Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book Review: Funerals to Die For

Funerals to Die For: The Craziest, Creepiest, and Most Bizarre Funeral Traditions and Practices EverFunerals to Die For: The Craziest, Creepiest, and Most Bizarre Funeral Traditions and Practices Ever by Kathy Benjamin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I stumbled upon this book while doing research for a non-fiction article I was writing. Figuring that it might describe some obscure funeral customs that I could further research for my article, I gave it a shot.

It didn't have anything related to my article, but it certainly was enjoyable. The anecdote of British TV presenter Victoria Coren's run-in with people who attend funerals of people they don't know just for free food and drink (Google it), the story of record-setting hearse processions (deliberately, to try to set a new record), a description of what happens to some of your internet life after you die, and examples of humorous epitaphs (including show biz ones) were some of my favorites.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 21, 2015

Snowbound, with Zombies Now Available for Kindle

Snowbound, with Zombies, a collection of 22 short supernatural stories inspired by the life and works of John Greenleaf Whittier, is now available for Kindle.

My short story, "The Fortune Teller," is in there, along with stories from Samuel T. Pickard, John M. McIlveen, Peter Rawlik, Christopher Golden, Scott T. Goudsward, Celia Thaxter, Stuart Conover, W.H. Pugmire, Roxanne Dent, Ken Faig, Jr., Judi Calhoun, Tracy L. Carbone, K.H. Vaughan, Joseph A Citro, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, Karen Dent, Hannah Gonsman, David Bernard, Michelle Souliere, Gregory L. Norris, John G. Whittier, and Faye Ringel.

Order it from the Amazon Kindle Store

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Book Review: How to Keep Writing with a Full Time Job

How to Keep Writing with a Full Time JobHow to Keep Writing with a Full Time Job by K.A. Laity
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

K. A. Laity (actually, Dr. Laity -- she has a PhD in Medieval Studies) knows how to write, and how to write a lot. As she noted, "I wrote my novel Pelzmantel while I was writing my dissertation on Old English, Old Norse and Old Irish. I wrote The Mangrove Legacy as a 500-word-per-week serial that ended up over 100,000 words long. I’ve written academic works at the same time as I’ve been writing genre fiction. So keep in mind, I speak from the perspective of being a very busy woman with a demanding job, important relationships and a desperate need for idleness and fun."

This eminently readable eBook helps you push through your blocks to writing, make writing a priority, and actually do it.

Whether you're a new writer who has no idea where to start or a practiced writer who's lost the trail, this book can help you get on track.

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Freelance isn't Free

Most fiction writers can't make ends meet on the money they earn from their writing. A 2014 article on Publishing Perspectives cites a survey that gives average incomes for traditionally published and self- published writers, and the results are grim:  54% of “traditionally-published” authors and nearly 80% of self-published authors earn less than $1,000 a year.

So how do authors survive? Some teach writing, but find the after-hours work (grading, counseling, planning curriculum, administrative reporting) saps their energy and depletes their writing time. Others find unrelated day jobs, but find that the 9-to-5 doesn't give them the flexibility they need to pursue a fiction writing career. As a result, many writers (and artists and musicians) turn to freelancing.

That works well — if you get paid, and paid on time. As one graphic on the Freelancer's Union page for the #FreelanceIsntFree campaign says, a 90-day pay cycle doesn't work well for the creative person's 30-day rent cycle.

Here are some starling statistics that they cite:
  • 77% of freelancers have been stiffed at some point in their career.
  • The average freelancer loses over $6,000 in wages every year due to late payment and nonpayment. 
  • Freelancers account for 1/3 of the workforce — nearly 54 million Americans.
"Emerging from New York City, the #FreelanceIsntFree campaign is a nationwide movement aimed at putting an end to nonpayment through legislation that will strengthen protections for freelancers. Our goal is to get freelancers everywhere paid on time and in full."

 To join the #FreelanceIsntFree campaign, go to

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Full Moons and Vampires

Most of us are familiar with the effect that full moons have on werewolves, but what about the effect on vampires? Unlike their furry friends, vampires don't turn into a deadly creature only at the full of the moon. A vampire is active any night. Why, then, do we associate the full moon with vampires?

One association has to do with the way a vampire is made. It was believed that even without another vampire's involvement, a human could be turned into a vampire through a witch's curse or through improper burial. If a cat jumped over the corpse or the full moon shone upon it through a window before it was buried, the person would return from the grave as a vampire.

The full moon could also restore a wounded vampire to undead health. The vampire's body would be spread out where it could be bathed in the light of the full moon and left to revive. In Polidori’s “The Vampyre,” Lord Ruthven is shot by bandits and asks that his body be laid out where the first rays of moonlight will strike it. The body disappears. Lord Ruthven has been restored.

