The Big Idea: Caye Marsh

Author Caye Marsh was treading in unfamiliar territory when she became a mother, and the feelings that came with it ended up being the seed for her newest novel. Follow along in her Big Idea to see how being a mother assisted in forging the path for Peace In The Sky.


Sometime in the small hours of the morning I got up to nurse my first child. The house was dark and silent, the baby in my arms was mostly still a stranger to me. And the whole business of being a parent was entirely new territory. 

I was sleep-deprived, sore, often weepy and sad. But I was quickly forming a profound and deep connection like I had never, ever known. It was more compelling than duty, more inseverable than any family ties, greater even than love itself.

And it made me wonder – would I know my child anywhere? What would it take to break this bond?

My muddled brain began spinning me a story in the those shifting, hazy hours of the night when I was stumbling around half-conscious, nursing or changing diapers. During those hours in which time had no meaning, it felt easy to inhabit a time far in the future. It felt easy to imagine the confusion and brain fog of a character who couldn’t quite remember herself or recall her former purpose, for whom the present was the only meaningful time. It was the only sort of character who made sense to me.

After I finally got some sleep, and started to find the rhythm of nursing and schedules and naps, I began to make a real story out of those distracted musings. I wrote about a woman in an addled state who meets a child she does not recognize. But when the child calls her Mama, she experiences all those feelings that I’d had while I nursed my newborn — that intense, imperative desire to protect, to provide, to nurture and cherish. It was my way of working through those feelings in the abstract while I lay under their spell in my reality. 

I wrote about a character who has forgotten who she once was and has to remake herself in an altered and challenging world. Her only certainty is the urgent, all-consuming need to get her daughter to safety. Nothing else matters to her, and she actively resists claims anyone else makes on her time or energies. And that felt a lot like parenthood to me. 

The book is about more than just that, of course. It’s about an Earth growing into a new equilibrium after being unbalanced for so long. It’s about different peoples struggling in the confines of their separate cultures and environments, and the ways in which they interact both for better and for worse. And it’s about a woman hiding from her own truth, and therefore so much more clear-eyed about the truths of others.

But at the heart of the story is a mother who is learning what it feels like to be a mother.

Peace In The Sky: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop 

Author’s Socials: Website|Twitter

Various and Sundry, 8/21/23

I spent the weekend away with friends and then today I did two interviews, one for print and one for radio, and now I’m surfacing to see what’s going on in the world. Want to come along with me? Sure you do!

Trump Has to Shell Out $200,000 For Bail in Georgia: Actually, as I understand it, he really only has to put down 10% of that in cash, which is probably good for him, seeing that his lawyer bills are pushing him in the direction of “broke” these days, which delights me, he deserves every bit of that. Apparently among the terms of the bail is that he can’t make threats, “direct or indirect,” against anyone who is a co-defendant or witness for the trial, which means that soon the Fulton County Jail is going to come into some money, since Trump is (heh) constitutionally unable to not channel his existential panic through either his tongue or his thumbs. It may be the easiest bail money revocation ever, honestly.

Trump still has to surrender to authorities by this Friday, and it’ll be interesting to see if they’re going to make him do a mug shot. They said they would — he’s just like any other citizen! — but we’ll see.

Elon Musk Admits the Former Twitter May Fail: This is after a weekend where apparently someone poured Fresca into the one remaining operating server, severing connections to links and photos posted before 2014, and of course Musk announced the end of blocking on the service, which prompted enough of an exodus to other services that Bluesky found its own server overheating, as everyone who had been banking an invite there suddenly tried to port themselves over. Musk’s phrasing of the possible imminent failure of his $44 billion trash fire was unusually passive and fatalistic, suggesting that he doesn’t want to take responsibility for his part in it, and/or that he was stoned to the gills as wrote it.

Either way, it’s not exactly the most positive spin Musk could have put on the current situation, which is, remember, entirely of his own doing and every little bit of it is his fault.

Hurriquake! California doesn’t disappoint; not content merely to have its first hurricane/tropical storm in 84 years, the Golden State also unleashed a 5.3 earthquake during the downpour, with dozens of smaller aftershocks thereafter. The silver lining on this particular rain cloud is that so far there don’t appear to be any deaths, and while the storm that broke rainfall records across the state created floods and mudslides, which are not good and can be a danger, it could have been much worse, damage-wise. Take your breaks where you can.

Climate change being what it is, it’s a reasonably safe bet it won’t be another 84 years before another tropical storm hits the area.

Mortgage Rates, Oy: They’re up to 7.48%, which is the highest they’ve been since the turn of the century, and by the way, there’s a phrase that makes me feel old. It’s also by some measures the least affordable time to be buying a house in four decades, so if you were thinking of buying recently, maaaaaybe hold off a bit if you can. Apparently overall house prices are down a bit in the last couple of months, but any savings you get from that would be erased by the interest rates. So if you are in the market for a house right now, sympathies.

Let’s end on a cat: Which will also serve as a reminder that the Scamperbeasts are now on Instagram if you would like to follow them there:

— JS

A Weekend Jam

Hello, my lovely readers! It’s Friday, and I wish to bestow upon you a song that you can spend all weekend jamming out to. I know I certainly have it on repeat, at least.

Here’s Conan Gray’s new single, “Never Ending Song”:

Don’t worry, it’s not actually a never ending song, in fact it’s only about two and a half minutes.

Let me know what you think of the song, and have a great weekend!


The Big Idea: Joe R. Lansdale

Today’s Big Idea is short… but is it sweet? Joe R. Lansdale’s collection title promises that Things Get Ugly, and maybe, sometimes, that’s the way it should be.


Things Get Ugly has been years in the making, containing my best crime stories from the eighties on. Not every crime story I’ve written is included, and even some of my best ones were left out due to lack of room. Fifty years of writing leaves a lot of short stories out there.

I’m pretty proud of these stories, and that may sound somewhat prideful, but I like to think No Brag, Just Fact. The reader can decide.

These aren’t the sort of stories you want to read in one sitting. That might be too much. One a day isn’t a bad way to go, but if you’re a gulper, then have at it. They touch on, shall we say, sensitive subjects, and sometimes they cut deep into sensitive subjects, and those subjects bleed.

People die, both good and bad. People do terrible things. That’s just life. Things tend to get ugly.

Several of the stories are based on real events that I was a part of or witnessed. I’ve experienced many a weird thing. Reality can be a violet, ugly mess at times. “Mr. Bear” is not based on anything real. Bears cannot fly on planes nor talk.

I don’t offer trigger warnings, but I can say here is one sort of warning I will offer. I wrote the stories. And if you’re familiar with my work, that should be enough.

Things Get Ugly: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

Read an excerpt.

Author socials: Web site|Facebook|Instagram|Twitter

In Which I Am Informed By the Boss It Is Time to Go Back to Work

“Yes, yes, you traveled to Washington and New York for the last week, and you got to see people and have adventures. That’s very nice. But now you’re back, and, what is that? A pile of work you’ve been ignoring while you’ve been on the road? Well, guess what you get to do now, pal?”

