Bulb

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Bradley Wind and his speculative fiction novel Bulb.

Author’s description of the book:

If light records everything we do, can even shadows hide our secrets?

 

Imagine your entire life is available for review.

 

Imagine each day any event can be watched over and over again – your birth, your first kiss, your recent shower, that private itch – all replayable from any angle. Now imagine these can be viewed by anyone at any time.

 

Is a world where there is far less ego, little crime, and even the smallest moments are recorded and available publicly through the ‘Grand Archive’ a Utopia or a Dystopia? Traumatized by memories he does not want to recall, artist Ben Tinthawin is recruited by the enigmatic, Grand Archive creator Dr. Mamon, who seeks help for his nextgen designs to enhance the world. Ben stumbles across a secret revealing the doctor’s true scheme in all its surreal splendor and questions whether the doctor really is the benevolent soul he claims to be. As the paths of a broken man and a brilliant revolutionary cross, the world shifts and cracks start to appear. Even our most fundamental codes can be encrypted – or corrupted. If the wrong information is discovered, more than Ben’s life will be in danger of total shut down.

 

Prepare yourself for full exposure.

My Review:

In Bulb, Bradley Wind has created an unusual and thought-provoking look into the future. It poses plenty of relevant questions about today and about the choices we’re making.

What I liked best:

1. This is a genuine attempt to describe the future, not a story set in our own world with more rocket ships and robots in the background. The author makes the valid point that if you asked a human from ten thousand years ago to describe the year 2020 they wouldn’t have enough information to even imagine our society. Bradley Wind has tried to make this leap into an unimaginable future, and he has succeeded in creating a disturbing and unexpected world that seems normal and even inevitable to those living in it.

2. His writing packs a punch.

3. This could have been a one-good-idea book. The concept of the archives is so different, and so chilling, that it would carry a fine story. However, Wind is just getting started when he lays out the concept of everyone being able to view everything everyone else has ever done.

What I liked least:

1. The pacing is erratic. I do think the way the book is written has an overall artistic effect, but one has to get through it to appreciate the artistry, and this is not an easy book to finish.

2. Item three above is somewhat of a two-edged sword. This story throws so many radical ideas at the reader that overload is likely. Yes, you can have too much dessert, and too many things to think about in too short a time. I’d recommend reading this novel over a period of several days, if not more.

3. This last part is subjective and I always wonder whether personal preferences should be included. Yet, no matter how well done something is or isn’t, we all have own tastes and they effect our reading experience. So, I’ll be blunt. I didn’t enjoy reading this book.

I’m easily bothered by blood and gore, disturbing rape scenes, disgusting behavior, detailed descriptions of bodily functions, deformities, mutilations and you get the idea. I’m not a good date at a zombie movie and I don’t watch horror flicks. But … Bradley Wind can’t seem to stay off of these topics. His descriptions of the lives of two saints (people who voluntarily stay in a coma to keep the system running) were so over the top they nearly stopped me from finishing the story.

It’s important to note that I’ve read other novels I didn’t enjoy, and yet which I’m glad I read. (Did anyone actually enjoy reading 1984?) The truth is, we don’t only read for fun. We read to understand new points of view. We read to have our imaginations expanded and our empathy increased. We read to think more and to feel more and to grow.

So, I recommend this book to (1) people who enjoy dark and disturbing speculative fiction, and (2) to those willing to read such in order to be exposed to ideas they’re unlikely to encounter anywhere else. Trust me, this book is full of them.

About the Author:

Bradley Wind was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He is a prolific visual artist whose work has exhibited in the 20th-century wing of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

He worked as a toy designer for K’nex Industries, a manager of IT for Pearl S. Buck International and is currently a director of IT for a child-focused non-profit. He raises chickens and two lovely girls with his wife in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

BULB is his latest novel.

Find him on his website, on Facebook, Instagram, BookBub, Goodreads, or on Twitter. 

Buy Bulb on Amazon.

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Bradley Wind will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops.

 

Introvert? Empath? Good Literary Citizen? (3 of 3)

Because I’m an introvert who sucks at social obligations (see the two posts mentioned below) I’m looking into ways I, too, can be a good literary citizen. I’ve identified three problems, three solutions and three dangerous traps I have to avoid.

