Sunday, June 1, 2008

Book Reviewing Month at Blogcritics Magazine!

June is 'Book Reviewing' month at Blogcritics Magazine!

To promote the release of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, co-author Mayra Calvani will be interviewing 15+ reviewers and review editors during the month of June. Learn all about the business of book reviewing and what's in the mind of some of the most popular reviewers on the internet today.

Here's the lineup:

June 1 - James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review
June 3 - Irene Watson, Reader Views
June 5 - Magdalena Ball, The Compulsive Reader
June 7 - Carolyn Howard-Johnson, The New Book Review
June 9 - Rachel Durfor, Rebecca's Reads
June 11 - Beverly Walton Porter, Scribe & Quill
June 13 - Alex Moore, ForeWord Magazine
June 15 - Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader
June 17 - Sharyn McGinty, In The Library Reviews
June 19 - Cheryl Malandrinos, The Book Connection
June 21 - Eveline Soors, Euro-reviews
June 23 - Andrea Sisco, Armchair Interviews
June 25 - Lea Schizas, Muse Book Reviews
June 27 - Linda Baldwin, Road to Romance
June 29 - Hilary Williamson, Book Loons
June 30 - Judy Clark, Mostly Fiction

(I'll be adding the links as they go live!)

Between June 1st and June 30th, stop by Blogcritics and leave a comment under the reviewer interviews for a chance to win a Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tour (Bronze Package, coordinated by book publicity guru Dorothy Thompson), OR, as an alternative to a non-author winner, a $50 B&N gift certificate! The second prize will be a one-year subscription to Foreword Magazine. The third prize will be a T-shirt with the cover art of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing on the front.

The three winners will be drawn from the people who leave comments under the interviews during the month of June. The deadline to comment is June 30th, midnight, eastern time. The winners will be announced on The Slippery Book Review blog on July 3rd. I hope you enjoy the interviews! Good luck!

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Fountain Pen Newsletter, June 2008

From Mayra's Desk...

Dear Readers,
The summer holidays are just around the corner. I don't know about you, but when I hear the words 'summer holidays' I immediately picture myself relaxing under the sun with a great book (actually, BOOKS) in my hands. I hope you'll enjoy the author interviews this month and possibly choose some of their books for your summer reading material.
June will be an incredibly hectic month for me, as I'll be interviewing about 20 book reviewers and book review editors for Blogcritics Magazine, as well as going an a virtual book tour to promote the release of my picture book, Crash!
So if there's someone who'll be looking forward to the holidays, that will be me!
Enjoy the issue!


Join me at Blogcritics Magazine's Book Section for the book launch of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing!

From June 1 until June 30 I'll be interviewing 20 reviewers and review editors on various aspects of book reviewing. Some of my guests will include: James Cox from Midwest Book Review, Alex Moore from Foreword Magazine, Irene Watson from Reader Views, Andrea Sisco from Armchair Interviews, Hilary Williamson from Book Loons, Magdalena Ball from The Compulsive Reader, Andrea Sisco from Armchair Interviews, Linda Baldwin from Road to Romance, Judy Clark from Mostly Fiction, and many others!

But that's not all. There will be great prizes for 3 lucky winners! The winners will be drawn from the people who leave comments at the bottom of the interviews during the event. The winners will be announced on July 1st on The Slippery Book Review Blog.

These are the prizes:

1st Prize: A Virtual Book Tour (courtesy of Dorothy Thompson's, Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours, a $199 value!) OR an alternative 1st Prize of a $50 Barnes and Noble gift certificate. The winner will be able to choose among these two first prizes.

2nd Prize:

A one-year subscription to ForeWord Magazine.

3rd Prize:

A T-shirt with the cover of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing on the front.

Here's what the reviewers are saying about The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing...

Review by Reader Views

Review by Armchair Interviews

More news!

Join me this month as I tour the blogosphere to promote my 2nd children's picture book, CRASH!

Crash! is a story about friendship and the bond that develops between a little boy and his first puppy. It also teaches young children about the responsibility of owning and caring for a pet.

Half of my royalties will be donated to Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary, a non-profit organization.

For details about the tour and a full schedule of my tour stops, as well as reviews, coloring pages, and games for kids, please visit Crash the Puppy.

Be sure to visit... I'll be giving away a $20 gift certificate to a lucky winner!


Fantasy Author A.F. Stewart

Tecno-Thriller Author Dan Ronco

Fantasy Author Christopher Hoare

Multi-genre Author Kim McDougall

Freelance Children's Writer Donna McDine

Young Adult Novelist Celise Downs

Suspense Author Michaela Riley

Author Emilio Corsetti

Special Interview!

Norwegian Waters Turn to Blood


Curse of the Bayou (3rd book in the Cynthia’s Attic series)
by Mary Cunningham
Echelon Press
ISBN: 1-59080-575-5
Copyright 2008
Paperback, 160 pages, $9.99
Middle-grade, Fantasy/Mystery

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

More time travel, magic, and adventure await young readers in this the 3rd book of Cunningham’s Cynthia’s Attic series: Curse of the Bayou. This time our tween travelers, Gus and Cynthia, go back in time as far back as 1844 to the Louisiana bayou in order to solve the mystery of Cynthia’s great-grandfather Beau Connor’s disappearance.

Twelve-year old Gus and Cynthia are nothing short of ordinary. For one thing, they are able to travel back and forth in time by way of Cynthia’s old trunk, situated in the cobweb-filled attic of an old mansion. Despite the fact that they’re so different, they’re also super best friends. In this installment, the girls must go back in time to find out what really happened to Beau Connor and the reason why he vanished while on a business trip. If you think the intrepid duo has been in danger before, hold your breath for Curse of the Bayou: treacherous Louisiana swamps, man-eating alligators, shape-shifting pumas, and evil pirates are some of the delicious surprises the reader will encounter.

I have read all of Cunningham’s books so far and I have to say this is the best. I especially loved the ‘Southern’ atmosphere in this book, the threatening setting of the swamps and humid Louisiana climate. Each chapter is filled with mystery and adventure and ends with an exciting cliffhanger. The pace is quick and the chapters short, adding to the suspense. I also found the dialogue between Gus and Cynthia a lot funnier and wittier in this book. Some of their wisecracks are really clever. Cunningham keeps the reader guessing by switching back and forth in time. For this reason I would say that although this is a middle-grade book, it could be confusing if not read with full attention. This is a book that will appear to most young girls, especially to those who love stories about best friends and adventure/mystery with a dash of fantasy.


