Hi all! Thrilled to be here sharing a quick look at Songs of Thalassa by Dr. Brian N. Tissot, as well as a Q&A! This timely book written by a marine ecologist features pressing environmental concerns and a gripping story. Today is its second day of being out in the world, so congratulations to Dr. Tissot!
The Book and its Author
After a surfing accident claims her career and nearly takes her life, surfer Sage Thompson is at a crossroads. Still mourning her astronaut father's death on a mission to ocean planet Thalassa, a tragedy she might be able to put behind her with the help of her fans—if they still believed in her—she's not sure what to do, where to go, or how to move on. But when Milo challenges her to a contest on the ocean planet Thalassa, the asteroid- and tsunami-ravaged world that stole her father, she'll discover that she not only still has what it takes to win, but once she hears the songs of Thalassa, winning might not be the most important thing. Songs of Thalassa will appeal to fans of Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Martian, and Contact, and features a young woman on a journey of self-discovery struggling to develop a sense of place and connections between herself, her culture, and the universe on a virgin ocean planet.
DR. BRIAN TISSOT is a marine ecologist and professor living in a small coastal town in far Northern California. He is a third-generation Californian and has surfed for 40 years while living in California, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii.
As a college professor he has taught and mentored thousands of students at the University of Hawaii, Washington State University, and Humboldt State University over the last 30 years. He has taught over a dozen courses in marine biology, ecology, environmental ethics, and environmental policy.
As a scientist and explorer, Tissot has completed thousands of SCUBA dives and hundreds of submersible excursions across the coral reefs and deep seas of the Pacific. Through his research he has advocated for the conservation of marine resources through testimony and law creation. He has published 80 scientific papers and his research has been featured in major media including Scientific American, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, the Washington Post and several films. In addition to his scientific endeavors, Tissot (aka “Dr. Abalone”) also produces surfing videos on YouTube and blogs about surfing, marine biology, and environmental issues on BrianTissot.com.
Songs of Thalassa is his first science fiction book and the first of three books in the Songs of the Universe series.
Q & A
Question: As a career marine biologist focused on the conservation of coral reefs, kelp forests, and the deep-sea, one of the natural themes in Songs of Thalassa is the global warming effects on marine life. Why did you write Songs of Thalassa?
Brian Tissot: Wanting to draw attention to Earth’s plight, I thought the best way was to place someone who didn’t care about the environment on a virgin planet and see what happens. I believe they would see what Earth was like before we began to destroy its ecosystems, connect to its indigenous life and appreciate its beauty, and ultimately want to defend it. This is Sage’s journey on Thalassa.
Q: Songs of Thalassa chronicles Sage Thompson – a young Hawaiian surfer. Why is the book dedicated to your daughter and the young women of the world?
BT: As a professor I have observed thousands of women in my classes graduate from college and move on with their lives without a mission in life, despite possessing many remarkable gifts. Because we desperately need young women as leaders in today’s society, I created Sage’s journey to inspire those looking for a path to purpose. We know what the world looks like with men as leaders; I believe it is now time for women to lead us, with love, compassion, and aloha.
Although Sage’s character is not based on my daughter, as a young marine biologist and surfer with a beautiful aloha spirit, her love for the ocean inspired a lot of my writing about Sage’s early life and her relationship with her father.
Q: Why does Songs of Thalassa focus on big wave surfing and Hawaiian culture?
BT: Big wave surfing was both a hook to young audiences and a metaphor for Sage’s struggles with reconciling her emotions about her dead father. The setting on Thalassa is what scientists predict on a low-gravity planet, such as Mars on which it is based, and creates some really cool scenarios for surfing. Because surfing and my love for fhe ocean led to my career in marine biology, I also felt it was natural lead-in to what the early explorers of ocean planets would want to do.
