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2020 – A Year in Review

Good Riddance, 2020! This has been the weirdest year, and I’m sure we’re all happy to put it behind us. Still, while it’s easy to sort of marinate in the awfulness of 2020, I wanted to reflect on some of the better moments too. Here are some good/productive things I can still be proud of from this year:

Suburban Secrets

At least the pandemic gave me enough free time to finish up my debut novel: Suburban Secrets. This mystery has been a project I’ve worked on since grad school, so it was nice to finally see it through.

Other Published Works:

I didn’t submit quite as much as I’d have liked to this year, but I did have a few smaller things published as well:

“The Monster Within” (Dreaming in Fiction – October 2020) [As Aurora Bishop]

“Horoscopes for the Unbalanced Libra” (Ephemeral Elegies – September 2020) [As Aurora Bishop]

“Spare Parts” (Ephemeral Elegies – August 2020) [As Aurora Bishop]

“New Life” (Inwood Indiana – Fallow Ground)

“American Exodus” (SOS Art Cincinnati – For a Better World 2020)

“The World Ablaze” (SOS Art Cincinnati – For a Better World 2020)

“Welcome to 2020” (SOS Art Cincinnati – For a Better World 2020)

“Dancing in the Dark” (Writing in a Woman’s Voice – February 2020)

“The Vanishing Act” (Down in the Dirt Magazine – February 2020)

Artwork:

I wanted to make it a priority to focus on my artwork this year, and while I didn’t do nearly as much as I expected, there were still a few nice moments. I was able to complete Inktober on Instagram. I had a painting purchased as artwork for a mental health journal, and I had two paintings featured in a local art show.

Transitioning to Publisher:

This year also marked the debut of my two literary journals: Ephemeral Elegies and Dreaming in Fiction. It’s been such a great experience meeting and supporting other authors from around the globe. I can’t wait to feature more writing in 2021.

Well, I guess 2020 wasn’t so bad after all. Still, I’m looking forward to a 2021 filled with health, happiness, and (hopefully) new adventures!

What are you most proud of this year? Please, let me know in the comment section so I can celebrate with you!

-Tiffany

Book Review

Best Books of 2020

What a weird year this has been! I’m sure I’m not the only one who would prefer to never repeat a year such as this one. Thankfully, though, I did have a lot of time to read this year (both new books and some re-reads of favorites!) Here are the best books I read (or re-read) this year:

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

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Goodreads Description: Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: he’s merely Generic Asian Man. Every day, he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here too. . . but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy—the highest aspiration he can imagine for a Chinatown denizen. Or is it? After stumbling into the spotlight, Willis finds himself launched into a wider world than he’s ever known, discovering not only the secret history of Chinatown, but the buried legacy of his own family, and what that means for him, in today’s America.

My Thoughts: This book was the well-deserved winner of the National Book Award this year. It is one of the most unique books I’ve read. Partially in second person and partially written with script-esque dialogue, this is a strange but engrossing reading experience all about the harmful impact of internalizing and externalizing stereotypes.

When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy

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Goodreads Description: Seduced by politics and poetry, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor and agrees to be his wife, but what for her is a contract of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of a kept woman, bullying her out of her life as an academic and writer in the process, she attempts to push back – a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape. Smart, fierce and courageous When I Hit You is a dissection of what love meant, means and will come to mean when trust is undermined by violence; a brilliant, throat-tightening feminist discourse on battered faces and bruised male egos; and a scathing portrait of traditional wedlock in modern India

My Thoughts: This one was very difficult to read but I couldn’t put it down. The raw, vulnerable honesty was such a necessary addition to the wider societal conversations about domestic violence.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

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Goodreads Description: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

My Thoughts: This was a really fun book! It is an exciting mystery combined with a lot of interesting character development. I loved the exploration of the female friendships.

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

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Goodreads Description: Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages—bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers—be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dune fields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.

My Thoughts: This was the best poetry collection I read this year. The poems were exquisite and showed a lot of range when it comes to both theme and emotion. I can’t wait to read more from this poet!

My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams

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Goodreads Description: Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel DeLoache Williams’s new friend Anna Delvey, a self-proclaimed German heiress, was worldly and ambitious. She was also generous. When Anna proposed an all-expenses-paid trip to Marrakech, Rachel jumped at the chance. But when Anna’s credit cards mysteriously stopped working, the dream vacation quickly took a dark turn. Anna asked Rachel to begin fronting costs—first for flights, then meals and shopping, and, finally, for their $7,500-per-night private villa. Before Rachel knew it, more than $62,000 had been charged to her credit cards. Anna swore she would reimburse Rachel the moment they returned to New York. Back in Manhattan, the repayment never materialized, and a shocking pattern of deception emerged. Rachel learned that Anna had left a trail of deceit—and unpaid bills—wherever she’d been. Mortified, Rachel contacted the district attorney, and in a stunning turn of events, found herself helping to bring down one of the city’s most notorious con artists.

