Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WIP Wednesday

Erin O'Riordan: As August comes to a close, I have to decide whether I want to try to make the September deadline for Melange Books' "Steamy Christmas Wishes" anthology. I have a steamy idea involving the creative use of a gingerbread house. The minimum word count is 6,000, though - do I really have the will and the time to craft a 6K yarn before September ends?

An unfortunate incident occurred last week, in which Mr. Tit Elingtin attempted to fix my HP Mini lapbook, but in fact broke it beyond repair (at least for the moment). In it were two WIPs: a f/f fairy tale based on the legend of the wood wives, and a sort of f/f Miller's Crossing, with gangsters and a hot chorus girl. I'm hoping I can get those back some day.

Melodie Campbell: Just finished the first full draft of The Goddaughter (Orca Books, due out Spring 2012)! It’s off to my publisher. Now the dreaded wait…what will he want to change?

I got my start writing comedy. I wrote standup and had a regular humor column for five years. All writing is work. Writing comedy is definitely hard work. Every word counts. The placing of every word counts – what we call ‘comic timing’. I work hard on my timing. So I always get a little antsy when the first draft hits the editorial desk. Will they tinker with it?

Luckily, Rowena Through the Wall went to press with humor intact. If you like this brand of wacky humor, check it out at Amazon:

Is that a broadsword on your belt, or are you just glad to see me?

Follow Melodie’s comic blog at
View trailer and read opening scene at

Davis Aujourd'hui: Babes in Bucksnort is the sequel to The Misadventures of Sister Mary Olga Fortitude. Once again the unconventional bourbon-swilling, chain-smoking nun will spin hilarious tales about the residents of Bucksnort while she tests the will of a reformed prostitute who just happens to be her Reverend Mother.

But there's trouble brewing in the Snortlands. The town busybody crusades to stamp out “the gay menace.” That's when she brings Reverend Billy-Bob Blunthead and his Born Again or Burn Forever Disciples for Jesus to town to do the job. It will be an uphill climb when the closet doors of many gay people burst open.

In between laughs, Sister Mary Olga dispenses nuggets of wisdom during her Holiness Classes. The bottom line is that everyone is welcome in Sister Mary Olga's classes. Join the diverse cast of zany characters for a joy ride that will tickle your funny bone until it aches. See my blog:

Malcolm R. Campbell: While I’m still zoned out in Writer’s Limbo after finishing Sarabande, I’m trying to pull together everything I know about my characters and get started on the next book in the series. So far, the title is The Grandfather and the Goddess, but that sounds a bit kinky and probably will go away before I’m done with the story.

Blurb from Sarabande: After her sister, Dryad, haunts her from beyond the grave for three torturous years, Sarabande undertakes a dangerous journey into the past to either raise her cruel sister from the dead, ending the torment or to take her place in the safe darkness of the earth.

Sarabande leaves the Montana mountains for central Illinois to seek help from Robert Adams, the powerful Sun Singer, in spite of Gem’s prophecy of shame. One man tries to kill her alongside a prairie road, one tries to save her with ancient wisdom, and Robert tries to send her away.

Even if she persuades Robert to bring his magic to Dryad’s shallow grave, the desperate man who follows them desires the Rowan staff for ill intent...and the malicious sister who awaits their arrival desires much more than a mere return to life.

Malcolm R. Campbell
Author of Sarabande, The Sun Singer, Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey, and Jock Steward and the Missing Sea of Fire.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: 'Sex Pot: The Marijuana Lover's Guide to Gettin' It On'

I myself am not a marijuana smoker. I've taken a few puffs in my day, but I don't care for the burning sensation in my throat. Plus, Irish Granny and Yiddish granny smoked cigarettes and both ended up with lung diseases that left them barely able to walk to the mailbox. That doesn't look like too much fun. I'll eat a great many things baked into chocolate brownies, but the one time I ate a third of a pot brownie, I totally tripped out and had to go to bed, where I dreamed extremely vivid Technicolor cartoon dreams. That was the end of that phase of experimentation.

Still, I was excited to read Sex Pot: The Marijuana Lover's Guide to Gettin' It On by "cannabis columnist" Mamakind, also known as Lisa Kirkman (Quick American Publishing, August 2011). I love a good sex guide - and this is one. Does it devote pages to the combining of smoking weed with sexual activities? Yes, it certainly does.

