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    Best Picks for Book Club Discussions: Undiscovered Gems 

    Welcome to our new series on book clubs! At the beginning of every month, we’ll present our top recommendations for your club, as well as tips on how to shape your discussion and fun extra stuff to keep the conversation going. Many of us here belong to book clubs, and Open Road even has its own employee reading group. We love nothing more than book talk. So tune in, and read on!

    Does your book club typically read the most recent or bestselling book by a given writer, and move on? Or do you prefer to return to lesser-known novels by an author you already love? If the latter sounds like you, then our July book club sale will be up your alley. Diving deeper into a writer’s works can be immensely satisfying for book discussions, as themes can be magnified and more easily explored as you read multiple books from an author. 

    To that end, we’ve made a list of our Undiscovered Gems—12 novels you don’t know, by authors you already love—all available as ebooks for $1.99 or $2.99 in July only. Check them out, below.


    You Know:The Color Purple by Alice Walker

    You May Not Know:The Third Life of Grange Copeland

    Why You Should Read It: Alice Walker writes male characters just as intricately and powerfully as the women you know from Purple. One Goodreads reviewer loves this novel because it “gives a realistic glimpse into life as a black man in the early to mid twentieth century, chronicling the inevitable personal and societal changes that come with maturity, wisdom and time. . . . Despite the fictional nature of the story, the book challenges readers to face life as it was during that time and the impact that slavery and racism had on real lives.”


    You Know:The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

    You May Not Know:Peony

    Why You Should Read It: For fans of Pearl S. Buck, Peony is a perfect execution of her gorgeously detailed renderings of life in China. This novel, however, has the added element of focusing on a Jewish family living in Kaifeng in the 1850s, and explores ideas of assimilation and the preservation of identity and culture in a cross-cultural landscape. It’s a fascinating departure for Buck.


    You Know:The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

    You May Not Know: The Lords of Discipline

    Why You Should Read It: Readers love Pat Conroy’s fiction for its autobiographical elements and lyrical descriptions, and this—his first widely published novel—is no exception. It is set at a military academy (Conroy attended the Citadel) rocked by the Vietnam War (he graduated in 1967). The kicker? There’s a page-turning thriller component that you won’t find in other Conroy novels.


    You Know:Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

    You May Not Know: Lie Down in Darkness

    Why You Should Read It: Styron’s debut novel—a Pulitzer finalist—is every bit as compelling as his later fiction, and features flashback devices to tremendous effect. This novel focuses on a dysfunctional family—a husband, wife, and their two daughters—and represents the Southern gothic in its most tragic form. Read it before the film—currently in pre-production—comes out!


    You Know: Exodus by Leon Uris

    You May Not Know: Topaz

    Why You Should Read It: Uris was known for his impeccable research and attention to detail. Topaz brings his attention to the Cold War in a fast-paced thriller featuring American and French spies trying to save NATO, themselves, and perhaps the world.


    You Know:The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

    You May Not Know: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

    Why You Should Read It: Few novels capture the post-college moment as aptly as Michael Chabon’s debut. You can see his linguistic brilliance in this novel, but also revel in his close observations of youth and that stage of uncertainty on the brink of adulthood. Unforgettable characters make this a memorable read ripe for discussion.


    You Know:The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

    You May Not Know:Flight

    Why You Should Read It: Flight, the third novel by National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie, is both shattering and full of laughter. The story of Zits, an orphaned Indian boy, resonates profoundly in a country scarred by violence. Alexie works his trademark magic to turn Zits’s experiences into a fable about identity, race, and American history.      


    You Know:A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter

    You May Not Know:Solo Faces

    Why You Should Read It: Readers who love Salter’s language in A Sport and a Pastime will appreciate a similar attention to creating an immersive environment in this great novel of the outdoors—as thrilling, beautiful, and immediate as the Alpine peaks that have enthralled climbers for centuries. The Boston Globe wrote: “This is a beautiful, sad, even tragic novel about the ways men test themselves and the reason they do it.” 


    You Know:From Here to Eternity by James Jones

    You May Not Know:Some Came Running

    Why You Should Read It: After the blockbuster international success of From Here to Eternity, James Jones retreated from public life to write something larger than a war novel. The result, six years in the making, was Some Came Running: A stirring portrait of small-town life in the American Midwest at a time when our country and its people were striving to find their place in the new postwar world. This story’s brutal honesty is as shocking now as on the day it was first published.


    You Know:Lost Horizon by James Hilton

    You May Not Know:Random Harvest

    Why You Should Read It: In Random Harvest, a veteran’s comfortable life is upended when long-buried memories of his time in the trenches of World War I come rushing back. This moving account of the trauma of war explores the courage required to find redemption in the face of the most overwhelming circumstances.


    You Know:The Princess Bride by William Goldman

    You May Not Know: Marathon Man

    Why You Should Read It: One Goodreads reviewer says it well: “William Goldman entered on my favorite authors list based on a single book: The Princess Bride. This second book I’ve tackled is a completely different kettle of fish: a conspiracy theory thriller, but in its own special way, it is just as accomplished and memorable as the fantasy one. I would say that if Princess Brideis a fantasy fairytale for those who don’t usually read fantasy books, Marathon Manis a high octane thriller for those who don’t normally read spy and conspiracy books.


    You Know:Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

    You May Not Know:The Italian Girl

    Why You Should Read It: The Guardian Review called Iris Murdoch “one of the most significant novelists of her generation.” The Italian Girl is Murdoch’s compelling story of a man’s reunion with his estranged family, and of the tragedy that shocks them all into confronting their dark past. Bonus: It’s a fairly short and quick read, making it perfect for summer!

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    The multitalented Barbara Hall has made her presence known in the movie, television, and literary industries. Though her projects may seem vastly different, her faith and desire to understand how the world operates can be seen in all of them. What makes her work so appealing to different audiences is that she tries to promote compassion and debate, instead of imposing ideas on the reader.


    Here, Barbara Hall shares what has continued to inspire her work in both film and literature:


    A lifelong fascination with mystics, particularly Joan of Arc, has led me to study and explore visionaries, metaphysics and physics. I am also interested in callings and charisms. A near-death experience after a violent crime in 1996 led to a three-year study of world religion, resulting in conversion to Catholicism. It also led me to years of treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which took me deeply into the world of therapy. When these two worlds began to run on parallel tracks, I became interested in how they serve and conflict with each other. . . . Since then, most of my writing has included a spiritual or metaphysical element. How to be “in the world and not of it” is a concept I will continue to explore both in life and art.


    I’ve always been intrigued by the notion that modern day callings and visions would mostly be ignored or drugged by modern day standards. This is the story of a visionary who somehow slipped through the cracks.


    Science and religion have become enemies since the advent of NASA and penicillin. But this divorce is a recent one. Whenever people talk about the division between science and religion, they enter into the discussion as if these two entities have always been at war. The war between science and religion is a recent and unnecessary one.


    Charisma by Barbara HallHall created the popular television show Joan of Arcadia, in which she explored the idea of who Joan of Arc would be if she lived in the present day. Similarly, her novel Charismafocuses on the plight of Sarah Lange, a woman plagued by heavenly voices that urge her to end her life. To dampen her desire to do as they say, she checks herself into a hospital, under the care of Dr. David Sutton. A strict adherent to science, he initially refuses to entertain the notion that Sarah’s voices are anything more than mental delusions. But over the course of her stay, they slowly develop an understanding, despite their opposing beliefs about the explained and the unknowable. Their relationship becomes about more than just saving Sarah, but about saving each other.


