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For Those Who Watch American Horror Story, Don’t Call it Incest. It is abuse.

Please note: The following conversation will contain spoilers for American Horror Story.  Consider yourself warned.  Also, this is a very sensitive discussion so there may be trigger warnings.  Click to continue.

I broke up with American Horror Story in the first season.  It is, in fact, too much for me.  But I find the main actress, Taissa Farminga, to be incredibly compelling, as is her counterpart, Evan Peters.  So last season, I avoided watching it entirely and just read the recaps the next morning.  It felt safer.

This year I thought I would give it another try, partly because it always debuts at the right time of year and you know, it’s Halloween, of course there should be witches.

In the season premiere, there was a very disturbing scene in which one of the witches, played by Emma Roberts, is gang raped by a multitude of frat boys at a party.  She is drugged, and they each rape her, one after another.  It was so disturbing to watch, I changed the channel and once again swore of the show.  The thing is, they made it very clear that it was rape.  There was no question.  And this portrayal, deeply disturbing to watch, did what it was supposed to do – it showed the violence and horror that is rape.

Jump forward to last night.  Evan Peters character has been brought back to life in a version of Frankenstein with a resurrection spell.  And he returns home where he is sexually abused by his mother.  There were several things that seemed very clear in the way the scene was shot:

1.  This abuse had been going on for a while, probably since he was a younger child.  Perhaps when he was 4 as alluded to in the conversation with his mother.

2.  The incident was so damaging to him.  When Peters turns his head to the side and begins to cry, the affects of this abuse are so poignantly demonstrated.  Although it was horrific to watch, Peters did victims everywhere honor with his poignant portrayal; I really felt he helped those watching to understand how incredibly horrific abuse is.

And yet, a curious thing happened.  Last night on the message boards people were talking about the “incest scene” on AHS.  DO NOT CALL THIS INCEST.  This is straight up sexual abuse and it is a violence perpetrated by one individual against another.  This is not a boy in love with his mother,  this is a boy being abused by his mother.  Violated.  It is an act of violence against him.

Incest is what we read in Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews, where family members closely related fall in love with each other.  They both tend to be willing participants.  If either participant is unwilling, non consenting, it is straight up abuse.  It is a violence done to them.

So why were they calling it incest?  Perhaps it is because we often don’t believe that a woman can sexually abuse a man.  But they can and it happens.  1 in 5 boys are victims of some type of sexual violence by the time they reach the age 18.  Although a majority of these crimes are done by men, upwards of 90%, women can and do abuse (more stats here). This cultural denial we perpetuate is the reason why people like Chris Brown will boast about losing his virginity at the age of 8 instead of recognizing that he was raped by his 15 year old babysitter.  It is part of the reason why young boys who “fall in love” with their female teachers and have sexual relations are patted on the back while male teachers who do the same with teenage girls are sent to prison.  It is part of the reason why broken and violated young men don’t come forward and get the help that they need.

Boys can be and are sexually abused.  Sometimes by women.  We must call it what it is.  What happened last night in American Horror Story wasn’t incest, and we harm victims everywhere when we mislabel the violence they suffer.  By giving the right words to the crime, me dis-empower those who would commit these acts and we empower the victims to break their silence and come forward.  Words have meaning, and using the right words is powerful.  Don’t call it incest – it was abuse.

Another case where it is called Incest when it is not: Flawed by Kate Avelynn

The post where Jonathan Maberry helps me impress my husband (An Author Interview)

The Mr. will make this shocked face!
The Challenge

This is the true story of how the following post came to be.  Earlier this year, Lois Lowry did a guest post here at TLT and I went home exploding in excitement to my husband. “Who’s Lois Lowry?”, he asked.  So, after realizing that I had failed him as a librarian, I mentioned that she was a 2-time Newbery winning author.  You know, the author of The Giver (it turns out, he has never read it.) So, he looked at me and said, “If you can get Jonathan Maberry to do a guest post, then I will be impressed.”  He obviously is a huge fan of Jonathan Maberry.  And Mr. Maberry was kind enough to help me impress my husband by doing this interview here at TLT.  So thank you!  I promise, I will gloat.

So, to my zombie loving husband, I present you with an interview with Jonathan Maberry. Be impressed!

On Writing, and Reading, Horror
TLT: What draws you to writing horror? And zombies?

Jonathan Maberry. And Jonathan Maberry as a zombie.
JONATHAN MABERRY: I came to horror by several converging routes. As a kid I was partly raised by my grandmother, who was very knowledgeable about what she called ‘the larger world’. She taught me about the myths, legends and (to her) beliefs in supernatural creatures of all kinds. By the time I was old enough to watch my first Hammer Horror flick I already knew about Redcaps, church Grimms, the Russian Liho, the White Ladies of Fau, the loup garou and other critters.

