? Shana didn’t think so.

Then she saw, ahead, a big rain puddle. She warned her sister: “Nessie, watch out, there’s a—­”

Too late. Nessie plodded right through it. Splish. Splash. Feet in the water almost up to the ankles. Still going and going. Like a windup toy set to beeline in one direction.

Still staring ahead.

Still moving forward.

Arms stiff by her sides. Her gait sure and steady.

Something’s wrong.

The thought hit Shana in the heart like a fist. Her guts went cold, her blood to slush. She couldn’t hold back the chills. But she tried anyway and said to herself, Maybe she’s just sleepwalking. That’s probably what this is. Okay, no, Nessie had never done that before, but maybe this was how her brain chose to handle those hormones running through her like a pack of racehorses right now.

The question was: Go get Dad?

Ahead, the end of their driveway stretched out. There, the cheese and dairy shop made to look like a little red barn. There, the mailbox made to also look like a little barn, this one blue (and with a cow silhouette cut out of tin and stuck on top). And there, too, the road.

The road.

God, if Nessie walked to the road and a car came by . . .

She yelled for her dad. Screamed for him. “Dad! Dad!” But nothing. No response. He might’ve been out in the pasture or in the barn. Going to get him meant leaving Nessie alone . . .

In her head she could hear the make-­believe sound of a truck grille hitting her sister, knocking her forward. The crunch of bones under tires. The thought made her queasy.

I can’t get Dad. I’ll stay with her.

This can’t go on for long.

Sleepwalkers eventually wake up.

Don’t they?

Thoughts?

Follow other amazing book bloggers on this blog tour!

Add ‘Wanderers‘ to your TBR: 

*Purchase ‘ Wanderers‘ here:

*Purchase ‘Wanderers‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, a screenwriter, and a freelance penmonkey.
He has contributed over two million words to the roleplaying game industry, and was the developer of the popular Hunter: The Vigil game line (White Wolf Game Studios / CCP).
He, along with writing partner Lance Weiler, is a fellow of the Sundance Film Festival Screenwriter’s Lab (2010). Their short film, Pandemic, will show at the Sundance Film Festival 2011, and their feature film HiM is in development with producer Ted Hope.
Chuck’s novel Double Dead will be out in November, 2011.
He’s written too much. He should probably stop. Give him a wide berth, as he might be drunk and untrustworthy. He currently lives in the wilds of Pennsyltucky with a wonderful wife and two very stupid dogs. He is represented by Stacia Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Find him on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.