Friday, October 12, 2018

Afternoon Tea (10/12/18)

PART TWO IS HERE: Queens of Infamy: The Reign of Catherine de’ Medici

Slate has a new Ask a Teacher advice column and it's as great as you'd expect.

The Women Sports Pioneers You Need to Know About

Why Renée Ahdieh is bringing vampires back to YA

Heh: Congratulations! You Did Five Minutes of Writing!

Weekly Rec: Matt Nathanson's Sings His Sad Heart

I've been trying to write this all week and running out of time so this will be short, but hey! Matt Nathanson has a new album out! It's good! I like it! My favorite songs are "Different Beds" and "Used to Be." Give it a try!

Morning Coffee (10/12/18)


Eeeeeee: ‘The Little Drummer Girl’ Trailer: Here’s Your First Look At What Could Be The Best TV Series Of The Year

!! Emma Roberts to Star in Netflix Ice Skating Drama 'Spinning Out'

Also !! All-Star ‘Greatest Showman’ Album Entices Pink, Panic!, Sara Bareilles and Others

Aww: "The couple met in 2012 while working on President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Chicago, and began dating while working in Brooklyn on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, in 2015."

Between the X-Files ones and now Doctor Who Barbie I... need to buy some Barbies?

Apple Cider Doughnuts Are the Truth

QUIZ: Which Literary Witch Are You?

To start your holiday shopping: nail polish gift sets.

And Nintendo cartridge soap??

And Grinch makeup!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Afternoon Tea (10/11/18)

Where in the World Is Denmark’s $2 Billion?

Texas Monthly crime coverage, great as always: The Cartel Next Door

La Mer makes a legendary $325 face cream. It’s now being sued for alleged false advertising.

Tour the British Countryside with These Mystery Series

13 YA Authors on How They Find (Forge, Carve Out, Sacrifice For) the Time to Write

Morning Coffee (10/11/18)

This is horrifying and evil: AP Investigation: Deported parents may lose kids to adoption

Also evil and racist: Supreme Court Ruling Suppresses Native American Votes Ahead of Crucial Midterm Election

UGH: Fact-checking President Trump’s USA Today op-ed on ‘Medicare-for-All’

Planned Parenthood Announces Multi-Million Dollar Plan to Protect and Expand Abortion Access In Face of Hostile Supreme Court

I'm tired: Michael Bloomberg is a Democrat again, fueling speculation about 2020 aspirations

National Book Foundation Announces Finalists for 69th Annual Award

Amazon scraps secret AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women

WHAT!!! Real life Nashville nightmare: Man stabbed at haunted house in Madison

Genetics research 'biased towards studying white Europeans'

Ooh: Introducing the New Intelligencer

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Afternoon Tea (10/10/18)

Very excited for her new book, out yesterday: Tana French on The Witch Elm and why she loves writing mysteries

These are beautiful: SpaceX launches and lands Falcon 9 rocket on California coast – in pictures

50 Years Later, Troubles Still Cast ‘Huge Shadow’ Over Northern Ireland

Alone with Elizabeth Bishop

What Strategy Could Either Side Have Used to Win the War in 1776?

Morning Coffee (10/10/18)

Trust me, this is GREAT: Unions Call for Coffman's Resignation

This is just evil: Migrant Children in Search of Justice: A 2-Year-Old’s Day in Immigration Court

Nikki Haley to Resign as Trump’s Ambassador to the U.N.

Flyers At Three Universities Blame Jews For Kavanaugh Assault Allegations

EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler Engaged With Racist, Conspiratorial Posts On Social Media

Neo-Nazi who attacked Amtrak train revealed as Unite the Right participant

New poll finds a 30-point gender gap going into the midterms

Jamal Khashoggi Disappears, a Mystery Rattling the Middle East

This is quite the set of co-chairs: Met Costume Institute Embraces ‘Camp’ for 2019 Blockbuster Show

Ancient Maya: Astronomers, Farmers ... And Salt Entrepreneurs?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Afternoon Tea (10/9/18)

This is the most delightful thing I have ever read: Daniel Radcliffe and the Art of the Fact-Check

These Stories Are Ours, Too: Writing Black Characters into Fairy Tales

Kate Atkinson Loves a Good Secret (I highly recommend her new book.)

