Hello Strangelings!

Hello strangelings!

If you’re a member of our fantastically strange bookclub then you may already have this month’s book, American Sherlock, in your hot little hands and I’m even seeing that some of you have already devoured it in a single night because you couldn’t put it down, and I could not relate more.

If you’re on Facebook you can discuss the book at the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club page or if you hate Facebook you can discuss it here.  Or you can just read it and lurk, or keep it to read when you need an escape.  THERE ARE NO RULES.

Kate Winkler Dawson, the author, was kind enough to answer a bunch of questions for us.  There aren’t any massive spoilers but if you prefer to go in blind maybe skip this part until you finish the book, and page down to see our March book pick!

Jenny: I was shocked that considering all I’ve read about true crime and forensics I’d never heard about the subject of your book, Oscar Heinrich. How did you discover him?
Kate: I love old true crime stories, like super old–pre-1960s. A few years ago I bought an encyclopedia of American crime that was printed in the 1970s and I started searching for a case that could serve as the spine for my next book.
There were loads of mobsters in the 1920s (more than I thought) and I was losing hope. Around page 100 there was a story about a botched train robbery in 1923. The writer mentioned a forensic scientist named Oscar Heinrich, “America’s Sherlock Holmes.” The story described how he solved the case using latent clues that he found on a pair of overalls and it was really incredible. So my interest in Heinrich really started with that book. And I refuse to tell anyone the title because I’m convinced that I’ll discover all of my future books there.
Jenny: What was the most exciting discovery you made in your research?
Kate: Oh, definitely how his father died. I promised my editor that I won’t spoil anything, which is a tall order. I’ll just say that I had always been confused about why he was so obsessed and controlling with money. A few weeks before I was due to turn in the book, I did a random search on newspapers.com and found out about his father’s death and everything became clear. I know that sounds ambiguous, but it was a watershed moment for me.
Jenny: You told me something cool about the cover. Can you share it with everyone else?
Kate: Yes! Chapter Five is called “The Case of the Star’s Fingerprints.” It’s about silent film star Fatty Arbuckle’s manslaughter trial, which was the trial of the century in the 1920s. Heinrich visited Fatty in jail and took his fingerprints and handprints for evidence. It seemed appropriate (and a little creepy) to put Fatty’s handprint on the cover!
Jenny: They say that if you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss stares back. Does that ever happen when you immerse yourself in these dark stories?
Kate: Yes, I definitely have moments that are odd. Like I was driving alone through Central California last October. It was just me on the road with rolling hills and NOTHING ELSE. I thought, “man, what a great place to leave a body. You wouldn’t even have to go very far off of the highway.” So…that’s probably not normal.
Jenny: I love how you were able to make the scenes so real and fascinating. How do you decide how much creative license to take?
Kate: It’s funny because I’ve had a few people approach me at events and say, “so this is MOSTLY true, right?” Um, no. All of it is true, otherwise we can’t call it nonfiction. Every word in my books is true and sourced. But there are certainly ways to amp up the drama using good research. I LOVE photographs and Heinrich was an avid photographer. He was such a control freak that he rarely allowed anyone else to document his crime scenes so I had access to hundreds of crime scene photos. Photos can really tell you so much.
Jenny: I love how you present the facts objectively…but just between you, me and 2,000 bookclub members….what do you think really happened to Allene Lamson?
Kate: Honestly…I think she slipped and fell and died. David Lamson really didn’t present before, during, or after as a killer.
I can hear your book-clubbers saying: “Seriously?? You know that psychopaths are fantastic manipulators and actors.”
But think about the order of events: would he really kill her, then go outside and do yard work while talking to neighbors? And then invite a real estate agent inside as he finds the body? She had only been dead an hour. It doesn’t make sense.
More importantly if you look at the forensics, there is literally no void in the blood pattern in that tiny bathroom. She spilled half of the blood in her body and it went everywhere. There would have been a void, even if David had thrown her onto the sink. He would have blocked the spatter.
None of it tracks as a murder, to me. But I want to know what everyone else thinks!!
Jenny: What are you working on next?
Kate: The third book is top secret BUT…think Hannibal Lecter meets 19th century Mindhunters. I love, love, love forensic psychiatry and digging into how a criminal’s mind works. I’m also coming out with a historical true crime podcast later this year called “Tenfold More Wicked.” Each season is a six episode, deep-dive into a crime that made history and what we can learn from it now.
Jenny: And my last question…HOW IS THIS NOT A MOVIE YET?
Kate: Right??? I ask my agent that all the time! We’re working on it…I promise. Or a TV series.
So I know you’re just now getting February’s book but do you want a sneak peek at March’s book club pick?
Of course you do.