Hawaiian culture has much to offer to the world, particularly as it relates to love, family, and environmental stewardship, or malama‘āina (nurture the land). Like many indigenous cultures, Hawaiian practices were almost exterminated by western culture. A resurgence of these traditions in the 1970s, and up to today, have been instrumental in reviving many practices, such the Hawaiian language and voyaging traditions, to name a few. I viewed Sage’s journey to Thalassa as an extension of Polynesian’s fantastic voyages and discoveries across the Pacific. Her reengagement with her culture and beliefs in the old ways was symbolic of Hawaiians discovering the power of their own culture and remembering their ancestors. I also hope my book will inspire readers to listen to authentic native Hawaiian voices and seek their wisdom, as I am not Hawaiian.
Q: Explain why music plays a big role in the book.
BT: Music plays a significant role in the book and as it helped tie the major themes of the book together and is at the cutting edge of scientific research. Whale songs and their sonar abilities are well known, which is why they were included in the book. But sound in nature is not as well known, and we are discovering it is prevalent among a wide variety of organisms and not well understood. As Bernie Krause has written in the Great Animal Orchestra, sounds in nature are as carefully orchestrated as the most beautiful classical score and were the inspiration for human music. Music was the motivation for the title of the book, Songs of Thalassa, and will be explored more deeply in the next two books as part of the Songs of the Universe series. Sadly, with the destruction of our environment, we are silencing these beautiful sounds and communications in nature before we even understand what they mean. It’s a huge loss and one we need to stop.
Q: Tell us more about the next book in the series.
BT: The next book in series, Songs of Hina, takes place in the future when a team returns to Thalassa to learn more about the inhabitants. Many of the mysteries in SOT will be explored more deeply, including the songs, and Thalassa’s moon, named Hina by Sage, will play a prominent role.
Hi all! I recently had the opportunity to speak with Alex Myers, a teacher, writer, and gender inclusivity education consultant, after his talk at my school. Alex was kind enough to answer a few questions for me on his reading and writing, and I hope you'll pick up his books!
Alex Myers is a writer, teacher, and speaker. Born and raised in Paris, Maine, Alex was raised as a girl (Alice) and left Maine to attend boarding school at Phillips Exeter Academy. At Exeter, Alex came out as transgender, returning his senior year as a man after attending for three years as a woman, and was the first transgender student in that Academy’s history.
After Exeter, Alex earned his bachelor’s at Harvard University, studying Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Alex was also the first openly transgender student at Harvard and worked to change the University’s nondiscrimination clause to include gender identity.
Subsequent to earning a master’s degree in religion at Brown, Alex has pursued a career in teaching English at secondary schools. He completed his Master’s of Fine Arts in fiction writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he began his work on Revolutionary. He currently lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two cats. (https://alexmyerswriting.com/about/)
Go West, Young Man. Isn't that the advice every east coast boy has considered at least once in his life?
At nineteen, almost twenty, Ron Bancroft thinks those words sound pretty good. Newly out as transgender, Ron finds himself adrift: kicked out by his family, jilted by his girlfriend, unable to afford to return to college in the fall. So he heads out to Wyoming for a new start, a chance to prove that—even though he was raised as a girl, even though everyone in Boston thinks of him as transgender—he can live as a man. A real man.
In Wyoming, he finds what he was looking for: rugged terrain, wranglers, a clean slate. He also stumbles into a world more dangerous than he imagined, one of bigotry and violence. And he falls for an intriguing young woman, who seems as interested in him as he is in her. Thus begins Ron’s true adventure, a search not for the right place in America, but the right place within himself to find truth, happiness, and a sense of belonging.
Shreya P: Hi Alex! Thank you so much for joining me! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Alex Myers: I’m a high school English teacher – something I’ve been doing for the last fifteen years. I was born and raised in rural Maine and consider myself a Northern New Englander at heart, though I’ve lived in Florida, DC, and some other places away from NE. I’m also a transgender person, and I came out 25 years ago; thinking about gender, teaching about gender, and working for civil rights for transgender people has been a big part of my life.
SP: ... and how about your books?
