Sunday, December 29, 2013

Arisia and Boskone: How New England Genre Writers Survive the Darkest Months

Though December has the shortest day of the year, January and February typically have the coldest weather.

Fortunately, those of us in New England who love science fiction, fantasy, horror, or just want to learn more about writing in those genres, have two Science Fiction conventions to keep us warm -- and sane.

I'll be attending both this year (weather willing).

Arisia (January 17-20, 2014)
Westin Waterfront
425 Summer Street
Boston, MA 02210

Arisia is 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. Stop by and say hello.

Boskone 51 (February  14-16)
Westin Waterfront
425 Summer Street
Boston, MA 02210

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.

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

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't remember reading this in high school, but even if I did, it's good that I read it now.

Reading it now, after living a bit, I appreciate the difference in class, especially back then, having seen class distinctions change over time. At this time of my life, I've known many self-made people and a few born into money, something I hadn't experienced in high school.

More than that, I could appreciate the beauty of Fitzgerald's prose. I was thoroughly surprised by it. When younger, I would have been too worried about getting a good grade and noticing what I was supposed to notice to actually enjoy it.

This version of the audiobook was read by Tim Robbins who does a great job with all the voices. My only complaint was that when he spoke the part of Tom Buchanan, it was VERY loud, which took a little getting used to when I was wearing earbuds, and some of the dialog spoken by Jordan Baker was too soft. I realize that the volume goes with the character, though, and eventually I got used to it (or they mixed it differently).

The recording includes a selection of letters written by Fitzgerald to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, his agent, Harold Ober, and friends and associates. I know those letters wouldn't have meant as much to me in the days before I knew anything about agents, editors, and the publishing business

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Book Review: A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley by Neal Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I remember reading the Ripley's Believe it or Not cartoons in the Sunday comics and being fascinated and amused by the exotic things he discovered around the world.

What I didn't know then was that he was a journalist, started out drawing baseball characters, and was even a semi-pro baseball player! He was also a self-centered, arrogant, womanizer. Though I don't think I would have thought highly of him if I knew him, the fascinating story of his life kept me interested.

Those were interesting times, especially for Ripley, a Sinophile who watched the countries he loved fall into communism or be destroyed by wars. I think that hearing about the world events as Ripley would have seen them is what kept me interested. I barely remember a lot of my history classes, but I do remember thinking that my college history class was the best because the instructor spoke of how people were affected, how they felt, what it meant to their lives. Thompson makes not just Ripley come alive, but the world around Ripley come alive.

I enjoyed the audiobook edition, though I first thought that the reader was a little dry. Thompson's writing was solid enough so that I was able to visualize the scenes as they read and eventually started to like the delivery of the narration. It was as if the voice came from the times the author described.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Baltimore Book Festival 2013 Review

[Ooops! Forgot to publish this one! The Baltimore Book Fair was September 27-29, 2013.]

Why would I drive seven hours down -- and a grueling ten and a half hours back -- to the Baltimore Book Festival when there is a perfectly good local festival less than an hour in Boston? Friendship, curiosity, and to see and meet a new group of authors and publishers. (And to connect to some of the people who drive up north to attend events that I usually attend.)

Because of the long commute, I knew I couldn't make any Friday night events, so I picked three from Saturday and three from Sunday, realizing that I might not be able to make all of them; it's so easy to lose track of the time at large events.

I made plans to stay with my friend, writer Roxanna Benson. After picking up her daughter, artist Laura Benson on Saturday, we used Baltimore's excellent transportation system to commute in from a suburb. That was the easy part. Because it was a weekend, the commuter parking lot was nearly empty. The subway was running on time, and not crowded.

When we disembarked, our adventure began. (Yes, adventure. The three of us chose to view our challenges as an adventure, and it's well we did.)

We could not find the place. Roxanna had printed a map that she found on the BFF site, and Laura remembered that the stop we wanted was State Center/Cultural Center. I had even downloaded the App onto my iPod Touch.

Leaving the subway stop, we didn't know which way to exit. Once on the street, we looked at the map and, using a cheapo compass I had dug out of my camping gear, we set off in what ultimately was the wrong direction. We would pass W. Madison, but for some reason it seemed to be perpendicular to the way it was shown on the map.

After more than an hour of walking around and asking at least four different groups of people for directions, Laura spotted a man who seemed like he was heading the same way we were. Fortunately, he was.

Arriving too late for the first event we wanted to attend, we used our time visiting the various stalls, including food stalls (we were starving by now!)

All three of us sat in on the "Manuscript Makeover" panel with Baltimore Review editors Barbara Diehl, Kathleen Hellen, Ann Kolakowski, Lalita Noronha, Seth Sawyers, and Dean Bartoli Smith, who described their personal practices on making their manuscripts go from draft to publishable. I usually attend panels given by authors in the science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres, so it was interesting to hear tips from non-genre writers.

