February Is for Feminist Horror
New booktails THE MANNINGTREE WITCHES and THE HANDMAID'S TALE, plus THE GOLD PERSIMMON audio, a Booktail Raffle, and Author News from the Booktail Library!
Welcome back to The Cauldron! (Glug glug, hearts, glug…)
If you thought February was for lovers, well… you thought wrong! BWAH HAH HAH! I mean, ok, love wins and all. Plus Valentines = loads of candy so, I can’t complain. However, did you know the origins of Valentine’s Day are, shall we say, less than cutesy? According to NPR, “From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.” But wait, it gets better—I mean, worse:
The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right.
If that isn’t the stuff of feminist horror, I don’t know what is! Speaking of…
Special Treat: Listen to a snippet of THE GOLD PERSIMMON
Through a chance email introduction the day THE GOLD PERSIMMON launched, I was fortunate to connect with actress Nicky Endres. In addition to a recurring role on One Day at a Time (Netflix; PopTV), notable guest appearances include The Dropout (Hulu) and NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), plus recent credits on Lucifer (Netflix) and On the Verge (Netflix). She has also added audiobooks to her repertoire. I was thrilled/shocked/over the moon when she shared this clip with me from THE GOLD PERSIMMON. You’ve got to listen to it, it turns my prose into poetic theater. It’s a kind of adaptation, or work in translation. And it’s SO good!
Last call for $10 booktail raffle tickets! Get your tickets by Valentine’s Day! A winner will receive their booktail within six weeks of the drawing. See link for rules and requirements.
Yes, you can buy more than one ticket!
Yes, you can buy tickets on behalf of someone else’s book! I just need an ARC of some form, somehow.
Yes, you can request a mocktail!
Hey, while you’re browsing in my shop, don’t forget to check out the new Imbolc recipe deck! (Ostara deck coming soon!) Blessed Imbolc to all! Light a fire, or a candle—have I mentioned pagans love fire?—and enjoy an elixir.
News from the Library
Featuring news and updates on the authors and their booktail-ized books!
THE BADDEST GIRL ON THE PLANET by Heather Frese recently came out in paperback and was named one of the Women’s National Book Association’s Great Group Reads!
THE BADDEST GIRL ON THE PLANET is a coming of age novel set on the Outer Banks of NC. When Evie Austin meets Mike Tyson as a young girl, it sets her on a collision course with a bad reputation that follows her for years in her small island community. Through the course of her relationships, Evie must navigate and reclaim what it means to be “bad.”
Andromeda Romano-Lax’s ANNIE AND THE WOLVES is out in paperback now!
Ruth McClintock is obsessed with Annie Oakley. For nearly a decade, she has been studying the legendary sharpshooter, convinced that a traumatic childhood event was the impetus for her crusade to arm every woman in America. This search has cost Ruth her doctorate, a book deal, and her fiancé—but finally it has borne fruit. She has managed to hunt down what may be a journal written during Oakley’s midlife struggles, including secret visits to a psychoanalyst and the desire for vengeance against the “Wolves,” or those who have wronged her.
With the help of a tech-savvy senior at the local high school, Ruth attempts to establish the journal’s provenance, but she’s begun to have jarring out-of-body episodes parallel to Annie’s own lived experiences. As she solves Annie’s mysteries, Ruth confronts her own truths, including the link between her teenage sister’s suicide and an impending tragedy in her Minnesota town.
THE SPEED OF LIGHT by Elissa Grossell Dickey is coming out in Estonia in March!
In THE SPEED OF LIGHT, Simone is grappling with a diagnosis of MS, while contemplating love found and lost. Wondering where life is taking her and what else she might have to give up, she finds herself suddenly thrown into an active shooter situation at work. Hiding in terror, fearful for her friends and colleagues, Simone begins to take stock of her life and how her path has brought her to this moment in time.
Sari Fordham’s memoir WAIT FOR GOD TO NOTICE is a finalist for the Women's Book Awards!
WAIT FOR GOD TO NOTICE is a self-reflective and riveting story of the legacy of colonization and the dangers of misguided good intentions, but above all it is the story of a person finding herself and her mother, and coming to understand their identities against a backdrop of conflicting narratives and secrets.
Thirsty Yet? It’s Booktail Time!
