Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pagan Spirits' Top 10 Books of 2010

DAY-UM was it hard to pick a Top 10 this year. I read so many good things that I never got a chance to blog about on Pagan Spirits. I think my actual favorite this year was Haunted Honeymoon, the thrilling/funny/romantic end to the Casa Dracula series by Marta Acosta. I have a soft spot in my heart for independent publishers and writers who personally asked me review their books, though. That describes most of these. So here you go.

Of the things I did blog, these are some of the best.

10. Disappearing Light Hides True Evil by Jennifer Tokarz

9. The Ultimate Guides (his and hers) by Violet Blue

8. Hysteria by Rushmore Judd

7. Refracted by Sheila Deeth

6. Punk Minneapolis by Peter Joseph Swanson

5. Walking on Electric Air by Stephen Cubine

4. Dangerous Highlander by Donna Grant

3. Ivan and Marya by Anna Kashina

2. She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror by various authors

1. Death's Excellent Vacation edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Can't Get Enough Holidays? What to Read This Holiday Season...and Beyond

For those of us who are “book people,” books are the perfect Christmas or Hanukkah gifts to give and receive. Brick-and-mortar and virtual book stores both offer a dazzling array of choices, from nonfiction on the recipient’s favorite subject to best-sellers, beautiful coffee table volumes to poetry to charming children’s books.

It can also be fun to give books about the holidays themselves, especially if you can support some independent authors and publishers. Here are some choices so intriguing, you may want to keep them for yourself!

The Origins of Christmas Songs and Traditions by Rhetta Akamatsu (2008). Christmas has some curious, colorful traditions with a long history. Learn some of origins of these, as well as the hidden meanings behind the Christmas carols we all know and sing, but don’t necessarily understand.

If you enjoy this book, go to and download “Silver Bells” by Anthony “T-Swang” Gullens. This all-new, original R+B arrangement of the Christmas carol favorite makes it more danceable than ever.

ChristmaSin’ by Ed Williams (2009). Ed Williams calls himself a “Southern outlaw author,” and his fiction shows it! With his trademark humor, Ed weaves a (mostly true) tale of his small, rural town of Juliette, Georgia back in the 1970s. Don’t expect a tranquil white Christmas there!

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story
by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown (2007). Okay, Lemony Snicket isn’t an independent author, but you’ve got to love this children’s book in which a potato pancake leaps out of the frying pan. The latke is meant to be a Hanukkah treat, and he finds himself explaining this to a variety of Christmas decorations who think Hanukkah is simply “The Jewish Christmas.” The latke may be irate, but readers will be delighted.

Lemony Snicket also wrote The Lump of Coal (2008), a Christmas tale in which a grumpy, tuxedoed coal lump searches for his place in the world, and finds it with a drugstore Santa.

Finally, for the grown-ups to stuff in their own metaphorical stockings, there’s "Spicy, Earthy, Sweet" (2008) by Erin O’Riordan. Caught up in the magic of the Festival of Lights, Gabriella wants everything to be perfect for her holiday with Jared. Jared has very specific tastes--and a slight obsession with teasing the individual flavors out of the aromas of fine wines. Even the kosher wine he chooses for the first night of Hanukkah is subjected to his beloved wine aroma wheel. But wine is not the only thing that can be tasted, analyzed, and savored. Gabriella and Jared discover new uses for Jared's favorite toy as the Hanukkah candles burn down...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oliver Frances Visits Pagan Spirits

The weeks leading up to Winter Solstice, Christmas, and then the New Year is a busy one. Still, every busy schedule needs a bit of built-in time for reflection and relaxation. For book lovers like me, there's no better way to relax after a busy winter day than to curl up with a cup of tea and a book.

Oliver Frances' "Heart and Souls" is an especially gratifying read at this time of year. There are three short stories in this little volume. They each read like fairy tales. The first two are contemporary, and the wonder and magic in them are the wonder and magic of everyday adult life, with its hopes, disappointments and triumphs. They are delightful, sweet, old-fashioned romances.

The third is a more traditional fairy tale. In it, Santa Claus is thinking about retiring. He's thinking out loud, half to himself, half to Rudolph, his faithful red-nosed reindeer. A mysterious visitor arrives to help the jolly old elf make up his mind.

BIO: Oliver Frances writes romance and mystery; also his work focuses on social issues.His short stories have been praised by fervent readers around the world, and some were published in Istanbul Literary Review. Frances is an economist who has traveled to many countries and, from these journeys, has learnt about social and economics systems.

Pagan Spirits had a chance to ask Oliver some questions. Here are his answers.

PS: What was the name of the first book you wrote? How did you get it published?

Oliver: Summer Love... Self-published at (To avoid query letters or finding an agent I decided to go on self-publishing and create my own publishing company.)

PS: Which do you find leads you to your best work: your triumphs or your tragedies? Do you write from joy or pain?

Oliver: Spiritual realization. In fact, all the books that I've written recently are spiritual ones or have a great content of spirituality. I don't write from joy or pain anymore. In fact, many years ago I believed that an author had to go through hardships to create a good work, but not anymore.

PS: Do you have a writing ritual? If you listen to music while you're writing, what do you listen to?

Oliver: I hear music--very light one because the deep is in my writing.

PS: Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

Oliver: At the very beginning, Latin American writers. After, Oscar Wilde (and you can notice it in some books that I've written), but recently some writings convey ideas of the result of the readings of Timothy Leary's book or a spiritual book (Brian Weiss' ones).

PS: Do you read for pleasure? If so, what kind of books do you like to read?

Oliver: Before I read anything that fell into my hands for pleasure. Now what I read is because of any researching that I do for a project or studies.

PS: If you were stuck on a desert island, which book would you want with you?

Oliver: The Little Prince.

PS: What project(s) are you currently working on?

Oliver: I am writing short stories in which are combined mystery with spirituality.

PS: Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Coke or Pepsi?

Oliver: Dark Chocolate. Definitely Coke.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Peter Joseph Swanson's Latest, 'Punk Minneapolis'

It's not exactly a hot tub time machine, but Peter Joseph Swanson's Punk Minneapolis will take you back to 1989. (I was 12 then.) Forget everything you've seen on I Love the '80s. That's all about corporate yuppie mall stuff that would make Raven, Becky, Sandra, Tope, and Bunny Umber want to puke. They're punkers, and their purpose in life is to rock out, drink beer, steal pizza and other essentials, and offend the yuppie world. Technically, Raven is a darksider, but he hangs out with the punk rockers and shares their philosophy.

Life isn't all pepperonis and salad bars, though. Strange things are happening, things that seem to center on the crazy nun who stalks the uptown Minneapolis pizza parlor (formerly a hair salon) where Raven, Becky, and Sandra work. Is that really her face Raven sees in his second-floor window at night? What is the K-Mart ouija board trying to say? Are there really space aliens in the walls, as Tope says?

Several bizarre accidents and cosmic revelations later, we arrive at the '90s. Punk is dead, and so are some of the characters. Others have moved on to become what they once feared and loathed. Only Raven has remained somewhat true to his artistic ideals, wondering how he can make a novel of the beer-soaked, pizza-greased, Plasmatic chaos that was 1989.

The weirdest part of all is that Peter Joseph Swanson's literary ouija board seems to have channeled some images straight out of my head. He writes about Gothic, a movie about Lord Byron and Percy and Mary Shelley I couldn't get out of my head only days before I read this book. I had also just finished watching The Prestige, which features David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. In the book, Tesla is one of Tope's fixations, even though Tope keeps calling him "Tescula." Peter Joseph Swanson, stay out of my brain.