It does more than that, though. Mamakind, experienced columnist for SKUNK Magazine, answers all kinds of sex questions. She's more than a columnist, though - she's an activist, and in this tome, she gets to wave the flag of freedom for all consenting adults who claim the right to make our own sexual (as well as pharmaceutical) choices. This erotica writer can't help but love her liberated love-and-let-love philosophy.

Mamakind herself is rather fascinating. She's a smart, pop culture-savvy, bisexual Canadian of Jewish descent whose BDSM preferences tend toward the submissive. (The cover portrays a curvy cartoon female with some serious red - and a pot leaf tattoo - on her behind. Mamakind's cartoon doppelganger?) She may be a self-confessed stoner, but she seems to know of which she speaks.

The questions she fields include:

*Is it possible for growing plants to soak up sexual energy?
*Is my boyfriend normal? He wants to role-play that I age into an 80-year-old while we make love.
*How can I get my penis to stop humming?

I half suspect that second question may be from Bella Swan, but that's beside the point. The point is, Mamakind makes some interesting and persuasive arguments. I liked her comparison of women as "candyfloss without the sticky" and of men as "the stick left over after the candyfloss, sticky included." (Apparently Canadians use the English word "candyfloss" where Americans would say "cotton candy.")

My favorite quote was this: "Love between consenting adults is never something to be avoided...nor is mind-blowingly good sex."

Image: Creative Commons, generic license
I received an Advanced Digital Pre-Press Copy of this book at no charge from its editorial director. I was not otherwise compensated for this review.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Literary Links to Love II

Women's Equality Day 2011 - a post I wrote for "Mommies Magazine"

On a related note: "Four Approaches to Female Characters in Historical Fiction and Fantasy" by J. Nelson Leith

Review of non-fiction Unsinkable by Abby Sunderland - a guest post I wrote for Ocean Dreams

Short American Psychological Association article on vampires and their ability to hypnotize (link is now dead)

Wake Me Up When September Ends For All Hallow's Read - Guest post for Jill-Elizabeth

The Erotica Anthology now has three reviews on Smashwords! It has been pointed out to me, though, that's it's actually a collection and not an anthology. I wrote the whole thing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Holy Cow, It’s Almost September! or Five Books to Get You in the Mood for School

Guest Post By Jill-Elizabeth

I don’t know about you, but I can’t even believe it is almost September…where did the summer go? It seems like it was just Memorial Day, like summer was just beginning, like the weather was just starting to warm up to the perfect sit-in-a-hammock temperature. And yet here we are, the end of August, the night coming on earlier every day, the weather cooling down at night to actually require – gasp, shudder – long sleeves!

It’s been a little while since I’ve been in school myself, but I’ve never entirely lost that whole ugh-it’s-September feeling – and not just because I’ve spent the last few years helping get small people ready for their own back-to-school days. I love Fall, don’t get me wrong – leaves changing colors, cooler weather, crisp air that smells like apples. But there’s still something sad about the days getting shorter and the calendar getting busier. I may not miss the heat or the bugs or the chaos of summer, but I definitely do miss the laziness of the days.

But as with everything, there’s always some silver lining. Fall brings school, sure, but it also brings a whole slew of new back-to-school reading. So in honor of that, I bring you a few back to school books for your consideration – and by “school books” I mean quite literally books about schools. Cool schools. The kind that I rather would have liked to attend. At least one will be obvious; the others may surprise you (and tell you more than you’d like to know about the contents of my head). But they’re all great and worth a look!

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: By now, Hogwarts must be the most famous school in the world, right? I will admit, it made me rather sorry I never got to enjoy the miracle of British boarding school – at least, the miracle of non-Muggle British boarding school. There’s not a lot to say that hasn’t already been said – and if there is someone out there reading this who is not already familiar with Harry and his world, well, I’m not sure where exactly I’d begin anyway. I understand Harry has made a lot of educators talk – some in his favor (“kids actually read these books”), some against (“these books are the tool of the devil”). Personally, I tend to fall wholeheartedly on the former end of the spectrum. And if you know a child in need of reading encouragement, you can do a lot worse than Harry and friends…

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart: Take four special kids (and by “special” of course I mean utterly fantastically unique), add in a “school” program tailored to maximize those utterly fantastically unique abilities and a narcoleptic leader and what do you have? Stewart’s own take on the good-kids-must-defeat-evil-adults genre, of course. The series opens strongly; I was particularly fond of the initial “entrance”-testing, which I’m sad to report I would likely not have passed. Then again, given the troubles the kids find themselves in throughout the course of the book, maybe that is an entirely good thing. I will admit that I found the second and third books a little derivative, but there is still good stuff going on throughout to warrant a read.

