Monday, December 22, 2014

Boskone 52 (February 13-15, 2015)

Boskone is a regional Science Fiction convention focusing on literature, art, music, and gaming. They're not just SF, though; there's a good amount of Fantasy and some horror representation in panels and author signings.

I won't be doing any readings, signings, or panels, but you can find me hanging out with members of Broad Universe.

Boskone 52 (February 13-15, 2015)

Boston Westin Waterfront hotel
425 Summer Street
Boston, MA 02210

Guests

Steven Brust, Guest of Honor
Charles Lang and Wendy Snow-Lang, Official Artists
Maya and Jeff Bohnhoff, Featured Filkers
Robert K. Wiener, Special Guest
Dave Clements, Science Speaker
Vincent DiFate, NESFA Guest

Monday, December 08, 2014

Arisia (January 16 - 19, 2015)

You're probably just getting into the swing of the holidays, but I'm thinking ahead to that quiet time when all the craziness is over and the Science Fiction/Fantasy conventions start up again.

The first on the calendar is Arisia, a volunteer-run convention that covers all aspects of science fiction and fantasy literature and media. I'll be hanging out at the Broad Universe table, signing and selling books, and also participating on two panels:

Religions, Holidays, and Rituals in Your Fiction     

Sat 10:00 AM    

Panelists discuss religions, holidays and rituals across the genres (Fantasy, Horror, SF) and their creation. What are the differences in belief systems associated with traditional holidays of our world's different cultures as compared to those in genre fiction?

Terri Bruce (moderator), Barbara Chepatis, Greer Gilman, Debra Doyle, Morven Westfield

Fortune Telling Methods

Sat 10:00 PM

A discussion of favorite fortune telling methods, their uses, and how they're portrayed in popular culture. Covering tarot cards to hydromancy and everything in-between.

Catherine Kane (moderator), Sean Kane, Anna Erishkigal, Morven Westfield

Arisia Info

Arisia (January 16 - 19, 2015)
Boston Westin Waterfront hotel
425 Summer Street
Boston, MA 02210

Author Guest of Honor: N. K. Jemisin
Artist Guest of Honor: Lee Moyer
Fan Guest of Honor: Colette Fozard



Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: Aunt Dimity's Death

Aunt Dimity's Death (Aunt Dimity, #1)Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not a traditional murder mystery, which is fine by me. It's a story of people trying to solve a mystery in the sense of something unexplained, something hidden in the past. Well-written, refreshing, and enjoyable. I'm looking forward to the rest of her books.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: The Halloween Tree

The Halloween TreeThe Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Outstanding. I have the audio version, which is narrated by Bronson Pinchot. I didn't recognize his voice and had to look him up on the web to make sure he was who I thought he was! What a voice talent! From the gravely Mr. Moundshroud to the young boys of Halloween night and all Halloween creatures in between, he is absolutely convincing -- and chilling.

I'm going to make this a yearly listening adventure. Maybe next year I'll be able to catch more of Bradbury's poetic prose. This year the sheer thrill of it, and Bronson's execution, distracted me.

My only nitpick: I don't know where Bradbury came up with the idea that Samhain is a god of the dead; in all I've read, Samhain is the name of an ancient Gaelic pagan festival, not a god of the Druids, but maybe Bradbury had different source material. Doesn't matter; this is fiction, after all.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: Book of Shadows

Book of Shadows (Wicca, #1)Book of Shadows by Cate Tiernan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a YA book, which is not something I normally read, but I wanted to see how the author presented Wicca. Would she cast the would-be witches as evil-dooers or preachy nature-worshippers? No, she cast them as human beings, alive with the excitement of the unknown and necessary trepidation.

Though I'm way past the young adult stage, I actually got a lot of of this, looking back at my high school years and thinking how I would have reacted and wondering enviously if high school kids do mostly have their own cars these days :-)

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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Book Review: The Trouble with Magic

The Trouble With Magic (Bewitching Mystery #1)The Trouble With Magic by Madelyn Alt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Often when I finish reading a book, I read the reviews of others to see what I might have missed and to refresh my memory on details.

One reviewer commented that she was disturbed by the paranormal in this book, but given that it's a paranormal mystery, one would expect that. Another reviewer commented that "more of a mystery that happened to have some magic elements than it was a fantasy book," which I agree with. I prefer more paranormal in a paranormal mystery, but since this was the first in the series and we are seeing the paranormal activity through the eyes of a character who is just becoming fully aware of the paranormal world, I think it was just the right amount.

One reader felt that there was too much "Witches good, non-witches bad" (my wording) in this book, whereas another was pleased that the writer did such "a good job about explaining this misunderstood religion." I think we have to remember that this book was published in 2006 by a large publisher, which means that it was probably written around 2003 or 2004, if not earlier. Back then people felt they had to get that message across. (I'm speaking from personal experience: Someone had the same comment about my first novel, published in 2003.)

Not mentioned very often is that there's a little romance in the background. Those who like paranormal romance will find something to like here. I prefer more mystery, intrigue, and paranormal myself, but it worked with the story.