Spice. She is tough but fair. And not wrong. Lots of work to catch up on. I should get to it.

— JS

The Big Idea: M. A. Carrick

Collaboration is key. Whether it’s writing a book together, backing a Kickstarter together, or changing the world together, people need each other to make things the best version they can be. Follow along with authors Alyc and Marie, who joined together as M. A. Carrick to bring you the newest novel in their Rook and Rose Trilogy, Labyrinth’s Heart.


All our patterns are real.

The Rook and Rose trilogy features a deck of cards (live on Kickstarter as we speak!) that gets used for divination. We’ve mentioned the pattern deck in our previous Big Idea pieces for The Mask of Mirrors and The Liar’s Knot, because our book titles are drawn from card names . . . but that’s not just a tactic for settling on titles. It’s a nod toward the centrality of pattern in this series as a whole.

It wasn’t originally meant to be that central, though. We knew we wanted Ren, our con artist protagonist, to have a deck of cards she used for divination, and we settled on “pattern” as the name because it echoes the association of threads and weaving with fate. That choice had unforeseen consequences: not only did Vraszenian culture become Textile Motifs Ahoy about 0.18 seconds after we named the deck, but when we sat down to refine the differences between our three magical traditions (imbuing, numinatria, and pattern), our word choice shaped our thinking. Pattern gets used for divination, via the cards, but its core is something deeper.

Pattern is the connections between things.

Or, to borrow a line from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”

That’s the heart of our story. Not a lone heroine changing the world single-handed, but a tapestry of characters bound together by their relationships, both good and bad. Our books are 600-page bricks because we need the room to show those connections, how a tug on a thread here causes the fabric to wrinkle there. And how when change happens, it’s not because one person performed a singular act; it’s because enough threads wove into enough of a net to drag the world in a new direction.

Which sounds very distant and philosophical, but in practice it’s all about the character moments, because those are what we live for (as both writers and readers). There’s violence in our novels — in Labyrinth’s Heart, even war — but what ultimately defeats one of the villains is the severance of connections that have until that point been protecting them. Meanwhile, another person gets saved by the remaking of a connection that’s broken. That’s the damnation or salvation of a lot of our characters: they live or die, find a home or get exiled, achieve their goals or go up in a ball of metaphorical flame, as a consequence of their relationships with the people around them. Not by chance or their own choices alone, but by the bonds they’ve made, or renounced, or failed to form in the first place.

Kind of like our collaboration. We can point to some individual concepts and plot beats and lines where that was definitely Alyc’s doing, or Marie’s . . . but the series as a whole exists because of our friendship, because of the years in which our creative bond has grown and strengthened until it can bear this kind of fruit. Neither of us could have written this trilogy solo — not in the form it has, with all that depth and richness of detail.

When we say “all our patterns are real,” we’re usually talking about the divination that appears in the story. Marie has a deck of blank cards marked up with Sharpie; any time someone in the books lays a pattern, she shuffled and dealt those cards, and whatever we got, we wrote into the text. (Except when our con artist heroine is working with a stacked deck, of course.) But on that deeper level, where pattern isn’t just cards but the connections between things — between people — it’s still true. We came into this series with a set of characters and their relationships, and we built our world and our plot to make those relationships go. They’re the beating heart of the story; pattern is the reflection of that heart.

And did we mention it’s on Kickstarter? We’ve dreamt for years of replacing that Sharpie-marked deck with properly illustrated cards; now, to commemorate the release of Labyrinth’s Heart, we’re trying to make our dream a reality. But the success of a Kickstarter, like the success of a series, isn’t the work of a single person; it involves editors, artists, readers, backers, a whole mass of threads weaving together into a beautiful fabric.

That’s magic, right there.

Labyrinth’s Heart: Amazon US|Barnes & Noble||Powell’s|Indigo (Canada)|Amazon (UK)|Waterstones (UK)

Author socials: Website|Twitter|Marie on Mastodon|Alyc on Mastodon|Marie’s Patreon

Close To Home: Eight Green Lilies

Most of you probably know by now that I’m a bit of a boba tea fanatic. As such, I was excited to hear that a local Bradfordian with a passion for boba was setting up shop right in the middle of my little town. Now, I’m happy to report that Eight Green Lilies has finally opened to the public and is serving up refreshing lemonades and green teas with popping pearls!

Here’s how it works:

A blackboard menu listing all the flavors and popping pearls available, as well as listing prices.

After you pick your size, you can choose between lemonade and green tea as the base of your drink (there’s also diet green tea as an option!). Then, you pick which kind of popping boba you want, and finally select the flavor you want your base to be. There’s so many great combinations to try, which is why I ended up ordering four different types.

First, I tried a strawberry lemonade with honey popping pearls:

A clear plastic cup filled with pink liquid and golden colored popping pearls. There's an orange straw sticking out of the cup, and it sits on a pink table runner with a frame and vase in the background as decoration.

Despite my obsession with boba, I had never tried popping pearls before, only tapioca pearls. I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t like them, but it turns out I had nothing to worry about! Popping boba is awesome, especially this delicious honey kind. Strawberry was the perfect pick to accompany these sweet bursts of honey.

After totaling demolishing that one, I got another flavor to go. This one was passionfruit green tea with blueberry boba:

A clear plastic cup filled with amber colored liquid and black popping pearls at the bottom. The golden hour sun is shining on the beverage, and the background is just grass and trees.

Again, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the green tea, but this was super yummy. I’m so glad I took a chance on it because I absolutely loved this drink. Though both bases are light and refreshing, I think I might prefer the green tea.

The next two drinks I got were also green tea based. One was watermelon flavored with pomegranate pearls, and the other was kiwi flavored with dragon fruit pearls. The cool thing about the dragon fruit pearls is that you can see the dragon fruit seeds inside:

A clear plastic cup filled with golden colored liquid and pink popping pearls. You can see black seeds from the dragon fruit in the popping pearls.

Every combination I tried was a hit, but I think next time I go in I’ll have to try the owner’s favorite drink: Half lemonade, half diet green tea with sugar free watermelon flavoring and blueberry popping pearls. Though she also says a first timer can never go wrong with a strawberry lemonade and kiwi boba.

If this kind of boba isn’t exactly your speed, they have plans to expand into milk teas in the future! Plus, they’re looking into serving iced coffee, as well.

Eight Green Lilies also has a unique rewards card system, where you actually keep your punch card in their Rolodex and pull it out when you come in.

Me holding a small paper card that reads

This is so helpful to someone like me who has a million reward cards and always forgets to actually bring them with me! Plus, who has room in their wallet to carry around so many loyalty cards?

Not only do they have this brick and mortar location, but they also have a boba truck named Bee’s Boba and More that travels to different community events such as farmer’s markets and local festivals like our very own Bradford Pumpkin Show. Be sure to check out the truck’s Facebook page to see what scheduled events they’ve got coming up, as well as their Bradford location’s page to be up to date with when they are open to the public, as their hours aren’t set in stone yet.

