Sideshow Hits the Road!

Untitled
Today’s the day!

My little novel sideshow is hitting the road and going out into the world. I can’t imagine a prouder day for an author than the day their book grows its wings and takes flight into the wild. </mixed metaphors.>

I have been quite the mix of nervous anticipation and utter exhilarated joy for quite awhile and now the whole cavalcade of emotions is rushing around. It’s actually a pretty great feeling.

I won’t hold you up too long. Mainly because, right now, all I can do is gush about how excited I am for you all to read my book.  So without further adieu, today’s Virtual Book Tour stops! We will be hosting new stops until September 7th, so be sure to check out all of these wonderful blogs.

Today’s virtual book tour stops:

SideshowCoverThe Novel Approach  In which I talk about my love of stuffed artichokes and explain how to make them

Unquietly Me In which I discuss Suprema’s first carnival act and the influence of Newsies on my writing.

Velvet Panic In which I discuss the 10 moments that stayed with me from literature I have read.

Bayou Book Junkie  In which I discuss how hard it is to come up with a title.

 

 

And if you haven’t ordered your copy yet, there are plenty of ways to do so: Interlude Press  || Amazon  || Barnes and Noble|| Smashwords || All Romance eBooks || Indiebound

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Step Right Up and Meet McClure’s Amusements

Hunt Bros. Circus side show about 1955
Photo Credit: CharmaineZoe’s Marvelous Melange

As Della says, “an carnival doesn’t run with extra parts.”

McClure’s Amusements is no exception. In order for the show to travel from place to place and give the locals a unique and fun experience, it requires a large cast of characters. I knew this from day one of writing, so I began an Evernote file entitled “Carnival Cast” to make sure I had the right idea for the rest of the ensemble. We will probably hear more from these characters in the coming weeks, but for now, here’s a sneak peek at just a few of the interesting people who keep the operation running direct from my early draft notes:

Sofia & Michael McClure: In the mid-1930s, the McClures sank their last dime into buying out the bankrupt traveling carnival they worked for, now they are in charge of day-to-day operations. A former performer, Sofia is more of a public face. Michael is more concerned with the business side and is rarely seen outside of his trailer.

Boleslaw Wolski: Suprema’s uncle. Though his brother went into farming, Boleslaw and his wife, Ida, joined the carnival circuit eventually settling with the McClures. Boleslaw is both one of the lot managers and a human blockhead.

Alejo Lambrinos: The Fire-eater. Alejo grew up as part of a traveling show in Europe, honing his craft. Then his family immigrated when he was a teenager. Though his wife passed away many years ago, he is not lonely. He is accompanied in his travels by his daughter Constance, her beloved Ruth and their ward, Phebe.

Constance Lambrinos:  A year since our first meeting in “Fire-Eater’s Daughter,” Constance is very happy with her life with Ruth. She performs more regularly now.

Ruth Pasternak: A year has passed and Ruth is more confident than ever that she made the right decision. She still misses her mother, of course, but her life with Constance and the carnival is a very happy one. She will be helpful getting Abby acclimated.

Phebe Lambrinos: About 8, she was abandoned by her parents when the carnival was stopped in Morgantown and taken in by the Lambrinos family. Ruth and Constance consider her their daughter.

 

At the Vermont state fair, Rutland, "backstage" at the "girlie" show (LOC)
Photo Credit: Library of Congress (Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Collection)

 

Della Adamson: The mercurial daughter of a former trapeze artist, Della grew up in small town West Virginia and is now the star of the “Girl Show.” Desperate to achieve her mother’s lost glory at any price.

The Other Girl Show Girls: Celia Mendez (dancer, knife thrower), Trixie Rose (comedian), Vivian Hawthorne (poet, writes erotica)

Vincenzo “Vinnie” Corelli: A clown. Though Vinnie has suffered a great deal of loss in his storied life (immigrated from Italy as a young man, lost the love of his life to WWI, spent time as a tramp, etc), he is genuinely friendly and wants to see others (especially Suprema) happy.

Jimmy Manderly: Ride Jockey. Operates a dark ride, the Haunted Train. A charmer.

Gregor Dali: Strongman and snake charmer; is actually a family man deep down, but you wouldn’t know it to meet him.

