Literary Tattoos

The woods are lovely dark and deep…

I love literary tattoos, I even have one. For the book lover, it is like taking a moment from a story and making it a part of you. My own tattoo is from Lord of the Rings and reads, “Not all those who wander are lost.” LOTR is one of my favorite stories, it helped introduce me to the genre, and I spend a lot of time wandering both literally and figuratively. That is why it speaks to me. I have included a bunch of photos from my Pinterest that I have found beautiful. Tell me what you think.


I’ll eat you up I love you so.


Climate change makes me think of The Lorax and how we have so much to protect.

(via @cinderhellaaa)

In the end, isn’t this all we have?

(via @littlemisssunshineyday)


Shel meant so much to me as a child.


I think of this quote often when I have much to do.


I wrote this on a slip of paper and put it inside my grandfather’s casket.

Still I Rise


You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

I think if someone described me as a hurricane I could be happy with my life.

Dune’s words never rang so true as they do now.

I have to end on a little Harry Potter love. Because why not? The word “Always” means so much to us lovers of the J.K Rowlings worlds.

#musicmonday Gogol Bordello – Start Wearing Purple

Start wearing purple, wearing purple…

This is one of those songs that on first listening may seem odd and silly, but I have heard this song about a 1000 times now, This is one of my husband’s favorite songs, and I totally dig it. Who would have thought of a punk/gypsy mashup would be so catchy.

Stepping Outside of Ourselves

Through Science Fiction and Fantasy

I immerse myself in magic daily.

I sink into the unbelievable and the strange, the unkind and the just, and I live another life inside a multitude of worlds. It isn’t escapism; it is an education. Books are nothing more than ink and paper, or bytes on a hard drive. But the fantastical, whether it is science fiction or fantasy, is more than words on a paper. It is a collection of ideas that have shaped me, moved me, infuriated or inspired me, and changed me. Ideas challenge our core beliefs and allow us to experience moments outside of our sheltered selves. Fantasy and science fiction are magic.

Psychologically, fantasy starts at an early age. Children fill in their gaps in their understanding with the make-believe. They make sense of their world, probably incorrectly, but it helps them shape the floodgates of sensory input they are bombarded with. As we grow and learn that there is no boogie man under our bed, we have as adults, the luxury of stopping and asking ourselves, “what if there really was a boogie man under my bed. What would that be like?” That thought experiment is why sci-fi/fantasy is so essential for teaching readers about our greater selves. Because through the fantastical we can ask, “What would I do to battle the boogie man?”

Reading is both a very personal and a very solitude endeavor, but I can talk about which books of the sci-fi/genre affected me profoundly and taught me something. From the powerful words of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” to Harry Potter’s ten thousand examples of strength in the face of adversary, here are a few that have shaped me and why:

Ender’s Game
(Ender’s Saga #1)
by Orson Scott Card

Not all is what it seems.

“I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.”

–Colonel Graff – Ender’s Game

On the surface, Ender’s Game is about a genius child taught war games. Ender wins everything, but he doesn’t know what winning really means. Nor does he learn until too late what his victories truly are. Sometimes the games we play end up being real and have a profound impact on our lives, because alas, not all is what it seems.

Ender’s Game said “look deeper,” “understand deeper”, and try to get past the skin of things into the meat of the story or the truth of the idea. I can’t say I’ve always been successful in doing so, but I’ve always appreciated and been inspired to try.

V for Vendetta
(V for Vendetta Complete) by Alan Moore, David Lloyd (Illustrator)

Tyranny and villainy are more than people in power, it is the shackles of ideas.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

Damn right. Tyranny is everywhere — not just the massive scale tyranny of oppressive regimes, but tyranny and villainy on a small scale. We are surrounded by it. V, the title character from V for Vendetta helped me recognize it, or at least put a story and a visual to it.

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November.”

Although age and experience temper decisions and perspective on life, the story of V for Vendetta was profound for me as it took an extreme and fantastical tale and made it feel real. Maybe I would have to be V or Evie, or some semblance of both, rising above the chains and tyranny that hold me one way or another. Maybe not. The power of this book is in the idea that one can rise above the manacles of society, or Tyranny as it is and be greater.

Old Man’s War
(Old Man’s War #1)
by John Scalzi

My age is something to be celebrated.