The Fiction Class by Susan Breen: It’s not exactly your typical “school” book, but it is a great story for adults looking to get back into the swing of education by taking a class. A fiction class. The Fiction Class tells the tale of Arabella Hicks (poor dear – blame her mother for her name; she does), a frustrated writer who has been struggling with her novel – and her mother – forever, and who teaches a weekly fiction writing class for prospective authors. The book is organized along with the class syllabus; the story shifts between chapters devoted to Arabella’s class and her personal life. Eventually, of course, the two overlap. Much hilarity ensues – along with much frustration, poignancy, and a painful-but-crucial realization or two. It’s proof positive that learning can be fun – and funny.

Midnight for Charlie Bone (The Charlie Bone Books) by Jennie Nimmo: Charlie Bone is like Harry Potter, only not as famous (and not an orphan). But his adventures are equally as enjoyable. Bloor’s Academy is full of creepy management and horrid students, but I still think it’d be rather cool to be a descendant of the Red King and to spend your days trying to figure out exactly what your legacy – and those weird noises and locked doors signified. Charlie and his fellow students find themselves embroiled in the classic war of good-vs.-evil – albeit with some new and intriguing twists. And they still have to do homework. Hardly seems fair, does it?

The Charm School by Nelson DeMille: Okay, this one probably doesn’t belong here because it’s really a cold-war spy thriller from one of the masters of the genre. But still, it IS about a school – the eponymous “charm school” is a training ground for Soviet agents who will be sent to infiltrate the United States. I know it’s not exactly the traditional kind of “school” most people who enjoy attending, but I find the idea of a total-immersion social experience training camp to be rather fascinating. And this one is all wrapped up in a fantastically entertaining (and sometimes more than a little terrifying) package. Who wouldn’t love that? J

A former corporate attorney and government relations/health policy executive, Jill-Elizabeth walked away from that world (well, skipped actually) and toward a more literary life (equally challenging, but infinitely more enjoyable). If you enjoyed this review, please visit her at, the official home of All Things Jill-Elizabeth – that is, all of the teehees, musings, rants, book reviews, writing exercises, and witticisms of her burgeoning writing career.

Autumn leaves and Hogwarts images - Creative Commons license

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Welcome Back to WIP Wednesday

It's Wednesday, so here at Pagan Spirits it's WIP Wednesday. My guest authors and I will share a bit about our current works in progress (WIPs). If you're an author of any genre and would like to participate in the next WIP Wednesday, simply shoot an e-mail to erinoriordan (at) sbcglobal (dot) net.

Erin O'Riordan: Some of what I've been working on this week: future blog posts. As we all know, we are less than one month away from the 10th anniversary of a tragic, tragic day in American history. I wanted to do something small, simple and thoughtful on Sept. 11, 2011. I decided to share my diary entry, uncensored, from that day ten years ago. It's not any kind of definitive record. It's one woman's limited observations from the safety of the Lake Michigan region.

On a much lighter note, I wrote another September blog post that's a throwback to the 1990s and a literary tribute to a male I would almost certainly throw into my harem if I could. He's not Christian Bale, but he is an immigrant from Europe, and he's been mentioned in this blog before. Picture a red uniform.

Marni Graff (M.K. Graff): Right now I'm revising THE GREEN REMAINS, set in Cumbria, and the followup to the first Nora Tierney mystery, THE BLUE VIRGIN (Bridle Path Press, 2010). Nora is an American writer living in the UK who cleared her best friend of a murder charge when she was still living in Oxford. Now that she's moved to the Lake District to work on her children's book series, she finds herself proving her series illustrator couldn't possibly have poisoned a wealthy landowner, despite his studio being one of only two places the plant in question is found. Did I mention she's also 8 mos. preggers with her dead fiance's child? The book should be in print by early December in time for holiday shopping.

I also write a weekly book review blog, and am co-author with my writing group, Screw Iowa, of a book on our unique workshop method and critique method, WRITING IN A CHANGING WORLD.

Marni Graff (You can read about Screw Iowa here!)

Sally Carpenter: Sally Carpenter just published The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper, the first book in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol mystery series. My WIP is the next series book.

Sandy Fairfax, a 38-year-old former ‘70s teen idol and star of the hit TV show, Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth, is now a recovering alcoholic, desperate for a comeback. As he restarts his career and makes amends with his estranged family, bodies turn up and Sandy finds himself living his boy detective persona for real.