More Reviews...

Review of The Blue Stone, by Jimmy Laio

Book Review: It’s a Dog Life, but It’s Your Carpet, by Justine A. Lee, DVM

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Fountain Pen, April 2008

In this Issue...

From Mayra's Desk
"Demystifying Virtual Book Tours," by Mayra Calvani
What Does Amazon's Decision Really Mean?
Historical Novelist Catherine Delors
SF Author Phoebe Wray
SF Author Lee Denning
Romantic Suspense, NY Times Bestseller Author Lisa Jackson
Dark Fantasy Author Justin Gustainis
Illustrator K.C. Snider
Multi-genre Author Hill Kemp
The Darkest Evening of the Year, by Dean Koontz (paranormal)
Monkey Trap, by Lee Denning (SF)
Jemma7729, by Phoebe Wray (SF)
Sleep Before Evening, by Magdalena Ball (mainstream)
Joey Gonzalez, Great American, by Tony Robles (picture book)
On the Go with Rooter and Snuffle, by Shari Lyle-Soffe (picture book)
Knowing Joseph, by Judith Mammay (middle grade)
Book Club


From Mayra's Desk...

Since the release of my 2nd picture book, CRASH!, this April, I have been networking with lots of golden retriever sites and blogs. Partly to spread the word about my book, but also to learn more about goldens--my favorite breed of all dogs. Surely there isn't a kinder, gentler, more intelligent breed on the entire planet. Surely there isn't a more gorgeous sight than a room full of this breed of puppies--golden balls of fur! (I have a golden myself, so forgive my subjectivity!)

I've learned a lot about rescue organizations and my heart goes out to all the special people, mostly volunteers, who are committed and dedicated to the welfare of goldens that have been abandoned or abused. This prompted me to be proactive and help as well, so I've decided to donate half of my royalties from CRASH! to Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary.

I've also enjoyed a lot of fun videos and I would especially like to share one of them with you. This video features a golden named Rookie and his lady owner dancing to John Travolta and Olivia Newton John's "You're the One that I Want" from Grease. I've embedded the YouTube here. Enjoy!


*My 2nd children's picture book, CRASH!, is finally out! I'm happy to announce that I'll be donating 50% of my royalties from this book to Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary, a non-profit organization. Let's help those needy goldens! Read a review by Cheryl Malandrinos, The Book Connection.

*Dark Realms Magazine and Northwood Journal, both print publications, recently reviewed my horror novel, Dark Lullaby:

"Mayra Calvani's novel Dark Lullaby offers a new perspective on the dark fantasy genre... With the embellishment of Turkish folklore, along with some her own creative mythology, the author lures her reader into dark and dangerous territory." --Dark Realms Magazine

Read the complete review of Dark Lullaby, by JR Clifford for Northwoods Journal.

Listen to the audio blurb at Armchair Interviews. Just click on the book's cover on the left sidebar. (If you're interested in doing one of these audio blurbs, I have included some information under the Resources section below).

Watch the trailer of Dark Lullaby! Note: If you get depressed after this video, watch Rookie dancing one more time! :-)

*To promote the release of my first nonfiction book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing (co-authored with Anne K. Edwards), I'm launching a party of Blogcritics Magazine from June 1-30. Learn all about the business of book reviewing and what’s in the mind of some of the most popular reviewers on the internet today. Some of our guests will include: Irene Watson from Reader Views, Andrea Sisco from Armchair Interviews, Hilary Williamson from Book Loons, Linda Baldwin from Road to Romance, Judy Clark from Mostly Fiction, Carolyn Howard-Johnson from The New Book Review, and many others! Details to follow in the next issue!

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is officially available for pre-order now on Amazon and B&N. The ebook is now for sale from the publisher at Twilight Times Books.

*Come see what I'm reading at Goodreads!

"Demystifying Virtual Book Tours," by Mayra Calvani


What Does Amazon's Decision Really Mean?
Historical Novelist Catherine Delors
SF Author Phoebe Wray

SF Author Lee Denning
Romantic Suspense, NY Times Bestseller Author Lisa Jackson
Dark Fantasy Author Justin Gustainis
Illustrator K.C. Snider
Multi-genre Author Hill Kemp


The Darkest Evening of the Year, by Dean Koontz
Monkey Trap, by Lee Denning (SF)
Jemma7729, by Phoebe Wray (SF)
Sleep Before Evening, by Magdalena Ball (mainstream)
Joey Gonzalez, Great American, by Tony Robles (children's picture book)
On the Go with Rooter and Snuffle, by Shari Lyle-Soffe (children's picture book)
Knowing Joseph, by Judith Mammay (middle grade)

Book Club (book blurbs and excerpts!)

Lost Souls, by Lisa Jackson

The Last to Fall, by Anne K. Edwards

Mistress of the Revolution, by Catherine Delors

Cinco de Mayo, by Don Miles

The Art of Smart Thinking, by Dr. James Hardt


Do you enjoy vampire fiction? Read reviews of the latest vampire-related novels at VampireGenre.

The Stilleto Gang. "Women writers on a mission to bring mystery, humor, and high heels to the world."

Want autographed copies of your favorite authors? Visit Signed by the Author

Share what you're reading with other readers. Read reviews of your favorite books, or write your own: Make money writing articles.

The Book Depository. Online book retailer with FREE delivery worldwide.

Free author promotions and advertising:

Lea Schizas' Muse It Up Club, affordable monthly ads, $5 per monthly ad
AllBookReviews, $50 buys you a great promo package
Stories for Children Magazine, $25 for 3-month ad
YABooksCentral, $50 for one-month ad (great, high-traffic site for kids books)

Launchpad Magazine. Ezine for children, written & illustrated by children

Make your own slide show at

Looking for an original way to promote your book? Consider audio blurbs, created by the professional staff at Armchair Interviews. Cost, $100. Visit the website for details or write to Andrea Sisco at

Read excerpts of YA novels at YABEO. Visit the sister blog here. The site offers great reading to YA fiction fans, and promotions for YA authors.

Promotional Resources for Authors

Affordable Virtual Book Tours with Pump Up Your Book Promotion's Dorothy Thompson. Her latest clients include NY Times Bestselling Novelist Lisa Jackson, yet she offers really affordable prices. I'm letting her handle my CRASH! Virtual Book Tour this June!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Fountain Pen, February 2008

In this Issue...

