Category Archives: Random Crap

Fantastic Strangelings, Unite! (But in your own homes. And wash your hands.)

Did you know that you save me? You do. In strange ways I suspect we all save each other. But this week was a recovery week for me after a particularly brutal bout with depression and so I spent the week doing what my shrink recommended…reading.

It’s odd. Reading is an escape. It’s a medicine. It’s a luxury. It hurts and heals. And there’s something about spending the day wrapped up in books that can feel like the perfect antidote while also feeling impossibly decadent. But I’m not good at “decadent”. Especially when there is laundry to be done and emails to be answered and deadlines and expectations. But this week I gave myself permission to read the days away, and whenever I felt guilty I reminded myself that this was work, in a way. I was reading to find the perfect book for next month’s Fantastic Strangelings Book Club. And the book club sustains our book store, keeping the rent paid and our team busy, so it’s work I’m proud of even when it feels unfairly lucky to be able to pore through dozens of stories to imagine which ones you would love…to imagine reading them with you.

When I was a kid we didn’t leave the house much because gas was expensive and so was everything else, so most of the summer I’d get a library book and a thermos and go find someplace outside with a little shade to read for hours. I still remember where I was when I first read certain books. My grandmother told me she was the same when she was young. When the farm work was over she’d get on her bike with a book and a rifle (I asked why the gun…she seemed to think it was a ridiculous question) and ride until she found a good tree to read under. In fact, my grandmother inspires many of the Fantastic Strangelings book picks. My mom is also a big reader but she reads mainly biographies. My grandmother, though, was like me. She read dark and strange and magical stories and she would pretend not to notice when I would steal her copies of Stephen King or VC Andrews or Ray Bradbury or Agatha Christie. I always brought them back. Then last year I got them all for my library when she moved into a memory care clinic for dementia. She has a new Stephen King book that she reads the first paragraph of and then forgets. And reads again. And again. Even in the darkness (until the darkness inevitably falls) she still looks for escape. And every book I have ever selected is one I know she’d read and love if she could. I read them for her. I read them for myself.

All this week I escaped the house like I did when I was a kid. Just to the backyard, to an old cloth swing hanging from our oak tree. It smells a bit like mildew and sun. The cicadas are so loud it drowns out the sounds of everything else. I carry a book and a large glass of ice to keep the heat from being too overpowering. And I read.

I read about time travel and witches and magic and heroes and rebellion and loss and joy and struggle and intrigue. I reread this month’s book so we could discuss it today and I read next month’s book and I read so many others and it was precisely what I needed. And you were there too, even though you might not have known it, because as I read I thought about what you would like and what you would think and what was too dark and what was too much to share. And I thought about the things I’d say in the quiet of an actual book club and whether I could say those same things online. And I think I can. Because this club is more than just me and you…it’s my grandmother (who I speak to in my mind) and so many other people I see and remember as I read these stories that bring me back to my own memories. And I don’t think I would so easily dedicate this healing time to reading if I didn’t have a reason.

Thank you for being that reason.

So.

Today I’m opening discussion up here and on the Fantastic Strangeling Facebook page if you want to talk about July’s book, Mexican Gothic. (Definitely the darkest book I’ve ever chosen but wasn’t it amazing?) As always, no rush and no pressure. The discussion stays open for whenever you want it and most people prefer to lurk so no worries. I’ll put my comments on the book in the comment section so there aren’t any spoilers.

And, I’m announcing next month’s book (if you’re a paid member you already got an email from me all about it and about a special zoom meeting so check your email if you haven’t seen it) and it’s a bit different from my other selections but I really liked it and I think you will too.

It’s called Crossings and it’s by Alex Landragon.

Dorothy Barker is equally excited about it.

A taste:

Alex Landragin’s Crossings is an unforgettable and explosive genre-bending debut—a novel in three parts, designed to be read in two different directions, spanning a hundred and fifty years and seven lifetimes.

On the brink of the Nazi occupation of Paris, a German-Jewish bookbinder stumbles across a manuscript called Crossings. It has three narratives, each as unlikely as the next. And the narratives can be read one of two ways: either straight through or according to an alternate chapter sequence. 

The first story in Crossings is a never-before-seen ghost story by the poet Charles Baudelaire, penned for an illiterate girl. Next is a noir romance about an exiled man, modeled on Walter Benjamin, whose recurring nightmares are cured when he falls in love with a storyteller who draws him into a dangerous intrigue of rare manuscripts, police corruption, and literary societies. Finally, there are the fantastical memoirs of a woman-turned-monarch whose singular life has spanned seven generations. 

With each new chapter, the stunning connections between these seemingly disparate people grow clearer and more extraordinary. Crossings is an unforgettable adventure full of love, longing and empathy.

I think you’ll really like it.

Also, I sometimes pick out bonus book selections if you need something extra to sing you to sleep. If you’re interested you can order them from us or from your local indie bookstore. Last month it was Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust. This month it’s Lobizona by Romina Garber. It comes out next week but you can preorder now. It’s YA (young adult) and it’s sort of like an Argentinian Harry Potter with werewolves. Also, it is a wonderful book to read and then give a young reader because it deals with tons of important issues, from immigration to racism to feminism to LGBTQ+ stuff and I immediately devoured it and gave it to Hailey to read herself. Also, the cover is amazing. Just look at it.

So stick around if you want to discuss Mexican Gothic or if you want to just talk books. And membership is currently open if you’re ready to join the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club. You are always welcome.

Thanks, y’all. I super crazy love you.

All of the things that don’t fit anywhere else.

Hey.

I’ve had a rough time of things lately but today I feel human so let’s talk about all the stuff I haven’t told you because my head was too in-the-shit to let me write or even think that anything I had to say was worth writing down.

So. I had a meeting with my shrink and if the world wasn’t covered in plague I’d probably be doing a more extreme sort of treatment but since I can’t leave the house I’m instead doing the old-fashioned kickstarter of exercising and medication and hydration and self-care and all of the things that you’re supposed to be doing but I never do entirely correctly. Its too damn hot to be outside for long periods so if you have any suggestions on exercise videos I’m game. I don’t know anything about anything so if there’s a video you love that I can do please let me know…dance, yoga, tai chi…whatever.

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accurate lol

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Nowhere Bookshop is still going well, thank God. We’re still not open to the public but we’re doing curbside pick-up and online sales and we currently have openings in the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club if you want in. (We’ll be discussing this month’s book later this week and announcing next month’s book soon. It’s so good.) And next week I’ll do a livestream in the store so you can explore it with me and I can show you how amazing it is.

I’ve been working a lot on the cover of my next book. (It comes out next year.) I’d wanted to do taxidermy but nothing looked perfect, although this (online) find of old squirrels repurposed to be dancing/ fighting/dance-fighting was a real possibility for a bit…

But in the end I decided to partner with one of my favorite artists to doing something very, very different and I really hope you love it as much as I do. Still working out the final details but I’ll share it with you really soon.

My shrink recommended that I read more and laugh more and find things that make me smile and so I started a whole folder of things on instagram that made me laugh and I’m sharing a few with you here just in case you’re in the same strange headspace as me.

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the next mozart…..

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Emilioooooo

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MAN THIS IS TOO FUNNY. BLESS HIM LOL

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HE'S WEARING A SHIRT

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Still here? Me too. Sending you love, sweet friend.

I assure you, this makes sense. Sort of.

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9780762447695, 9781476785608 0765392402 1946444545.

076361159X.   0152016996, 9780857084484. 1423110447 1250061407!

125011988X. 1416996494. 1578634482.

1657870561. 0988273608.

1984819755. ( 0062473425 ) 178603784X. 1250200784.

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I made you something.

I’ve been too weird to write lately but I made you something.

Well, technically I made it for me to keep my hands and head busy, but maybe you need something as well.