After that we attended "No Holds Barred with Agents and Editors" with featured publishers Treva Harte, Editor, LooseId; Mary Sue Seymour, Literary Agent, Seymour Agency; Lyndsay Hemphill, Agent, ICM Partners. This was an exciting panel where members actually commented on entries by attendees. One had to submit 5 copies of 1 page only of a work you wanted evaluated. The panelists gave feedback on how they reacted to the submissions. Roxanna and I bit our fingernails as we waited to see if there would be enough time for them to read ours. There was. And in both cases, the feedback was encouraging, very encouraging. We were both dancing on air.

Unfortunately the euphoria didn't entirely compensate for our long walking adventure and we ended up leaving early, before the evening events. We were tired, but refreshed, and ready to write!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Book Review: A Skeleton in the Family

A Skeleton in the Family (Family Skeleton Mystery #1)A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the publisher: "Moving back into her parents’ house with her teenage daughter had not been Georgia Thackery’s “Plan A.” But when she got a job at the local college, it seemed the sensible thing to do. So she settled in and began reconnecting with old friends... Including Sid. Sid is the Thackery family’s skeleton. He’s lived in the house as long as Georgia can remember, although no one, including Sid, knows exactly where he came from and how he came to be a skeleton."

What can I say? I loved it. Sid is wisecracking, but in a timid, self-conscious way. He's loyal and protective, and intelligent. In short, he's everything you'd want in a family friend.

I loved the way the mystery built, I loved Sid's wisecracking, and I loved Georgia's logical solving of the problem. Author Leigh Perry did a great job of world-building when she placed Georgia in academia, making the struggles and politics come alive. In this first book, we don't come to understand exactly how Sid is an animated skeleton, but I didn't mind. I was able to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the show.

The narrator of the audiobook did a great job of bringing the characters to life. I expected Sid to be more "up" (yeah, I don't know why), but I easily settled into his dry (what else would you expect?) voice.

I loved the characters and am looking forward to more books in the series. Yay, Sid!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

“With Love, from Salem – the documentary” to debut at Cinema Salem

I'm posting this press release because I know the director personally and am greatly impressed with what he can do with a minimal amount of funding.

If you're planning to go to Salem, Massachusetts in October, you might want to check it out.

Press Release

“With Love, from Salem – the documentary” to debut at Cinema Salem

September 24, 2013

Salem, MA Producers of the long anticipated Salem based documentary “With Love, From Salem” have finalized plans for the film’s debut with Cinema Salem, located in the heart of the historic city. The film will be featured at the Cinema from Friday October 25 through Sunday October 27, 2013. Details regarding showtimes will be announced shortly on the theater’s website

The documentary (written, directed and produced by Karagan Cratty Griffith and featuring Gypsy and Richard Ravish, High Priestess and High Priest of Salem’s Temple of Nine Wells) chronicles the 20th Anniversary of the Temple’s Annual Samhain Ritual on Gallows Hill, an annual event that attracts hundreds of participants from around the world every October 31st.

Preview screenings of the film have received an overwhelmingly positive audience and critical response. The world premiere of the documentary was held on September 22, 2013 and included viewers from the UK, Portugal, Brazil and the Philippines.

The producers of the film, Logios/Red Bird Productions, are excited to partner with Cinema Salem, the North Shore’s most loved theater, to bring the experience of “With Love, from Salem” to the general public for the first time.

About “With Love, from Salem”

Salem, Massachusetts. The very mention of the town’s name conjures up thoughts of magic and witchcraft. Despite its proud place in American history, the year of 1692 was a time of suffering and injustice - 19 innocent people, condemned to death for crimes against God, died at the hands of their accusers on a bleak hill just outside the town.

The Temple of Nine Wells, a public Wiccan congregation administrated by The Rev. Richard Ravish, H.P and the Rev. Amy 'Gypsy' Ravish, HPs, has been walking to Gallows Hill on Samhain night for more than 20 years to honor the victims of the witch hunting hysteria of 1692. 

Every year on All Hallow's Eve, as darkness settles over the streets, hundreds of people gather in Salem from all over the world to join the Temple of Nine Wells on their annual journey to Gallows Hill. A few become many. Moved by the beating of the witch’s drum and lured by the gentle cadence of their chants, people set aside for one night their mundane cares and join the others on their walk. A simple pilgrimage becomes not only an act of remembrance, but also a celebration of life, of hope, and of love.

Through this beautiful and evocative film, you, too, can share in this truly magical experience, from preparation to the final ritual itself. And in the process you may gain a deeper understanding of contemporary witchcraft, as well as the significance of Samhain and the difference between it and the better-known festival of Halloween. Visually stunning and emotionally charged, “With Love, From Salem” provides a rare and precious glimpse of Samhain night in Salem, a night when witches still make magic as they dance the wheel of the year from darkness into light.