    Whether or not you agree with Hall’s stance on religion, the presence of faith in her novels and her questioning of society’s accepted ideals make for interesting discussion about her work. Learn more about the incredibly talented Barbara Hall and her ebooks.


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    Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears

    “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Anna Karenina

    Ken Wheaton’s newly released novel, Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears, is equal parts funny and poignant. Between witty observations about rural, small-town Southern lifestyles (“Pork and chicken grease, the aromatics of choice for the Cajun”), and satirizing our social media addictions (“You hadn’t updated your Facebook status since the airport, so I thought you might be dead or something”), Wheaton strikes a chord that readers can relate to.

    Whatever level of dysfunction your own family may claim, you’ll get a kick out of—and perhaps recognize a bit of yourself in—the Fontenots’ relationships with one another. If you don’t have this novel on your to-read list already, keep reading to see what Wheaton himself has to say about how it came to be. (Spoiler: The presence of fast food at a wake is taken from real-life experience!)

    What is Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears about?

    Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears is the story of Katie-Lee Fontenot—or, as she’s taken to calling herself during her adult life, Katherine. Born and raised in Louisiana, Katherine now lives in New York City, where she divides her time between living in Brooklyn, working in Manhattan, and—even at 50 years of age—making excuses for not talking to her family back home. She’s a crank of sorts, with a touch of mid-80s New York about her, but a loveable crank—or I’d like to think so. One day at work she discovers, via Facebook, that one of her many sisters has been trampled by a rhinoceros. After the sister dies from complications, she has to return home, though she dreads the prospect. Why, though? That’s sort of key to the story. Why is an adult woman so hell-bent on not returning home? What did it ever do to her? After all, even though she was born to sharecroppers, she had a pretty solid upbringing and was on the fast track to 2.5 kids and a dog. As the book unfolds, we learn what happened—and get to witness a family that has moved on, as well as a pretty wacky wake and funeral service.


    Can you tell us a little bit about the major figures and characters in the book? 

    Katherine, obviously, is the main character. Her foil, as it were, is her immediately older sister Kendra-Sue, who seems to have been put on the earth for the sole purpose of keeping Katherine honest—or simply to be a thorn in her side. We’ve got the deceased sister, Karen-Anne; another older sister, Karla-Jean; and an older brother, Kurt Junior. Two key characters—ones who have obviously shaped Katherine—seem to be mostly in her past: her youngest brother Kane and her high-school boyfriend Lawrence. I’d like to think New York serves as a bit player—and that Cajun country in Louisiana serves as a slightly larger one. Fun fact: There’s a preacher who shows up to deliver the funeral service and he’s a character continued from my first novel.


    How did you come up with the idea for the book? How did it come to be?

    I’d long had the idea of writing something very loosely based on my mom’s experiences growing up: big family, formative years on a farm in Grand Prairie, Louisiana. But I could never find a story to hang it on. One thing I always wanted to keep—aside from the culture and the big family—was the incident with the tooth fairy. In the book, Karen-Anne as a child has a fit because she thinks the dog has killed the tooth fairy. That’s based on something my mom told me happened with her sister Debbie. I’d written a version of that a long time ago. It was always going to be in my second or third novel. But life got in the way, I put it down, and so forth and so on. 

    Then a few years ago, sadly, my aunt Debbie died and I went home for the funeral. She was the first of Mama’s siblings to die—and she wasn’t old at all. I was standing there in a house after the funeral service sort of in a daze—and, yes, eating a chicken leg from Popeyes—when one of my cousins said, “You’re probably writing a book right now, aren’t you?” I wasn’t, but it got me thinking about a lot of things. Obviously, this book isn’t about my mom’s family or about my Aunt Debbie. At all. Katie-Lee might be a woman, but she’s as much me as anything else. I wanted to get at those people who uproot themselves for some reason or other and move away. I wanted to look at people who suffered something horrible. I also wanted to sort of pay tribute to where I’m from—and offer these scenes of people keeping their sense of humor even in the face of death. All of which makes the book sound darker than it is! Maybe I should shut up now.


    Well, we’re just glad Ken didn’t shut up before finishing Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears. Get your copy today, and read more of Ken’s quirky thoughts at his blog, The Word O’ Wheaton.

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    Mysteries don’t have to be all doom and gloom. Lots of factors make for a funny mystery, Let’s assemble the evidence:

    • An inept sleuth
    • Quirky supporting characters
    • Ridiculous situations
    • Human and relatable details - if we can more closely relate the story to our own lives, the mysterious realities can have us (nervously!) laughing.

    When we think of mysteries with humor, it’s hard not to consider Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the incompetent investigator with a thick French accent leading the search for the missing Pink Panther diamond.

    When we pick up a mystery, we expect the story to be driven by moments of murder and investigation, but sometimes its nice to sit back and enjoy the ride when the lightweight obscenities power the plot.

    What’s new and exciting about this genre is that it’s not always about a mystery with a humorous edge. Sometimes it’s the other way around, and we find that mystery arises when strange situation is outrageous enough that it entices unexpected disaster. It seems like mystery needs humor as much as humor needs mystery to keep our pages turning!

    It would be a crime not to try out some of our Mysteries with Humor titles, like J. Michael Orenduff’s The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, Carl Hiaasen’s Powder Burn, or Aaron Elkins’s Fellowship of Fear

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    In the past few weeks, our list of authors has expanded fabulously, and we’ve added many groundbreaking romance writers to our already stellar lineup. With the Fourth of July upon us, we’re highlighting a pioneer of the genre, Janet Dailey, and her literary journey across the US.

    Dailey’s Americana series includes 50 titles: one written for each state! Can you imagine such an immense undertaking? No matter where you’re from, Dailey has a novel for you. Check out the United States of Janet Dailey “infographic” map, and find the perfect romance to show your home-state pride. (Know anyone who has read all 50?)

    The United States of Janet Dailey

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    Looking for a little love this summer? Turn up the heat with our teen romance ebooks, perfect for a day at the beach. Check out our passionate page-turners on sale for $1.99 each through the month of July.

    Just a Summer Romance by Ann M. Martin

    While spending the summer on Fire Island, 14-year-old Melanie meets mysterious and handsome Justin Hart. While it seems that he is as interested in her as she is in him, Justin insists that their relationship cannot be anything but a summer romance. Once summer comes to an end, Melanie tries to move on by dating other guys but can’t seem to forget about Justin—especially when she sees him on the cover of a magazine! 

    He Loves Me Not by Caroline B. Cooney

    A young high school student is so dedicated to her music that she has no time for the romance she secretly craves—until she meets someone who seems to like her just the way she is. 

    The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal

    Sirena Shane escapes to her aunt’s beach cottage in Rhode Island for the summer, leaving her feuding family back home in Texas. She soon falls for Pilot—a fascinating, handsome lifeguard with supernatural healing powers. So begins an unforgettable summer of obsession and discovery. 

    “Hello,” I Lied by M. E. Kerr

    Gay 17-year-old Lang Penner discovers a different kind of love during an unforgettable summer in the Hamptons, when he becomes infatuated with a girl. “Hello,” I Lied is a story about all kinds of love—from friendship to physical attraction to hero worship—as a teenager bravely confronts his sexuality. 