A Mysterious Fossil Points to the Origins of Lizards and Snakes

Here's some fun medieval manuscript history in honor of the new Doctor: A female doctor

Morning Coffee (10/9/18)

The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say

We women can be anything. But can we be angry?

Investigation at Yale Law School

Romania Conservatives Wanted Voters to Limit Definition of ‘Family.’ They Failed.

In Spain’s ‘Stolen-Babies’ Scandal, Doctor Escapes Punishment

Russia-Ukraine Tensions Set Up the Biggest Christian Schism Since 1054

Well this is delightful: ‘A betrayal beyond words’: The far right melts down over Taylor Swift’s endorsement of Democrats

The World Needs More Female Superheroes, BBC America Study Says

Deep in Human DNA, a Gift From the Neanderthals

Olivia De Havilland Takes ‘Feud’ Feud With FX & Ryan Murphy To Supreme Court

Monday, October 8, 2018

Afternoon Tea (10/8/18)

There's some VERY interesting stuff in this interview: Catherine Hardwicke Broke Records With ‘Twilight.’ Then Hollywood Labeled Her ‘Difficult.’

#Girlboss notebooks and “Feminist AF” pencils: the case against “empowering” office supplies

The fantasy world of pre-wedding photos: inside China's billion-dollar industry

The Boy Romantic

Immigration Narratives in Crime Fiction

Morning Coffee (10/8/18)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

Brazil Election Heads to Runoff as Far-Right Candidate Falls Just Short of Outright Win

Ugh I hate him: Grassley explains all-male, all-white Senate Republican judiciary panel: women don’t want to do the work

Bloomberg’s spy chip story reveals the murky world of national security reporting

From Orwell to ‘Little Mermaid,’ Kuwait Steps Up Book Banning

Research Study Concludes That Russian Bots And Trolls Helped Fuel ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Outrage

This author also works as a janitor. She just won a prestigious literary prize from the university she cleans.

Berlin recreates Nazi-baiting art exhibition from 1938

Role models tbh: Life With No Males? These Termites Show That It’s Possible

Imaging tool unravels secrets of child's sock from ancient Egypt

First Look: Helen Mirren as Catherine the Great in HBO, Sky Miniseries

Friday, October 5, 2018

Afternoon Tea (10/4/18)

How Do You Take a Picture of a Black Hole? With a Telescope as Big as the Earth

This is fascinating and I can't wait to read her book: Nicole Chung on the Complexities, and Joys, of Transracial Adoption

Vladimir Nabokov's Other Favorite Crime

The new Discovering Music resource on the British Library site is really cool.

Wizards, Moomins and pirates: the magic and mystery of literary maps

Morning Coffee (10/5/18)

Whew, time for Friday happy links.

I accept our new queen: Eight-year-old Swedish-American girl pulls pre-Viking era sword from lake

!!! Canceled Too Soon, Sweet/Vicious Will Now Become the Perfect Comic Book for the Me Too Era

New emojis! Bagel! Cupcake! Yarn!

He is SUCH an Agatha Christie Guy, if you think about it: Armie Hammer To Set Sail In ‘Death On The Nile’ Movie

I have (falling apart) copies of all these books but I want this new Madeleine L'Engle boxed set anyway.

Very into the idea of a John Legend Christmas album.

Sometimes The Onion is perfect: Chris Pine Depressed By Realization He Could Probably Win Governorship Somewhere

I want all the plaid jackets.