If the epilogue of Punk Minneapolis puts you in the mood for a peek into the lives of Midwesterners in the 1990s, then follow it up with I Made Out With a Teenage Communist!

Friday, December 10, 2010

My 'Secret Santa' Rocks!

This year I took part in the Book Bloggers Holiday Swap. I sent out a holiday gift to a book blogger. Since I happened to know she loved YA novels and chocolate, I sent her Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Twilight: The Graphic Novel. For some fun little extras I included a bookmark, Harry Potter stickers, and a Twilight blank journal. I hope she liked it! She may not know this yet, but she's also getting a package of young adult titles from AG Press--one of the perks of being an editor.

Giving was the fun part, but today I received a gift from my book blogger Secret Santa. She turned out to be Mariah from A Reader's Adventure.

She sent me:

*The Heights by Brian James, young adult, contemporary retelling of Wuthering Heights (which just happens to be one of my all-time favorites!)
*A bookmark for Tera Lynn Childs' Forgive My Fins
*A bookmark for Suzanne Young's Naughty List Series, signed by Suzanne Young herself
*Two stickers for The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Mariah darling, your gifts were thoughtful and are truly appreciated. (How did she know I love stickers?) I had so much fun with the Book Blogger Holiday Swap, I'll do it again next year.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'The Shame of What We Are' by Sam Gridley

When readers first meet Art Dennison, the preteen is waking up in a hospital, though readers won’t discover why for many chapters. In the next chapter, Art is only four years old. Exploring an abandoned lot where a house has been demolished, he climbs a pile of broken windows and gashes his leg. Starting with that scar, Art has a hard time distinguishing between wounds self-inflicted and otherwise. He is, in some ways, wiser than his college dropout mother and engineer father, even at that age. He detects their strangeness and distance from him early on.

He’s also aware of his own eccentricities. The loss of blood at age four left him feeling lightheaded, and somehow Art senses the feeling never really went away. He’ll never understand his “difficult” baby sister Katie or quite fit in with any of his peers. At one point, he lives across the road from a glorious California beach for weeks without ever realizing the water and sand are there.

Art Dennison has a quirky sense of humor. It grows with him as he ages to a high school senior by the end of the book. His tale can be humorous, though the humor often takes a poignant turn. Like the tale of Laika, the little dog with the white streak on her muzzle whose life was sacrificed in the interest of space exploration, Art’s survival in his parents’ bizarre 1950s world is both inspirational and sad.

Sam Gridley calls The Shame of What We Are “a novel in pieces.” The subtitle describes the way Gridley wrote it. Chapters appeared as independent short stories in the literary magazines Amarillo Bay, Juked, Quay, and Superstition Review. Still, it never reads like a collection of short stories. This is a unified novel, with hints of what’s to come in the earliest chapters, speaking to Gridley’s ability to imagine Art Dennison’s world in all its sticky, sunlit detail.

--Erin O’Riordan, author of Midsummer Night and Beltane

Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Review of "Oliver's Good Night Kiss!"

Natalie and Matthew are trying for a family. With that in mind, Oliver makes plans to leave their love triangle, but not before he spends some time alone with Natalie, one more time. He tantalizes her first with her favorite food before moving on to a more, delightfully naughty fare.

The plot gets more complicated with the fact that Natalie and Matthew are mated werewolves and Oliver, who is a vampire, admits to them both that he loves her.

Oliver’s mind reading skills and Natalie’s heightened senses make this story unique from others in its category, not to mention the turnaround at the end of the story.

This is a great, engaging story with a neat twist at the end, even if you don’t usually read books of this kind. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, looking for another just like it.

    bookmarks (out of 5)
Anita Nurse, Reviewer
Mind Fog Reviews

UPDATE January 2015: If you're looking to read "Oliver's Good Night Kiss," find it at my Etsy shop, Writer's Brain Has Wings.

Friday, December 3, 2010

"The Accidental Healer" by Joshua Graham

"The Accidental Healer"
E-book By Joshua Graham
Published By Dawn Treader Press

Get the code for a free download, now through Sunday December 5, at Graham's official website

These days, a CEO might be the least sympathetic character in all of fiction...even if he has been laid off and his wife left with their two children and his beloved chocolate Lab. When we meet Dave, it seems we shouldn't bother to care about him, since he's on the verge of ending his life anyway. Yet even as he's about to leave the world, Dave finds his heart opening. A brave act of compassion sets the stage for Dave to care about other people in a way he never thought possible. Though short at only about 30 pages, this book packs a thought-provoking twist for readers to enjoy. It may even inspire some to think about their own lives and how much they are willing to give.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hanukkah Reflections

Barukh atah adonai, elohaynu melekh ha-olam
Asher kidishanu b'mitzvo-tav
Vi-tzivahnu le-hadlikh ner shel Hanukkah

Praised are You, Oh Lord, our God, ruler of the universe
Who has made us holy through God's commandments and
commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

--Blessings of the first night of Hanukkah
The Little Book of Hanukkah, Running Press

"Kindle the taper like the steadfast star
Ablaze on evening's forehead o'er the earth,
And add each night a luster till afar
An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth.
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Blow the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn;
Chant psalms of victory till the heart takes fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap newborn."

--From The Feast of Lights by Emma Lazarus
The Eight Nights of Hanukkah, Peter Pauper Press

"Hanukkah is remembered not only for the miracle of the lights that burned in the Temple, but for the miracle of bringing light to a darkened world. The days of December in which Hanukkah usually falls are the shortest in daylight and the longest in night of the entire year. On the twenty-fifth night of Kislev, the moon begins to shrink from sight altogether, and at the winter solstice, the sun begins to weaken and sheds least of its warmth on the cold earth. It is a time of year when a little light must go a long way. Running counter to the natural process of diminishing light, the ceremonial candles grow in number, shedding more light with each successive night."

--Becoming a Jew, Maurice Lamm

"Hanukkah is about being Jewish and Hanukkah is about what I'm prepared to fight for as a Jew. Hanukkah is about limits and definition. Hanukkah is about reassessing what is non-negotiable in my life...what I am ready to modify or reformulate in consequence of being a proud and loyal American; what, for me, is not up for grabs, not open to dilution or diminution or cancellation or violation. Hanukkah is about consulting the venerable traditions of our people rather than making autonomous decisions about what stays and what must go."

--Being Jewish in a Gentile World: A Survival Guide by Ronald A. Brauner

"Although America's consumer culture has tried to make Hanukkah into a Jewish version of Christmas, it remains a modest festival of candle-lighting and potato-pancake frying."

--Choosing a Jewish Life by Anita Diamant

"Hanukkah may be twentieth-century Judaism's most popular holiday--surely it is the best known amongst gentiles. Of all the holidays in the entire Jewish calendar, it is the last holiday of the ancient world; it is the only one not based on a biblical narrative; the only one that celebrates a military conquest; the only holiday based on a miracle not instituted by a prophet; the only one not celebrated by a synagogue special service, or by a scroll, or by biblical reference. But, as the Hanukkah lights are increased by one for eight nights, the power, the significance and the popularity of Hanukkah and its message grow ever brighter--from day to day and year to year."

--Becoming a Jew, Maurice Lamm

"Each side of the dreidel has a Hebrew letter. Each letter represents the first letter in each word of the sentence Nais godol hayah sham, which means "A great miracle happened there."