It’s We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry.

When Elizabeth gave it to me and was like, “You’ll love this” I kind of doubted her because there’s sports in it and I don’t like or understand sports but she assured me it was amazing and she was totally right.

Here’s a quick summary:

Acclaimed novelist Quan Barry delivers a tour de female force in this delightful novel. Set in the coastal town of Danvers, Massachusetts, where the accusations began that led to the 1692 witch trials, We Ride Upon Sticks follows the 1989 Danvers High School Falcons field hockey team, who will do anything to make it to the state finals—even if it means tapping into some devilishly dark powers. In chapters dense with 1980s iconography—from Heathers to “big hair”—Barry expertly weaves together the individual and collective progress of this enchanted team as they storm their way through an unforgettable season.

Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza (whose bleached blond “Claw” sees and knows all), the Falcons prove to be wily, original, and bold, flaunting society’s stale notions of femininity in order to find their glorious true selves through the crucible of team sport and, more importantly, friendship.

This was one of those books where as soon as it was over I literally missed the characters, and I desperately wished I could go back to high school me and give it to myself to read. Also, the author is a poet and you can totally tell because her prose is painfully good.

Thanks again for everyone supporting this strange and wonderful bookclub.  It’s helping so much to pay for the construction (which might actually be done in a few weeks   – ALL FINGERS AND TOES CROSSED).

Also, in case you’re just now hearing about this…OMG, YES YOU CAN TOTALLY JOIN THE BOOKCLUB.  Click here for all the glorious details.   And if you can’t afford to join at the moment you can always be an honorary member and pick up the book at the library or your local indie bookshop.  Discussion is open to everyone.

Happy reading!

Happy Booksgiving!

Hello, and welcome to the FIFTH YEAR OF BOOKSGIVING!

What is Booksgiving?  It’s pretty much the only holiday I actually enjoy celebrating (other than Halloween).  It’s a day when I give out free copies of my books to people who may need them.  It usually takes place earlier in February but I was in a bit of a depression so I decided to wait until I could breathe again and turns out today is also Random Acts of Kindness Day so it’s almost like my mental illness planned this.

The strange thing about Booksgiving is that very often other people get involved and are like, “I want to buy a book for someone too!” so even if you’re the 26th person asking for a book it is entirely possible some wonderful stranger will gift it to you.

All you have to do is start a brand new wishlist on Amazon with ONE book on it.  (Just one book, okay?  Otherwise it’s not really fair.  The only exception to the one-book-maximum is if you are also picking one book for your child, which is totally fine.)

Click here for directions on how to create a wishlist and PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW STEP 3 about adding your address to this specific brand-new wishlist because otherwise the person buying it won’t be able to send it.

And if you want to surprise a stranger with a book just click on their link, buy their book, choose their address at checkout (it’ll just give you their town for privacy reasons) and send!  (If it doesn’t give you their address it means they skipped step 3 and didn’t enter their address so just delete that book from your cart and try the next person.)

And if you want to get involved but don’t want to buy or give books then just share in the comments what your favorite book is that everyone should read.  What’s the underrated book that no one knows?  What’s the book you wish you could wipe out of your mind just so you could read it again for the first time?  What’s the book you read as a kid that saved you?  (And if you wrote a book feel free to pimp it out below.)  Discovering new books = fried gold.

(Also, I do realize that it’s a bit ironic I’m doing this on Amazon when I’m about to open my own independent bookstore but I haven’t been able to figure out a good way to do this through Nowhere yet.  Maybe next year.)

SO!  Do you need a copy of Furiously Happy, or Let’s Pretend This Never Happened or You Are Here?  Make a wishlist with the one book you want on it and post it in the comments and I’ll send a copy to the first 25 people who respond with a working wishlist.  And if I can find some extra cash I’ll send some more later.