Winter Is Coming — and It’s Bringing an Official 'Game of Thrones' Whisky With It

12 Bookish Sweaters to Keep You Cozy All Season Long

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Afternoon Tea (10/4/18)

The New Cold Front in Russia’s Information War

Ooh, I've never read him: Eric Ambler: A Crime Reader's Guide to the Classics

The rise of the wholesome internet meme

A Tingling Spine Every Time: Some of classical music’s most sublime moments

The Screenwriting Mystic Who Wanted to Be the American Führer

Morning Coffee (10/4/18)

A running list of everyone the FBI has interviewed in the Kavanaugh investigation so far (and, you know, HASN'T)

And a late related addition: The F.B.I. Probe Ignored Testimonies from Former Classmates of Kavanaugh

Seriously, we need to see Donald Trump’s tax returns

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Trump administration working to weaken EPA radiation regulations

Shinzo Abe reshuffle leaves just one woman in Japanese cabinet

Beatles Engineer Geoff Emerick Has Died at 72

!! Dwarf planet 'The Goblin' discovery redefining solar system

Veteran CBS Producer Brad Kern Fired Amid Abuse Claims

Amazon is raising its minimum wage to $15 for US workers

Riddle of a Scandalous French Painting Is Solved, Researcher Says

Cardiff University's new X-ray method reveals ancient scroll

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Afternoon Tea (10/3/18)

The KGB Stalked A Snap-Happy French Tourist For Eight Years. But Was He A Spy?

Useful! The Baker's Pantry: All the Staples You Need to Make Amazing Desserts

The Murderous Playwrights of Elizabethan England

Would Baseball have Become America’s National Pastime Without Baseball Cards?

The Lonely Heath at Twilight

Morning Coffee (10/3/18)

Obviously the gist of this isn't surprising, but this investigation by the Times is great work: Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father

And this report at the Post is so so good: American Girl: A Story of Immigration, Fear and Fortitude

Republicans don’t care if Kavanaugh is guilty because they don’t think what he did was wrong

Good for them: Harvard students file complaints to prevent Kavanaugh from teaching at law school

They're just evil for the fun of it: Trump administration begins denying visas to some same-sex partners of foreign diplomats: report

Election Rally Bombing in Afghanistan Heightens Security Fears

A Center-Right Party Decisively Wins Quebec Vote

Nobel Prize in Physics is shared by a woman, the first in 55 years 55 years!

I cried just reading this headline: Michelle Williams To Play Astronaut Christa McAuliffe In ‘The Challenger’ Movie

Aw, good for her: Karina Manta Keeps Ice Dance Queer

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Afternoon Tea (10/2/18)

Millennials can’t stop writing fanfiction about coffee shops

The rise, fall, and unlikely return of Murphy Brown, explained

Inside Barstool Sports’ Culture of Online Hate: ‘They Treat Sexual Harassment and Cyberbullying as a Game’

Here's the Medieval manuscripts blog's calendar page for the month.

Baby's First Mystery Fiction

Weekly Rec: The Spy with the Red Balloon + Q&A with Author Katherine Locke!

The Spy with the Red Balloon, one of my favorite books of the year, is out today! Siblings Ilse and Wolf Klein have a big secret: they can do magic. And then the government finds out and blackmails them into service, Ilse by helping with the atom bomb project and Wolf by going behind enemy lines to sabotage the German nuclear program. Soon they're both in danger, and have to figure out how to help each other (and fight Nazis) while remaining true to themselves and their beliefs. This book combines so many things I like - it's a World War II spy story, a smart girl story, a sibling story. There's lots of science AND magic, complicated interpersonal dynamics, and big philosophical questions playing themselves out in people's everyday lives. And it features a realistic cross-section of characters of different races and religions and sexualities who are too often left out of historical fiction.

I loved The Spy with the Red Balloon so much that I got author Katherine Locke to come answer all my questions about it. (Disclaimer, I guess: Katherine and I are good friends but I wouldn't tell you I liked a book if I didn't!)

I love math and physics so my first thought is to ask about THE EQUATIONS, but I guess you did not ACTUALLY write magical equations. So instead: how did you decide on that form for your magic?