All in all, I thought it was a good start of a series and handled the paranormal well (though I was confused about why they would shut down the power so quickly after raising it in one scene). I look forward to reading the next one.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: The Red Tree

The Red TreeThe Red Tree by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The audiobook was just mesmerizing and I don't know if that's a function of the reader or Kiernan's lyrical writing. I can't say I can make sense of this work, but I don't regret listening to it.

I will say, though, that the very end of the book (no spoilers here), where the voice switches to another person/characters, didn't make sense to me. Maybe it refers back to something earlier in the book that I've forgotten. And it's only because of that ending that I'm giving this 4 stars instead of 5. Yes, I realize that I might have missed the point because I'm not a sophisticated enough reader, and you might read the book and find it resolves well or is unresolved in a pleasing manner, but this is just how I reacted to it.

Still, there's no doubt that Kiernan is a powerful writer with a strong imagination.

(P.S. Speaking of imagination, there's something about the tree and the otherworldly part that reminds me of King's Lisey's Story.)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: The Pale Horse

The Pale HorseThe Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wanted to read this because of the paranormal plot (alleged witches are cursing people to death). Much to my surprise, considering when the book was first published (1962), Christie does a good job of presenting the paranormal aspect and doesn't fall into the trap of blaming it all on the devil. A good read.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review: A Vision in Velvet (A Witchcraft Mystery #6)

A Vision in Velvet (A Witchcraft Mystery #6)A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this series for the well-researched paranormal plots. If you've ever read much on the supernatural or studied history of magic and witchcraft, you'll find Blackwell's stories believable in that context. She gets it right.

And on top of that, her skill as a writer of a cozy mysteries series is excellent, though there were two places in this particular book where I could see things too clearly before she revealed them. (Usually I can't.) Violence is off-camera, so to speak, but not so far off-camera that you can't feel it at all.

This book involved a mystery with ties back to the Salem Witch Trials. Normally I wouldn't pick up a book with that tie because it's so often based on biased accounts of the trials that stated that all of those persecuted were devil worshipers when in fact many were innocents who were falsely accused due to mass hysteria. I don't want to reveal any details, but Blackwell picks a believable thread from that era, if you pardon the pun. That is, just because most of those accused at the trials might have all been innocent, there was still evil around.

As others have noted, you can start anywhere in the series without being lost. Blackwell gives you just enough background so you know who the characters are or what events happened in the past.

I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Xe Sands. She's amazing, and voices the characters well. I hope she continues to narrate this series.

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Book Review: Someone Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead

Somebody tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead (ToadWitch, #1)Somebody tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead by Christiana Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you like your paranormal believable, definitely give this book a try. The level of authenticity in the beliefs and actions of the characters is excellent. Great job!

I listened to the audiobook version. I loved the voices of the main character (Mara), Lizette, and Aunt Tillie. I had a problem with the two gay male characters (too queenish) and the British accent of one of them, but that doesn't mean everyone will. They just don't sound like the gay and/or British men I know.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Book Review: The Cat Who Saw Red (The Cat Who series)

The Cat Who Saw Red (Cat Who... #4)The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

People who know me would assume that I picked this book up because of the cats. Actually it was recommended as a good example of a cozy and just happened to contain cats.

The "Cat Who" mystery series actually starts with The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (1966) -- this book is number 4 -- so I didn't have much background on how the cats developed or communicated their talents, but having met many a Siamese cat (and their human servants), I had absolutely no problem accepting the premise.

Written clearly, with deft humor, and increasing tension, it was a pleasure to read.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Book Review: Tarnished and Torn (A Witchcraft Mystery, #5)

Tarnished and TornTarnished and Torn by Juliet Blackwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another well-crafted, action-filled mystery where traditional homespun magic is pitted against darker forces. We learn more about Lily Ivory's relationship with her father and what has happened to Sailor. (I hope that's how you spell it -- that's one disadvantage of listening to audiobooks; you don't know how to spell the characters' names.)

The magic in this episode is exciting and unusual, involving a Mayan fire demon, Xiuhcoatl. Blackwell skillfully blends in her research without making you bored.




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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Witches' Almanac: Three New Articles

The table of contents for the 2015-2016 Witches’ Almanac has been published online on the Witches' Almanac web site at http://www.thewitchesalmanac.com/witchesalmanac2015.html This issue won't officially be released until September 1, but you can pre-order it from that page (click the Buy Now button) or from Amazon.com, which lists it as being available in both Paperback and Kindle versions:

Paperback version
Kindle version

This year's edition contains an article about the late Margot Adler who died on July 28, 2014. (And lest you think that the folks at the Witches' Almanac were just jumping on the bandwagon, the Almanac was already at the printer when Adler passed.)

I have three articles in this edition:
  • “Picking Things Up”  — Do you pick up a penny when you see it on the ground? This article reveals the origin of and some variations on this tradition.
  • “Walpurgisnacht”  — This article describes the German legend surrounding The Brocken and a recent visit there. According to the legend, on Walpurgisnacht (May Eve), witches gathered from the four corners of the world to attend the Witches’ Sabbat. Riding brooms and goats, they flew to a mist-shrouded mountain peak called the Brocken, or Blocksberg.
  • “Fireflies”  — On a hot summer night, just as dusk descends, at the edge of a wood or marsh, something magickal happens. As the sunlight fades, small twinkles of light, faint at first, pulse in the growing shadows. As night overtakes the twilight, more flashes appear, glowing brighter against the contrast of the deepening dark. This article recounts some of the legends associated with these bioluminescent cuties.
Publishing since 1971, the Almanac is famous not just for its astrological predictions by astrologer Dikki-Jo Mullen, but also on the articles about all subjects mysterious and interesting.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book Review: A Cast-Off Coven (A Witchcraft Mystery, #2)

I'm posting this review a little late and out of order.