In “The Sinister Sitcom Caper,” Sandy lands a guest role on the lowest-rated fall TV comedy, Off Kelter. When an actor drops dead at his feet, he starts deducing with the aid of a dwarf and Scruffy, an animal actor. And could romance be in the air?

Sally’s a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles chapter and lives in Moorpark, Calif. Contact her at To order Beatlemaniac, go to

Photo of Cumbria by Mark Fosh; Creative Commons License

Monday, August 22, 2011

When Sex Meets Evil - Guest Post by Jake Bannerman

Erin O'Riordan's Note: Jake is a 19+ author of extreme horror/erotica. I haven't read Jake's work yet, so when I was introduced to him through Shah Wharton, I was curious about what was meant by "horror/erotica." Was it sex-positive, I wondered, i.e. did it portray sex as the good, life-affirming thing that it can be? As an erotica writer, one of my goals with this blog is to keep you reading, but another goal is to subtract shame and negativity from the public discourse about sex. I asked Jake about whether this was one of his goals as well, and this is what he had to say:


My name is Jake Bannerman I am the author of The Family of Dog book series as well as The Pitchfork Diaries. I am very happy to be contributing this post for a number of reasons. Number one because I was invited - lol, that does not happen often - and to explain to you the reader how I go about the term "erotica" in my work.

The first time I heard the term erotica in association with my work is after I released ”The Scarecrow's Lament” which is a tale of a father who teaches his mentally handicapped daughter how to kill men and animals to build a sex partner so he could charge people to watch his daughter have sex with a “scarecrow” crafted out of pieces of dead bodies. Now I have to ask do you think for a second I had erotica in mind? Absolutely NOT!

I also heard the term mentioned to me after the release of my next story “To Walk the Path of Maggots” which entails a group of men who stream video of women ripping maggots off of themselves while they masturbate and charge people to watch this on the net. Once again EROTICA?!?!?!?!

Not in a million years did I ever consider that anyone would ever for a split second look at my writing as an aphrodisiac.

At this point you have either stopped reading and have formed a voodoo doll of me and are stabbing it with a fork OR out of morbid curiosity you are just waiting to see what I say next.
What is my writing and how is sex involved? Sex is ritual and Sex is power; it is the driving force between battles and a master force of deviance! What did Adam and Eve do when they found out they were no longer divine? They had SEX!!

Sex has driven mankind to atrocities unspoken and that is the focus in SOME of my writing the extreme measures we as creatures will let sex push us to. It is also and nobody can deny sex is a train wreck the carnal desire we have if you throw sex into a story it does not even matter if it is relevant it adds kick ! Though carnal, the majority of us still feel dirty and naughty after we read, see or hear sex--it flips an engine in all of us.

We want it because it is so good; even your worst sexual experience (think first time, lol) was pleasurable; if it was not we would die as a species. It feels good, it smells good, it tastes good.

Does that mean that I condone rape, torture, murder that include sexual themes? Not a chance!

Do I think that I am determined to point out the evils of mankind even if I get accused of being a supporter of the things I write about?, Yes! My writing is meant to take you further than our minds are supposed to go and the truly HORRIFFIC part is that nothing I have written or will ever write is nothing that has not been done before, and will be done again. That is why it is HORROR, and more importantly it is labeled FICTION, however, after you finish the last sentence and say "I bet that has probably happened or will happen."

I invite you to join in and experience when Sex and Evil meet. The darkness of humankind is a journey; we all starve for even if we do not want it. I write it, humankind supplies it.

Sex Satan Sacrifice,

Image attribution:
Scarecrow: J.C.H. (full name unknown), Harper's Weekly, 1872. Public domain in the U.S.
Adam and Eve by Hans Thoma, 1897, public domain worldwide
To the Accuser by William Blake, public domain worldwide

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Literary Links to Love

A round-up of some juicy book topics on the Internet:

Glenda A. Bixler's review of The Smell of Gas at Book Reader's Haven. May contain spoilers!

"Mormon Women Should Read Romance Novels, Avoid Sherlock Holmes" at Island in the Pacific Books

Forbes' 10 Most Powerful Women Authors. J.K. Rowling leads the pack, naturally. You go, girls!

