Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall

Gift Guide Book Suggestion #6

Got someone who loves fantasy and adventure in their life?

Book Summary:

Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.

So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.

In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.

A fast-paced flintlock fantasy for those who enjoy How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, Unsouled (Cradle Series) by Will Wight, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

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WINNER of the B.R.A.G. Medallion for Fantasy

“Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall was rollicking good fun! Perfect for those who enjoy the Codex Alera series, the /Homas Wildus series and the Harry Potter series. Stovall is quickly becoming a name I look for.” – Seattle Book Review

“Volke carries readers into a darkly engrossing world with a passion that makes Knightmare Arcanist satisfyingly unique and hard to put down. Readers looking for a magic-based quest fantasy will find this story compelling and nicely written, with strong characters propelling action which is often unexpected and revealing.” – Midwest Book Review

“A spellbinding first installment of what promises to be an addictive series, Shami Stovall has produced a mesmerizing story of magic, intrigue, and true adventure.” – ManyBooks

“Richly crafted and laced with wry humor and intriguing magic, Knightmare Arcanist is a page-turner.” – The Prairies Book Review

Author Bio

Shami Stovall relies on her BA in History and Juris Doctorate to make her living as an author and history professor in the central valley of California. She writes in a wide range of fiction, from crime thrillers to fantasy to science-fiction. Stovall loves reading, playing video games, entertaining others with stories, and writing about herself in the third person.

Aye-Aye Gets Lucky – Endangered & Misunderstood Book 1 by Terri Tatchell

Gift Guide Book Suggestion #5

Book Summary:

Join endangered and misunderstood AYE-AYE on his quest to win back the hearts of the people of Madagascar after his mischievous pranks get him banned from his favorite village and labeled bad luck. Luckily for AYE-AYE, he meets a new friend who shows him first-hand how unpleasant being scared can feel. Armed with a little empathy and compassion, it doesn’t take AYE-AYE long to figure out that being kind and helpful is the best way to turn his luck around forever. On the surface “Aye-Aye Gets Lucky” is about a misunderstood lemur finding a way to win the love of the villagers, but look deeper and it’s a story about empathy, self-acceptance, community and second chances.

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Aye-Aye is a small lemur who loves to play jokes on people, but his jokes are not much fun. They are mean jokes and often really scare the people he is playing the jokes on. Aye-Aye has big yellow eyes and long, sharp, crooked fingers. He is a pretty scary looking guy for people to see. Little children might be especially afraid of him when his would sneak up and wave his creepy hands at them. Aye-Aye has an ulterior motive. When he frightens people, they often throw food at him or drop it on the ground. Aye-Aye loves to eat, so this is a perfect result for him. But his antics get to be too much for the people in the village, and they ban Aye-Aye from the village and pass a law that says he cannot come back because Aye-Ayes are bad luck. It is not much fun for Aye-Aye to be all alone outside the village with no one to play pranks on and with no good food. He tries to think of ways he can get the village to welcome him back, but all he can think of are pranks and more pranks. Then a flying fox comes on the scene and teaches Aye-Aye a lesson about how it feels to be truly scared. Aye-Aye vows to change his ways and to find a way to get the village to accept him back. But is it too late? Can he ever gain their trust?

Author Terri Tatchell has written a truly engaging story that will keep youngsters entertained while teaching them an important lesson, but that lesson is well-hidden in a beautifully-written, rhyming text with perfect meter that will roll off the tongues of the adults reading the book aloud. There are a lot of funny touches that will have little ones giggling and keep them engaged. Aye-Aye is a fun character that kids will like and will root for as the story is read. The bright illustrations by Ivan Sulima are chock-full of delightful details that will keep youngster’s eyes on the pages searching for all the fun they can find. The charming illustrations really complete this story wonderfully. In addition, there are a couple of pages of back-matter that convey many interesting and important facts about Aye-Ayes and about Flying Foxes, which are endangered species. In addition to the facts, there are drawing lessons to allow youngsters to try their hands at drawing these two animals, and five ways to help the Aye-Aye to survive. This book is a terrific addition to any library, personal or public, and will become a favorite in a hurry.