A Cast-Off CovenA Cast-Off Coven by Juliet Blackwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second in the Witchcraft Mystery series, this installment involves a mystery set in a Fine Arts school. An alleged ghost is scaring students and faculty alike and when someone dies, she must determine if it was really an accident, and if not, whether the paranormal was involved.

Good ghost story and excellent narration by Tantor Audio's Xe Sands.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

New Witches' Almanac Announced

The Witches' Almanac has announced that the Spring 2015-Spring 2016 (Issue 34) edition will be released soon. The theme of this issue is Fire the Transformer.


The Almanac is famous not just for its astrological predictions by astrologer Dikki-Jo Mullen, but also on the articles about all subjects mysterious and interesting. I will have at least one article in this issue, maybe two, which I'll announce when I see the final table of contents.

Amazon.com is listing this edition for pre-order, with a publication date of September 1, 2014.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Schedule change

Due to other commitments, I will not be attending either Readercon or Necon this year.

Hope to see everyone next year!

Monday, June 23, 2014

My List of Panels for 8Pi-Con (that is, Pi-Con 2014)

Billed as "the friendliest little convention in New England," Pi-Con is held at the Holiday Inn, Enfield, CT, just south of Springfield, MA. This year it's June 27-29, 2014 (next weekend) and I'll be on six panels.

Here's the list:

Fri 6:00pm     How to be a Good Panelist (mod)

Sat 1:00pm     Day Jobs for Writers

Sat 7:00pm     Broad Universe RFR

Sat 8:00pm     Vampires Past, Present & Future--Are They Morphing?

Sun 11:00am    So You Want to Write a Series (mod)

Sun 1:00pm     Kickstarter and Other Microfunding Programs (mod)



And here are the descriptions and lists of panelists.


Fri 6:00 p.m.

How to be a Good Panelist — Agawam

Susan Hanniford Crowley, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, Morven Westfield (M), Michelle Wexelblat

We’ve all been to panels where things got wildly off-topic or where a panelist or audience member hogged the panel. Sometimes it’s been a lot of fun or extremely interesting. Other times, it’s been aggravating. In this panel, experienced panelists talk about preparing for a panel, participating on a panel, being a good moderator, handling someone who’s obviously aggravating, and how different cons have different styles.




Sat 1:00 p.m.

Day Jobs for Writers — Agawam

M. L. Brennan, Ellen Larson, Kristi Petersen Schoonover (M), Morven Westfield, Trisha J. Wooldridge

What’s the best day job for a writer? Is it a writing job that helps you learn to craft a sentence, work with an editor, and meet deadlines? Or a less-demanding job that gives you time—and brain-width—to think about your current work-in-progress. Writers talk about their day jobs and how they’ve helped or hindered their writing progress.


Sat 7:00 p.m.

Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading — Suffield

Terri Bruce, Ellen Larson, Jennifer Pelland, Jennifer Allis Provost, Roberta Rogow, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, Morven Westfield, Trisha Wooldridge

Eight talented writers have six minutes each to blow you away! Broad Universe is an international organization supporting women authors of SF, fantasy and horror. Visit them on Dealer’s Row!


Sat 7:00 p.m.

Vampires Past, Present & Future–Are They Morphing? — Suffield

M. L. Brennan, Susan Hanniford Crowley (M), Morven Westfield

A serious and not so serious discussion of Vampires: Past, Present, and Future. Are they morphing into something else—worse—better? What do the legends teach us? Let’s really get into the teeth of the topic and explore where we would like to see vampires of the future go? Can science create the better vampire?



Sun 11:00 a.m.

So You Want to Write a Series — Somers

M. L. Brennan, Susan Hanniford Crowley, Allen Steele, Morven Westfield (M)

For writers who have written series of two or more books. How do you decide your plot and character arcs for each book? For the whole series? Trilogy or longer? How do you keep track of details? How do you bring new readers up-to-date, or do you put the onus on them to read the earlier books? Are series still being done the same way, or are there new trends in writing and publishing series?


Sun 1:00 p.m.

Kickstarter and Other Microfunding Programs — Suffield

David Larochelle, Jennifer Allis Provost, Morven Westfield (M)

Writers, artists, and musicians are using crowdfunding for their projects. People with experience with this booming trend this tell us how it’s done, what does and doesn’t work, and what they’d do differently.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review: Hexes and Hemlines (A Witchcraft Mystery #3)

Hexes and HemlinesHexes and Hemlines by Juliet Blackwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another excellent supernatural/witchcraft mystery read by an excellent voice talent. I'm really enjoying this series and am sad to see that there's only one more book for me to listen to!

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Monday, May 05, 2014

Finding Time To Read

You've probably heard the advice that to be a good writer, you have to read, but if you're a writer with a day job, you're already a bit pressed for time. If you've got the double-whammy of being a parent, as some of you do, time is incredibly short.