My Thoughts: This was a fascinating memoir about a woman who was conned by someone who she thought was one of her best friends. I remembered hearing about Anna Delvey’s trial a while back, and I really enjoyed learning more about this case. I think two tv shows about this are currently in-development, and I’ll absolutely be watching those too!

Did you have more time to read in 2020? What are your top picks for this year? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

-Tiffany

Book Review

Best Christmas Mysteries

‘Tis the season for holiday reading! There’s less than two weeks until Christmas, and if you’re in quarantine or avoiding social things due to the pandemic, why not spend the extra time curled up with a cozy Christmas-themed murder mystery? Here are some of my top picks:

Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M.C. Beaton

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Goodreads Description: Agatha Raisin is bored. Her detective agency in the Cotswolds is thriving, but she’ll scream if she has to deal with another missing cat or dog. Only two things seem to offer potential excitement: the upcoming Christmas festivities and her ex, James Lacey. This year she is sure that if she invites James to a really splendid, old-fashioned Christmas dinner, their love will rekindle like a warm Yule log.
When a wealthy widow hires Agatha because she’s convinced a member of her family is trying to kill her, Agatha is intrigued—especially when the widow drops dead after high tea at the manor house. Who in this rather sterile house, complete with fake family portraits, could have hated the old lady enough to poison her?
Agatha sets out to find the murderer, all the while managing a pretty, teenage trainee who makes her feel old and planning for a picture-perfect Christmas, with James, all the trimmings, and perhaps even snow.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

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Goodreads Description: On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—well, actually, my true love, Darcy O’Mara, is spending a feliz navidad tramping around South America. Meanwhile Mummy is holed up in a tiny village called Tiddleton-under-Lovey with that droll Noel Coward! And I’m snowed in at Castle Rannoch with my bumbling brother, Binky, and sourpuss sister-in-law, Fig. So it’s a miracle when I contrive to land a position as hostess to a posh holiday party in Tiddleton. The village is like something out of A Christmas Carol! But no sooner have I arrived than a neighborhood nuisance, a fellow named Freddie, falls out of a tree dead.  On my second day, another so-called accident results in a death – and there’s yet another on my third.  Perhaps a recent prison break could have something to do with it…that, or a long-standing witch’s curse. But after Darcy shows up beneath the mistletoe, anything could be possible in this wicked wonderland.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

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Goodreads Description: It’s Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce – an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving – is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found, past midnight, strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.

A Little Yuletide Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

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Goodreads Description: Jessica Fletcher is planning to spend a cozy Christmas in Cabot Cove. But when Rory Brent is found shot to death on his farm, there will be no peace on earth until his killer is found. Snooping into the small town’s past for a motive, Jessica is determined to deliver the killer before Christmas. The trouble is, the next sound she hears this silent night may be a scream—her own…

Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke

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Goodreads Description:

Holiday business is booming at Hannah Swenson’s Cookie Jar pastry shop, but the mysterious murder of “Lunatic Larry” Jaeger puts a serious crimp in the season of good cheer. From the looks of it, Larry had as many enemies as Hannah’s sugar cookies have sprinkles. With the 12 days of Christmas ticking down and cookie orders piling up, tracking down the killer won’t be easy.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! I know it’s been unusual and perhaps a little lonely for many of us, but there’s still a lot of Christmas magic all around. Do you have a great Christmas book you’ve read this year? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

-Tiffany

Personal, Update

Upcoming Published Poems

Welcome to day 137(?) of quarantine! While the need to social distance has made it seem like time is now irrelevant (seriously, I’m thinking about buying day-of-the-week underwear to help me keep track), I’m excited to announce that I’ve found homes for two poems:

I’ll be featured in the next issue of Poetry Quarterly as well as the “For a Better World 2020” anthology by SOS Art Cincinnati.

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Photo by Nóra Zahradník on Pexels.com

This has been a strange year for us all! But I’ve honestly been enjoying the extra quiet time at home to explore different creative avenues. Becoming a publisher this year with Ephemeral Elegies has been an exciting new challenge, and I’ve been continuing my charity knitting projects with Warm Up Ohio. I’ve also been doing a lot of editing for Suburban Secrets, my debut novel coming out this summer.

The world may seem kind of stuck right now – but that doesn’t have to mean we remain creatively immobile. What are some passion projects you’re excited to be working on? Please, feel free to share in the comment section. I think that we should all be celebrating any sort of victory or milestone these days, and I’d love to know how to cheer for you!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany