Why Aren’t You Reading Sing to It, Amy Hempel’s New Short Story Collection?

In the literary world, maybe no modern short story writer has more admirers than Amy Hempel. Her beautiful, sparse writing style has cultivated fans across the globe—gaining a fandom in writers as broad as Miranda July to Chuck Palahniuk. Sing to It, her first short story collection since 2006, is another high mark for the evolving writer. There is still plenty of familiar territory for returning fans of Hempel’s writing; her minimal prose still packs a serious punch, and the stories (sometimes as short as a few paragraphs) require dissection and repeat readings.

My own favorite was “A Full-Service Shelter,” a lean story that is informed by Hempel’s own time as an animal shelter volunteer. Part touching, part hilarious, the story describes how volunteers are viewed from dogs’ perspective. It includes winning lines like this: “They knew us as the ones who had no time for the argument that caring about animals means you don’t also care about people; one of us did! Evelyne, a pediatrician who treated abused children.”

Check it out today at JDL:

Sing to It by Amy Hempel

Oscar-Winning Documentary Free Solo Details One Man’s Terrifying, Ropeless Yosemite Climb

The scariest movie of the year isn’t in our horror section. Free Solo, an Oscar-winning documentary from National Geographic, shows the story of American rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to “free climb”—meaning, without a rope or safety gear—the 3,000-foot El Capitan at Yosemite National Park. The documentary not only features amazing visuals of the climb, but attempts to explain the head-scratching decision to complete such a dangerous feat. This documentary is highly recommended—as long as you’re not afraid of heights. You can place a hold on Free Solo now.

Local Author Spotlight: Rodney Wetzel

For this edition of Local Author Spotlight, Adult Services Librarian Becca Skau interviewed Rodney Wetzel, a local author who has written a horror series that begins in a fictional town outside of Jackson, Michigan. Mr. Wetzel commented on his series being set in the Jackson area: “I was born in Jackson and spent most of my life in the Jackson area. Even though I now live in Tampa, my roots are still in Michigan and the Jackson area. I still have a lot of family and very dear friends there and still consider Jackson home.”


Rodney Wetzel graduated with honors from Western Michigan University and continued his education at Spring Arbor College. When not writing horror, he spends his time working as a grant writer and Senior Planner. He is the author of Fritz, Banthom and Bobby’s Cage. He and his wife live outside Tampa, Florida, where he is currently at work on his fourth and final book of the series.

What was your inspiration to begin writing? Why did you choose to write horror?

I chose to start writing as a way of recovering from a near-fatal car accident back in 1995. The reason I chose horror was that I grew up as a fan of Stephan King. When I was young, I read everything he wrote.

What do you want readers to know about your first book Fritz, and the rest of the books in the series?

I believe that horror has taken some of the traditional horror monsters and put them into dramas rather than horror. I would like to remind the reader why those monsters were so terrifying for so many years.

What authors most influenced your writing?

Though I grew up with Stephan King, I would say the biggest influence for Fritz was Stocker’s Dracula. It may be an older story, but it is still one of the scariest stories ever written.

What is one of the hardest things you had to learn as a writer? What do you wish you would have known ahead of time?

The hardest part of writing for me is the editing. I have learned a lot with every book, but editing is the hardest aspect.

Do you prefer eBooks or physical books for your own reading?

I will always prefer the feel of paper. There is something special about turning the page. Still the electronic copies (eBooks and audiobooks) provide many benefits, such as having Alexa read it for you.

Top 3 books you want every reader to check out from the library?

Besides Fritz, Banthom and Bobby’s Cage, I would recommend Bram Stocker’s Dracula, Stephan King’s Salem’s Lot, and Dean Koontz’s The Bad Place.

Wetzel’s Reccomendations —

Read These Suggested Titles from the Latest Facing Race Conference

Facing Race, an annual conference that made its way to Detroit in late 2018, is billed as “the largest multiracial, inter-generational gathering for organizers, educators, creatives and other leaders.” The conference brought more than 70 workshops and 180 presenters to the Detroit area last year. Topics included gentrification, healthcare, comics and advocacy, movement-based journalism, and many more. In the past, the conference has been hosted in Atlanta, Baltimore, Berkeley, Chicago, Dallas, Oakland, and New York.

After attending Facing Race, many JDL staffers went home with several book recommendations. You can check them out below.