A few other “Carnival Cast” characters were added over the course of writing the novel, but with this large of an ensemble, you can see why I needed to keep notes.

Barker at the grounds of the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC)
Photo Credit: Library of Congress (Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Collection)

Sideshow is available now for pre-order from Interlude Press. Be sure to reserve your copy today.

Meet Suprema Wolski: The Strongwoman

We’ve talked a bit about the setting of Sideshow. Let’s take a look at the characters.

Suprema - Headshot Sketch

When Abby and her brother attend the Athletic Show at McClure’s Amusements, the “astonishingly pretty” referee happens to catch her eye. She has no idea the role that this reserved and troubled young woman would play in her future, but she does know that her presence is hard to ignore.

Vulcana(1875-1946) - An early performer Suprema would have admired and one of my inspirations for Suprema's character.
Vulcana (1875-1946) – An early performer Suprema would have admired and one of my inspirations for Suprema’s character.

Beverly Agnes Wolski did not have a great relationship with her parents growing up. Luckily, she had her Uncle Boleslaw and Aunt Ida, who took her from the struggling farm she called home and taught her to get along as part of the carnival world. She started off fortune telling with her aunt, but quickly moved on to a sideshow act as a strongwoman, taking the name Suprema. She took to the act easily, using the performance (and training for it – there is no gaff to Suprema’s routine) as a means of reclaiming the strength and assertiveness she wasn’t allowed in her childhood.

Despite her weaknesses for soda and comics (especially romance comics, but don’t tell) and her commanding stage presence, Suprema is often cold and reserved in person. She has suffered loss in her life and is afraid to get close to others, so she is far more likely to lash out than be vulnerable. When Abby is able to be vulnerable around her, she unexpectedly finds herself softening and allowing this new and intriguing person into her world.

Sideshow is available now for pre-order from Interlude Press. Be sure to reserve your copy today.

Traveling with the Caravan: Getting Around With McClure’s Amusements

Sheboygan Press June 12 1914
Sheboygan Press June 12 1914

Stories of the traveling carnival are imbued with a certain mythological essence, and much as it does with road trip tales, travel memoirs, wagon train westerns, and memoirs of adventurous feats like climbing Everest, the secret of this essence lies in the word “traveling.” The concept speaks to people on a deep level. I doubt there are many people who could honestly say that they haven’t thought, at least once in their life, “maybe I should just pack up and hit the road.”

Once in a fit of whining about how “there is nothing new under the sun,” I read something that comforted me. “There are only two plots: someone leaves or someone arrives.” (a paraphrase of a quote often attributed to John Gardner) Travel stories like Sideshow fit an interesting space between these two “plots.” Abby is leaving her home and “going on a journey,” but she also has “arrived” at the carnival and is a stranger in their world.

Image Credit: ReflectedSerendipity
Image Credit: ReflectedSerendipity

Because travel is so central to the narrative and it’s themes, it was important to me that I portray it in the right way.  While earlier circuses and bigger carnivals mostly traveled by rail in the United States, by the 1950s smaller carnivals such as McClure’s Amusements mainly traversed the country in trailers. This meant I got to choose some fun locations without regard to rail lines (Hence the decision to take the caravan through places like Kokomo, Indiana).

The tricky part, however, of mapping out the route McClure Amusements would take across the Midwest was the fact that in 1957, the interstate highway system had only just begun construction.

When today, you could use highways to make the trip

Sideshow travels today

When Abby was adventuring, they would be using, at best, state routes. My mother used to tell me tales of her childhood Cleveland trips, which were huge undertakings akin to cross country road-trips. You packed a lunch. Today, her family could have made that trip in an hour.