However when I was thirteen my middle school librarian –who was also the secretary for several clubs of professional writers—introduced me to a number of notable genre authors. Two of them –Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson—taught me a lot about the worlds of horror and fantasy. And for Christmas one year, Bradbury gave me a signed copy of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES and Matheson gave me a signed copy of the 1954 edition of I AM LEGEND.

As for zombies…when I was ten I snuck into the old Midway Theater in Philadelphia on October 2, 1968 to see the world premiere of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. I was terrified and enchanted at the same time. 

On Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse and the Popularity of Zombies

TLT: What have you learned from your books about surviving the zombie apocalypse? What should we do and what should we not do?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I’ve spent more than a reasonable amount of time thinking about the zombie apocalypse since I was a kid. So, by the time I got around to writing about zombies in books like ZOMBIE CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead, PATIENT ZERO, ROT & RUIN and DEAD OF NIGHT, I already had a workable plan.

My first move would be to make some protective gear out of carpet and duct tape. You can’t bite through it –I checked with forensic ondontologists (bite experts). Then I’d grab my wife and my katana, a weapon I’ve been training with and teaching for nearly fifty years, and head out to the nearest food distribution center. Those buildings are huge, they have few windows, they have trucks, they have their own back-up generators and they have enough food and supplies to outwait anything. Using that as a base, I’d round up survivors, a tanker truck of gasoline, more weapons, and we’d start making plans.

TLT: Why do you think zombies are so popular right now?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Aside from the usefulness of zombies as metaphors for telling virtually any kind of threat-based story, the genre has had a bump because writers (screen, TV, prose and comics) have finally learned what makes a zombie story work. And, no, it’s not zombies.  The best zombie stories are about people. Human beings who are in the middle of a massive shared calamity. If you start there, with a story about people in threat, then you can go anywhere you want dramatically.  If, on the other hand, you focus on the zombie, the story often collapses into cliché. As writers…we now get that.

TLT: What books have made you afraid to turn off the light?

JONATHAN MABERRY: There is one book that has always scared the bejeezus out of me, and it still does: THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson. It’s flawless, and it invites the reader to participate in the development of the horror. The other books that continue to give me shivers even after multiple re-reads are ‘SALEM’S LOT by Stephen King, GHOST STORY by Peter Straub, MYSTERY WALK by Robert McCammon, and THE MANITOU by Graham Masterton.
On Turning Your Books into a Movie

TLT: Everyone at TLT is a huge fan of the Rot & Ruin series, I am very excited that it has been optioned and should soon be coming to the movie screen. What is the optioning process? And what role will you be playing in the movie development?

JONATHAN MABERRY: An ‘option’ means that a producer –or in this case, a team of producers and actors—have leased the rights to develop a script and shop it around in order to raise funds. Once they have a commitment from backers, then they buy the film rights and go into active production.

As for my involvement in the film version of ROT & RUIN, that’s still to be determined, though the producers, actor (who will play Tom Imura), and screenwriter are in frequent touch with me. We have long, rambling creative discussions by phone. And I can tell you this much…so far they seem to see the story the same way I do. Granted a 90-minute movie is not going to include everything that’s in the book, but the version they’re constructing seems to be very much in keeping with how I imagine the film.

On Guys and Reading

TLT: As a teen librarian, it seems like we are often asking ourselves “how do we get teen guys to read?” What type of a reader were you as a teen? What really moved or entertained you? How do you incorporate who you were as a teen reader into writing for teens today?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I was always a reader. Except for when I was with my creepy grandmother I had a rather horrible childhood. Books were my escape, and I read absolutely everything. By the time I was in fourth grade I was reading Ed McBain, Robert E. Howard, Sheridan Le Fenu, Robert Bloch, and others. In the sixties and seventies I burned through everything by Edgar Rice Burroughs, all of the Bantam Books reprints of Doc Savage, John D. MacDonald, and anyone else I could get my hands on.  Reading was not my challenge in school. Math was my kryptonite.

Now, understand…I knew I wanted to be a writer since before I could actually read. When I was little I told stories with toys. So reading was a natural part of that. However I also read an enormous amount of nonfiction. I liked knowing the nuts and bolts behind something. So, if I real a cop novel, I’d then read true-crime books. If I read science fiction I’d look for books and articles on rocketry, robotics, space exploration, and so on.  I guess I’m still like that.

