Twenty Years Later: Remembering 9/11

Last year at this time, I wondered how it would feel to recall 9/11 from the other side of a global pandemic. How many major tragedies do we witness in a lifetime? I know there’s no number. It depends on the life–how long, when one lives. You cannot hold up one event and compare it to another. Each one resonates differently for each of us. And today, after twenty years, 9/11 still feels shocking and visceral in a way nothing else does.

The 9/11 memorial: Two beams of light shining up into an evening sky in lower Manhattan.

People hold complicated opinions about New York City. They love it, hate it. Admire it. Find it too dirty/busy/noisy. They consider it dangerous or magical or full of itself. And frankly, all of those opinions are fair. But New York also represents things that many people strive for; success, wealth, culture, creativity, importance, excellence. There’s the old line from the song: “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.” NYC serves as a proving ground. A challenge. It’s part of what made it a target.

On the Day

In September, 2001, I worked at 100 Park Avenue, for a mutual fund firm, in corporate communications. Finance. The sales team had desks one section over on the same floor, with TVs suspended from the ceiling so they could have CNN and CNBC running all day. That’s how we all learned what was going on.

Some people were still on their way to work when the first plane hit, but I was at my desk. We thought it was an accident until the second one. The morning turned upside down. Like everyone watching, we were horrified. But also, every person in that office knew at least one person in the towers. Nature of the industry, plus many of us had grown up in the tri-state area. There were friends, family, work associates.

Everyone got on their phones. People spoke to loved ones inside those burning buildings. Early on, things seemed under control. They weren’t evacuating. But that changed fast. Coverage was live, so every terrible moment played out on the news. And the worse it looked, the harder it became to connect. Calling my mother in Connecticut, I learned she’d been trying to call me with no success; phone lines were swamped.

First one tower fell, then the second. Those toppling towers destabilized the nearest buildings, and the remainder of the morning became a tense wait to see which held on and which succumbed. You didn’t want to watch. You could not stop watching. I know I was breathing that entire day, but I only remember holding my breath.

Beyond the towers, there were bomb threats. Everything shut down. Bridges and tunnels closed to traffic; trains and buses halted. Anyone who lived outside Manhattan was trapped. We stayed at work, not because we were working, but because it wasn’t safe to leave.

Getting Out

Finally, word came trains were running out of Grand Central Terminal, starting early afternoon. I packed up and headed over. There was one train for each of the three lines: Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven. No schedule, no departure time. They packed us on, as many as fit, and started a slow chug out of the city.

It was silent on the train. No one spoke. People stared off in front of themselves, unseeing. One older man in my train car wore a dark suit covered in a grey film of ash and dirt, and had a bleeding cut on his forehead. Shock and exhaustion clung to him. I had no doubt he’d run to escape a collapsing building.

Paramedics waited at each train station, and as we slowly pulled into each stop, they scooped up the injured from the platforms.

When I finally got off the train, my cellphone blew up with messages. Everyone who hadn’t been able to get hold of me while I was in the city. I went to my mother’s house. My family sat and watched the news. I felt like I was coming down with the flu; exhausted, shaky, unreal. It had started as this beautiful, early fall day. The kind with a cloudless sky and the perfect temperature and endless sunshine. And then everything changed. What came next?

Aftermath

For the next week, I split my time between my mother’s house and my own apartment. I watched too much news, dreading each time they replayed significant moments from that day, but wanting the updates. The internet served as a lifeline, allowing people to check in and announce they were safe. So many people walked out of the city in the days following the attacks, some hiking over bridges to get to their apartments in outer boroughs. Others crashed with friends. After a few days, people who had not appeared began to be considered missing.

My office was closed, because we were one block from Grand Central, which continued to have bomb scares. I called a hotline each morning to get the status. The idea of returning to the city was nerve wracking, but I needed something to do. Staying home felt worse.

When my office finally reopened, new security measures were implimented. The lobby, once open, gained a security/ID check. But we were incredibly busy. Financial markets don’t appreciate chaos.

Flyers papered the city. Photos of those who had not come home.

Eventually I learned that four people I knew had died in the collapse of the towers. Countless had managed to get out. Somehow.

That winter I came down with first bronchitis then walking pneumonia. I lived on antibiotics. My lungs refused to clear. “It’s the air,” a doctor told me. “You work in the city, so it’s worse. You’re inhaling debris from the towers.”