There was a point where I tried to teach myself math and physics so I could actually invent magical equations. About a month into that, I realized that this was a very bad idea and I needed to just write the book. I did teach myself a limited amount of physics and chemistry so that when Stella and Ilse were speaking, it sounded as legitimate as possible. (I manipulated the Student Handbook and school rules in high school to get out of physics, and trust me, I regret that now!)

I decided on it pretty early when I was writing The Girl with the Red Balloon after doing quite a bit of research on time travel and realizing that magic that moved people through space could, by that very same logic, move them through time. If such an equation could be developed.

I got into the weeds a few times with it when I was working on Girl but it wasn’t until Spy when I had to actually think about how they would have developed and understood this magic. There’s magic in Spy that is very very close to how Ellie gets to East Berlin in Girl, and sometimes I like to think about all of the research work, what was lost, what was found (and by whom), that happens between 1945 at the end of Spy and 1988 in Girl.

This book's companion, The Girl with the Red Balloon, was written/published first but set later. What were some of the challenges involved in fitting this story within the framework you set up in the previous book? Was there anything you established in Girl that turned out to be particularly troublesome when writing Spy?

Hahahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahaha. *catches breath* AHAHAHAHAHA.

Yes. I had to ret-con a lot of my own work. I did not intend to write another book in this world, so I had to go back and look through all the magic that is in normal use by 1988 in Girl and decide where they were in 1945. I’d established in Girl that the magic was pretty new in 1942, so I had a time constraint--if it was very new in 1942 in the war zone where they were using it, then it couldn’t be so well established, widely known and fully realized in 1943 in the US where I set half of Spy. Additionally, I’d pitched a Manhattan Project book to my editor (who is a history nerd in the best of ways, so she was excited about that). I needed to think about the evolution of magic, what would be desired by the US military for the Project, and what would be needed in reality in the ‘field’, so to speak.

Additionally, the magic system had a lot of constraints. So if random people’s blood was magical and caused them or whatever their blood touched to levitate, how did they go undetected? What happened to those who menstruated? How did they draw blood and write without their pens levitating, or the materials levitating as they did so? How did they stop blood from clotting? From going rancid? How long did an equation last?

It was a lot of work.

I often get frustrated with dual narratives because I end up much more interested in one half of the story than the other, but you did a great job here keeping both Ilse's and Wolf's stories interesting and giving them parallel pacing without it seeming contrived. What was your technique for planning that out? Did you make a big combined timeline?

This was also a lot of work! There were times that I felt Wolf’s timeline was naturally more compelling because he felt like he was in the most immediate danger, which tends to build immediate empathy and connection with readers. The book began as Ilse’s book, so I didn’t want to lose her and her voice. She was my entry into the story, and I truly love this character. I wanted to make sure she sang too.

I reverse outlined the book and put them on notecards, taking care to match up arcs. When Wolf gets into [REDACTED TROUBLE], a similar situation happens to Ilse, heightening their tensions and their storylines at the same time. Either they had to match completely, or they had to be the inverse and the reaction had to be devastating. So for example--this isn’t a spoiler because it’s in the cover copy--Ilse’s at a dance when her brother’s plane is shot down. The colonel sends someone to find her, and Ilse’s horrified that while she was having fun (or at least, thinking she could have fun), her brother went missing.

I worked that out physically with notecards first, and then rearranged my book (via Scrivener) to match that, before I exported to Word (my preferred medium to work).

There aren't many WWII novels with Jewish main characters that aren't centered on the Holocaust. Why was it important to you to do that here?

My grandfather was the son of Jewish immigrants (from what is now western Ukraine but was then Poland), and he fought in WWII. His unit helped liberate Dachau II, a sub-camp of Dachau. From what we’ve been able to track, some of our relatives died at Dachau. None of my relatives who stayed in Europe survived the Holocaust. Dozens of Jewish boys who escaped Germany before 1942 made it to the US, and enlisted to go home and fight the Nazis. Jewish-American soldiers fought in WWII, and they fought at even higher risk than Christian-American soldiers. If they were captured, they were often killed or sent to concentration camps like Berga.