Sideshow travels sans highway

The maps themselves don’t look terribly different and maybe 13 vs. 17 hours doesn’t seem like much of a trial, but keep in mind that while today you might be driving 80 miles per hour on the highways, these routes would have speed limits that topped out at 55 (most would be quite lower). Not to mention that hauling or driving a trailer, ride, or truck full of carnival supplies would slow you down and destroy your gas mileage. (And to be honest, some of those state routes were in different locations at the time. I double checked old road atlases because I am a research nerd. They just don’t scan well on the blog)

Image Credit: Tin Can Tourists
Image Credit: Tin Can Tourists

Also important were the campers themselves. The concept of the “Recreational Vehicle” or RV is so ubiquitous nowadays, that it might surprise you to learn that term wasn’t used until the 1970s. Still, people were roaming the country in campers, trailers, and “housecars” practically since the invention of the automobile. These vehicles were especially important to more nomadic people such as those who were employed by McClure’s Amusements. Being able to keep your home with you as you traveled could be a real source of comfort during their grueling travel schedule.

There were many examples of trailers available to to the performers and crew from the brand new Volkswagon Westphalia to small Empire trailers like Suprema’s. Choosing what sort of trailer I would base each character’s home-base on was a lot of fun for me. I wanted it to reflect the character’s personality, means, and needs just as well as any other aspect of the character did.

1955 Empire Trailer. I based Suprema's on this model. [Image Credit: Tin Can Tourists]
1955 Empire Trailer. I based Suprema’s on this model. [Image Credit: Tin Can Tourists]
Travel is essential to Sideshow and the lives of the characters in the novel.  Even though that work isn’t one of the most obvious aspects of the narrative (less so than, say, researching slang or fashion), I knew it was something that I had to consider and focus on carefully. Travel is part of us and it’s history, in many ways, is ours too.

Sideshow is available now for pre-order from Interlude Press. Be sure to reserve your copy today.

Meet Abby Amaro: The Bally Girl

We’ve talked a bit about the setting of Sideshow. Let’s take a look at the characters.

Abby AmaroSideshow‘s protagonist, Abby Giovanna Amaro starts off the novel as a reserved diner waitress with operatic ambitions. Her grandmother introduced her to famous Cleveland harpist and opera singer, Caramela Cafarelli when she was 5 years old and hooked her for life. Anxiety and stage fright, however, don’t exactly help a girl achieve the title of primadonna.

Still, Abby is determined. She gets admitted to the Cleveland Institute of Music and works hard to put herself through school. She spends so much time working that all of her best friends in Cleveland work at the Cedar Lee Diner with her: Sal, Roman, and Marjorie.

The Toasted Pecan: 950's style American Diner in Valencia, Spain
Image credit: The American Palate

Abby loves all three of them dearly and they look upon her as a sister, someone to take care of. Abby doesn’t mind this because…

Being the oldest girl in a family of six children, Abby has often chafed against the caretaker role expected of her, especially because she knows her brother, Natale, is more suited to it. Since her mother’s death five years ago, she has especially longed to be out on her own, though she isn’t truly aware of this yet.

Abby doesn’t mean to run away with McClure’s Amusements, but she did know she had to get away (from the roles that were chafing her, and especially from her frustratingly annoying ex-boyfriend, Frank Butler), and fate intervened.

Photo Credit: Mark J. Sebastian
Photo Credit: Mark J. Sebastian

Working on the bally and making new friends is tough for reserved and anxious Abby, who doesn’t have the highest of self esteem, but at least she has her music (and an unexpected crush ❤ ).

 

Sideshow is available now for pre-order from Interlude Press. Be sure to reserve your copy today.

You’ve Gotta Know the Lingo: A Carnival Speak Primer

Vintage Carnival - Scanned from Slide Negative by Jim Pennucci
Vintage Carnival – Scanned from Slide Negative by Jim Pennucci

 

When Abby joins up with McClure’s Amusement’s caravan, there is a lot she has to learn and fast. It’s all very overwhelming, and one of the most overwhelming aspects of the experience is the lingo. On her first day, she’s ready to believe that the people around her are speaking a completely different language. Ruth does her best to help, teaching her some of the more important jargon.