This is about the third of these three.

A Problem:

Like most (maybe all?) people driven to write novels, I grew up reading dozens of novels a year for fun. College classes slowed me down a little, but not much. Likewise, marriage, children and a full-time job only put a dent in my addiction of choice.

It took writing books myself to bring my favorite pass time to a complete halt. And I’m still sad about it. Turns out I can do almost anything and read all I want, except write.

I’ve already written about how I use (and enjoy) flash fiction to stay current in my genre. And I’ve written about how I follow a limited number of blogs and online groups, trying to be supportive of them while refraining from comments.  I make an effort to stay away from others all together.

Today, I’m considering the rare times I do read a novel these days, and why.

A Solution:

Most of my reading today is done for blog tours, providing reviews for others like me, trying to gain attention for their self-published or small indie press published works. I’m sympathetic to their aims and I try to be positive in my reviews, while still being honest. Often the books aren’t chosen because I’d choose them off a shelf, but rather because they are available for review.

I’ve discovered there are genres I need to avoid.  I already knew I lacked the gene to appreciate true horror novels, or anything grisly or gross. Now I know not to sign up for anything with the word romance in the description. (I’ve nothing against romance in real life, I just prefer my plots to be less predictable.) Recently I’ve learned to be careful choosing YA novels too. I’ve enjoyed some, but they need to be pretty special before I get emotionally involved in teenage troubles.

“Then what do you read?” you may ask. Good question, as I’ve just eliminated a lot of  what’s written. I do like crime novels, science fictions, and most fantasy. (It can get too dark and grim for me out on the edges.) If I stick to this, I find I generally enjoy any reasonably well-constructed story and can say something good about it. That’s nice for me. It means I got to read a book. And it’s nice for the author. They got one more positive review.

The Problem with the Solution:

To be honest, reading to write reviews doesn’t feed my addition. It doesn’t fill some longing deep in my brain. Why?

I read these book the way I used to read assignments in school. I skim and I skip and I barely touch down, just enough to render a fair review, the way I used to do when I had to produce an adequate paper.  Yes, I often enjoy the story, but not the same way I enjoy a leisurely immersion in another world.

And, the truth is, these are often authors still early in their own learning curves. Even though they’ve accomplished the remarkable feat of producing a full-length, coherent novel, they often have habits I want to avoid, not emulate.

To write better, I decided I needed to read better as well.

Recently I’ve started allowing myself to take short vacations from writing, to read a carefully selected novel. I’m turning to award winners, to those books highly recommend by friends and to stories whose descriptions call to me for one reason or another.

I have two rules as I read these books. Well, actually three. The first is to take my time and enjoy the book. The second is to keep my eye out for ways I can grow as a writer. (No, the two tasks don’t seem to be mutually exclusive.) The third is to write a review of these books as well. Even acclaimed authors can use a little a more praise.

Next up for me? Recursion by Blake Crouch and The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow.

I know I’m not the greatest literary citizen with these few techniques, and I never will be, but I am managing to produce my own fiction while no longer groaning every time someone mentions being “a good literary citizen.” I’m willing to call it achieving a balance.

 

The Tears We Never Cried

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Ryshia Kennie and her novel The Tears We Never Cried.

Author’s description of the book:

A mother’s tragic diagnosis.
A daughter’s life on hold.
An ending and a new beginning …

Cassandra McDowall’s mother has been forgetful for a while, but she never anticipated rapid-onset Alzheimer’s to come out of nowhere and shake their world to its very core.

As Cassie puts her already-lackluster life on hold, her mom’s indomitable will and spirit of adventure prove to be a handful.

And as her mother fades, the two embark on one last adventure—a journey that reveals secrets on the brink of being lost, the joy of foreign sunsets, and love where she hadn’t thought it possible.

