Welcome Back, Martha Moody

Tue 1 Dec 2020 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

IMartha Moody cover - click to view full sizet’s (re)publication day for Susan Stinson’s novel Martha Moody! Join us on Thursday at 7 p.m. for an online celebration with Susan and Elizabeth McCracken. This is the 25th anniversary of the original edition from Spinsters Ink and we’re delighted to bring this sexy historical novel to a new generation of readers.

We are shipping preorders this week. For the curious, here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:

One

I was crouched next to the creek baiting my hook with a hunk of fat when I heard a rustling on the bank upstream. I turned my head and saw Martha Moody looking into the water.
She was a heavy woman bound up with dry and perishable goods, the owner of Moody’s General Store. Her red hair was pulled into a bun and she wore a black dress with jet buttons that reflected light.
I was embarrassed to be caught fishing on Sunday with mud on my skirt, so I hid behind a cottonwood. Martha leaned over, unlaced her shoes, and rolled down her stockings. I watched as she tucked them beneath the root of a tree, then bunched her skirt up in one hand and stepped into the water.
Dirt trickled into my collar from the bank, but I stood still. I could see the white blurs of her feet as she waded towards me. She moved with calm propriety: a large, plain, respectable woman from the nape of her neck down to her knees. She dropped her skirt. It floated and plastered itself to her shins, a changed, molded thing.
Martha moved more slowly as her skirt got soaked, but she was not ponderous, the way she was behind the counter at the store. When Martha said, “Don’t lean on the glass,” even the sheriff jumped back. Now she kicked at her hem, splashing herself a little and nearly slipping on a rock.
She stopped within breathing distance of me, at a spot where the water took a drop over rocks. Fish hid in the deep place behind the falling water, and I had been luring them onto my hook. Martha tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, squatted down and went over face first. I put my mouth against the tree bark to keep from calling out as she passed me, covered with white foam and scraping sand. She came up spitting and laughing, and grabbed the bank to hold herself under the falls.
I heard her say, “Frowsy,” then laugh more. She sat in the stream bed with the water rushing down, rushing over her. The sky was blue against the hard edge of the bank. I opened my creel, seized a fish, and threw it back into the water. It skidded past her. She turned her face and another one slapped her neck, then washed on past. She got on her knees, sinking in the soft bottom, and fish after fish swam past her. Big silver, small brown.
Martha stood. I stepped into an open spot on the bank so she could see me reaching into the creel and tossing another fish into the water with a high arc. I straightened the bow at the waist of my old calico, then tilted the creel towards Martha to show her that it was empty except for a few wet rushes on the bottom.
She stared at me, dripping water, as silver flashed over her feet. “Mrs. Linger, why are you throwing fish?” Her tone was cool. I felt like a kid caught with a pocketful of lemon drops I hadn’t paid for.
I walked down the bank to her, wiping my hands on my skirt. I couldn’t think of a good lie. The truth was, I wanted to add those shining bits of life to the picture Martha Moody was making with the water. I knew when a moment was ripe, which was how I came to be fishing when most decent women were getting supper on the table. “Why are you in the creek?”
Martha touched her glistening buttons. “For the poetry of the moment.”
I nodded and reached to help her onto the bank. She grabbed my fingers so hard that I thought she was going to pull me into the water with her, but she just held on and dug her feet deeper into the mud. “I’m not ready to get out, Amanda Linger. Are you coming in?”
I pulled my hand away and stuck it in my dry pocket. I never rose to a dare. Martha stood there like she was a tree that had been bending the water around her since before Jesus walked in his own thunder and waves. I could see the outline of her corset through the fabric of her dress. I picked up my fishing pole. “I have to get to my milking.”
Martha pulled one foot loose from the mud and held it under the fall to rinse it. I could smell the wet fabric of her skirt. Her hair was still knotted away from her face. “Milk. Yes.” Her chin was soft and white. “Good day, then, Mrs. Linger.”
I climbed the bank, inspired. “Good day.”
