Friday, July 31, 2020

Writer's Instinct? #amwriting #amreading #StephenKing

I have a confession to make. I've never read any writing how-to book from beginning to end. Years ago, I started Susie Bright's How toWrite a Dirty Story, but abandoned it about half way through, partly because I found the author's tone patronizing and partly because the smell of ink from that very early POD volume was giving me a terrible headache. The other classic writing texts that are supposed to be on every author's bookshelf – Stephen King and the rest – I've never even opened. I don't own a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style or Strunk and White, either, though my paperback Roget's Thesaurus is definitely the worse for wear.

Sometimes I feel rather creepy about my basic disinterest in studying the nuts and bolts of the writing craft. I recognized the validity of the concepts and the terminology – the narrative arc and the character arc, the “Coming to Death” moment. I know that the writing process should involve internal queries about what the character wants, where a story is going and how it should flower. These are the sort of things I think about when I'm critiquing someone else's work. When I'm writing my own stuff, though, nothing could be further from my mind. Intellectual analysis has little to do with the process. I write from instinct.

At this point you're probably snorting with disgust at my presumption. “She thinks she's got so much talent she doesn't need to study the masters,” you might be thinking. Or, “Right, she was born knowing about characterization and conflict, suspense and catharsis. A regular Mozart of the written word.”

Honestly, I don't think that at all. I do believe I'm moderately skilled at the craft aspects of writing, but that's not due to some fabulous genetic endowment. Rather, it's the product of more than half a century's experience, reading and writing – plus a certain amount of early education.

My life was filled with words from its very first months. Before I could talk (hard to believe such a time ever existed!), my parents read to me, both fiction and poetry. All through my childhood, my father concocted fantastic tales of ghosts and monsters and wrote delightful doggerel that he set to music. He and my mom taught me to read at four years old, and almost immediately I began creating my own stories. I was writing poems by the time I was seven. Nobody ever showed me how. I guess I must have been emulating what I'd read and heard. It just seemed a the natural thing to do.

Reading was my absolute favorite occupation throughout my childhood. My mom had to force me to put my book aside and go out to play. I continued to write all through elementary school, high school, college and graduate school. And of course, I continued to read.

I adored the literature classes I took. There, we undertook the sort of analyses that the how-to books talk about, dissecting tales ancient and modern to see what made them tick. Although I majored in science, I tried to balance my schedule with at least one humanities course each term. I still recall the intellectual thrill I derived from the Shakespeare seminar in which I participated as a freshmen, the high I got from Russian literature in translation course in my junior year.

I still adore a lively discussion about a great book. A few years ago I spent more than an hour Skyping with my brother (who lives half a world away) about Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. We specifically set up the call for that purpose, and I enjoyed every minute.
So even though I've never deliberately studied the art of narrative, at least as applied to my own writing, I seem to have acquired a significant amount of knowledge by osmosis.

When I sit down to write, I don't consciously identify the “MacGuffin” that drives my story, even though it must be there somewhere. I may or may not know at the outset when and where my characters will experience that moment of total despair, when all seems impossible. If I don't know, I simply trust that I'll recognize the crisis when I get there. The story unrolls in my mind, a journey along a road where some parts may be foggier than others, but with a structure that seems to shape itself around the premise, the setting and the characters, without much deliberate effort on my part.

I do spend a significant amount of mental and emotional effort on the prose itself, trying to capture the elusive nuances of experience in words. I'm also focused on the big ideas that underlie the action, trying to birth the sort of startling, original tale that transfixes me with admiration when I am the reader.

That's what I find most difficult about writing. All the craft in the world won't make up for a ho-hum concept. All too frequently, I have the uncomfortable sensation that the story I'm working on has been written a hundred times before – sometimes even by me. I listen to some of my fellow authors complain about their so-called lack of talent, even as they produces tales so wild, terrible and beautiful that they bring tears to my eyes, and I try not to be envious.

That's something no craft book can teach.

Still, discouraged as I sometimes am, I don't stop writing. Through the combination of nature and nurture, I've absorbed the so-called rules of story structure. They're part of me now. I probably couldn't prevent myself from following them, any more than the Canada geese could abort their annual flight south.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Into the folds of darkness... #ScienceFiction #Reincarnation #Apocalypse

Apophis cover

January, 2022: A dark monstrous twin-headed apparition – Apophis – feverishly races past the expanse of the Milky Way galaxy and bolts to the edge of the solar system. Recklessly accelerating, the sinister rock-dyad enters the gravitational keyhole of the blue planet and continues its resolute inebriated journey – to soon arrive with an apocalyptic impact on Earth.