Happy reading y’all!

PS.  If you aren’t in America leave that in your comment because shipping can be crazy expensive if you aren’t matched up with someone in your country.  🙂


And that’s how my whole day has been

This week we have roofers in to fix some damage and every time I go outside I’m certain a sharp piece of tin roof is going to fall off and guillotine me so today when Dorothy Barker had to go out to pee I ran out really quickly with her but she wouldn’t go so I was like, “Get busy.  Get busy.  Hey.  Get busy” because when we trained her we also trained her to pee on command to those words but she wasn’t having it so I was like, “GET BUSY.  COME ON. GET BUSY PLEASE” and then I noticed she was looking behind me and I turned around and the roof guys were having lunch in my yard and had been quietly staring at me as I’d lightly demanded, “GET BUSY” and I was like, “Oh, not y’all.  Enjoy your lunch!  Those are just the magic words that make the dog pee” and they just looked at each other and then nodded warily and even the dog was like, “Well, that was awkward” and then a few minutes later I had to pick up Hailey so I rushed quickly out to my car that was parked in front of the house but my purse strap got hooked on the side mirror and jerked me back crazy hard like a boomerang, which caused me to pour the giant big-gulp sized iced water I was carrying all over my own chest, and the roof guys pretended not to notice but I could totally tell they were trying not to laugh and this is exactly why I have to move and burn the house down.

These are the conversations we’ll miss when one of us finally murders the other one.

Victor:  Stop playing Pokemon Go and talk to me.

me:  I bet when King Midas was still under that curse/blessing where everything that touched him turned to gold his servants probably fished his solid gold poop out of his chamber pot and were like “WE’RE RICH, MOTHERFUCKERS!” and then they quit their jobs to live off of the poop gold and then a couple days later when King Midas “learned his lesson” they woke up to see that their golden turd they were treasuring had turned back into literal shit.  I bet that was a really bad day.

Victor:  Never mind.  Go back to your phone.

me:  And they’d probably already melted some of the poop stash down to make necklaces for their wives.  Or earrings.

Victor:  I’m eating.

me:  Or…Jesus Christ…gold fillings for their teeth.

Victor:  Please stop.

me:  I’m just saying, they’re gonna get an infection and meanwhile the king is still rich and he got his daughter back and is totally fine.  I mean, the economy just tanked, the gold standard is trashed, people are unemployed and probably have cholera now that they’re smeared in his shit.  But thank God the rich guy learned a lesson and was happy to humbly go back to just being the fucking king.

Victor:  This is the weirdest fight we’ve had all day.

me:  Oh my God, I am seething.

The little things

It’s weird that you can kind of tell my mental well-being from my social media…or lack thereof.  When I get low I tend to disappear.  I don’t talk on the phone.  I don’t post.  I can’t concentrate enough to write and what I do write I end up hating as my depression colors every aspect of my judgement.  If I had a normal job with set hours I’d probably be on disability because my broken brain is too unpredictable.  I’m so lucky to have a life that lets me hide when I need to and gives me the support that I need.  Not everyone gets that.  Most people don’t, in fact.  And I remind myself to feel grateful.

I am grateful.

As much as my depression lets me be when it attacks, that is.

My psychiatrist once told me that some people with depression find that keeping a gratitude journal can be helpful.  I guess it makes sense.  It helps you really appreciate what you have and when depression starts to lie to you you can go back and look at the pages and see how worthwhile life is.  And I think it’s a great idea except that whenever I practice gratitude, instead of feeling grateful I feel guilty….guilty that I sometimes feel miserable (even temporarily) when I am given so much. And then I feel worse for not appreciating everything fully and then I’m convinced that it will all disappear because obviously I don’t deserve good things in my life if those things can’t automatically give me the happiness that I need to throw off the damp, heavy blanket of depression.  I know this is all wrong – logically – but reality doesn’t count for much when dealing with the warped perceptions that sometimes settle into my bones.