About the Author:

The winner of  her city’s writing award, Ryshia Kennie’s novels have taken her characters from the depression era prairies in her first book “From the Dust” to a across the globe and back again. There’s never a lack of places to set a story as the too long prairie winters occasionally find her with travel journal in hand seeking adventure on foreign shores.  While facing off a Monitor Lizard before breakfast or running through the Kasbah chased by an enraged Water Carrier aren’t normal travel experiences and might never find a place in one of her stories, they do make great travel stories.  When not collecting odd memories from around the world, she’s writing mainly romantic suspense and women’s fiction.

Find Ryshia at her website, or on Facebook, on Instagram, or on Twitter.

Purchase her book on Amazon at The Tears We Never Cried

Yes there is a giveaway.

Ryshia Kennie will award a randomly drawn winner a $15 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift certificate.

Enter here to win

My favorite excerpt:

“The car is stolen!”

Mother’s voice sliced through the swirls of sleep.

I leapt out of bed, glanced at the clock and tripped over the unfamiliar flannel sheet. On the wall was a poster of a rock band I’d loved at fifteen. I was back in the room of my childhood.

I’d brought Mother home to live with me for that first night after the Christmas card debacle. One night was about all either of us could tolerate. My apartment was too small. It had taken me only a few days to get my stuff together, notify my landlord and move in with Mother.

“Hang on, Mom.” I fought to catch my breath as I reached for my housecoat.

“Cassie!” Her voice cracked across the layer of frost that collected on the window frame overnight and slammed through the partially open window. I have a penchant for fresh air. Sleeping with a window open even in the midst of winter is normal for me, and made it easy to hear Mother’s shriek outside as it erupted a second time loud enough to roust the neighbors. Her screech had me excited but not panicked. Not until my conscious and my unconscious married those two thoughts together—outside and Mother.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish.

Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

A Personal Note from Me:

I signed up for this tour because I grew up in household affected by Alzheimer’s disease in one of my grandparents. I remember how the pain is most difficult for the one or two people who are closest to the person.

This is a blog about being able to see the future. I think if my own mother could have seen a decade ahead, after the disease had long since taken my grandfather and her life had moved on, it would have helped her. But, of course, we can’t see ahead.

I now have the hindsight of decades, and much more medical knowledge, but I always applaud a book that attempts to handle this difficult topic with sensitivity and understanding.

 

The Jack Steel Series

Today it my pleasure to welcome author Geoffrey Saign and his books Steel Force and Steel Assassin.

Author’s description of the books:

Serve justice. Discover a secret. Find his daughter. Repay betrayal.
Jack Steel trains for the impossible, and it looks like it found him.

On a black op to neutralize terrorists, elite specialist Steel puts honor and integrity ahead of orders when he spares a monk. He just never expected his decision to put crosshairs on his back.

Hunted by a twisted killer, a vengeful billionaire, and the highest levels of government, Steel races to discover who’s behind a conspiracy that will decide the fate of two countries—and why one monk is the key to it all.

Aching from a missing daughter, Steel finds it easy to fall for Christie, a beautiful counter-terrorism analyst who offers to help. But he isn’t sure he can trust anyone.

To have a chance at love and a new life, and to serve justice, Steel just needs to stay one step ahead of a bullet…

*****

 

Revenge. Love. Family.
To protect their families, Jack Steel and Christie Thorton must become assassins.

Deadly Blackhood Ops specialist Jack Steel has moved on from his bloody past, but his past won’t let him go. He has it all; his partner Christie, his daughter Rachel, a protection agency he’s proud of, and his head on straight.

But it’s all torn apart when a madman blackmails him and Christy. Their skills are pushed to the limit as they are forced to become assassins to save those they love. The Mexican cartel, terrorists, and people from Steel’s past force them into a non-stop fight that they can’t walk away from.

To protect his country, and everyone important to him, Steel will be forced to trust the very people he swore to kill.

And he might have to walk away from those he loves…

About the Author:

Award-winning author Geoffrey Saign has spent many years studying kung fu and sailed all over the South Pacific and Caribbean. He uses that experience and sense of adventure to write the Jack Steel and Alex Sight thriller action series.