"Hauntingly beautiful, engaging, inspiring, and enchanting.
Orion Foxwood, Founding Elder of Foxwood Temple of the Old Religion, Founder of the House of Brigh Faery Seership Institute, Co-founder of Conjure-Crossroads, author of "The Faery Teachings", USA

"With Love, From Salem is a true magical tale of how Witches and Pagans today have crafted an annual Samhain tradition of remembrance, healing, and hope at a place where Witch persecutions once happened."  
Rev. Selena Fox, Senior Minister, Circle Sanctuary, USA

"With Love from Salem is a fascinating, important and timely film that sets out to educate and interest."
Paul Pearson, editor of Greenmantle Magazine, UK.

“Ultimately, With Love, From Salem is a time capsule, a document of a couple who quietly served a community since the 1970s, a fixed point where seekers and the curious could experience Witchcraft in a “land of ghosts.” It is about mortality and remembrance, not just for the victims of the Salem Witch Trials, but for our own elders as they age and pass on.”Jason Pitzi-Waters,The Wild Hunt


To learn more about this film, please contact Media Relations
Logios/ Projects/Red Bird Productions

Theatrical Teaser:
Official Trailer: 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Independent Bookstore Needs Your Help

If you're a book lover, want to help indie book stores, or have been fortunate enough to participate in the events at Annie's Book Stop of Worcester, MA, please read the appeal at She faces eviction on WEDNESDAY if she can't raise funds.
Annie's has been a staunch supporter of community, local writers, and Dr. Who fans. (Where else can you buy a sonic screwdriver in the area?)
As big chain brick and mortar stores close, it becomes more important to save our local businesses. Please at least read her appeal.
Thank you.

Book Review: Elisha Barber

Elisha BarberElisha Barber by E.C. Ambrose
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started listening to this when I was sad about something. Within a few minutes, I thought, "I don't think I should listen to this now." The beginning is dark. Very dark. Sad. Very sad.

Yet I kept listening, even when I saw the character do things he knew he shouldn't -- something that usually makes me want to stop reading, listening, watching -- because the story was so rich, so unusual, that I had to keep listening. Elisha Barber is a barber, in the old sense of the word, back when barbers (or barber surgeons) performed dentistry and surgery. Untrained, but skilled, he is low in social rank, but that is the least of his worries. An honorable, yet stubborn man, he makes choices that complicate and ultimately change his life.

Early on I wanted to scream, "Just tell the truth about your brother!" He doesn't. He won't. It would dishonor his brother if he did. Instead, he suffers consequences, but it is the suffering and the journey from this that changes his life.

Rich, well-written, it is still not an easy book, for his pain is well-conveyed.


I listened to the audiobook, which was very well performed. I recommend that version.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Baltimore Book Festival

Baltimore is a little bit out of my way. Eight hours out of my way, to be exact, but a good friend and sister writer lives in Baltimore who really wants to go to the Baltimore Book Festival. When we she told me about it three years ago, it sounded like a great idea.  I would take some time off work and come down a day early.

I had this dream of getting a train from Boston to Baltimore and writing the entire way down, sipping coffee, occasionally looking out the window to see the eastern seaboad whiz by, with nothing to interrupt me but the ticket conductor.

The universe, of course, had other plans.  I'm in the middle of a major crunch at the day job, which makes the idea of a leisurely train ride more troublesome (I can't leave the day before so that I'll arrive in time), but I just can't beg off again.

So, Charm City, here I come, under my own steam, listening to audiobooks as I occasionally look up into the rear view mirror to watch the traffic behind me.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Parafest 2013 Report

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post because I know I ramble when writing reviews.

I hesitate to write convention reviews. I'm aware how much work goes into them, and know how heartbreaking a bad review can be. Conversely, when I have nothing bad to say, I'm always expecting a wave of comments of how biased or unobservant I am. Can't win, right?  I report what I saw. If my experiences don't match yours, just remember that these are my experiences and they do not in any way invalidate yours!

On September 6, I drove down to Parafest 2013 at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, PA to staff the Broad Universe table with members Terri Bruce and Kristi Petersen Schoonover. Kristi, unfortunately, wasn't able to make it due to illness, but Terri (and her friend Heather) did.

This was our first time at the paranormal and horror convention, and, to my surprise, it was also everyone else's first time -- it was the first Parafest! For a first-time event, it had a lot of big names: cast members from True Blood, Walking Dead, and Supernatural; actor Richard Kiel; medium Chip Coffey; and authors Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Michelle Belanger, just to name the ones I recognized instantly. The promotion and web site looked professional. The convention area was spacious, clean, and well-appointed with plenty of parking. The event was well-staffed. In other words, I was impressed with their maiden voyage.

I bought a ticket supplement so that I could attend seminars. Of course, since I was doing table duty, my time was limited, but I did manage to attend a few.

The first panel that I attended was a panel on Demonology. I'm not that interested in demons, but I wanted to hear authors Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Michelle Belanger speak. They were joined by Bill Bean and Corvis Nocturnum, whose work I was not familiar with. It was a stimulating panel: Bean attributes his success against demons to his Christian faith, Nocturnum (according to his web site) is a Satanist (I wouldn't have guessed; his comments were very prosaic and secular), Michelle Belanger is most popularly known as being a member of the vampire community, and Rosemary Ellen Guiley has written widely on the paranormal, spirituality, and the occult. Panelists often had different explanations for demons based on their unique worldviews and paranormal investigator Jeff Belanger did an excellent job of moderating.