Inanna Arthen, author of the New England Vampire series (Mortal Touch, The Longer the Fall, All the Shadows of the Rainbow) and owner of the small press By Light Unseen Media, reminds us of another example in vampire literature. "In the penny-dreadful Varney the Vampyre, Lord Varney is unkillable because moonlight will revive him every time he’s killed. He finally flings himself into an erupting volcano to end it all."

There's even an example of a vampire needing moonlight to survive, in “When It was Moonlight,” by Manly Wade Wellman. Arthen tells me that in this 1940 short story, "Edgar Allen Poe meets a vampire who is animated entirely by the moonlight; he defeats her by locking her into a dark windowless cellar where she’s cut off from the light."

Two examples where, in literature -- not folklore, but literature -- vampires appear in full moonlight are Dracula and the legend of the Vampire of Croglin Grange. Again, Arthen, a veritable font of vampire knowledge, tells me, "In Dracula, Jonathan Harker first sees the three vampire women standing in moonlight, and they appear able to almost dissolve into the moonlight and travel along with it. In the allegedly true 'Vampire of Croglin Grange' story reported by August Derleth, the vampire first appears on a brilliant moonlit night."

Probably the strongest reason that we associate the full moon with vampires, though, has nothing to do with these legends. It has everything to do with visual arts. F.W. Murnau, who gave us Nosferatu, the first film adaptation of Dracula, also gave us the idea that vampires are destroyed by sunlight. Vampires in European folklore had no such vulnerability.

But after Nosferatu, the idea of vampires being destroyed by sunlight caught on and became canon. This presented a problem. If your movie scenes can't be set in daylight (because your vampires can't survive in daylight), you need some light to film in, and that light must therefore be moonlight.

In my two vampire novels, Darksome Thirst and The Old Power Returns, the full moon makes an appearance for a different reason. It's the late 1970s and a new coven of trainees has formed. They're taught that psychic power is stronger at the full moon and use that time to practice divination and other magical techniques. Soon they begin to sense something, an evil something.

Using each full moon to strengthen their powers to battle against the evil presence, the coven eventually finds the source.

Yes, the source of the evil is a vampire. Or two.

Special thanks go to Inanna Arthen for her generous sharing of knowledge for this post. If you love vampires, please visit her site at

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Snowbound -- With Zombies Book Release

The official book release for Snowbound — with Zombies, is this Saturday September 26 at the Whittier Birthplace in Haverhill, MA.  The book release is in conjunction with Haverhill’s 375th Anniversary and Essex National Heritage Area’s Trails and Sails.

Though Whittier is more remembered for his abolitionist views and his crusading journalism, his first book was a collection of local superstitions. According to Dave Goudsward, who edited Snowbound — with Zombies, "By the time The Supernaturalism of New England, his second book of folklore, was released in 1847, he was an accomplished folklorist, even if the word ‘folklore’ had not come into common usage.” This little-remembered side of Whittier is what prompted Goudsward to create this anthology tales of the supernatural inspired by Whittier's works.

I took my inspiration for  my short story "The Fortune Teller" from the poem Moll Pitcher, a 900-line poem Whittier wrote about a clairvoyant and fortune-teller from Lynn, Massachusetts. Born Mary Diamond around 1736, she was known for her accurate predictions, especially those concerning voyages by ship. A quote from Whittier's poem now adorns her gravestone in the West Lynn Burial Ground.

Join us Saturday, September 26, 2015, from 1-3 pm at the Whittier Birthplace, 305 Whittier Road, Haverhill, MA 01830-1738.

Other participants in the event include Judi Ann Calhoun, Tim Coco, Karen Dent, Roxanne Dent, David Goudsward, Scott Goudsward, John M. McIlveen, Gregory Norris, Faye Ringel, and Kristi Petersen Schoonover.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Witches' Almanac #35: New Articles

The Spring 2016-2017 edition (issue 35) of The Witches Almanac has just been released. This issue's theme is Air: The Breath of Life, and features an article "Herbs of Air" (by Lilith Hearthstone), "The Nine Elements" (by well-known Druid Ian Corrigan), a compilation of quotes related to air, and "Breathe Easy" (by Tammi Wilson).