When I meet teens who are ‘reluctant readers’, I usually spend some serious time finding out what they’re interested in. If they don’t want to pick up a novel, I recommend comics, audio books, and even movies. Particularly movies based on books. If they dig the movie, they’re more likely to want to back-track to see the original story.

I don’t know if my reading habits influence the way I write for teens, but it certainly gives me a basis for good conversation with teens. I ask what they’re reading and we discuss those books and soon we’re geeking out on books in general.

TLT: What do you wish teen guys knew about reading?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Reading is power. Reading gives you power and helps your power to grow. Since I had a rough home life, I had no role models worth following. I learn my core values from comics and novels. I tell kids that. I also explain that I’m largely self-educated. Sure, I went to college, but I know far more about life, the world, and my place in it because of the thing I chose to read rather than books that were assigned to me. I talk to teen boys about what strength, courage and toughness really mean, and I can draw on examples from fiction and nonfiction.  And I explain how knowledge allows you to imagine solutions and opportunities that can help you out of any tough spot. That’s been a great basis for meaningful conversations with teen guys and me.
For more on guys and reading, see Show Me How to Live and visit Guys Read

TLT: Rot & Ruin is my go-to recommendation for a wide variety of readers, including guys. Thank you for that, by the way. What would be some other great recommendations?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I love Dan Wells’ books, particularly I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER. Brilliant. Naturally S.E. Hinton’s books are timeless classics. James Dashner’s MAZE RUNNER books. Markus Zusak’s THE BOOK THIEF.  LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green. THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness. Anything by Garth Nix. And, I recommend that boys read up. Read Stephen King’s THE STAND or THE DARK TOWER Series. Grab Roger Zelazny’s brilliant CHRONICLES OF AMBER or Frank Herbert’s DUNE.

But I also recommend to teen guy readers to occasionally pick up books that are popular with girls. When you read what they read, it’s easier to understand how they think and feel.

On What’s Next

TLT: Will Rot & Ruin be getting the graphic novel treatment?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Once the movie is actually getting close to release we’ll probably do something with a comic or graphic novel. We’re also discussing a video game, and a collectible card game based on the Zombie Cards.

On Visiting Schools and Libraries

TLT: I would love to sit down and talk with you about the characters and situations in Rot & Ruin, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with questions or get to spoilery. But I know you have done school and bookstore visits, what does an author get from doing these type of visits and interacting with readers? And do you have a school or library visit that you would like to share?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Visiting schools is such incredible fun. They’re all different because kids are different, and because schools have their own personalities.  Usually, though, I talk about my own rather weird path and some of the things I’ve done and experienced. You never know what’s going to connect with the teens who come to hear you talk. Sometimes it’s my background in martial arts that opens the door. Sometimes it’s my anecdotes about being a bodyguard in the entertainment industry (and being shot at, stabbed and run over!). Or being a singer/songwriter in the world heavy metal band in the history of bad music. Or writing for Marvel Comics. Or whatever. I talk and I allow questions right from the jump. We always have a good time.

Usually at least one kid in the audience will ask a challenging question in hopes of putting me on the spot. But I always respect the question and the questioner. And often that’s the point at which we dive deep into a real conversation.

I love school library visits. I’ve been doing them all over the country and it’s my favorite part of being a writer in the Young Adult genre.

Teen Librarian Toolbox: And finally, don’t you want to say “neener neener” to my The Mr.? (I am just kidding with this one 🙂 )

JONATHAN MABERRY: Dude…you didn’t think your wife could snag an interview with me. But, hey…check it out.  (Haven’t you learned that wives have super powers?)

Thank you so much to Jonathan Maberry for this moment.  We are huge fans at my house AND at my library, and I really did want some pointers on surviving the zombie apocalypse.

Jonathan Maberry is the New York Times bestselling and multiple Bram Stoker Award winning author of multiple novels for teens and adults, including the Rot & Ruin series and Joe Ledger series.  If you haven’t read them, check them out.  You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanMaberry.  You can also “like” him on Facebook.

All the places Jonathan Maberry is mentioned on TLT:
Book Review: Rot & Ruin
Book Review: Flesh & Bone
Reading the Zombie Apocalypse
What’s the Deal with Zombies Anyway?
Top 10 Tips for Surviving the Apocalypse

Please feel free to leave a comment telling Jonathan Maberry how much you love his books.  Or to leave The Mr. a “neener neener” in the comments.

These are a few of my favorite reads: the 2012 Karen edition

Raindrops on roses and zombies eating kittens,
Bright copper boys and warm fuzzy kisses,
Page after page, turning with need
These are a few of my favorite reads . . .