“Do not mourn me, friends
I fall as a shooting star
Into the next life.”

― John Scalzi, Old Man’s War

Old Man’s War challenges the ideals of age and ageism. Often in our society, youth is celebrated while aging and being aged person is seen as a failure of some kind. I am getting older and there is not a damn thing I can do about it. But something I do have, that I did not have twenty years ago, is more experience and wisdom. What if we took that wisdom and separated it from our failing bodies? What if we harnessed that knowledge, held on to it, and used it? What could we do with it for the progression of humanity as a whole?

In the end, we are so much more than our failing body parts; we are a collection of ideas and ideals. I am, at any age, worth celebrating.

Childhood’s End
by Arthur C. Clarke

The problems of a utopian society.

“Utopia was here at last: its novelty had not yet been assailed by the supreme enemy of all Utopias—boredom.”

― Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End

Searching out a utopia in thought or action is impossible because it is not real. Struggle brings progress. I see this often in art, music, and literature. It is not the pain of conflict that brings development, it is the trying again and again till you succeed that does. When one is given everything, the will, and hope that pushes one forward disappears. You become bored.

I don’t often search for utopia in my daily life. However, sometimes I need to remind myself that perfection is overrated. It is the foibles and the incorrect that give life meaning and make things interesting.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Societies from all over the world are different, but in general, we want the same things.

“You can’t blame anyone else, … , no one but yourself. You have to make your own choices and live every agonizing day with the consequences of those choices.” 

― Max Brooks, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Weird that I would learn so much from a zombie book. World War Z is a collection of experiences from different cultures fighting the same thing. It reminds me of many rereads that people from Indonesia, the US, or Europe or anywhere else, although separated by culture and diversity, want to live and survive. We are not so different and I am constantly amazed by that.

Life is long, and our understanding of things as we age is sometimes slow. Books bridge the gaps between our epiphanies and let us experience things without having to live through them. Is this list the end of my appreciation, of my education? Of course not! I have lived a thousand lives through the thoughts and actions of thousands of characters, and I hope to live a thousand more lives before I die. As V would say, until the day the last inch of me has faded away and enter into the ether, I shall strive to learn. I shall endeavor to look deeper, understand deeper, try to get past the skin of things into the meat of the story or the idea and I will keep reading the magic that is science fiction and fantasy.

#Bookcook A.D New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

Louisiana Gumbo


A stunning graphic novel that makes plain the undeniable horrors and humanity triggered by Hurricane Katrina in the true stories of six New Orleanians who survived the storm.

A.D. follows each of the six from the hours before Katrina struck to its horrific aftermath. Here is Denise, a sixth-generation New Orleanian who will experience the chaos of the Superdome; the Doctor, whose unscathed French Quarter home becomes a refuge for those not so lucky; Abbas and his friend Mansell, who face the storm from the roof of Abbas’s family-run market; Kwame, a pastor’s son whose young life will remain wildly unsettled well into the future; and Leo, a comic-book fan, and his girlfriend, Michelle, who will lose everything but each other. We watch as they make the wrenching decision between staying and evacuating. And we see them coping not only with the outcome of their own decisions but also with those made by politicians, police, and others like themselves–decisions that drastically affect their lives, but over which they have no control.

Overwhelming demand has propelled A.D. from its widely-read early Internet installments to this complete hardcover edition. Scheduled for publication on the fourth anniversary of the hurricane, it shines an uncanny light on the devastating truths and human triumphs of New Orleans after the deluge.

My Thoughts

I think much like those who lived through 9/11 can remember where they were or what they were doing the moment the plane hit The World Trade Center, those who saw the heartbreaking images coming out New Orleans and Biloxi also remember the time and place. I know I did. Both are significant watershed moments in American culture and history. For 9/11 it was the start of what has been deemed fear culture. For Katrina, it was a stark look at race and poverty relations in the US as well as knowing that American relief efforts can fail you. Despite best efforts to the contrary. It is hard things to talk about, and hard things to convey on paper. But as they say, a picture can tell a thousand words…This graphic novel certainly did.