From Mayra's Desk
Author Interviews:

Kristy Kiernan, author of Catching Genius (literary)
Cynthia Reeg, Christian author of children's books
Deborah Woehr, author of Prosperity (ghost/paranormal)
Aaron Lazar, author of Tremolo (YA mystery)
Corinne Demas, author & violinist (children's, adult)
Nancy Minnis Damato, author of Separate Worlds (historical)
James Clifford, author of Double Daggers (historical mystery)
Roberta Isleib, mystery author and president of Sisters in Crime
Kim Baccellia, author of Earrings of Ixtumea (YA, ethnic)
Beverly McClure, author of YA novels
Publisher Interviews:
Lida Quillen, Twilight Times Books
"On the Author/Illustrator Relationship," by Mayra Calvani
"Improving Your Writing," by Cynthia Reeg
Short Fiction
"Deja Vu," by Mayra Calvani
Book Club Selection
Mayra's Reviews

Press Releases


From Mayra's Desk...

Dear Subscribers,

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. You may have noticed that there was no January issue this year. I apologize, but the hecticness of Christmas and the New Year made it impossible. January was a turbulence of family illnesses and small accidents, so I wasn't able to spend a lot of time at the computer. Also, I don't know about you, but it's always hard for me to get back to the old routine after the holidays. This February issue, however, is really hefty with lots of interviews, two articles, and a Christmas story I wrote during the holidays. I've also added two new sections to the newsletter: Book Club Selection and Press Releases.

I hope you'll enjoy the issue. Happy reading!

Mayra Calvani



*My supernatural thriller, Dark Lullaby, continues to garner great reviews. Read the latest ones:

Review of Dark Lullaby by Cheryl Malandrinos, The Book Connection

Review of Dark Lullaby by Patricia Altner, Patricia's Vampire Notes

*The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, my nonfiction book co-authored with Anne K. Edwards, is scheduled for release this June 2008. Read all about it here.

*My second children's picture book, CRASH! will be released in March by Guardian Angel Publishing. More details next month.

*Don't miss the Valentine's Day Blog Tour. Five Latina authors, five stories, five prizes! From February 10 to February 14.

February 10 – “I Hate Chocolate” by Mary Castillo,, a $10 Starbucks gift card

February 11 – “The Painting” by Mayra Calvani,, a box of Belgian chocolate

February 12 – “A Box of Valentines” by Jamie Martinez Wood,, a one pound bag of homemade toffee

February 13 – “Missed Connections” by Margo Candela Prize: B&N Gift Card

February 14- “Dream Catch Me” by Barbara Caridad Ferrer, An iTunes gift card

Author Interviews:

Interview with Kristy Kiernan

Interview with Cynthia Reeg

Interview with Deborah Woehr

Interview with Aaron Lazar

Interview with Corinne Demas

Interview with Nancy Minnis Damato

Interview with James Clifford

Interview with Roberta Isleib

Interview with Kim Baccellia

Interview with Beverly McClure

Publisher Interviews:

My publisher, Lida Quillen, recently appeared on the front page of Publisher's Weekly. Read the interview here:
Interview with Lida Quillen



by Cynthia Reeg,

Begin with a great start. Grab the reader from the first sentence. You have an editor's attention for a matter of minutes (maybe) before she moves on to the next slush pile story.
Start with gusto. Bam! Wham! Kapowy! Just like in the old Batman TV show make sure your audiences can feel, see, and hear the action. Start with a problem or intriguing dialogue. Read some of the opening lines or first pages of stories that you like or stories that have become children's classics or best sellers. Study and perfect the art of a good beginning.

Let your characters do the talking. Provide them with realistic voices. Interesting voices. Voices that the reader wants to hear more of. Voices that move the story along. Voices that reveal the character.
Don't dilly-dally around with small talk. That's for everyday stuff in the real world but not in fiction. Create drama with dialogue. Show the characters’ emotions and opinions.
Mix the dialogue with action, creating rhythm in your story, and using body language to further reveal your character. People are more likely to form their opinions of someone from what they do rather than what they say. The same applies to your story characters.
Visualize each scene as though the characters are performing on a stage before you. Simply take down notes as they move and speak. Watch closely for their facial expressions, shoulder shrugs, sighs, raised eyebrows, glares, tapping foot. Write these into your story to create an amazing mix of dialogue and action. Think of creating a symphony. You must orchestrate all the various mix of instruments.

Revel in the tension. Don't rush through the really exciting parts of your story. And for the reverse, don't drag out less thrilling but substantial sections. Make them as tight and thoughtful as possible; then move on to the fun stuff.
Slow down the important scenes. Pretend you've pushed the slow-motion button on your recorder. Study each action in great detail and write it down in clipped, fast-paced sentences. Power-packed with emotion. Strong verbs and nouns, few adjectives and adverbs. Make the scene even more suspenseful by compacting the time frame needed for the hero to accomplish the goal. Hear the clock ticking in your head. Feel the tension down into your fingers. Then let them type away.

Write in a rush. Initially, while the idea is hot and the scene is flowing, write without looking back. Feel the need to rush on. To reach the finish line. Take deep breaths. Listen to some mind-enhancing alpha brainwave music like Mozart selections. Don't let your inner critic come out to play during this writing phase.
I find it's helpful to let this story concoction rest for a while before coming back for serious editing. Depending on the length and complexity of the story, the down time may vary from a day or two to perhaps weeks or even longer.

Edit with determination. Believe in the story that you've written. But believe that it can always be better. Read it out loud. Listen to the music of it. If you can't hear a beat, then you haven't written it in yet.
Look for the strong foundation of story elements: plot, setting, characters. Beef them up with subtle word shifts and tight editing. Paint colorful character strokes, especially with the main character and supporting characters. Expand your palette and your painting techniques for each new story. The reader should feel he knows enough about each character to like or dislike them. The characters should be real enough that the reader almost feels as though he is a part of the story, too.
Then read your work like a copy editor. Line by line. Letter by letter. Correct the typos and punctuation errors. The more professional looking your story is the more believable it is for an editor.