San Francisco Book Review

Reviewed By: Rosi Hollinbeck

Author Bio:

Terri Tatchell is a Canadian writer known for her Oscar and BAFTA nominated work on ‘District 9’. Her love for animals and allegory have united in the creation of the ‘Endangered and Misunderstood’ series, giving the underdogs of endangered animals a lyrical voice filled with laughter, adventure and relatable themes.

Inspiring love and conservation for the endangered animals you’ve never heard of.

Endangered & Misunderstood is an ongoing series of picture books that takes a different approach to the serious subject of lesser known endangered animals, with an emphasis on laughter, adventure and relatable themes.

Proceeds from the sale of each book go directly to help the conservation of the featured animal.

Heart to Beat by Brian Lima MD

Gift Guide Book Suggestion #4

Book Summary:

Success is not reserved for the smartest or most talented—it’s earned by those who want it the most. Heart conquers all and the triumphant always go all in, never settling for anything less than their best effort.

As a leading heart transplant surgeon, Dr. Brian Lima’s life story is a testament to that mantra. He’s living proof that slow and steady still wins the race, and that the American Dream is alive and well. He persevered through countless challenges growing up in a Cuban immigrant family and defied the odds every step of the way. To fulfill his impossible dream, Dr. Lima opted for the road less traveled, enduring nearly twenty years of rigorous education and surgical training at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world.
In Heart to Beat, Dr. Lima shares the lessons learned throughout his improbable rise to the pinnacle of success in the medical field. He breaks down the keys to advancing well beyond your comfort zone and perceived limitations, regardless of your field of interest. No dream is too far-fetched and his Heart Way approach to life will help unleash your full potential and surpass your wildest expectations!

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In this debut book, a cardiac surgeon recounts his successful medical career and offers a guide for readers wishing to achieve triumphs in their lives as well.

From the beginning, Lima proclaims his hope to inspire people from “all walks of life,” not simply aspiring doctors. Throughout the book, he details his personal history to reveal how he overcame obstacles. After his parents and siblings fled Cuba in the late 1960s, the author was born in Kearny, New Jersey, in 1976. At an early age, he was motivated to work harder in school after he watched a friend, also from a family of immigrants, win multiple awards at their eighth grade graduation. By high school, Lima focused on academics as well as athleticism, excelling in football. His devotion to the former was how he gained acceptance to Cornell University. He recalls that he accomplished this feat with a strong work ethic. He then stresses the importance of continuing to work hard even after finding success, citing “constant motion, growth, and development” as essentials. Another key element is gravitas, which in this book essentially means being consistently levelheaded under scrutiny or pressure. This links with later points, such as remaining ambitious in the face of self-doubts and conquering fears of failure. While much of the volume involves the figurative heart, Lima allots the final pages to the literal one, discussing the “rapidly evolving field of advanced heart failure” and providing tips on promoting a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Lima deftly blends a useful guide with an absorbing autobiography; he doesn’t concentrate excessively on either one. The hardships he faced in his own life will likely elicit readers’ sympathies, including losing both parents and his family’s initially seeing his older brother’s schizophrenia as satanic possession. Although clichés at first saturate the book (“in it to win it”; “eyes on the prize”), they gradually subside as the account progresses. The author writes in an easygoing language that doesn’t condescend to readers. He’s instead humble (asserting that his above-average intelligence is not innate but the result of persistent studying) and occasionally self-deprecating (wryly mentioning his “critically acclaimed writing”). As a result, his criticisms of social media and the current culture of “safetyism” don’t come across as contemptuous. For example, he notes that the latter may adversely affect readers’ ambitions if they are too wary of taking risks. Lima playfully incorporates the volume’s main theme of putting your heart into what you do. Chapter titles, for example, typically consist of wordplay (“For the Most Heart, Gravitas is Essential”). He even includes a “handy mnemonic” for recalling the specific points of the subtitle’s “HEART Way” (Hard work; Eager or Entrepreneurial; Aligned; Resolute; Thoughtfulness). There are instances of repetition; despite a chapter on avoiding complacency, Lima repeatedly returns to this notion throughout the book (for example, doing the “bare minimum” or “just enough”). Nevertheless, the work’s short length prevents the reiterations from becoming too conspicuous.

Helpful advice from a keen, assertive, and relatable physician.

