Friday, January 01, 2016

A Warm Exchange

I've had a few days off, so I soon found myself in one of my favorite time-sinks: Twitter. One of the trending hashtags was #NewYearsResolutionIn5Words. Most of them were the usual: exercise more, eat healthy, write more, etc. One was a PSA, though:



Well, I couldn't resist. I replied:

The response:


My comeback:


Their suggestion:


Which goes to...



Made me laugh, so I shared it.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

UPDATED - Pushing for Best Anthology: 2015 Preditors & Editors™ Readers' Poll

 *** Updated to include third anthology that I thought was in a different grouping.

Voting for the annual Preditors and Editors™ Readers' Poll has begun. I've played a role in three of the collections competing for the award.

The first: History and Mystery, Oh My! is an anthology of historical mystery stories. I had many, many good submissions for this book, so I chose a wide variety of detectives over a wide variety of years and cultures.
The second: Nightmare Noir, by Alex Azar, tells tales from the casebook of James S. Peckman, a detective who investigates supernatural crimes. I helped edit this noir collection. Peckman is a traditional gumshoe investigating some very nontraditional crimes.


http://www.amazon.com/Strangely-Funny-2-1-ebook/dp/B00XYEF5WC/
The third: Strangely Funny 2 1/2, which grew out of having too many good stories to fit into Strangely Funny II. Sometimes you look at what the gods give you and say, "I want to print all of these."





I would be very pleased if you chose any one of these books.

Please go to:
http://critters.org/predpoll/antho.shtml to see the full list and vote.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Interview: Nina Mansfield



Nina Mansfield is a Greenwich, Connecticut based writer. Her debut novel, SWIMMING ALONE, a YA Mystery, was published in 2015 by Fire & Ice YA. Nina began her writing career as a playwright; she has written numerous plays, which have been produced throughout United States and in Canada, Australia, England, Ireland, Scotland and Peru. Her short plays are published by Smith & Kraus, YouthPLAYS,  Original Works Publishing and One Act Play Depot. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. Please visit her at www.ninamansfield.com.

You started as a published playwright. How does one become a published playwright?
I studied theater in college and read many, many plays. After graduating, I went to New York to pursue an acting career. It was during that time I started writing plays. Turned out, people liked them and wanted to produce them. My first produced play, NO EPILOGUE, was also my first published play. I actually wrote the first draft when I was still in college and interning at New Dramatists. I was really inspired by all of the amazing playwrights I worked with there. Each week I would read stage directions for a new play one of the member playwrights was working on, and I would witness their writing process first hand. It was an incredible experience. I guess the advice I would give to aspiring playwrights is to read a lot of plays and see as much theater as you can. Working in some other aspect of theater is also very helpful.

What drew you to writing Young Adult stories, and why mystery? Everyone else seems to be writing fantasy.
I have loved mysteries ever since I was a kid, and it is still my go-to genre. There’s something about figuring out who the culprit is that I simply cannot resist. I also taught high school English and Drama for nine years. It was actually after my first year of teaching that I decided I wanted to write a young adult novel. My students craved suspense, and I wanted to write something that would interest even the most reluctant reader.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I love starting new projects; it is a challenge for me to stick with them at times because I often lose interest. Also, I am not a particularly linear thinker, so sometimes I find it difficult to sequence the events in my longer works.

What do you do when you're not writing?
Right now, I spend my time caring for a very active toddler. This takes up most of my time. Other than that, I love to read, see theater, practice yoga, create scrapbooks and travel.

What is your current project, and can you share some details with us?

Currently, I am working on revising two projects. The first is a graphic novel script entitled FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION, which is a girl-power adventure. This project is illustrated by the amazing Leyla Akdogan, and will be out with Plume Snake in 2016. Without revealing too much, it involves a serious case of mistaken identity. I am also working on revising another young adult novel: a paranormal thriller.

http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/ninamansfield/swimmingalone.htmlThanks for talking to us today!

More about SWIMMING ALONE:
The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending the summer with her aunt (who happens to be mystery writer Roberta McCabe).  Although thrilled to be away from her psychotic, divorcing parents, with no cell phone or internet access, Cathy is positive that her summer is going to be wretched. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes.  When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question:  has the Sea Side Strangler struck again? 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Stephen Zimmer: The Halloweens I Remember the Most. Plus, a raffle!

Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based in Lexington Kentucky.  His work includes the cross-genre Rising Dawn Saga, the epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, the sword and sorcery Dark Sun Sawn Trilogy, featuring Rayden Valkyrie, the Harvey and Solomon Steampunk tales and the Hellscapes and Chronicles of Ave short story collections. Hellscapes, Volume II, is out this week.

Today, the handsome and prolific Mr. Zimmer shares his favorite memories of Halloween with us. It's a fun read, and don't forget to enter the raffle at the bottom of the page. Top prize is a Kindle Fire HD8!



Halloween is a holiday that brings to mind many great, magical memories from my childhood.  It’s always good to recall those lovely days when the world was a lot simpler, the heart a lot lighter, and everything seemed so full of wonder and adventure.

I remember those crisp fall days at our old house on Plymouth Drive, on Halloween when my mother used to help me and my little sister get ready in our costumes for the evening’s trick-or-treat foray.  My mom was very into sewing and crafts, and this meant that our costumes were made by her each year rather than bought, something I appreciate even more today when I look back upon it.