In A.K. Blakemore’s THE MANNINGTREE WITCHES, young Rebecca and her surly, hard-drinking mother find themselves accused of witchcraft after their village falls under the spell of a mysterious and aloof witch hunter called Matthew Hopkins. Ravaged by civil war and hunger, the community is ripe for hysteria and eager for scapegoats to heap blame upon for their misfortunes — and poor, unattached women are the perfect targets. As a narrator and protagonist, Rebecca’s voice is compelling and real, like a 17th century English Scheherazade desperately whispering her tale in your ear. Based on true historical figures brought to life with prose that cuts like a knife, this novel is as rousing as it is compelling. Ultimately, this is a story about women’s interior lives under subjugation and the choices they each make when they really have no choices at all: “There is a pattern to it, like with knitting, a language of it, and it is women’s, and held secret and grey-pink as guts.”
This booktail is made with Tennessee whiskey for the promise and the trap of the Americas, mixed with rosemary pear syrup: “rosemary stands for remembrance,” Rebecca tells the reader, sharing a story she’ll never forget, not about herself, but a rosemary bush and her mother’s crooked nose. Pear references bowls of stewed pears offered by curious neighbors during the trials of a supposedly bewitched boy, the one Rebecca and her mother are accused of hexing. The whiskey and syrup are topped with Oude Kriek lambic beer, one of the oldest beers still widely available for sale, a nod to the abundant beer references in the novel. Oude Kriek is a sour cherry beer, as cherries appear in Hopkins’ gruesome fantasy of a witches’ feast. His own coin pays for real-life cherries, among other delectable treats.
Set against a woodland backdrop with the novel standing amongst the greenery, this cocktail is framed by evergreen boughs and pine cones, as in the woods where sin hides and devils fly. The drink sits atop a felt leaf, with a rosemary garnish. An apple with a bloody bite taken out of it looms over the cocktail at the center of this tableau, a reminder of the consequences of Eve’s daring. Hopkins also “tests” a collection of apples when assessing Rebecca’s capacity as a witch. Meanwhile, she dreams of a neighbor woman picking an apple from a mystical tree.
THE MANNINGTREE WITCHES
1.5 oz Tennessee whiskey
2 oz Oude Kriek lambic beer
1 oz rosemary pear syrup (see recipe)
Prepare the syrup. Once it’s cool, fill a tall glass halfway with ice. Add the whiskey and pear syrup, then gently stir until mixed. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with the beer. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
2 ripe Anjou pears, peeled and cored
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
1 sprig of rosemary
Mix the pears in a blender until smooth. Add a quarter cup of water if necessary. Then stir together the pear purée, water, sugar, lemon, and rosemary sprig in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Once cool, strain through a mesh strainer to remove any remaining pulp, stirring as needed. Store in a clean glass or jar and keep refrigerated.
The first time I read Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE was in high school. I remember how it slowly revealed itself to me in all its splendid horror. As an author of feminist horror — something I did not plan but simply fell into because I write what I write and can’t write any other way — I know this novel as a kind of ancestor. Reading it anew for the purpose of teaching it, I marveled at Atwood’s language, the way she describes an image not once, but with multiple similes and metaphors in a row, forcing you to look again and again; her liberal yet deliberate use of commas, inserting pauses where she saw fit to take a breath from the unspeakable. Flaws appeared more prominently as well: the erasure of women of color, including the conversion of the historical underground railroad to a lifeline for white women.
This booktail is made with scotch, the Commander’s favorite liquor, and pear syrup to reference the bland, infantilizing, school-like meals served to the novel’s protagonist, whose true name we never learn. Orange bitters reference the rare, bright fruit she finds at the Milk and Honey market on the fateful day she first becomes aware of the resistance.
Cocooned in red, like the interior of a womb, this booktail is garnished with a dripping square of honeycomb for the Milk and Honey market where the handmaids shop. The cocktail pick spearing the honeycomb ends in an all-seeing gold eye: “under his eye,” as they say.
THE HANDMAID’S TALE
2 oz scotch
1 oz pear syrup (see recipe)
A few dashes Strongwater orange bitters
First, prepare the syrup. Once it’s cool, fill a mixing glass halfway with ice. Add the Scotch, syrup, and bitters. Stir gently then strain into a glass and garnish with a lemon peel.
2 ripe Anjou pears, peeled and cored
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
Mix the pears in a blender until smooth. Add a quarter cup of water if necessary. Then stir together the pear purée, water, sugar, and lemon in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Once cool, strain through a mesh strainer to remove any remaining pulp, stirring as needed. Store in a clean glass or jar and keep refrigerated.