--The Little Book of Hanukkah, Steven Zorn, Running Press

Friday, November 19, 2010

I'm Thankful For...

...My family, James the cat, having a warm house and food, clean water, being able to read and write and freedom of speech.

I'm also thankful for a lot of little things: Marta Acosta's Casa Dracula books, breakfast at Carol's diner, modernized movie versions of Shakespeare's plays, my new (used) set of encyclopedias of American women writers, little gigs I get from Craig's List, waffles with chocolate syrup, playing card games with my niece, Netflix movies, Shakira songs, The Simpsons (especially that Halloween parody of Twilight featuring the voice of Daniel Radcliffe), Vampire Diaries Season 2 (with werewolves!), green tea lattes at Borders, dark chocolate, French toast, chilaquiles con pollo y salsa verde, Poetic Monthly Magazine, veggie pizza, awesome stories in short e-books, draft Guinness at Main St. Grill, Wuthering Bites, that sex dream about Gerard Butler (even though I wasn't in it), Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, mulled wine, chocolate pastries from Panera, SexIs, the local pumpkin ice cream, and many more things.

I also have to say a special thanks to Robin Pope Cain. I won a $10 iTunes gift card by commenting on a blog post she wrote. Thanks, Robin! I used it to buy a movie soundtrack with an awesome Spanglish cover of "Hungry Like the Wolf," which I then used for my "Oliver's Good Night Kiss" book trailer.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

News From Selena Kitt: New Book, Newsletter and Contest!

In honor of the release of Baumgartner Generations: Henry, eXcessica publisher and author Selena Kitt is having an awesome giveaway!

She's also starting a newsletter to notify readers of new releases or contests (and there will be contests for newsletter-subscribers-only as well!) So don't worry, it won't be more weekly email in your box. Just a way to keep up on Selena and what she's up to!

So in order to enter this contest, ALL you have to do is sign up for the newsletter! Easy-peasy!


You can also earn EXTRA entries simply by Tweeting, Facebooking, or otherwise Social Networking about this contest! Just link to this blog post and you will earn an EXTRA entry for EVERY TIME you promote it on EVERY platform you can!

Fill out THIS FORM for extra entries every time you promote the contest!

This contest runs from November 15 until December 1, 2010. So you have two full weeks to enter!

Winners will be announced on December 1, 2010 on Selena's blog. YOU CAN WIN ONE OF TWO BIG PRIZES!

1. An autographed copy of every print book in the Baumgartner series so far (including Babysitting the Baumgartners, A Baumgartner Reunion, Baumgartner Generations: Janie and the latest Baumgartner Generations: Henry


2. The Sex Toy Package – a customized pink lady, black case, vortex ribbed Fleshlight (just like the one Henry used in the book!) along with plenty of lube and an autographed copy of Baumgartner Generations: Henry

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Going Down? II (Ladies' Night)

Here is where the blog takes a 180 degree turn, from two posts about children's books to one that's strictly for grown-ups.

In September I read Violet Blue's The Ultimate Guide to Fellatio:How to Go Down on a Man and Give Him Mind-Blowing Pleasure. The other day a little package arrived for me from Cleis Press. This time, it contained Blue's The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus: How to Go Down on a Woman and Give Her Exquisite Pleasure.

By the way, which is better--exquisite or mind-blowing?

The foreword by Margaret Cho begins with "Pussy is a wondrous mystery." Vaginas and vulvas are a mystery, but Violet Blue does her best to educate the carpet-licking public. Her introduction is as enlightening as her men's guide intro was. It's sad in a way that years after the first production of The Vagina Monologues, we're still living in a "pussyphobic" culture, but Blue is right.

As in the guide to men's pleasure, there are line drawings. They're fun, though they neglect genital piercings, unlike the male-centered guide. Neither illustrations nor text are heterosexist, so lesbian and bisexual women can enjoy it just as much as straight women. There is also a chapter for women with disabilities. Sidebars on how not to muss your lipstick and what to do with a tongue piercing are fun, and again, Alison Tyler contributes short erotic fantasies to the nonfiction.

The chapters are yummy and informative, but the best part may be the resource guide at the end, updated for the second edition. It tells you where to buy woman-positive and sex-friendly supplies in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

If you're a woman with a partner who's reluctant to go down on you, buy your boyfriend/girlfriend this little volume. It'll open up her/his eyes to the possibilities and deal with all the concerns people usually have about "going down there."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Watercolor Artist Bonnie Beckeman, and a book supporting autism research

Pagan Spirits' special guest today is Bonnie Beckeman, a watercolor artist and the illustrator of Amie and the Purple Butterfly. My interview with Bonnie Beckeman appears below.

One reader who leaves a comment will win a paperback copy of Amie and the Purple Butterfly signed by the author, Cheryl Pillsbury. To be eligible for the drawing, please leave a comment on November 6-7, 2010, and also send a blank e-mail to so I can notify you if you win. Please put "Amie and the Purple Butterfly" in the subject line.

Cheryl Pillsbury never explicitly states in her children's book that the main character, Amie, has autism. "Autism" is a grown-up word, of no interest to the youngsters who will read and listen to this book. Yet Amie is based on Pillsbury's own daughter Alicia, and Pillsbury donates profits from the book to the Autism Society of America.

The noble cause behind the book is why grown-ups will like it. It will be a favorite of children because Bonnie's pictures are spellbinding. The furry-faced butterfly looks almost like a kitty. Kids can't help but fall in love with the large, friendly insect. The love between Amie and her daddy is another sweet aspect to this heartwarming, life-affirming picture storybook.

Erin O’Riordan Interviews Illustrator Bonnie Beckeman

What was the name of the first book you illustrated? How did you get it published?

BB: The first book I illustrated was Amie and the Purple Butterfly. Cheryl Pillsbury of A.G. Press asked me to illustrate this book that she wrote, so I did.

Which do you find leads you to your best work: your triumphs or your tragedies? Do you illustrate from joy or pain?

BB: My triumphs. I illustrate from joy. I love flowers and animals and I love
communicating that through my paintings.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

BB: The biggest influence on my career was Ivan Powell who illustrated for H. G. Wells and was considered one of the top ten artists in the country. He picked me and two others out of 5,000 applications world wide to study privately with him through Syracuse University's graduate illustration program. At the end of my studies with him he said I was the most talented artist living today, but what did he know? He said, “Never give up.”

Do you read for pleasure? If so, what kind of books do you like to read?

BB: I read for pleasure. I like to read about the Impressionist movement and all of the amazing characters like Monet who got it going.

What has been the most significant book you've read in your life?

BB: Probably anything by a lesser know illustrator and writer that I also studied one on one with named Tomi DePaola. His children's books are very intense and have great morals.

What project(s) are you currently working on?

BB: I'm painting oils for a gallery on Cape Cod called Yak Arts. I’m illustrating a third Amie and the Purple Butterfly, and I just finished illustrating Disappearing Light Hides True Evil by Jennifer Tokarz.

I also paint portraits of people's dogs. I am presently working on painting a dog for a family that had their dog die recently.

This is an affiliate link:

Visionary Kids: Steve Jobs by Sara Abraham. $5.99 from
The Visionary Kids series invites children to read inspirational stories about some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and innovators. The first book in the series is a colorfully illustrated rhyming book that follows the life of Steve Jobs, from his adoption at an early age, to dropping out of school and building a world-changing technology out of his garage.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Blog Notes: Giveaway, Latinas and 100 Children's Books

Watercolor artist and illustrator Bonnie Beckeman will be my guest on November 6, 2010. She'll sit down for an interview and one commenter will win a copy of the children's book Amie and the Purple Butterfly. Written by Cheryl Pillsbury, it's the sweet story of a little girl with autism and the purple butterfly who befriends her.