Author Bio:

Dr. Brian Lima is a cardiac surgeon, associate professor of surgery, and recognized authority in advanced heart failure. He has published nearly 80 articles in peer-reviewed medical journals and presented at numerous national and international medical conferences. As the surgical director of heart transplantation at North Shore University Hospital, Dr. Lima helped launch the first and only heart transplant program on Long Island. Dr. Lima completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University and was awarded a Dean’s Full Tuition scholarship to attend Duke University School of Medicine. During medical school, Dr. Lima spent a year at Harvard Medical School’s Transplantation Biology Research Center as a Stanley Sarnoff cardiovascular research fellow. He then completed his general surgery residency training at Duke University Medical Center, and subsequent heart surgery training at The Cleveland Clinic, where he was awarded the prestigious Dr. Charles H. Bryan Annual Clinical Excellence Award in Cardiovascular Surgery

Rosa by Barbara de la Cuesta

Gift Guide Book Suggestion #3

Book Summary

“There were little sins and big sins, and if you committed too many little sins you were more likely to go on to the big ones. Some sins you did in your mind and then, sometimes, you went on to let yourself fall into them.” Darkly witty and compulsively readable, Barbara de la Cuesta’s novella lets us into the private life and secret thoughts of Rosa, an undocumented home health aide grappling with menopause and her unruly body, unexpected romance, grown children who alternately worry her and fill her with pride, and how life is confronting her with everything she has ever denied herself or hidden away from. Rosa is a natural storyteller, insightful in hindsight about her own motivations and unflinching in her willingness to look at the girl she was and the woman she has become. Rosa is a daring, funny, and emotional story about a woman moving her life out of the margins and into the sun with the power of confession.

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Rosa is a magnificent display of empathy, a chance to see through the eyes of those who are all too often dismissed with either disdain or pity. Rosa – the woman and the novella – does not ask for any of our pity. She does not ask for understanding. She only presents herself and her story, and what we make of it is up to us.

—Manhattan Book Review, five-star review

Author Bio:

Barbara de la Cuesta lived a number of years in South America, and has long been a teacher of English as a Second Language and Spanish. Out of this experience came her two prize winning novels, The Spanish Teacher, winner of the Gival Press Award in 2007, and Rosa, winner of the Driftless Novella Prize from Brain Mill Press in 2017. Fellowships in fiction from the Massachusetts Artists’ Foundation, and the New Jersey Council on the Arts, as well as residencies at the Ragdale Foundation, The Virginia Center, and the Millay Colony, have allowed her to complete these novels. She has also published two collections of poetry with Finishing Line Press, and her collection of short stories,The Place Where Judas Lost his Boots, has recently won The Brighthorse Prize for short fiction.

Adjustments: A Novel by Will Willingham

Gift Guide Book Suggestion #2

Book Summary:

By turns thoughtful and hilarious (even, inexplicably, both at the same time), this deeply Midwestern book quietly unfolds a vision for how to navigate in a world where we can’t always resolve things.

It begins with an old man’s call to the insurance company to get a minor house repair covered. Once the adjuster shows up, a journey both tender and tough is set in motion. These men need each other in ways it will take time to discover.

To complicate matters, the adjuster also needs (and is needed by) his aged landlady Pearl Jenkins. Theirs is a friendship both fraught and kind.

When the latest “outsider” from Minneapolis shows up to this small Dakotan town, with her non-approved hybrid car parked right across from Pearl’s house, the cast of characters is almost complete.

Just add the generous appearance of colorful minor characters the adjuster works with and serves in his work (none of whom, arguably, are truly minor) and you’re holding a delightfully satisfying book that, while it has you laughing, manages to quietly delve into the ways we bring people in and shut them out—on the job, in the town, or at the threshold of our hearts.

As much as the characters have a relationship with poetry and story (and they do), it is also a profound book about naming both the things that have held us back and the things we want, to move us forward—a book about choosing life.

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In Will Willingham’s “Adjustments,” Will Phillips is an insurance adjustor, working in the plains, hills, and valleys of South Dakota. He lives in a room of what was once a mansion but is now more of a boarding house. He has a give-and-take relationship with his 70+ landlady, Pearl Jenkins, who is part friend, part mother, part judge, part advisor, and full-time matchmaker who usually cheats at cards. So far, Will has resisted the matchmaking and gone along with the card cheating.