    The Color of Angels’ Souls by Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian

    At 23, Jeremy is violently murdered. Now, as an angel, he realizes that his struggle for survival is far from over. As he tries to find out why he was killed, he follows Allison, a beautiful 20-year-old who witnessed his murder. Watching her day and night, Jeremy begins to fall in love with her. But Jeremy’s killer is also following Allison and will do anything to eliminate the only witness to his crime. 

    Whitechurchby Chris Lynch

    Pauly and Oakley have been best friends since they were kids. When Lilly moves to their small New England town, both boys fall in love with her immediately. Unbalanced Pauly becomes Lilly’s boyfriend, and Oakley becomes the one she confides in. But a love triangle can’t stay peaceful for long, and erratic, obsessive Pauly can’t be trusted. 

    Browse more beach reads and stock up on summer love stories on sale this month.

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    In 2014, Conjunctions and Open Road Media formed a publishing partnership not only in order to release future issues of the journal in ebook form, but also gradually to offer ebook editions of selections from our backlist. On the occasion of the digital release of Conjunctions, Peter Straub and I were asked to have a conversation about the journal, its history, and its publishing mission. Peter is not only a very old friend but a fellow novelist, a Conjunctions contributor, and the guest editor of our landmark issue The New Wave Fabulists. His questions here are, I think, revelatory and provocative in all the right ways. I hope readers will enjoy the exchange.


    A word about Conjunctions’ path toward the ebook world.Our first covers were printed on a vintage Vandercook proof press, including the cover for Conjunctions:6, which I had the visceral pleasure of helping to hand-print. The journal’s design and presentation derived to some degree from my early interest in private-press books, their typography and design. Indeed, our first fourteen issues were released as paperbacks as well as hardcovers with letterpress dust jackets, hearkening back to earlier traditions established by New Directions Anthology and others.

    As our readership grew, we left hardcovers behind and continued with paperback-only issues whose covers were done in four-, five-, and six-color processes, printed on a Heidelberg press half the length of a city bus. The issues themselves have always been the product of “cold type” and offset printing, although in the late nineties we established Web Conjunctions (, a parallel, online-only production, which was our first foray into electronic publication.


    In other words, a progression of printing and publishing techniques from antique to contemporary has always been integral to Conjunctions as it has evolved from issue to issue. While we intend never to abandon paper and ink, we hope this new venture with Open Road Media will bring more readers here and abroad to the work Conjunctions has championed for so many years.

    Bradford Morrow


    PETER STRAUB: Many of those interested in or even passionate about Conjunctions are probably unaware of two matters related to its beginnings, namely that the journal’s first issue was in the form of a Festschrift for James Laughlin, a publisher/poet who at the time was unjustly overlooked, and that the editor of this issue and every other, the founder of Conjunctions, had already, despite his youth, become a real force among the dealers and collectors of rare books in the area of Santa Barbara, California—that is, in a very tough and sharp-edged world, it was widely understood that your acumen, instincts, and standards were extraordinary. I wonder if you see any connections between these two matters? If so, does it have anything to do with celebration and preservation?


    BRADFORD MORROW: In all the years I have been asked about the genesis of Conjunctions, no one so far as I can recall has ever brought up a possible connection between my work as an antiquarian bookseller and the founding of my literary journal. Thinking back about it, there was a connection, to be sure, Peter. I grew up in a household, in Littleton, Colorado, where there were very few books. So, in a way, my deep love of books came out of a background of deprivation. It’s a long story for another day how I journeyed from a time when books were rare in my life to a time when rare books, reading books, books of every stripe, were the center of my life. But, long story short, I left grad school at Yale in the mid-seventies to take a job at a rare bookstore in Santa Barbara, knowing very little about first editions. I was a quick study and before long went out on my own, no money to speak of, just a lot of ideas. I very quickly fell up, if you will, and was soon handling great books and manuscripts by the likes of Faulkner, Steinbeck, Kerouac, Burroughs, and many major writers—some alive, many gone. I can remember with clarity the day I thought to myself: Since I was helping to preserve the literary culture of the dead, why not engage the same energy in preserving, promoting, publishing the work of those who were vitally alive? Modernists like Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, Wyndham Lewis, T. S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, and many other writers I admired had all either founded or edited journals, and I hugely admired early literary magazines like Transition and, a little later, Barney Rosset’s Evergreen Review—so I thought, Why shouldn’t I give it a try? One key element here was that while I admired a number of contemporary journals, none of them was publishing the fiction and poetry I myself was devoted to as a reader. And so, that first issue, which I assembled with the help of Kenneth Rexroth, whom I had befriended during my years in Santa Barbara, was an acknowledgment of a hero of mine, James Laughlin, whose New Directions had published many of my absolute favorite writers. I didn’t realize until years later that Laughlin had dedicated the first volume of his amazing annual New Directions Anthology to Eugene Jolas, editor of Transition. I had, without really knowing it, connected Conjunctions to a family of venerable predecessors, and have continued with that idea in mind. Conjunctions was meant to map an important literary period central to my own writing life, and in this way has served, I hope, as a preservationist project even as it’s been one that is constantly discovering new writers, agitating aesthetically at the front edges of what’s being written now.


    PETER STRAUB: “Agitating aesthetically” strikes me as a good, and in fact indisputable, way to describe what Conjunctions has been up to since its inception, and this seems an excellent time to “interrogate” that ambition, as we like to put it these days, with reference to two moments from its history. In the journal’s earlier days, Robert Kelly memorably and in forthright manner wrote, “Everything we do disturbs the world.” As a declaration of the intent to agitate, that can hardly be bettered—it takes agitation to be the common goal, the common ground. Irresistibly, the intention radiates from the poet to the more inclusive context of Conjunctions itself. The second instance took place at night, around a bar table, during a conference at Brown University. An older writer no less distinguished than Robert Kelly said to the three or four people in our group that if he were not published in Conjunctions, he wouldn’t be published at all. He was exaggerating, though not by much. Deliberate agitation brings with it the consequences of ignoring the majority audience’s overwhelming reluctance to be other than soothed, flattered, temporarily and harmlessly diverted. It may be paradoxical, but I think a large part of the reason for Conjunctions’ long survival has to do with its absolute, down-the-line refusal to honor any standards but its own. But how can we understand this? If your editorial stance involves ideational disturbance to the point of publishing the otherwise (all but) unpublishable, what and how difficult are the aesthetics behind it, and how are they reconciled with the constant desire to make your journal a going concern when so many others have disappeared?


    BRADFORD MORROW: In all honesty, I have to believe that any of the writers I’ve had the happy honor of publishing over the years could, should, and absolutely would have been published elsewhere. So whether it was Robert Kelly or anyone else, exaggerating or not, who said they wouldn’t have been published without me there to put their work in print, I simply disagree. I have never been an age-oriented editor—we’ll all be ageless quite soon—so I have published the established, such as Robert Duncan, Barbara Guest, James Purdy, even Laura Riding, with whom I had a crazy correspondence. And, at the same time, I have published writers at a moment in their lives when they weren’t well known, were hardly published, if at all. David Foster Wallace was a total unknown when I started corresponding with him, ran one of his earliest stories, “John Billy,” in Conjunctions:12, and then we became friends, and I published quite a bit of his work, including the first-ever passage from what would become Infinite Jest. William T. Vollmann’s first appearance in print in a literary journal was in Conjunctions:11, a long piece called “Scintillant Orange” from what would become The Rainbow Stories, and he and I too became very close buddies, read together, hung out together a lot. Karen Russell, to bring it up to more present times, was a writer I immediately understood to be fresh and unique, a voice unlike others, and Conjunctions was her second appearance in print. She, too, I count among my dearest pals. I do have an aesthetic, and it is constantly evolving—not in a “macro” way, just nuanced and always growing. I don’t have an iron credo (I tried writing one once; it made sense for a day or two, then I got rid of it), but I do have a clear sense of what I personally love and don’t love.