MG Reads, approved by my tween
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Wonder by R J Palacio
The Cavendish Home for Boys &Girls by Claire Legrand
Whatever After: Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski
(the complete top 10 post is here)

Heartwarming Reads
Guitar Notes by Mary Amato
The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Wonder by R J Palacio

The Books That Make You Go Hmmm (aka Thoughtful Reads)
Ask the Passengers by A. S. King
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown
The Downside of Being Charlie by Jenny Torres Sanchez
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Mindbending Reads (aka What the Heck is Happening Here?)
The Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross
Every Day by David Levithan
BZRK by Michael Grant
Through to You by Emily Hainsworth

Sci Fi Awesomeness
The Future We Left Behind by Mike A. Lancaster
BZRK by Michael Grant
Crewel by Gennifer Albin
Insignia by S J Kincaid
Across the Universe/A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Dystopian Worlds I Wouldn’t Want to Live In, But Love to Read About
Delirium/Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Starters by Lissa Price
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Unwind/Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

Grrr, Arrr . . . Brains . . . Nom, Nom (Zombie Reads)
Rot & Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
Ashes/Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Reality Bites, But These Books Rock
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein
Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Skinny by Donna Cooner

Literary Masterpieces
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Riddle Me This, Batman (Mysteries)
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock

Fantastic Fantasies
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

These Girls Kick Ass
Ashes/Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick
Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
Stormdancer (The Lots War Book One) by Jay Kristoff

These Guys Do Too
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer/Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride
Quarantine, book 1: The Loners by Lex Thomas
Tap Out by Eric Devine
Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Books That Can Make Even Me Like History
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Diviners by Libba Bray

Pop Spewing Reads (aka Dude, I think I just peed myself aka Book That are Side Splitting Funny)
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand
The Necromancer series by Lish McBride
Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Best Road Trips of the Year
In Honor by Jessi Kirby
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Just Pure Aweseomeness (My top 5 of the Year – today)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Ask the Passengers by A. S. King
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

On the Eighth Day of Blogmas, my TLT gave to me

Guys Lit Wire!  I am not of the whole ‘guys and girls read different books’ mentality but I do like to find books that appeal to my reluctant boy readers and books that have male main characters.  Guys Lit Wire is a site I stumbled across via Twitter one day and fell in love.  Basically, the group of contributors (and according to their page there are a TON), put together book reviews and a few articles about books that appeal to guys.  The plus side?  The books aren’t always new!  I find this super refreshing because there are several books that they have reviewed in the past that were a little older but that I had not read or heard about which allowed me the opportunity to showcase older books along with newer books in my displays.

Check it out, laugh because the reviews and labels are brutally honest, and enjoy!


Show Me How to Live: Guest blogger Eric Devine talks YA Lit with the boys in his class

Today, ya author of Tap Out and high school teacher Eric Devine presents a guest post on getting boys to read.  As you know, trying to turn teenage boys into readers can be a challenge.  So Eric sat down with the boys in his class and asked them what they wanted in the books that they read.  Here is that discussion.

Show Me How to Live

As a YA fiction writer, I write books that I hope teenage boys will read. As a high school English teacher, I try to foster readership for all my students. Based on my conversation with a mostly white, middle class group of sophomore boys, and my own inclinations as a writer and educator, I may be striving for the impossible.

The Questions

I asked my aforementioned boys the following:

1.     What do you like about Young Adult literature?

2.     What do you dislike about Young Adult literature?

3.     Do you read YA for pleasure? If so, why? If not, why?

 First off, the boys had a difficult time defining “Young Adult literature”. I narrowed the field to stories about anyone 14 to 17 years old. One of the girls said, “Like Hunger Games? Or Twilight?” I affirmed her response and that got the ball rolling. Sort of.

The Likes:







Individuals with power (supernatural or otherwise)


Romance (a small minority)

This makes sense to me. Boys are drawn to action and adventure, either by design or by upbringing. Even the most sensitive male teen will fall into a story that is fast-paced. I have also seen that boys like violence, especially in the form of vengeance by one of the powerful or superhero characters. This, to me, speaks of their comfort with the universal black and white, good versus evil archetype. They don’t see this violence as excessive or unnecessary. It’s part of the world when evil exists. More on this later. I can also appreciate the inclination toward the supernatural and Sci-Fi, because such genres are of “other” places, where events occur outside the realm of possibility, and are, therefore, not threatening, because they’re not about “real life”.

The Dislikes:

Events are not handled as they would be in real life

The characters act too immature

The time it takes to read

The title “Young Adult” itself

I was surprised by these answers to a degree. I’ve long seen boys choose video games over books, but the idea that conflicts and characters were not demonstrative of how life is was unnerving. And the last comment, the label, was something I had never considered. According to one boy, “Why would I want to be seen checking out a book for a young adult. I want to read adult things?”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0gQNxQ4kjw] 

 Why/Why Not?