AM: I write short nonfiction – essays. And I write novels. My first, Revolutionary, came out from Simon & Schuster in 2014. It tells the story of my ancestor, Deborah Sampson, who ran away from home, disguised herself as a man, and fought in the American Revolutionary War. My second, Continental Divide, came out in November 2019 from Univ. of New Orleans Press. It tells the story of a transgender guy who is wondering how to live as a man, so he goes out to Wyoming to explore himself and American Masculinity. My third is The Story of Silence, coming out in July 2020 from HarperCollins. It is a reimagining of a 13th century French poem that tells about a girl whose parents raise her as a boy… and she loves being a boy. He comes a really good knight, is conflicted about his Nature as opposed to his Nurture, and Merlin gets involved. It’s a good time.
SP: Thank you! Let’s dig in: Do you have a research process for your books? If so, what does that look like?
AM: I usually research the historical information just enough so that I can write – I won’t make any massive errors that will affect character or plot. Then I go… and look things up as a write and revise. If I don’t get started soon, I will spend forever researching and never write!
SP: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
AM: Mostly, I hope they enjoy them. I hope they got lost in the story. After that, I hope there’s some moment that makes them reread, reconsider, and think about something that hadn’t occurred to them before… if it’s around gender, that’s even better.
SP: How has your journey been influenced by reading and writing?
AM: I love reading. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without it. Books provide escape and entertainment and encouragement… a sense of joy and wonder… a chance to expand. I could go on. I like writing, too. It’s allowed me to indulge in imagination as an adult in a way that felt natural as a child but that I lost hold of somewhere in college.
SP: What advice do you have for young people trying to become their fullest selves in today’s world?
AM: Be around good people. Don’t engage with trolls. Seek out challenges, talk to as many different people as you can. But don’t hang around those who want to harm you – even if they say it’s a joke. It’s important to be kind and to be around those who are kind to you AND it’s important not to be in an echo chamber – to know and respect and like those with whom you really disagree.
SP: What have you learned about yourself through writing?
AM: That I can be patient. It just takes a lot of effort.
SP: In writing Continental Divide, is there an element that changed significantly between your first draft and the published novel?
AM: Yes. As usual for me, the beginning – where the novel starts – changed a ton.
SP: Lastly, what is your favorite under-read book of all time?
AM: Under-read! I love it… The Dyke and the Dybbuk (very under read, but lovely).
Thank you to Alex for sharing, and readers, check out the GoodReads links I've added above for more information about his novels!
Happy Tuesday everyone! I'm here to share a post about the first book published by Wattpad Books: The QB Bad Boy and me. TODAY is its first day out in the world as a book, and I have a great interview with Tay Marley, the author, to share in celebration of that.
The Book and its Author
Everything changed the day Drayton Lahey crashed into Dallas’s life…
Dallas Bryan is a no-nonsense cheerleader who has her sights set on a dance scholarship to CalArts. Drayton Lahey is the bad-boy quarterback from football royalty who’s completely wrong for her—at least, that's what she tells herself. The longer Dallas tells herself she doesn't need Dray, the quicker she realizes it might be time to forget what she needs and go after what she wants.
Tay Marley wears many hats: bibliophile, entrepreneur, wife, mother, and featured Wattpad author. Her whirlwind journey on Wattpad began in 2017 and led to one hundred thousand dedicated followers, a five-part series, and three stand-alone books, including her breakout story, The QB Bad Boy and Me, which have amassed over forty-one million reads. She resides in New Zealand with her husband. When she isn’t writing about confident women and their love interests, she’s teaching her three small children how to be the leads in their own epic tales.
Question: What inspired you to write The QB Bad Boy & Me?
Tay Marley: The book is about a quarterback, and I've always found American football culture fascinating. Being from New Zealand, it's an entirely different world. We have nothing like that here. So I wanted to write about it and learn more and put my own spin on what that excitement is like to experience. Writing about it was so much fun and I hope that one day I can see it in real life. It would be an amazing experience.
Q: The QB Bad Boy & Me has such a passionate fan following on Wattpad. In the early days of writing the story, did you ever imagine it would make such an impression?
Marley: No. I never could have imagined that it would generate such an amazing response. And what’s more is that people are so genuinely passionate about that characters and their lives. People send me these really beautiful long messages, describing what Dallas and Drayton mean to them and it’s so heartwarming. Obviously as a writer, the dream is to create characters that the audience love and can relate to but everything felt so surreal. Each milestone was mind blowing. The first 50,000 reads was something I could barely wrap my head around and even now, being close to 30 million. That’s just insane. I really just wrote something that I wanted to read and it was received with love which I am so grateful for.