I listen to books while going for a walk during lunch. I subscribe to Audible, but I also get audio books from my local library or from LibriVox. Never heard of LibriVox? LibriVox provides free downloadable audiobooks read by volunteers from around the world.

The books are public domain, which means, usually, that they're very old. But there are some gems if you want something unusual. For example, search by category and enter mythology or history. Or, if you like looking back at the roots of the horror genre, search for Edgar Allan Poe or Arthur Machen. (Machen was a Welsh mystic and writer who wrote in the supernatural, horror, and fantasy genres. Apparently Stephen King called Machen's The Great God Pan "Maybe the best [horror story] in the English language" (quoted from http://stephenking.com/stephens_messages.html).

If you're outside the US, though, pay attention to this disclaimer on the LibriVox site:
LibriVox recordings are Public Domain in the USA. If you are not in the USA, please verify the copyright status of these works in your own country before downloading, otherwise you may be violating copyright laws.
Another option is to read before you go to bed. For me, that doesn't usually work out well. If I'm tired, it's only a paragraph or two before I'm out. If I'm not tired, a good book will keep me awake way too long. Still, sometimes I hit that sweet spot between the two and get in a half hour or more of good reading time.

I was listening to the Writing Excuses podcast the other day and learned of another way to get in more reading time. Mary Robinette Kowal uses her lunch time to read since you can't type much while you've got a fork in your hand.

So there's a thought for you: Bring your lunch to work. Read while you eat. And after you finish? Take that quick walk around the parking lot and "read" some more!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Review: In a Witch's Wardrobe (A Witchcraft Mystery #4)

In a Witch's WardrobeIn a Witch's Wardrobe by Juliet Blackwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the things I really enjoy about Juliet Blackwell's "A Witchcraft Mystery" series is that she's able to create a world in which natural witches and witches who had no skills before training exist side by side, each learning and practicing differently, but each having an effect.

I also like the way she uses real magical theory in her novels. For example, her character Lily Ivory describes the difference between binding and banishing. Blackwell's description is similar to the one in one of my own novels, which makes me believe that she did her homework researching.

I love all of her characters, and the voice talent on the audiobook really brings them to life. Still, I'm pretty sure, though, that if I read a text version of her books that I'd find them just as distinct and interesting.

Definitely recommended for those who enjoy reading books with realistic witch characters that can still excite and fascinate.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo

If you're a writer and on the internet, you've heard about NaNoWriMo, the online creative writing project that takes place in November. Writers pledge to write a novel of 50,000 words during the month, relying on the site for support, encouragement, and tips, with the only reward being a fantastic feeling of accomplishment.

It's a rough slog, requiring you to write 1,667 words each day— or making a mad rush on weekends. In the United States, November contains the Thanksgiving holiday, which can work for or against the writer. If you have an extra two days off from work, you're in luck. Some, though, who are close to their families (or friends) or expected to do a lot of holiday travel or cooking find it hard to fit in writing time.

Have no fear, though; there's Camp NaNoWriMo! "Camp NaNoWriMo is a more open-ended version of our original November event." Launched in 2011, it was initially held in July and again in August. In 2014, though, there will be sessions in both April and July, and the word-count goals are more relaxed: "We welcome word-count goals between 10,000 and 1,000,000." It's also not limited to just novels; "writers may attempt non-novel projects. Camp is a creative retreat for whatever you’re working on!"

Just as with NaNoWriMo, there are perks to participating. Check out the sponsor pages for details.

So join in the fun at Camp NaNoWriMo.  April is just around the corner.

And consider donating. "When you donate to National Novel Writing Month, you help bring free creative writing programs to more than 500,000 kids and adults in approximately 100 countries, 2,000 classrooms, 600 libraries, and 500 NaNoWriMo regions every year."

National Novel Writing Month is also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Book Review: Secondhand Spirits (A Witchcraft Mystery, #1)

Secondhand Spirits (A Witchcraft Mystery, #1)Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Good paranormal mystery with just the right amount of tension and dread. The "natural witch" (that is, someone born with paranormal powers) and the pagan witches are drawn well and believable.

The voice talent (I listened to an audio version) was excellent, too.

I was impressed enough that I'm already listening to the second in the series.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Podcast of Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Readings at Boskone 2014

The Rapid-Fire Reading (RFR) is one of the oldest events that Broad Universe presents, usually at science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions. It showcases published and in-progress work from members. 

If you missed the Rapid-fire Reading at Boskone 51, here's your chance to listen to Broad Universe members read five minutes of their works. Writer Elaine Isaak assumed the duties of emcee, introducing readers and keeping us to our time limits. Writer Justine Graykin recorded the readings and published them in the March edition of the BroadPod podcast.

Here are the bios of the readers who participated. You can download or listen to the podcast on the Broad Universe web site.

Moven Westfield (me) is a fiction writer, technical writer, and occasional podcaster who fuses her love of computing, vampire mythology and modern witchcraft in a series set in the suburbs west of Boston. She has also contributed non-fiction articles on supernatural lore to the Witches’ Almanac since 2006. Morven served as a member of the Motherboard of Broad Universe for two terms and is an active member of the New England Chapter. She is also a long-time member of New England Horror Writers. Like many writers, she keeps a messy office and drinks way too much coffee.