    Here, no credo but the best I can do, in short, is what I love. Language that feels as if it’s being discovered for the first time, language that has its own rhythm, heart, music, smarts, and soul. Work that has such an exuberance that it makes the world a slightly or (it happens) hugely larger and more dangerous place, dangerous in a good way, in that it forces me and other readers to reconsider what we’re up to, who we are. This reconsideration may be about looking anew at a word, or rethinking an entire heartfelt philosophical position. When a writer finds her or his deepest voice, manages against all odds to get his or her vision on paper, that is truly a bit of a miracle. Sure, a secular miracle. Those kinds of miracles are what I live for as an editor and as a writer, myself.


    Just to switch it up, Peter, you as a writer have also labored in the fruitful fields of editing. The issue of Conjunctions that you edited, New Wave Fabulists, marked an important moment in the world of genre or, I might say, anti-genre. Could you talk about that experience a little, when I invited you to enter as an editor into the Conjunctions fray?


    PETER STRAUB: Your reply to that question sort of rocks me back on my heels, Brad, not only because it demonstrates you share my conviction that the art of exuberance, conviction, and sense of discovery has the effect of seeming to enlarge the world, and to increase the stock of what is commonly available to human beings, but because it also stands as a summation of those qualities that have made and continue to make you such a significant, valuable, in fact (if you don’t object) beloved editor. Anyone who can pick Wallace, Vollmann, and Russell out of the submission chorus line must be said to have fantastic taste—that is, rock-ribbed, inviolable, yet wonderfully supple, elastic good taste—and if the same person chooses also to publish Duncan, Guest, Purdy, and Laura Riding (!), we have entered the realm of the spectacularly, almost even supernaturally trustworthy. Very few editors actually have been alert to the phenomenon of “a writer finding his or her deepest voice,” and I suppose most of those, unlike you, Jolas, and Ford (who else? Tambimuttu, Harriet Monroe and Ezra Pound, Philip Rahv, George Plimpton?), have been in the employ of publishing houses.


    Conjunctions, therefore, has an unusual weight and gravity, which accounts for my initial hesitation at your offer of guest-editing an issue devoted to writers of what John Clute calls
    “Fantastika.” Despite our long friendship, I was more than a little intimidated. Then I thought about the matter a little more, began to see what we might accomplish, and before much more time had passed signed on. I started to feel a bit messianic about it. Here was an opportunity to do two opposite but complementary things at once: to demonstrate to a deeply informed literary audience that writers marketed by their publishers and even self-classifiedas genre authors often and as customary practice produced work of what we might as well call genuine literary merit, deeply felt, on the outermost edge of what can be expressed, in fact partially through the best aspects of their genres (we’re not having any nonsense about “transcendence” here); and to make as clear as possible to both audiences—for snobbery is alas universal—that it is as mistaken to suppose genre is identical to commercial as to identify the literary with laziness, self-involvement, and tedium. At its best and in its best hands, genre fiction is to be distinguished from literary fiction only by its general reliance on certain kinds of narrative structures.

    The merit of every issue of Conjunctions,like that of every journal and anthology, depends on its submissions, so I solicited work from the writers whose work I found to be the most substantial and exciting—you know, whose work would best prove my case. I’m grateful to be able to say that you backed me completely right from the beginning, and that your commitment and enthusiasm were well rewarded when our first submission, John Crowley’s “The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines,” came in. I think no claim made for this story can be overstated, that it is simply one of the greatest works of shorter fiction to have been written in the past fifty years. It bowled both of us over, as did the final story to come in, Kelly Link’s “Lull.” In fact, the issue really began with approaches to Crowley and Link and opened outward from them. The issue was widely reviewed, very quickly imitated, much talked about, and I’m pretty sure led directly to the Library of America’s inviting me to edit a sort of family-sized, two-volume New Wave Fabulists called American Fantastic Tales.


    And yet I was somehow hoping for more. Too many readers still think work of the sort included in The New Wave Fabulists is tarred with the genre brush and ultimately, therefore, is of no great actual significance. I couldn’t make a dent because a dent can’t be made; the wall is too high, too defended, too reinforced by instinctively prejudicial thinking. At least you tried, and I tried, and we saw some spectacular stories into the world. So I cannot refrain from asking, how do you see this issue? You have done a fascinating job of integrating elements of mystery fiction in The Diviner’s Tale and the forthcoming The Forgers, yet no one could mistake them for mystery novels. You do, however, seem to me to be able to smile down upon both sides of the wall.


    BRADFORD MORROW: Oh, I think The New Wave Fabulists made a dent and then some. The Library of America anthology alone proves that. It’s interesting, this question of some readers being unwilling to venture out into appreciating genre writing because of, as you say, “prejudicial thinking.” At the same time, I can easily imagine some hardcore readers of fantasy, horror, or science fiction refusing to engage so-called literary fiction or experimental poetry, readers who maybe picked up The New Wave Fabulists and liked what they read there but didn’t go on to explore any further issues of Conjunctions, because they perceived these writers to be tarred with the dread “literary” brush! At the end of the day, to each his own taste. I myself think Conjunctions:39, The New Wave Fabulists had an enormous impact and generated a lot of vibrant discussion. It was one of our best-received issues, going into a second printing, and even led me to do a kind of follow-up issue, Betwixt the Between, coedited with Brian Evenson, which mixed work by well-known fantasy writers such as Elizabeth Hand, Jeff VanderMeer, China Miéville, and Jonathan Carroll with folks like Stephen Wright, Ben Marcus, Karen Russell, and Shelley Jackson. Conjunctions has continued to publish some of the writers you introduced to us, so the impact of this issue certainly goes on in our pages—and, as you noted, in other anthologies such as those published by Omnidawn. If you think about it, some of the greatest canonical writers from Shakespeare to Swift, Dickens to James, have all drawn from elements of the fantastic. My long-held embrace of the Gothic comes through in novels of mine going back to The Almanac Branch and Giovanni’s Gift, and certainly fantasy and mystery commingle in The Diviner’s Tale, as you say, while aspects of the thriller genre inform The Forgers. So much of how a book is defined, genrewise, by readers, is out of the author’s hands that I don’t spend too much time worrying over it. These books are literary primarily because of voice and narrative strategies that may be atypical of traditional thrillers or mysteries. No matter how you parse it, though, it’s undeniable that there are astonishingly good stories in The New Wave Fabulists and together they had a synergy that altered the intellectual weather patterns in many a reader’s mind.


    Speaking of readers, you have been associated with Conjunctions for a long time now, Peter, as a contributor, a guest editor, but also as a very close, superastute reader. Which issues over the years had the greatest impact on you, I wonder? Which have meant the most to you as, to paraphrase William Burroughs, a creative reader?