In addition to its usual features — Moon Gardening, the Moon Calendar, Moon Cycles, and Presage, where astrologer Dikki-Jo Mullen gives us the astrological outlook for the upcoming year — it also contains numerous articles not related to air, including the following that I contributed:

“The Magic of Kohl”
“Nyctophilia, or the Love of Night”
“The Cursed Amethyst and Other Cursed Gems”
“Breaking Glass”
“Sidonia von Bork, Sorceress”

Not just for beautification, kohl has magical properties. Read “The Magic of Kohl” to find out more.  “Nyctophilia, or the Love of Night” gives insight into why many of us love the night. “The Cursed Amethyst and Other Cursed Gems” explores some of the legends associate with cursed gems. We all know the superstitions associated with breaking mirrors, but what about those associated with breaking glass? "Breaking Glass" has some good news. Who was Sidonia von Bork? Read “Sidonia von Bork, Sorceress” and find out.

The Witches Almanac is widely distributed. You can find it your local bookstore, chain bookstores, Amazon, and, of course,, where you can also buy back issues.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Vending at In-Con-Ceivable in Northampton, MA

I'll be selling books and hanging out at In-Con-Ceivable in Northampton, MA this coming weekend (August 28-30, 2015). I'll be selling books along with my friends Jennifer Allis Provost and Terri Bruce. Like me, they're members of Broad Universe, but this won't be a Broad Universe table per se; just Broads hanging out and selling books.

Held at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, In-CON-Ceivable bills itself as "the NEW fantasy & sci-fi convention in Western Mass."

Some of the highlights include an "E.P.I.C Cosplay contest" with cash and prizes, belly dancing, vendors, guests, and panels. Special guests include author Jacqueline Carey (of the Kushiel's Legacy series), +2 Comedy, Gerro's Game Shows, Sideshow Carnie act Karnevil, and more.

Web site
Twitter: @InCONceivableOF

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Reading at 9Pi-Con

Broad Universe, a nonprofit international organization of women and men dedicated to celebrating and promoting the work of women writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, will be hosting one of their Rapid Fire Readings at the last Pi-Con at noon on Saturday, August 1, 2015.

A Rapid Fire Reading is group reading at a convention (or other venue) where a writer reads a five-minute snippet of her work as part of a group of other Level 1 Broad Universe members. You get to hear a variety of different genres and styles and have a chance to win a giveaway. It's a lot of fun.

Each reader reads for 5 minutes. I'll be reading from a short story that will be published this fall.

Other readers participating are:

Lisa Hawkridge
Roberta Rogow (going first so she can make it to another panel due to lack of functioning cloning mechanism)
Angi Shearstone

Author Justine Graykin won't be joining us this time because she'll have her own reading on Sunday, at 11:00 AM in Ellsworth. She'll also be having a release party for Awake Chimera at 8:00 PM on Friday night, sponsored by Broad Universe. Other Broad Universe authors will have their new releases on display. 

Look for the notices on the boards at Pi-Con. For more info on Justine, see her bio at

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Short Story to be Published in Whittier Anthology

My short story "The Fortune Teller" will be in an upcoming anthology from Post Mortem Press. Snowbound — with Zombies, edited by Dave Goudsward, features tales of the supernatural inspired by the life and works of John Greenleaf Whittier.

I took my inspiration for "The Fortune Teller" from the poem Moll Pitcher, a 900-line poem Whittier wrote about a clairvoyant and fortune-teller from Lynn, Massachusetts. Born Mary Diamond around 1736, she was known for her accurate predictions, especially those concerning voyages by ship. A quote from Whittier's poem now adorns her gravestone in the West Lynn Burial Ground.

The book's official release will be Saturday September 26 at the Whittier Birthplace in Haverhill, MA from 1 PM to 3 PM.

Haverhill is celebrating its 375th anniversary this year, so it should be an exciting book launch. More on this as it becomes available.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pi-Con Panel Schedule

The last Pi-Con will be held in Windsor Locks, Connecticut July 31-August 2, 2015.

Guest of Honor: Tanya Huff
Guest of Awesome: Vikki Ciaffone
Location: Sheraton Hotel at Bradley Airport, Windsor Locks, CT

I'll be on the following panels:

Paranormally Yours–Writing the Paranormal Tale or Novel

Friday, July 31, 2:00 PM
Debi Chowdhury, Susan Hanniford Crowley (M), Bianca D’Arc, Tanya Huff, Morven Westfield
The panelists will examine the many aspects of writing the paranormal tale from setting to character. What qualities are in every paranormal from sheer horror to paranormal romance that define the genre?

Building Strong Characters

Friday, July 31, 4:00 PM
Grant Carrington, William Freedman, Tanya Huff, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, Morven Westfield (M)
The panelists will discuss how hero, heroines, and villains must be of equal strength, while secondary characters must move the story forward. You’ll learn how to make your character strong, believable, memorable and beloved by readers.

The Day Job and Your Passion - What works for you?