On Sunday, I attended the True Blood cast member panel. Sam Trammell and Denis O'Hare had to cancel. As Kristin Bauer explained when she and William Sanderson started the panel, Sam and Denis had work, and when you're an actor, work takes precedence over appearances. Aaron Sagers from (the host and disembodied voice one heard throughout the convention), moderated, taking questions from the audience and asking insightful ones of his own.

Some of the noteworthy bits I gleaned from this panel include:
  • Since the outdoor vampire scenes are shot at night, the actors who play vampires often don't even see actors who play daytime characters. (I believe that Kristin Bauer said she's met Sam Trammel only twice on the set; night/day actors mainly get to meet at conventions like these!) 
  • Kristin was playing a preacher's wife on the TV series "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" before she became Pam on True Blood.
  • William Sanderson earned a law degree, but instead of sitting for the bar, decided to try acting.
  • When asked what were her favorite episodes, Bauer (actually she's now Kristin Bauer van Straten) said she loved her backstory episodes. Sanderson cracked, "Any of 'em I didn't get killed in!" (He did add that he liked the ones where his character, Sheriff Bud Dearborne, got freaky.)
Both actors were warm, gracious, and funny, and I'm glad I was able to see them.

I didn't attend the party Saturday night or the good-bye gathering on Sunday. I didn't want to be overtired driving the four and a half hours home. I also didn't pay to have a picture with or autograph from a featured guest.

Would I go again? Like most writers who aren't at the top of the bestseller lists, I don't earn my expenses back from vending at these conventions; the profit margin on books is too small. But you don't go for the money. You go to meet other writers, to hear about things that interest you, and to network. Writer Rebecca R. Cohen, who also writes vampire fiction, had the booth to our right, so that satisfied my first requirement. I loved hearing the Pennsylvania Underground Paranormal Society (PUPS), the vendors on the other side of us, describing their experiences to people who stopped by. And, of course, I loved seeing the True Blood cast members in person and hearing their responses to questions from the audience.

But it was a long drive and I had to take a day off work. Though I enjoyed myself, I probably won't go again, just because of the distance. Don't let that stop you, though, especially if you're nearby.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Inanna Arthen's "Beyond Twilight" Presentation

I had the good fortune to listen to Inanna Arthen's talk "Beyond Twilight" this past April at Books and Boos in Colchester, CT.  In this lively talk, Inanna Arthen traces the history of vampires in fiction and debunks some of the common mistakes and misinformation about the genre.

Starting with folklore and literature that pre-dates Bram Stoker's Dracula, Arthen fascinates us with the story of vampires in folklore, literature, movies, and television series. She graciously allowed me to share her presentation. I've cut her 90-plus minute talk into three sections. You can listen to the first part here: Part 1 of “Beyond Twilight: The Infinite Variety of Vampire Fiction,” with Inanna Arthen.

Inanna Arthen is an author, designer, and vampire expert who has been studying vampire folklore, media, and culture for 45 years. She runs By Light Unseen Media, a small press dedicated to fiction and non-fiction with a vampire theme. She is also the author of the Vampires of New England Series of novels, which includes Mortal Touch, The Longer the Fall, and, coming soon, All the Shadows of the Rainbow.

Thanks go to Books and Boos for hosting the event. They have started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to help them move to a larger store. If you appreciate independent bookstores and how they serve the reader, check out their Indiegogo campaign here. The campaign will run until 11:59 pm Pacific Time on October 13, 2013.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I'll be Vending at Parafest 2013

Broad Universe. Promoting science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women.

September 6-8, 2013
I'll be heading down to Parafest 2013 at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, PA where I will staff the Broad Universe table with members Terri Bruce and Kristi Petersen Schoonover.

This is our first time at the paranormal and horror convention to be held. It's a little different from the fan conventions I usually attend, but I'm looking forward to the change of pace.  For one thing, it has celebrities (including cast members from True Blood, one of my must-watch TV shows).  Also, it's more about the paranormal than about writing and publishing. The front page sums it up nicely: "If you love ghosts, the supernatural, the paranormal, horror and the just plain weird, then this is your chance to meet your favorite celebs and learn from the experts!"  We're hoping that some of the media-loving attendees love to read, too.

If you're attending the event, please drop by the vending room to say hello. The hours are Friday 12-9, Saturday 10-9 and Sunday 10-4. Look for the Broad Universe table.

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.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Witches' Almanac #33: New Articles

"Since 1971, The Witches’ Almanac has been the source of fun, wisdom, trivia, and magical lore for hundreds of thousands of readers throughout the world. Modeled after the Old Farmers’ Almanac, it includes information related to the annual Moon Calendar (weather forecasts and horoscopes), as well as legends, rituals, herbal secrets, interviews, mystic incantations, interviews, and many a curious tale of good and evil. Although it is an annual publication, only about 15 percent of the content is specific to the date range of each issue."