Read! Read! Read! Probably the most important thing you can do to improve your writing is to read. Read great stories like you want to write. Read some stories that aren't that good. Study the differences. Why did one work and not the other?
Read a variety of works by a variety of authors. Expose yourself to different writing styles and genres. Reading poems is a great way for me to loosen my writing and help generate ideas. Reading nonfiction often leads to ideas for fiction stories as well. Read the newspaper and adult magazines for a wealth of ideas.
Keep a record of what you read and who publishes it. This way you can refer back to your notes when trying to remember which publishing house likes romantic picture books or which one walks the line with edgy stories. Is there a pattern to what they like to print or what a particular editor likes to work on? Or which writer crosses the boundaries between picture books and young adult. How does she do it?
Read. Study. Read. The only way to be a writer is to be a reader first.


Short Fiction:

"Deja Vu," by Mayra Calvani (two versions, English and Spanish)


Book Club Selection for March:

Tremolo: Cry of the Loon, by Aaron Lazar

The Last to Fall, by Anne K. Edwards

Catching Genius, by Kristy Kiernan

(Review of this book by Terez Rose is in the author interview)

Along the Templar Trail, by Brandon Wilson

Joy the Jellyfish, by Kristen and Kevin Collier


Mayra's Reviews:





*Virtual book tours with Pump Up Your Book Promotion continues! All authors on tour in February will be giving away FREE copies of their books to a few lucky people who comment on their blog stops. Winners will be announced at on Feb. 29!

*Children's author Christine Norris is running a contest on her website. Visit her Contests page for details on how to get a free copy of her book and gift certificate!

*Author Jamie Wood is having a contest! In her own words, these are the details:

"I am having a contest this month. My first ever! I've asked my teen readers to write an essay about why magic is so popular these days. I will choose winners based on how much thought and consideration they put into what they write. Spelling counts, too. Winners choose either The Teen Spell Book: Magick for Young Witches or The Enchanted Diary: A Teen's Guide to Magick and Life, signed by me. There will be two entries. One for people ages 11-14, essays must be 150 words. Another entry for people, ages 15-18, essays must be 250 words. Send essays to, with "writing contest" in the subject line. Contest begins Tuesday, February 12 and ends Tuesday, February 26. More information can be found on"
*In 2008, Karen Wiesner is giving away an autographed trade paperback every month to subscribers of her newsletter, Karen's Quill! Subscribe to Karen's Quill by visiting her website at or by sending a blank e-mail to!

*Everything is coming up romantic! Join Jewels of the Quill for our annual Valentine's Day Giveaway throughout February by visiting our website at for a full list of prizes and giveaway details. In February, Liz Hunter (Dame Garnet) is our featured author at Jewels of the Quill. Liz is giving away an autographed trade paperback or a download. We're also giving away an official Jewels of the Quill desk calendar this month. To be eligible to win this month's giveaways, visit our website and subscribe to the Fans of Jewels of the Quill newsletter by sending a blank e-mail to
*To celebrate the release of Joust in Time one lucky reader will win two one day passes to the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin on the Wisconsin/Illinois border (or to a renaissance faire near you). All you have to do is send me an email at with the words "Ren Faire" in the subject line along your name, mailing and email addresses. The lucky winner will be drawn on May 1. Deadline to enter is April 15, 2008.


Press Releases:

Valentines Day
February 14, 2008

February 4, 2008
Contact: Hill Kemp

LOVING COUNTY, TEXAS. Do you remember that friend you haven’t talked to all year? You know, that person you were so close to but somehow drifted apart. Well, thanks to today’s marvelous technology, you can easily reach out to your friend, rekindle the warmth and light up their Valentine's Day.

There’s a new book out – in electronic format – which you can send to them. Lucky Penny is a book that explores and embraces friends and friendship. Fourth graders can read it, teenagers can grow from it and grown-ups can be reminded of the special importance friendship is to our lives. And how it takes some investment from us to sustain this treasure. The little book is a quick read. And for about the price of a nice Valentine's card plus postage, you can really let your friend know how much you value them.

So, go to . There you can get Lucky Penny and send it to your friend with your personal Valentines message. It only takes a few minutes. It will be good for you and for that person out there waiting to hear from you.


Reviewer praise for Lucky Penny:

"Hill & Siena Kemp's story shows young girls that they can solve their problems with each other. Such friendships are the "True Prize" in anything. Best, these girls solve their friendship problem without intrusive advice from the adults in their lives."--Deborah K. Frontiera, Golden Spur Award Winner, North Texas Children's Book Festival, 2007

Hill Kemp has five works published including his thriller novel, Capitol Offense. He is a writer, lyricist, inventor and former member of the Texas House of Representatives. Siena, Kemp’s granddaughter and co-author, is in the 7th grade gifted program, an avid reader and Neopets author. More at .

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Fountain Pen, Issue 12, December 2007

In this issue...

From Mayra's Desk
Author Interviews:
Interview with Cheryl K. Tardif, author of Whale Song
Interview with Erica Miner, author of Travels With My Lovers
Interview with Maureen Fisher, author of The Jaguar Legacy
Interview with Dennis N. Griffin, author of Cullota
Interview with Michael Simon, author of The Last Jew Standing
Publisher Interviews:
Interview with Sandra Swayder Sanchez, The Wessex Collective
"How Do Books Get into Bookstore Shelves?" by Dee Power
Mayra's Reviews
Dead Right, by Brenda Novak (romantic suspense/thriller)
Who Killed Marcia Maynard? by Alma H. Bond (mystery)


From Mayra's Desk...

Dear Readers,

This month I have a lot of great interviews to share with you. I hope you'll enjoy them. The article about how books get into bookstore shelves is also particularly interesting.

This November I spent most of my time sending off copies of Dark Lullaby and The Magic Violin to reviewers, as well as contacting violin/music shops. Thanks to all the violin shop owners who ordered copies of The Magic Violin for their little violinist customers during this season. Some ordered in the dozens and I was thrilled.

Relaxation hardly ever comes to an author who's marketing her books, and this December is no exception. I'm going on another virtual book tour (don't miss your chance of winning a $20 Amazon certificate on the 25th! Read under 'News' for details)), have to finish a proposal for Harper Collins, and edit a YA manuscript for an agent, all in between shopping for gifts, setting up the tree and house decorations, and dealing with family and friends... But naturally, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday filled with health and happiness and... (of course) great reading material!





*To promote the release of my Christmas picture book, The Magic Violin, I'll be going on a mini virtual book tour during the month of December. The tour will start on December 1st and end on December 25th, when I'll be giving away a $20 Amazon certificate to a lucky winner. To be eligible, all you need to do is leave a comment at the end of my blog stops. The more comments you leave, the higher your chances of winning. For a detailed schedule of my tour and the stops I'll be making, visit my blog, Mayra's Secret Bookcase. I hope you'll join me in my tour! :-)
*The Magic Violin is now available on Amazon, B&N, and from your favorite brick & mortar bookstore.