"One Word at a Time: Internet Resources for Writers" at Joan Swan's blog

Starla Westlake wrote the first review of Eminent Domain on Smashwords

Wuthering List: Works including and inspired by Wuthering Heights

Non-literary, but just for fun - Erin O'Riordan reviews all 6 flavors of Nescafe Taster's Choice Instant Coffees at BlissPlan

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Science of Writing Science Fiction

Guest Post by Jason Halstead

Erin asked me to write up a guest blog and, well, who am I to refuse a lady in need? What’s more, Erin edited a book of mine I published a year or so back with called Human Nature and she did a great job.

So I write science fiction and fantasy primarily. I started out in fantasy, both in my early years of thinking I knew how to write and in my first published novel. Why fantasy and not sci-fi? Well, fantasy was easier! With fantasy I could make up the rules – even the really important ones like which way is up. That’s the magic of the fantasy genre, both figuratively and literally.

Science fiction is a lot more complicated. With sci-fi a responsible author feels obligated to remain plausible (most of the time). I liken it to the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek. Star Trek was and is written by people with a respect for science and for imagining what the future could be. Star Wars was and is written by people who aren’t interested in science and rules, but rather in telling a story in an environment with cool guns and cooler outfits for enslaved princesses. Which is better? If you ask me a blend of the two with a preference towards the Star Trek end of the range. In either case, preservation of the outfits should have a high priority.

I have entire books written and sitting on my hard drive - and some begun and abandoned - in the sci-fi genre. I got caught up so much in the hard SF aspect that I lost the story and the characters. The science behind the fiction has to be plausible, but there are very few people these days that can go into detail about futuristic science and technology without losing readers along the way. The late, and great, R.A. Heinlein was arguably one of the best at this. Then again not many people can plot a rebellion and secession of the moon while simultaneously working with the government to enable humankind to reach the stars. Not only that but come on, who these days has their multiplication tables memorized all the way up to 20 x 20? I sure don’t.

The trick to writing science fiction, I find, is to stop being so hardcore. Rather than trying to explain the manner in which localized singularity generators can compress space-time around a ship to enable a starship to travel faster than the speed of light it’s a lot easier to just say, “Vitalis was seven light years beyond the outer periphery of human solar systems but thanks to the FTL drive they could make it in three months.”

Incidentally the singularity generators directionally warp space time to allow conventional propulsion to allow a ship to cover more distance without actually reaching or exceeding the speed of light. No, it’s not realistic and it’s highly unlikely anything like it would ever be viable but it is a great example of all the thought I’ve put into this sort of thing that you’ll probably never see in a book of mine because, seriously, who cares?

The take home here? Details rock, but don’t bore your readers with them. To me a book isn’t about genre so much as it’s about story. Use the genre to further the story, not to show how much smarter you are than Einstein because you figured out the flaw with the Theory of Relativity. Trust me, you didn’t.

Got some aliens? Cool! As a reader I don’t need to know the precise ratio of their preferred mix of nitrogen : oxygen. If they can breathe our air great. If they can’t, give ‘em a helmet or some breathing apparatus. The obvious caveat to that is if a detail is integral to a story. If said alien needs a high percentage of hydrogen to breathe and humanity’s only hope involves convincing one to belch while holding a lit match in front of them, pay some attention to it.

Focus on the characters and the story. Develop them, move them, make them see and feel what’s going on. The reader wants to feel what it’s like rocketing through space and staring at the beautiful swirls and colors of a gas giant out the port window, they don’t want to read the concentration of gases in the atmosphere and hear how their interaction with each other causes the prismatic blend.

Who is this guy?

Jason Halstead is a sci-fi / fantasy author who spends his free time with his wife and children and hitting the gym in hopes of getting back into competitive powerlifting. During the day he spends time chained to a desk as an IT Manager in the automotive industry. Check him out on!

Erin's Note: Please check out Human Nature, one of the coolest books I've ever had the pleasure of editing. It's also, coincidentally, the title of one of my favorite Madonna songs.

Image Attribution:
Robert Heinlein (with L. Sprague de Camp and Isaac Asimov) photo by U.S. Navy - public domain
Gas giants image by NASA - public domain

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Welcome to WIP Wednesday

Today I'm instituting what I hope will be the first of many Work-in-Progress, or WIP, Wednesdays. I'll share what I'm working on with you, my lovely reading audience. So will some guest bloggers. If you're an author of any genre and would like to participate in the next WIP Wednesday, simply shoot an e-mail to erinoriordan (at) sbcglobal (dot) net.

