New Night Beats Canon!

There’s a brand-new story just published in the Night Beats Extended Universe!

Run me down cover

When Talia and her best friend, Jaeger, agree to host a small graduation dinner party together at their rental house, Talia doesn’t anticipate that she’s going to end the night by admitting she’s fallen in love with him.

What starts out as a quiet night over plates of perfectly cooked salmon, listening to acoustic music on the back patio, quickly turns into intoxicated conversations over stacks of dishes after the guests have left. Though Talia tries to hide her feelings, after a few too many glasses of wine she can no longer deny the way she feels. An innocuous discussion with Jaeger around the future of their friendship following the end of the semester soon dives into deep emotions, leaving the two sharing an intimate moonlit dance, a warm bed, and maybe even more.

Read the latest addition to Night Beats canon. Run Me Down: A Romance Novella by Nicole Northwood is free on Wattpad.

Cooking with the Big Sad

by Zilla Novikov

Most advice for dealing with depression makes depressed people feel worse.

Fish oil supplements, running, and meditation help some people. Maybe they even help you. But for the rest of us, they deliver a simple message. Your depression is your own damn fault because of your bad lifestyle. If you ate better, exercised more, and changed your negative attitude, you wouldn’t have this problem. 

If you, like we did, look online for depression-friendly recipes, you will find almond-crusted barramundi and walnut-crusted maple salmon, promising Omega-3s to fight brain fog and B vitamins to boost mood. If you happen to be an inland-dwelling vegan, such personal lifestyle tweaks are inaccessible to the point of satire. This is a feature, not a bug. The thing these recipes have in common is that the cost of ingredients, difficulty of preparation, and incompatibility with numerous dietary restrictions mean they are inaccessible to most mentally ill people. If only you would do this, they promise, and then it becomes your fault because you do not, and so you must not really want to be well.

If capitalism is driving your employer to exploit you and the rich to destroy the planet, the solution is not to do Pilates about it. No amount of chia seeds are going to fix how you feel. You need some empathy and some survival strategies. Surviving means you have to eat, even if you don’t want to, even if there’s no food in the world worth the effort of lifting a spoon to your mouth. 

Many of us also have stigmas and taboos when it comes to food. Maybe someone has told you to avoid “bad” foods, or questioned if you really needed a second cookie. Maybe for you, the concept of eating is complicated by feelings of guilt or shame. But judgment doesn’t help. It’s better to eat than not, and we are not the sum of our worst days.

My depression is not my fault. My brain chemistry is fucked and I need medication to function. I tried lifestyle changes for years, delaying as long as I could before I acknowledged what felt like a moral failing. Before I accepted my inability to will myself cured. Diet advice gave me one more thing to try before taking that step. But crushed flax seeds weren’t what I needed. What I needed was a hug, and guidance to get through day by day until I was ready to admit my truth.

Depression cooking for me is low-effort, cheap, easy foods, with minimal ingredients that I probably already have in the house. It’s carb- and spice-heavy. It’s eating popcorn out of a bag or boiling instant noodles. It’s food that’s tasty enough to be appealing even when the thought of eating seems exhausting.

Of course, this isn’t the same for everyone! Some people have to avoid carbs or gluten, others find high levels of spice challenging at the best of times. Contrary to the advice you’ll find online and in diet books, there’s no silver bullet for our problems, individually or societally. But we can do our best to make things better for each other as a community. 

Collective change starts at a local level, and for us, dealing with the social problem of depression begins with acts of mutual aid. Whether it’s reminding folks that they’re not alone or sharing the coping strategies that have worked for us and our friends, we’re here with each other as we battle not just the Big Sad, but the environmental, political, and economic context that enables it at its worst.

a comic about two millennials sharing the cookbook and looking after each other in a broken world

I wrote a rant (see above) but I also—with my community—wrote a cookbook to share our coping strategies. The Sad Bastard Cookbook is funny, realistic, and kind. Also the e-book is free. We gotcha.

Spanish Croquettes paired with The Shadow of the Wind

Fiction To Sink Your Teeth Into, a feature from author and professional chef Rohan O’Duill!