So reads the description of the Witches' Almanac, Spring 2014 to Spring 2015 Issue (#33). I've been contributing articles since the 2006-2007 edition and am happy to announce that I have two articles in this one:

"The Power of Hair" ‐ A discussion on the magical properties of hair.

"Graveyard Dust" - A description of the uses and legends regarding graveyard dust (also known as "goofer dust").

You can view the Table of Contents by clicking here and you can also order this year's edition from the same page.

(P.S. The Witches' Almanac web site features extra articles. Looking for a job? Read this article on how astrology can help, from WA astrologer Dikki Jo Mullen.)

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Book Review: Born Again: The Truth About Reincarnation

Born Again: The Truth about ReincarnationBorn Again: The Truth about Reincarnation by Hans Holzer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this book, parapsychologist Hans Holzer documents cases where he regressed subjects back to previous incarnations.

It's an interesting glimpse in time, not just of previous incarnations, but of the late 1960s when Holzer was doing his research.

View all my reviews

Book Review: City of Dark Magic

City of Dark MagicCity of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved it. History is wonderfully woven into the novel without being excessive. Intrigue abounds, without being overblown. Murder, mystery, magic. Time travel. Lots to love in this book.

The audiobook was well-performed, which probably made a difference, since it really brought characters like Susie, the Texan weapons researcher/curator to life.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Guest Blog: Jennifer Alllis Provost

Join me in welcoming a new guest blogger: Jennier Allis Provost. Jennifer's novel, Copper Girl, will be released June 25, 2013. I asked her about the magic system in the novel and here's her reply.

Available June 25, 2013 from Spence City
Copper Girl by Jennifer Allis Provost

Making Magic From Scratch

My newest release, Copper Girl, focuses on Sara Corbeau, a woman who lives in a world that used to be full of magic, until it was forbidden. Then, magic rears its glorious head, and Sara’s forced to reconnect with her heritage. The farther I got into the writing process, the question became, what sort of magic did Sara reconnect with?

I knew that I wanted the magic system to be different, but, being that one can only suspend one’s disbelief so far, I didn’t want it to be too different. After all, there are certain basic principles of magic one must adhere to: it has to have some sort of cost, there has to be something (or someone) generating the power, and the power cannot be limitless. Especially the not limitless part; omnipotent protagonists do tend to be boring.

Inspiration struck in the most unlikely of places – the bathroom of a bar in Portsmouth, NH. The fixtures were a beautiful, rich copper, and I mentioned that copper was my favorite metal. A friend of mine mentioned that I should write a story about copper, and there it was: Sara’s magic would be derived from metal.

It was only a short hop from that eureka moment to my Elemental magic system, with the Elements in question being earth, air, fire, water and metal. Each Elemental would bear a mark of their respective Element somewhere on their skin. Have a peek at Copper Girl’s cover – that ain’t no tramp stamp on Sara’s back. That’s her Element, the copper that lives within her body, taking the form of a raven.

Of course, all the magic couldn’t be Element-based. Sara’s world is also populated by satyrs, mages and elves; in fact, quite early on in the story Sara meets Micah, a silver elf. There’s a definite line between the newer magic of Elementals, and the older magic of the hills, so to speak. That’s a pretty hard-core spoiler for later in the series ;)

So I ran with the idea of a copper girl and a silver elf; all Elementals pretty much stick to their own, but Sara does have a significant interaction with a water being. The sequel, Copper Ravens, will introduce both stone and fire Elementals. Sara, our copper girl, will need all the help she can get.

Jennifer Allis Provost is a native New Englander who lives in a sprawling colonial along with her beautiful and precocious twins, a dog, a parrot (maroon bellied conure, to be exact), two cats, and a wonderful husband who never forgets to buy ice cream. As a child, she read anything and everything she could get her hands on, including a set of encyclopedias, but fantasy was always her favorite. She spends her days drinking vast amounts of coffee, arguing with her computer, and avoiding any and all domestic behavior. 

Friend her on Facebook:
Follow her on Twitter: @parthalan

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Write that novel this summer...

Thinking of getting ahead on writing that novel this summer?

Break out the marshmallows and mosquito repellent!
NaNoWriMo, which sponsors the month of craziness in November, now has Camp NaNoWriMo for the summer. You're just in time for the July 1 session.

 "Ever dream of writing your novel in a month other than November? Risky enough to stoke the flames of your inner campfire? Willing to forge rugged new paths through the wilderness of creativity? Daring enough to step foot in a rustic cabin or pitch The Blue Tent of Whoa™? Then join The Office of Letters and Light at Camp NaNoWriMo!"