Will’s work, like most work, involves a daily sameness. After a few years, insurance claims become similar. A fire is a fire, and Will can usually sniff out when it was accidental and when it isn’t. Same thing for a stolen truck; even doctors are known to report a truck stolen when it’s time for a replacement. Will investigates a fire claim; the house is owned by a man unmarried to the woman and her children living with him. Will knows how this will end – the house will be replaced or rebuilt, the man will get a new girlfriend, and the woman will find herself and her kids homeless.

It says something about Will that, even as he sees the sameness, it doesn’t numb him to people’s anguish and pain. It may be that Will is still dealing with his own, even as he masks it from himself. That mask begins to fall when he investigates a claim by Joe Murphy, a 73-year-old widower originally from Chicago. Joe and his wife had moved to the area when Joe retired from the fire department in Chicago; his wife had grown up in the area and wanted to go back. After her death, he stayed, and Joe senses something in Will that needs to be reached. Hoe begins to try to reach whatever it is in Will through literature and music.

It is filled with humor and poignancy, insight and emotion. The reader sees into the soul of an inherently decent man who knows he’s broken and has found a way to live with that, until he can’t.

Adjustments is more than a good novel; it is a fine novel. It is, simultaneously, moving and real and surprising and true. We see ourselves and our personal histories and, like Will Phillips, we bear scars. This is a story about what matters, and it’s told beautifully well.

Author Bio:

Will Willingham was a claim adjuster for nearly 20 years, helping people and insurance companies understand loss. Now, he trains others to do likewise. When he’s not scaling small buildings or crunching numbers with his bare hands, he occasionally reads Keats, upside down.

The Baseball by James Flerlage

Gift Guide Book Suggestion #1

Know a baseball or sports fan in your life? The Baseball by James Flerlage might be the perfect gift.

Book Summary:

Landon Myers is a retired pediatric oncologist who spends his days diagnosing the ills of his young grandchildren’s stuffed animals while scheming up new ways to spend time with the older ones. When his thirteen-year-old granddaughter Lucy discovers an old Major League Baseball while cleaning his cellar, he faces the difficult task of exposing a family secret that has lain dormant for the past forty years.

Over a long lunch with Lucy, Landon reveals that he was previously married, divorced, and had a son, Alex. Two years after his parents’ bitter divorce, sixteen-year-old Alex receives devastating news that derails the course of his life. In a captivating story about family, relationships, and reconciliation, The Baseball begs the question, “If life gave you a second chance, would you know what to do with it?”

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“The Baseball is written so fluently that I didn’t want it to end. This story is built around family, the good times and the bad times, the happy times and the sad times. It’s about how different people cope with pain differently and how good things can come out of things that may initially seem like the end of the world. I recommend this book for anyone who truly values family, making memories, and living life to the fullest.” – Manhattan Book Review (5-Star Review)

“An unusually affecting story. Overall, this is an earnest, unpretentious book that, despite overly deliberate grabs for the heartstrings, still manages to pluck them, all the same. A familiar tale, but one that has a melodramatic sincerity.” – Kirkus Reviews

“The Baseball is a brief novel by James Flerlage about family and the quality time we choose to spend with them. The irony of Landon’s fate—an oncologist whose son develops cancer—could have turned the story into one of bitterness and regret. Instead, it is an opportunity to revisit a time in a man’s life when he must choose his family or his work. The author delivers the heart-wrenching plot in simple and crisp prose and without judgment and gives readers the opportunity to re-examine their own priorities in life.” – San Francisco Book Review (4-Star Review)

“The plot of The Baseball is a well-developed hybrid of family and sports drama. It hits familiar plot beats and framing devices, but the work develops smoothly and evenly with quiet style. The author has a clear handle on storytelling and the unveiling of mystery; the sports focus and the manner in which it is integrated into the characters’ lives is alluring.” – The BookLife Prize

Author Bio:

James Flerlage is the author of Before Bethlehem, a critically acclaimed historical novel and “2013 Recommended Book” by Kirkus Reviews. In addition to spending time with his family, James enjoys fishing, drumming, and watching Major League Baseball; he follows the Kansas City Royals and the Cincinnati Reds. Follow the author and The Baseball on Instagram: @thebaseballbook.

‘Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary’ peels back the layers behind a cult classic

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary kicks off with a quote from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet, who called Galaxy Questthe 1999 space comedy that lovingly satirized Star Trek and convention culture but can stand on its owna perfect film alongside The Godfather, Dodsworth, and A Place in the Sun. Its a bold claim, serving as a threshold for the amount of reverence Never Surrender and the people involved with the documentary have with the film.