I really wanted to explore that time period through a different lens, through the lens of American Jews who know what’s happening over there, are pacifists, struggle with the blindness of patriotism, and have a great deal to lose: they are Jewish, they are American, they are queer, and they do magic.

I also really really want to see more historical fantasy and historical novels where Jewish people are heroes without being victims in the same breath. The Klein siblings go through a lot in Spy, but they’re never victims.

This book is fantasy but obviously it's very grounded in real history. What was your research process like, and specifically what kinds of resources did you use to help you tell the stories of people who are so often overlooked in history and historical fiction, like people of color and queer characters?

I traveled to Oak Ridge, Tennessee and went on the tour of the nuclear facilities and town there, as well as visiting the museum. I read a lot of books and watched movies. I had a pretty good background on nuclear weapons as I worked in nuclear weapons abolition activism for a year after college, but I knew more about the work on the Gadget at Los Alamos than I did about Oak Ridge. I read a lot of books about spies during WWII, the Manhattan Project, the women on the Manhattan Project, the Nazi science programs, etc. I listed all the books I read, and included my author’s note and photos from my trip here on my website.

I also read Manhattan Project Voices, where there are interviews and oral histories with women who worked on the Project. I am immensely grateful for the historians who’ve taken the time to collect those stories.

On the whole, WWII must be one of the most well documented and well researched times in history, from every angle. I wanted to include Stella after reading about how Dr. J. Ernest Wilkins was excluded from the Manhattan Project in Tennessee because of Jim Crow laws. I knew both Klein siblings were queer (Ilse is bi, Wolf is demisexual/ace-spectrum), and I did research around that. (Contrary to what some may believe, queerness is not an invention of the last fifty years.) Queer people and Black people and disabled people and Jewish people and Christian people and depressed people and anxiety people and neurodiverse people and young people and old people all participated in the war effort. It is disingenuous to write books that do not reflect that.

Will you ever write a female character without an L in her name? Ilse, Polly, Stella, Lola, Lily. Ellie and Aly in previous books. Surely you're almost out of names. (Okay, I guess that's not a real question. Hahaha.)

It turns out, I am not out of L names.
(I am trying.)
(but not very hard.)

If you could pick any (real or magical) job/assignment to have had during World War II, what would it be? (I want to be a Bletchley codebreaker, personally.)

You would be a great codebreaker. I would be very bad at it.
I would like to be Lily (from Spy) though. I think I would have been good at keeping boys in line and punching Nazis.

You write across a lot of different genres/audiences - is it hard switching back and forth? Are there themes you find yourself returning to across different projects?

I definitely write a lot of Jewish characters! I also write a lot of Jewish characters/characters in general struggling with trying to do good in seemingly impossible situations. I love writing siblings, so I frequently come back to that. I am really interested in the ways that times of high conflict make someone realize that they’ve always had the tools to survive. They didn’t gain them through the struggle, they’ve always had them. If that makes sense. So conflict as a way of illuminating our resilience as people and individuals.

As for switching, I don’t find it difficult. I try not to write two YA books at the same time, but I can write a YA contemporary and a MG fantasy at the same time. They’re different books for me, and they keep me interested and thinking. I like the puzzle aspect of stories and I have a short attention span. Jumping around and trying to challenge myself with every new manuscript keeps me happy.

In addition to writing you have a full time dayjob and freelance. Any favorite tips for finding the time/energy for writing or other creative work while still paying the bills?