December, 2012: Five sentient beings born in different cities – New York, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Azores Islands and Istanbul, discover amongst haunting memories of their phantasmal past lives, that it is their destiny to save humanity from the evil forces unleashed by the alien fiends – the Skyllats.

And now, the reincarnated 9-year-olds must rely on their shared, ancient wisdom to prepare humanity for the war across the galaxy that is imminent.


28.032848N, 85.530342E
Helambu. Langtang National Park, Nepal
January 23, 2022 (1100 hours)

Agasthi, you must learn to draw the sacred symbol accurately,” implored the Ban-Jhakrani or the forest shaman, wrapped in a resplendent white dress with a crown of tall peacock feathers. Her extraordinary life etched on a relucent wrinkled face, she continued to pry stirring sounds from her shaman’s drum that reverberated across the mountains.

Nata, what does ‘sacred’ mean?” asked the playful six-year-old moon-faced Agasthi with light gray eyes. Her loose, white, flared top and pants, twirled in the wind along with her.

The ‘sacred’, is a space and thought held within the folds of the benevolent earth mother,” explained the Ban-Jhakrani.

Nata, what does ‘benevolent’ mean?” the left-handed Agasthi, wondered.

The forest shaman laughed, “You are certainly an inquisitive young shaman; blessed by the primordial essence that unites us all. Now help me to place these peacock feathers, rice, and leaves within this sacred space. For I have much to teach you, but my time in this form…is limited.”

The large geometry drawn vividly on the forest floor, with red and yellow colors, was part of an ancient shamanic invocation to contact the mysterious forest spirits that remained nestled within these thick jungles. The forest adorned with the reverberant sounds of birds, animals, cicadas, scrambling waterfalls, and a bone-chilling wind that swooped across the Himalayan mountain range.

Agasthi, her name embodied in an indecipherable wisdom, followed her grandmother’s instructions while the Ban-Jhakrani added her chanting to the pulsating sounds of her shaman’s drum, to open the doorway of a limitless realm beyond time. And a beguiled crested goshawk swooped down and perched itself on her left shoulder.

The Ban-Jhakrani’s ancient incantations to initiate the young shaman began to increase in pitch and intensity as Agasthi sprinkled water over the rice, leaves, and peacock feathers. Soon the young girl became assiduously immersed in the spirits of the forest, before her eyes began to dilate and magnified all that surrounded her.

Agasthi, held within a trance, became drawn to a prodigious green leaf lying within the sacred space. She dropped to her knees and meticulously examined the giant blade; her dilated eyes following the mid-rib and the veins that branched off it as well as an occult dewdrop, which hovered just above the surface of the leaf.

Mystified, Agasthi peered deeper into this amplified, spherical, translucent world – seeded with infinite moons and stars – when an eerie, dark colossus with a serpent-like head and carmine eyes emerged. Swimming within this dark sea, it swallowed entire moons and numerous stars, before it turned and glared at a petrified Agasthi.

The charred monster abruptly shot across this uncommon convex world with its fangs bared, and a roar that pierced the young girl’s skin. A trembling, horrified Agasthi let out an unrelenting, terror-stricken scream that echoed across the forest before she collapsed, unconscious.

The Ban-Jhakrani stood over her granddaughter and smiled. What she had hoped for had become – the forest spirits had acquiesced. Agasthi had travelled across an immeasurable realm, and experienced an epiphany – a vision – for the very first time. The forest shaman patiently waited for several hours for the young girl to step out of her dreamworld.

What happened, Nata? Did I fall asleep?” Agasthi asked when she finally stirred.

No, my dearest Natini,” the Ban-Jhakrani whispered. “You drifted into a shamanic dream. An unerring state of being when multiple truths are revealed if your heart is pure. Search yourself and then speak of what you saw, for it is very important.”

The young shaman stared at her grandmother, while the recondite, eerie charcoal-black serpent reappeared and a petrified Agasthi began to quiver.

Do not be afraid, my child,” assured the grandmother and held her left hand.

A darkness that shamans have meditated upon…for thousands of years…has arrived,” mumbled Agasthi, lost within her trance.

Why?” the bewildered forest shaman inquired.

For a balance disturbed for so long…must be remedied…a justice delivered,” answered the swaying Agasthi and turned to stare in the direction of the sun.