In their Bradford location they also sell some crafty items like tumblers and t-shirts, and I even got some earrings.

The owners have told me a bit about their plans to make their boba shop a truly welcoming place for the community and about some of the events they hope to hold to encourage the community to get together. I for one am excited to see how this business will grow and positively impact the community in the next few months.

I’m also going to make it my mission to try every combination on the menu.

So, be sure to stop by Eight Green Lilies, lounge in some of their comfy seating, try a wild combination, and tip your bobaristas.

Which combo would you try first? Have you tried popping pearls before, and do you like them better than tapioca pearls? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


The Big Idea: Keith Rosson

Enough is never enough. This statement rings true when it comes to the power hungry bad guys in Keith Rosson’s new novel, Fever House. But what about when that power they crave comes from a severed hand, and they’ll do anything to get it? Read on to see what all the hand, and novel, entails.

My new horror/crime novel, Fever House, opens with a pair of legbreakers – Hutch Holtz and Tim Reed – doing what they do best: terrifying people that are in debt to their boss. Hutch in particular was a holdover from a number of unpublished earlier projects that I just couldn’t get off the ground.

He was, initially, a main character in a crime novel, and a number of short stories, and none of them quite worked. I then realized that I seem constitutionally incapable of writing something of length without putting a ghost or robot or reincarnated medieval executioner in it.) But as a character, Hutch just haunted me. This huge enforcer with a caved-in head, a gunman who once mouthed off to the wrong guys and got his head shut in the door of a Ford passenger van a few times for his trouble. Powerful, but far from impervious.
Most importantly, Hutch, doing what he does, is a character keenly aware of the dynamics of power. He keeps his head down; the thing with the Crooked Wheel Club, the gang that dented his forehead in for him, it’s made him more cautious. He understands that people – like his boss, Peach – ache for power, and will be forever convinced they need more and more of it. Powerful people rarely hit a plateau where it’s enough and all’s good. That’s not how it works.

There are a number of ambitious characters in the book – David Lundy, the head of a black ops agency that’s wheeling out of control, as well as one of his agents, Samantha Weils, who kills the people Lundy tells her to kill – but none of them understand so brazenly and clearly as Hutch that old adage: power corrupts.
If there’s a key tenet to the novel – or, hey, a big idea – it’s that.
Power corrupts.
Transversely, I’ve heard before that fear basically comes down to two pretty basic ideas. One, that I’m not going to get something I deserve, or two, I’m going to have something taken away from me that I already have. When it comes to Fever House, a novel centered around a severed hand that induces uncontrollable madness and violence in anyone in its proximity, well, that’s a lot of potential power and fear there.

There are government agents who steadfastly believe they deserve the hand, deserve access to this totemic, powerful object, and are willing to do whatever they need to do to acquire and utilize it. That, to me, is scarier than any monster, any horror novel. This idea that people with tremendous power and access feel like they have carte blanche to procure and hold onto power, regardless of the casualties and chaos. Regardless of the bodies that stack up.
Everyone’s convinced that they deserve shit, see, to the detriment of others, and a lot of them are willing to step on some shoulders or bust a few heads to get it and then hold onto it.
And then they need more, because that’s how power works. Once you got it, it’s never enough.
So you got people that believe ambition trumps all, regardless of the body count, that wanting something means you deserve it, and then you throw in a severed devil’s hand with supernatural powers? Things start to get interesting.

Fever House: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Books A Million

Author’s socials: Website|Instagram|Twitter

View From a Hotel Balcony, 8/14/23: Brooklyn

Fun fact: for all the times that I’ve been in New York City, my hotel room has always been in Manhattan, and I’ve strayed into the other boroughs rarely if at all. That changes tonight: For the first time I’m staying in Brooklyn, and I have to say it’s pretty nice so far. I’m here in town not for a public event but to do a promotional video, the details of which I can’t yet divulge, but will be pretty cool when I can show it to you all. In the meantime: Hello (from) Brooklyn! It’s good to be in you.

— JS

Announcing the Starter Villain Book Tour

We’re about a month out from the release of Starter Villain, what better time to announce the tour for the book! This year’s itinerary has me revisiting some familiar places as well as going to new cities for the first time. I’m really excited to see everyone out on the road this year.

Here are the dates and stops, and information on how you can get tickets, courtesy of the fine folks at Tor:

Monday, September 18, 2023: Phoenix/Scottsdale
Poisoned Pen
4014 N Goldwater Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ, 85251
7:00 PM
Book Now

Tuesday, September 19, 2023: San Diego
Mysterious Galaxy
3555 Rosecrans St Suite 107, San Diego, CA 92110
7:00 PM
Book Now

Wednesday, September 20, 2023: San Francisco
Bookshop West Portal w/SF&F – American Bookbinders Museum
355 Clementina St., San Francisco, CA 94103
7:00 PM
Book Now

Thursday, September 21, 2023: Wichita
Watermark Books
4701 E Douglas, Wichita, KS 67218
6:00 PM
Book Now

Friday, September 22, 2023: Dallas
Half Price Books
5803 E Northwest Hwy, Dallas, TX 75231
7 PM
Book Now

Saturday, September 23, 2023: Pittsburgh
JCC of greater Pittsburgh, Books sold by Riverstone Books
5738 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217
4:00 PM
Book Now

Sunday, September 24, 2023: Chapel Hill
Flyleaf Books
752 M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
4:00 PM
Book Now

Monday, September 25, 2023: Cincinnati
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
2692 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45208
7:00 PM
Book Now

Thursday – Saturday, September 28 – 30, 2023: Budapest
Budapest International Book Festival
Millenáris, Budapest, Hungary
More information

Thursday, October 19, 2023
Parnassus Books, part of Southern Festival of Books
3900 Hillsboro Pike #14, Nashville, TN 37215
6:30 PM
Book Now

Some notes:

1. For everyone asking “Why are you not coming to my town?” the short answer is there are only so many towns I can visit in one tour, and the slightly longer answer is that my schedule this time around had to take into account the Budapest International Book Festival, where I am the guest of honor this year, which is actually a pretty big deal for me – I am the first science fiction author to ever be their guest of honor.

That said, I know there are additional events we are looking toward scheduling before the end of 2023, but at this particular time they’re just not at a point where we can make an official confirmation of my presence. So don’t despair (yet), there are more appearance announcements coming for October and November, and possibly even later.

2. You’ll notice the “book now” links appended to each appearance. I would encourage you to click through and look at the details. Some events ask for an RSVP so they’ll know how many chairs to put out; others have ticketing that includes the purchase of the book. However it is done, if you are coming to an event, I very strongly encourage you to get your book from the bookseller who is hosting me; they’ve made the effort to bring me to their store and they are in important part of the local community and deserve your business. You can usually bring other books to have signed as well, and I’ll be happy to do that. But please buy a book at the bookseller while you are there!

3. If I am not coming to your town this time around but want a signed book from me, an easy way to do that is to contact one of the booksellers I am doing an event at, and ask them to sign a book for you and then have them ship it. They usually will be very happy to do so, and this way you won’t miss out on a signature. Everyone is happy!