Fermín breathed deeply, with relief, and I knew I wasn’t the only one to be rejoicing at having left that place behind…

“Listen, Daniel. What would you say to some ham croquettes and a couple of glasses of sparkling wine here in the Xampañet, just to take away the bad taste left in our mouths?”

This month I have chosen the atmospheric and beautifully written Shadow of the Wind and paired it with Spanish croquettes. I hope that this recipe, along with a nice glass of rioja, will immerse you into the Barcelona vibe that comes through so strongly in the book.

Traditional Spanish croquettes are made with a béchamel sauce and involve a two-day cook, so I have simplified this a bit by using potatoes for the croquettes. Apologies to our Spanish readers for the abomination.

Crispy Spanish croquettes with a glass of wine and a copy of The Shadow of the Wind
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Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

Melancholic Parables cover

Sabitha: We’re joined by Dale Stromberg, here to tell us about his collection of strange and mesmerizing microstories, Melancholic Parables. Dale, best of luck explaining this fascinating book to us.

Dale: Melancholic Parables is a collection of microstories that mix whimsey and dolor, irony and absurdity. With a frequently appearing protagonist who is not always the same person, they are not linked and not unlinked. Sometimes they horrify; sometimes they are almost dad-jokes.

Sabitha: This is not a typical book. What inspired you to write it?

Dale: While a musician in Tokyo, I decided to blog daily for a year to connect to fans. The blog was bilingual. I soon strayed from writing about music to writing about anything, including tiny stories. I was in a psychologically troublous period, so these fragments had a consistently melancholy tint, though I often took refuge in humour. I’d come home with a couple bottles of cheap wine and start writing. By the time the wine was done, I was done (e.g. unconscious)—which was one reason to keep it brief. Another was the fact that working in two languages required me to write everything twice. After a year, I had about 300 fragments, and I thought of collecting those I liked best into a book.

Sabitha: We have a lot of writers in our community. What’s your writing process?

Dale: Think about it. Draft it. Manicure it. If it’s not working, rewrite from scratch. Produce more than I can use, then select the good bits.

Sabitha: How did you choose the title?

Dale: Fiction writers often hope readers will “willingly suspend disbelief,” but I wondered, do I hope this? A teller of parables doesn’t necessarily have the same expectation: it is not at cross-purposes for a reader to simultaneously believe the “story” and also disbelieve and consciously examine it. I came to see my stories as parables instead—not lessons (nobody should take lessons from me) but pieces which were about something other than what they were about.

Sabitha: What book do you tell all your friends to read? Besides yours of course!

Dale: Recent good reads: Edie Richter is Not Alone (Rebecca Handler), Ghosts of You (Cathy Ulrich), An Inventory of Losses (Judith Schalansky), Knickpoint (MBF Wedge), Lilith’s Brood (Octavia Butler), The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Arundhati Roy), Most Famous Short Film of All Time (Tucker Lieberman), Though I Get Home (YZ Chin), Warm Worlds and Otherwise (James Tiptree Jr.), The Word for World is Forest (Ursula K Le Guin), Something Like Hope (Hengtee Lim).

Sabitha: When you picture your ideal reader, what are they like?

Dale: When I first heard Sonic Youth, I thought they were doing it all wrong; when I first heard Sigur Rós, I found them boring; both ended up favourite bands of mine. I had to be in the right time of life before their music fit. Instead of an ideal reader, maybe I imagine the reader being in an ideal place—similar to where I was when I was writing. I was shut up in myself, seeing everything in dim grey colours, aware I was an ill fit, aware it was all in my head, but unable to get out of my head. I don’t wish for anyone else to end up like that, which implies that I hope not to have ideal readers. I guess that’s weird.

Sabitha: Not as weird as you think. Thanks for sharing your story and how it came to be. We’re looking forward to reading—look out for a Book Report from Zilla! In the meantime, where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Dale: You can mute me on Twitter or chuckle at my clumsy web design here. Preorder Melancholic Parables ahead of 29 November 2022 at Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple Books, or Smashwords; if you prefer paperback, a print version will go live on Amazon in late November. A lovely way to support any indie author is to leave an honest review on Goodreads or wherever you leave your reviews.