Who delivered this message?” questioned the Ban-Jhakrani, overwhelmed by the young shaman’s inconceivable first pronouncement.

It was the Whisperer!”

About the Author

Savinder Raj Anand is an architect and has been teaching Architecture & Design at various Universities in India for more than 12 years. A long-distance runner with a wanderlust to explore the world, and write stories that traverse across diverse cultures. He lives in Goa with his daughter, a dog, and two cats.

Inspired by his then 18-month-old daughter – when she quoted Socrates – while they together sat in a children’s bookstore in Bangalore (LIGHTROOM) in early January of 2015, he has completed this – his first book – as she turns 7 years old.

The book is $0.99 During the Tour

One randomly chosen winner via Rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/ gift card.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Houston’s Robo Brothel—Not!! #Androids #SciFiRomance #FantasyRomance @LNightingale

By Linda Nightingale (Guest Blogger)

Houston, Texas to host the first sex doll brothel in America? NO, said the Mayor, that single syllable resounding around this country. Immediately, the city council amended an existing ordinance to forbid business patrons from engaging in sexual congress with inanimate objects.

Not so the rest of the world.

At Aura Dolls, a love doll brothel in Toronto, clients pay $120 an hour plus $90 per half-hour to do whatever they desire to the six dolls on staff. Aura’s employees ‘freshen up’ the dolls between appointments, taking various safety precautions. The Toronto brothel is not the first of its kind. Similar enterprises can be found in Barcelona, Moscow, and Turin, Italy.

I was surprised that the Toronto firm chose Houston of all places to open its first brothel in the United States. I lived in Houston for 14 yeas, and it is a rather traditional and not the most liberal city. The brothel seemed destined to fail in its endeavor to open its doors.

In addition to the religious, legal, and moral issues, the sex doll brothel industry faces certain other disadvantages like the high cost of their ‘prostitutes’ themselves. A customized Real Doll costs about $6,000. Then we have the legal ramifications. The love doll brothels exist in a somewhat gray area. They don’t violate most state prostitution laws, but the intense moral opposition to sex work in the US will probably constitute an almost insurmountable barrier to robot sex workers..

Since the 1970s when Ben Skora created his human-like robot, Americans have been fearful of being replaced by robots. In some industries, this has proven true. There’s a humanlike newscaster and Sophia has appeared before the UN. These are androids as opposed to love dolls. Will this be true for sex workers or will flesh-and-blood win over silicones? A man in England—with his wife’s permission!—married his love doll.

Oddly enough, both of my Tomorrow's Angels books are set in Houston. Go figure. I’m psychic!

There has always been a demand for prostitutes. That fact is unlikely to change. Some of the opposition has even said it is degrading to machines. Not to get into robot rights, but does degrading machines compare to human women being degraded in similar circumstances?

I found out about the love dolls when a friend in Texas messaged me on Facebook. She said only, “Love For Sale.” (the title of the first book in the Tomorrow’s Angels series). Love For Sale and my new release, Life for Sale, star sentient androids indistinguishable from human who’re programmed as loving companions. The Special Editions created by Mayfair Electronics have emotions and react like a human. They are intelligent and charming. They’re everything you could want in a lover, but would you be creeped out?


Mayfair Electronics has created life.

But four of their Special Editions—sentient androids indistinguishable from human—have escaped. Rebel, Christian Aguillard and his owner, March, are on the run, but they have a bigger problem than his creator's plan to destroy him. They've discovered that one of the renegades has suffered a dangerous malfunction, threatening them with more than just exposure.

Trapped on a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic, March and Christian must stop the insane robot before someone else dies. All the evidence points to March being the killer's next victim.


Why are you here? To spout more nonsense?” Spitting mad, Monica reared up in her enemy’s face.

Not at all.” March’s hand flashed, almost too rapidly for Monica to see, and came down hard below her nose in a Judo-like attack.

Shocked and in pain, she stumbled back, switching modes as she pushed off the bed. “That’s it, whore. You’re a dead woman.”

I don’t think so,” her rival gritted out, hands braced on her hips, her expression as cold and hard as her mediocre brown eyes. She shook her head. “Look, Monica, I know you’re aware of your actions. I’m going to give you a chance. You must deactivate until we can safely transport you to Dr. Cross for testing. Surely, you know something is wrong.”

As they say in the films, you and whose army?” She squared her shoulders, preparing to strike without notice. “I didn’t do anything to that bloody dog. I didn’t do anything to you, fool.”