*I finally put together the violion-related fiction blog I wanted. Do you love the violin and books? Then Violin and Books is for you!

*Reviews of my novel, Dark Lullaby, are slowly but steadily coming in...

Top Amazon Reviewer Harriet Klausner calls it "a terrific horror tale." Read the full review at Alternative Worlds.

Patricia Altner of Patricia's Vampire Notes says "a must read for those who enjoy novels of horror. Calvani keeps the tension tight throughout this gripping novel." Read the full review here.

Katie's Reading says... "Part horror and thriller with a touch of romance Dark Lullaby is a quick read that will keep you glued to the pages. Thoughtful, entertaining, and chilling the characters and the exotic settings will sweep you away."


Author Interviews


Publisher Interviews



By Dee Power


Mayra's Reviews

Dead Right, by Brenda Novak

Who Killed Marcia Maynard, by Alma H. Bond



Fiction Flyer, monthly newsletter for writers and readers alike.

Nothing Binding, bonding authors and readers.



*Harlequin Intrigue author Tracy Montoya has launched a new contest in celebration of her December 2007 release, Telling Secrets. For details on how to enter and win a $25 gift certificate to BookSense or Barnes & Noble, plus a book from Tracy's backlist, visit her blog at or MySpace page anytime between Dec. 1 through Dec. 23.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Fountain Pen, Issue 11, November 2007

In this Issue...

From Mayra's Desk

Interview with Terry Doherty, Founder of The Reading Tub, Inc
Interview with Virginia S. Grenier, Editor of Stories for Children Magazine
Interview with Andrea Sisco, co-Founder of Armchair Interviews
"On Writing Horror AND Children's Tales", by Mayra Calvani
"The Responsibilities of A Writer," by R.J. Barker
Mayra's Reviews

From Mayra's Desk...

Dear Readers,

Would you believe Christmas is just around the corner?! It sure feels like the older I get, the faster time passes.

October was a busy month with me going on a virtual book tour to promote the release of my paranormal thriller, Dark Lullaby. It was my first virtual tour and it was a learning experience. I was astounded by the high traffic it brought to my website--over 10,000 hits in one month! If you missed my tour and would like to read some of my interviews, here are some links:
The Book Connection
Paranormal Watch
Melanie Nilles' Blog
Fiction Scribe
In Detail with Nikki Leigh

I'm taking a rest this month and will be going on another virtual book tour this December, this time to promote the release of my first children's picture book, The Magic Violin. Join me on my tour next month for a chance to win a print copy of The Magic Violin. I will be posting my tour schedule on my blog, Mayra's Secret Bookcase, at the end of November. To be eligible to win the book, all you have to do is write a comment at the end of my guest posts. The more you comment, the more chances of winning. I'll announce the winner on Christmas Day!

Before saying goodbye, let me just mention a little change I will make to the newsletter from now on. Instead of posting the entire interviews and articles, I will simply post a link to them. This will keep the newsletter shorter and prevent you from having to scroll down long texts in order to find what you specifically want to read. I know this can be quite frustrating at times. I hope you will appreciate this.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and enjoy that delicious turkey with gravy and pumpkin pie!

Warm regards,


The Magic Violin is now out and available for purchase. Consider buying this book as a Christmas gift for a child--especially if the child plays or would like to play the violin!
For the full press release and blurb, visit my website Mayra's Secret Bookcase.
The publisher's purchasing page can be found here, but the book can be ordered from any brick and mortar bookstore and will be available from Amazon and B&N soon as well.



*Interview with Terry Doherty, The Reading Tub, Inc.
Part I
Part II

*Interview with Virginia Grenier, Editor of Stories for Children Magazine
Read the full interview here.

*Interview with Andrea Sisco, Founder of Armchair Interviews.
Read the full interview here.



*A lot of people ask me how I can write both horror and children's tales. I tried to answer this question on M.D. Benoit's Blog, Life's Weirder than Fiction.

*"The Responsibilities of A Writer,"
by R. J. Barker

Dear Sir.

Thank you for your application to become A Write! We are happy to tell you that you have been successful. However, it is imperative that we keep to strict guidelines in order to protect our trade. I have supplied a copy of these guidelines, please read these five simple rules carefully and do not let us down.

1) Whether at a dinner party or merely enjoying the waxing moon on a balmy night with a young lady--you must remember at all times--that you are A Writer!

Tell people, tell them as often as possible and with an emphasis on the dramatic. Suitable conversational cues for the beginner can be:

"I'm John, you are...?"
"Peter, I am A Writer!"

"What shall we order?"
"This menu is terribly written, it has no plot arc. I know, for I am A Writer!"

"So what do you do then?"
"I" (pause for effect) "am A Writer!"

"A funny thing happened to me the other day."
"Tell me of it, it may provide inspiration. Lack of inspiration is death to A Writer, for that is what I am!"

"Why haven't you paid your credit card bill, sir?"
"I am A Writer!"

"I'm tired now dear, I'm off to bed."

2) A Writer and someone who writes are two entirely different things. Any fool can put words down on paper. A Writer is an artist, he is A Writer whether he has written a word or not. Be The Writer, don't bother yourself with the technicalities.

3) Do not listen to the critic. They may try to make it seem like they want to be helpful, this is a lie. You know within your heart that you are A Writer, a genius and above them all. Pillory them for their foolishness when they do not see the beauty in your words. Strike at them and know you are in the right for you my firend, are A Writer.

4) Value creativity beyond all things. Be true to your vision. You are not bound by earthly rules such as grammar or spelling. Fly high on the wings of what you know to be beyond all comparison. Some may not be able to read it. That is their loss, not yours.

5) When you come across others whose talent may be near or even (however unlikely this is) equal, hate them. Hate them well. Your badge and complimentary fountain pen will follow via separate post (you will need to sign for these).


Nefariouos T. Cumblepot
P.S. If you are A Poet please follow the same rules but substitute 'Poet' for 'Writer'. We all work from the same office and sometimes the letters get mixed up a tad.

R.J.Barker is a sometime journalist, occasional Editor and slack writer. His 'Dead' Dave York novellas have been described as 'A noir Terry Pratchett' and the first novel length story in that series is due to be published in 2008. You can read more of his nonsense on MySpace--Leave a comment and then he'll feel like people are paying attention which makes him all warm and fuzzy inside.