We always ventured out in groups with our neighborhood playmates and their parents.  For me, that meant an excursion with my two main partners in crime, John and Joey, who lived next door to me.  We were quite the trio then, playing soldiers using whiffle ball bats as our guns, or doing mock Kiss concerts using tennis rackets as guitars. John was always Gene, Joey was Paul, I was Ace, and poor Peter Criss was never represented!

During those Halloween excursions I carried a plastic orange pumpkin as the primary container for my loot. It had a nice handle and a smaller opening so it was easy to keep contents in while racing from one door to the next, while our parents trekked along the sidewalk. It never took all that long until the pumpkin was full, perhaps a few streets altogether. 
Those were truly great days and all the parents knew each other really well. My folks hung out often with John and Joey’s father, as well as the other neighborhood parents.  Looking back I can see where these Halloween adventures represented a time for my folks to spend time with friends in a shared experience with their kids.

When we returned after dark, there was always a tradition of a horror movie down in the den of our house, along with glasses of cool apple cider and glazed doughnuts for all of the neighborhood kids.  I couldn’t access the candy in my pumpkin container immediately. My dad was a stickler when it came to safety and he personally expected the entire pumpkin full of candy treasure, putting aside anything that could be unwrapped easily or had anything about it he thought could be tampered with.  I suspect he took a small cut of the loot to enjoy for himself too! 

Nevertheless, when the pumpkin was returned to me before I went to bed, it had not decreased in its contents by much. I always had plenty to sustain me over the ensuing couple of weeks. I tended to be very strategic as well, eating my less favorite stuff first and saving the things I preferred most for later.  As such, things like rolls of Smarties, Sweet Tarts, anything with caramel and the better chocolate bars tended to grow in concentration in my pumpkin as time went on.

I took on many guises during these Halloween forays, but I have to say my favorite attire was when my mom made me an Ace Frehley costume derived from the Love Gun/Kiss Alive II era.  I had discovered Kiss during the Love Gun album period and the record was the second rock record I ever owned (the first being Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, leading to my young crush on Stevie Nicks!).   They were my favorite thing in the world and Ace, the flashy lead guitar player with his sunburst Gibson Les Paul, was my favorite member of the band.

This has a really cool side note to it as Kiss donned the Love Gun era costumes when they did their 1997 reunion tour.  The Lexington show at Rupp Arena produced one of my most cherished memories as we were able to talk my father into going to the show, so my mother, sister, father and myself were all in attendance to see Ace on stage in the look that served as the costume I wore as a child during that Halloween I shared with all of them many years go.   In many ways, that night brought some of the magic full circle.

Everything about those early Halloweens, whether I was Ace Frehley or a werewolf, carried a real excitement and anticipation to it. I loved all of it, from the marshaling of our pack of friends, to the exploration of the neighborhood houses, some of which invariably had costumed hosts or a theatrical display, to the grand finale with a movie, apple cider, and glazed doughnuts, rounding everything out with an epilogue of receiving my candy loot in the plastic pumpkin before getting tucked in. All of it carried a wonderful magic, of a kind that I still remember the feeling of to this day.



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Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: Crimson Peak

The real reason you're going: Hiddles.

While we were attending Necronomicon Tampa, we got passes for a premiere screening of Crimson Peak. Waiting for the movie itself was a bit of an experience - we got marked on the hand when we entered, just like a bar stamp, and the audience was repeatedly ordered to shut all cell phones off if we wanted the movie to start.

Crimson Peak presents itself as a gothic romance, and it is gothic in the old style - nothing cutesy or Addams-like about the setting or the story. Edith Cushing is a young New York woman who has been able to see ghosts since her mother's death. Her mother has warned her to beware "Crimson Peak".

She has grown into a wannabe author when she meets Thomas Sharpe, baronet of Allerdale Hall, and his beautiful but quiet sister Lucille. Thomas is seeking investors for a machine to harvest the clay at Allerdale, which is coming out of their ears. Edith's father sees the attraction his daughter has for the young lord, and pays Thomas to leave town. Their love seems doomed until Edith's father dies - oh, pardon me, he was brutally murdered. When I say brutal, I mean violent and gory. There is gore in this film, although it only shows up when the story demands it.

Allerdale Hall is no palace. Edith, now Thomas' wife, arrives to find that her cultured and well-dressed love lives in a shambles of a once-great house. The estate is built atop deep red clay, tinting the water in the house red (symbolism, anyone?). The rafters over the great atrium are exposed to the sky, ensuring an esthetic fall of dust in the daylight when the weather is good, and an equally lovely drifting of snow when it isn't. They didn't show what happens when it rains, even though this is supposed to be England.

Red clay even seeps up through the floorboards. Edith learns that, when the hill the manse sits on is covered with snow, the red stains it, earning it the name "Crimson Peak". Yep, this is the place her dead mother warned her about. Thomas spends his days outside, digging up the endless supply of bloody clay. Our heroine spends her days with Lucille, who has a touch (okay, a whopping load) of the crazy. Allerdale Hall is also full of ghosts, disturbing Edith's sleep and drawing her into the mystery of why so many disturbed spirits reside there (beside her sister-in-law).

Because many fangirls will ask: the sex scene between Thomas and Edith is mostly concealed in voluminous petticoats. We do see Loki's naked hiney, although it could have been a butt double. There is other sex in the film, but I will leave that for you to discover.

Crimson Peak is rated R, mostly for the violence. This isn't a splatter film, but some of the fight scenes will make you cringe in sympathetic pain. Overall, I enjoyed it and found it full of atmosphere.



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