Q: Dray is definitely a bad boy and Dallas is a driven and responsible girl—they don’t exactly seem like a good match on paper. Do opposites really attract?
Marley: I think for sure that opposites can attract. Not always. But I think that there can be a special sort of bond when there are opposites in the relationship. A balance almost. You might have someone that’s really reserved with someone that’s more outgoing. So the outgoing person might bring the reserved person out of their shell and encourage new experiences. Situations like that. My husband and I are very opposite. But we have a lot in common too. I think that it’s all dependant on the individuals. Sometimes it can work. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Q: If you weren’t a writer, what would you do instead?
Marley: I’m a qualified beauty therapist. That was what I had been studying before I got heavily into my writing. And when I chose not to go ahead and work in that field, I was asked why I would choose to write over a more promising job. People would tell me, oh you know, you could get a job in a salon which is more likely than becoming an author. But I chose to follow the passion that I had and give it my all. It’s an absolute blessing that it paid off. But I think it’s a testament to how powerful believing in yourself can be. And how things don’t happen overnight, but they can happen if you apply yourself and work hard. I can’t imagine doing anything else!
Q: As a YA author and a parent, what advice would you give Dallas if she were your daughter? ALTERNATE: What advice would you give teenagers in 2019?
Marley: My daughter is gorgeous. She’s a beautiful, strong willed, rough and tumble kind of girl. She loves to get outside and ride her bike and roller skate and be active. But she also loves getting her hair done and playing with her Barbies. I’ve never put a limit on what she can do. My actual advice that I tell her all the time is just to be confident in who she is as a person. To not focus on what others think but to love herself first. And I like to remind her that being humble is a beautiful quality. That yes she’s beautiful on the outside, but she needs to be beautiful on the inside too. It’s a discussion that we have often. You know, how she treats her peers and her siblings and her teachers. Having a good heart is so so important. It’s something that I’ll always do my best to demonstrate for her. And that’s advice that I’d tell all teenagers.
I think this might be my last First Impression Friday (at least in this style), so I think I'll break the rules.
I'm cheating here because technically speaking, I've already read The Luxe. But it's been such a long time that I can't even remember whether or not I ever finished it. I do know the following:
I remember: a socialite being murdered or dying, an engagement, a maid who was really a friend (scandalous!), and some jealousy. The keywords sound about right for the tone of the book, but tell us very little about the plot. If we put them all together... maybe the plot goes a little something like this? A socialite gets engaged to another rich person, one of her only true friends happens to be her attendant, in whom she confides her doubts and worries, some other society girl gets jealous of the match (and maybe finds out about the doubts?), and offs our leading lady.
If you've read The Luxe, comment below and let me know how I did on my guesswork! If not, go ahead and take a crack at your own plot summary!
I'm cheating a bit on this one, because I sort of know what happens in Queen of Air and Darkness. The adventures of the Blackthorn family continue, and there's magic and runes and Downworlders. But that's exactly why I chose it. QoAaD came out in December, and I had a countdown timer and was incredibly excited, and yet it's still sitting on my shelf unread. Why?
Way, way back in September I started First Impression Fridays so I could poke fun at my bad intuition on the plot and characters of the books I haven't read. Writing my first post on Beautiful Creatures was fun for me, and then... I just stopped. Well, here I am again, ready to find out why I own Split Infinity by Piers Anthony.
A lot of my focus is on new or upcoming releases, but as seen in my TBR post, I obviously can't read everything in the world! I'm starting First Impression Fridays as a new weekly post to help me tame my shelves. Each week, I'll spotlight a book or series I haven't yet read, but that I own, whether as an ebook or hard copy. I'll do a quick rundown of why I own the book, and then take a stab at my first impression of the book based off what I remember. I'm binding myself to the honor code in writing these completely without looking at a summary, to make it all more interesting.
Read on to see me struggle to discuss Beautiful Creatures!
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of bookshop.org and I will earn a small commission if you click the above link and make a purchase.