Erin O'Riordan: One project I have in the works is an old story (never published in any form) I'd like to revamp as a submission to Melange Books' Having My Baby anthology. The call for submissions goes:

"Having My Baby
(Deadline February 2012, Release May 2012)
Spring is a time for new birth and Melange is actively seeking sensual, poignant, joyous, humorous, and unusual stories about having a baby."

This calls for a sweet, sensual romance, albeit one with no explicit sexuality. The work I have in mind is about a crown prince torn between the man she loves and the man royal protocol dictates she should marry. Being part of the royal family does have its privileges, though, especially when you come from a nation with some out-of-the-ordinary marriage customs. If you liked "Innocent," I think you'll like this one.

Judith Marshall: Right now, I’m staring at a proof copy of my second novel, Staying Afloat, the story of how a perfectly sane woman can lose her moral compass. I’ve had the book professionally edited and, as I did with my debut novel Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, I uploaded the manuscript to and ordered a proof copy. It’s so much easier to do a final read-through in an actual book format, than online.

The next thing I’ll do is read the book with fresh eyes looking for missed typos. Then I plan to send it to a friend of mine who has agreed to give me objective feedback on whether the story works overall, noting where the story bogs down, any inconsistencies, or other problems with the flow. I think it’s important for any author to get a potential reader’s opinion of their work before it’s published. You have to be open to hearing some negative feedback, but in the end, who better to evaluate your book than a person from your targeted audience?

P.S. Husbands has been selected for the Spirited Woman Top 12 Summer Pick List and is being adapted into a screenplay this summer. Yippee!

Judith Marshall

Sheila Lowe: I’m a mystery writer whose Forensic Handwriting series (published by Penguin’s Obsidian imprint) is now on the back burner while I finish my new book, formerly titled Lying…in Bed, currently titled Head Case, and possibly soon-to-be-titled What She Saw.

The new book begins with a young woman who wakes on a train and realizes that she hasn’t a clue who she is, how she got there, or where she’s going. She gets off the train and meets someone who seems to know her and takes her to her apartment, where she discovers that she has two different identities. Her task is to find out why, and what happened to rob her of her memory.

Sheila Lowe, MS
Handwriting examiner
Twitter: @sheila_lowe

Morgan St. James:


The third zany Silver Sisters Mystery, Vanishing Act in Vegas has just been released. My sister/co-author Phyllice Bradner and I are now working on #4, Diamonds in the Dumpster. Juneau, Alaska antique shop owner Goldie Silver and her twin Godiva Olivia DuBois, popular Beverly Hills columnist who writes the “Ask G.O.D” advice to the lovelorn column and their 80-year-old mother and uncle, former vaudeville magicians, don’t look for trouble. Somehow, it always finds them. This time Goldie’s cruise ship captain husband has invited Flossie and Sterling on a cruise that will feature a magician’s conference. They even manage to get the third performer in the act they perform on Thursdays at the Home for Hollywood Has-Beens on board the ship—Waldo the Wonder Dog. It’s murder on the high seas and Waldo uncovers a clue that almost gets Flossie and Sterling arrested as the perps. As for the diamonds, is it Godiva’s new boyfriend Dexter Diamond, something more valuable, or both?

We just started this book and we’re up to Chapter 7.


This is a funny “coming of age at 42” story that is actually creative non-fiction. I lived a good part of it. I was 42 the first time I left the United States in the 1980s. My boyfriend had a lease on a cottage in Surrey, England in the village of Upper Warlingham (a place most people never heard of). He suggested my friend and I go to England all expenses paid---by him. We had quite an adventure for the three weeks we were in England and Holland. My friend was a recent widow, and my boyfriend said the trip would be great R and R for her. Little did I know that it was also for some R and R for him back home with me out of the way, so when I discovered that I really didn’t feel guilty about our escapades. We encountered many funny situations and several young hunks along the way. Back then, a cougar was a mountain lion! There is a bit of fiction mixed in, but the majority is true. And yes, I did become a modern definition cougar—so did my friend. I think our youngest conquests were in their early 20s.

I am about 25% to the target word count and working it though with Henderson Writers’ Group in Las Vegas. They are my best sounding board.

Las Vegas and Los Angeles Writing Examiner for (general) (series)
NEW: Vanishing Act in Vegas – NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON – and other online bookstores
NEW: Writers Tricks of the Trade: 39 Things You Need to Know About the ABCs of Writing Fiction - KINDLE NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON - eBook and Paperback To be Released Soon
TRAILERS – Devil’s Dance, The Devil’s Due, Seven Deadly Samovars

Friday, August 12, 2011

Josephine Baker in Berlin, Safi Coffee and WIP Wednesdays

It's Friday! I'm in love...with sharing my creative writing with the world. If you're joining me from the fabulous Shah Wharton's Weekend Creation Blog Hop, welcome!