Geoff loves to sail big boats, hike, and cook—and he infuses all his writing with his passion for nature. As a swimmer he considers himself fortunate to live in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota. See what he’s up to online.
Website: http://geoffreysaign.net
Twitter: https://twitter.com/geoffreysaign
FB: https://www.facebook.com/JackSteelBooks
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/755980.Geoffrey_Saign

Sign up for the newsletter to receive a free copy of STEEL TRUST: https://geoffreysaign.net/newsletter-free-steel-trust

Amazon STEEL FORCE Buy Link. On sale during the week of the tour for $0.99

Amazon STEEL ASSASSIN Buy Link.  On sale during the week of the tour for $2.99

My Favorite Excerpt (from Book 2: Steel Assassin)

Steel heard the ooh ooh ooh cry of a Mexican spotted owl. It began softly and escalated rapidly to a louder pitch. Wishing he could just stand still and enjoy it, he kept moving. He had a deep, abiding love for nature—which always grounded him.

As he made his way south, he also wished he had taken a firmer stand with Christie and refused her help. It probably wouldn’t have mattered. She would have come anyway. But the fact that she was in a dangerous Op, with little field experience, gave his steps more urgency.

A deeper fear lurked beneath that idea. When the Colombian had threatened to send Christie’s photo to the cartel, he had intuited that it wasn’t just a threat, but a plan. The Colombian would have to die before that happened.

The trees formed dark shadows under the moon. He ran from trunk to trunk until he was far enough south that he could approach the side of the house directly from the east.

Decades of exploring caves had made moving in darkness second nature to him.

As he got closer, the house lights guided him in. He stopped fifty feet out behind a tree. No one was visible in the windows. It triggered an alarm in his head to be more cautious.

Yes there is a giveaway:
Geoffrey Saign will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

 

 

 

Rich and Gone

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author W. F. Ranew and his novel Rich and Gone.

Author’s description of the book:

PI Red Farlow is on the hunt to find $300 million a Florida insurance executive has bilked out of family and friends.

Woody Cunningham stashed the money in safe havens around the world before disappearing. Has he been done in by one of his enemies? Or did he skip town with his girlfriend to live off the ill-gotten wealth? If that’s the case, where is he?

Farlow must quickly learn how and why people hide their money in offshore accounts if he’s to find out what happened to Cunningham.

When a tough guy from Farlow’s past resurfaces, wanting to settle an old score, Farlow discovers he also has links to the missing man. Clues lead him across Georgia and Florida, and Europe, to find the answers.

Is Woody Cunningham dead, or just rich and gone?

Excerpt:

We straddled barbed wire in a low-slung section of the fence and tramped toward the cabin pitched above the languid, black-water river, stained dark by tannins of vegetation. Along its banks, the sugar loaf knees of cypress trees rose up out of the water. An idyllic spot, if you loved pines, mossy oaks, solitude, and an occasional water moccasin basking on a stump. Lord, it was quiet out here. A quiet broken only by the gently moving stream, birds chirping, and fish jumping. In the distance, a mourning dove sang its song of lamentation.

The dark brown chink-log cabin looked rustic enough. Upon closer inspection, modern accouterments stood out. A roof-mounted satellite dish turned up to the southwestern sky, and a surveillance camera pointed in our direction. A deck had been added at some point and wrapped around the original structure. One section, with a hot tub, hammock, and rocking chairs, extended over the riverbank.

Cunningham owned an expensive collection of shotguns for his frequent hunting trips on the property. Had he kept them in this house? Probably not. He was an insurance executive after all.

My Review:

Rich and Gone starts off with a great title and it goes to on tell an interesting and complex who-dun-it story spiced with lots of genuine southern flavor and the occasional bit of big money intrigue.

Things I especially liked:

  1. All the financial sleuthing, and the impressive research behind it.
  2. An older protagonist who trusts his hunches, is tech savvy, and who is finally having a love affair with the woman he’s yearned for, for forty years.
  3. Great descriptions of Florida and Georgia, and even better descriptions of the food and drink of the south

Things I struggled with:

  1. Too much background information about minor characters, especially those introduced late in the story
  2. A graphic sex scene between two minor characters and a graphic murder showing the homophobia involved — both scenes seemed out of place and gratuitous, as they were unnecessary to plot or character development
  3. Several cases of the protagonist figuring something out, or his future self chiming in about finding useful information, and then not telling the reader what the tidbit is

Even though the story didn’t quite fire on all cylinders for me, it’s a well-crafted crime novel with plenty of complexity and surprises. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys this genre.