Mayra's Reviews
Princes Caitlin's Tiara (picture book)
Little Skink's Tail (picture book)
Meerkats Don't Fly (picture book)
Judgement Fire (mystery/detective)
Mortal Touch (paranormal)



Blogcritics High-profile community of bloggers
Reader Views Book reviews
Katie's Reading Paranormal fiction reviews
New Book Clubs Connecting Authors and Publishers With Book Clubs & Readers

The authors who are on virtual book tours with Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours this month will be giving away free copies of their books on November 30th. Click here to get all the info and see the list of authors and their books.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Fountain Pen, Issue 10, October 2007, Halloween Special!

In this issue...

From Mayra's Desk...
"Bonefires or Bonefires? The Origins of Halloween," by Mayra Calvani
Author Jonathan Maberry
Short Story Writer Heather Ingemar
Author James Richard Larson
Book Reviews:
The Right Thing, by James Richard Larson (horror)
"A Slip of Wormwood," by Heather Ingemar (paranormal short story)

From Mayra's Desk...

Dear Readers,

First of all I would like to thank everyone who voted for my story, THE DOLL VIOLINIST, at the ABC's Children's Picture Book Competition! Your support meant A LOT to me and I'm hoping to win. The winner will be announced on the 8th of October, so I won't know until then. As for the winners of my drawing, please check my blog, Mayra's Secret Bookcase, for the announcement. Many people voted every single day and I really wish I could have gifts for everyone who so faithfuly suppported me. I have to say these past two weeks were incredibly stressful with me networking constantly to garner votes, so in that sense, I'm GLAD the voting period is finally over.

This month I will be just as busy going on my first virtual book tour. When will I have time to sit and do some writing? It seems all I do lately is spent most of my time promoting in one way or another. I'll have to do something about this! :-)

I hope you enjoy this Halloween Special of the Fountain Pen. I tried to fill it with all kinds of 'creepy' stuff. October is one of my favorite months--the red, browns and yellows, the fallen leaves all over, the cool crisp air, the spicy aroma of cinammon from a warm kitchen. I enjoy decorating the house, carving pumpkins and making pumpkin pies. Plus, it means that Christmas is just around the corner.

Take care and have a safe and fun Halloween!



*I just started another blog (yep, I'm getting addicted to blogging) exclusively for my paranormal fiction. You may visit it at Eerie, Dark and Creepy...

*For information about my October book tour, and a schedule of all my stops, please go to my website or my new blog. I'll be giving away one print copy of my book, DARK LULLABY, on Halloween from all the people who write comments at the end of my posts on the various blogs.


"Bonfires or Bonefires? The Origins of Halloween," by Mayra Calvani

Halloween is not only a colourful night of fun, frights, sweets and costumes. It is a full-blown industry, with more than $14 billion spent each year on costumes, decorations, party supplies, candy and other paraphernalia.

How did it all get started?

The origins of Halloween are quite dark, and go all the way back to 2,000 years ago, to the Celtic Celebration of the Dead, or Samhain (Sah-ween), in what is now Ireland, the UK, and Northern France. The Celtic Festival took place each year on the eve of November first, which marked the end of summer and harvest season, and the beginning of their New Year and winter, a time associated with cold and death. Samhain festivities lasted for a couple of days, until about November 2nd.

The Celts believed that on October 31st, the last day of summer and New Year’s Eve, the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred and thin, and spirits, both good and evil, roamed about on the streets and countryside and did as they wished. The Celts were especially frightened by the prospect of these evil souls harming the crops.

On this night, Celtic priests called Druids dressed in animal masks and skins and performed sacrifices to placate the gods and “ward off” spirits. Bonfires represented the sun, the power to fight dark forces. The Druids lit huge bonfires and burned animals, crops, and sometimes even humans. In fact, the word “bonfire” comes from “bonefire,” literally! (It’s interesting to note that the practice of burning humans continued as late as the 1600s).

Besides the Druids, people also performed their little “rituals.” To ward off spirits, they carved turnips and lit them with embers. To “fool” them, they wore animal masks or scary disguises. To placate them, they left fruits and nuts at their doorstep as a gift or offering, thus preventing future bad crops. This is the origin of “Trick or Treat.”

Around the 7th Century the Celebration of the Dead spread to Europe, but it became known as “All Hollows Eve,” or “Night of the Dead.” In parts of Britain and Ireland it also became known as “Mischief Night.”

Around the 800s the Christians moved to the Celtic lands and tried to eradicate all pagan beliefs and celebrations. In an attempt to placate the Celts, Pope Boniface IV designated November first as All Saints Day as an attempt to replace the pagan “All Hollows Eve.” Thus he “transformed” the Celebration of the Dead into a Christian holy day.

It is believed that later the Irish brought the tradition of carving turnips to America. However, they soon found out that there weren’t as many turnips there, and that pumpkins were a lot bigger and better to carve scary faces on.

Eventually “All Hollows Eve” came to be known as Halloween.

The traditional Halloween symbols we know today, like witches, black cats, ghosts, pumpkins and candles appeared in the US around the 1800s. Entrepreneur minds no doubt realized the marketing potential. The whole concept of Halloween gradually became commercialized.

Today, in spite of its dark origins and although some religious people consider it an “evil” festival, Halloween is mostly regarded as a spooky yet harmless, fun, family celebration.

©2005, 2007. Mayra Calvani / All Rights Reserved. This column may not be copied nor printed in any form without permission from the author.


Interview with Author Jonathan Maberry, Bram Stocker Award Winner
Interview by Mayra Calvani

QUESTION: What was your inspiration for your first novel, Ghost Road Blues? What’s it about?
ANSWER: It got started in a couple of different ways. My grandmother (who died in 1978 at 101) told me as a boy about the myths and legends –or as she called them ‘beliefs’ of the supernatural. I grew up knowing a fair bit about the folklore of supernatural and occult beliefs, and while writing several nonfiction books on the subject I got the idea for a novel in which the characters encounter the supernatural as it appears in folklore, which is substantially different from the way it is most often portrayed in popular fiction and film.
Ghost Road Blues deals with a small Pennsylvania town whose industry & tourism is built on its long-standing haunted history. They have Hayrides and a huge Halloween Festival...but they discover that the town is far more haunted than they think, and that turns out not to be a good thing for the residents or tourists.
It’s the first book of a trilogy, informally known as the Pine Deep Trilogy. The series continues with Dead Man’s Song and will conclude with Bad Moon Rising in June of 2008.