Any other questions? Put them in the comments. Otherwise: See you on the road soon!

— JS

A Quick Weekend Report

First, look at the photo above: Would you believe that’s a library? Well, it is: The Library of Congress, where on Friday night, I and a bunch of authors and librarians and other had a nice little soiree prior to the National Book Festival on Saturday. It was a lovely time, and I got many decorating tips. Likewise, the book festival was a bunch of fun: I was in conversation with NPR’s Linda Holmes about The Kaiju Preservation Society and Starter Villain, and I did a signing under the clock because they started my signing at 7pm and everything had to wrap up at 8pm. We basically triple-timed everything and got the last book signed with about two minutes to spare.

I’m back home today and then out again Monday, to New York City, where I am doing something currently secret but promising to be lots of fun. Travel is a thing and often tiring, but the results will hopefully be pretty neat. If thing are slow here the next couple of days, now you know why.

How was your weekend?

— JS

IUDs: Anxieties and Realities

I had only been sixteen for two months when I got my first IUD. Partly because of my age, they recommended me the smallest one, the Skyla. It’s a hormonal IUD that lasts three years. It was the most pain I’d ever experienced. It hurt, and I was alone, and I was glad when it was over because that meant I didn’t have to think about it for three whole years. At the time, that seemed like a long while. But nineteen came soon enough, and I was due to have it removed. The question then became whether I’d get another one put in or not. And then how long should that one last for?

I ended up getting the Kyleena. Like the Skyla, it’s hormonal, but is bigger and lasts five years. I knew what it felt like to have an IUD put in, but I didn’t know what it felt like to get one removed, and I was scared of the unknown. Plus, they were putting the Kyleena in pretty much the second the Skyla came out, and thinking about it too much made me nervous.

For some reason, taking the Skyla out had hurt more than putting it in, and putting in the Kyleena hurt much more than either of the previous things. When I got the Skyla, I walked out ten minutes later and drove home. I had planned to do the same after getting the Kyleena in, but when I stood up after the procedure, nausea washed over me, and my vision went black.

I laid down and tried not to throw up as they started putting cool rags on me and handing me a glass of water. I was shaking, felt ill, and was as pale as a ghost. Once it passed, I drove home, eager to lay down and not move for a really long time.

Now, it’s time to have my Kyleena removed, and I am so terrified. A couple months ago, I scheduled an appointment to talk about options. After discussing everything, it really does just come down to me having to get another one. I don’t want to take a pill everyday, I don’t want a bar lodged in my arm, I need something that lasts a long time, and something I don’t have to think about.

So, the question becomes, do I go for another hormonal one, or a copper one? While Skyla and Kyleena last for three and five years, Mirena lasts for eight. This means it’s bigger than the other two. Paragard, the copper one, lasts for ten. This one is obviously the biggest. Copper also doesn’t come with some of the “perks” that the hormonal ones do.

Hormonal ones have a chance of stopping you from bleeding altogether. In both cases, I have been one of the people that this happens to. Between barely bleeding while fourteen and fifteen, to having my bleeding halted altogether from sixteen to now, I have felt very lucky. But, I also feel unnatural. I feel like not bleeding for almost a decade, especially in my teens and early adulthood, is somehow wrong or bad for me.

While before I felt happy that I didn’t have the same issues as my friends, now I feel disconnected and almost like an outsider to their feminine problems. I’m not saying I wish that I’d had to buy tampons repeatedly over the years, or wish I’d bled through my jeans in public, because obviously I don’t want that, but I do wish I could relate more when a group of friends shares their communal misery.

I feel like there’s something wrong with my body. It’s not doing what it’s “supposed” to be doing. It’s never “that time of the month” for me. What is seen as a universal problem for girls is of no concern to me, and that feels weird, and wrong.

Again, not that I want to bleed, because I really, really don’t. But shouldn’t I be?

So, if I get the copper, I probably will start bleeding. But at this point, I’ve gone most of my life without doing it, so starting seems almost scary? Like, I actively don’t want to start. That’s a big change for my body, and for my life, and I don’t want it.

So, another hormonal it is. But, I’m paranoid that these IUDs have caused problems in me. I had a lot of acne as a teen, and I thought when I was an adult that it would magically go away. It didn’t, and I still have acne. I have tried and tried to fix it, spent so much on skincare and products, and it won’t go away. So I started to wonder if it was hormonal acne. Sure enough, hormonal acne is a side effect of the hormonal IUDs.

So is weight gain, depression, mood swings, anxiety, all that good stuff. Am I saying that my problems are 100% because of my IUD? No, of course not. I eat like shit and everyone my age is depressed, IUD or not, so I’m not saying for sure that my acne and anxiety are caused by it, but I’m also afraid that the hormones aren’t necessarily doing me any favors (other than its intended favor of preventing pregnancy). Of course, I’m not a doctor or scientist, and this is all pretty much just my paranoia talking.

Then again, I only became depressed when I was sixteen and it hasn’t gone away since. Again, I think my depression is more about the state of our world on the brink of collapse than it is about the hormones in my body, but it’s easier to pinpoint blame sometimes.

Side effects aside, I’m so anxious to get this thing removed, and get another one in. I don’t want to go through it again. Twice was more than enough. I’m scared of the pain, I’m scared of something going wrong, I just really don’t want to have to go through any of this, but I do.

And that makes me angry. Why do I, and everyone else that gets an IUD, have to go through this pain? This fear? Why do they not put us out for this? Why is this a fifteen minute ordeal that you’re expected to walk away from with no problems? You want me to have something inserted into my organ and then get up and drive home afterwards? Go back to work afterwards?

They don’t knock you out because it’s considered a “non-invasive” procedure. I’ve had it done twice and let me tell you, it’s pretty damn invasive! They’ll put you out for a colonoscopy because something goes up your ass but not for something going INSIDE of your organ?

No numbing, no meds, just advice to take a Tylenol beforehand? What the fuck is up with that?

I’m also mad that this is a problem that only people with uteruses faces. I don’t see men getting an IUD shoved up their dick to kill their sperm, why is it my job to kill them? Get copper implanted in your nuts to fry those suckers, don’t make my uterus do it.

Case and point provided by this TikTok:

♬ original sound – Sunshine Healing Studio

I am so sick of this unfairness that reproductive healthcare faces. I am sick of being told I’m “going to feel some pressure” but that pressure is actually pain, and there is no alleviation for the pain, and that I have to sit there and endure this physical and emotional trauma. I’m sick of being told “have you tried Tylenol?” I’m sick of people thinking that birth control isn’t a big deal. It is. Birth control is painful and complicated and expensive and most of all, one sided. And I hate that. I hate this.



RIP, Robbie Robertson

He’s passed away at the age of 80.

