Author Interview with Nosetouch Press

I had a blast talking church grims, Southern Gothic, religious cultural memory, and pumpkin spice with the editorial team at Nosetouch Press. Full interview below!

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What is your favorite season and why?
Autumn, no contest. The spicy scent of decaying leaves, the spooky stories over spiced cider, the cold-fingered winds, the paper-thin veil between this world and the next…What’s not to love? Then again, my birthday falls on All Saints Day, so I’m partial.

What drew you to Folk Horror?
Historically folk horror has been very concerned with the muddied lines between older religions and newer ones, and the ways cultural memory gets buried only to resurge up in new, unexpected, even horrifying ways later. I love exploring the tangled emotions religious sentiment dregs up in people, and the way our distinctions between “magic” and “faith”, and “paganism” and “civilized religion” are largely matters of perspective. Folk horror has done a great job of teasing out these themes in the context of Western European rural life, and I wanted to bring those questions to the American South, where I was raised.

What does Folk Horror mean to you? How would you describe it to someone?
Folk horror is one of those wonderful genres that situates itself squarely in the natural landscape of its setting, whether that’s an English moor or a Puritan settlement in the New World. Besides this fixation on the (usually cursed and hungry) land, folk horror brings to mind stories about the ways sins of the past haunt communities in the present, the resilience of folk belief against modernism, the power religion has to corrupt, liberate, or annihilate, creeping mass hysteria, and inglorious characters with filthy secrets.

What is the most Folk Horror thing you’ve seen/encountered in your community?
I was once napping on a stone monument in a little graveyard behind a church that had been burned to the ground thrice, and I’m pretty sure a church grim padded up to snuffle at my hand. When I opened my eyes it was gone, but I know I heard it trotting across the dry leaves moments before.

What writing projects do you have next?
I just published a paranormal novella about a marriage between magicians, and now I’m back at work on a fantasy adventure novel about a gang of con goblins, arms dealers, diplomats, and pirates out to bring down the criminal queenpin who screwed them all over. However, I’m also hoping to find time to work on some short queered folklore stories, and the collection of Biblical poetry I’ve been chipping away at for years.

If you haven’t already grabbed your copy of THE FIENDS AND THE FURROWS FOLK HORROR ANTHOLOGY, you can still get your six stories full of malevolent forests, snake handling, and devilish harvests by Halloween! Look for my Southern Gothic story “Revival” at the book’s finale.

ODD SPIRITS is on 99¢ sale through the month of October!

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This novella will be on sale for the ghoulishly low price of $5.99 for paperbacks and 99¢ for e-copies until All Hallows Eve. You’ll never see it at a lower price, so grab your ticket to flirty tarot readings, folk religion, and mysterious hauntings today! 

It takes a lot of commitment to make a marriage between a modern ceremonial magician and a chaos witch work, but when a malevolent entity takes up residence in Rhys and Moira’s home, their love will be pushed to the limits. Brewing up a solution is easier said than done when your magical styles are polar opposites; throw a psychic ex and a secret society in the mix, and things are bound to get messy.

This diverse paranormal romance novella is perfect for fans of The Raven Cycle and The Haunting of Hill House!

“Like a lovingly-prepared home-cooked meal, Odd Spirits compels its reader to both devour and savor…Gibson’s background as a poet allows her to deftly create richly-drawn little moments.” –Rouges Portal

See what people are saying about the novella on Goodreads!

Hey Book Lovers!

Anyone out there want a free e-copy of ODD SPIRITS in exchange for an honest review on their blog/social media and Amazon?

It takes a lot of commitment to make a marriage between a modern ceremonial magician and a chaos witch work, but when a malevolent entity takes up residence in Rhys and Moira’s home, their love will be pushed to the limits. Brewing up a solution is easier said than done when your magical styles are polar opposites; throw a psychic ex and a secret society in the mix, and things are bound to get messy.

Think The Haunting of Hill House meets The Raven Cycle with a multicultural married couple and LGBTQ protags. The book is novella length at just under 100 pages, so it’s a perfect weekend read.

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Comment below or shoot me a message at sarahtaylorgibson@gmail.com if you’re interested and I’ll hook you up, no strings attached! E-copies will be sent out early next week.