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary

RELEASE DATE: 11/26/2019
DIRECTOR: Jack Bennett
RELEASE: Theatrical
On the eve of Galaxy Quests 20th anniversary, the films cast, crew, and some of its most famous fans reveal how Galaxy Quest got made and the cultural impact it left behind.

If youre already a fan of Galaxy Quest, you dont need much convincing about whats so great about it; you already know. If youre a bit dubious or havent seen it, Never Surrenderwhich is produced by Fandom and Screen Junkiesoffers a strong and often persuasive argument for why people love it so much. And as Galaxy Quest is about to approach its 20th anniversary, Never Surrender is a fascinating look (one thats sometimes viewed through rose-tinted glasses) at what went into making a film that shouldnt have worked.

Thats not to say that the cast and crew go out of their way to pretend that making Galaxy Quest was smooth sailing; it wasnt by any stretch of the means. It was one of DreamWorks first projects, it included a screenwriter and director with little experience (the latter replacing Harold Ramis), seemingly no actor wanted the role that Tim Allen eventually played, and the movie was screwed by its marketing, which seemed to think that Galaxy Quest was a family-friendly holiday movie instead of the R-rated comedy planned from the start. Many of the behind-the-scenes issues arent exactly unique in the entertainment industry.

Yet, as Never Surrender captures so well, Galaxy Quest ended up being something like lightning in a bottle. Its the kind of movie that made Star Trek: The Next Generation star Brent Spiner jealous, that made Spiners co-star Wil Wheaton declare it as the best Star Trek movie (yes, even above Wrath of Khan), and that made filmmakers and now-professional nerds like Damon Lindelof, Greg Berlanti, and Paul Scheer (who was attached to the Galaxy Quest TV show in the works thats on hold) all positively giddy just thinking back on it.

When you talk about the fans, youre talking about us, Lindelof says. Were one of you.

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary/Fathom Events

At its core, Never Surrender is an in-depth and behind-the-scenes glimpse into how Galaxy Quest got made from the people who made it. Nearly the entire cast of the filmfrom Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Sam Rockwell to supporting players like Justin Long, Missi Pyle, and Jed Reesall make appearances alongside several key players behind the camera. It dives into the minutiae of filmmaking, revealing Easter eggs and smaller details along the way; even if you already know that information, it doesnt feel stale.

It does branch out to reveal the impact of the film among its fans including Roxanne and Harold Weir, a couple who cosplay as Thermians, in the lead-up to a fan screening of Galaxy Quest. (They also went at the world premiere at New York Comic Con in cosplay.) But the film is far more focused on the production side of things. On one hand, you get the kind of stories you dream about hearing about filming. But sometimes, ignoring whats unspoken, or how an actors political views might affect how you view something beloved that theyre in, leaves a little something to be desired. It also means that, between the cast and crew, the majority of the people interviewed are white men, which is only a partial reflection of the fandom both then and now.

And then theres the Alan Rickman-shaped hole of it all. Its not that Rickman, who died in 2016, was left out of the documentary. Its far from it, and theres a visible shift in tone as the cast shares memories of him as they talked about how warm and supportive he was even underneath an English exterior. Some of the most delightful moments of Never Surrender are candid stories about Rickman on-set; director Dean Parisot shares home movies he made for his children, which featured Rickman in costume charmingly ragging on their dad. As is often the case, Rickman gets the best line of the entire documentary, which occurred during the filming of one of Galaxy Quests most emotional scenes.

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary/Fathom Events

At one point, Berlanti notes that Galaxy Quest wouldnt get made today because geeks are no longer the underdogs. Thats true, in a sense: geeky properties rule the box office with Marvel movies and Star Wars movies consistently bringing the largest hauls; Game of Thrones was the most popular TV show in the world. Going to a fan convention, even one specifically geared toward a single television show, is no longer a niche activity; chances are highly likely that the fan who ultimately helps save the day would not look like Long.

But in another sense, Galaxy Quest was the kind of mid-budget film that might not get made today because of its oddities. It would probably cost too much money for an indie film while also being something overlooked by studios spending hundreds of millions on major blockbusters. It got to be weird and embrace its geekiness, inspire dozens of projects that came after it, and even with its earnestness on its sleeve, Never Surrender demonstrates one key thing: Galaxy Quest, and the message it carries (including that of its title),is timeless.