Sandra Barret grew up in New England. She moved to California for a time, but that proved to be too much sun and fun. She’s back in New England with her wife, children, and more pets than are probably legal to own (and sheep…let’s not forget the sheep).

Terri Bruce has been making up adventure stories for as long as she can remember. Like Anne Shirley, she prefers to make people cry rather than laugh, but is happy if she can do either. She produces fantasy and adventure stories from a haunted house in New England where she lives with her husband and three cats. Thereafter, the second book in her AfterLife series will be available May 1, 2014.

Roberta Rogow is know for her Filk (Sciencefiction/fantasy folk songs); she also writes historical mysteries. Her latest book, Murders in Manatas, is a detective story set in an alternate universe, sort of Last of the Mohegans meets Arabian Nights, with a Spanish accent. The second in the series, Mayhem in Manatas will appear later this year.

Anna Erishkigal is an attorney who writes fantasy fiction under a pen-name so her colleagues don’t question whether her legal pleadings are fantasy fiction as well. Much of the law, it turns out, is fantasy fiction. Lawyers just prefer to call it ‘zealously representing your client.’  Seeing the dark underbelly of life makes for some interesting fictional characters. The kind you either want to incarcerate, or run home and write about. In fiction, you can fudge facts without worrying too much about the truth. In legal pleadings, if your client lies to you, you look stupid in front of the judge. At least in fiction, if a character becomes troublesome, you can always kill them off.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

New eBook Versions of Darksome Thirst Available

New eBook versions of Darksome Thirst, the first novel in my vampire series, are available on Amazon.com and Smashwords.com.  

On Smashwords, Darksome Thirst is available for only $1.25 as part of a special eBook Week promotion. You have to enter REW75 as the coupon code and the offer is good only until March 8, 2014. http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/370046

The new versions fix formatting problems, small typographical errors, and readability problems with the electronic version because scene changes weren't clearly denoted.

If you bought an electronic version of Darksome Thirst before, you should be able to download the improved version.
 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Boskone 2014 Recap - Part 4 (Sunday)

Sunday
I have never stayed through to the end of Boskone and I thought I might this time, and be able to help tear down, to attend the feedback session, and maybe even check out the Dead Dog Filk, but I had a chance to get a ride home instead of discovering first-hand whether the public transportation was affected by the storm.

After checking out and stowing my luggage in the luggage room, I attended two more panels. My Favorite (or Worst) Story and Why I Wrote It was moderated by Leigh Perry and included Paul G. Tremblay, Dana Cameron, and Charlaine Harris. It's always interesting to hear how writers come to their stories (or stories come to their writers), and this was no exception. Interesting and fun.

The second panel, Having Your Work Adapted to Film was moderated by Melinda Snodgrass and included Charlaine Harris and Steven Sawicki. They discussed what an option is (a placeholder so that someone else doesn't buy the rights, not an agreement to do a film), how the money works (the lower the money, the shorter the term), and why books must by necessity differ from the movie (books are internal, movies are external; books are too long to fit in 90 minutes or, with some, even 3 hours). Very informative, well-explained, and well-moderated.

Where Was I Supposed to Be?
Before I wrap up my recap, let me mention Boskone's new guide application. Based on open-source software called KonOpas, it runs on a browser and - a biggie for me - can even show the schedule when you're not connected to the internet. Because it runs on a browser, it doesn't matter whether your smartphone is an iPhone, an Android phone, or a Windows phone; you just open a browser and go to boskone.org/guide. You can select the panels that you want to attend and they will appear in a chronological list under MyCon.

One of my friends said he actually preferred it over Guidebook, the app that Boskone used last year (and Arisia used this year). I have only two minor complaints: I don't think there's a way to add your own events (for example, going out to dinner or staffing the Broad Universe table) and I don't know how to pronounce KonOpas. Kudos to the team who implemented it for Boskone! (Boskone lists them as Eemeli Aro, Henry Balen and Tim Szczesuil).

So How Was the Interview with the Guest of Honor?
When I first started going to cons, I remember hearing "You should get to the room early. GOH events are always packed." I didn't, and after standing outside the room trying to listen to the well-modulated but under-amplified voice inside for a few minutes, I walked away. I forget who it was or where it was, but I felt that I had really missed something of great import, like going to Paris and missing the Louvre or La Tour Eiffel or the Catacombs.

I know people who plan their whole convention around the GOH events. I know others who avoid them because they can be too crowded. And then there are others like me, who forget to put them on their schedule and then do things like sign up for table duty because there's an empty slot (duh! I wonder why!) or go get lunch because there finally isn't a line (duh, again!)

So maybe next year the first thing I do when looking at the schedule using KonOpas will be to select the GOH events. I don't need to plan my con around them, but at least I'll remember they're there.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Boskone 2014 Recap - Part 3 (Saturday, continued)

Saturday, Continued
The next panel is one that I was really interested in and haven't seen at other conventions. The Long Series - How We Did It discussed how three multi-book authors handled long series. Ginjer Buchanan moderated Charlaine Harris, Melinda Snodgrass, and Steve Miller. How do you keep characters straight? Do you have an arc across the series? How does fan reaction affect your writing-in-progress? Charlaine has an assistant who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the books and checks continuity. Steve says that from time to time he and the other writers re-read books in the series. Once again, great panel, well-moderated.