You didn’t mention Anne.” The other woman seized Monica’s arm. “What did you do to Anne?”

Claws out, Monica lunged. March darted beneath her guard, stabbing at a spot beneath her left earlobe. Monica shoved her back. “Looking for my off switch, fool? It’s well hidden, like where Ms. Goodie Two Shoes wouldn’t even think about going.”

Her insane human rival stood at the locked door, her stance as much as saying to leave Monica would have to get past her. No prob. She stalked toward her rival, murder in her eyes. March didn’t move. When Monica threw a punch at her eye, she moved by the gods.

The American whore lurched back, crossing her arms across her face, anticipating Monica’s next attack. Forearm struck forearm. A human bone should break, but March stood her ground, her limb intact. She recovered too quickly, dealing Monica a hard blow beneath her cheekbone, barely missing her eye, slamming her back against the wall.

I don’t know what you are, March Morgan,” she sneered. “But it’s not going to save your butt.”

No, but I am.” Looking like an avenging angel, Christian—in a Houston t-shirt and khaki shorts, his long hair disheveled—had somehow appeared behind March without either of them hearing.

Praise for Linda Nightingales’ Life for Sale

Linda Nightingale’s Life for Sale takes the characters from Love for Sale and sets them on a dangerous adventure for these androids posing as human. After fleeing at the end of the first book, they are trying to hide from the watchful eye of Mayfair, but decide a reunion is in order. One of the four, however, is suffering a murderous malfunction. The resulting story is not so much a murder mystery as it is a study of a chaotic mind, albeit lab created, yet eerily human in its madness. Nightingale has seamlessly made the unbelievable believable for the reader with a totally unexpected, but thoroughly satisfying ending to this duet. Imaginative premise, well developed characters and an insight into a mind gone wrong make this a great read…S. Hutchinson

About Love for Sale – first book in the Tomorrow’s Angels series

In Love for Sale, Mayfair Electronics company, in black and white, offers “love for sale”. Mayfair has engineered sentient androids indistinguishable from humans. March Morgan flies to England and meets the man she has been searching for her entire life. Christian requires no programming to love March at first sight, but her past and his future soon threaten their happiness—and their lives.

About the Author

After 14 years in Texas, Linda returned home to her roots in the South Carolina red clay. She has eight published novels, four of which are available from in audio. For many years, she bred, trained and showed the magnificent Andalusian horses. So, she’s seen a lot of this country from the windshield of a truck pulling a horse trailer. She’s won several writing awards, including the Georgia Romance Writers’ Magnolia Award for Excellence, the Raven Award, and the SARA Merritt. In real life, she was a legal assistant.

Author Links

Web Site: – Visit and look around. There’s a free continuing vampire story.

Blog: - Lots of interesting guests & prizes

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Review Tuesday: Horrorsexual by M. Christian - #GayErotica #Horror #ReviewTuesday

Horrorsexual cover

Horrorsexual: The Queer Erotic Fright Fiction of M.Christian
Sizzler Editions, 2020

If anyone asked, you’d probably say that erotica has little in common with horror stories. After all, erotica is supposed to make you feel good, with steamy anticipatory tension, ecstatic crises and pleasantly sated endings. Horror, in contrast, is designed to produce discomfort. If the reader doesn’t feel queasy, unbalanced, disturbed or disgusted, the author hasn’t done his or her job.

Still, when you peer a bit closer, you’ll see the two genres share some characteristics. They both intend to excite the emotions. Both often use shock to their advantage – the most arousing sex tales are the ones that break taboos. Furthermore, sex on the edge, sex that pushes the limits of the acceptable, sex that’s so intense it breaks down barriers – the best and most memorable sex – can be truly scary. Sex strips us bare and makes us vulnerable, and being naked is dangerous.

Nobody appreciates the synergy between sex and horror better than M. Christian. He has been writing stories that are simultaneously thrilling and terrifying for decades. Horrorsexual collects some of the best of his work in the genre, focusing on tales involving gay men – or creatures that masquerade as such.

The eleven short stories in this collection are wonderfully varied. My two favorites, “That Sweet Smell” and “Friday Night at the Calvary Hotel”, illustrate the huge emotional and thematic range of this author. The former chronicles the complex relationship between JJ, a powerful columnist, king-of-the-city type, and his minion Sidney who both admires and hates him. The palpable menace in this tale made me shudder, though there’s very little overt violence and essentially no sex. That doesn’t matter; the tension between JJ and Sidney is sexual regardless. Their dominance/submissive dynamic is distilled in Sidney’s lighting of JJ’s cigarettes.