Heavy by Kiese Laymon
Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Joy Degruy
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Waking up White by Debby Irving

Freegal Service Disconnected

We at Jackson District Library are sorry to inform you that the Freegal service has been discontinued. The reason for ending this service is that an increasingly low low user activity did not justify the cost for providing it. It is always the library’s intention to be a good steward of the resources we enjoy, to provide our community with the highest quality content. This situation was no longer successful by that standard.

After the decision was made to discontinue service, there was some misunderstanding about when the service would end, and we are sorry that we did not communicate the change better. Music is still available digitally through Hoopla, and you can always request JDL to buy any material through the suggest a purchase option on our website. JDL apologizes that you were not provided with adequate notice to move your music library and plans to do better in the future.

Marvel Comics Legend Stan Lee Dies at 95

With the announcement of Stan Lee’s passing in Los Angeles, November 12 marked a sad day for comic book fans worldwide. Lee had a key role in developing the Marvel Comics empire with characters like Spider-Man, Black Panther, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, and many others. The Marvel editor, writer, and publisher was beloved for his creations—but also for creating characters that were notably different and often flawed. The X-Men, mutants who were exiled to their own solitary lives because of public fear, mirrored countless issues in American culture since they were introduced in 1963. Whereas Spider-Man, who first gets his powers as a teenager, reflected the complications of passing great responsibility to a young adult.

Though Lee has passed, he leaves behind many great stories that are being continued to this day. Take a look at some of Lee’s contributions and some new Marvel tales below.

Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel

The Amazing Spider-Man Fights Substance Abuse

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet

The Uncanny X-Men. Volume 1

Local Author Spotlight J. A. Devereaux

Long Running Series Author

Recently, local author J.A. Devereaux sat down with Adult Services librarian Becca Skau to chat about being a local author in Jackson County. Devereaux is author of the Requisition For: A Thief series and expects to release Book 8 of the series in late Spring or early Summer of 2019. She has also embarked on a new series, Thief à la Femme, which has just released its second book, thief.con, this past September.

J.A. Devereaux has been a distance runner from the age of 15. She also had a singing ministry for 15 years and recorded three songs, but writing is her true passion now. She deeply enjoyed creating and executing the promotional videos on YouTube for her first book series. Learning to pick locks and pick out of handcuffs was some of her favorite research for her writing.

Your Requisition For: A Thief Series will have its 8th book out in the late Spring/early Summer of 2019. What do you want our readers to know about this series?

The Requisition For: A Thief series is a contemporary reboot of an old TV show that ran in the late 60s – “It Takes A Thief” – starring Robert Wagner as international jewel thief Alexander Mundy. Of course, my series has new characters not related to the original characters at all; it is more a reboot of a certain type or genre exemplified in that TV show. The premise for the storyline has not been used, that I know of, before nor since that TV show – until I came along and wrote this series. The premise of the show, and what I wanted to come out in my series as well, is the concept of getting a thief out of prison, not to catch other criminals, but to do what he does better than anyone else in the world: steal.

My thief, Gregg Hadyn (loosely based on the character of Alexander Mundy), has been “requisitioned” by the President of the United States and the director of a United States Intelligence Community agency (an agency of spies) to steal for our government. What does he steal? Anything. Everything. Whatever is needed to protect the security of our country. Though Gregg Hadyn was primarily a jewel thief before coming to work for the U.S. government, there isn’t anything he can’t steal. He is a smoking hot, genius thief, with a pronounced set of “morals.”

In addition, you just recently debuted Book 2 – thief.con – of your second series, Thief à la Femme. What should our readers know about that series?

I never thought I would write another series. Never needed to, never wanted to. I was all about the hot male thief working for the spies. The guy who was there, both because he has no choice, and at the same time, because he ultimately wants to be there. The Thief à la Femme series came about because of The Heist videos I put on YouTube as marketing trailers for the Requisition For: A Thief (“REQThief”) books, but they ended up appealing to a different crowd, a different type of reader. One of my Heist video fans actually asked me to write a book about a female thief. I think I surprised even myself when I started thinking about it.

Because I cannot condone or write about gun-toting robbers, shooting or threatening to rip off innocent people for their own gain, my thieves, both in the “REQThief” and Thief à la Femme (“Femme”) series, had to have a saving factor about them. First, they don’t carry guns, and besides that, they had to be basically good people who possessed the incredible training – literally trained from childhood – to be the best thieves in the world. For Gregg Hadyn, my “REQThief” hero, I needed to find a way to get him on the right side of the law, but I couldn’t bear the thought of him being caught, at least not in the commission of a theft. I wanted him to be better than that. So, I came up with Gregg’s Achilles heel, something which clouded his judgment a bit. That, I could live with. You’ll have to read “REQThief” Book 1 – A Diamond for the Taking to find out what Gregg’s Achilles heel is.