Unlike I think most people who connected with his music, I was never into The Band, either as Bob Dylan’s backing musicians or on their own. I connected with Robertson with his 1987 solo album, and even then it was less about him than it was about Daniel Lanois, who produced the album, and whose music with Peter Gabriel and U2 had impressed me enough that I was willing to take a flyer on a (to me) previously unheard musician. I was not displeased by the choice; the album, Robbie Robertson, was pretty great, with two songs in particular, “Fallen Angel” and “Broken Arrow,” high on my rotation of personal favorites.

It’s interesting to sort of back into someone’s musical career like that; the idea that Robertson was already something of a legend in musical circles even before I came across him and then to simultaneously work backwards and forwards in his discography was an interesting experience. I’m glad I got the chance, and got to learn more about him and music.

— JS

Post-Mortem on Ohio Issue 1

Map of the Ohio Issue 1 results by county

Image/data from Wikipedia article on Ohio Issue One, map created by “02rufus02” and shared via Creative Commons 4.0 license. Click on image to go to original.

As the nation and possibly the whole world knows by now, Ohio Issue 1, aka the attempt by the Ohio GOP to amend the state constitution so that voter referendums would be come almost impossible to get on the ballot and even harder to pass, was resoundingly defeated, 57% to 43%. Good for Ohio! Nice to see that the individual voters are not that keen on throwing away their right to have their say in the laws and governance of the state, just because a gerrymandered supermajority Republican legislature really really wants to be able to ignore them forever.

I have a few thoughts on this whole exercise, which I will now detail in no particular order.

1. Most obviously (to the people of Ohio, anyway), Issue 1 was about abortion. Which is to say the gerrymandered supermajority Ohio Republican government passed some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country — currently on pause as the lawsuits about them wend their way through the courts — and then wanted to make sure that the actual citizens of Ohio, who the polls tell us are broadly for basic and sensible abortion access, didn’t overturn their poorly designed, overly-restrictive legislation with a voter initiative about abortion access that is, in fact, qualified for the November ballot. Their plan: a poorly-designed, overly-restrictive proposed constitutional amendment that is an effective ban on any voter initiative. 

That Issue 1 is mostly about abortion rights isn’t just speculation; Frank LaRose, Ohio’s current Secretary of State, said the quiet part out loud, saying it’s “100%” about that, because the GOP these days can’t actually stop monologuing about their evil plans. That it would also toss out the possible marijuana legalization initiative for November, and possible future initiatives on things like raising the minimum wage or redoing the frankly ridiculous gerrymandering in the state, or anything else, was just the cherry on top. At the end of the day, the Ohio GOP wanted to make sure their broadly unpopular laws telling people with uteruses they had no control over their own bodies were never challenged.

2. And it might have worked, too, if the Ohio GOP hadn’t done what shitty people who want to take away rights always do, which was to almost comically overreach. It wasn’t enough to raise the percentage of votes needed to pass a voter initiative from 50%+1 vote to 60%; the polling in Ohio for abortion rights is about 58%-59% percent for, and that’s too close for comfort.

So in Issue 1 the legislature increased the number of counties that qualified signatures for initiatives had to come from: 88, i.e, all of them, up from the current 44. This means that a single county could effectively veto any voter initiative. They also tossed out the 10-day “curing” period, in which initiative backers who discovered some of their signatures were not qualifying could go back and try to correct that, as is currently happening with the pro-marijuana initiative for the November ballot. 

The Ohio GOP might have gotten enough of their own to go for raising the bar from 50%+1 to 60% by itself; you can make a decent structural argument that state constitutions shouldn’t be changed willy-nilly, and that 60% bar would (probably) have served the purpose for the abortion issue, and indeed most other highly partisan issues, since gerrymandered legislature notwithstanding, Ohio is still fairly purplish. But the part about needing every single county to sign off, and tossing out the ability to cure signatures, signaled to even members of the Republican party that the plan here wasn’t to make voter initiatives more difficult to pass, it was to make them almost impossible to get on the ballot at all.

And that cuts both ways. Sure, a small rural county like Putnam (which went 81% “yes” on Issue 1) would reliably put the kibosh on any liberal-ish initiative. But then a large urban county like Cuyahoga (76% “no” on Issue 1) could do the same for conservative-ish initiatives. And the “no cure” bit means you could do nearly everything right in collection and still have it blow up in your face. That marijuana initiative noted above initially failed to qualify for the ballot by less than 700 signatures. I don’t care what side of the political fence you’re on, the idea of not being able to correct an error that small makes it clear this legislature is telling voters they don’t want to have to hear from them no matter what.

One last bit: If Issue 1 had passed, then the voter initiatives that had previously qualified for the November ballot but didn’t meet Issue 1 criteria would be tossed off the ballot. What’s the voter initiative that had previously qualified for the November ballot? Why, the one restoring abortion rights, of course! Just in case you were wondering. 

3. The massive overreach of Issue 1 is why, outside of the current GOP office-holders, there was wide bipartisan support against Issue 1; Republican former governors and Secretaries of State joined their counterparts on the Democratic side and said it was a bad idea. That probably helped to get enough Republican voters to stop marching in step with the state leaders: a state that went 53% for Trump in 2020 went 57% against Issue 1, and even someplace like Darke County, where I live and which went 81% for Trump in 2020, only went for Issue 1 by 75%. Yes, that’s still an overwhelming majority of local voters, but that 6% swing on an issue every current GOP legislator wanted ain’t chicken feed.

These days I don’t credit most conservative voters with a whole lot of independence from their marching orders; their informational ecosystem is so rife with strident messaging and blatant disinformation (more on that in a bit) that the energy required to jump out of it is substantial. On Issue 1, most of them still didn’t — look at the results map, you will see the usual urban/rural voter divide — but enough did that the margin of Issue 1’s defeat was higher than it would have been with just Democrats and independents alone.

Basically, the Ohio GOP had to go out of their way to lose some traditionally GOP voters, and managed to do just that.

4. Another tactical error the Ohio GOP made for Issue 1 was the August special vote. For those who did not know, the Ohio GOP had recently legislated August special elections out of existence, because they were expensive to run and because they traditionally had such low voter turnout that they were questionable exercises from a small “d” democratic point of view. And you know what? I don’t necessarily disagree with them on this point! August votes are often a mess and they typically get dodgy results because mostly people don’t show up to vote!

So what message does it send when the same legislature that voted August elections out of existence takes a ballot issue they’ve designed to fundamentally break how voter initiatives have worked in Ohio for more than a century, and schedule the vote for it in August? The message, more or less: Suck it, Ohio voters, we’re slipping this one past you, ha ha hah ha ha.

But it didn’t work! One, the very act of scheduling an August vote when August voted had so recently been legislated out of existence was a huge damn red flag — it actually was taken to court, where the entirely ridiculous Ohio Supreme Court allowed it on the reasoning of, basically, “it’s different when legislatures do it.” Two, literally the only thing on most voter ballots in Ohio this August was Issue 1, which meant, to the extent there was any voter discussion going on this summer here in Ohio, it was about this singular issue. Three, when the GOP realized that they weren’t just going to be able to slip this one past the voters, they had to start doing messaging about it, which made it even more visible, and of course those opposing Issue 1 did a whole bunch of messaging of their own.