So a gratitude journal isn’t going to work for me.  But a few days ago I was listening to a This American Life podcast about delight and it really stuck with me.  I can do delight.  Even when I’m low there are still things that give me comfort, and when I’m coming out of the fog more and more pop up.

(After 20 minutes the room gets too hot so I turn on the air conditioner and I’m pretty sure that’s how tornadoes happen.)

Last Christmas Victor bought me one of those electric fireplaces you plug into the wall and I use it every night.  Even when it’s too hot to reasonably use an electric fireplace I stand in front of it reading a book and eating a giant glass of ice so that I’ll feel cold enough to enjoy the warmth.  It is ridiculous.  But it delights me.

So today do something for me…do something that brings you delight.  Find those things that delight you and cultivate them.  And I will too.  We all deserve a little more delight in the darkness.

PS.  Tell me something that delights you.  Maybe it’s crunchy grapes in chicken salad or finding the perfect word or the joyous way your dog greets you or the smell of fresh-cut lumber or the swing you just put in the backyard.  I want to hear it.  Because sometimes delight can be contagious.



me:  Hello, and welcome to the first ever meeting of the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club!

You:  Wait…what happened?  I just walked in and everyone is staring and I didn’t even know I had reading assigned and THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE.

me:  No, it’s cool.  This is a super laid-back book club.  I’m not even wearing pants.

You:  I see.  Well, now it’s even more awkward.

me:  It’s a talent.  So here’s what you missed.  I started a book club for introverts who want to read strange, wonderful books.  The first one went out last week (along with book club stickers and pins and signed bookplates for the first 1200 people who signed up) and I just published a post on the Facebook page where people can discuss the book but some people hate Facebook so I’m also posting this right here in case people want to discuss in the comments of this blog post.  Or if you want to just read it and never discuss it at all that’s totally cool too.

You:  Oh.  Well, that actually sounds like something I’d very much be into.  How do I get in on this?

me:  Well.  We’re all sold out of January’s book but you can still get it from other indie bookshops or from the library.  It’s called FOLLOW ME TO GROUND by Sue Rainsford, and it is deliciously weird.  We actually had so many people interested in the book club that we had to stop offering new memberships for a bit but we are now adding more for February so you can click here to join if you haven’t already.

You:  Oh wait.  I just remembered that I already joined this club in a drunken haze last month.  I guess that explains why that book arrived in mail today?

me:  Hello, soulmate.  Welcome.

You:  So…what now?

me:  Now you read the book and if you want to discuss it you can do that here or over here on the Facebook page but no pressure if you just like to lurk or save up all of the years books until summer vacation or leave them in Little Free Libraries.  THERE ARE NO RULES.

You:  This sounds amazing.  So…can you tell me what next month’s book is going to be?

me:  OMG I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED. (Although technically since you’re a member you should already have an email from me from last week where I spilled the beans early to members.)

Next month’s book is AMERICAN SHERLOCK: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI, by Kate Winkler Dawson.  I devoured it in one night.  If you are a true crime aficionado like me you will LOVE it and even if you aren’t it is such a fascinating book.  It’s all about the life of Edward Oscar Heinrich, one of America’s first forensic scientists who cracked at least two thousand cases starting in the 1930’s.

You:  Oh.  That does look good.

me:  And the author is from Texas so she’s coming down this week and signing copies of the book for us, so as a member you’ll be getting a signed edition of  the book.*

You:  What.


You:  And what’s the book pick for March?

me:  I’m still working on March but I can tell you that April is a humor memoir/essay and the author is one of my favorite writers of all time and I love her IRL.

You:  Hmm…I think I can guess.  Is it-


You:  You literally just told me there were no rules.

me:  I am a complicated woman.

You: So will the authors ever show up in the comments of the book discussions?

me:  They’re all invited to but some are introverts too so no pressure on them.  I do though send them questions and I’ll share the answers here and on the Facebook page.  Sue is working on hers right now so look for them in the comments when she’s done.  And as a special thank you members will get an email with answers to THE WEIRD FIVE, which is a special five-question list every author will be given.

You:  Thank you.  I feel very important.

me:  You should.  You’re literally helping to create an entire bookshop just by being a member.  That is some heavy magic.