I looked at the end of the cigarette. Paper wrapped around tobacco. His strong fingers crushed the far end, making tiny flakes of brown stick out the front, towards me. My right hand was in my pants pocket, tight around my lighter. I fought the urge to pull it out, to push it towards him, to open it, flick alive a hot flame, and do it for him. I fought hard, trying to concentrate on anything except the cigarette or JJ's eyes.

I knew it, and he knew it: It wasn't just flame to tobacco. It was more than JJ's cigarette that was being pushed into my face. The place was cloudy with smoke; breathing in was like taking a drag. I could imagine the end of it in his mouth, lips around the paper, sucking in deep drags of smoke. The tip of his tongue resting on the warm end, just for a moment. Sometimes the smoke would be as warm as blood, like breathing in the essence of life. I didn't want to light it. I wanted to take it in my own mouth and draw it in deep, mix his warm smoke with my own blood, just for once taste the air that he breathed all the time.

Despite its lack of gore, this story is dark indeed.

Friday Night at the Calvary Hotel”, in contrast, has blood and pain, death and semen, yet the tone is almost uplifting. An impoverished and desperate man answers an ad seeking an accomplice in a crucifixion scene. In return for a large amount of money, he meets his nameless employer – young, handsome, cheerful, not at all what you’d expect from a lunatic – in a run-down hotel, and literally nails the other man to the cross he has constructed.

Though the setup is creepy, the purity of the stranger’s desire shines through.

There was a long—very long—minute, as he stared at what I'd made. "Something like that," he said, finally, turning his head slowly to look back over his shoulder at me, that wry little smile back on his lips.

"Ah," was all I could say, struck more stupid than usual.

"This is wonderful," he said, stepping up and running his hands over the smooth wood. "A perfect job."

I wanted to "aw shucks" and start in about the hours of sanding, the three coats of lacquer, the buffing. But then I remembered why he’d had me build it, and what he wanted to use it for.

He rubbed it a long time, like he was communing with it. Watching him stroke it, I noticed something about his hands. I asked, "Is this your (ahem) first time? I mean … doing this kind of thing?"

It took him a long minute to pull himself away. "Oh, no, not at all. It’s just something I developed—well, I guess you could say 'a taste for'—a long time ago. Every once in awhile I like to indulge myself, you know, when I can get away from the family business."

With these two stories as psychic anchors, the book ranges widely over the landscapes of lust and fear. “Suddenly, Last Thursday” is a eloquent, slow-building tale about cannibalism and madness. “Chickenhawk” offers a kinky revenge tale in which the protagonist, a thirty year old dwarf who can pass for fifteen, entraps then punishes the pedophiles who pick him up. “Whatever Happened To...” is kinkier still, featuring a consensual but extreme D/s relationship between two aged drag queens. In “Bitch”, a paunchy, middle-aged, worn-out queer nurses his bitter envy against the beautiful young men in the building across from his – the “peacocks” as he calls them – only to have his secret wish for their destruction come true. In the psychologically potent “Echoes”, a gay man trying to escape from his guilt about murdering his partner discovers that every new lover kisses, sucks cock or screws in exactly the same way as his dead ex. “Wet” and “Empty” are both vampire stories, though the vamps don’t follow Stoker’s rules. The moods of these two pieces are quite different, though both involve some disgustingly bloody and visceral scenes.

These are not simple stories, easy to untangle and assimilate. Sometimes I’d finish one, then immediately go back to read it a second time, to clarify the author’s thoughts or my own, or simply to revel again in the dark mood and evocative language. One story, “Counting”, a scifi tale set in horrific dystopia, I never did completely figure out. Nevertheless, it impressed me with its vivid descriptions of San Francisco after a total collapse of civilization:

My first month, and my first riot in the new place. I was caught outside, unable to recognize the neighborhood's tell-tales, the rhythm of the block: when the stores would be allowed to open, when the local Militia had to make its quota, and when the insane would be released from their camps to clean and scour the streets of anything valuable or edible.

I was walking back from work, head still in the maze of junctions, cross-connectors, light-boosts and mirror-boxes, trying to deduce a ghost echo in the inner-office trunk lines. I was too full of Mr. Buckner's system to notice the closed windows or the quiet. Running people are like smoke: a city-signal. Seeing them sprint past, chests rising, breath fogging the cool evening, looking behind as they ran, I turned as well. A wave rounded Market – a panicked sea of old Militia coats flapping, feet wrapped in threadbare carpets, eyes red and desperate. A thousand, probably much more, screaming and crying as only people can when they've tasted panic. I got no more than twenty feet before the wave broke over me.