After I left Martha Moody standing in the water, I hurried to the barn without going to the house. Miss Alice was waiting for me at the fence, bawling and looking at me with her yellow-flecked eyes. Her days had a strict rhythm, and she hated it when I was late.
I walked towards her with a cow swagger, swishing my pole behind me like a tail, bawling in answer. I opened the gate and she lowered her head to butt against my hip. “All right, Alice, yes, Pretty Alice, I know you’re hungry.”
I brought her a bucket of oats, then stood next to her with my hands in my armpits to warm them before I pulled up the stool. I rubbed my face against her hide. She smelled live and pungent.
Miss Alice gave more milk if I had a story to tell. We had been through most of the Bible, with special attention to mentions of kine and golden calves, as I squatted next to her mornings and evenings working her teats. I talked to help Miss Alice let her milk down. If she held back, it soured her bag for the next milking.
That night I told her the history of Martha Moody as I understood it from the conjectures of the ladies of the town.
Before she founded Moody, Martha had been a woman who liked a good apple pie with thick cream, but didn’t have the grass to feed a cow. She had dried milk, but never cream, and she had suffered from grasshoppers and sparseness of joy.
Martha herself had never been sparse. She had been a fat city girl with red hair, acquainted with the Bible but also with the pleasures of ices and store-bought tarts. She had eaten turtle soup. She had dressed in white to shoot a bow and arrow, and had hit the mark. Her prowess in the fashionable sport of archery pleased her father, who was a lapsed Methodist with a gold watch fob and social ambitions. But Martha had met Wilbur Moody in a dry goods store, and he had come around the counter to hand her a bolt of cornflower blue cloth. She was married to him in a dress of that material in the spring. She didn’t miss the grey city she left with Wilbur, toting dry goods, but she did miss cream. She liked the West. She nodded at the big sky. She asked nothing of the mountains, except that they keep her pointed straight away from the city and let her survive the pass. She came a good distance, then said it was enough. She was walking beside the wagon, singing to herself in a dry voice that had carried her across a lot of country. Wilbur was up on the seat, driving the oxen. They reached a creek. Water was news and a reason to stop. There were some small trees, maybe from a seed dropped by some other traveller. Martha looked at the sharp limbs and grey bark, and decided that this was enough to satisfy her need for company. She would winter here. Wilbur was gold-hungry and land-bored. He’d seen enough water in the East, although he filled every container he could find with the stuff. The rest of the party put their wagons in a circle, built fires, and spoke against leaving Martha for dead. But she had provisions, time to dig a sod house before the ground froze, and she had gone as far as she was willing to go. Wilbur knew better than to speak of love, but he did mention family honor. The sound of the water bordered the night.
She took some bolts of material, and the panes of glass she had packed with good quilts for padding, because she thought windows were worth the trouble and cold they leaked. She took a barrel of beans and a barrel of meal, and the dried milk. Wilbur poured half of each packet of seed into its own tin cup and lined them up in front of her on the ground.
“Martha,” he said, “you can’t live on seeds and water, so I hope you can live on your fat.”
“I’ll need Shakespeare and the Bible,” she said. He gave her a hand digging a hole for a shelter, shoring it up with posts that came off the siding of the wagon. The rest of the party was already a morning ahead, so he looked into her brown eyes, wishing they were cornflower blue, gave her a kiss and rode off, rattling.
Martha picked up her shovel, thinking of barrel tables and barrel chairs, without a thought of who she might be cheating in claiming this land or who she might be seeding in her dry goods store by the stream. She didn’t bother with naming, either, but people passing, and those staying, said “Moody” to tell where they were.



All Change at the Top

Tue 3 Sep 2019 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

This is the top of our website yesterday:

And this is how it looks today:

Yes, we have 2 new books out today: the North American edition of Kim Scott’s award-winning novel Taboo and the huuuuge paperback edition of Sarah Rees Brennan’s In Other Lands — the latter comes with an extra short story, “Wings in the Morning,” originally published in Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales (also just out in paperback).