(click to embiggen)

As always, you can print it, color it, burn it, whatever makes you happy.

The world is very weird. But so are we.

So between my immune-compromised body and the fact that the injections I take for my RA make me very susceptible to infections that means Victor, Hailey and I are now four months into very strict social distancing. We’ve learned to cut each other’s hair and we wave to the grocery delivery person through the windows. Hailey takes music lessons on zoom and attends virtual camp. The fine arts high school she auditioned for accepted her this year but she’ll be doing online learning until things are safer. We are very, very lucky to have the ability to sequester ourselves so fully but it’s still hard.

Once a week we sneak over to the bookstore after everyone else is gone (our doors still aren’t open, btw, but we are doing curbside service if you’re local and need distractions) and we work and decorate and read and bring home books to keep us company. Victor pointed out that being locked in an abandoned bookstore seems entirely my sort of heaven and he’s completely right but I explained that it’s a bit sad and bittersweet and that I wished I could transport my sister in an astronaut suit so she could be here safely and I could show her the store even though it’s still not finished. And he was like, “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED” and I assumed he was insane but then a week later Lisa showed up at the store.

IN ROBOT ARMOR.

Sort of.

Basically he contacted Technology One and they were awesome enough to mail us a robot for the day so that my family could “walk” through the store with me and we could visit and feel *almost* normal. If you can feel normal talking to your robotic sister (and niece and dog) who’ve dialed in from California to be in an abandoned bookstore that might also be haunted.

These videos are already outdated because our amazing team has done a ton of work lately but I’m still sharing it so you can see the progress. And in a week or two I’m planning on doing a non robotic livestream just for you where you can watch as I explore the store and show you some of my favorite things and you can shop live if you like. (Still working out the kinks so check back for details.)’

(Giant thanks to Technology One for letting us play with one of their robots, which was strange and wonderful and the closest thing to a family reunion I’ve had in far too long.)

Wear a mask. Be a hero.

If you’re a regular reader you know that I only do sponsored posts once in a blue moon and only for the few companies I really love myself. I’ve written about eShakti before because I LOVE their clothes and the fact that almost all of their dresses have pockets, but when they contacted me recently about a sponsored post I was like, “Yeah, but the only thing I’ve been wearing lately is masks” and they were like, “Dufus. That’s exactly what we have.” I’m paraphrasing. What they actually said was that for a few months their factory ran with limited capacity and only made masks provided to civil workers on the frontline and other non-governmental organizations. They got no revenues but they were able to make a difference. Now they’re able to offer clothes again but they had such a huge response from customers asking for their masks, so…they pivoted. So now you can buy their clothes or their masks, or both. And they continue to give a free mask to charity for every mask they sell because they’re awesome.

They sent me a whole bunch of masks which I shared with family and friends who needed them and I kept a few for myself because I love them. And they’re giving out gift cards to four of you so you can buy masks or clothes yourself. Just leave a comment and you’ll get an email with a gift card code if you’re randomly selected. (I never sell or share your email address.)

So what kind of masks do they have? Honestly, you just need to look because there are so many fabrics and styles and features it’s sort of insane, but in a good way. There are different features to choose from, like neckbands so you can take the masks off easily, or adjustable earpieces, pockets for filters, nose wires to make them fit better, and they use a UV tunnel to sterilize the masks before they’re shipped out.

These were the ones Hailey picked for herself. Embroidered celestial symbols, cat faces, musical notes and eyeballs.
They have simple ones. They have fancy ones.
The starry scarf mask they sent me perfectly matched the caped dress I bought from them last year and I feel like a fucking super hero when I wear it. Which is fitting because when you wear a mask you are saving other people. It’s literally the easiest way to be a superhero.

Plus, when I wear the bandana masks I feel like an old fashioned train robber.

So. Stay home if you can. Wear a mask if you can’t. Social distance. Wash your hands. Take care of yourself and others. It’s what makes the world go around.