    PETER STRAUB: Of course the issues in which I appeared all strike me as particularly cool and dandy, but even if I were not in The New Gothic, Tributes,and Cinema Lingua,I would find them extraordinary—yet I don’t think I really should list these among my favorites. There are, happily, many other issues that have meant a lot to me. I was impressed, in fact completely delighted, by Conjunctions:15, which published a beautiful John Barth story, an unusually expansive story by Lydia Davis, and four startling, lovely, unsettling stories by Diane Williams, but is mainly taken up by what amounts to a breathtaking anthology of the most important poetry being written in this country. Susan Howe, Leslie Scalapino, Barbara Guest, Ronald Johnson, John Ashbery, Michael Palmer, Ann Lauterbach, Charles Bernstein, Martine Bellen, Marjorie Welish, Peter Gizzi . . . even now, twenty-four years later, the contributors’ list could hardly be bettered.


    The Twenty-FifthAnniversary Issue also means a lot to me, and I had decided to make it one of my choices before I realized that I was in it. Well, I’m going to mention it anyhow, for the wonderful celebratory tone of the enterprise and the strength of its individual pieces, particularly those by Jonathan Lethem, Ann Lauterbach, C. D. Wright, Joyce Carol Oates, Edmund White, Lynne Tillman, and Rick Moody. Twenty-five years was a significant milestone, and this issue marked it in a manner both joyous and clear eyed.


    Finally, I want to point to Not Even Past: Hybrid Histories. The great Duncan Hannah paintings on the front and rear covers suggest the theme by depicting a closely observed past that never in fact existed. This theme can be restated to fit the Faulkner apothegm that provided the issue’s title, namely that the past is never dead; it’s not even past. The Barney Rosset memoir of Beckett, the relentless and very Eliotic (on Lambeth Bridge and down below . . . /and who cries long ago . . . /and who remembers me . . .) long poem by Thomas Bernhard, and the brilliant, spinning, tragic Robert Bolaño novel fragments that start the issue off make it an instant landmark. Francine Prose and Paul La Farge’s contributions are particularly brilliant and so moving they could easily be called heartbreaking.


    I have to wonder, Brad, how you manage to invent such ripe, glowing themes to center issue after issue. It seems almost miraculous. The one time I asked you how you pulled this off, you uttered something modest and I guess I could say, “numinous,” which immediately, courteously closed the subject down. But now that we are out here in public, so to speak, I want to ask you about your process. Does a theme ever come to you from submissions you have either just read or installed on the sidelines to await their turns?


    BRADFORD MORROW: Mine is an every-which-way process, just as it should be, just as it is for me as a novelist. Ideas for Conjunctions come to me much the same way that ideas for my stories and novels do. I’ll hear someone say a random phrase, and that will generate a narrative. I’ll read something by another writer, and that will prompt an initiative, a consideration. None of this is derivative, and more often than not my ideas for Conjunctions themes come straight out of a curiosity about what I would like to spend the next half of a year thinking about, as an editor, exploring, investigating, living with day to day. In this, it’s truly so much like the creative process of engagement I find myself involved with as a writer. Writing is a form of reading, and reading is a kind of writing, as everybody knows. So themes, like waves, roll toward the shore, all of them magnificent, some of them dangerous, every one of them its own force. There have been moments when a writer sent something in that made no sense for me to include in the issue I was currently working on, but was so damn great I found it impossible not to arrange a theme around it. Two come to mind. One by the quite famous John Barth, who sent me a novella, “It’s Been Told: A Story’s Story,” which prompted me to develop Conjunctions:44, An Anatomy of Roads, one of the coolest issues ever, to my mind. The second, and this one I truly adore, was when I received an unsolicited manuscript by a writer named Karen Hays, a writer unknown to me and not widely published, but it was a work of such manifest brilliance that I had to build an entire issue around it, Conjunctions:57, Kin. Usually, though, some words come to mind. An idea. Some of the excellent people I work with here, Micaela Morrissette and J. W. McCormack, for instance, toss superb ideas of their own into the dialogue. One of the things I have done most right over the many years I’ve been editing Conjunctions is to embrace others. I have been blessed to work with so many hugely inspired and inspiring people over time. Makes sense, though. From the first, I called this project Conjunctions. And so it has always been and will be.

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  • 07/08/14--08:34: Reading Between the Sheets
  • Was an ebook the last thing you brought to bed with you? Are you taking any time this week to think about what you want, just for fun? Or are you feeling exhausted? Too often, our routines overwhelm us and drain our energy to a point where we forget about our own desires.

    That’s why we love E. L. James, right? Her Fifty Shades of Grey series gives readers the chance to whet their literary appetites while arousing their sexuality. Because sex is an undeniable aspect of who we are! Erotica isn’t new—in fact, it dates back to ancient Roman and Greek literature by writers like Straton of Sardis, Sappho of Lesbos, and Ovid. But it seems that the genre’s popularity has grown in recent years and can even be considered mainstream. And it’s no surprise when you think about our other sources of entertainment.

    We’ve all seen Sex and the City and the American Pie movies. Who doesn’t love the steamy series Game of Thrones? Sexually-influenced literature is as natural as our own sexual desires. Plus, erotica is flexible and can dip its toes into an array of other genres, like historical, mysteVina Jacksonry, paranormal, and romance. It just makes these genres a little . . . sexier. 

    So if you’re looking to treat yourself, dive into erotic literature. It’s not purely about the sex, but about the role that sexuality plays—and should play—in our lives! 

    That’s exactly the goal of author Vina Jackson with her latest novel, Mistress of Night and Dawn. Jackson seeks to explore a part of life often ignored in mainstream fiction—the erotic selves of the characters and how their sexualities affect other parts of their Mistress of Night and Dawnlives. She says, “Literary erotica, at its purest and best, is a brilliantly-written story with super-nova sex that compliments the caliber of the writing, and is fundamental to the plot and characters. In other words, if you remove the sex, the story can’t be told.”

    Start this summer feeling sexy with Mistress of Night and Dawn and Jackson’s other sultry ebooks.

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    We all wish we could spend eternity with those we love. Inevitably, life gets in the way, and losing a loved one can bring feelings of regret. If only you had more time together, or spent more time expressing your love.

    What if you got a second chance?

    Mystery surrounds the fate of our souls after we die. In The Tesla Gate,the aftermath of a cosmic storm conjures the souls lost in purgatory, causing them to manifest on Earth. Those who have died and not yet crossed over are suddenly visible, and they can interact with the living.

    Thomas Pendleton shut himself off from the world after a tragic accident stole the lives of his wife and son. Before their deaths, Thomas worked long hours, missed birthdays, failed to keep promises. He was never around enough. He loved his family, but did they really know how much?

    After the storm brings his son’s soul back from the world “beyond,” Pendleton dedicates his life to showing Seth how much he cares about him. A second chance—a do-over. But is it a blessing or a curse? Is this truly his son? How long will Seth be around?

    What’s more, Seth isn’t safe. The government wants the souls gone, and Thomas Pendleton cannot bare to lose his son again.

    John D. Mimms

    The Tesla Gate is the first novel in an upcoming trilogy by John D. Mimms, a professional researcher of paranormal activity. He has written numerous technical guides for paranormal cases and has been involved in over a hundred supernatural investigations. His fascination with the “other side” paints an extremely believable picture in The Tesla Gate. It will have you questioning all of your previous notions of life and death, and leave you yearning for the next novel.