About the Author:

W.F. Ranew is the author of Rich and Gone, a Red Farlow mystery set for publication May 29, 2019, by Tirgearr Publishing. He a former newspaper reporter, editor, and communication executive. He started his journalism career covering sports, police, and city council meetings at his hometown newspaper, The Quitman Free Press. He also worked as a reporter and editor for The Augusta Chronicle, The Florida Times-Union, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he was a news editor.

Ranew has written two previous novels: Schoolhouse Man and Candyman’s Sorrow. He lives in Atlanta and St. Simons Island, Ga.

Find W. F. Ranew at the following places: His website. The Tirgearr book page. His Tirgearr author page. His Goodreads page. His Blog. On Facebook. Also find him on Twitter at @wfranew

W. F. Ranew is giving away a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Nobel Gift card!

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops and find many more ways to enter and to win!

If you are interested in a review from me:

This is a blog devoted to thinking about the future. I review books and movies related to this theme or to those that otherwise have a strong tie to subjects touched upon in Flickers of Fortune, such as mysteries or thrillers related to finance.

I do read the entire book and I write real reviews. I cross post my reviews on Amazon, Good Reads and Library Thing, and will post elsewhere upon request. If you would like to be considered for a review please comment here or contact me at Ariel (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

… is still a thousand miles.

I used to love the expression “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I say used to, because back when I was starting a lot of  journeys, I needed all the inspiration I could find to get going.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot more finishing of journeys, not the least of which has been the heavy editing and re-releasing of six novels I wrote between 2010 and 2017. Another writer may have patiently refined these books for a few more years before they ever saw the light of day, but not me.  I got them out there with a flourish before I realized they had only gone about half as far as they needed to.

I think, and hope, that I’ve now gotten five of the six of them to the end of the road. Two days ago I made “Flickers of Fortune” available on Kindle and in paperback. It replaces the longer book known as d4 and is a more reader-friendly telling of the tale.

You know what? It was a LOT of work to get this all the way done. Not fun creative stuff, but I-just-want-to-quit-this-shit-and-go-take-a-nap type work.

Why stick with it? The satisfaction is the final product. I’m genuinely proud of it.

And, I’ve gained a new saying. It isn’t nearly as pithy, but it is true.

 

 

 

The Sound of a Story

This was complicated enough. I’m overseeing the design of six new covers. I’m giving all six books no less than three separate edits, each one focusing on a different aspect of what will make a novel PERFECT. I’m setting up blog tours and assorted publicity for each book as it comes out, and for the first time I’m trying my hand at Amazon advertising to give these little glowing embers every chance to catch fire that I can.

I’m dizzy with it all.

Then my husband, supporter of my writing and all around good-guy, decides he’s going to read my books aloud so I can have audio books and he’s starting today. Wow. At first blush, this seems great. He knows the books. He has this deep, rich voice, honed from years in a classroom. And, he’s free. I mean, he has the time, but more importantly, he doesn’t cost anything. Narrators are expensive.

And then ….. I’m on the phone with Amazon trying to clarify requirements. He’s making many, many little files and I’m trying to find software to concatenate and convert them and really this just isn’t something I know much about or have time for right now. Arrrgggggg!!!!

You know what. It’s great. I’d rather have a wealth of opportunities coming at me than too little to do. Unlike Ariel, I don’t know  the future. I’ll take my chances throwing as many fishing lines out there as I can. Maybe I’ll catch something.

A Step Forward, a Step Back

Every part of self-publishing is an adventure. The process of having new covers made for my six novels has been no exception. I’ve been working with a group known as Deranged Doctor Design (you’ve got to love the name) and they’ve been great to deal with. We’ve been working on the cover for the second novel, Shape of Secrets, and just finalized the last step, the paperback version of the cover. Isn’t it beautiful? I especially love the beach on the back cover.

Oddly enough, the part requiring the most revision was the color of the spine and the insert on the back. I was determined for it to be orange, the designer wanted something in the burgundy/brown family. Finally she suggested this more transparent look and I loved it.

