I write to you in a somewhat tired and foggy state. As I may or may not have mentioned earlier, I’m seriously ill and have been for several years. A charming combination of late-stage Lyme disease, a nasty case of toxic mold poisoning, and various other problems. Did you know you can get a whole-body yeast infection? Now you do! It’s rather like being covered in nettle rash and sunburn while being sick with the flu while suffering from severe mental health issues. FYI: turns out our brains are largely controlled by our guts, and if the latter get overgrown with bad stuff like candida, you might, I don’t know, start having panic attacks every time you brush your teeth.
Anyway, the good news is that after several months of medical leave and scrupulously avoiding my mold-infested classroom building, I have gone from having to crawl up my stairs on my hands and knees, to being able to walk up them on two feet. Like Joni Mitchell said, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, and that is especially true for things like the ability to walk.
The bad news is that I’m currently going through a phase where I don’t feel like eating during the day (hurray, weight loss!), but wake up in the middle of the night feeling sick, sweaty, and ravenously hungry. Hopefully this is all part of the healing process. Although sleep deprivation is rarely good for health.
BUT on the other hand, I have the launch of Campus Confidential to look forward to! The official launch date is next week, to coincide with OWS CyCon 2019, when I will be doing a big blowout free giveaway, but the book is already up on Amazon so that advance copy readers can start posting their reviews. And so that I can have the several weeks it takes to wrestle a book page into something resembling decent shape, but mainly in order to gather reviews before the launch announcements start going out into the big wide world. A HUGE thank you to those of you who have already left reviews! And if you haven’t left one yet but would like to, and I sincerely hope that you would, the universal link to the book’s Amazon page is here. Helping a debut indie author on a small budget by dropping a couple of lines on her Amazon page is one of those little things that–who knows?–may make the world just that tiny bit better.
AND, in other news, I have still forged boldly ahead with a long-held desire of mine to turn my books into audiobooks. I’ve decided to start by making them freely available as podcasts, both because I like the audio of making my content as widely available as possible, and because I’m still in the very steep section of the learning curve when it comes to recording and editing sound files. So I’m sending my rather rough-and-ready podcasts out into the world for free right now. So far I’ve finished podcasting “Foreign Exchange,” and have started on Campus Confidential.
The podcast is currently freely available on SoundCloud and iTunes.
“Foreign Exchange” was a lot of fun to write and narrate, although there may have been a few moments when I felt like chucking that my brand-new Blue Yeti microphone through the window. And there was some serious doubt and struggle over voiced/voiceless assimilation in compound words in Russian, which instigated a spirited Facebook debate. Like the other stories in the series, it’s fiction, but it’s heavily based on real-life stuff going on now, and strives above all for authenticity and verisimilitude, along with some action and romance 🙂
It’s set during the Euromaidan protests, and references a number of things that happened during the period in which it is set. (For an excellent overview of the situation in Ukraine and just how fucked-up it is, I strongly recommend Charap & Colton’s Everyone Loses). In the first chapter Dima, Rowena’s fiance, mentions Dmytro and Tetiana getting attacked; he’s talking about Kharkhiv protest organizier Dmytro Pylypets, who was stabbed 12 times on December 24, 2013, and Tetiana Chornovol, a journalist who was severely beaten on December 25. Later his editor asks him to write a story about Ukrainian nationalists getting assaulted; that’s a reference to the January 3, 2014 assault on Andriy Illenko and Sydir Kizin, representatives of the far-right Svoboda Party.
But it’s Chechnya that casts the longest shadow over the story. That and corruption, that eternal problem in Russia (and most other places, too). I can and no doubt will go into much greater detail about the Chechen conflict, since that’s my current area of research, but for the moment I’ll just say that a lot of that was drawn from eye-witness accounts of the conflict and the atrocities perpetrated on both sides. I strongly recommend Anna Politkovskaya‘s writings on the subject, particularly A Dirty War and A Small Corner of Hell, as well as Asne Seierstad’s The Angel of Grozny, for a journalist’s take on the topic. For stories by combatants, the best (and pretty much only) English-language books are Arkady Babchenko‘s One Soldier’s War for the Russian side, and Mikail Eldin’s The Sky Wept Fire: My Life as a Chechen Freedom Fighter for the Chechen side. Mikail has very graciously granted me and my students a number of interviews to discuss his book and his experiences as a prisoner of war who was detained and tortured by Russian forces, and I highly recommend his book for those wanting to read something authentically Chechen–and/or the authentic account of a guerrilla combatant and torture victim.
If all that has whetted your appetite, or you just want to hear me try to switch between English and Russian while getting into a fight to the death with GarageBand, here are those links again: SoundCloud and iTunes.
And, of course, it’s time for this week’s roundup of book giveaways! Check out the selection below:
The Mysteries & Thrillers in Exotic Locales Giveaway does exactly what it says on the box.
The International Action Thrillers Giveaway has been extended to May 14!