The first professional review of my YA novel I Made Out With a Teenage Communist! is up! Visit Cobwebs and Memories to read it.

Another book blog to check out is Livin' the Vida Latina. Books written by Latinas are reviewed by Latinas. The featured post today is by previous Pagan Spirits guest blogger Sandra C. Lopez.

Finally, I borrowed this post from TeacherNinja Jim Randolph. This list of the 100 top children’s books was created by School Library Journal. The ones I’ve personally read are in bold.

100. The Egypt Game - Snyder (1967)
99. The Indian in the Cupboard - Banks (1980)
98. Children of Green Knowe - Boston (1954)
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - DiCamillo (2006)
96. The Witches - Dahl (1983)
95. Pippi Longstocking - Lindgren (1950)
94. Swallows and Amazons - Ransome (1930)
93. Caddie Woodlawn - Brink (1935)
92. Ella Enchanted - Levine (1997)
91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Sachar (1978)
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall - MacLachlan (1985)
89. Ramona and Her Father - Cleary (1977)
88. The High King - Alexander (1968)
87. The View from Saturday - Konigsburg (1996)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Rowling (1999)
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek - Wilder (1937)
84. The Little White Horse - Goudge (1946)
83. The Thief - Turner (1997)
82. The Book of Three - Alexander (1964)
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Lin (2009)
80. The Graveyard Book - Gaiman (2008)
79. All-of-a-Kind-Family - Taylor (1951)
78. Johnny Tremain - Forbes (1943)
77. The City of Ember - DuPrau (2003)
76. Out of the Dust - Hesse (1997)
75. Love That Dog - Creech (2001)

74. The Borrowers - Norton (1953)
73. My Side of the Mountain - George (1959)
72. My Father's Dragon - Gannett (1948)
71. The Bad Beginning - Snicket (1999)
70. Betsy-Tacy - Lovelae (1940)
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society - Stewart ( 2007)
68. Walk Two Moons - Creech (1994)
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher - Coville (1991)
66. Henry Huggins - Cleary (1950)
65. Ballet Shoes - Stratfeild (1936)
64. A Long Way from Chicago - Peck (1998)
63. Gone-Away Lake - Enright (1957)
62. The Secret of the Old Clock - Keene (1959)
61. Stargirl - Spinelli (2000)
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi (1990)
59. Inkheart - Funke (2003)
58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Aiken (1962)
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 - Cleary (1981)
56. Number the Stars - Lowry (1989)
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins - Paterson (1978)
54. The BFG - Dahl (1982)
53. Wind in the Willows - Grahame (1908)
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
51. The Saturdays - Enright (1941)
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins - O'Dell (1960)

49. Frindle - Clements (1996)
48. The Penderwicks - Birdsall (2005)
47. Bud, Not Buddy - Curtis (1999)
46. Where the Red Fern Grows - Rawls (1961)
45. The Golden Compass - Pullman (1995)
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Blume (1972)
43. Ramona the Pest - Cleary (1968)
42. Little House on the Prairie - Wilder (1935)
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Speare (1958)
40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Baum (1900)
39. When You Reach Me - Stead (2009)
38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix - Rowling (2003)
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Taylor (1976)
36. Are You there, God? It's Me, Margaret - Blume (1970)
35. HP and the Goblet of Fire - Rowling (2000)
34. The Watsons Go to Birmingham - Curtis (1995)
33. James and the Giant Peach - Dahl (1961)
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - O'Brian (1971)
31. Half Magic - Eager (1954)
30. Winnie-the-Pooh - Milne (1926)
29. The Dark Is Rising - Cooper (1973)
28. A Little Princess - Burnett (1905)
27. Alice I and II - Carroll (1865/72)
26. Hatchet - Paulsen (1989)
25. Little Women - Alcott (1868/9)
24. HP and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling (2007)
23. Little House in the Big Woods - Wilder (1932)
22. The Tale of Despereaux - DiCamillo (2003)
21. The Lightning Thief - Riordan (2005)
20. Tuck Everlasting - Babbitt (1975)
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Dahl (1964)
18. Matilda - Dahl (1988)

17. Maniac Magee - Spinelli (1990)
16. Harriet the Spy - Fitzhugh (1964)
15. Because of Winn-Dixie - DiCamillo (2000)
14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Rowling (1999)
13. Bridge to Terabithia - Paterson (1977)
12. The Hobbit - Tolkien (1938)
11. The Westing Game - Raskin (1978)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth - Juster (1961)

9. Anne of Green Gables - Montgomery (1908)
8. The Secret Garden - Burnett (1911)
7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)
6. Holes - Sachar (1998)
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - Koningsburg (1967)
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Lewis (1950)
3. Harry Potter #1 - Rowling (1997)
2. A Wrinkle in Time - L'Engle (1962)
1. Charlotte's Web - White (1952)

This is an affiliate link:

Visionary Kids: Steve Jobs by Sara Abraham. $5.99 from
The Visionary Kids series invites children to read inspirational stories about some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and innovators. The first book in the series is a colorfully illustrated rhyming book that follows the life of Steve Jobs, from his adoption at an early age, to dropping out of school and building a world-changing technology out of his garage.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Celtic Languages 101: Welsh for Halloween

Yes, I'm Irish, but I can't help but be fascinated by Welsh, the Celtic language so unpronounceable to English tongues. All the best Welsh words and phrases come into play this time of year, when Irish Celts and neo-Pagans everywhere get ready to celebrate Samhain.

The Welsh expression for Halloween is Nos Calan Gaeaf. Nos Calan Gaeaf is one of the Teir Nas Ysbrydion, Three Spirit Nights. The other two are the traditional Celtic holidays of Beltane (May 1) and Midsummer Night (June 21). These are the times when the veil between the seen and unseen worlds is at its thinnest, when spirits are most likely to break through.

One of those spirits, in Welsh folklore, is the hwch du gwta. She is a spectral black sow, a bad omen similar to the Grim in English folklore (famously appropriated by J. K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).

If you want to avoid visitors from the spirit realm, it's best to leave some bwyd cennad y meirw outside your door. Bwyd cennad y meirw is food for the dead.

Without a tasty bribe, you might get a visit from the Welsh equivalent of Ireland's sidhe, the fairies. The Welsh call them tylwethtag.

This is an affiliate link:

The Wheel of The Year. . by Maureen Murrish. $5.99 from
The Wheel of the Year is a beginner's guide to celebrating the eight traditional pagan festivals of the the year.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

'Refracted' by Sheila Deeth: Shockingly Original Fiction

Refracted by Sheila Deeth (Gypsy Shadow Publishing) is the kind of book that starts out by making the reader wonder, "What am I reading?"

After the first chapter or two, you might think you were in a Christian fiction novel, one that follows child witnesses to Biblical events who tell of miraculous happenings from their own points of view. Soon you begin to realize these characters aren't particularly religious, at least not in any orthodox way. After the third chapter, the narrators aren't quite so innocent anymore, and a bigger picture begins to emerge.