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  • 07/09/14--07:23: Quick Summer Knitting Ideas
  • Just because it’s summer time doesn’t mean your knitting needles have to take a hiatus! The weather is warmer so it’s time to store away those heavy knits and indulge in something more seasonally appropriate. As temperatures rise, beat the heat with lightweight outerwear, portable projects, and summer accessories that you can finish without breaking a sweat. Keep your creative juices flowing with these quick knits that you can complete all in a day’s work. 

    Transitional Scarf

    transitional scarf

    A delicate, airy scarf is not only perfect for those breezy nights but it’s also quick to make and easy to carry around with you on your summer travels. Pair this monochromatic scarf with a fun patterned dress for a chic and comfortable look.   

    Reverse-Bloom Flower Washcloths


    Decorative flower washcloths are perfect for adding flair to any bathroom. At the end of a long day, lather it up with soap, wash your face, and start the unwinding process. With just a few basic skills you can make a whole bunch of these in no time! 

    New-School Tie

    new-school tie 

    Jazz up your wardrobe with this versatile stitch tie that goes well with jeans or a business suit. Whether you are knitting one for yourself or for the man in your life, this tie is great to wear when the weather gets hot. 

    Soft Drawstring Pouch

    drawstring pouch 

    We love that you can give this soft drawstring pouch as a gift, or use it to wrap one. Hide a small knit surprise inside and watch as they realize they’re receiving two presents instead of one!  

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    Each branch of the armed forces—the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard—publishes a professional reading list designed to help train their personnel in critical thinking and military tactics. These lists feature some of the best military history and fiction ever published. Here are some highlights from their selections.

    {buybutton id=8259 /}
    We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young: Ia Drang—the Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam
    “This is a gripping firsthand account of the November 1965 battle of the Ia Drang by the commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. The Ia Drang was the first major combat test of the airmobile concept and the first major battle between U.S. forces and the North Vietnamese Army.”
    The US Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List, 2012

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    On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
    “The book investigates the psychology of killing in combat and stresses that human beings have a powerful, innate resistance to the taking of life. The author examines the techniques developed by the military to overcome that aversion during the Vietnam War, revealing how an American Soldier was more lethal during this conflict than at any other time in history.”
    The US Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List, 2014

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    This Kind of War: The Classic Military History of the Korean War
    “This volume is a dramatic account of the Korean War written from the perspective of those who fought in it. Taken from records, journals, and histories, it is based largely on the compelling personal narratives of the small-unit commanders and their troops. It provides both a broad overview and a direct account of American troops in fierce combat. Fifty years later, This Kind of War commemorates the past and offers vital lessons for the future.”
    The US Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List, 2012

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    Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
    “This classic and honest account by one of America’s greatest generals is among the finest military commander autobiographies ever written. It offers valuable insights into leadership and command that apply to all levels and in all times. The personal strength and strategic insight Grant demonstrated under almost unimaginable stress during critical junctures of America’s bloodiest war makes him a fascinating case study of the ‘epitomized’ Soldier.”
    The US Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List, 2014

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    The Red Badge of Courage
    “A classic of American literature, this Civil War novel depicts a Union Soldier’s terrifying baptism of fire and his ensuing transformation from coward to hero. Originally published in 1895, its vivid evocation of battle remains unsurpassed.”
    The US Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List, 2011

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    The Art of War
    “Written in China over two thousand years ago, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War provides the first known attempt to formulate a rational basis for the planning and conduct of military operations. These wise, aphoristic essays contain timeless principles acted on by many twentieth-century commanders.”
    The US Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List, 2011

    To view the current roster of professional reading lists, visit National Defense University’s overview.

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    We all wish we could spend eternity with those we love. Inevitably, life gets in the way, and losing a loved one can bring feelings of regret. If only you had more time together, or spent more time expressing your love.


    What if you got a second chance?


    In The Tesla Gate,the aftermath of a cosmic storm conjures the souls lost in purgatory, causing them to manifest on Earth. Those who have died and not yet crossed over are suddenly visible, and they can interact with the living.


    Author John D. Mimms, a paranormal researcher and ghost hunter himself, shares the experiences that helped in writing this novel:

    1. How has your work as the Technical Director for a group in The Atlantic Paranormal Society influenced your fiction? I was the technical director of a TAPS family group in Arkansas. TAPS or The Atlantic Paranormal Society, were the creators of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International. They are the largest and most respected paranormal organization in the world. My involvement in paranormal research has had a tremendous influence on my fiction. There are so many fascinating theories and concepts about paranormal phenomenon and it lends itself very well to the creation of a good yarn. The Tesla Gate at its core is a father/son relationship story, but it is heavily based in paranormal theories, particularly pertaining to ghosts.
    2. What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen on a paranormal investigation? It is rare to see anything on an investigation but hearing and feeling are very common. I have heard blood curdling moans in an abandoned tuberculosis sanatorium and collected a number of compelling EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) recordings over several investigations, many that will make your hair stand on end. Probably the most amazing thing that happened to me was when I was leading a visiting TAPS group from Texas on an investigation in a tuberculosis sanatorium. I was grabbed by my elbow and jerked backward by something unseen, and that is no easy task considering I’m a fairly big guy. Afterward it felt like my elbow had been submerged in ice water. When my elbow was examined by the thermal camera it was indeed 15 degrees colder than the rest of my arm. It was a very interesting experience, to say the least.
    3. Tesla’s birthday is coming up on July 10thhow do his inventions and discoveries inform your novel and the “Tesla Gate” itself? I have always been fascinated by the life and inventions of Nikola Tesla. He was one of the true geniuses in history who was far ahead of his time and did not get the credit he deserved while alive. That being said, I never intended the book to be about Tesla. The Tesla Gate is a nickname given to a horrific device in the book. From what I know of Tesla, the man, he would be appalled to have his name associated with this device. The Tesla Gate is a trilogy and Nikola may have something to say about it in the following books.
    4. What books most frighten you/make you believe in ghosts? I would have to say the two most frightening books I have read are The Exorcist by William Peter Blaty and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. I don’t find a lot of horror to be scary nowadays. It almost has become numbingly predictable, especially slasher horror. Both of these books, and their adapted movies, still send a chill up my spine. I can remember watching Salem’s Lot on TV in 1979 when I was a little kid. There were a torturous few months that followed where my brother and I would sneak outside each other’s windows at night without warning and scratch on the glass while whispering, “Let me in . . . he commands it.”

    The former Technical Director of an Arkansas-based paranormal research group, science fiction author John D. Mimms has supervised over 100 investigations and written articles on equipment usage and scientific theory for paranormal research. John’s former research group is a family member of The Atlantic Paranormal Society, founded by the stars of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters.

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    A recent article in The Guardian, “Women’s Appetite for Explicit Crime Fiction Is No Mystery,” tells us that the majority of readers and half of the writers of mystery and thriller fiction are women. Women are severely underrepresented as authors in all genres, and mystery and thrillers have long been seen as men's interests, so this is kind of a big deal!

    Why are more and more women reading and writing crime mysteries and thrillers? Have women begun to devour violent books? The answer is no. In fact, it is engaging with their femininity that’s making women love these kinds of books more than ever.