You:  Okay.  I’ve got a book to curl up with.  Any suggestion as to which cocktail to pair it with?

me:  Hmmm… since the main character is a magic vegetable creature maybe a bloody mary with lots of root veggies in it?  Tomato juice, celery, blood thinner….It’s practically a health drink.

You:  I’m sorry, did you say “magical vegetable creature“?

me:  Yes.  And this is exactly why you need to read the book because it is like nothing I’ve ever read before and I need to discuss it right now.

You:  I am both scared and intrigued.

me:  Then I’ve done my job.  Happy reading, friend.

*Just a note here that while we are currently accepting new members, only the first 2,000 members will get a signed copy of this book because that’s all we bought so if you are already a member you’re golden and if you aren’t yet but want to be just do it as soon as you can.  🙂  As always, if you have any questions just email us at orders@nowherebookshop.com.  This post will stay open for months so no worries if your book hasn’t arrived yet or if you’re a slow reader.

PS.  A few people are saying they can’t get access to the Facebook page when they click on the links.  It’s open to anyone so if you have issues just search for “fantastic strangelings book club” in Facebook and that should work.

We’re haunted

So I was working and I kept hearing this incredibly loud stomping like there’s a Frankenstein upstairs and Victor is out of town so it had to be Hailey so I called her and was like, “What are you doing?  Clogging?  Stomping spiders?  Because it’s incredibly loud” and she was like, “I’m in bed reading” and obviously she was lying and was ashamed of clogging (because frankly, it was really not great) so I was like, “Ok, whatever” but then 30 seconds later it started again so I went upstairs to catch her in the act but she was totally in bed and she was all, “What are you stomping on out there?” and I was like, “Dude.  We’re haunted.”  So I started recording on my phone as we tiptoed around the house following the sounds of the footsteps and suddenly there were creepy mumbled voices and so Hailey picked up a vase and held it menacingly over her head because I guess she doesn’t understand how ghosts work and then I stuck my head out of the window and turns out there were a bunch of dudes on the roof so I told Hailey, “There are dudes on the roof?” and she was like, “Ghost dudes?” and that’s when I realized I really needed to expose her to more horror films because obviously I’ve failed as a mother.  Also, turns out Victor just forgot to tell me that he’d scheduled people to check for roof damage while he was out of town and honestly, I’m relieved to know what it was but also just a little bit disappointed.

Well, helloooooo there.

Last week I found this old antelope with a broken ear in a thrift shop and it looked at me as if to say…


And the “Really?” I heard was like, “Really, you’re going to pass me by when you have a bookshop wall that probably needs magical taxidermy?  I’VE BEEN WAITING HERE FOR DECADES” and I was like, “OMG, you are my everything”.   Victor heard the same baffled “Really?” except it was out loud and coming from his own mouth as saw me cradling my new sister as I walked through the store.

I’ve spent the last week deciding how to recreate her majesty, trying all of my wigs and hats on her.  Antelope Margaret?  Antelope Brontë?  Farrah Fawncett?  Goldie Fawn?  Fawn Solo?  Antelope of Green Gables??  They were all good, but one name rose above the others as I pulled out my padded headbands and scarves and costume jewelry.

May I introduce…

Antelope dressed as Anee Boleyn

Antelope Boleyn.

Long may she reign.

Fucking nailed it, y’all. I can’t even tell which one is which.

Is today hard?

Is today hard?  It feels hard.  Maybe it’s just me.

Maybe it’s the weather.  Or the stress of Hailey doing her finals and me being overwhelmed with everything.  Today feels like everything is wrong and dusty and too much and not enough.  Today feels like everyone hates everyone else because they feel like they were hated first, even though probably none of this is even real…it’s all just me and my fucked up brain chemistry feeling like everything is about to fall apart.

I know it’s not.  Logically.  Rationally.  I know that things are going well.

My editor sends me a third round of edits and loves what I’d done with the book.  It’s so close to being done and a year ago I thought I’d never finish it.  The bookstore is overwhelming and terrifying and Elizabeth and Victor are on edge with the impossible amount of what still has to be done but realistically this is normal and expected and the incredible support of the book club membership has saved us during these extra months of paying rent and construction on a building that won’t be ready until February or March.