A man, black but scarred from a fire so now a ghost of himself, struck back at me as he passed. From behind, a woman, cradling a ruined arm, pushed me. I didn't have their momentum, hadn't seen what they'd seen, what had triggered their panic. I was treading water, and was doomed to drown.

A pack of wild children, a tribe drawn out of the alleys and shadows by the smell of sickness and opportunity, was suddenly around me – hungry eyes appraising my clean clothes, my worth, and the contents of my worker's bag. A cramp in my side came on so suddenly that I thought for a fraction of a scream that they'd knifed me with a piece of glass, a rusty sliver of iron or steel. Meat for the Dark Markets, old clothes for the camps. My breath was glass knives. My eyes were tiny and wind-burned from the cool night. My feet smashed, broke with each clawing stride.

They were jaguars. They were leopards. They were animals born and bred on the streets. I was the sick one in the herd that day. They sensed I was going for the alley. Stupid. I was so stupid. I moved, like drying clay, so slow, and they were there, blocking me in, forcing me towards the alley, to bring me down – and slice my throat.

The one story that didn’t really work for me was “Matches”, a fantasy about dying, leaving your worn-out body behind, and finding your perfect match in heaven. When a shabby apartment building blows up due to a gas leak, the overweight, sad, disappointed loner in Apartment 1A, who hasn’t had a lover in years, is temporarily liberated from his miserable existence. Beautiful and free, he soars skyward toward his equally exquisite and well-hung mate – until he’s resuscitated and slams back into the broken shell of his earthly form. Though the end was genuinely painful, the premise struck me as silly.

Horrorsexual also includes excerpts from M. Christian’s three gay horror novels: Me 2, Finger’s Breadth and The Very Bloody Marys. I’ve read all three (you can find my review of Finger’s Breadth here), and they fit the theme of the collection, but novels and short stories are very different sorts of beast. The excerpts leave a lot of loose ends. Of course, I’m sure the author hopes you’ll be sufficiently intrigued to buy one or more of these titles.

Horrorsexual will arouse you, challenge you, maybe scare you a bit. It will definitely raise a few questions in your mind about the nature of sex and of reality. It’s not a book for everyone, but if you’re curious, open-minded and brave, I recommend it.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Behind the Book: Why I wrote The Cabinet - #history #giveaway #GeorgeWashington @LMChervinsky

By Lindsay M. Chervinsky (Guest Blogger)

Most historians are inspired to write a book when they come across a question and don’t know the answer or can’t find it in an existing book. I’m no different!

I wanted to understand more about the origins of the president’s cabinet in the early years of the United States and I couldn’t find anything that answered my question. I read all of the books I could find about President George Washington, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. All of the books mentioned the cabinet and referred to the secretaries’ interactions, but no one explained where it came from, how it got started, or why.

So I decided to tell that story. From the very beginning, I was convinced that this tale was an important one to tell. The cabinet isn’t in the Constitution, yet we can all see that it still exists and wields an enormous amount of power. But as I completed my research and started to write, I discovered that the cabinet was even more central than even I had imagined. No legislation or constitutional amendment was ever passed to create the cabinet and there is very little public or congressional oversight over the president’s interactions with the department secretaries. As a result, Washington’s precedent governed his successors and continues to guide modern presidents.

I hope readers will take away a few lessons or concepts from reading The Cabinet. First, I want them to see the first cabinet as a group of intensely flawed, interesting humans. These guys weren’t marble busts! They had big personalities, opinions, passions, and quirks. That’s a much more interesting story than captured in your high school textbook.

Second, I hope readers will come away with a sense of the anxiety and intensity of the 1790s. In 2020, we know that the republic experiment worked, but they didn’t at the time. They were terrified that one misstep would lead to the downfall of the nation and they didn’t want to responsible for that fate. Similarly, there wasn’t a road map for Washington and the cabinet to follow; they were kind of making it up as they went along. They did their best and should be remembered as such, but they didn’t have all the answers.

Lastly, I hope readers will get a sense of just how much of our current political system is built on custom and norms. Most of what governs the daily activities of office holders isn’t written down, but instead is a bunch of commonly-accepted best practices established by previous politicians. That’s both an opportunity to advocate for change citizens don’t approve, but also doesn’t provide much legal protection against bad behavior. I hope that The Cabinet will provide some context for our current moment and offer some food for thought about what might be possible in the future.