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary will be released in theaters as part of Fathom Events on Nov. 26.

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George R.R. Martin offers high praise for the new ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel series

Earlier this week, HBO announced that it greenlit House of the Dragon, a House Targaryen-centric Game of Thrones prequel, straight to series, listing Ryan Condal and George R.R. Martin as co-creators. Now, Martin is opening up about what exactly that will mean.

Although Martin had a hand in creating the seriesnot to mention that House of the Dragon will be based on his Targaryen history book Fire and BloodGame of Thrones director Miguel Sapochnik is the co-showrunner of the series with Condal. But theres no ill will from Martin, who said of Sapochniks involvement that theres no one better.

In a blog post about the latest update from Westeros, Martin expands on his initial impression of Condal, who he met long before they would co-create House of the Dragon together.

Hes a terrific writer and a fan of my books since well before we met, Martin wrote. He tells me that he discovered the series just after A STORM OF SWORDS was published, and Ive loved the books for 19 years. (He is also a huge fan of my Dunk & Egg stories. In fact, that was the show he wanted to do initially, but Im not prepared to bring Dunk & Egg to television until Ive written quite a few more stories). Working with Ryan on the development of HOUSE OF THE DRAGON has been a dream.

According to Martin, House of the Dragon was the first series that he pitched to HBO when the idea of a follow-up to Game of Thrones started to emerge all the way back in 2016. Martins involvement in the prequel process even included personally asking Game of Thrones writer and executive producer Bryan Cogman to pitch a series, which Martin called an adaptation. HBO passed on Cogmans series (which Cogman confirmed in April) and he signed a deal with Amazon Studios.

He also confirmed that Jane Goldmans Age of Heroes series is no longer happening, which HBO has yet to do. He pushed back against the idea that HBO canceled Goldmans series because it was greenlighting Condals series, pointing to the CSI and Chicago franchises as examples of TV franchises with multiple series airing at once.

It goes without saying that I was saddened to hear the show would not be going to series. Jane Goldman is a terrific screenwriter, and I enjoyed brainstorming with her, he said. I do not know why HBO decided not to go to series on this one, but I do not think it had to do with HOUSE OF THE DRAGON. This was never an either/or situation.

But Martin is clearly excited about House of the Dragon, and he wrote about everything that still needed to be done on the show, suggesting that hes going to be at least somewhat involved in the process of making it; he even teased the possibility of writing episodes for House of the Dragon. But only after his biggest obligation is finally met, he added before fans could possibly chastise him for not focusing on The Winds of Winter.

But let me make this perfectly clear I am not taking on any scripts until I have finished and delivered WINDS OF WINTER, he wrote. Winter is still coming, and WINDS remains my priority, as much as Id love to write an episodes [sic] of HOUSE.

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Kelly Bachman’s “Rape Jokes By Survivors” Comedy Show Addressed Trauma With Humor

Zack Travis

Kelly Bachman’s “Rape Jokes By Survivors” Comedy Show Addressed Trauma With Humor

Amber Rollo never expected to come face-to-face with Harvey Weinstein. But on Oct. 23, at an Actor’s Hour event at Downtime Bar in NYC to support her friend Kelly Bachman’s comedy set, she noticed Weinstein sitting in the audience and knew she had to say something. Rollo says she walked up to Weinstein’s table, looked him straight in the eyes, and called him a “monster” — only to reportedly be cursed at by a man in Weinstein’s group and ignored by Weinstein himself. (A rep for Weinstein did not return Elite Daily’s request for comment on the sequence of events at the bar.) Rollo recounted this moment in front of an audience at the “Rape Jokes By Survivors” comedy show, put on by Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) as part of New York Comedy Festival 2019 on Nov. 8 at SubCulture, using her interaction with Weinstein as the night’s rallying cry.

Rollo’s tweets about what happened with Weinstein at the Downtime Bar went viral and she’s experienced a whirlwind of media attention, as have Bachman and actor Zoe Stuckless, for calling out Weinstein publicly. “We confronted him, and now we’re famous,” Rollo tells me in an interview before the show, describing the influx of press inquiries and messages shes received after her thread about the Weinstein encounter went viral. “Rose McGowan slid into my DMs.”

