blog tour, books

Blog Tour: Pacific – Trevor J Houser


“Very heartfelt and amazing story, loved it.” –Gus Van Sant

“If you are a father, or know one, Trevor Houser’s Pacific, is a wild, quixotic ride that will challenge your understanding of what it is to be a parent.” 

–Larry Colton, author of Southern League and Counting Coup

Would you be willing to kidnap your child and take them halfway across the globe for a chance at saving his life when everyone else has given up? When it means you may lose everything regardless of the outcome? Pacific by Trevor J. Houser (November 23, 2021, Unsolicited Press) discovers what a desperate father is willing to do to save his son…even if it means braving deadly storms at home and on the run.

On a remote Puget Sound Island, police chief Bell navigates his job and marriage in the wake of his son’s near-death brain surgery. When his wife no longer wants to tempt the fates of experimental medicine, he takes matters into his own hands. With the help of his spaced-out fisherman friend, Bell kidnaps his boy and sets sail for Guatemala in search of the mysterious Dr. Haas. On the way, they’ll brave the seventh biggest storm, befriend two behemoth fly-fishing Nords, and try to outrun the ex-Navy captain hired by his wife to find them.

With mesmerizing descriptions of the Pacific Northwest, Central America, and the miles in between, Houser captures the heartbreak and hope of a desperate parent, while still maintaining a sense of dark humor and playful language that turns the mundane into something mythic. For fans of Denis Johnson, Richard Brautigan and Jenny Offill, Pacific reminds us that there’s magic, beauty and hope in the world, if we’re just willing to go and look for it.

Trevor J. Houser is an advertising copywriter living with his family in Seattle, WA. He studied creative writing under Thomas Beller at Columbia University. His stories have been published in dozens of literary journals, including Zyzzyva, Story Quarterly, and The Dr. TJ Eckleburg Review. He’s been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. He also received special mention in Best American Fantasy Vol. 2. You can find the author on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and at Pacific is his debut novel.

Author Q & A

Question: This is your debut novel. How did writing a full-length piece differ from the short stories and other pieces you have published?

Trevor J. Houser: Although this is my first published novel most novelists have a closetful of novels they’ve already written that didn’t make it for one reason or another. For me the biggest difference in writing a novel is maintaining the energy of that initial idea. To maintain the consistency of that voice, of that style over the course of many months.

Q: Family and fatherhood is a major theme throughout Pacific. Did your own family life inspire your writing for this book?

TJH: I have a son who was diagnosed with a rare brain disease. After years of navigating all the unknowns and not really writing there was suddenly some light at the end of the tunnel with his prognosis and soon after I found myself writing this book. Pacific is somewhat based on the experiences we’ve been through with our son, but a lot of it is the made-up fantasy of a parent who wishes they could do something more just than talk to a million doctors and not sleep at night. Even though the way in which Chief Bell shows his love for his son might be considered unconventional, it demonstrates how fathers are just as capable as mothers in the depths of their feelings and devotion.

Q: How did the Pacific Northwest influence your story?

TJH: I grew up in Oregon, but afer leaving for college I lived for years in places like New York, San Francisco and Argentina. When I returned to the Pacific Northwest with my family a few years ago I think I forgot just how exotic and rich this place is. It took being away for so long to appreciate the strange beauty of it, which is what I hoped this book would be: strange and beautiful.

Q: Fans of which authors/books do you think would enjoy Pacific and why?

TJH: Hopefully fans of authors such as Kate Jennings and Jenny Offill will like it because of their sentence level precision in telling stories of hope and heartbreak. Donald Barthelme and Richard Brautigan for their playfulness with language and form, and their sense of humor. Denis Johnson for his melancholy strangeness. All my favorite writers tend to elevate the everyday through their language to make the mundane transcendent. To make regular life almost mythic. It’s something I try to accomplish on a sentence level and keep building it so that courses through the entire narrative

Q: What’s next for you and Pacific?

TJH: My second novel is coming out in 2023. It’s about a math hobbyist, who believes he’s discovered a theorem that might predict when and where the next mass shooting takes place.