I moved to California late the following September. Not because of 9/11. If anything, I delayed the move because of it. Leaving felt like deserting. But I needed a change, for many reasons, and so finally, I went.

Missing NYC

I was born in New York and I grew up with one foot in the city, even after we moved to the ‘burbs in search of lower taxes and good public schools. I spent many years working there, and even after moving away, I’ve returned for visits and work trips. It’s my city. I love it. It’s in my heart.

But we live in a different world. I watched how the pandemic hit New York, and I understood why people moved away, even as I also understood the ones who stayed. Because for me, New York is a microcosm of the nation, and I’d been feeling the same way. When the place you live feels unsafe, when you’re frustrated by your inability to fix anything, it’s natural to look elsewhere. To wonder if you could make things work if you just made a change.

This tragedy is not that tragedy. And I think more than anything, I miss living in a time and place where the answer to adversity is unity. Where we pull together instead of tearing each other apart.

Do I miss New York? Yes. Always. But more than that, I miss the spark of hope I felt returning to New York the week after the 9/11 attacks, to find nearly everyone pulling together and doing what was necessary to get things back to normal.

 

Friday Links: How Did We Get to September? Edition

September snuck up on me. We’re days away from fall, which means the year might as well be over. Things move so quickly once we hit this time of year. Everything ramps up. Work gets busier, life goes into overdrive. Anyone else feeling this? But September also activates that back-to-school mentality for me. It’s ingrained after so many years of education. I crave new pens and notebooks, classic novels, and sweaters. Can’t do much about the sweater thing–it’s in the 90s here at the moment–and I do NOT need more stationery. But books? You can never have too many books.

So in catching up on a bunch of open tabs, slated for sharing here, I have book lists for you. I know, you’re shocked. But also writing tips and other publishing-related goodness to help get you in a seasonal mood, or just ramp up your creativity. I hope you find them inspirational. Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

This week’s links:

Every Tor Book Coming Fall 2021. – Pretty much as described. A fun list of highly anticipated reads for your TBR pile.

12 Great Picture Books with Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Characters. – For anyone looking to help younger children understand gender diversity in an age-appropriate way.

The One Writing Tool Alexander McCall Smith Can’t Do Without. – Some tips from the author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, including a link to a longer interview.

Darkest New England: What Is the Northern Gothic Literary Tradition? – A look at darker, spooky lit to get you geared up for autumn reads.

NPR Books Summer Poll 2021: A Decade of Great Sci-Fi and Fantasy. – These winners might be the result of a summer poll, but they’re good to read all year long.

The Top Romances Burning Up Goodreads This Summer. – Again, no reason not to keep reading these titles as the weather shifts. (Plus for Southern Hemisphere readers, things are just warming up.)

The Buffoonery of White Supremacy Trying to Disguise Itself as Literature. – An interesting and timely read offering some good food for thought.

Writing Myself Back into My Body and Into the World. – On writing as a form of speculation, using the broadest consideration of the term.

15 Books to Read This Fall. – A more literary list from The Washington Post of buzz books for the autumn.

Happy Book Release Day to LAST GUARD by Nalini Singh

Wishing a very happy release day to LAST GUARD by Nalini Singh, the latest in her Psy/Changeling Trinity series.

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh returns to a world devastated by change in her award-winning Psy-Changeling Trinity series, where two people defined by their aloneness hold the fate of the Psy in their hands. . . .

Termed merciless by some, and a robotic sociopath by others, Payal Rao is the perfect Psy: cardinal telekinetic, CEO of a major conglomerate, beautiful—and emotionless.

For Canto Mercant, family and loyalty are everything. A cardinal telepath deemed “imperfect” by his race due to a spinal injury, Canto cares for the opinions of very few—and ruthlessly protects those he claims as his own. Head of intel for the influential Mercant family, he prefers to remain a shadow in the Net, unknown and unseen. But Canto is also an anchor, part of a secretive designation whose task it is to stabilize the PsyNet. Now that critical psychic network is dying, threatening to collapse and kill the entire Psy race with it.

To save those he loves, Canto needs the help of a woman bound to him by a dark past neither has been able to forget. A woman who is the most powerful anchor of them all: Payal Rao. Neither is ready for the violent inferno about to ignite in the PsyNet . . . or the passionate madness that threatens to destroy them both.