The Sad Bastard Cookbook Release!

Life is hard. Some days are at the absolute limit of what we can manage. Some days are worse than that. Eating—picking a meal, making it, putting it into your facehole—can feel like an insurmountable challenge. We wrote this cookbook to share our coping strategies. It has recipes to make when you’ve worked a 16-hour day, when you can’t stop crying and you don’t know why, when you accidentally woke up an Eldritch abomination at the bottom of the ocean. But most of all, this cookbook exists to help Sad Bastards like us feel a little less alone at mealtimes.

The Sad Bastard Cookbook is funny, realistic, and kind. It’s vegetarian/vegan. It’s a community-built project. And the e-book is free. It’s hard to survive late capitalism and we want to help.

The cover, featuring an uncooked block of ramen on a plate.

Want an e-copy? Newsletter subscribers get it right away so sign up and enjoy! Plus, the newsletter has monthly pictures of our cats. Sometimes our dogs and our fish. But mostly cats.

Want an e-copy and hate newsletters? We’ll make it free for everyone in January on the e-book platform of your choice. Or sign up to the newsletter and unsubscribe after you get the Sad Bastard Cookbook. We all know how to game online systems.

Want a print copy? Unfortunately, the pervasive nature of capitalism means we’re selling print copies on Amazon for money. We live in a society.

Want a print copy and hate Amazon and/or capitalism? We’re not the biggest fans either. Subscribe to the newsletter, download the free pdf, and print it. We’re cool with that. We made it legal with Creative Commons (4.0 attribution non-commercial), but if you get a thrill from breaking the law, you can pretend it’s not.

person 1 cries. person 2 "what's wrong" person 1 "im a depressed millennial, the earth is dying, the fascists are in power, and i have to work 4 jobs to afford my shoebox apartment" person 1: "i can't help with that but here's a book so you can eat" person 1: "merr crismas"

Want to help us make The Sad Bastard Cookbook a success? Work with us to game the book-recommendation algorithms so more people see the cookbook in their suggested “To Read” books. Leave us a review Goodreads or Storygraph (or anywhere else). The algorithms rate reviews higher than anything else, so saying what you honestly thought of the book is incredibly valuable to us—and to other readers. It’s one of the best things you can do to promote our work.

Want an amazing editor for your own project? Victoria Rose (she/her) is an editor, writer, avid reader, self-described geek, and fan of all things creative. You can find her at FlickeringWords.com. Lindsay Hobbs (she/her) is a book lover, fiction editor, occasional writer, and cat mom. You can find her at topazliterary.com. We had a truly wonderful experience working with both of them. Their eye for detail was incredible, and they knew how to change our words without changing our meaning. Most of all, they believed in the project and they treated our work with love. If you need an editor for your writing project, you should see if either of them have an opening.

Want to hear us get sappy? The Sad Bastard Cookbook was the work of the community coming together. From professional editors volunteering their time, to complete strangers suggesting recipes, it was truly a wonderful experience to create something meaningful with so many of you. We hope it help you find food you can eat, and helps you know that you are loved. Please, take care of yourself.

Content notes for The Sad Bastard Cookbook: Mental and physical illness, disordered eating, and dark humour throughout, as well as occasional mentions of alcohol, swearing, and political references. If you have specific food triggers, some recipes may be unpalatable to you.

Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

Melancholic Parables Cover

Reading Melancholic Parables is like listening to someone speaking what sounds like gibberish but you understand every word.

What is this book, this compilation of microstories? It’s about all those tiny thoughts that run through your head, which you’ve never bothered to ask if anyone else wonders too. How would it feel to live your life twice, if you remembered everything? Is that weird feeling of being watched because of time-travelling tourists? What if there was a language in the dial-up modem buzz? Bellatrix Sakakino wonders along with you, and lives through the answers. That’s part of this book. But that’s not all of it, not exactly. This is a book about being born in the wrong time, the wrong body, the wrong world. It is a book about failing to belong. It is a book about loneliness.

The microstories are absurd and deeply meaningful. I found myself wanting to quote them, but all-too-often unable to pull apart passages into neat quote-sized fragments, because sentences hung on paragraphs, on microstories, on the book.