As a result, this August more than three million Ohio voters went to the polls or voted early, more than 38% of all registered voters. By contrast, in the August 2022 special primary, barely 8% of voters showed up to cast a ballot. Issue 1 didn’t slip past voters, it energized them instead, and the August election strategy blew up in the GOP’s face. Which, you know, good

(Interesting note: While the “no” vote carried the early/mail-in ballots by a substantial margin, apparently it also carried the in-person voting too, albeit by a narrower margin. No matter how Ohio voters cast their ballots, “no” carried the day.)

5. The Ohio GOP is already blaming the Issue 1 loss on “dark money” flowing into the state to oppose it, which is some delightful bullshit when you know that largest single contributor to the Issue 1 fight on either side was Illinois resident and noted conservative Richard Uihlein, who contributed $4 million of his own money for the “Yes on 1” effort, and another $6 million came from “Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America,” a DC-based anti-abortion group. The New York Times reported that 80% of the money spent on fighting Issue 1 came from out of state, and that the amounts were roughly equal on both sides.

The GOP blaming of outside money for the defeat of Issue 1, while conveniently ignoring the outside money that flooded in to get it passed, is par for the course for the Ohio GOP, which used all sorts of deceptive messaging to plump for their hobby horse. Here in Darke county, the “Yes on 1” signs had taglines on them like “preserve our constitution” (when in fact Issue 1 was designed to radically change it) and “protect the 2nd Amendment” (which is not in the Ohio state constitution, and is in no danger in Ohio in any event, as we sure do love our guns). The radio ads were worse. 

The blatant dishonesty of the GOP and conservative messaging on Issue 1 is par for the course with their political messaging elsewhere, and it reminds me of two things: The absolute contempt the GOP has for their voters, in that they don’t feel like their voters need or deserve anything close to the truth; and how extremely well-trained GOP voters have become to reject the truth when it is inconvenient for their personal political preferences. As noted before, this particular time, the GOP disinformation regime didn’t work as well as it usually does, and some portion of the usual GOP voters didn’t swallow the bullshit. This will not teach the GOP to back off on the bullshit. It will teach them to shove the bullshit even harder the next time.

In any event, if the GOP wants to whine about “outside dark money” coming into the state to defeat them, they can take it up with the conservative US Supreme Court who, per Citizens United, said all that money flooding the political zone was a-ok by them. Funny how conservative political decisions often come back to bite conservatives on the ass. 

6. Most everyone agrees that Issue 1 was a proxy battle about abortion rights, and with Issue 1 defeated, an abortion voter initiative is on the ballot for November (that is, if the current incredibly cynical lawsuit attempting to have it thrown off the ballot is not successful). Polling shows most Ohioans want some sort of abortion access, so is this new voter initiative now a shoo-in to pass?

The short answer: No. The longer answer: Oh, hell, no. If you think the nonsense messaging and outside money around Issue 1 was ridiculous, wait until the noise machine around abortion access gets up and running. It’s gonna make Issue 1 look like a hugfest. The vote on abortion here in Ohio is likely to be close, and depending on how energized voters are (and which voters are not energized), it could go either way. What will matter is who shows up to vote, and a lot of that will depend on who shows up to message. I guarantee you, the GOP is gonna show up to message. 

7. Which brings me to this point: My personal observation about Democrats and liberals is that many seem to vote to “solve” things, and once they think things are “solved” they let their attention wander off to whatever else it is they are doing. Many republicans and conservatives, on the other hand, seem to vote to “push” things in the direction they want them to go. They are in it for the long term. If as a voter you’re a “pusher” rather than a “solver,” you show up for every damn vote. And they do! Which is why the Ohio GOP scheduled Issue 1 for an August vote in the first place.

I would very much like these particular Democrats and liberals to stop voting to solve things. Nothing is solved if you go “well, my job here is done” and walk off while your political opponents are already planning to hamstring you as you step away. I would like them to start voting to push things, which means showing up to every single voting opportunity and casting their vote.

I mean, for starters; otherwise staying engaged in the political process outside the voting booth matters too. But also, yes, please, fucking vote every time. Don’t just vote in the presidential elections. Vote in the off years. Vote in the off-off years. Vote in the off-months in the off-off years, like in the August of 2023. It matters. Every single time, it matters.

And on that note: See you in November, Ohio. 

— JS


An Addendum To My “Crafted & Cured” + “Speakeasy Miso” Posts

You may remember two posts of mine from earlier this year, both of which are part of my “Close To Home” series. One was over Crafted & Cured (a charcuterie restaurant) and the other featured a ramen shop called Speakeasy Miso. I’m here today to post important updates about both of these amazing restaurants!

The first time I visited Crafted & Cured, they had just opened in downtown Troy, and were serving ciders, beers, and wines to go along with their decked out charcuterie boards. I’m here to tell you they now have a beautiful Bourbon & Craft Cocktail bar!

The dark wood along with the lights under the bottles makes for an upscale presentation. Not to mention the waterfall feature gives an extra elegant feel to the whole thing.

Aside from how awesome it looks, they are serving up some seriously great drinks! My personal favorite so far has been the Strawberry Siesta:

Two tall glasses filled with a peachy colored liquid and ice, topped with a strawberry.

Plus, service at the bourbon bar was exceptional. The bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable, and they provide quick service.

The opening of this bourbon bar was highly anticipated by their regulars, and I’m glad it seems to be a hit so far. I intend to try more of their new drink menu the next time I go, and I definitely recommend checking them out (and be sure to check out their new Instagram account).

As for Speakeasy Miso, they have SO much new stuff to go over, so buckle in and get ready to see some seriously good eats.

When I went to Speakeasy Miso for the first time, it was during the week of their soft opening, which meant they had a limited menu of appetizers and drinks. I had some potstickers, dumplings, and a couple cocktails. While everything was good, I’m happy to say that they have expanded their menu with ramen, desserts, new appetizers, and even more drink options.

Starting with the star of the show, they’ve got several different types of ramen to choose from, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options.

I have not tried the vegan option yet, but I did get the vegetarian ramen, and here’s what it looked like:

A bowl of ramen that has a soft-boiled egg, arugula, cherry tomatoes, bok choy, and two potstickers on top.

This was so yummy! It’s a yuzu ramen, so it was super bright and fresh tasting. I didn’t feel at all like it was a lesser version of the non-vegetarian ramen, and I recommend it for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

Although, I will say that my absolute favorite ramen of theirs is the Hakata Ramen:

A bowl of ramen topped with pork, a soft boiled egg, bok choy, seaweed, scallions, and bamboo.

This time it came with a fish cake, or a narutomaki!

A bowl of ramen with a creamy broth, topped with pork, scallions, a soft boiled egg, bok choy, bamboo, and a pink and white fish cake/narutomaki.

This ramen is made with a rich, creamy tonkotsu broth that I could honestly probably drink an entire gallon of. It’s so flavorful and delicious and I get the Hakata almost every single time. The pork is always so tender, and the eggs are perfectly jammy. I’m making myself hungry just thinking about it!