The time it takes

More enjoyable to watch a movie than to read a book

Simply, “I do not read.”

There was nothing shocking here. Boys will be blunt. Reading is not their thing. It’s for girls. They have better ways to spend their time.

 My Conclusions

I already knew as a teacher that I’m in a staggering uphill battle. Therefore, this conversation only confirmed that I must continue to show the merit of reading and practice what I preach. Talk books, garner interest, bring them to the library.

As a writer I cannot shy away from the reluctance. I must use it as a challenge, which I’ve already done with Tap Out. I wrote a novel that meets all of the requirements on the “like” list, while refusing to succumb to a shallow representation of the good versus evil motif. I demonstrated that life is gray, muddled, and that who is good and just isn’t always clear. There aren’t always untarnished protagonists, who in the end are victorious.

And that act and this conversation have brought me to one conclusion: Boys want to be shown how to live.

I mean this in both the literal and figurative sense. Boys will read. They will read non-fiction, especially sports and military related stories. There’s comfort there, and no stigma. Same with the superheroes and supernatural, because really, aren’t our sports stars and military heroes the template for such? Or vice versa?

Boys want manuals for life, stories about how to get from A to B, and not with the safety nets that are sometimes present in YA, because they know they will never exist for them in the real world. Boys want to walk away from a story with a lesson that is valuable for what they deem is important in life. And by the “like” list we can see that they need some guidance.

If we follow my logic, they don’t like violence inherently, they read about it to avoid the scrape, or possibly to learn how to kick ass if the time comes. That’s not an endorsement, but a reality. Boys get this. They also want to see themselves in mythical status, the superhero of their story. And why shouldn’t they? That’s how you build confidence, which so many of my boys lack, or fail to present in any way beyond cockiness. Boys also seem to understand that the villain also sees himself as the hero of his own story, and that whoever has the most power dictates which narrative unfolds. Frightening, but true in a world of social media, instant rumor mill and the pervasive bully, who now lurks in corners, hangs out in the open, and strikes from all angles.

I believe the zombies and romance elements are rooted in the same concern: love. This is a giant untouchable for boys. They don’t talk about love. They don’t talk about feelings much, period (at least in a class). Men don’t either. Not stereotypically or theoretically, but in the majority. So why should boys buck the trend? Because they’re still naive enough, still hopeful enough, and still vulnerable enough to learn.

Zombies are the manifestation of death of the human spirit. They exist, but have no emotion, just pure desire for the ultimate taboo. Romance is on the other end of the spectrum, the pining, the swooning, the tears—all of which gets made fun of during Romeo and Juliet, but in reality hits home when it’s delivered correctly in YA. Boys stumble, are inarticulate, are overwhelmed by hormones. They need a character to be there, too, but somehow still manage to go out with the girl. Not because possession of the girl is the goal, but love is. Feeling. Not being a zombie.

Teachers, find stories that address the criteria of the “like” list for your boys. Ignore the dislikes. Enough good reading and they may forget they disliked books in the first place. Read with them. Talk to them about what they’re reading. Encourage. We have enough non-readers as is, and as Twain said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

Writers, be brave, and if writing for boys, just go for it. Don’t be afraid to be politically correct or feel compelled to follow some stock template for your protagonist. Believe that you are filling a fundamental need, and that is to teach our youth something vital. That’s what storytelling is all about, anyway. Your characters should be flawed and genuine, and if you care enough to bring them through conflicts that alter their perceptions, challenge their biases and beliefs, stretch their mettle beyond what they assume reasonable, guess what? You’ll have done the same for our boys. You will have shown them how to live. For that, we can all thank you.
 Eric Devine is a teacher and author of the new young adult novel Tap Out, published by Running Press Kids.  You can read more about it at his webpage or at Goodreads.  Tap Out is the contemporary story of 17-year-old Tony, growing up in a trailer park where a string of abusive men come in and out of his and his mother’s life.  Tony may have found a way out when he joins a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) class, but there are so many elements – including local gangs – that can be hard to escape in the neighborhood.  The Mr. read Tap Out and gave it a thumbs up.  It is gritty and raw and real, but so our the lives that some of our teens are living.  The language can be rough, but it reflects the environment that Tony is growing up in.  For some teens, they will see themselves reflected in this book.  For others, they will get a glimpse into a life that can’t imagine but is sadly all to real for some of our teenage boys.  Tap Out by Eric Devine is in stores now (ISBN 9780762445691).