Excerpt- Chapter One

I have a family. In the gray island-mists north of Seattle I have them. We bought a house in a place called Wolf Island with big Asian maples overlooking Padilla Bay. That first spring I drank wine on the porch and felt so proud. Sunlight through the mist and mossy trees. Feeling like life made sense. Do you know that feeling?
Except now we have a child who might die.
No one is sure. So many children die. But this is our child, so it’s different.
He has a rare brain disease. Like so rare if you say it in most hospitals they look at you with eyes that are kind but vacant, like a trout’s eyes as you lower it back into a cold spring stream.
Now I sit on street corners. I sit there and look at mountains or apartment buildings between me and the mountains. I sit there and look at cars and houses and lawnmowers with icicles on them.
Once we spoke to the doctors and they laughed. We all tried to laugh. We all tried to make it like it was something we could control. It was something humans had power over like the stock market or electronica. It was something that didn’t make you want to go back in time to when the world was saturated and beautiful and untouched.
That was a different person. That was a person putting a little blue sweater on this boy. He hated hats. He hated putting on shoes. He hated so many things.
Now we go to the doctor and laugh.
He looks at nurses and makes jokes and runs up and down the halls and they laugh. Bells. Stars. Planets go by. He is underneath all of that and he shows God what it means. God probably looks down. God looks down, I’m sure. God watches him and his rare diseased brain that is so rare and diseased his pediatrician had never heard of it.
One afternoon, I cried over the sink while eating an avocado.
It was an old avocado that I ate still in its cling wrap as more clouds formed above our small, lumpy yard. I was eating the avocado and looking out at our yard, the mysterious lumps, the sky, the trees. I just sort of smooshed half the avocado into my mouth, thinking of my son. His brain has blood vessels that are too large. His small heart. His small heart is so small.
I could become important. I could drive a speedboat over an iceberg with the Dave Matthews Band playing on the prow and nothing would change. I could become a Navy Seal, the best ever, and his brain would still have too much blood inside it. Those vessels would become enlarged.
His eyes would widen as we watch some muted game show on the TV that’s bolted to the wall surrounded by other children facing the possibility of death. His brain would expand. Or it already has.
On Sundays, we play Captain America.
He has the pajamas with the stars and stripes. He runs so fast and jumps nearly over the bed. He runs and jumps on the bed and makes this noise that isn’t a scream but has the same energy of a scream.
He makes noise.
He jumps and laughs.
blog tour, books

Blog Tour: The Lost Girls – Heather Young

A decades-old mystery of a missing six-year-old haunts a family for generations

In 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys the family – her father takes his own life, and her mother and two older sisters spend the rest of their lives at the lake house, keeping a decades-long vigil for the lost child. Sixty years later, Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before her death, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person who might care: her grandniece, Justine. For Justine, the lake house offers freedom and stability – a way to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the home she never had. But the long Minnesota winter is just beginning. e house is cold and dilapidated. e dark, silent lake is isolated and eerie. Her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more about the summer of 1935 than he’s telling.

Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives to steal her inheritance, and the man she left launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house haunted by the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.

HEATHER YOUNG is the author of two novels. Her debut, The Lost Girls, won the Strand Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for an Edgar Award. Her second novel, The Distant Dead has also been nominated for the 2021 Edgar Award for Best Novel. A former antitrust and intellectual property litigator, she traded the legal world for the literary one and earned her MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars in 2011. She lives in Mill Valley, California, where she writes, bikes, hikes, and reads books by other people that she wishes she’d written. @HYoungwriter

Q & A with author Heather Young

1. Who do you think is your ideal reader? 

Oh, good question! I’m grateful to everyone who picks up my book and keeps
turning the pages. I think the people most likely to do that are people who like slow-building, tense stories that dive deep into their characters and explore the reasons why they behave the way they do. In other words, people who like the psychological aspect of psychological thrillers.

2. What books and authors inspired you?

Mystery writers who create vivid, well-rounded characters, like Kate Atkinson and Tana French, and literary writers like Marilynne Robinson and Kazuo Ishiguro who render complex emotions with understated language. I will never write as well as any of these folks, of course, but I think reading them does help me write a little better.