Today, I'd like to spotlight "Josephine Baker in Berlin." In this stand-alone short story of just over 4,700 words:

An aging, lonely Josephine Baker has one last chance to dance across the stage, but only if she accepts an invitation to visit Berlin. The destination unlocks long-buried memories of the decadent pre-World War II Berlin, and of a beautiful young woman who reached out the star and eased her loneliness.

Find the e-book in every possible format at Smashwords for $.99. If you do read it, I would LOVE a review.

Jo Baker was a fearless, triumphant woman, and so is Shannon Mulholland, a United Nations emergency coordinator whose side project is Safi Coffee. The fair-trade company works with coffee growers in Kenya, helping them achieve higher living standards. The beans come right to your door, which is awesome, but the best part is how your morning cuppa joe could be doing some real good in the world.

FYI, I've been seriously considering Jane Friedman's advice to blog on a regular schedule. In her most recent article in Writing For Dollars!, Jennifer Brown Banks of the Pen & Prosper blog gives the same advice. So, having heard it from two different but authoritative sources, I believe I will henceforth institute WIP (Work In Progress) Wednesdays.

A lot of people like to do Wordless Wednesdays, with just a visual, but I'm not much of a visual artist. I like the sound of WIP Wednesdays because I can share about what I'm working on, and so can my guest bloggers. Look for that this coming Wednesday.

Send me an e-mail if you're a writer interested in being featured on an upcoming WIP Wednesday.

Update, January 2015: Find "Josephine Baker in Berlin" at my Etsy shop, Writer's Brain Has Wings.

Monday, August 8, 2011

With Which 10 Folks Would You Most Like to Drink Wine?

(May contain spoilers.)

I'm freshly back from enjoying Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 on the big screen. Wow. I'm not sad to have come to the end of the movie series. I'm excited I got to see J.K. Rowling's books translated into film at all.

I agree with the critics who said the last film is the best of the eight. Part of the reason why it's such a bittersweet pleasure is Severus Snape, played with subtlety by Alan Rickman. A couple of weeks ago on her blog, Jennifer Spiller wrote a post called "Don't you just LOVE Alan Rickman?" The short answer is yes.

The long answer is this: The hormonal tide had turned in such a way that I was predisposed to cry at the movies today. When I read the book, I wept profusely as Harry valiantly marched into the forest to meet Voldemort. At the movie, I got choked up over Fred, Remus and Tonks. (I'm a huge Remus and Tonks fan.) What really made me weep, though, was Snape cradling Lily Potter's lifeless body. Harry going off to die? No problem. Snape's love for Lily, on the other hand, brought on the waterworks. Jennifer Spillman totally called that one.

And he was Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, opposite Kate Winslet. No one does repressed longing like Alan Rickman. I only wish he could play Colonel Brandon in a film version of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

Yesterday while blog hopping yet again, I came across "10 People I'd Meet For a Glass of Wine" by Kim at My Inner Chick. Kim's wine list is as follows:

1. Maya Angelou
2. Sean Penn
3. Johnny Depp
4. Madonna
5. Oprah Winfrey
6. Elizabeth Berg
7. Ellen DeGeneres
8. Billy Graham
9. George Clooney
10. Jane Fonda

That's a pretty good list - feminist, literary and with a couple of hot guys thrown in for eye candy. In my comment on My Inner Chick, I composed the following extemporaneous list:

1. Maya Angelou
2. Toni Morrison
3. Sapphire
4. Madonna
5. Courtney Love
6. Camille Paglia
7. Lady Gaga
8. Gloria Steinem
9. Christian Bale
10. Winona Ryder

Now that I've had some more time to think about it, though, I'd like to revise my answer slightly. While I do admire the author of Push, the basis of the movie Precious, and think Sapphire would be fascinating to have a drink with, I'm going to ditch her in favor of Alan Rickman. Kim had Johnny and George to drool over, while I only gave myself Christian Bale.

I know, I know..."only" and "Christian Bale" don't even belong in the same sentence. To say I only have Christian Bale to drool over is like saying I only have five sweaters and a heat lamp to keep me warm. He's more than adequate. He's the male yumminess equivalent of an entire chocolate chip cheesecake. With cherries. Yet somehow in my daydreams I can still have more. More English dudes. Ones who have those British Charm Units that make this American gal want to drop her knickers. (I think they made Christian Bale surrender his when he applied for American citizenship.)