McGowan also sat front row at the “Rape Jokes By Survivors” show, where Rollo, Bachman, and five more comedians identifying as sexual assault survivors used their stage time to tell their stories, laugh about the trauma they’ve endured, and describe how they’ve taken their power back in the aftermath of their experiences.

Zack Travis

Intended to “explore the narrative of how we joke about rape,” according to a description on UCB’s website, Rollo and her fellow performers did not mince words on stage. Bachman described how she’s been labeled as “rape girl” for telling jokes about her sexual assaults. Rollo revealed she’s been assaulted multiple times while unconscious. As disturbing as these stories were, the show felt celebratory and healing. These comedians used their worst moments as material intended to make others laugh.

“Comedy is really cool in that it allows us to talk about things that are typically out of bounds in polite society,” Rollo says. “So, I think that it’s a really useful tool to use when speaking truth to power.” Knowing it can be triggering to hear people talk about their sexual assaults, Rollo used this event as an opportunity to help fellow survivors feel less alone. “It’s cognitive behavioral therapy in a way, to hear something that triggers you and then feel not othered but accepted and included,” she says. (Emily Dworkin, the co-author of a 2017 study on sexual assault and mental health published in the , recommends cognitive behavioral therapy as one of the best methods for healing after an assault.) Rollo notes low reporting rates for rape — according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 24.9% of rape or sexual assault crimes in 2018 were reported to police — and the hesitance many people feel to talk about it as her motivation for speaking openly about this issue. “[Comedy] gives an opportunity for survivors to have a voice that they typically wouldn’t be able to have,” she says. “This is a way to get it out into the open, out into the public.”

Arti Gollapudi, a Brooklyn-based comedic performance artist, took the stage to read excerpts from her poetry book, “Boys I’ve Kissed and Hated.” She told the audience about leaving a previous abusive relationship, and joked about staying single to avoid falling back into another scary situation. Gollapudi is familiar with using trauma to make art — she’s hosted two recurring shows — “Boogie on the Brink” and “Yourself, Your Body” that deal with topics related to grief and emotional pain.

But Gollapudi says she hasn’t always been so self-aware and open. The first time she was assaulted, at 18 years old, she didn’t acknowledge the experience to anyone. “I didn’t even realize what had happened to me until three years later,” she says. “When I was in my second semester of college, nobody knew how to talk about it. And when I came back for my fall semester, my assaulter was still going to parties with me.” She describes feeling shame about confronting her own trauma. “I was always like, ‘I’m very strong and opinionated, and I read all these books, and I know about all the feminist pedagogy,’” she says. “And to admit that I’m like that, but I’m someone who has been abused, was not necessarily an easy thing for me to come to.”

Zack Travis

When she started writing comedy about her experiences, her mindset shifted. “The moment I decided to perform and talk about [it], that kind of ripped down my barriers around that shame,” Gollapudi says. “Like, you can’t laugh at me if I’m laughing at it first.” Sharing her trauma was a way to reclaim her story, and to acknowledge that other people can relate to what she’s gone through.

Also at “Rape Jokes By Survivors,” comedic musician Dylan Adler performed songs about going to therapy, direct-messaging his high school bully on Facebook, and dating as a queer-identifying person. He even briefly mentioned his own assault. “I’m able to laugh at things that to me in the moment seem sometimes very scary and painful,” Adler says. “Even with something I went through a day before, if I can write and make a joke about it, it’s like I’m looking at myself from an objective standpoint, and I’m able to take a little bit of the power out of some of the experiences.”

Adler hoped fellow survivors in the audience would leave the show feeling supported and seen. “I think the more people are open and honest about their experiences, the less shame people might have in sharing their truth,” he says. “Dealing with trauma is hard enough, but it’s even more difficult to deal with it by yourself.” And for those who maybe haven’t personally experienced sexual assault, hearing about others’ experiences creates empathy. “People can learn just how deeply a sexual assault actually affects a person, and how deeply a sexual trauma affects a person, and how important it is for a person to be actually believed and validated in their story,” Adler says. “Something huge for me and other people is for their story not to be belittled and for them to be believed.”