“Seeing my books and comics was the hardest, it made me think that it would have been easier if a tornado simply hit the house and flung it to another city. At least then we wouldn’t have to walk atop the things I cared most about. ”

A.D depicts seven different stories from seven different people and perspectives. Each experienced the hurricane first hand in one way or another. Some stayed, some fled, some went to the Silverdome, and some rode it out on top of a convenience store. A single story couldn’t tell a true tale about the people of New Orleans, but taken in aggregate, the reader definitely achieves a good understanding of what the city went through. It is both powerful and visceral and a tad unsettling.

I chose this story for this weeks #bookcook as an homage to New Orleans food and culture. New Orleans is a magical place and not the Disney version of magical. More like the dark side of magic. It is hot, overgrown, and mystical. The drums and jazz of the nightly music cause a constant throb that you feel not only in your bones, but your soul. When you are there, you want to become a part of the culture and get swept away by it: Food, dancing, music, passion, and everything that whispers in a sultry tone of voice, “I am the south.”

There is nothing that says, New Orleans, like a good Gumbo. This recipe was taken from Big Oven


  • 2 ounces Margarine
  • 3 cups onion ; small dice
  • 1 1/2 cups celery ; small dice
  • 1 1/2 cups green bell pepper ; small dice
  • 1 pound chicken breast ; medium dice
  • 1 pound smoked sausage or andouille sausage ; sliced
  • 8 ounces shrimp pieces
  • 2 qts Chicken broth
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes ; diced
  • 1 each Bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon Thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon tobasco
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic powder
  • 6 ounces Butter
  • 6 ounces Flour
  • 9 ounces okra fresh or frozen ; sliced
  • gumbo filet powder
  • 1/2 cup Water


Melt 2 ounces of margarine in a large soup pot. Add chicken and saute until cooked half way. Add sausage and vegetables and cook until vegerables are tender. Add chicken broth and seasonings and bring to a simmer. Make a black roux in a seperate pan. Heat butter very hot and add flour. Turn heat down to medium. Stir frequently until roux beomes very dark, almost black in color but not burnt. (This takes practice) Slowly alternate soup into roux and roux into soup whipping until thickened and smooth. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add shrimp and okra. Simmer until shrimp is cooked about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Dissolve Gumbo file powder in water. Slowly stir into soup. Serve plain or with white rice

Review of The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaVille

“Nobody ever thinks of himself as a villain, does he? Even monsters hold high opinions of themselves.”


From the publisher, “People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn’t there.

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father’s head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?”


  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Paperback 
  • 149 pages
  • Published February 16th 2016 by
  • Original Title The Ballad of Black Tom
  • ISBN0765387867 (ISBN13: 9780765387868)
  • Edition LanguageEnglish


  • Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2017) 
  • Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novella (2016) 
  • World Fantasy Award Nominee for Long Fiction (2017) 
  • Shirley Jackson Award for Novella (2016) 
  • British Fantasy Award for Best Novella (2017)
  • Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Horror (2016)

My Thoughts

The Ballad of Black Tom is the reimagining of the Lovecraftian tale, “The Horror at Red Hook” and is one of those rare books that can straddle the dividing line of fiction and urban fantasy. It is a book of many hats.

The story is one of a street hustler named Charles Thomas Tester of Harlem in the 1920s. Charles, who goes by Tommy, makes his way as best as he can by a variety of hustling gigs. Whether it’s as a Delivery man or guitarist, Tommy does pretty much anything to make some money. Along with the hustles are the obvious and not so apparent undercurrents of racism present in 1920’s Harlem. Tommy is an African-American man and deals with Racism and prejudice on all sides. The writing about the racism of that era is poignant and well done. Tommy gets involved with some occult figures throughout the story, and different types of tragedy ensue. He begins to take matters in his own hands, and the story ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.

The original story “The Horror at Red Hook” was stunningly racist as was Lovecraft is as a person. It makes sense why LaVille would respond to that story from the angle of an African-American Protagonist. I think it is fitting. That being said, I have not read “The Horror of Red Hook.” Matter a fact, when I originally picked this up I was reading it blind having known nothing about the back story of this novella. I was familiar with the writer and the stories status as a Hugo award nominee which guided me in selecting it to read, but that’s it. I have got to tell you overall I was not impressed. I found LaVille’s writing to be excellent. He has a way with both the structure of his sentences and the imagery his sentences evokes. However, the pacing of the story was slow and frankly a bit boring for my tastes. That might be because I am unfamiliar with the original Lovecraft story and style. Or, I just was not in the right mind frame to read it. Either way, I am not the right reader for this story.