Let me give you a hint: this is a work of science fiction, though one that's told in a particularly poetic voice. It evoked a number of associations for me. Let me name just a few so I can attempt to parse out the flavors of this fantastic dish:

~If you've ever listened to the song "I've Loved You Before" by Melissa Etheridge, you can have some idea of the emotional underpinnings

~If you read The Prestige by Christopher Priest (or even saw the movie), you can have some idea of the strange, eerie type of science fiction this turns out to be

~If you think back to the horcruxes in the Harry Potter series, and how Lord Voldemort split his soul into pieces, you can imagine the meaning Deeth assigns to the colors of the rainbow

~If you read the anthology She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror you can have some idea of the various settings.

That's probably all I can say without spoiling too much.

Did I enjoy this novel? Yes, tremendously. I was pleasantly surprised by its twists and turns. I liked the way it subtly invited the reader to walk a mile in seven different pairs of shoes without being overtly political. It is highly relevant to all the religious misunderstanding that's going on in the world, so in that it's realistic enough to carry non-science-fiction fans through some of the more fantastic elements. It certainly gives the reader something to think about.

Friday, October 15, 2010

As featured in Poetic Monthly #56: My interview with Christian Bale!

I (never) sat down for an (imaginary) interview with (a fictional) Christian Bale, the star of films inspired by great literature such as Little Women, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and American Psycho.

Erin O.: It’s an honor to meet you. First question: will you pull me around in a sled like a pony, as you did for Kirsten Dunst in Little Women?

Bale: That’s fucking unprofessional, man. Are you professional?

Erin O.: Of course. I’ve been a staff writer for Poetic Monthly for over a year, and I’ve interviewed several authors on these pages.

Bale: Give me a fucking answer!

Erin O.: I just did. My answer was yes.

Bale: Oh, did you? I’m sorry. What was the question again?

Erin O.: (Deftly switches questions.) You recently applied for American citizenship. Your parents are English, and you were born in Wales. Do you feel any kind of special connection to the Welsh people?

Bale: Naturally, Wales holds a great fascination for me. I’m especially fond of Dylan Thomas, the greatest Welsh poet. I can only read the English-language literature of Wales, though. That Celtic language they speak is beyond me.

Erin O.: It’s beyond the comprehension of any English speaker. They spell “Wales” as “Cymru,” for crying out loud! Moving on…do you ever find yourself singing “King of New York” from Newsies?

Bale: That was so long ago, I forgot all the words. I do remember all my Shakespearean dialogue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, though. When Calista Flockheart got married, I recited all my lines for her at the wedding. It took so long she had to skip throwing the bouquet!

Erin O.: That’s actually sweet, in a weirdly egotistical way. Speaking of wedding cake, your weight fluctuates drastically. You were almost plump in The Prestige, but skeletal in The Machinist. What gives?

Bale: (Smiles.) It all depends on what the role requires. Plus, the head caterer on the set of The Prestige had a crush on Hugh Jackman. She kept making him Vegemite pies. They were delicious! Why don’t you have Vegemite here in America?

Erin O.: I’ll check with our food writer, Stephen Lapan, and get back to you on that. So, you’re saying you ate Hugh’s pies?

Bale: I think he told me I could. His Australian accent is hard to understand. I always talk in my growly Batman voice so people can understand me.

Erin O.: I do like the growly Batman voice. May I end this interview with a joke?

Bale: Please.

Erin O.: How does Batman keep his hair so smooth and shiny?

Bale: Oh, I know this one! He uses Conditioner Gordon!

Thank you, Christian Bale, for stealing my punchline. Post script: I asked Martin White, the editor of Poetic Monthly, if we could make this a scratch-and-sniff article that smells like Vegemite pies, but he nixed the idea. I haven't figured out how to make a scratch-and-sniff blog post.

Monday, October 11, 2010

First there was Hunk du Jour. Now it's the ladies' turn!

Back in August I discovered Hunk du Jour, a yum-a-licious blog covered with photos of beautiful men. This morning I discovered its feminine equivalent, Dorothy Surrenders.

Dorothy Surrenders is a lesbian website posting hot photos of the girls whom girls love to ogle. Its author is Dorothy Snarker - ha! Its motto? "A Gay Gal's Guide to Pop Culture. Why Let the Boys Have All the Fun?"

Why indeed? Since I stumbled upon DS this morning, thought I'd share some of my favorite chicas (a sampling of my celeb girl crushes) from its virtual pages. Click to view the hotness!

Christina Ricci

Eva Mendes

Josephine Baker

Queen Latifah

Rihanna (btw, Snarker is so right on about the Eminem video)

Scarlett Johansson


Susan Sarandon

Uma Thurman

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven

'The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven' is a dual memoir penned by Kevin Malarkey and his son Alex. In 2004, when Alex was only six, Kevin and Alex were in a terrible car accident. While Kevin escaped with only relatively minor, non-lingering injuries, Alex's condition was serious. Alex suffered an internal decapitation - his skull became detached from his spinal cord. In medical terms, this is not compatible with life. Alex should have died, yet thanks to the persistent prayers of the paramedics, bystanders and Alex's family, Alex lived.

He was in a coma and never expected to come out. Even if he did awaken from his coma, doctors told Kevin and Alex's mother, Beth, that Alex would have severe brain damage and never again be the same boy they knew. They were told he would never be able to speak or even to swallow food on his own. Remarkably, none of this was true. Alex emerged from a coma with his personality fully intact. He relearned how to speak and to eat. Alex and his family never lost hope and have faith that one day Alex will even walk again.

If this wasn't remarkable enough, though, there is more to Alex's amazing story. As soon as he regained speech, Alex began telling his mother and father about what really happened when his body was so badly injured in the accident: Jesus took Alex's spirit to heaven. Ever wondered what heaven is really like? Alex knows. He's talked to Jesus and God the father, though he wasn't able to see God's face. Seeing angels became routine for Alex, even when his spirit and body were reunited. The struggle of Alex and his family to adapt to his painful new circumstances, Kevin came to realize, was a new battle in the age-old war between good and evil in the unseen spirit world.

Was Alex telling the truth, or did he simply have a very active imagination? Kevin Malarkey gives the various reasons why he doesn't think so. The Malarkeys are evangelical Christians, but they had never been the type of charismatic Christians who expected to have this personal type of supernatural experience. Even though Alex was only six when he had this experience, his description of heaven is completely consistent with the Bible.

Alex Malarkey is a humble survivor. Though he's shown incredible strength and resilience, he takes none of the credit. He gives God all the glory. He is truly a child readers will never forget.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Death's Excellent Vacation, Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

I suspect that many readers who pick up Death's Excellent Vacation, a collection of paranormal stories with a vacation theme, will do so for Charlaine Harris' brand-new Sookie Stackhouse story. "Two Blondes" sends telepathic waitress Sookie and vampire Pam out of town to visit a casino and run an errand for vampire sheriff Eric Northman. In the course of their errand, they meet an elf, Pam is drugged, and the two blondes are forced to don scanty outfits and pole-dance. It's a good story and a welcome addition to the Sookie catalog.

There are many other worthy stories in this collection. The second tale, Sarah Smith's "The Boys Go Fishing," features a Superman-like character on an expedition to catch the Loch Ness monster. It's a strange concept, but it works beautifully. Jeaniene Frost's "One For the Money" features engaging vampire characters. "Far Across the Caspian Sea" by Daniel Stashower is in the vein of Kurt Vonnegut's immortal Slaughterhouse Five. Remember the Simpsons Halloween episode where dolphins take over the world? If you do you'll enjoy "The Innsmouth Nook" by A. Lee Martinez. "Safe and Sound" by Jeff Abbott is a twist on true events and a stinging indictment of a well-known cable TV personality.