Zack Travis

I was there, and “Rape Jokes By Survivors” was cathartic. It was jarring at first to hear the performers joke so audaciously about difficult topics, but the audience was receptive and affirming, cheering when a comedian riffed about overcoming trauma; sitting in somber silence when another described an assault in graphic detail.

As for Rollo, she’s processing her encounter with Weinstein the same way she processes so many of her life experiences — by writing them into comedy. (Her sets include commentary on losing her parents at a young age and other feminist issues.) “I have to fight the belief that am alone or that the world is against ,” she says. “And every time I say something about it on stage and the audience laughs with me and relates to me, I am fighting that idea. It can be very powerful. It can be very scary, as well, but it can be really really powerful when I put enough thought and work into it.”

Rollo’s headlining set at “Rape Jokes By Survivors” reinforced that unifying theme. She asked the audience to remember the Oct. 24 statement issued by a Weinstein representative, which referred to the Actor’s Hour incident as “uncalled for, downright rude and an example of how due process today is being squashed by the public.” Rollo — who has since changed her Twitter name to “Downright Rude” — proudly told the crowd, “You know what’s rude? Rape is rude!” (To date, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual abuse, CNN reports, and his trial on the charges of predatory sexual assault, a criminal sexual act, first-degree rape, and third-degree rape is set to begin Jan. 6, 2020, in Manhattan, following an appeal denial to move the trial to Albany County or Long Island‘s Suffolk County.) In return, the audience joined her with chants of “Rape is rude!” — a fittingly tongue-in-cheek and utterly sincere ending; a defiant assertion and a rousing call for change.


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Serial Bank Robber Who Wrote Book About Prison Time With Bernie Madoff Faces Fifth Robbery Charge

Ralph Griffith, a serial bank robber who penned a self-published book about his time in prison with Bernie Madoff, appeared in federal court Wednesday to face his fifth bank robbery charge.

Griffith spent his 68th birthday at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, where he was ordered to remain in jail pending his trial for an alleged armed robbery of a Milwaukie Wells Fargo Bank in July, The Oregonian first reported.

The career criminal, who describes himself as the founder and executive producer of XAK Media Group, was released from California prison in August 2017 after spending time behind bars for three San Francisco bank robberies in 2003. He was also previously convicted of a bank robbery in 1985.

Shortly after his 2017 prison release, Griffith wrote a self-published book, The Real Bernie Madoff: Our 7 Years Together in Prison, about his time behind bars at a North Carolina federal prison with the former financier, who was convicted of running one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in history.

I lived with the man, Griffith said in a YouTube video about the book. After about seven years I got a pretty good understanding about what Bernie Maddoff was up to.

The 68-year-old has also written fictional accounts of his life of crime, including a four-paragraph story called The Proper Way to Rob a Bank and another involving a character who inadvertently robs a bank and a star is born.

On Wednesday, prosecutors argued that his stories about his misdeeds prove he is still a danger to the community. Griffiths defense lawyer, Mark Ahlemeyer, insisted his clients books are protected under the First Amendment.

Ahlemeyer declined to comment about the allegations to The Daily Beast on Wednesday, citing the active criminal case.

On July 26, authorities allege Griffith walked up to a Wells Fargo teller at around 10:30 a.m. wearing sunglasses, a black wig, a white surgical mask under his chin, and clear gloves. Court records show Griffith rested what authorities believed to be a black handgun on the counter before pointing it at the teller and saying, Give me the money and no one will get hurt.

After the teller handed him a stack of cash with a GPS tracker hidden inside, a second bank employee walked overand Griffith allegedly demanded money from her as well.

You too, sweetie, he said, according to a federal affidavit obtained by The Oregonian, before stuffing the cash into a grocery bag.

Griffith allegedly threw away the two GPS devices and left. One tracker was later located in some bushes with a ripped $20 bill attached, and the second was found in the middle of the street. Surveillance video caught Griffith fleeing the scene in a blue Nissan Sentra.

On Tuesday, Griffith was allegedly on his way to rob another bank when he got into a minor accident, prosecutors allege. While searching the car, authorities found multiple medical masks, wigs, and black sunglasses in the front passenger seat.

It is my belief that Griffith was on his way to conduct another bank robbery at the time of his traffic accident and arrest, FBI agent Zachary Clark reportedly wrote in the affidavit.

Griffith is currently being held at the Multnomah County Detention Center. He is expected to be back in court on Oct. 24.

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