I can't ditch Toni Morrison; she wrote Beloved. No way would I even consider ditching Madonna. Courtney Love would be super-interesting, especially if we seat her next to Camille Paglia, with whom she's had a public battle of contrasting feminist theories. Plus, Paglia can talk about poetry like nobody's business. Break, Blow, Burn, anyone? It's an astounding book.

Lady Gaga would make me drool, dance and wish I'd worn something more Alexander McQueenish, plus provide an interesting foil for Love, Madonna, and Paglia, so she stays in. Gloria Steinem is an icon, an inspiration and Christian Bale's stepmom, so she stays on the guest list. The only other one who's remotely expendable is Winona Ryder. Girl, I love you in everything from Little Women to Dracula to the new Star Trek, but you gots to I have a spot for Colin Firth.

The BBC's Mr. Darcy is my newest crush. He never made it into the Potter films, but he was in The King's Speech with Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix LeStrange) and Timothy Spall (Wormtail). He definitely comes with the British Charm Unit.

Image attribution:
Lily image by Hokusai; public domain within the United States
Alexander McQueen Spring 2010 collection image: Michelle Ng, Creative Commons license

Friday, August 5, 2011

Review of 'The Heroines'

The cover of my edition portrays a woods in which great heroines of fiction are lounging. Hester Prynne (with Pearl) and Scarlett O'Hara are the easiest to discern. The concept behind the book is something like Inkheart: the Heroines appear to Anne-Marie Entwhistle, take up residence in her inn and subsequently torment and fascinate her 13-year-old daughter Penny. Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina each make an appearance, as do J.D. Salinger's Franny and Emily Bronte's Catherine Earnshaw.

Catherine was the most problematic for a teenage Anne-Marie; for Penny, it's Deidre, the tragic Heroine of a Celtic ballad. Each of these Heroines brings with them a Hero, and this complication causes Penny's life to become more like a chapter from Girl, Interrupted.

The author, Eileen Favorite, is an instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. That in itself appeals to me, as does her fictional blend of whimsy, second wave feminism and angsty YA soul-searching. The novel questions the nature of reality itself in an almost Buddhist fashion, giving it fascinating depth. I expected something more humorous, less tragicomic, but I'm pleasantly surprised.

I also like the opening quote, from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: "Alas, if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?"

Show These Links Some Love: My latest published articles

How to Play a LoveGame in 5 Gaga Steps

Fish Tales: It's Supposed to Smell Like That!

Image: Mary Hallock Foote, 1878 (public domain).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I Won a National Geographic Book

I won a contest on the Motherhood Moment blog. My delicious prize package arrived via UPS yesterday: two bags of Twizzlers Sweet & Sour Filled Twists in Cherry Kick and Citrus Punch, plus the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States.

The candy is good, especially the cherry ones, but the national parks guide is really exciting. Here are five facts about the parks:

1. Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, where Tit Elingtin and I spent part of our honeymoon, contains 365 miles of caves that have been explored, but this represents only a fraction of the total cave structure. John Wilkes Booth's brother Edwin, also an actor, once performed Hamlet's soliloquy in the cave passage now known as Booth's Amphitheater.

2. Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks in California offer the most remote wilderness, in terms of how far a hiker can go without seeing a road, in the lower 48 states.

3. The Sioux peoples consider Badlands National Park sacred ground, and among the most sacred parts is Stronghold Table, where Oglala Sioux tribe members danced the last Ghost Dance in 1890. The park is home to bison, pronghorn sheep, elk and prairie rattlesnakes.

4. Florida's Biscayne National Park, which includes both mainland shoreline and parts of the Florida Keys, is home to the continental United States' only living coral reef, as well as more than 300 fish species, sea turtles, shrimp, sponges and spiny lobsters.

5. Alaska has eight national parks, including Wrangell-St. Elias, the largest of all U.S. national parks. It's six times larger than Yellowstone. Large parts of it are still unexplored due to its rugged mountains and glaciers. The volcanic Wrangell mountain range and the St. Elias mountains are only two of the park's ranges; it also includes the Chugach and Alaska mountains. These four ranges contain nine of the 16 highest mountains in the U.S.

Image: Badlands National Park
Date: September 27, 2000
Author: Patrick Bolduan