Pick up LAST GUARD at your favorite indie bookstore or online vendor today!

Friday Links: Reading for Long Summer Days Edition

Welcome to the long, not-so-lazy days of summer. We’re a few weeks in, and while this summer ranks far better than last, things are still a little… different. (If you hail from the southern hemisphere, this goes for chilly winter days, too. Pandemic life affects all seasons.)

A woman wearing cut-off shorts and a brown tank top, lying on her back on wooden steps, holding a paperback above her face to read. A wood-toned picket fence lines the property, with a city street beyond.

Life and work continue to pick up pretty steadily, which means reminding my pandemic-brain how to function at normal speeds. In my heart, I yearn for a long vacation with a stack of books by the pool. The vacation part still looks unlikely, but the reading is a go. So this week I thought I’d try and revive Friday Links with a few good to-read lists with summer indulgence in mind. Of course, I’m throwing in a few writerly links, as well.

What are you all reading these days? Has the pandemic altered your book preferences at all? I’d love to hear what you’re up to. Meanwhile, wishing you a lovely weekend and some good reading and writing time. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

July’s Must-Read Books. – Pretty much as described. Some great sounding titles here.

Here are all the romance books you need to read this summer. – Not quite all of this summer’s romance releases, but a good number of them, particularly if you’re looking for a good rom-com.

Best Books of 2021 So Far. – BookRiot rounds up a huge list of excellent titles published between January and June of this year. Great for playing catch-up.

How to Submit to Literary Journals. – Some excellent tips for those of you looking to write some shorter works this summer.

Words Matter: Copyediting as a Process for (or Against) Social Change. – Interesting look on the role of copyediting in our cultural shifts.

A Brief History of Russian Science Fiction. – A look at the development of the genre as the national identity moved from Russian to Soviet and back again.

How Do You Keep a Novel Alive When It Keeps Trying to Die? -On writing and persistence when working on a long-form project.

How Do You Keep a Long-Running Series Fresh? The Secret Is Character. – A discussion about series and how to keep your readers’ interest across future books. Couched in terms of crime fiction, but great tips for all types of novels.

Out Now! HEARTBREAK INCORPORATED by Alex de Campi

HEARTBREAK INCORPORATED by Alex de Campi hits stores this week, and I could not be more excited. Alex is well known in the comics world, and this, her second prose novel, further shows off her storytelling skills. Plus, how can you not love this cover!

Hearbreak-Incorporated-cover-art

Evie Cross had big dreams of becoming an investigative journalist, but at 25 and struggling to make it in New York City, she’s finally starting to admit that her dream is her side hustle and her day job is actually… her job. That is, until she signs on as a temp for a small consultancy whose principal, Misha Meserov, specializes in breaking up relationships. Misha is tall, infuriatingly handsome, and effortlessly charismatic–he can make almost anyone, man or woman, fall into bed with him. And he often does. But the more Evie is exposed to Misha’s scandalous world, the more she becomes convinced that he’s hiding something… When a wealthy San Francisco tech CEO with a dissolving marriage starts delving into the occult and turns up dead, Evie has to decide between her journalistic desire for the truth and her growing desire for Misha. 

HEARTBREAK INCORPORATED combines the action adventure of a thriller with the mysteries of the occult. And don’t forget a dash of romance. Find this great read at your favorite bookstore or online vendor. If you’re still sheltering at home, try out Bookshop.org or Bookshop.uk.  Support an indie bookstore!

Friday Links: Farewell to February Edition

Happy Friday! Somehow we’ve reached the end of the month. When did time start moving normally again? I take it as a sign of hope for good things to come. But as we kiss February goodbye, I have some random housekeeping announcements to share before the links.

Photo by Neel on Unsplash

First, I’m happy to let you all know that I am in the process of prepping an online version of my course on synopsis writing. I’ve offered this before through various venues, but pandemic times call for more availability. The new, updated course will go into greater detail than I could previously due to time constraints, and include handouts. More details to come next week.

Next, to address the state of my inbox (otherwise know as submissions). It’s no secret I am woefully behind. I did virtually no reading of new material over the holidays and came back to a bunch of client projects, which means I’ve not caught up. No, I am not closing to submissions in order to do so. However, I am about ready to switch up what I’m looking for, so I will be closing over the weekend to make that adjustment. I’ll post a revised wish list early next week. As always, please follow submission guidelines! If you’re waiting to hear from me on something, I’m reading as fast as I can. I’ve requested more pages on quite a few queries, which is great, but also means… more to read. So please hang in.