Taboo was a lovely surprise, it came to us in January and later came the news that Kim might be attending the Library of Congress Book Fest in DC in August — which he did, this past weekend, that was fun. The novel is immersive, different, and ticks a lot of the boxes that make us and our readers happy. As Kim does events in the next week in Charlottesville, VA, Easthampton, MA, and Brooklyn, NY, I can’t wait to see how North America reacts to it.

In Other Lands went through three printings in hardcover and has already earned out its audio advance. The paperback slipped out early since Sarah’s latest novel, Season of the Witch: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1, came out in July — there’s a second in December — and we wanted to make it easy for readers to find the huge new paperback. So far the paperback is flying off the shelf and more stores are adding it each week. Readers sure like novels so it’s fun to have these two both out today, both so differently brilliant.



Life Was So Wonderful

Tue 19 Feb 2019 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Earth Logic cover - In 2004 I was still the science fiction and fantasy reviewer for BookPage and was very happy to see that Laurie J. Marks was about to publish her second Elemental Logic novel Earth Logic. I jumped on the opportunity to review it:

Laurie Marks’s rich and affecting new novel Earth Logic is the second book in her Elemental Logic series which began with Fire Logic (warmly reviewed here in May 2002). . . . Earth Logic is a thought-provoking and sometimes heartbreaking political novel which absorbingly examines the dynamics between two groups of people. Good bread, wine and friendships alone may not save the world, but they make the doing of it much more palatable.

At the end of 2010 Laurie’s agent contacted us with the news that rights to Fire Logic and Earth Logic were available and were we interested in them since we had published the third novel in the series, Water Logic?

Yes!

We started talking with the ever excellent Kathleen Jennings about covers for the whole series and we slowly moved to re-release them, first as ebooks, and now, with the publication of Air Logic in sight(!), in new print editions.

Every time I work on any of these four novels I am drawn once again into the stories within stories. Sometimes readers who don’t read fantasy novels ask why I love to read them and page after page these books provide such a strong answer. Here is a story of power held, relinquished, and shared. A story of families found, lost, made, and remade. A meeting of enemies who must learn to live with one another, or die trying. A story of those at the top, those at the bottom, and those that feed them. These are stories that were relevant when published and even more so now.

So on this cold day here in Western Massachusetts, where the temperature is definitely still below freezing — with all the pre-orders shipped, new review copies all sent out, and the book itself wending its way to your favorite indie bookstore — we raise a cup of tea to the (re)publication of Laurie J. Marks’s second Elemental Logic novel, Earth Logic.



The Unreal and the Real: Publication Day

Tue 27 Nov 2012 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

It is amazing to sit here and think about these two books being out in the world. The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin Volume One: Where on Earth and Volume Two: Outer Space, Inner Lands.

There are many people we owe thanks to for their help and patience as this rather big book came slowly into sight: Ursula K. Le Guin, of course, and her agent, Vaughne Lee Hansen of the Virginia Kidd Agency; John D. Berry for designing the covers; Tugboat Printshop for the use of their art; and Michael J. DeLuca, Julie Day, Kelly Lagor, Anne Horowitz, Julia Patt, and Georgiana Lee for last minute help.

Should you wish signed copies, you should keep an eye on Ursula’s calendar. Her next reading is at Powell’s City of Books on January 6, 2013.

Now the books are out and getting read and reviewed widely, selling like hot cakes, and generally behaving as if, yes, it is incredibly obvious that such books would be well received, it is an immense relief and a hell of a way to end the year on.

Because, besides an upcoming issue of LCRW, this (these!) is (are!) the last book(s!) from us for 2012. (Ok, ok, so we’re well into our 2013 books and buying books for 2014, what’s your point?) Whether you read these books in their lovely hardcover editions or download them as ebooks, I hope you enjoy them as much as we have.

The Unreal and the Real: Where on Earth cover - click to view full size The Unreal and the Real: Outer Space, Inner Lands cover - click to view full size