Now you can understand them too! I’ve compiled a short list of vocabulary that might come in handy should you join a 1950s traveling carnival:

  • Blowdown: A show is knocked over by a storm. This doesn’t come up in Sideshow but it probably should. I’ve quipped more than once that the most unrealistic thing about the book is that they never have to deal with a severe thunderstorm.
  • Blowing the route: A driver gets lost between towns delaying their arrival.
  • Building a tip: Draw a crowd. This is what Abby is supposed to be doing at the bally.
  • Candy butchers: Concession vendors, in general. The term originally referred to specific vendors who sold candy
  • Date: When a show is taking place in a certain town. IE: “Our Chicago date has been bumped up”
  • First of May: Someone who is new to the carnival, like Abby. The term is thought to have originated because that is when people started showing up at the carnival looking for work.
  • Joint: A Game. A couple of game specific terms are
    • 4 way joint: Open on all 4 sides. These are the games that sit in the middle of the midway.
    • Flat games: A game in which the player cannot win.
    • Sunday schools show: A carnival that prohibits rigged games. McClure’s Amusements technically falls into this category, but they’re not great about enforcement.
    • Gaff: To rigg. This is often used with games, but also with sideshows when a performer or exhibit is made to look like something that it isn’t.
  • Jump: The move between dates
  • Lot: Show grounds (run by lot managers)
  • Lot lice: people who spend time (but not much money) on show grounds
  • Possum belly queen/princess: This somewhat derogatory term refers to the love interests of carnival performers, who would be hidden in the “possum belly” of their trailers (often so that angry family members could not find them).
  • Ride jockeys: Mechanics and ride operators
  • Rougies: Temporary help
  • Slough: Tear down of a show
  • Troupers: Workers who have been with the carnival at least a year.
  • Turn a tip: To convince crowd to buy tickets. This is another thing Abby is supposed to be doing, but isn’t very good at.

During her time at the carnival, Abby manages to grow more and more comfortable. A significant part of that is a growing fluency with these and other terminology.

Sideshow is available now for pre-order from Interlude Press. Be sure to reserve your copy today.

Why are LGBTQ YA Books Disappearing from Library Shelves?

 

Interlude Press, the lovely people publishing Sideshow, are involved in an amazing new project, partnering with The Trevor Project. As a library professional and writer myself, getting books in the hands of those who need them is something I strongly believe in. Libraries giving me access to books got me through the hardest parts of my childhood, and honestly still get me through hard days now. Below is one of their posts about the challenge. I hope that you will support however you can. ❤

Why are LGBTQ YA Books Disappearing from Library Shelves?

We’re at the American Library Association Convention this weekend (#ALAAC16) talking not only about our upcoming IP titles, but also about The Thousand Book Challenge campaign in support of @thetrevorproject and public libraries. But we have also had a good opportunity to listen to librarians talk about what they see and what they need for their LGBTQ readers—especially at school libraries.

And they’ve had a lot to say, some of it heart-warming, some of it heart-breaking, and all of it reassuring us that we did the right thing when we launched Duet Books for LGBTQ-YA fiction one year ago.

There was the school librarian who said that it wasn’t uncommon for library staff  to remove security strips from LGBTQ titles, knowing that teen readers might feel uncomfortable checking the book out. “The books disappear—and then mysteriously show up on a table a week or two later,” she said. This little act of compassionate rebellion really made us smile. You rock, librarians.

Others told us about the challenges of securing funding for books about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other queer characters. Administrators argue that there is no demand for the books because they aren’t checked out as often as bestsellers. The LGBTQ YA titles are actually read to the point of disrepair—in the library. Several librarians told us that they assume that kids don’t want to bring the books home. “(The administrators) only look at the numbers,” one said.

Overwhelmingly, librarians told us that they need more: More LGBTQ Young Adult fiction; more quality books that are well written and treat the readers and subjects with respect; more cover art that is age (and school) appropriate.

These stories reaffirmed why we have undertaken The Thousand Book Challenge, a dual philanthropic campaign to raise funds for @thetrevorproject‘s life saving efforts on behalf of LGBTQ youth while donating one thousand copies of a new, special edition of @killianbbrewer‘s The Rules of Ever After. Interlude Press will not make any money off the donations made to this campaign. By sponsoring these books with your tax deductible donations, you will help add to library collections for teen readers and help The Trevor Project fund its crisis intervention and suicide prevention efforts.

LGBTQ YA fiction is important for LGBTQ youth. Interlude Press has been raising awareness about the lack of LGBTQ books in libraries and schools at the American Library Association Convention. Help @interludepress donate LGBTQ YA books to libraries & support our lifesaving work with the #1000BookChallenge http://thndr.me/5L46uR.