And on that note, I’ll share some fun links and let you all get on with your Friday. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, filled with bookish goodness and inspired writing. Enjoy!

This week’s links:

These 15 Feminist Books Will Inspire, Enrage, and Educate You. – A terrific, diverse roundup including both fiction and nonfiction.

Why Do Some Writers Burn Their Work? – An interesting look at this most final, destructive means of anihilating your writing.

35 Must-Read 2021 Book Releases By Black Authors. – So many great sounding titles coming up. Make note now.

Bird Brain: Lauren Oyler, Patricia Lockwood, and the Literature of Twitter. – Social media has been worming its way into our collective culture for a while now, but this piece dives more specifically into the link between Twitter and some recent books.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poet Who Nurtured the Beats, Dies at 101. – Excellent obituary that includes a worthwhile video history. Ferlinghetti lived a wonderful, long life, and left a real mark. I’ll look forward to getting back up to City Lights books as soon as travel is safe again.

Pandemic Pen Pals. – A lovely little write up of Penpalooza, the pandemic-era pen pal exchange started by New Yorker writer Rachel Syme over social media. Matches are still happening, so head over to penpalooza.com if you’re interested in some old fashioned snail mail. You can check out the #penpalooza tag on Twitter to get a feel for things. There are somewhere in the range of 11,000 people signed up at the moment, from all around the world.

Happy Book Release Day to QUIET IN HER BONES by Nalini Singh

New York Times-bestselling-author Nalini Singh sends her latest thriller, QUIET IN HER BONES, into the world today. Set in Singh’s native New Zealand, the novel offers readers a tense, rollercoaster ride and an intense murder mystery. And I confess that this cover alone gives me chills. It perfectly depicts the dark mood of this story.

In this gripping thriller set in New Zealand, New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh takes you into the twisted world of an exclusive cul-de-sac located on the edge of a sprawling forest.

My mother vanished ten years ago.
So did a quarter of a million dollars in cash.
Thief. Bitch. Criminal.
Now, she’s back.
Her bones clothed in scarlet silk.

When socialite Nina Rai disappeared without a trace, everyone wrote it off as another trophy wife tired of her wealthy husband. But now her bones have turned up in the shadowed green of the forest that surrounds her elite neighborhood, a haven of privilege and secrets that’s housed the same influential families for decades.

The rich live here, along with those whose job it is to make their lives easier. And somebody knows what happened to Nina one rainy night ten years ago. Her son Aarav heard a chilling scream that night, and he’s determined to uncover the ugly truth that lives beneath the moneyed elegance… but no one is ready for the murderous secrets about to crawl out of the dark.

Even the dead aren’t allowed to break the rules in this cul-de-sac.

Singh offers readers a series of twists and turns, dark secrets, and a multilayered mystery. With its lush New Zealand setting, QUIET IN HER BONES whisks you off for the weekend, no quarantine required.

In stores now!

Grab a copy and a hot drink, and settle in for the ride. Purchase QUIET IN HER BONES from your favorite retailer, either brick-and-mortar or online. And don’t forget to support your local indies. Enjoy!

Friday Links for February Doldrums

February feels endless, even as I wonder how we got here. I may not be buried by snow, but I do have work piled all around me. That answers the question of how it’s been so long since I updated here. But today I return, with links to kick off the weekend, and a promise for some exciting news and content next week.

Photo by Emily Rudolph on Unsplash

Whatever your weather, we’re still dealing with the pandemic, which means staying indoors and reading a good book. Right? Maybe it means time to work remotely or cook endless meals, or children to chase down for online learning. But try to squeeze a little you time in there. It’ll help keep your brain on an even keel.

Most of this week’s links are book related, because so many great titles keep hitting shelves. But I have some fun, writerly extras, as well. I hope they keep you entertained, and that you’re all staying safe and well. There’s an actual light at the end of the tunnel. Happy weekend.

This week’s links:

The 2021 Rainbow Book List. – This year’s list of terrific LGBTQIA+ literature aimed at readers from birth to 18 years old. I’m glad to note it includes works by two Knight Agency authors, Loriel Ryon, for the middle grade novel Into the Tall, Tall Grass, and T.J. Klune, for the YA novel, The Extraordinaries.