3. What is your favorite place to read? 

Twenty years ago, my husband and I bought an old Victorian house that needed a lot of work. At the end of the renovation, I asked my father, a lawyer by day and carpenter by night, to build me a library so I would finally have a place to put all the books I’d been lugging around in boxes since I was twenty. He built me a masterpiece, a true Edgar Allen Poe Victorian book lair. It’s my favorite place to read and write.

Heather’s library, photo from the author. I am so envious, it looks amazing.

4. How has the pandemic affected your reading (and writing) habits?

I found it very difficult to focus on reading — the stress and uncertainty that hung over everything murdered my attention span. I typically read 40-50 books a year, and in 2020 I think I read five. 2021 has been much better, thank goodness. The same went for writing, although there the problem was that my husband and college-student son were suddenly working and studying in the rooms where I liked to write. But my son eventually went back to college and my husband I have worked out our respective workspaces, so that’s been better, too.

5. As a writer what drew you to the genre your book is in? 

I’ve always been a mystery reader, but I have to say I didn’t really see The Lost Girls as a mystery until my publisher started promoting it that way. To me it was a book about family, and how secrets and misguided loyalties can poison the lives of generations. I do think, though, that crafting a story around a murder is a great way to expose who your characters really are behind their polite facades. What makes an otherwise ordinary person commit the most heinous of crimes? What makes someone else keep the truth about that crime a secret? Loyalties, debts, regrets, pride, selfishness – all of these play a part, and they’re all heightened when there’s a murder involved.

6. When planning your next book do you do lots of research in advance or do you do that as needed? 

For the most part I research as I go. That’s what’s great about the internet; I can pause in the middle of a sentence and look up what bathing suits were like in the 1930s. Also, if I’m feeling blocked, I can put my novel on hold while I read a book about the Great Depression or comb through the Bible for verses my Puritanical character can obsess over, and still feel like I’m making progress.

7. And finally, are you currently working on a new book and if so, can you say anything about it? 

Yes! My next novel is set in a small town in Iowa during the second world war. Like The Lost Girls,  it’s something of a coming of age story, as a young girl confronts prejudice and the dark side of patriotism as a member of an “outsider” family. Throw in the murders of several young Mexican orphans and her brother’s secret life and I hope I end up with something that offers a slightly different perspective on World War II than those of the many excellent novels I’ve read that examine this era. 

Thank you so much to Heather for answering my questions and giving us all a glimpse into her life and work.

blogging, life

The Procrastinating Beauty Blogger Tag

The lovely Laura of Style Breakdown posted this tag post on her blog. As I am a famous procrastinator I thought I’d answer the questions as she suggested. If you like it, please do the same.

1. Name the beauty regiment that you rarely do.

I am always planning to apply a face mask to deep clean my face and rarely do because I am lazy.

2. Is washing your makeup brushes something you rarely do?

Yes, although Sal and Tifa would probably tell me off. I put off doing this all the time.

3. How long will you last with chipped nail polish?

Depends how annoying it is, I have been known to pick at the chips and make it worse, needing to repair the damage sooner.

4. How long will you put off buying/repurchasing a beauty product, even if you need it?

Not long, I tend to have a spare waiting in the wings, but if something really run out then it’s off to Boots I go.

5. What is your worst beauty habit?

I pick and poke any lumps or spots threatening to appear. I know I should leave my face alone but I can’t.

6. Name something non-beauty related that you put off doing all the time?

Taking out the recycling, only when it’s overflowing do I run out to the bins. Just sheer laziness.

7. When going out somewhere do you put off getting ready to the last minute?

Not really, I get anxious about being on time so often rush to get ready but I invariably forget something and have to rush around at the last moment.

8. Can you commit to a spending ban?

As long as nothing essential runs out, sure, but essentials must be repurchased.

9. How organised are your beauty/nail polish collections?

Not as organised as my brain in its analytical obsessiveness would like, but I’m working on getting it so.

I hope some of you lovely people take this tag up and have some fun with it. Thanks for reading.