Read more at the Camp NaNoWriMo page.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Review: Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse, #13) by Charlaine Harris

Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse, #13)Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm always surprised by the vehemence of some of the reviews I see about the Sookie Stackhouse series. To those who complain about Harris's writing style or how simple Sookie acts, read some of Harris' other series. Her other characters can be sophisticated and complicated. Sookie is an average person. She reminds us that we don't have to be the most educated, the most wealthy, the most polished to be a worthy human being. And she reminds us that we can all make mistakes in the name of love.

Some reviews of this last book in the series are angry for another reason: They're not happy who Sookie ends up with in the end. Harris is an experienced, skilled, writer, with experienced skilled editors. If she felt that was the best ending for her story, for her book, we can be sad, we can wish it were different, but we should stand by her decision to end the series the way she did.

Would I have ended the series the same way? No. But I'm still glad I read it, and I think it was concluded reasonably well. I'll miss Sookie, but I look forward to reading Harris's other works.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The panel that would not die...

I forget the date that we originally scheduled the "Ghosts, Spirits, and the Aferlife" panel, or the day that we rescheduled it to. All I remember is that TWICE we were snowed out. But since I've been interested in ghosts and spirits since at least 1970, I was happy to commit to yet another reschedule. That day was today, May 18.

It was going to be tight. The panel was scheduled from 2-4, with a signing after, and then I had to rush to a graduation party for a very good friend. Still, I could do it. Just keep an eye on the time and all would be well. I'd be late for the party, but at least I'd be there.

Since my first book came out in 2003, I've developed a routine for events. I have a checklist and a packlist that I can print out and check off. My checklist includes two important tasks: Print out directions from and type the address into my GPS.

You might wonder why I do both. After all, the GPS should be good enough, right? That's what I thought when the computer was powering down and I realized I forgot to print out the directions. After all, I knew where I had to start the drive, and I would recognize the end part of the journey, so there was a pretty good chance I'd be okay, right? WRONG.

My first clue should have been as I left my driveway. "Proceed to route 146," it said. Well, that's fine, except that route 146 is 10-15 miles away and I don't remember going that way on previous trips to Annie's Book Stop. Okay, maybe the GPS is confused. Probably just hasn't connected to the satellites yet. I'll just get on the road, and worry about it after I'm on 290, which, I remember, is part of the route.

On 290, it's telling me to get back on Route 9. That's not right, but I can't remember which exit to take. I take one that I think must be close, figuring that my GPS will be RECALCULATING any second now, but no, as I'm nearing downtown Worcester, a highly urban area, it tells me -- and I swear this is true! -- "In 2 miles, prepare to go off-road."

I am serious. Off-road. In downtown Worcester. Can you say WTF?

Being a responsible driver, I pull off into a parking lot to call Annie's to tell them I'll be late and ask for directions. Oh, did I say that one of my instructions on my To Do list is to write the telephone number on the printed directions? (And you do remember that I don't HAVE printed directions...)

No problem. That's what 411 is for. I get the number and call Annie's. Of course, the first question I'm asked is "Where are you?"  Reasonable, right? But my stupid GPS has been directing me to take turns that don't match what I'm seeing on my GPS screen for the last half hour and I have no clue where I am! "I think I might be on Main Street, but I'm not sure."

I decide that since I have Verizon, I can download Verizon Navigator for a one-day use. I'll call back if I'm still lost.

I download Verizon Navigator. I thought it would be instantaneous, but no. I'm waiting, watching my cell phone as it says "Downloading images..." and then, at least 5 minutes later, "Downloading voices..." By now I'm late, officially late.

When it stops, I try to enter the address. No. Apparently there's been a problem with my download.

I return to my GPS, remembering that hubby had downloaded an open-source map to my GPS, using the removable memory. I pop out the chip, hoping it will default to the factory-installed map. I drive. Still no luck. I call Annie's again, describing my new location. This time it's better news: "I think you're really close. Hold on..."  She -- and I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember her name -- looks up on a map and finds where I am. She gives me directions.

After one false start (after all, I don't know where I am, so don't know which direction I should start out on), I'm on my way and arrive at Annie's.

I had almost given up and just gone home, which I might have done had I been able to find out how to do that. I'm glad I didn't,  though. It was a fantastic panel discussion, with a great audience. In the end, the Panel that Would Not Die happened. Whatever cosmic forces conspired against us lost. We were victorious!

But I will say one thing: I will definitely NOT start out for an event without a printed set of directions again :)

P.S. The party I went to after? Of course, I left the gift at home -- A gift that I had spent hours creating! Still, I got to the party and got to see wonderful people. Some times, when one thing after another goes wrong, I go into this weird acceptance mode and just go with the flow. :)

Today at 2 pm: Ghosts, Spirits, and the Afterlife

Well, it doesn't look like we'll get snowed out THIS time!

Ghosts, Spirits, and the Afterlife
May 18, 2013
2 pm - 4 pm

A literary roundtable featuring New England members of Broad Universe

Terri Bruce, Jennifer Pelland, and Morven Westfield will share their differing approaches to writing about the subject matter as well as their knowledge of various beliefs, myths, and customs ranging from the lighthearted to the downright scary, from real-life encounters to those that are completely fictitious. The presentation will be followed by a book signing. Titles from each author will be available to purchase.