One of the most enjoyable tales here is "Seeing is Believing" by L. A. Banks. Fans of Sookie Stackhouse will find this Louisiana werewolf tale familiar, yet different enough from the True Blood universe to make it unique.

Surprisingly, I found myself skimming through Katie MacAlister's "The Perils of Effrijim." I usually love Katie MacAlister's brand of comic romance novels, but this short story was a little too steeped in obscure fantasy language to hold my interest. I had a different problem with "Thin Walls" by Christopher Golden: the setup was good, but it seemed to drag in the middle.

The stories improve after that, so bear with this book. "The Heart is Always Right," a gargoyle tale by Lilith Saintcrow, is wonderful. "The Demon in the Dunes" by Chris Grabenstein features a realistic young narrator and a surprising twist. In "Home From America" by Sharan Newman, Pat O'Reilly discovers he's not really an O'Reilly, but has an entirely different Irish heritage. The bookend to this anthology, "Pirate Dave's Haunted Amusement Park," is a werewolf mystery with pirates - who couldn't love that? In all, there is much more to admire here than to skim through.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Add this to your October reading list: Wonder

The latest anthology to feature an original Erin O'Riordan short story has been published this October by eXcessica. It's called Wonder, and it's a collection of short romantic stories. Mine is called "Butterfly Boy," and it's about a woman who falls in love with a man she meets at the park. I won't give away the supernatural twist. Each story has one as well as the steamy erotica content you've come to expect from eXcessica.

Official book blurb: "Whether it’s werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, angels, ghosts or aliens—these are stories with all of those strange and wonderfully sexy creatures that fascinate the human psyche! Come on a spicy, paranormal journey that ventures into titillating realms bound only the imaginations of your favorite eXcessica authors! A dozen stories included in this volume by Wynter O’Reilly, Selena Kitt, D.B. Story, Sommer Marsden, J.M. Snyder, Dakota Trace, Piers Anthony, Roxanne Rhoads, Elise Hepner, Darcy Sweet, Christabel Rouseau and Erin O’Riordan."

An excerpt from "Butterfly Boy:"

As much as I tried to calm myself and focus on the peaceful environs of the garden, every time I closed my eyes I was flooded with violent images of cold-blooded beasts with bared fangs dripping blood. I kept remembering the nightmare I’d had, but my memories were more terrifying than the dream had been. Even as I sat in the lightly shaded garden on a hot summer day, chills wracked my body.

My unpleasant meditations were disrupted when something landed on my toes. I looked down at my sandals and saw my toes were covered over with a bright red flying disc. I looked around, but the thrower was nowhere to be seen.

I heard him before I saw him; he came in through the back gate and up behind me. I turned to see his approach. He wore long, red basketball shorts, a white t-shirt soaked in sweat, and a red headband holding back his heavily gelled, spiky black hair. Though he was dressed like a teen, he was at least my age, twenty-four.

“Hey, have you seen my flying disc?” he asked me. I picked it up and held it up for him to see. “Thanks,” he said as I handed it back to him.

“I didn’t think anyone else was in the garden today,” I said. “I wouldn’t want my meditation to get in the way of your game of catch.”

He snorted slightly, catching the note of sarcasm. “Actually, my friends and I are playing in the park across the street. This one was a wild throw.”

“Wow,” I said. The disc must have flown at least sixty yards. “Nice arm.” He did have nice arms, with thick, toned biceps. The sleeves of his shirt showed them off nicely; I couldn’t help but notice.

He shook his head. “Nah, I didn’t throw it. It was my friend Rick. I’m Jake, by the way.” He tucked the disc under his arm before offering me his hand.

“Lacey Burke,” I said as we shook.

“I’ve seen you around here before,” he said. “You like the Japanese garden, don’t you?”

“It’s my favorite place to meditate.”

“I know what you mean. The park’s my favorite place to kick back and catch some fresh air and sunshine, you know?”

“I’ve never noticed you before,” I said honestly.

He chuckled. “Well, since your focus is kinda scattered at the moment, and your meditation’s kinda ruined, want to play with my friends and me? We’re going to go get burgers in a while.”

I cocked my head. “Are you asking me out, Jake?”

He smiled. He had a nice smile. “I guess so, Lacey. Come on, I’ll introduce you to my friends.”


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Welcome, Dan O'Brien, author of 'The Journey!'

Today I'm featuring an interview with eclectic novelist Dan O'Brien, author of The Journey. Please leave your questions and comments for Dan, and he'll stop by and answer as he gets the chance.

What was the name of the first book you wrote?

Deviance of Time was the first novel I wrote. I started it when I was in 8th grade and then finished around my 16th birthday or so.

How did you get it published?

I got it published through American Book Publishing.

Which do you find leads you to your best work: your triumphs or your tragedies?

I find that it is often a marriage of both triumphs and tragedies, but if pressed I would say tragedies.

Do you write from joy or pain?

A little of both honestly. It really depends on what the content of the book requires.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

My brother and long-time girlfriend as they have both maintained support and criticism throughout my professional career.

Do you read for pleasure? If so, what kind of books do you like to read?

I do read for pleasure and it is often genre-bending fiction that challenges existing prototype novels. I do love The Road and anything McCarthy writes.

What has been the most significant book you've read (or listened to, if you were a small child) in your life?

I would say The Prophet by Gibran or perhaps A Wrinkle in Time. They both had a profound effect on my later writing and ideas about how books should be written.

A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all-time favorites! What project(s) are you currently working on?

I am working on getting my existing 8 novels into print as well as working on a shooting script for a film project. I already have 4 more novels set up, so needless to say I am going to stay busy.

Thank you, Dan, for taking the time to visit us today, and good luck with your novels!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pagan Spirits Welcomes Author Dan O'Brien on Saturday, October 2

Join us Saturday, October 2, 2010 as we welcome and interview author Dan O'Brien. Dan's book The Journey is now available at iUniverse and will be on your bookstore shelves soon. Please leave your comments and questions for Dan.

Dan O'Brien describes himself as "an eclectic writer who dabbles in many genres, though most have sweeping elements of spirituality and reason. Most of the novels fall into the categories of science fiction and fantasy, though there is something for everyone. Romance, horror, young adult and even drama have found their way from his mind to paper." Hey, that's everything we love here at Pagan Spirits!

Dan O'Brien lives on the west coast and has been writing novels for over a decade. Find out more about the author and his works at You can read Chapter 1 of The Journey from the links page.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

'Walking on Electric Air' by Stephen Cubine: pure reading joy

I found Stephen Cubine looking for reviewers for his book on Writer Gazette. The description made it sound absolutely fascinating. I was a little skeptical, since the book was published by a very small press, 19 West Publishing, Inc. My skepticism was misplaced. It may not have been picked up by a big publisher (yet), but Walking on Electric Air is pure reading joy.

This is the kind of book that makes you say "Yeah!" when you read the last page.

The principle characters are Dottie, Shelby and Lynda. Each of them has issues. Dottie is a housewife so desperate, she's tried to kill herself again and again. The "perfect" life somehow doesn't make her happy. Shelby, a mechanic, has been an alcoholic mess since a terrible crash at the Indy 500. Lynda works at a dead-end job in a tiny Arkansas town...and, despite her Nashville aspirations, may have the worst singing voice known to humanity.