    Consider a murdered female corpse (yikes!). It’s a common archetype in crime literature. What role does the victim’s gender play and why are female readers finding this scenario appealing? Well, The Left Room’s post “Violence Against Women In Crime Fiction” suggests that male victims attract less sympathy. What’s really interesting is how the female perspective affects women’s interpretation of graphic crime fiction. This genre allows women to vicariously explore their personal fears. In general, women are considered to live with a higher sense of anxiety than men. By recognizing and identifying with the female victim, women can access their feelings of vulnerability safely—especially when the bad guy gets caught in the end!

    It’s no surprise, then, that mystery and thriller books written by women also tend to feature strong female characters. The protagonist embodies the “every woman” and is popular with female readers because the character represents a different path for women, as opposed to being the victim.

    Or maybe women are just better at solving the mystery?

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  • 07/10/14--13:56: The Lives of Artists

  • There’s an abundance of wise words describing the creative process, and author Oscar Wilde’s words crystallizes it well: “A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.”

    The minds of artists are as intricate as the work they produce, whether that is visual, musical, or written. To capture the imagination and harness it so that others can share is a feat indeed, and in these 11 books, the lives of the artists and their imaginations are explored. They are novels and biographies about everything from classical music to comics, proving that true art comes in many unique forms.


    Modern Artby Evelyn Toynton

    Evelyn Toynton’s novel is inspired by the lives of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. A tale of betrayal and longing, renunciation and self-discovery: the age-old conflicts of love and art.

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    Maurizio Cattelan by Francesco Bonami

    In this officially unofficial biography, Maurizio Cattelan tells his story to the public through fellow Italian artist Francesco Bonami, offering his point of view on art and society—views that, as always, will have people talking.

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    Close to the Knivesby David Wojnarowicz

    The savage, beautiful, and unforgettable memoir of an extraordinary artist, activist, and iconoclast who lit up the New York art scene in the late 20th century.

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    The Funnies by J. Robert Lennon

    J. Robert Lennon’s novel allows an insider look at the world of the comic strip industry, blended with the mysteries of family dynamics.

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    The Saddest Music Ever Written by Thomas Larson

    An exploration of the cultural impact of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”—the “Pietá” of music—and its enigmatic composer.

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    The Weight of Nothing by Steven Gillis

    Steven Gillis’s compelling tale of mystery, love, music, and art follows a gifted pianist’s spiritual odyssey in search of redemption as it unfolds in the midst of unspeakable violence.

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    Diane Arbusby Patricia Bosworth

    Patricia Bosworth’s remarkable look at the life of Diane Arbus, one of the most acclaimed and provocative photographers of her time.

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    The Florentine Emerald by Agustín B. Palatchi

    In this epic historical adventure by Agustín B. Palatchi, a quest for love and enlightenment brings the Renaissance-era Florence of Leonardo da Vinci and Lorenzo de Medici to life.

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    Stargazer by Stephen Koch

    Stephen Koch’s biography of artist Andy Warhol, whose work and personality changed American visual culture forever, making him an international superstar.

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    The Art Restorer by Julián Sanchez

    Don’t miss Julián Sanchez’s thriller, in which Craig Bruckner, an American art restorer, is found drowned in La Concha bay in San Sebastián, Spain. The mystery of his death deepens when the paintings he was restoring are found to contain more than what meets the eye.

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    Piero’s Light by Larry Witham

    An innovative painter in the early generation of Renaissance artists, Piero della Francesca was also an expert on religious topics and a mathematician who wanted to use perspective and geometry to make painting a “true science.”

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    Nowadays, when we think of the horror genre in literature, it mostly conjures images of gore and cheap scares. But in horror novels of the past, the gratuitous display of violence takes a backseat to engrossing storylines that draw the reader in, making them unsettling to the core. Injecting these disturbing occurrences into a nondescript small town makes the terror all the more realistic, and connects with the readers on a personal level. With the evolution of the genre, these more understated novels have taken on the new classification of “literary horror,” with notable masters including H. P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, and Stephen Dobyns.


    Incubus by Ann ArensbergSince the supernatural is having a moment in pop culture, this more refined horror subgenre is slowly regaining ground. Ann Arensberg uses the classic setup of a literary horror novel in the disturbing, Incubus, but it also goes beyond the genre to become an intense character study of small-town Maine.


    In the small farming community of Dry Falls in 1974, an unnatural force disrupts the natural order of the town—while seemingly ignoring the rest of the world. Cora Whitman, the wife of a local pastor, refuses to acknowledge the supernatural disturbance despite the increasingly impossible-to-explain events plaguing Dry Falls. But what begins as merely strange occurrences turns increasingly sinister, until Cora must abandon her spirituality and preconceived notions of how the world works, and admit that she may be the key to the horrors affecting her sleepy town. As important as the plot is to the novel, it’s also imperative to Arensberg that we understand the characters, the history, and the relationships that will determine how they deal with the unexplained and evil presence.


    Incubus has been hailed by Elle as “a powerful, convincing, darkly absorbing novel. . . . Beautiful prose, building tension.” Itis written in true Arensberg form, and is nearly impossible to define. But her homage to the classic literary horror novel is clear, and its appeal crosses all genres. To learn more about Ann Arensberg and her chilling novels, visit her author page here.


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    After Bill Gates met fellow billionaire Warren Buffett in 1991, he asked his new friend to recommend his favorite book about business. Without hesitation, Buffett sent Gates his own copy of Business Adventures, a collection of twelve stories of corporate life in America by New Yorker staff writer John Brooks.

    More than twenty years later, Gates and Buffett still consider Business Adventures their favorite business book. Why does a book originally published in 1969 still resonate with today’s business leaders?

    “Brooks's work is a great reminder that the rules for running a strong business and creating value haven't changed,” Gates told the Wall Street Journal. For one thing, there's an essential human factor in every business endeavor. It doesn't matter if you have a perfect product, production plan and marketing pitch; you'll still need the right people to lead and implement those plans.”

    This “human factor” is exemplified in the chapter on Xerox, where Brooks profiles the company’s early years and the creative ingenuity of its leaders. Xerox was one of the earliest companies to embrace a sense of social responsibility, making charitable donations to institutions such as the University of Rochester to support their surrounding community.

    When Brooks investigates scandals such as price-fixing at General Electric, he uses communication—and more often miscommunication—as a lens through which to view how corruption can spread up and down the corporate ladder. Has much changed today?

    Gates doesn’t think so. “Business Adventures is as much about the strengths and weaknesses of leaders in challenging circumstances as it is about the particulars of one business or another. In that sense, it is still relevant not despite its age but because of it. John Brooks's work is really about human nature, which is why it has stood the test of time.”

    Business Adventures has been out of print since 1971, but this July Open Road Media has brought it back to a new generation of readers as an ebook. A paperback edition will follow in September.

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    A lizard disguised as the Queen of England, a missing jar containing the world’s oddest relic, and a raunchy love affair between Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are all found in The Steampunk Trilogy. Think that’s bizarre? You’re right, but the resulting literary concoction is hilarious.

    This trilogy is actually three short stories with similar steampunk elements. For those who are not familiar with the term, steampunk incorporates a historical setting using elements of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. This creates a retro-futuristic environment, which Di Filippo utilizes wonderfully in all three stories. Check out five of the characters you will find in The Steampunk Trilogy:

    1. V

    A genetically engineered lizard who would rather spend her days in a brothel than being fed flies off a silver platter. She has pleasured the likes of Louis Napoleon as well as the American ambassador to England, and she has now been employed by the prime minister as a stand-in for Queen Victoria.