I had to leave the panel early, though, because I had to get to the Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading. I was one of eight readers giving 5-minute readings from my work. I was reading a new piece, one that I had read through at home and in my hotel room, but once up in the front of the conference room I realized I should have done more. I didn't know the piece well enough to look up at the audience and then find my place quickly again. I tried the trick of using my left thumb as a bookmark, but forgot that for this trick to work, I really needed to look up at the end of the previous line so that the next word was the one next to my thumb, not a word in the middle of the sentence. I muddled my words a bit, and as I wrapped up the piece, I felt that I really should have picked a livelier extract. (Imagine my surpise on Sunday when I found out I actually sold a book from that reading. Thank you, purchaser! I really needed that.)

At this point I should mention the snow. Boston had a winter storm warning and I heard someone say that the City of Boston was asking people to stay off the roads after 5 pm so that the plows could do their job. Some friends and I had made a reservation weeks ago to go out to eat. Dear Hubby would come in to the city and join us, then stay over at the hotel and relax in the hotel room while I continued con-going.

After watching the weather forecasts, he reluctantly decided to stay home, with my encouragement, because you never know how serious snowstorms can get. (Remember the Blizzard of '78? I do. Read about it on WikiPedia.) Some con-goers who planned to go home Saturday night changed their lodging plans, too. Helmuth, the single-page news vehicle for Boskone, announced that the hotel would honor the Boskone rate if attendees decided to stay because of the storm. That was a nice touch.

Judging by the long lines outside the hotel's M. J. O'Connors restaurant, some con-goers must have changed their dining plans, deciding to eat in instead of exploring Boston's restaurant scene.

My friends and I trudged through the snow on foot to the restaurant. The sidewalks nearest and around the hotel were relatively clear, crews out with mechanical sweepers trying to keep up with the snow. As we got further away from the hotel, there was an inch or two underfoot and I found myself needing to pay attention to how I planted my feet so I wouldn't slide, but this is February, in New England, and of course I had boots, a scarf, a winter coat, and gloves. I also thought to grab extra tissues from the hotel so that the three of us would be able to wipe off our wet eyeglasses when we arrived so we could actually see the menu.

We had a nice meal and good conversation while I sent my husband pictures of the restaurant and food, much to his dismay ("You're not making this any better.") As we left the restaurant, the sidewalk was more slippery underfoot, but once again, near the hotel it was fine.

After dinner, we managed to hit the first Book Launch Party, held in the Galleria/Con Suite. Authors and publishers with a new book sat at the Con Suite table with their books and swag and you were able to chat and inspect the new books. I hope they do that again next year (and that I have a book out next year so I can participate). Duncan Eagleson was there with his first novel Darkwalker. (Don't you hate multi-talented people? Just look at his creds!)

While staffing the Broad Universe table, I heard that I missed a great panel, Fun with Seriously Silly Poses, where participants re-enacted scenes from SF/fantasy/horror cover art. As Mur Lafferty pointed out in her post, it was similar to what Jim C. Hines did in his excellent "Striking a Pose" on his web site. Darn! Hope they repeat that one some time.

To be continued.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Boskone 2014 Recap - Part 2 (Saturday)

Saturday
Trying to be a good convention-goer, I silenced the sound on my cell phone. I didn't remember that I did that when I set the alarm on my cell phone Friday night. It probably would have been okay except that 1) I kept waking up in the night with leg cramps from walking back and forth, and 2) I didn't even think of going to bed until 1:00 am because I was engaged in a great conversation with sister Broad Universe member Justine Graykin.

Add to that the fact that the Westin hotel has this great green/conservation program of allowing you to opt out of daily room cleaning (thereby saving water from linens and towels being washed when they really don't need to) and you have a recipe for wakeup failure. If I had opted for the normal housekeeping, a knock on the door would have woken me by, say, 9:00. Unfortunately, there was no knock, and I slept until 10:03.  I missed the Writers' Warmup by E. C. Ambrose, author of the Dark Apostle series, and Writing Fan Fiction for Kids with Mur Lafferty and Max Gladstone.

"Morven," you say, the shock evident in the look on your face and the low tone of voice, "You don't write for kids. You don't have kids..." True that, as they say. But I do listen to the "I Should be Writing" podcast and I believe there was an episode with Max and I thought they were fantastically intelligent and funny. Since Mur lives in North Carolina, I don't have the opportunity to see her at cons, so I was a little upset with myself for oversleeping and missing the panel.

The Writers' Warmup is a mini-workshop I've attended before and loved it. If it was the same this year, writer E.C. Ambrose sets you a writing prompt and you free-write for a set amount of minutes. Sounds tame, right? Maybe it's the writing vibes from the other writers around the table, but it was really productive and fun. Sorry I missed it this year.

I did, however, make it to the Broad Universe table at 11 to do the first of my one-hour shifts. One of the benefits for paid members of the organization is that you get to sell your books at the table, but you must put in two hours staffing the table during the convention. There are always two people staffing at a time, so even if traffic is a little slow, you get the opportunity to know another member of Broad Universe. My buddy for my first shift was Roberta Rogow, author and filker.