This event is free and off-street parking is right in front of the store.

Are you participating in the 2013 Broad Universe Scavenger Hunt? You can get signatures from all three authors, getting you closer to winning a gift card from the book retailer of your choice. For more details, see the description on Terri's site.

Please note that parts of this presentation are not for children.

Annie's Book Stop Of Worcester
65 James Street, Worcester MA 01603

Web site

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Ghosts, Spirits, and the Afterlife - New Date

Yes, this is the panel that had to be rescheduled TWICE because of bad weather. We have our fingers crossed that there won't be any snow on the new date. Though I do remember snow once in May a long time ago, it wasn't as late as our new date, so I'm hopeful!

Ghosts, Spirits, and the Afterlife - New Date
May 18, 2013
2 pm - 4 pm

A literary roundtable featuring New England members of Broad Universe

Terri Bruce, Jennifer Pelland, and Morven Westfield will share their differing approaches to writing about the subject matter as well as their knowledge of various beliefs, myths, and customs ranging from the lighthearted to the downright scary, from real-life encounters to those that are completely fictitious. The presentation will be followed by a book signing. Titles from each author will be available to purchase.

This event is free and off-street parking is available.

Are you participating in the 2013 Broad Universe Scavenger Hunt? You can get signatures from all three authors, getting you closer to winning a gift card from the book retailer of your choice. For more details, see the description on Terri's site.
Please note that parts of this presentation are not for children.

Annie's Book Stop Of Worcester
65 James Street, Worcester MA 01603

Web site

Monday, April 08, 2013

Dark Carnival of Authors, Saturday, April 13, 2013

This Saturday, April 13, 2013, stop by at Annie's Book Stop of Worcester, Massachusetts, from 11:00 AM until 9:00 PM to listen to readings, get autographs from, and chat with several authors of dark fantasy and horror.

The event will also include memories of and readings from the works of award winning horror author Rick Hautala, who passed away just last month.

Refreshments will be provided all day. The event is free. Located at 65 James Street, Worcester, Massachusetts, Annie's has plenty of free parking.

Here’s the schedule from Annie's:

11:00 – Snacks, socializing

11:30 – Eric Dimbleby has been published in dozens of anthologies in the US, Canada, and Australia. In 2012, he won the “Best Speculative Fiction” award from the Maine Writer’s and Publishers Alliance, for his debut novel Please Don’t Go.  Eric’s most recent novel is entitled The Klinik.

12:00 – Jennifer Pelland has garnered two Nebula nominations, and many of her short stories were collected in Unwelcome Bodies, put out by Apex in 2008. Apex also released her debut novel, Machine, in 2012.

12:30 – Signing, socializing

01:00 – K. A. Laity is the author of the novels Lush Situation, Owl Stretching, Pelzmantel, The Mangrove Legacy, Chastity Flame and the collections Unquiet Dreams and Unikirja, as well as editor of Weird Noir and writer of other stories, plays and essays. Her stories tend to slip across genres and categories, but all display intelligence and humour.

01:30 – Jessie Olson is the author of An Ever FixĂ©d Mark and one of the founders of Worcester Writers Collaborative. She grew up in a small Central Massachusetts town with lots of trees and a complete lack of restraint on her imagination.

02:00 – Signing, socializing

02:30 – Errick Nunnally‘s successes include: the upcoming publication of his book, Blood For The Sun; a comic strip collection, Lost in Transition; first prize in one hamburger contest; the short story “Who Bears The Lathe?” in eFiction’s inaugural SciFi issue; the sci-fi short, “Legion,” in the anthology Doorways to Extra Time; two lovely children; and one beautiful wife.

03:00 – Rose Mambert is the editor-in-chief of Pink Narcissus Press and has published a number of short stories and poems, and co-edited various anthologies such as Elf Love, Queer Fish, and WTF?!. She is author of a rock and roll vampire novel, The Muses: The Blood Tour (2012, Damnation Books.)

03:30 – Signing, Socializing, Refresh Food

04:30 – Frank Raymond Michaels has short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Haunts, the former earning an Honorable Mention in The Year’s Finest Fantasy and Horror, Sixth Edition and the latter being made into a Sundance short film. He’s currently working on a sword and sorcery novel and more short horror fiction.

05:00 – Morven Westfield is the author of Darksome Thirst and The Old Power Returns, two vampire novels set in New England, often writes for The Witches’ Almanac, and produces the podcast “Vampires, Witches, and Geeks.”

05:30 – Signing, socializing

06:00 – Inanna Arthen began studying vampire literature and folklore in the 1960s, and since then, has become a scholar on the subject. She is also the author of the Vampires of New England series and owner of By Light Unseen Media, a small press dedicated to all that is Vampire.