Before the ramen, though, you’ll want to grab one of their killer apps. These are usually the most subject to change with specials and whatnot.

Pepper crusted ahi tuna (it’s supposed to be served with a strawberry and Serrano pepper vinaigrette, but I’m weak to spice and asked for it without):

A small black plate with four pieces of pepper crusted ahi tuna on it. There's a prettily cut strawberry as a garnish, as well as a slice of radish.

I have only ever had ahi tuna once before trying this one, and it was in one of those ahi tuna rice bowls from Fusian (it’s like Subway but with sushi), and I can say with confidence that this ahi tuna blew the other one out of the water (no pun intended).

Salmon carpaccio with tarragon, cherry tomatoes, shallots, merlot bellavitano cheese, and pink peppercorns:

A long, rectangular white plate with six pieces of salmon carpaccio spaced evenly across it. Each piece is topped with tarragon, shallots, cherry tomatoes, etc.

I had never had salmon carpaccio before this, and I was worried I wouldn’t like it, but this was so good that my friend and I considered ordering a whole ‘nother round of it! The tarragon wasn’t overpowering, and the cheese was a strangely awesome addition. This was definitely one of my favorites of their special appetizers.

Tatsutaage (it’s gluten free fried chicken!):

A small black plate with a mound of small fried chicken pieces on top, accompanied by shredded purple cabbage and scallions.

When I say this was the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, I really mean this was THEE best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Chicken is usually my least favorite meat option but this is a totally different story. It’s perfectly crispy on the outside but still juicy on the inside. I see this chicken in my dreams.

And who doesn’t love bao buns?!

A circular white plate with two bao buns atop it. The bao buns are filled with saucy pork and a housemade slaw.

My GOODNESS were these buns the softest buns this side of the Mississippi. The slow roasted pork was tender and saucy, the housemade slaw added some great texture, and overall every bite was pure deliciousness. You need these buns in your life.

Don’t forget the stellar cocktails, like the Paloma:

A tall glass filled with pinkish liquid that ombres into clearer liquid at the top. There's a lime wedge on the rim.

The White Grape Vodka Spritz:

A stemmed glass filled with a yellowish liquid with a big lemon slice and ice in it.

A mule made with 21 Barrel’s ginger cider:

A short glass filled with liquid the color of iced tea. There's a lime wedge on the rim.

And quite possibly my favorite, the watermelon Paloma:

A short glass filled with bright pink liquid. There's a big slice of watermelon on the rim, along with a spicy salt.

Don’t forget dessert!

A matcha crème brûlée:

A circular white ramekin filled with perfectly torched creme brulee.

As you may or may not know, I have been on the hunt for years for the best crème brûlée, as it is my favorite dessert in the world. This one totally blew me away! It was so creamy and perfectly torched, and the matcha flavor wasn’t overpowering at all.

This one doesn’t exactly have a specific name, but it’s shortbread topped with caramel and chocolate mousse:

A long, rectangular white plate. It holds two long, rectangular pieces of shortbread that are topped with caramel and chocolate mousse.

Need I say more?!

As you can see, Speakeasy Miso is clearly worth a visit. Or two. Or you could become a regular like me (and check out their Instagram to keep up with the specials).

It’s so awesome to see places I love expanding, creating new things, becoming more popular, and all that good stuff. It’s also a great excuse for me to keep visiting them!

What kind of bourbon would you get at Crafted & Cured’s new bar? Which ramen would you like to try at Speakeasy Miso? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


Last Minute Reminder to Ohioans: Vote NO on Issue 1 Today

Update, 10:54pm: Issue 1 goes down in big damn flames. Hell yes, Ohio!

Why? You mean, aside from the fact that it was rushed onto the ballot in order to make sure that the uterus-bearing in Ohio have less control over their bodies than their local politicians, and that it was shoved into an August voting date that this same legislature actually voted out of existence specifically to ensure that the issue would have so little attention that only the rabid faithful would vote for Issue 1 and therefore it would pass, and that the very design of the issue is to make it impossible for basically any voter initiative to make it onto the ballot, much less pass, making sure that the wholly gerrymandered Ohio State Legislature, currently bought and paid for by special interests, never have to take the actual citizens they represent under consideration for anything they do ever again?

Then vote no because Issue 1 so bad that every former governor and secretary of state of Ohio is basically begging voters to show up and vote against it. That’s right! There’s a solid bipartisan consensus that Issue 1 is just terrible. And they’re right! Don’t just take it from me. Take it from both Republican and Democratic Ohio politicians who actually give a crap about Ohio voters and citizens.

So please, Ohioans, when you go to the polls today, vote No on Issue 1. Do it for you, and your ability to have a say in how Ohio gets run. Pretty please and thank you.

— JS

The Big Idea: Scott James Taylor & Sarah Thérèse Pelletier

Some of the best stories are retellings of old ones. If something has been done before, that doesn’t mean you can’t also do it, you just have to put your own spin on it. This is exactly what authors Sarah Thérèse Pelletier and Scott James Taylor set out to do when writing Ladyhoppers. Explore their Big Idea with them as they tell you of their fresh take on multiverses in their new collaborative novel.


Multiverses are pretty hot right now, huh?

We swear, that’s not why Ladyhoppers is a multiverse story. It was, maybe, inevitable, given that the initial idea for Ladyhoppers, in a series of emails some seven years ago, sprang out of a shared love for the comic book style multiverse: the fun of getting to build our characters and then meet different versions of them, our own personal What If? Now that the movies based on those comic books have started making “multiverse” a household word, it maybe looks like trend-following.

Which can feel a little concerning.

But it also plays right into the Big Idea of Ladyhoppers

So forget concerning. It’s kismet. 

Multiverses, after all, are about variation. They’re self-reflexive stories that change and compare and contrast within themselves, and that’s explicitly what we set out to do with the book. 

Or that’s where it ended up, at least. In all fairness it started out with that idea: “let’s riff on the genres we like.” A multiverse story lets you put a bunch of genres all in one book, along with a built-in framework of an outside observer to comment on said genres, which is great if you’re not doing the lazy version of metacommentary, where a character just says, “This is how your world works? Weird, lol.” 

Like a parody—Ladyhoppers isn’t a parody, but it’s not not a parody—you have to come from a place of love. But you also have to do more than press the recognition switch in people’s brains. Every genre the protagonists visit is one we’re into; the trick is shining a light onto it. What can that specific genre do for the story? How can it explore or deepen the theme? Which then begs that old English class staple: what is the theme?

Initially, the theme of Ladyhoppers was that the people who aren’t written into history (or, in our case, story) are as important as those who are.

(There’s that old, misinterpreted saying: “well behaved women seldom make history.” People bring it up to say, “misbehave,” when it was originally about the fact that even though well-behaved women make plenty of extremely valuable and vital contributions, people don’t put them in the history books because there’s less story there.)

(Please note that we are not saying do not misbehave. Ladyhoppers is about both, and probably mostly the latter, honestly.)