    2. Professor Louis Agassiz

    A less-than-subtle bigot from Switzerland who is on a quest to find an ancient relic: an enchanted vulva, otherwise known as the “fetiche.” His quest leads him into a dark world of black magic and sorcery.

    3. The Hottentot Venus

    The main attraction of a once-successful London sideshow. A dark-skinned Khoisan, she stood naked in a large cage as viewers prodded her. According to folklore, the Khoisan women of South Africa have “curtains of shame.” Don’t try to guess what those are, but hers could be the key to saving mankind.

    4. Walt Whitman

    A scandalous writer with a notorious reputation. You first meet him as he’s lustfully bathing himself outside of Emily Dickinson’s window, and he only gets sexier. He’s pals with Emily’s brother.

    5. Emily Dickinson

    Emily begins as a naive, sheltered virgin and transforms into a corrupted, sexy adventurer. She falls for Walt. Hard. Some serious character development is in store for the dearly beloved poet.

    These stories are so outrageous that you won’t want to put them down! As SF Site describes The Steampunk Trilogy, “from Dickens to the cutting edge of the avant-garde, Di Filippo’s got it covered, in a spunky synthesis that manages to be at once raunchy and well-read.” How can you not be curious about what else these stories have to offer?


    Paul Di Filippo is a prolific science fiction, fantasy, and horror short story writer with multiple collections to his credit, among them The Emperor of Gondwanaland and Other Stories, Fractal Paisleys, and many more.

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    Ellis Peters’s Chronicles of Brother Cadfael—the complete series of 21 volumes—will be published as ebooks on August 5, 2014. Recipient of both an Edgar Award and a Dagger Award, Ellis Peters and her series about a Welsh Benedictine monk are credited with popularizing the historical mystery genre.

    Sometimes called the “Sherlock Holmes of the church,” the first Brother Cadfael novel, A Morbid Taste for Bones,was published in 1977 and adapted into several made-for-television movies and a successful TV series as part of PBS’s Mystery! Rich with local setting and historical details, the iconic Cadfael series portrays life during a period of conflict for the British crown, between AD 1120 and AD 1145.

    “Ellis Peters has been regarded as the Queen of Historical Mystery Fiction for four decades—the British Crime Writers’ Association established their Ellis Peters Historical Award for the best historical crime novel of the year. The pinnacle of her achievements is the 21-volume series about Brother Cadfael, a medieval Benedictine monk, that combines romance and detective fiction and achieved best-seller status in both the United States and Great Britain, as well as inspiring a popular television series that starred Derek Jacobi.” —Otto Penzler, proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop and publisher,

    Ellis Peters is one of several pseudonyms used by Edith Mary Pargeter (1913–1995), a prolific author of fiction, as well as nonfiction works, who is best known for her murder mysteries, both historical and modern.

    Titles now available as ebooks from and Open Road Media include: A Morbid Taste for Bones, One Corpse Too Many, and A Rare Benedictine, a collection of three short stories.


    Dedicated to providing the greatest mystery, crime, suspense, and espionage fiction of the past as well as new works just being created, has the goal to accomplish in electronic format what the Mysterious Press is noted for in traditional print publishing—providing through a recognizable and highly regarded brand name assurance to book buyers of carefully selected and high-quality titles.

    About Open Road Media

    Open Road Integrated Media is a global digital publishing company that creates connections between authors and their audiences by marketing its ebooks through a new proprietary online platform, which uses premium video content and social media. Open Road has published ebooks from legendary authors including including William Styron, Pat Conroy, Alice Walker, Bette Greene, Octavia E. Butler and Dorothy L. Sayers. 

    Learn more about Ellis Peters at or

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    Romancing the ReaderIn the last few years, there has been a renaissance of historical romance in pop culture. We see novels being turned into films and television programs constantly, from the film adaptations of Jane Austen novels to TV series like Starz’s The White Queen. With Open Road’s wonderful collection of historical romances, we wanted to highlight a few authors who helped shape the genre.

    Janet Dailey is a pioneer of romance novels and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for writing her Americana series, which includes 50 books—one set in each state in the US. To complete this massive undertaking, Dailey and her husband, Bill, traveled the country and conducted exhaustive research in order to represent each state accurately.

    PhilippaPhilippa Carr Carr, one of the many pseudonyms of Eleanor Hibbert, wrote historical fiction set throughout English history. Her novels were rich in detail and extensively researched, focusing on “women of integrity and strong character . . . struggling for liberation, fighting for their own survival.” She was so committed to historicals that her goal was “to have written the whole panorama of English history from the Norman Conquest to the death of Victoria.”
    Amanda Scott, who is known for her Scottish romance, received undergraduate and graduate degrees in history at Mills College and California State University, San Jose before taking on the challenge of writing a historical novel. Scott says, “[The] intersection of history and romance offers readers both a serious understanding of the past and a blissful escape from the present.” She says, “Any good writer has relationships in their books. I mean, if you stop and think about it, Tom Clancy puts a romance in every one of his books. . . . I think that the historicals appeal to people who want something more complex. . . . It’s escape, and the further you can escape the better, I think.”
    Ellen Jones, whEllen Joneso focused on 12th-century Europe, was raised by history teachers and was encouraged from an early age to appreciate and pursue the past. This month’s Retro Reads selection is Jones’s The Fatal Crown, a beautiful work that tells the thorny story of two royal heirs who fall in love while competing for the English crown. Jones uses this passionate relationship to survey and shed character on the changing course of English history.

    Check out the works of Dailey, Carr, Scott, Jones, and many others on our new romance site and allow yourself to be transported to a different time and place.

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    Donald McCaig delves into the mind of man’s best friend and humanizes their lives and challenges with his powerful novel, Nop’s Trials. Due in part to his own commitment to his animals, the level of depth to the animals in McCaig’s novels is not often seen in literature, especially when it comes to the relationship between humans and animals.


    Nop's Trials by Donald McCaigNop is a talented sheepdog in the Virginia countryside who excels in competitive trials as well as in his duties on the farm. He’s farmer Lewis’s most trusted companion, but his talents threaten his safety when he is stolen by two criminals looking for a major payday. Refusing to accept that he will never see Nop again, Lewis sets out to find his beloved companion. Nop’s loyalty is unwavering as well, but in order to survive he adapts to his new life of brutality and abuse. Despite the separate outlooks of man and dog, their commitment to each other only strengthens their bond and continues to drive them back together.


    In this excerpt, McCaig compares the differing perspectives of Nop and Lewis as they struggle to deal with their split:


    Throughout the long nights, Nop lived in his dreams. He dreamt of woolies, of the Stink Dog, of thrilling outruns on lovely foggy mornings. He dreamt about Sourball and whimpered and his legs jerked in his sleep. Nop accepted what the world had to offer. He didn’t have to like it, but he wouldn’t pine away.


    Lewis Burkholder was less realistic than his dog. Though his reward posters (LOST DOG $500) had tattered and blown off the telephone poles, though local storekeepers had tacked more recent announcements of church socials and yard sales over Nop’s photograph, Lewis wouldn’t stop looking.


    Not just for the animal lover, McCaig’s novels are a testament to the power of loyalty and will. He continues to explore these themes in his sequel, Nop’s Hopesand the autobiographical Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men. For more information on Donald McCaig and his novels, visit his author page here.

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