The US Constitution never established a presidential cabinet―the delegates to the Constitutional Convention explicitly rejected the idea. So how did George Washington create one of the most powerful bodies in the federal government?

On November 26, 1791, George Washington convened his department secretaries―Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph―for the first cabinet meeting. Why did he wait two and a half years into his presidency to call his cabinet? Because the US Constitution did not create or provide for such a body. Washington was on his own.

Faced with diplomatic crises, domestic insurrections, and constitutional challenges―and finding congressional help lacking―Washington decided he needed a group of advisors he could turn to. He modeled his new cabinet on the councils of war he had led as commander of the Continental Army. In the early days, the cabinet served at the president’s pleasure. Washington tinkered with its structure throughout his administration, at times calling regular meetings, at other times preferring written advice and individual discussions.

Lindsay M. Chervinsky reveals the far-reaching consequences of Washington’s choice. The tensions in the cabinet between Hamilton and Jefferson heightened partisanship and contributed to the development of the first party system. And as Washington faced an increasingly recalcitrant Congress, he came to treat the cabinet as a private advisory body to summon as needed, greatly expanding the role of the president and the executive branch.


At eleven thirty in the morning on August 22, 1789, a large cream-colored coach pulled up to the front door of Federal Hall at 26 Wall Street in New York City. Six matching, perfectly groomed horses pulled the elegant carriage with sparkling gold trim. The coachman, outfitted in crisp white- and red-trimmed livery, jumped down from the back of the carriage and opened the door. An elegantly dressed man with powdered hair stepped down with a portfolio of papers under his arm. He towered over his companion, Henry Knox, the acting secretary of war, and his slaves tending to his horses. His ornate coach and his imposing presence drew curious stares from strangers passing by on the street. He walked up to the front door of Federal Hall and was immediately announced to the Senate. George Washington, the first president of the United States, had arrived for his first visit to the United States Senate.

This was no ordinary meeting. Two years earlier, the delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia had agreed that the Senate would “advise and consent” on treaties and other questions of foreign policy. But in practice, how the president and the Senate would interact remained for the first officeholders to work out….

About the Author

Lindsay M. Chervinsky, Ph.D. a historian of Early America, the presidency, and the government – especially the president’s cabinet. She shares her research by writing everything from op-eds to books, speaking on podcasts and other media, and teaching every kind of audience. She is Scholar-in-Residence at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies and Senior Fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies. Previously, she worked as a historian at the White House Historical Association. She received her B.A. in history and political science from the George Washington University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. She has been featured in the Law and History Review, the Journal of the Early Republic, TIME, and the Washington Post. Her new book, The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, was published by the Belknap Imprint of Harvard University Press on April 7, 2020.

The New Criterion recently said of her book, “Fantastic…Unlike many works of popular history, The Cabinet never feels like hagiography. It lacks the reverence of works like Joseph J. Ellis’ Founder Brothers or the revisionist obsequiousness that now greets Alexander Hamilton’s name on stage…Chervinsky exemplifies the public-history ethos in her new book. The writing is clear and concise…She takes what could have been a dry institutional and political history of the Early Republic and transforms it into a compelling story of people and places.”

When she isn’t writing, researching, or talking about history, she can be found hiking with her husband and American Foxhound, John Quincy Dog Adams (Quincy for short).

Readers can request a personalized book plate here:

Author Links

Lindsay M. Chervinsky will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Charity Sunday: Education and Literacy in the Time of COVID - #CharitySunday #RoomToRead

Charity Sunday Banner

Welcome to another Charity Sunday! Today I am supporting one of my favorite organizations, Room to Read. Room to Read helps to set up locally-controlled and managed programs to increase access to education and to encourage reading in poorer countries including India, Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Jordan, with a special focus on learning opportunities for girls.

I get lots of fund-raising emails from the causes I support (and from others that want my cash). Room to Read consistently talks about their successes and progress in those emails – rather than wringing their hands and trying to tell me how terrible everything is. I truly appreciate this. The world faces problems that seem insurmountable, but in fact local efforts by passionate individuals make a difference. I remember one email that showed up in my box at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, talking about a teacher in India who, when schools were shut down, rode his bike around the village, every day, delivering books to each of his students. A small gesture, perhaps – but one that could have a lasting impact on a few, important lives.