QUESTION: For most writers, having their first book published by a big NY publisher is a dream come true. How did this come about? Did you initially find an agent?
ANSWER: Ghost Road Blues is my first novel, but not my first book. I’ve been a nonfiction author for thirty years. I’ve written over a thousand magazine articles, plays, short stories...the works. I served as my own agent for selling the nonfiction books --and this is not something I recommend. My first books were textbooks I wrote for a number of college courses at Temple University (Judo, Self-Defense for Women, Introduction to Asian Martial Arts, etc.). Then I did some martial arts books for a small press. When I decided to try my hand at fiction –which was totally new territory for me—I decided to look for an agent.
I made a wish-list of the agents who worked with the authors I most admired, particularly those writing in the same genre where I wanted Ghost Road Blues placed. I wrote a heck of a query letter and approached the top agents I could find. When I got go-aheads to submit my book, I gave each some time to read the material and then I invited them out to lunch, one at a time. I like face-to-face book pitching, and over lunch we talked about my book, other books I wanted to write, and about the book world.
From those encounters I was able to choose from a couple of agents who offered to represent me. I believe I made the best choice for me. My agent, Sara Crowe of the Harvey Klinger Agency (formerly of Trident Media Group) has sold eleven books for me since April 2005. Six novels and five nonfics. She sold Ghost Road Blues to the second editor who read it and Pinnacle Books has done a marvelous job with the series.

QUESTION: Ghost Road Blues just garnered the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel of the Year. How does this make you feel as a writer?
ANSWER: On top of the world. It’s a somewhat surreal experience to try something totally new --book length fiction—and then have it become a celebrated book. I would have been happy just to see it in print; but the Stoker win was terrific. It’s supercharged me, too.

QUESTION: Tell us a bit about your other books. What was your inspiration for these books? Which themes obsess you?
ANSWER: Since I come from a background of magazine feature writing I have the writers’ knack of becoming obsessed with a topic –for a while. Aside from the martial arts books I’ve written, I’ve also written articles about dating, mixology, jazz, blues, film, gastropod farming (no, that’s not a typo), business, parenting, writing, technology, folklore and dozens of other topics. When I’m in research mode I want to know everything I can about a subject, and then I find that one element –the hook—that will give me something unique that I can pitch.
For books, I feel that I’ve kind of ‘been there, done that’ with martial arts. I’ve been an active jujutsu practitioner for 46 years now and I’ve written extensively about it. In 2002 I ‘moved on’ from that topic and became more fully enmeshed in folklore, which has always been a passion of mine. I suppose it’s the closest thing to an abiding ‘obsession’ with me. There’s so much to say on the subject, even within my area of specialty, which is the folklore of the occult and paranormal.
My first book on that subject was The Vampire Slayers’ Field Guide to the Undead, which is the only book I ever did under a pen name (that of Shane MacDougall). It started me in that direction, and after I landed my agent I gave her a proposal for a new book on vampire folklore, Vampire Universe, which she very quickly sold to Citadel Press. Before I’d finished writing that book the deal got tweaked and expanded so that I was now under contract to write three more books in the same, ah...’vein’. The second in that series, The Cryptopedia (co-authored with David F. Kramer) just debuted on September 1. That one is an occult/paranormal dictionary covering thirteen different subject areas (from divination to UFOs). The final two in that series are tentatively titled They Bite! (which discussed supernatural predators) and Vampire Hunters and Other Enemies of Evil, scheduled for release in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
In 2008 I’m diverting from folklore for a pop culture monster book: Zombie CSU: The Forensic Science of the Living Dead, also for Citadel, in which I ask real-world experts in forensics, law enforcement, medicine, and science how they might react and respond to zombies (of the Night of the Living Dead variety). All lots of fun.

QUESTION: What are your writing habits? Do you work on an outline before starting the actual novel?
ANSWER: I’m a very disciplined writer, but I allow for a lot of flexibility. I write an outline first and character profiles. Then I sit down and draft out a very rough ‘preliminary synopsis’ of what the finished book might be like. I like complicated storylines and deep-reaching character development, and that has to be planned to some degree. However I have never finished a project that bears much resemblance to the original outline. Books are organic and they’ll change in the telling. The outline allows me to remember the underlying logic of the story, but I often let the characters drive the car.
Also, as you develop a scene there is an internal logic that often necessitates story changes you did not initially predict. This is cause and effect as applied to writing, and that allows the story to take on a pattern closer to reality.
I write every day, and I did that long before writing became my 9-5 job. I’m a believer in that saying: “If you write every day you get better every day.”
I roll out of bed around 7:30 and by 8-ish I’m at my desk. I set goals for myself –usually 4000 words per day. If I write more, that’s great, but it doesn’t mean I can write less tomorrow. On weekends I scale it back to about 1000 words.

QUESTION: Which element of fiction writing comes more naturally for you—plot, characterization, description, and dialogue? Which one gives you the hardest time?
ANSWER: Character development and dialogue are easiest, though all of it takes work. Complex plot is the hardest because you have to both entertain the reader and keep him guessing. You can’t make the puzzle too hard for them to grasp but at the same time you have to be aware that readers are smart, savvy and experienced, which means that they’ll be thinking two or three steps ahead. Balancing plot development and its twists and turns requires a lot of thought, and most of that occurs when you’re not at the keyboard. For some bizarre reason I get my best plot twist ideas while I’m in the shower. Who knows, maybe by shampooing my hair I’m stimulating brain cells; and it’s a much happier result than when I sing in the shower –which I do badly and at great volume.

QUESTION: What goes on inside the mind of the horror writer?
ANSWER: It’s not cobwebs, bats and spiders. Writers, particularly horror and thriller writers, spend a lot of time in their own heads. We poke into old closets and dusty attics, places where we’ve stored our fears and the memories of hurt and trauma. Horror writers generally start out by taking what scares them and writing about it so that they can watch it from a distance, gain some perspective over it, and then resolve it. It’s great therapy; but more importantly it allows others (readers) who have had similar experiences, to see that these are things that happen to a lot of people. We write about loss, heartbreak, abuse, neglect...and we build horrific elements around them to make the tales less overtly individual (to ourselves) and therefore more widely accessible. It’s a fascinating process.
We also listen to the voices in our heads. For most people this a red flag and medication & restraints might be involved. But for writers –and not just horror writers—our characters are, to some degree, alive in our heads. We allow them to talk to one another. Very often the best scenes and dialogue come from the characters inside the writers head being given license to talk and act. Then we go write it down. I believe it was Bradbury who said that writing is 99% thinking about things, and then the rest is typing.