“Not every book is for every reader. A book must rhyme with you, or you with it.”

This is a witty, clever book, but it’s also a dark work: a work of uneasy ghosts and climate change, of loving your abuser and hating yourself. It might be better for me if this book didn’t rhyme. But it does. This is a book for me. It might be for you, too.

Preorder Melancholic Parables ahead of 29 November 2022 at Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple Books, or Smashwords.

(We received an advance copy of the book for review purposes.)

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

He's no angel cover

Sabitha: Today we’ll talk to Ryan Uytdewilligen about his satirical novel, He’s No Angel. Ryan, can you introduce us to your book?

Ryan: Charlie Fritz is a Hollywood talent agent hanging onto his career by a thread. After embarrassing himself at a movie screening, he’s in need of a comeback and a superstar client. Luckily, success comes his way in the form of his presumed-to-be dead father. When Bernie Fritz mysteriously arrives in the middle of Los Angeles by taxi, it’s evident he doesn’t remember anything about his prior life, but the white-robe-wearing man does have a cryptic message from the afterlife to share with anyone who will listen. Is he an angel from above or someone who’s simply lost his memory? 

After Bernie’s message goes viral and creates a social media sensation, Charlie seizes the opportunity to become his dad’s agent. It’s the perfect opportunity for them to finally connect and find a little meaning in their lives—even if for one of them, life is technically over.

Sabitha: That sounds delightfully absurd. What inspired you to write this book?

Ryan: I lost my father nearly ten years ago and I went on a walk one day, wondering, “What if I ran into my dad?” Then a few moments later, I thought “What if I ran into my dad, and he didn’t remember me or anything about his life?” I thought that was an intriguing premise and fleshed it out from there.

Sabitha: We have a lot of writers in our community. What’s your writing process?

Ryan: I’m one to plan ahead, so after coming up with the premise, I made a “beat sheet” with the entire plot and then wrote that exact plot, which took about seven months. I like to edit as I go too, so the first draft is very concise and polished by the end.

Sabitha: Do you have a “fan-cast” – do you have actors you’d cast as your main characters?

Ryan: Slovenly Bill Murray would make a perfect Bernie Fritz while motormouth Charlie Day would make a great Charlie Fritz. Perhaps the dearly departed Anne Meara would be a perfect Nancy Fritz. News anchor Ted is blatantly Ted Knight.

Sabitha: What was the hardest part of editing?

Ryan: It’s always tough taking criticism, but I think for this book, most of the feedback was that the protagonist was not a likeable person. But he’s not supposed to be. Some said they liked his “nasty to nice” transformation while others didn’t. That was a tough line to walk.

Sabitha: How did you choose the title?

Ryan: The movie We’re No Angels with Robert De Niro and Sean Penn is an inviting and curious title that has often stuck in my head. When I first played around with that, He’s No Angel seemed like it could strike the right chord.

Sabitha: What do you most want your readers to take away from reading your book?

Ryan: If you’ve ever had a loss and wanted to reconnect with a family member, I hope this book tugs at the heartstrings, shows grief in a relatable way, and gives people hope alongside a good laugh.

Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story and your process. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Ryan: They can find my book here, or connect with me on Facebook.

Book Report Corner

by Zilla N.

The Pink and the Blue cover

Merey’s books lodge themselves in my heart, take up residence somewhere near the left auricle, leave me breathless and internally bleeding. His books are raw and visceral and they hurt like memory.

The characters in The Pink and the Blue are drawn in their truest sense, sometimes so transparent that you can see the city through their outlines, sometimes melting off the page, sometimes with limbs scattered around the bedroom. It’s body horror, but the horror is that it reflects a reality that we fail to observe when we look at a person in meatspace and think they are whole, think they are okay. As always, art is truer than life, because art is not bound by physics or convention.

I got this book in physical form because I needed to touch it. It’s hard to explain why. It’s digital art, and there’s a note that the colours are brighter in the pdf version. But I need to touch the pages, to run my fingertips over the smooth paper of textured pixels and images of cut outs. I needed the book to be as real in my hands as it is in my heart.

You can find it here.