06:30 – John McIlveen has written numerous stories, poems, and articles.  He is the author of Jerks and Other Tales from a Perfect Man, and his fiction has been published in Twisted Magazine, Deathrealm Magazine, Metromoms Magazine, Horror on The Installment Plan, Borderlands 5 (a.k.a. From the Borderlands), The Monster’s Corner (2011 St. Martin’s), Epitaphs (2011 Shroud), Under the Bed (2012 Sirens Call) , 21st Century Dead (2012 St. Martin’s), Suffer the Little Children (2013 Cruentus Libri), and Eulogies II (2013 Horrorworld)

07:00 – Signing, socializing

07:30 – TJ May wrote the graphic novel Catching Lucifer’s Lunch, and his short stories can be found in Shroud Magazine, Best New Werewolf Tales and his short story, “Vitamins,” was featured on Scary Scribes.

08:00 – Kristi Petersen Schoonover‘s short fiction has been featured in The Adirondack Review, Barbaric Yawp, The Illuminata, Chick Flicks, Afternoon, The Circle, Citizen CultureI Like Monkeys, New Witch Magazine, MudRock: Stories & Tales, Waxing & Waning, Wrong World’s multi-media anthology, I’m Going to Tell You One More Time, and many, many others. Her first novel, Bad Apple, came out in 2012, and she has published a collection of Disney-based ghost stories in Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole.

8:30 – Socialize, sign

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Guest Blogger: Phoebe Wray

Once again, I'm pleased to host a guest blogger. This time it's author Phoebe Wray, member and former President of Broad Universe, who now has three books and multiple short story publications to her credit.

I asked Phoebe to participate in the "Next Big Thing" blogging meme where an author answers ten set interview questions. Here are her answers.

1. What is the working title of your next book?

Still unknown… J3 is what I’m calling it in my head, but that’s not the final one and it’s doesn’t make sense. Probably something like Jemma7729: The Legacy.  Or maybe Jemma: The Legacy

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Since this is a series, where the idea came from really goes back to why I wrote Jemma7729 seven years ago. It was because I was so pissed off about George Bush’s wars and waste of people and money. I sat listening the news and thought, “WHAT IF…there were a government so repressive it lumped all crimes and misdemeanors—from petty theft to murder—into one category: Inappropriate Behavior. That was the original title of the book. EDGE changed it when the published it.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

It’s science fiction. Sometimes additional categories… dystopian, futurist. The novels are set in 2241, in North America.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmmmm. Hadn’t really thought of that, although I do have ideas about Jemma7729 as a SciFi Channel movie. A younger Paget Brewster type would be terrific as Jemma. At the time I wrote it, and I thought about Angelina Jolie. And, as I am still totally in love with Stargate SG-1 (I want to go through that gate SO much)… I always saw Teryl Rothery,  who played Dr Fraser, as Annie.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Unfair question!  I’ll quote what Louise Marley said… “Brave New World meets The Handmaid's Tale, with some serious ass-kicking along the way.”

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

J2 is published by Dark Quest Books.  EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy published Jemma7729 but did not want to do a sequel. Dark Quest is publishing it as an ebook.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I developed it from a long short story to the first novel draft in about a year.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I guess what Louise said, above. Actually, I had not read very many SF books by women when I wrote it. Have since, though.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The idea. I’m interested in how we govern ourselves; how we make laws and what we consider putting bars around.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

J2 is a clone. She’s like Jemma, but not really. She has no life experience, outside of the lab. Plus, she is aged artificially. The scientist who made her was investigating longevity in clones. I wanted to think about how we learn things, what can be taught, what’s in our genes… Her brain is “enhanced” with microchips. She can’t control that. She HAS to keep learning. It’s a minor but important theme in J2 and comes back to bite her in the third book.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: The Stephen King Library Desk Calendar 2013

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Stephen King Library Desk Calendar 2013

Published by Bookspan, 2012
Art Director: Tricia A. McGoey
Designed by Joseph Zwielich
128 pages, spiral bound

You'd think that with all the electronic calendars, To Do lists, and other personal management software that there is no need for a physical desk calendar. That's exactly what I thought when I opened the gorgeous Stephen King 2013 Desk Calendar.

But then I got busy, and no matter how many lists and reminders I had electronically, at the end of the day, I knew what I had to do above all else and needed somewhere to write that down, somewhere where I wouldn't be distracted by lower-priority items. And that, dear friends, is where a physical desk calendar comes in handy.

But even if your schedule isn't as crazy as mine, you might appreciate the calendar just for the beauty of it. In rich dark greens and orange, the prismatic cover catches and compels you. The thick spiral binding says, “Use me. I won’t break” – and I don’t think it will.

Or, if not for the beauty, how about the interesting tidbits? For example, January 2 is the date that Stephen and Tabitha were married. Oddly enough, it's the wedding anniversary of two couples from his books: Annie Wilkes and Ralph Dugan (from Misery) and Lois Chase and Ralph Roberts (from Insomnia).

Articles and excerpts decorate each folio, making for interesting reading throughout the week.
Definitely an item of beauty and purpose for any Stephen King fan.

Available from the Stephen King Library.