Non-book bloggers, make sure to mark Odd Spirits as to-read on Goodreads,and keep your eyes peeled for a super-steal sale on pre-orders coming in just a few days!

Genre Spotlight: ElfPunk

BookRiot recently put out an article that had my little faery-loving loving heart all a-flutter, an introductory reading list in the fantasy subgenre elfpunk. Hallmarks of elfpunk include a modern urban setting, new spins on old folk beliefs about the fae, fast cars, a dollop of teen angst, and lots and lots of rock and roll. Elfpunk tends to skew towards Western European folklore, and never seems to get tried of staging ballads of lost love in hazy nightclubs or pitting roving gangs of sidhe punks against each other in back alleys. I would call it my guilty pleasure but there’s nothing guilty about it; elfpunk shaped me into the writer I am today, and it’s still my favorite genre to read, full stop.

Emma Bull is among the authors on this list, and should be as one of the originators of the genre, and so is Holly Black, an author who remains almost unflaggingly loyal to stories of fae and humans in the modern day. But one huge piece was missing, the sprawling, enchanting originator of the entire genre: The Borderland Series.

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The Borderland series is a collection of short story anthologies and spin-off novels set in the shared universe of Bordertown, a city on the border of Faery and a large American metropolis. Bordertown is a shifting, dangerous place full of buskers and runaway teens and rock bands looking to strike it big in clubs crawling with feuding species. The original anthologies captured the wild dirty color of youth culture in the eighties, and were so successful that a follow-up anthology was published in 2011 featuring writers who had cut their teeth reading  Borderlands books as kids, heavy hitters like Catherynne Valente, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare, and Charles DeLint.

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I checked the 2011 reboot out from my library three times in high school. Three.

It’s impossible to overemphasize the ripples Bordertown has made in the fantasy world; some people say it kicked off the urban fantasy genre wholesale. It’s inspired in part by Terri Winding’s experience of being a young artist in the mean streets of New York, which is an excited/terrified/starry eyed bouquet of emotion that so many of us can relate to. Everything Windling touches turns to gold, especially her anthologies, but the Bordertown Series is by far the most iconic.

So if you’re looking to get into some anachronistic, enchanted reads, don’t pass up this series. It’s really true what they say: even after all these years, Bordertown is always there waiting for you.

FICTION REVIEW: The Beloveds

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Title: The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley
Genre: Suspense/Gothic
Rating:  ★★ (2/5)

Elizabeth Stash has never really loved anything in her life except Pipits, the cherished ancestral home of her childhood in rural England. Even when her mother’s favoritism for Elizabeth’s despised little sister Gloria reared its head, Pipits was there to enfold Elizabeth into a voice that spoke through creaking wood and rustling curtains. Her obsessive love for the house only grows with time, and when Elizabeth’s mother dies she is certain that she, the eldest daughter, will rightfully inherit Pipits. But when the will specifies that Pipits will pass to beautiful, beloved Gloria, Elizabeth begins to hatch an ugly plan that will soon consume her entirely.

The Beloveds is a book that flirts with the supernatural but for the most part stays staunchly psychological, delving deep into the malice which Elizabeth nurtures and cultivates.  Elizabeth is a narcissist who can’t properly empathize with other people, considers herself superior to them, and is constantly convinced she’s been wronged.  As far as unreliable, unsympathetic narrators go, Elizabeth held my attention, though some of her diatribes about being betrayed bordered on repetitive.

The tension in this book ratchets wonderfully as the narrator becomes more and more delusional, and as her actions become progressively more criminal and poorly disguised. However, and to my great disappointment, this suspense ultimately comes to nothing. Elizabeth character’s steadily erodes, but the lives of those around her remain largely unchanged, as as the book reaches what I hoped would be a gloriously cacophonous crescendo, it goes out with a whimper rather than a bang.

The Beloveds is an engaging read that cultivates a Gothic atmosphere without pulling in some of the more scenery-chewing tropes of the genre, but ultimately, it falls flat. It felt like one long character sketch, and Elizabeth’s family remained so unbelievably oblivious to her machinations that I supposed there must be some catch, something hidden from the narrator that would be revealed in the big finish. Sadly, there was not, and without any satisfying cherry on the cake of nastiness, The Beloveds is ultimately an unremarkable summer read.