All the New Fantasy Books Arriving in February. – Pretty much what it says on the label. But since we’re more than halfway through the month, a good number of these beauties are already available!

On the Unconventional 19th-Century Women Who Ventured to Write Novels. – On how a new art form offered the opportunity for women to make their mark.

75 Books to Add to Your 2021 TBR List. – I know, I know. 75! But honestly, I kind of wish I could read most of these. It’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction, the latter being mostly memoir. New titles from old favorites plus debuts. Listed by month of release, and this only goes up to September. Better get reading.

Miniature Book Nooks Belong on Every Bookshelf, It’s Just a Matter of Time. – This is from last year, pre-pandemic, and I might have shared it then, but now it feels particularly appropriate. Miniatures seem to be a lock-down hobby, particularly among writers, so what’s better than creating a mini book nook and combining obsessions?

50 Great Classic Novels Under 200 Pages. – Perfect for those of you who are twitching to read but find your schedules packed.

New Year, New Reading List: Books for Your 2021 TBR

Happy 2021! The year took off with a bang suitable for the heels of 2020, but I remain hopeful about the months ahead. Not everything will be roses and sunshine immediately. We need to work for better times. I do believe, however, that despite notable chaos, we can turn things around. And I’m starting with my reading list. I want to focus on reading more broadly and discovering a few new authors that I love.

Child lying on a bed reading a book, surrounded by more open books.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I read quite a bit in 2020, but I still have a tall pile of books I meant to get to. It’s always the case. But I refuse to deny myself the pleasure of upcoming releases just because I’m behind. I will dive into this new year of books with gusto. How about you? If you’re like me, you’re looking forward to new titles by favorite authors and new discoveries as well. So this week I’m offering up links to some lists of books on the horizon, as well as a wrap up of things read in 2020, both recent and old. Whatever your take on reading in the new year, I hope you find some new favorites and a lot of inspiration. Happy reading!

This week’s links:

A Year in Reading: 2020. – One of my favorite features at The Millions is their annual year in reading series. Dozens of writers weigh in with brief reflections on their readings for the past year, sometimes a whole list and others one or two notable choices. The master list links to all of this past year’s contributors.

43 Books by Women of Color to Read in 2021. – A wonderful list of upcoming releases.

7 Historical Romances to Read After Binge-Watching Bridgerton. – For those of you with a holiday hangover from the Netflix series, here are some great romances to keep you in that romantic mood.

The Astrology Book Club: What to Read This Month Based on Your Sign. – Fun and a little fluffy, but the book choices are great and varied. Fast readers might want to pick up a bunch.

The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2021. – A year’s worth of crime novels on the horizon, with enough coming out each month to keep you pretty busy.

I Will Never Watch “Children of Men” the Same Way Again. – A writer looks back on the dystopian film in the wake of recent events. Please note that the novel, by P.D. James, came first, and is well worth a read if you haven’t checked it out previously.

24-in-48 Readathon. – My favorite readathon is back this February in a slightly pared down version. I love this event, which challenges you to read for up to 24 hours out of a 48-hour period. No pressure, though. You can drop in for an hour or two and enjoy the social media bookishness, or hang in until the bitter end. Chat is about books read and loved, what snacks are best for a reading weekend, and other bookish joy. Go sign up.

Happy Book Release Day to All That We Carried

Happy book release day to Erin Bartels, whose new novel, All That We Carried, hits shelves today. This beautiful book follows two very different sisters as they embark upon the adventure of a lifetime.

All That We Carried

Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a backcountry hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. Over the years, they grew apart, each coping with the loss in her own way. Olivia plunged herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world. What you see is what you get, and that’s all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life-coaching business around her cafeteria-style spirituality. A little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie’s insistence (and against Olivia’s better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they’ll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

A Michigan Notable Book Award winner, Erin Bartels loves highlighting the beauty of the state in her work. Here, she draws on her own experience hiking with her sister to bring readers an exploration of grief, faith, and the bonds of sisterhood. This hopeful, uplifting story feels especially appropriate as we all face separation from friends and family.

Pick up your copy of All That We Carried today, at your favorite brick-and-mortar or online retailer. Happy reading!