But I didn’t want to do anything similar to that with “Femme.” If I were to start a new series, it had to be totally different than what I had done with “REQThief.” So when I began to seriously contemplate maybe starting another series, or at the least writing one other book outside the “REQThief” series, I had to come up with another way to make my thief a good person, but without putting her on the right side of the law this time. She had to remain a thief.

So Thief à la Femme incorporates a totally different scenario. Rayla Rousseau, my heroine in the “Femme” series, in so many ways, has always been a good person much more so than even Gregg was before he became intertwined with the spies. The Thief à la Femme mantra is: Beautiful. Intelligent. Consummate Professional. She’s a thief… with a heart for justice.

I guess the thing I want readers of both of my series to know is that these stories aren’t about bad guys. Both series are about thieves who are not bad at all. And, if I’ve done my job as a writer and author, the reader should be pulling for them – even in love with them – by the end of the first few chapters of either series.

Before your two series, you published a single novel that we keep here in our Minter Van Orman collection – The Price of Notoriety. What are your thoughts looking back on your first novel?

Well, The Price of Notoriety is off the market. I published it in 2003 before I knew anything about how to write publishable prose. I consider it poorly written as it stands now. However, I plan to republish it as a prequel to the Requisition For: A Thief series at some point, since it is the story of Gregg Hadyn’s ancestors, the old west outlaws, Cayle and Skye Hadyn, and it documents how the Hadyn thieving legacy began. The Price of Notoriety no longer jives with the rest of the Requisition For: A Thief series the way it stands now, but perhaps remains a fun, good clean romance for anyone who might be looking for that type of story. I do have to say that The Price of Notoriety is a blatantly Christian story, which the Requisition For: A Thief and the Thief à la Femme series are not. Thus, the writing style is very different from what I do now.

Explain how you got into writing:

Before I deal with that question, I think it would be helpful to set the stage for you, and possibly answer one of the biggest questions that I get, personally, as a writer. That question is: Why do you write about thieves? What is the draw for you that keeps you writing stories about thieves as “good guys” to the exclusion of any other type of storyline?

I first fell in love with the concept of “the thief who isn’t really a bad guy” when I was an impressionable preteen through the TV show “It Takes A Thief” and then later a show with a similar concept – “Alias Smith and Jones” – a show about two outlaws trying for an amnesty.

Now, to answer your question, fast forward from the late sixties and my preteens to early 1986 and my early thirties. My husband and I had a little girl that was almost two, our first child, and I had been watching the syndicated reruns of “Alias Smith and Jones” – a show that had never had a proper ending. It was just pulled off the air after 2 ½ seasons – and so, while immersed in watching the reruns, I had this dream one night. It wasn’t the ending for the show or anything that spectacular, it was just a weird dream about the characters interacting with me.

That dream stayed with me for weeks as I continued to watch the TV show every day while my almost-two-year-old napped. A couple weeks later, that dream combined with the fact that the show never had a proper ending – those two lovable outlaws who “weren’t really bad guys,” caused me to begin writing their ending… because I had what I considered to be the perfect ending for them.

Ultimately, when I began thinking about possibly publishing my story, I changed the characters’ names, a lot of the storyline, and rewrote it to become The Price of Notoriety. That’s how I began writing and that’s how and why I continue to write storylines exclusively about “the thief who isn’t really a bad guy.”

What is one of the hardest things you had to learn as a writer? What do you wish you would have known ahead of time?

I think the hardest thing I had to learn was how to write in a way that publishers and editors were looking for in this day and age. I knew how to tell a story – that I was good at. Learning to write in a way that was expected by publishers/editors and effective now, in the twenty-first century, was the lesson I needed. When I finally contracted a professional editor, she taught me how to do that – how to write publishable prose for today’s market. I wish, more than anything, someone would have told me to contract a professional editor before I published my first book. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, is more important to a writer who is serious about publishing than having a good editor.

A second point I wish I had known was the impact a good cover has for the sale of a book, and I wish someone had told me it really is important to contract a professional cover design artist for the job. I published four books in the “REQThief” series before contracting my professional cover design artist. Once I saw the incredible, phenomenal difference, I went back and republished those first four books with the new covers, a move that cost me in both dollars and time, but was, nevertheless, well worth it. Having great looking covers designed by someone who knows the industry and knows what he/she is doing is right up there with having a superb professional editor.

What authors most influenced your writing?