Note: I received a copy of The Beloveds in exchange for an honest review. The Beloveds is set to drop on April 3, 2018.

Spirituality Review: A Bigger Table

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Title: A Bigger Table by John Pavlovitz
Genre: Christian Nonfiction/Memroir
Rating:  ★★★ (3/5)

John Pavlovitz is a widely-read Christian blogger known for the generous hospitality of his theology and his commitment to championing honesty within the church. However, this wasn’t always the case. Pavolovitz was raised in a culturally homogeneous, shame-based Christian culture, and it wasn’t until he moved to Philadelphia in college that he began to experience humanity in all its colorful, dynamic diversity. As Pavolovitz came to love his black and latinx and queer and poor and atheist neighbors, all while discerning a call to ministry, he also began to form a vision of the table of God to which everyone was truly welcome and truly accepted.

Like many works of Christian nonfiction, A Bigger Table juxtaposes anecdotes from the author’s life and ministry with more theoretical theology. This, for the most part, works, and I enjoyed the stories about Pavolovitz’s Catholic Italian family and the troubled pastors and gay youth he has counseled throughout his career. Overall, the message of “radical hospitality, true diversity, real authenticity, and agenda-free community” comes across loud and clear, and is well supported by examples from the life of Christ. The chapter on the lies pastors are forced to tell in order to be accepted by their boards and congregations was particularly strong, and I appreciated the way Pavlovitz – though openly left of center – critiques and encourages both sides of the isle in an effort to build true Christian community.

However, the book ultimately suffers from a meandering structure and lack of concrete ways readers can help build the “bigger table”. Very little practical advice was given amidst all the excitement about doing church in a more authentic, healing way. The full inclusion of LBGTQ Christians into the church is a central theme of the book, but the chapters regarding it were separated in a way that felt random, and it seemed as though the author couldn’t decide how much time he wanted to spend on the issue. In addition, despite drawing from the life of Christ to support his model of radical hospitality, Pavlovitz effectively ignores most of the Bible, and I think he could have enriched his position by bringing in Second Testament writings and stories from the First Testament.

Despite its weaknesses, The Bigger Table will be soul-soothing to anyone beaten down by the partisanship and fake warmth of so many Christian congregations. I would recommend it to anyone looking for straight-talk from a pastor who wants to see the lavish love of Jesus spread more liberally through the world.

Note: I received a copy of A Bigger Table in exchange for an honest review.

FICTION REVIEW: Binti

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Title: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Genre: Science Fiction/Afrofuturism
Rating:  ★★★★ (4/5)

Binti is the first member of her small African tribe to be accepted into the universe of the galaxy. She’s a harmonizer, a mathematics genius with a near-spiritual connection to the complex technologies and equations that under-gird the universe, and even though she’s terrified of leaving the red deserts in which she was raised, there’s nothing she wants more than to nurture her skills at the prestigious planet-sized Oomza university. But when her classmates are massacred by an alien species aboard the ship ferrying Binti to her new home, it will take every ounce of courage she has to survive.

This book drew me in right from the start and held my attention the entire time. The space travel elements felt fresh and organic, and the novel by and large avoided the old-school sci-fi tropes that give books that sterile, metallic tang. I’m not sure what else science fiction is better for than exploring what it means to be human in a galactic context, and Binti lovingly leans into themes of adolescent anticipation, cultural alienation, and trans-cultural identity.

I really liked Binti as a protagonist; she’s brave, willing to fight tooth and nail for what she loves, but ultimately, her strength is her compassion and level head for diplomacy. Her Himba heritage plays a huge role in both the plot and her character development. I love a book that teaches me something new about another culture, and one of the most touching moments in the book was Binti wondering if she was going to be able to find the right ingredients on her new planet to make the paste of oil and clay the Himba cover their skin and hair with.

At only 90 pages, Binti clips along at a short-story pace that kept me from ever feeling bored. However, because of novella length, I felt like I was robbed of the sort of worldbuilding and setting details that would have really made me feel enveloped in the narrative. The descriptions I was given were sufficient, but sparse, and character development jerked along at times, prey to the pace. However, Binti is the first in a well-received trilogy that’s setting the standard for the new wave of afro-futurism, and I’m excited to pick up books two and three.