Set aside one day a week where you don’t do work (which...I admittedly did not do this week) because you need to refill that well. Daydreaming about stories, or going to plays or art museums or walking around a park or talking to friends is refilling the well and that is creative space, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

Get up early before work, if you can, and write while your brain is the freshest. I edit at night because I can do that after work, but I can’t make new words after I work all day. So I do those in the morning. Figure out when and where you work best, and commit to it. I’m bad at writing for just 15 mins here and there, while I have friends who write whole novels that way. I need at least two hours straight through. And I work typically 20 minutes on, 5-10 minutes off, 20 minutes on again.

And sleep. Seriously. Your brain needs time to rest and repair.

Which of your cats would be the best spy?

Okay. I’ve been thinking about this the entire interview while I worked on the other questions. I think the important thing to remember here is that there are many types of spies and they all work in different ways. So I think all of my cats would be great spies, but for different things.

But the dream team would be Cora and Pilot. Cora is very loud and you would think she’d be a bad spy, but she’s really good at climbing on top of you and distracting you, while yelling at you, so you may not see Pilot going to work in the background. He’s very quiet, and very light and small, and very sneaky. They’re a good team.

[Note: If you'd like this question/answer to make more sense, go follow Katherine on Instagram. There's lots of good cat content.]

The Spy with the Red Balloon is out now! Go read it! And if you'd like to read its companion The Girl with the Red Balloon via your library, check out the Big Library Read.

More about the author:

Katherine Locke lives and writes in Philadelphia, PA where they're ruled by their feline overlords and their addiction to chai lattes. Their debut YA The Girl with the Red Balloon was a 2018 Sydney Taylor Honor Book and a 2018 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book. They secretly believe most stories are fairytales in disguise. You can find them online at and @bibliogato on Instagram and Twitter.

Morning Coffee (10/2/18)

The Confusion Surrounding the F.B.I.’s Renewed Investigation of Brett Kavanaugh

And an update: White House Tells F.B.I. to Interview Anyone Necessary for Kavanaugh Inquiry

Make sure you read until you get to MERRICK GARLAND because hahahaha: Brett Kavanaugh’s Comments In That Hearing Raise Ethics Questions That Will Likely Follow Him Whether Or Not He's Confirmed

This was even worse than I expected: ‘This guy doesn’t know anything’: the inside story of Trump’s shambolic transition team

Some good news! California Toughens Sexual Harassment Laws, Launches Gender Parity Push for Corporate Boards

The Man Standing Between Brazil and Authoritarianism

...of course: Border agent to pay $220K for Tucson-area wildfire sparked at gender-reveal party

Uh, NOPE: MoviePass Is Now Re-Enrolling Former Customers in an 'Unlimited' Plan Unless They 'Opt Out'

James P Allison and Tasuku Honjo win Nobel prize for medicine

Caravaggio May Have Died of Infected Sword Wound, Not Syphilis

Monday, October 1, 2018

Afternoon Tea (10/1/18)

A journalist researched the true story behind a rape allegation that occurred at her high school when she was a student, and the result is fascinating and heartbreaking: What Do We Owe Her Now?

This fits well with our current national mood: RANKED: 10 Paintings of Judith Beheading Holofernes

Photos Document What Remains of a Soviet Atomic City

The Women Spies of Historical Crime Fiction

Walking in Benjamin Britten's footsteps, Suffolk

Morning Coffee (10/1/18)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

80,000 Americans died of the flu last winter. Get your flu shot.

The details here are even more horrifying than the headline sounds: Hundreds of Migrant Children Quietly Moved to a Tent Camp on the Texas Border

I... E.P.A. to Eliminate Office That Advises Agency Chief on Science

...of course: Trump anti-discrimination official once called most hate crimes hoaxes

The Ford-Kavanaugh Hearing Will Be Remembered as a Grotesque Display of Patriarchal Resentment

Christine Blasey Ford’s family has been nearly silent amid outpouring of support

Of course he has: Kavanaugh Has Become a Hero to the Incel Community

School athletic director on leave after telling students 'girls ruin everything'

Aw: Paul McCartney announces picture book, Hey Grandude

In World War II, Bombs Sent Shockwaves All the Way Up Into the Atmosphere