They may be a ragtag band, a sort of Thelma and Louise Plus One, but Dottie, Shelby and Lynda are all totally lovable. Dottie initiates their wild road trip through the South when she suggests Shelby find his long-lost daughter. They never lose sight of that goal, even when confronted with an angry boyfriend, a mother with deeply-buried secrets, unhappy cowboys, slaughtered hogs, and a duffel bag full of adult toys.

Walking on Electric Air is riotously funny, and it also has heart and soul--my favorite combination. I give it five stars because this is the kind of book you hate to put down.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Best Book I Never Wrote

You Learn

As Alanis Morissette sang in “You Learn,” every experience, no matter how painful or how gigantic a waste of time, teaches us something. I learned something this week, something that was supposed to be pleasantly painful but in the end turned out to be one of those swallowing down the jagged little pill moments.

I was excited when I had the opportunity to place a bid on ghostwriting an e-book on how to be a female sexual submissive. Surely I can write about sex! I’ve written three erotic romance novels (two already published), scores of short erotic stories and articles about everything from vampire dildos to the eroticism of Terminator movies. I was even more excited when I was awarded the contract. My bid was low; the buyer didn’t have much of a budget. Still, I figured this would be a labor of love—of literary, twisted BDSM love.

How to Be a Submissive

Here’s the thing: I’m not a sexual submissive. I’ve known women who are, and who really get off on the psychological thrill of being told what to do in and out of bed. Over the course of my research, I read there’s no such thing as a “born submissive,” but I’m not so sure that’s true. It has to be in the psychological makeup, or it’s just not going to be pleasurable...

Read the full article, free, at Eden Fantasys

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Going Down?

The other day I got hold of a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Fellatio:How to Go Down on a Man and Give Him Mind-Blowing Pleasure by Violet Blue (Cleis Press, originally 2002, second edition 2010). My first thought was, do we really need almost 250 pages to explain this? Men are like automatic cum dispensers, right? Insert beer, yank the handle a few times (with your mouth) and get your prize...right?

Then I read Violet Blue's introduction. Men, it seems, have been given short shrift by sex writers up until now. When guys write for other guys about bjs, they do it with a homophobic-like distaste, as if typing with one hand while covering their eyes with the other. Men's anatomy is much more complicated than we realize on an average day. There's a wealth of knowledge women have gained by listening to gay men.

So, scanning over this hefty guidebook with fresh eyes, I found much to be admired. It's sex-positive. It doesn't discriminate against either sex or cater exclusively to hetero couples. It's comprehensive, even covering how genital piercings can affect oral sex. The drawings are cute. (I like the drawings with the piercings especially.) Best of all, it's spiced up with little fictional interludes by erotica author Alison Tyler. My favorite is "High Tea" (see previous post).

There's a reason why over 100,000 copies of this book have already been sold: this book is really helpful and informative. PLUS, the brunette couple on the front cover is cute.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

'Oliver's Good Night Kiss' Released Today!

About Oliver's Good Night Kiss, A BBA Menage Story
by Erin O'Riordan
43 pages / 9700 words
ISBN: 978-1-61040-042-8
Ebook zipped file contains - html, lit, Adobe and Sony optimized pdf, prc, epub

When werewolf mates Natalie and Matthew first laid eyes on Oliver, they both knew the sexy vampire chef was a temptation they couldn’t resist. Oliver’s orgasmically delicious food and hypnotic green eyes cast a spell on them. With Matthew and Natalie’s wedding date approaching, Oliver agrees to bow out gracefully from their sizzling triad…but only after one more night of passion. Will Oliver’s good night kiss really mean goodbye, or will Natalie and Matthew discover they can’t live without him?

Featuring the characters from Oliver's Famous Clam Chowder in the Love Bites anthology.

Get It For Only $1.99!

An Excerpt:

"Where are you going?" she asked him. It was warm enough in the bedroom, even if she was dressed only in a satin top and a pair of Matthew's black boxers, but Natalie crossed her arms. She felt somehow vulnerable.

He stopped halfway between her and the door. "You do want to be alone with him, don't you? Last chance to be alone with another male before the wedding."

She glanced at the square-cut ruby solitaire around her ring finger. Werewolves weren't much for diamonds. She looked back up at Matthew. "Yours, too."

He smiled. "I can live with that. I knew all along you were all I really needed, Natalie."

"You never told me where you were going."

"Kitchen. You should see the size of the sandwich he made me. Filet mignon tartare with porcini mushrooms." He came to her and kissed her again, on the lips this time. Matthew's sharp canines grazed Natalie's lip, and she felt his love in his bite. She forced her tongue into his mouth, a gesture he accepted, then reciprocated.

Somehow, she didn't hear Oliver approaching. When she tore herself away from Matthew's mouth and opened her eyes, he was simply there, holding two martini glasses.

"What, none for me?" Matthew said over his shoulder.

"Yours is on the kitchen table." He handed Natalie her drink: vodka martini with a generous twist of lemon, chilled. She drank it greedily. His drink was tinged pink. She sniffed and deduced it had a twist of the duck blood Matthew kept in the fridge.

Matthew looked at Natalie, then at Oliver, but didn't make a move to touch Oliver. His fingertips touched Natalie's hand lightly before he left the room.

UPDATE (January 2015): Find "Oliver's Good Night Kiss" at my Etsy shop, Writer's Brain Has Wings.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

eXcessica's September Scavenger Hunt is On!

eXcessica is giving away TWO Kindle 3 eBook Readers with wi-fi AND they will be already pre-loaded with dozens (75+!) of eXcessica eBooks, including Midsummer Night by me, Erin O'Riordan.

Our scavenger hunt runs from Sept 1 – Sept 30, 2010 and there are LOTS of way to win!

Besides the TWO KINDLE 3 READERS - the following prizes will also be given out:

* $20 Amazon Gift Card (5 giveaways)

* The ENTIRE Excessica Anthology Collection to Date (2 giveaways)

* Excessica Anthologies, given individually (7 total giveaways)

* A "habu" collection, including Rough Rides, Across the Threshold, Deal Closer, Hard Knocks U and Creampuffs (3 giveaways)

* A Selena Kitt collection, including The Surrender of Persephone (a great, great book, which I previously reviewed, Heidi and the Kaiser, Bluebeard's Wife, Taken, Falling Down and Quickies (3 giveaways)

* And don't forget to come to the CHAT on September 30 and October 1 for even MORE chances to win prizes!

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT THE DETAILS or go to Erin O'Riordan's website (18+ only), find the eXcessica icon and click on it!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Enchanting Tales From Two Different Parts of Europe

Ireland: Brendan Gerad O'Brien's short story collection Dreamin' Dreams is now available from SmashWords.

The official blurb: "Capture the mood of Ireland with a wonderful collection of short stories that take you from humour to romance, from sad to sinister, from downright scary to laughing out loud."

If you download a copy, I'm sure Brendan would say Go raibh maith agat.

Slovenia: Franci Rogac announces the publication, in English and Slovenian, of his illustrated fairy tale Bal the Firefly (Kresnicek Bal).

The official blurb: "Popular Slovenian Author Franci Rogac has released his latest fairytale book, Bal the Firefly (Kresnicek Bal) for the first time in English and Slovenian to the delight of his English fans everywhere. Bal the Firefly has a wonderful lesson for families about living within the boundary of nature. In the fairytale, Luke is fascinated with fireflies and wants to catch one to keep his room aglow, but Bal the firefly has a family too! What a wonderful approach to help children view nature from Bal's point of view."