After my shift, I did finally get to see Mur Lafferty in a panel. Urban Fantasy in Transition, which was moderated by Leigh Perry, included Melinda Snodgrass, Mur Lafferty, and Max Gladstone.  This well-moderated panel had me wondering if my own work was more urban fantasy and gave me a better understanding of the genre (or is it category?) One high point was hearing Max Gladstone describe the bankruptcy process as a form of necromancy (Chapter 11 is like a circle of mystical wards, and bankruptcy court raises the dead. Think about it.)

Later that day I attended an interview with special guest Ginjer Buchanan, who, after 30 years as an editor, has just announced her retirement. The interview was conducted by urban fantasy writer/editor Leigh Perry (aka Toni Kelner), who is an excellent moderator and interviewer. Speaking of Urban Fantasy, in the Boskone program there's a pull quote that says, "Ginjer can partly claim responsibility for the rise of the subgenre known as urban fantasy." We were lucky to have her.

One of the great (bad?) things about Boskone is that I kept running into people I knew and having hall conversations. That meant I would be late for the next panel, and since I was late anyway, I might as well stop at the Broad Universe table and make sure they had coverage and see if I could cover if someone needed a quick break.

I was really late for the panel The Pleasures of Parasites, moderated by Priscilla Olson and including Jill Shultz, Frank Wu, and Joan Slonczewski. In high school, I found biology fascinating, so I was disappointed that I was able to sit in for about only 20 minutes. Still, what I heard was excellent. You could tell that the panelists not only knew their stuff, but were really fascinated by the adaptations and life cycles of parasites. Again, an excellent panel!

I know we're still on Saturday, but let me stop here and continue later. There's so much to talk about!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Boskone 2014 Recap - Part 1 (Friday)

Sometimes I come home from a convention tired. No, let me restate that: I usually come home from a convention tired. After all, I've stayed up late two or three nights in a row preparing, I've driven into a strange city or for many hours, I've lugged books and vending setups, and I've walked miles back and forth between my hotel room, event rooms, and my car. And then I don't always eat full meals, sleep less on a strange bed, and either eat the wrong foods or have one too many glasses of wine or cups of coffee.

Despite all of that, I returned home from Boskone today feeling great.

Just as I want to do an investigation when cons go wrong, I now find myself investigating why this one went so right.

Friday
Let's start on Friday. I managed to get the day off work. That's a big plus. I wasn't thinking of work-related projects, I wasn't rushing out of the house into rush-hour traffic. Instead I was sitting on a commuter train into the city, listening to Mur Lafferty's "I Should Be Writing" podcast while gazing out at the beautiful snow-covered winter tableau.

I checked in and put everything away before registration or vendor setup even started; no rushing in at 7, late to the game, apologizing that I couldn't help.I helped set up the Broad Universe table with Elaine Isaak and Justine Graykin and met a Broad new to Boskone, Jill Shultz, and her husband. Okay, so I wasn't feeling guilty and I got to meet new people. Score one on that.

I was able to attend a panel when panels began at 5:00 —— a first for me —— on The Fine Art of Murder with Dana Cameron, Leigh Perry, and Charlaine Harris, moderated by Vincent O'Neil. O'Neil did a great job of moderating, something I saw repeated throughout the convention and that I heard others praise over the weekend. Did Boskone send out guidelines for moderating? Did this crop of moderators just remember to do their homework? Was it just because they were blessed with a panel of professionals? I don't know, but the panel (and audience) were excellent.

And how does mystery/murder fit in with an SF convention? It made perfect sense to me, and maybe to others, too, because the next panel I attended was the Blurred Lines panel, which discussed how the lines between genres are becoming more blurred. Again moderated by Vincent O'Neil, this panel included Joshua Bilmes (JABberwocky Literary Agency), editor Stacey Friedberg, and writer Paul G. Tremblay. In the panel they discussed both how genre categorization helps (helps readers discover other writers who write the types of novels the reader likes) and how it's not really that important these days. (I kept thinking that with the internet, it's not the genre that matters, but the keywords, and you can have multiple keywords, whereas in bookstores, yes, it's true that you have to figure out which shelf to put things on.)

Had a tasty dinner and engaging conversation with Terri Bruce, author of  the novel Hereafter, an adventure into the afterlife when thirty-six year-old Irene Dunphy makes the mistake of getting behind the wheel after a night bar-hopping with friends. Terri is also one of the co-ordinators of the robust New England Chapter of Broad Universe. For dessert, we hit the Boskone Meet the Guests & Art Shop Reception that started at 9. Those who know me know that I follow a low-carb diet these days, but it's hard to resist the cakes and sundries there. (I was restrained: only a tiny slice here and there.)

Justine Graykin joined us as we ate our desserts and the three of us did check out the party floor before returning to our rooms, but Boskone is a very restrained con. The parties were convention bids for future WorldCons. That is, you went in and sampled their arrays of cheeses or snack food and they told you about their bid for the next WorldCon. It was nice, no pressure, and informative. But the three of us didn't hang out long. Bed was beckoning.