Friday, July 31, 8:00 PM, in McLean
Ken Kingsgrave-Ernstein, Lisa Evans, Jennifer Pelland, Morven Westfield (M)
We all have to earn a living. Do we get a day job that earns a lot of money, in the hope that we can afford to retire early, or save up to take some time off? Or do we just do our creative stuff nights and weekends? What are the best jobs for inspiration? Is it better to have a job that doesn't use up most of your brain?

Building a Better Character

Saturday, August 1, 1:00 pm, in Ellsworth
Vikki Ciaffone, Tanya Huff, Morven Westfield, Trisha J. Wooldridge (M)
Whether you are creating characters for a novel, a play, a television series, or an RPG the person you are making should have a background that makes sense, motivations beyond the plot of your story and be a balanced, even if broken, human being (or whatever). Come and discuss how this is achieved.

The Evolution of the Vampire

Saturday, August 1, 5:00 PM, in Parsons
Susan Hanniford Crowley (M), Mario DiGiacomo, Heather Dawn, Morven Westfield
How have vampires changed in the media? A fun look at the large variety of vampires, from that first Nosferatu to young adult vampires in Vampire Academy and more. Come for the laughs to discuss all in fun. Don't forget your fangs!

Interpreting the Critique

Sunday, August 2, 10:00 AM, Ellsworth
Shuvom Ghose (M), Michael McAfee, Morven Westfield, Trisha J. Wooldridge
You've finished the draft and shared it with your beta readers or writers group. It comes back with edits and criticisms. How do you judge which are valid? When should you change something and when should you stick to your guns? How about when those criticisms come from a professional editor? How about when publication hinges on a particular change which your gut says is wrong? Do you trust yourself or your critic?

Friday, June 12, 2015

New Blog on Decluttering

More than a few of you have been asking what I've been up to lately besides the day job, writing, and occasionally traveling. Decluttering, that's what!

Find out what I mean by that in my new blog, Decluttering for Writers and Other Packrats.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Book Review: You Suck

You Suck: A Love StoryYou Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Moore's humor and comic timing is outstanding, especially when he gives voice to vampire minion Abby Normal. He's also a master of pacing and jeopardy. And if that ain't enough, he makes you appreciate San Francisco even more. Loved this book, even having read it out of order in his vampire trilogy.

Narrator Susan Bennett is amazing. Her reading of Abby Normal and The Emperor of San Francisco are especially memorable, but I couldn't find fault with any of the voices -- all unique -- that she read.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Writer's Workshop at Pi-Con (July 31-Aug 2, 2015, Windsor Locks, CT)

Pi-Con logo Pi-Con is a diverse collection of geeks held annually in August, in the Springfield, MA area. Attendees are fans of books, movies, gaming, webcomics and print comics, tech and gadgetry, costuming, anime, and music. You’ll find people who are into steampunk, space opera, vampires, ren faires, superheroes, and dozens of other genres in various combinations.

Writerly subjects also abound. Starting at 9 AM on Friday, July 31st, Pi-Con will be hosting a fantastic Writer’s Workshop. Editors, agents and other industry professionals will be available to support and advise aspiring writers. This workshop is included in the regular full weekend admission for 9Pi-Con.

Professionals who will be presenting at Pi-Con include

Bianca D’Arc is a former chemist, lawyer and librarian who has been published since 2006. She writes mostly sci fi, fantasy and paranormal romance and has won two EPPIE Awards, has twice been nominated for a prestigious RT Magazine Award, and had her first werewolf book, Lords of the Were, voted the Favourite Erotic Romance eBook of 2008 in all of Australia. A hybrid author, she has been published traditionally, by small press, and indie.
Susan Hanniford Crowley is an Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of Vampire Romance and writes science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance, specializing in vampires and rare supernaturals. Susan is an active (professional) member of SFWA, a PAN member of RWA, and an Associate Editor with Space and Time magazine. Susan’s fantasy work appeared in Sword & Sorceress anthologies. Her science fiction “She Came to Sing” appeared in Beyond Centauri magazine. Susan founded the Nights of Passion blog and authored the Vampires in Manhattan series including The Stormy Love Life of Laura Cordelais. Mrs. Bright’s Tea Room is her steampunk romance. Soul Mate Publishing published Vampire King of New York.
Gordon Linzner founded Space and Time magazine in 1966 and now functions as editor emeritus. He is the author of three published novels and over a score of short stories. He resides in his naive New York City. His freelance work includes copy-editing, tour guiding, sound engineering, and heading up the Saboteur Tiger blues band.

Pi-Con will be held July 31-August 2, 2015. The registration cost is $35 until June 20, 2015. The venue is the Sheraton Hotel at Bradley Airport, Windsor Locks, CT. A group rate of $99 per night is available until July 1, 2015, subject to availability. For more information and the link to the hotel rate, visit the Pi-Con web site at or their Facebook page at