According to the Euclid Observer, in Slovenia (that's directly east of Italy on the Adriatic Sea, for those of you who are geographically challenged) Mr. Rogac and his children's books are as popular as J. K. Rowling!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lovely, Romantic Russian-Inspired Fairy Tale

It’s been over a hundred years since one of my maternal great-great grandfathers left Russia to avoid serving in the Tzar’s army. I’m still fascinated with Russian, and indeed all of Eastern European folklore. Anna Kashina puts Russian folklore to excellent use in her romantic fantasy/epic novel Ivan and Marya (Drollerie Press, 2010).

It’s not an epic on the scale of Lord of the Rings, though like Tolkien did with Anglo-Saxon folklore in his novels, Kashina weaves the kind of tale my Russian ancestors would have told around their hearths. It’s more on the scale of The Hobbit, but while it may not be as sweeping as War and Peace, the fast-paced storytelling keeps the pages turning. I read it in one sitting.

Ivan and Marya is the classic hero’s journey. Ivan (nicknamed “The Fool”) is on a quest to fulfill a prophecy. He and his sponsor, Wolf, seek to bring an end to the human sacrifice perpetrated by the Tzar, Kashchey and his daughter Marya in the name of the god Kupalo.

Young Ivan (a stock character in Russian folk literature, though he never feels like it in Kashina’s telling) is the sort of everyman hero the reader can easily identify with. What makes this story so compelling is rooting for Ivan to complete his perilous, virtually impossible tasks.

Marya, though she is beautiful with her long black hair and pale skin, is compelled by being the priestess of Kupalo to be cold-hearted, incapable of love. Ivan isn’t sure if he wants her love. He wants to complete his task; the wildflower the peasants call Ivan and Marya is an omen to him, a symbol of hope.

The theme of the yearly human sacrifice is a common one in ancient Pagan storytelling. In the Celtic world (as in Mists of Avalon), the sacrifice is a young man who may father as many children as he likes before going to his noble death. In this version, the sacrifice must be a female and a virgin, recalling the Greco-Roman myth of Persephone/Proserpina. The virgin sacrifice is a close folkloric cousin of the straw effigy (sometimes named Marzana) that is, even today, “drowned” in Slavic countries as a rite of spring. The name of the death god in this novel, Kupalo, recalls the modern Slavic summer solstice holiday of Ivan Kupala…John the Baptist. The virgin sacrifice’s drowning in a sacrificial pool was replaced and Christianized with the rite of baptism.

Even if the ancient origins of the myths bore you, though, you’ll enjoy Anna Kashina’s storytelling. She makes it both fresh and exciting. There’s some adult content (this is a romance, after all), so this enchanting fairy tale is not for very young readers.

If you enjoy this book, you might also like Keith Miller’s The Book of Flying, Whispers in the Dark by Marisa Quinn, and The Raspberry Girl by VictoriaSelene Skye Deme.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pagan Spirits Interview and Book Giveaway with Eternal Press Author Cate Masters

Please welcome my special guest today, Eternal Press author Cate Masters. Ask Cate a question or leave her a comment for a chance to win one of her books!

Q: What was the name of the first book you wrote? How did you get it published?

A: The first book I wrote, Orion Rising, was never published, though I had some interest from agents. I haven’t quite given up on it, but reading it now, I can see it needs revisions, though it’s essentially a good story.

Q: Which do you find leads you to your best work: your triumphs or your tragedies? Do you write from joy or pain?

A: I write because I can’t turn off my brain. Story premises leap out from almost anywhere, and I find myself wondering, What if… Eventually, I have to write it all down or my head would explode, lol. I do like to explore people’s dark psychological sides, what makes them tick, but I also like to write stories from which I hope readers will come away feeling good about themselves, or the world in general.

Q: Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

A: So many people, really, from my critique partners who encourage and teach me, to other authors who inspire me. Of anyone, I’d have to say my husband, who’s been my biggest supporter, in every way. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be able to devote the time and energy to writing I currently do.

Q: Do you read for pleasure? If so, what kind of books do you like to read?

A: My writing reflects my eclectic tastes. I love to read any well-told, engaging story, in any genre. On my nightstand TBR pile right now you’ll find anything from David Sedaris to Natasha Mostert to Stieg Larsson (I had to know what the fuss was all about!) to Linda Robertson and Gena Showalter. And more. :)

Q: What has been the most significant book you've read (or listened to, if you were a small child) in your life?

A: The first books that really knocked my socks off were The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I fell into that amazingly detailed world, and in love with its complex characters. It began a love affair not only with fantasy, but books in general.

Q: What project(s) are you currently working on?

A: I have a backlog of stories needing attention, as usual. Some are contemporary, some historical, but the ones I’m focusing on now are fantasy. I have what I hope is a cool series in mind called The Goddess Connection, and recently finished the first book, The Magic of Lavender. Each story links that book’s heroine to a different goddess, and the series theme is that every woman deserves to be treated like a goddess.

Of my six releases this year, three were with Eternal Press: Fever Dreams, a contemporary romance novel with fantasy elements; Winning, a short contemporary mainstream with magic realism elements, and Follow the Stars Home, a Native American historical romance novel following two Lakota sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in my former town of Carlisle, Pa.

Excerpts, trailers and reviews are on my web site at, and readers can keep up to date with my news, or learn about other authors’ work, on my blog:

I’d love to give away a PDF of any of these three releases – winner’s choice!

Thanks so much for having me as a guest, Erin! It’s been a real pleasure.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Memoirs From the Asylum, a disturbing but powerful read

Chances are, you have a family member or an acquaintance who's been affected by a major mental illness. For many people, mental illnesses are very treatable. They will either recover or learn to manage their episodes of illness. For others, a mental illness does not respond to treatment and living in a therapeutic setting becomes an option. Of those whose illness leads to hospitalization, some are lucky enough to be able to afford private care. For others, there's the state hospital.

As Alice famously said to the Cheshire Cat, "I don't want to go among mad people," and any examination of the lives and thoughts of those living in the state hospital will not be a walk in the garden. Although 'Memoirs From the Asylum' by Kenneth Weene is fictional, those of us who have mentally ill friends and relatives or who have worked in mental health care settings will find it unsettlingly real.

Readers will no doubt find this book fascinating. It's like what medieval Christians used to call "the abominable fancy:" the saved glimpsing the suffering of those in Hell. The trouble is, as Weene's book makes clear, the line between the "sane" and the "insane" is a fine one. The "insane" are institutionalized by their own volition, but can declare "the vacation's over" and walk out to rejoin society at any moment. The staff are just as capable of abnormal thoughts and irrational behavior as the patients. It reminds me of a joke from an early season of 'The Simpsons,' when Homer found himself committed and asked the doctors how they could tell who was sane and who was insane. Simple, they tell him: everyone who's insane has his/her hand stamped "INSANE."

'Memoirs From the Asylum' is, at times, funny, sometimes unsettling, but largely tragic. It's a powerful book, but one worth reading. It's a plea for compassion and a disorganized rant as careening as the Jimi Hendrix solos that a patient named Jamul endlessly plays on his invisible guitar.

Funny thing about that: thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, the Navy record of the real Jimi Hendrix is now public, and it reveals he was once thought to have a mental illness. The real Hendrix seemed to be unable to concentrate on any work other than writing songs and playing his guitar! Perhaps Jamul was a misunderstood genius. Within the pages of 'Memoirs of the Asylum,' anything is possible.

This book is available from Amazon or from All Things That Matter Press.