[to be continued]

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Broad Universe Events at Boskone (in Boston, MA) this Coming Weekend

In a January 30 article, Boston magazine listed Boskone in its Culture Calendar as one of its seven "must-see arts and entertainment events in February 2014."

It's not surprising. After all, Boskone has been going now for 51 years. This year's lineup includes Guest of Honor Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant, Official Artist  David Palumbo, Special Guest  Ginjer Buchanan, Featured Filker Bill Roper, Hal Clement Science Speaker Bill Higgins, and NESFA Press Guest  Jane Yolen.

The New England Chapter of Broad Universe, an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, encouraging, honoring, and celebrating women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative genres, will have a table in the Dealers' Room and will present a Rapid-Fire reading.

What's a Rapid-Fire Reading? "The Rapid Fire Reading (RFR) is one of the oldest events Broad Universe holds. Usually at science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions but branching out to other venues, too, the RFR showcases snippets of published and in-progress work from members for the audience to enjoy." Source: Broad Universe web page

The RFR will be on Saturday, February 15, at 6 pm in Burroughs. Readers include Sandra Barret, Terri Bruce, Anna Erishkigal, Justine Graykin, Morven Westfield, Phoebe Wray, Jill Shultz, and Roberta Rogow.

Other members who will be attending, some presenting on panels, include

Elaine Isaak
Ellen Larson
Jennifer Pelland

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

An Evening with the Authors - Valentine's Day Edition

The New England chapter of Broad Universe, an international association of men and women dedicated to encouraging, celebrating, and promoting women authors of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, is hosting an event in Portsmouth, NH this February.

From the meetup page:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
5:00 PM to 8:30 PM

Portsmouth Public Library
175 Parrott Avenue, Portsmouth, NH (map)

In the Levenson Room

Join five New England authors for an evening exploring the treatment of love in all its forms--from the platonic to the erotic--in literature.

The authors--Trisha Wooldridge, Justine Graykin, Terri Bruce, Phoebe Wray, and Jennifer Carson--will read from their works and participate in a general Q&A, followed by mingling with the audience and book signings. Light refreshments will be served. This will be a chance to get up close and personal with the authors, so bring your questions and be ready to talk about your favorite books. This will be a fun and casual event and is free and open to the public.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Inanna Arthen's Talk on Vampires - Complete set of podcast episodes

In a lively talk recorded at Books and Boos in Colchester, Connecticut, on April 20, 2013, Inanna Arthen traced the history of vampires in fiction and debunked some of the common mistakes and misinformation about the genre.

I broke the talk up into three parts to fit the format of my "Vampires, Witches, and Geeks" podcast. All three parts are now posted here:


Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pi-Con: A Celebration of Geekery

Pi-Con bills itself as "The friendliest little convention in New England" and I won't accuse them of exaggerating. They describe themselves as a "celebration of geekery" and have panels and events on Science Fiction, Fantasy, Gaming, LARPs, and Comics. They have readings, panels, parties, performances, and vendors. 
 
This year -- year number 8 -- it will be held June 27-29, 2014 at the Holiday Inn, Enfield, CT. Having made the trip a number of times myself (check out my past events page), I can attest that the hotel is easy to find, right off the highway. It's small enough to feel homey, but large enough to accommodate the con.

Here's this year's line-up of guests:

Guest of Honor
3-Time Hugo Award Winner
Allen Steele

Guest of Awesome
Justine Graykin

Artist of Awesome
Sarah Morrison

Featured Filker
Dave Weingart


Interested? Find out more here:
 
If you're interested in volunteering, please check out the following page. Volunteering is a great way to meet people if you're new to conventions, new to the area, or traveling solo. There's usually some sort of thank-you involved (like a cool tee-shirt), but that's not why you do it. You do it because it's FUN.
 
 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Broad Universe Events at Arisia (in Boston, MA) this Coming Weekend

Broad Universe is an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, encouraging, honoring, and celebrating women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative genres.

The New England Chapter is very active, blessed by short distances and a number of fantasy, science fiction, and horror conventions all within commuting distance. One convention where the New England Chapter has a strong presence is Arisia.

Arisia, the first of the convention year, is a volunteer-run convention that covers all aspects of science fiction and fantasy literature and media. Held at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel, it is different from other science fiction conventions in at least two respects: panels and activities run nonstop throughout the night (yes, you can attend a panel or join an event at 2 a.m. if you're still awake) and it has as many lifestyle panels as literature/media/gaming panels.

On Friday, January 17, the New England Chapter will host a party at 8 pm. All Arisia attendees are invited; you don't have to be a Broad Universe member or even a female!

On Saturday, January 18, at 1 pm, various members will read from their published works or works in progress at the Rapid-fire reading. Once again, all Arisia attendees are invited.

Some of the Broad Universe members (from the New England chapter and elsewhere) who will be reading include:

Ellen Larson
Terri Bruce
Phoebe Wray
Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert
Jennifer Allis Provost
Catherine Lundoff
Roberta Rogow
Trisha Wooldridge
KT Pinto
Gail Z. Martin
Rachel Kenley
Connie Wilkins

Other members who will be attending, some presenting on panels, include:

Elaine Isaak
Ellen Larson
Inanna Arthen
Jennifer Pelland
Justine Graykin
Morven Westfield