That initial theme is still in the DNA of our protagonist Charlie’s story, but as we wrote and rewrote, something broader developed. Telling new versions of old stories is how stories live. There are no new ideas under the sun, but personal context, how an idea lives in your head, can make even the oldest, most worn ideas worth re-exploring. 

But how to decide which contexts to explore first? Putting a bunch of ideas down is easy. Working out structure is harder, particularly when creating a multiverse that’s not adapting preexisting billion-dollar IP and was conceived in a pre-Everything Everywhere All At Once world. No one’s heard of Charlie Chase or Vera Baum yet, and the problem becomes how to make a reader care about variations of characters and worlds they don’t know. Which is why the story starts in a world that’s not unlike our own, albeit in an eighties throwback kind of way, before we toss the characters into an apocalyptic wasteland to establish the stakes. Next comes a fantasy universe to drive home how strange and outside of the characters’ understanding of what the world is and how it works they are. And then… well, the rest would be telling. The genres we ended up with pull double-duty, working as vehicles for both theme and plot.

Speaking of plot, an unexpected issue of writing a 300-plus-page genre-hopping multiverse novel is that it doesn’t have the benefit of being episodic television. In early drafts, there was a swathe of the book where they just moved from universe to universe because that was the thing that was happening. The villain shows up fairly late. Figuring out how to keep the pressure up while still having time to play with and investigate the genres was challenging. Sometimes solving one problem introduced another: to establish one of the foes as a persistent threat, it needed to follow them into another universe, so a whole chapter and a Fast and the Furious pastiche got added in which to do that. As a result, that chapter has less room to investigate itself. It’s a fun chapter! It works for the story! But you can’t help but think about how to edit yourself, even as you’re writing a blog post about the book set to go live around its publication day.

(Maybe the fact that the Fast and the Furious inspired universe is the one that does not reflect on itself is itself a reflection on the Fast and the Furious? Let’s say that.)

But what we didn’t remove is as important as what we added. In the fantasy universe, there’s what could have been a classic Kill Your Darlings moment: we meet a girl who has magically turned her friend into a horse. The scene doesn’t actually connect to the broader plot. It could come out, and the characters would still learn everything they need to learn and grow in the ways they need to grow. But it’s there to establish that these stories and worlds exist beyond our heroes. It’s great that it never ended up on the chopping block despite being flagged for it as early as the first draft.

Because that’s the Big Idea of Ladyhoppers. Every version of a story should get its chance to be told; telling new versions of stories is how stories not only survive but grow, adapt. You don’t kill the old ones, but you don’t kill the new ones, either, the ones with new protagonists or modern takes, or that take new protagonists and put them in older contexts, or vice versa. 

Multiverses are hot right now because everyone loves a new version of an old thing. Sometimes that’s bad, especially when the new version is mandated to be exactly like the old thing, in which case… why do it at all? But hopefully this one’s good. We like it.

Ladyhoppers: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

Sarah’s socials: Twitter|Instagram

Scott’s socials: Twitter|Instagram

Various and Sundry 8/7/23

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend; here’s what’s on my mind today:

William Friedkin, RIP: He was the director of a number of significant films, The French Connection among them, which won Best Picture and nabbed Friedkin a Best Director Oscar in the bargain, but the film of his that has proven to have the longest staying power is The Exorcist, the horror film that rewrote the rulebook on cinematic horror so completely that it’s still spawning sequels 50 years later (The Exorcist: Believer is coming out later this year, with Ellen Burstyn, the original’s lead, in a supporting role), admittedly to much lesser effect, but even so. The Exorcist is on my own personal list of “Greatest Films of All Time” and certainly one of the great films of the 70s. If you’re going to have one film as your calling card, you could do much worse than the single most iconic horror film of all time.

When I was a film critic I got a chance to interview Friedkin for the film Rampage, which was shot in 1987, but for various reasons didn’t come out until several years later. I remember him being a really interesting interview, and even this most minor of his films had some genuinely excellent moments. He had a bit of a resurgence in the 2000s with some smaller-scale films, Bug and Killer Joe most notably, and as a cinema person I was glad about that; it’s good to see artists still making relevant work decades into their professional lives. Hollywood is notoriously difficult about second acts, and he managed to get one.

Ron DeSantis Finally Says Something I Agree With: Specifically, that “of course” Trump lost the 2020 election. Now, let’s be clear that the only reason DeSantis is saying this out loud at all is because Trump is crushing him in the 2024 Republican Presidential Candidate polling, and DeSantis needs something, anything, to poke at the Great Orange One. Also, DeSantis is a real piece of bigoted shit. But for all that, stopped clock, etc. And perhaps the second-best-polling presidential candidate clear saying out loud what everyone else actually knows is true, in defiance of the GOP Reality Distortion field, might actually do some good. I mean, probably not, who are we kidding here, but let us live in hope, if only for a stolen moment.

Trump Having Another Bad Day in Court: His countersuit against E. Jean Carroll has been tossed, you know, the one where he claimed she defamed him by saying he raped her. This led to, among other things, the judge clarifying that, irrespective of the details of New York state law, what Trump did to Carroll would generally be considered rape “in common parlance, [and is] its definition in some dictionaries, in some federal and state criminal statutes, and elsewhere.” Basically the Judge wasn’t going to let Trump use the courts to harass Carroll on a technicality, and good for him.

Meanwhile, Trump has been busy on social media trying to get a venue change for his DC trial, or at least get the judge to recuse herself, because of reasons that I’m sure don’t have to with racism or sexism or the fact that Trump is shitting himself over the fact that at least one judge he’s going to be in front of in his various trials isn’t grovelingly deferential to his nonsense to the point of needing to be slapped down by the circuit court above her for terrible legal reasoning. Also, he appears not to have conferred with his latest lawyer about this tactic, which, come on, is not terribly surprising, now, is it.

Billionaire Barbie: Much to the pain and confusion of professional incel Ben Shapiro, who predicted the movie would flop miserably after its first weekend, mostly because he wanted it to flop sooooooo much, y’alll, stomp stomp stompy stomp stomp, the Barbie move has now grossed over $1 billion worldwide, making it the #2 movie of 2023, both globally and domestically, behind only The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Given that Mario has pretty much ended its theatrical run, it’s possible Barbie could close the (admittedly pretty hefty) $320 million gap between the two films and overtake Mario before her run is over. Regardless, $1B+ globally is nothing to shake your head at, unless you are, in fact, Shapiro or one of his whiny contingent. Let ’em stew!

US Women’s Soccer Out At the World Cup: Much is being made of the usually-dominant US team washing out in the Round of Sixteen stage of the World Cup, especially as they were previously the back-to-back champions, but my own (admittedly less than fully-versed) take about it is: Eh, it happens. My understanding is this year’s edition of the team has a number of new players on it getting their legs, as it were, and in general the state of the competition from other countries is higher, and ultimately, you can’t win them all, even if you are clearly expected to. Disappointment? Possibly, given the team’s previous successes. But, life is like that, sometimes. I suspect they will be back. 2027 is not that far away.

— JS

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