There is far more good than bad but still I feel underwater today…panicky.

I take Hailey to a local university so she can take her finals for her online high school courses.  It’s pass or fail, these seven tests, and it means a half year of work could go up in smoke during a bout of test-taking anxiety and I try not to let my contagious anxiety rub off on her.  While she sits in the room with the proctors I wander the grounds of the convent that started the university.  I walk through the cemetery of women buried 100 years ago under the names they chose as nuns.  Everyone for what seems like a mile is Sister Mary.  Then a Joan of Arc.  The graves from the last 30 years are smaller as the cemetery starts to run out of room.  The bodies are buried three to a grave, one on top of the other.  I wonder if that will be a problem during the resurrection but I suspect if there is a resurrection you’re probably safer with a bunch of tough-ass zombie nuns around to make sure everyone is out.

I say a little prayer asking forgiveness for laughing about zombie nuns in case there is a God, and then I say another one for wondering if there is and then I realize I’ll be there forever asking for forgiveness if I don’t stop and besides, I’ve known a few nuns and former nuns and most of them had a fairly strong sense of humor so it’s probably fine.

I sit on a bench and read about the women here who battled with bishops and cardinals over control of the places they made their own, and about this convent that focused on education and on helping those less fortunate.  I read about how they insisted on integration in their schools long before desegregation began and about the women laying here who struggled in their own ways…who died far too young in many cases…whose stories I can’t research because they are buried under the names of women who came before them…and who were known for their struggles as well.

Something landed on my foot.  A dead butterfly.

Only it wasn’t.  It was hard and beautiful and fragile and in the exact shape of a butterfly or moth.  Like something hand-crafted from the pages of an old book.

And then there was another one.

They were everywhere, suddenly.  These tiny, rustling, not-quite- butterflies that were picked up in the wind.  I followed them to a garden owned by one of the nuns. There were dozens of birdhouses hanging from trees and little fairy-like-houses and finally a climbing vine reaching toward the sun, thick with green clusters of flowery seed pods.


And underneath, dozens of butterflies.  When the seed pods dry up they wither and fall and turn into butterflies, and fly away to begin again….or to land on someone’s foot when they need some sort of distraction….like some sort of sign that everything will be okay in the end.

It will.

For me and for you.  Whether we are fighting a seemingly impossible battle with something real or with the terror in our own heads, it will be okay.  We will fight and we will win and sometimes that victory will simply look like laughing in a graveyard.  The battles last forever.  Longer than we will.  But victories can last just as long.

We are all climbing….looking for the sunshine…blooming wherever we can.  We light up the world if it’s looking. We will not last.  We will wither eventually.  But it’s not the end.  We fly on and leave behind strange and beautiful things that grow anew.  You and me and Hailey and the women beneath my feet and everyone else you know and will ever know.

But right now you are green and beautiful in your own specific way that is unique to you and I’m so glad to know you, even if only through a screen.

And suddenly, somehow, the day feels just a little less hard.

I hope it does for you too.


Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

A few months ago I finally did the TEDx talk that I’d been a nervous wreck worrying about.  I ended up having an actual anxiety attack in the middle of it.  One so bad that I stopped talking and stood in silence for a terrible minute trying to breathe.  I was told that if I really fucked up I could leave the stage and come back and start all over again but I knew at that point that if I walked off I would never go back so I stayed there.  And people were kind and waited with me.  And when it was done I got a standing ovation, which I didn’t really see because I was too busy running away, but Victor said it was amazing.

When they were editing the video they asked if I wanted to leave the anxiety attack in and at first I thought we should because it was a real look at life with mental illness.  And then I remembered how many people, like myself, can fall into a panic attack when they see someone else have a panic attack in that contagious sort of way that broken minds work and so I told them to make their best judgement.  In the end they cut out the awkward minute and I think maybe that’s for the best, although you can tell the changes in my voice from before and after.

Today the video went live so you can see it for yourself.  It is not polished and pretty.  I say “um” a million times.  I almost cry more than once.  But I’m proud of it.  It’s the best I could do with what I was at the moment and sometimes that has to just be enough.

And if you want to watch it, it’s right here:

Thank you for listening.  And for telling your own stories as you see fit.