But no decision is without ramifications. The cover for the first novel, One of One, was finalized a few weeks ago. I love it, too, but take a look at the cover for the paperback.

It needs a semi-transparent spine and back cover inset now too, doesn’t it? Lucky for me the designer at DDD agreed, and One of One is getting its redo right now.

I’m starting to get a feel for the cascading ramifications of making a decision when you really, really want all six covers to match. One of One will be released in January about the time that the new cover for book three is done.

Should be interesting. I really hope we don’t come up with something on cover three that is so great, I have to stop and redo covers one and two again. What do you think are the odds?

Then of course, there are still covers four, five and six coming along. Like I said, it’s an adventure.

Review: The City and The City

Summary: I’m in awe of this book, and I like to think that I don’t awe easily. It has stuck with me since I finished it; the surest sign of an effective story. I give it a 4.8/5, the highest rating I’ve given since I started this decimal point thing.

What I liked least:

  1. The quotes and reviews on the cover and at the front. That may seem an odd complaint, but this book was given to me as a gift a couple of years ago and I put off reading it because everyone made it sound so depressing. Anything billed as a Kafka-meets-noir-crime-novel doesn’t go to the beach with me, yet this book could have and should have. I wish I’d read it years ago.
  2. The end. I might as well get it out here at the start. I’ll say no more about it, but there were so many ways for this story to go and while I can think of much worse endings, the one that happened wasn’t one of the possibilities I wanted. So it goes.
Author China Mielville

What I liked best:

  1. Everything else, but I’ll try to be more specific.
  2. The author takes an absolutely ridiculous premise, answers your every objection to it while telling the story, and leaves you accepting an alternate history wherein two independent city states exist in the same geographical place, each refusing to see the other.
  3. Once you make that leap, you start to realize how believable the premise is because it touches on ways real humans behave. Then you start to find examples of unseeing all around you and I don’t know how long that goes on for because it’s been a week now and I’m still doing it. I may never stop.
  4. The book is not depressing, at least to me. The reason is that many if not most of the characters have a shred of human decency in them and the main ones hide kind hearts under their tough and expletive laden exteriors. Yes, the overall style is crime novel noir, with a touch of cold war spy and splashes of absurdity, but any time we actually get good guys and gals trying to do what’s right, I’m willing to stand up and cheer.
  5. Main characters are well fleshed out given the author’s sparse strokes. Inspector Tyador Borlu of the City of Beszel’s Extreme Crime Squad, the book’s protagonist and narrator, won my sympathy during the opening scene as he looks out for the young drug dealers who come forward when they find a body. He cemented my high regard when he met the dead girl’s parents and noted how “Grief made them look stupid. It was cruel.”
  6. When Borlu is forced to meet and work with his counterpart, senior detective Qussim Dhatt of the ignored city Ul Qoma, one sees through Borlu’s eyes and is lead to think the man is a jerk. We discover, along with Borlu, how much the two detectives have in common.
  7. I’m female, and I judge how a writer handles his or her women characters. Mr. Mieville treats them all as people, a refreshing delight. In particular, constable Lizbyet Corwi is a tough capable detective, no less female for not being some man’s love interest.
  8. The book is a mix of ingredients one would never expect to work as well together as they do. There is humor, as residents of each city joke about how their weather is better and visit their local Starbucks, which of course has shops in both cities. There is mystery and suspense, some of which surrounds a 2000 year old archaeological dig that may hold the secret to the origin of this bizarre arrangement. Some things are never solved or explained, others reach a satisfying conclusion.
  9. Finally, this author won me over with his dedication. It’s to his mother, which is common enough, but he adds that he “wanted to write a book that my mother would have loved.” Wow. I wish I could have met his mother.

I often get asked to name the writers who inspired me as an author, and I have trouble coming up with a list. Part of the reason is I tend to be inspired by specific books, rather than bodies of work, and the other is the degree to which the list has morphed as I’ve aged.

My approach is to keep a short list of books I can point to and say “I’m trying to write that well.” The City and the City has placed itself at the top of my list.