The pandemic has disrupted education for 9 out of 10 children in the world, with children in low income countries the worst affected. In response, Room to Read has supported a range of “distance learning” programs that depend not on the Internet (which is not available in most of their target areas) but on human connectivity. You can read more about these programs here:

So, today I will donate $2 to Room to Read’s COVID urgent appeal, for each comment I receive.

And to thank you for joining today’s event, I’ve got another exclusive excerpt from my new release The H-Gene. This MM scifi erotic romance takes place two and a half decades from today, in a U.S. that has been devastated and depopulated by a terrible Plague. Even before the Plague, however, the country was on a downward trajectory, due to global warming, environmental degradation, natural and man-made disasters and intergroup conflict. Education has declined to the point that some citizens no longer know how to read. Propaganda nevertheless survives...

Exclusive Excerpt

By the time Dylan and Rafe had finished consulting with Hammer, returned to the locker room and dressed, dusk was falling. Shadows made the shattered landscape of the exclusion zone even more forbidding. Rafe had relaxed somewhat during their technical discussion of streaming servers, encrypted feeds and specialized codecs, but now, as they made their way back to the gate, Dylan felt the other man’s unease.

The fear was contagious. Sweat gathered in Dylan’s armpits. Adrenaline boosted his pulse. Three days had elapsed since their escape, more than enough time for the Guardians to have disseminated images and particulars of the two fugitives. As they trudged along Market, hoods pulled over their masked faces, Dylan ventured a glance up at one of the screens. Just the usual programming,Technicolor fantasies of peace and plenty—glimpses of a world that was long gone.

He monitored the broadcast while he and Rafe waited to cross the street at one of the remaining traffic signals. It was six p.m., what passed for rush hour these days in Sanfran. A steady stream of miscellaneous vehicles flowed past.

A public service announcement popped up, full of chubby babies and clean-cut, beaming parents, offering free fertility augmentation. This was followed by an ad for Saturday’s rally, details posted both in English words and in simple icons that made reading unnecessary. There were no security advisories, no mug shots of his face, or Rafe’s.

He recalled his theory, that the Guardians might be unwilling to publicly admit his escape. That didn’t necessarily lessen the danger. A mini-copter droned overhead. He dropped his eyes to the ground, hiding behind his minimalist disguise, jumpy as a rabbit expecting the swoop of a hawk.

The red LED finally switched to green. Rafe strode forward into the intersection. The movement jolted Dylan out of his nervous fugue. He hurried after his lover, trying to catch up.

Halt!” The flat, mechanical voice was a remembered nightmare. Dylan looked over his shoulder. A Robbie loomed on the corner they’d just left, its black carapace flickering in the light from the vidscreen. Its multi-function gripper extruded the sparking prongs of a tasegun.

Halt, citizen 33609861022. Surrender, by order of the Guardians.”

Dylan sprinted across the street, snatching at Rafe’s sweatshirt. “Hurry!” He kept his voice down, not wanting to attract the attention of other pedestrians. They might be more deadly than the android. “Come on!” The signal had changed again and, for the moment, the Robbie was trapped on the opposite side.

Rafe gave a single glance backwards and understood immediately. He loped up the sidewalk, moving fast, but not running, not yet. Dylan struggled to keep up with the pace of his longer-legged companion.

Ignoring the red light, the hulking robot stepped into the road. Vehicles squealed to a stop. The Robbie marched across the road, each stride covering twice as much distance as Dylan’s own. People on the sidewalk shrank away from the ambulatory tank barreling along the broken pavement. “Halt! Halt!” the Robbie continued to intone, waving the Taser in their direction, gaining on them by the second.

Run!” Rafe yelled back at him, following his own advice. The powerful black man streaked along Market, then ducked into a side street. Dylan raced after him, breathing hard as he strained to catch up. The Robbie was nearly in range. Desperate, Dylan summoned every ounce of energy and channeled it to his pumping legs.

The street sloped upward. Rafe had almost reached the top of the hill, a good twenty yards ahead. Dylan’s calves screamed from the effort. His chest ached with each labored breath. His hood had slipped off and his hair clung to his forehead, soaked with sweat. I won’t go back, he told himself, pushing himself to the limit. I’d rather die.


Remember, every one of your comments helps to secure an education and improve the future for young women in low income countries. And please do visit the other authors who are participating in Charity Sunday today. (You'll find their links below.) Each one is supporting a cause dear to his or her heart.