I majored in English in college; got my BA in English. That meant I read a lot of classic literature. My favorite author back then was Charles Dickens, and at least in the beginning of my writing career, he influenced the way I wrote. I soon found out, publishing editors in the twenty-first century weren’t looking for Charles Dickens-type writers, though! His flowery prose went out sometime in the sixties.

My favorite author these days is J.K. Rowling – specifically for her Harry Potter series. I love Rowling for two reasons: Number one, the woman is a master storyteller, and number two, she can also really write well. That is not a combination you generally see. Usually an author is good at one and not so much at the other, but Rowling breaks the mold. She is a phenomenal storyteller and writer.

Nevertheless, I do not believe her writing style is anything like mine. I would have to say that the writing you are reading from me now was most influenced by my first professional editor, Patricia Woodside. She taught me everything I know and everything I apply in the writing of all my books. But the way I set up a scene, the way a story flows? That’s all me. I believe everyone has talents in life, and that is mine.

Top 5 Books you want every reader to check out from the library?

Well… I’d really like to see every reader who walks through the Jackson District Library doors check out Requisition For: A Thief Books 1 – 7 and Thief à la femme Books 1 & 2!

But if you mean, other than my books? Mmmm… I honestly cannot answer that. There are so many genres out there: mystery, action, adventure, crime, espionage, fantasy, science fiction, romance… Everyone has his or her own preference. I could not possibly tell someone, “Oh, you really need to read such and such,” which might be a fabulous science fiction novel, but it turns out he or she is a mystery or romance fan. I just do not believe one person can tell another person what he or she should read. If you are a newbie to the reading scene and you are unsure what genres appeal to you, try a little of everything. I guarantee before you are finished with the last genre, you’ll know what lights your fire!

You can check out J.A. Devereaux’s Requisition For: A Thief series and her Thief à la Femme series from Jackson District Library! Follow the links to place your copy on hold!

Two Directors Make Strong Debuts in These New Release Movies

October’s new release movies showcased two great new talents in directors Boots Riley (Sorry to Bother You) and Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade).

Riley, who made a name as a rapper with the group The Coup, has directed one of this year’s most original movies. Titled Sorry to Bother You, the film follows an African-American telemarketer named Cash Green who uses “white voice” to advance his career. The events that follow pits Cash in the middle of a conspiracy that satirizes modern race relations, capitalism, and power itself. The movie is filled with inventive imagery and absurd twists—and is probably unlike anything else you’ve seen this year. The movie received an R rating for language, sexual content, and drug use.

Bo Burnham, who some might recognize from his career as a stand-up comedian, directed a painfully relatable coming-of-age film called Eighth Grade. The film follows Kayla Day, an eighth-grade student who struggles with anxiety and produces video blogs on improving confidence and self-image. The movie shows Kayla navigate recognizable middle school struggles—first crushes, pool parties, and looking cool at the mall—but also explores the effect of social media on teens. The movie received an R rating for language and some sexual references.

You can place them both on hold now.

Get Scared in a Hurry with These Spooky Short Stories

Casual horror readers might associate the genre with Stephen King’s thousand-page tomes, but some of the most satisfying scary reads can come in the short story format. King has published a few great short story collections, as well as writers like Bentley Little, Joe Hill, Chuck Palahniuk, and more. Check them out below:

Stephen King [Editor]: Flight or Fright

Joe Hill: 20th Century Ghosts

Bentley Little: Walking Alone

Chuck Palahniuk: Haunted

The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 4

Nico Walker: Veteran, Bank Robber, Prisoner, and Now a Lauded Novelist

Nico Walker — the debut author who is making waves with his novel, Cherry — did not follow a traditional track to publishing his first novel. At the age many young authors would attend writing classes or workshops, Walker served as a medic in Iraq. Later, he’d return to the United States with PTSD and became addicted to heroin—a habit that he supplemented by robbing banks in the Cleveland area. He is now serving 11 years in a Kentucky federal prison for those crimes, where he wrote Cherry on a typewriter.


The book was later sold to Knopf, and movie rights have been acquired by the Russo brothers, who directed Avengers: Infinity War.



The novel seems to fictionalize this experience, pulling the reader into Walker’s gritty worldview with lean, choppy prose that’s comparable to Donald Ray Pollock’s, who also hails from Ohio. The book is a tough read, blending a nameless narrator’s love story with strong imagery of war and addiction, but its critical reception has been strong. Vulture mused that Cherry “might be the first great novel of the opioid epidemic.”

Put Cherry on hold today.

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