About The Author

Victor LaValle is the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with Jesus, four novels, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, The Devil in Silver, and The Changeling and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the creator and writer of a comic book Victor LaValle’s DESTROYER.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards including a Whiting Writers’ Award, a United States Artists Ford Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Shirley Jackson Award, an American Book Award, and the key to Southeast Queens.

He was raised in Queens, New York. He now lives in Washington Heights with his wife and kids. He teaches at Columbia University.

He can be kind of hard to reach, but he still loves you.

Happy Publication Day!

Asylum I: Some things Should Not Be Forgotten by Sian B. Claven

Sian B. Claven’s Asylum I: Some Things Should Not Be Forgotten is available now – read an excerpt from this new horror novel below and pick up your copy today!

About – Asylum I: Some things Should Not be Forgotten

Hans is a brilliant doctor, sent to an Asylum in the middle of nowhere to continue his post-world war experiments on the insane.
Karen is a bubbly nurse whose sole intention in the world is to do good and help those that cannot help themselves.
Good intentions cross into power hungry mania in this horrific tale of how all their failed experiments come back to haunt them, and how the Asylum holds its own secrets.
“Asylum makes your hair stand on end. This is creepy and dark, yet incredibly fascinating. To delve into the mind of the ‘scientist’ at this asylum is to find sheer madness roiling in those depths, as well as utter self-delusion. The very stones of this madhouse is drenched with horror … a clever and twisted MUST read!” Elaina J. Davidson.

Excerpt Teaser

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#ANDTHENTHEREWEREFIVE-Literary Figures to be Stranded on a Desert Island With

Someone asked me, if I were stranded on a desert island what book would I bring… ‘How to Build a Boat.’

How fun is this? Rachel Read It posted a #andthentherewerefive post about her five literary figures to be stranded on a desert island with and that got me thinking about my own five. How do we approach this? Do we go with fun people or useful people? I have very few essential island skills so I would have to make up for that somehow.

  1. William – Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss.

I need a coconut, dung from a cow, a blanket, and a week to make our skyscraper treehouse.

William on his treehouse making abilities

I mean, duh. He can build anything including an incredible treehouse with a rope elevator. I want my own treehouse. Why don’t I have a treehouse already?!

2. Ripley from Aliens

“Get away from my palm tree. YOU BITCH!”

Ripley on a desert island

There is actually a book that the Aliens movie is based on or vice versa. I am not sure. But, I have read it. Ripley is an amazing character. She would have us eating coconuts and protected from the scary aliens that also live on the island.

3. Harry Dresden – The Dresden Files

“I lunged, low and quick, and drove about a foot of cold steel into his palm tree. Hey, I don’t care what kind of coconut or mortal or hideous creature you are. If you’ve got a palm tree, and loose coconuts, that’s the kind of sight that makes you reconsider the possible genitalia-related ramifications or coconuts of your actions real damned quick.” 

Harry Dresden talking about genitalia smashing and coconuts, apparently

Harry is a magician and can get us off of that island in no time. Plus I would love to witness the snark between Harry and Ripley.

4. Rachel Morgan – The Hollows Series by Kim Harrison

I am a person who appreciates the magic and a good bit of snark. I need snark on my desert island. Two different kinds of magicians throwing around all the magic. Sounds like a fun time to me.

“Shouts of dismay rose as the white flesh splattered against the table. It was only a coconut, but one would think I was pulping a decaying heart by the noise the big, strong FIB officers were making.” 

Rachel declaring that it is only a coconut

5. Algaliarept “Al” from The Hallows by Kim Harrison

Gary Oldman is actually Algaliarept. True story.

“I only snatched the coconut to get your attention,” I said. “Now that I’ve got it, this is what I want.”
“Damn my dame!” Al shouted, hands raised to the ceiling. “I knew it! Not another coconut!”

Al does not like coconuts

I guess I am on a snark kick. He is snarky and powerful and can pretty much do anything. The only caveat is that he can only come out at night. Also, he is a lunatic. A powerful lunatic, but a lunatic. I see him screwing with William a whole lot.