QUESTION: Why do you think so many people enjoy horror fiction while at the same time loathing death and violence in real life?
ANSWER: Because horror fiction provides us with safe chills. We love the adrenaline rush on a rollercoaster, especially when it feels like it’s about to go off the rails, but we really, really need to believe that it won’t. Horror fiction is a rush. It satisfies the need to experience the whole range of human emotions. That’s why horror often has romance, humor, and other emotional qualities in it.
And for many it’s a way to reinforce the belief that monsters can be overthrown. In real life there are real monsters: abusive parents, violent criminals, rapists, hostile governments, terrorists...and for most people this is all way beyond their control. They feel disempowered by these threats. In horror fiction we can feel the same intensity of fear but in the end (usually) the good guys win and the monster dies. Never underestimate the power of closure, even if it’s escapist closure.

QUESTION: Are you still expected to do a lot of marketing and promotion on your own, or does your publicist/publisher take care of all the planning?
ANSWER: Unless you’re king of the bestseller list, if you’re an author you’re expected to do a lot of promotional work yourself. Until just recently (when I hired a publicity manager) I had to set up my own signings, create my own swag (those cool giveaway items authors sometimes have), and so on. My publisher, like many in the business, will do a little but not a lot. It’s an economic thing; plus they know that writers who want their books to succeed will hustle a lot of this themselves. It’s not fair, but there it is.
The trick is get into the mindset where you enjoy the process. And I do; though I did hire the publicist because of time constraints. I have to write 2 ½ books per year, so my time is getting limited.
After Bad Moon Rising comes out next year I’ll be writing fiction for another publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and they’ve offered to provide me with a publicist. That’ll be just dandy.

QUESTION: Would you like to share with our readers some of your current or future projects?
ANSWER: Aside from the books I already mentioned, I have a short story coming out in the anthology History is Dead, edited by Kim Paffenroth. It’s an antho of zombie stories set prior to the 20th century. My story, “Pegleg and Paddy Save the World” is a comedy about two moonshiners who run afoul of gangsters and zombies in the days leading up to the Chicago Fire. I’m collaborating with playwright Keith Strunk on a movie script based on the story.
I’m also shifting gears a little bit in fiction and am writing a bio-terrorism thriller, Patient Zero, for St. Martins Press. It’s the first of a series of novels about a police detective, Joe Ledger, who gets recruited by a secret military organization to help stop a group of terrorists who are planning to launch a weaponized disease that turns people into zombies. It’s not a horror novel, however, and I even have a decent medical explanation for how the zombies function. This book is tentatively scheduled for release in early 2009.
And I’m working on developing a couple of horror-related projects with collaborators, including a script for a graphic novel.
I’m also launching an online horror ezine, Cryptopedia Magazine ( That’s going to be great, with lots of top writers and artists involved.

QUESTION: Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?
ANSWER: My main author website is; but I’m also co-founder of a writers education center, The Writers Corner USA (, and we’re just about to launch a number of online classes for writers. On MySpace I can be found at and
I haven’t really started much of a blog, though I dearly want to. It’s a time thing. I’ll get one rolling when I’m sure I’ll have the time to provide interesting things for my blog readers to share.

QUESTION: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are trying to break into the horror genre?
ANSWER: First off, one sad reality about the business is that ‘horror’ per se is not a thriving genre. Top writers like Stephen King, Peter Straub, Robert McCammon, Dan Simmons, Anne Rice...they never labeled themselves as horror writers. Most often their works are published as ‘fiction’, ‘thrillers’ or ‘suspense’.

To break into the business of writing horror I suggest pitching your book as a ‘supernatural thriller’. You still need to approach agents and publishers who work with horror, but the labeling matters, especially in the book pitch process.
Also, writers should learn as much as they can about the business of writing. Craft will take you only so far; but after you’re done typing --like it or not—your book becomes a commodity. Everything from that point on is business. Those authors who understand this thrive; those who don’t...don’t. There is a conceit within the creative community that writers make lousy businessmen; and that’s total crap. Writers are best at research --so go and research what it takes to make a good book and a good deal.

And, when pitching a book, make sure your pitch letter doesn’t get bogged down by trying to tell every last blessed plot point. That’s the wrong time to make those points. Be brief, be interesting, and always include information about why this book will satisfy the needs of readers who love this genre. To you it may be about the book, to the readers it may be about the book; but to agents, editors, booksellers, etc. it’s about how much money that book will make. When a writer learns the business he gets to participate more actively in the discussion phases, which means he’s more likely to make the kind of money that will give him the time to write and write and write.


Interview with short story writer Heather Ingemar
Interview by Mayra Calvani

What was your inspiration for your latest ghost story, A Slip of Wormwood?

Well actually, it started during a game my husband and I play, where the first person comes up with a sentence, and the other has to come up with a "story" around that sentence. My husband gave me a rather innocuous sentence about Frog skipping happily along, and I started to tell what I thought was an innocent children's story, but quickly spiralled into a tale of dark sibling rivalry and greed. My husband laughingly asked if he wanted to hear more, and I quickly came up with a sentence for him. The characters didn't leave, though. I finally had to write it down, and I did so in about four hours.

Tell us a bit about your other published stories. What was your inspiration for these stories? Which themes obsess you?

Well, to date I've only got four, two -- "What's Really There" and "Memories" with the ezine The Gothic Revue -- and two with Echelon Press, "Darkness Cornered" and "A Slip of Wormwood." Given that small sampling of my work, I'd have to say the supernatural, the abnormal was definitely a strong theme and inspiration for all of these works. I've always wondered about the things hiding in shadows, closets, and under beds. What kind of monsters hide in our world, and are they really "monsters" at all? I guess it's natural that would make a strong appearance in my work, since it's a concept that's always fascinated me.

What are your writing habits? Do you work on an outline before starting the actual story?

It really depends on the work. A lot of my short stories just come to me in the cliche "flash of inspiration," and so they generally don't need any outlining. With my longer works, my novellas, I like to keep a rough outline just so I can keep track of where I am in the story. I also do some outlining if I'm having trouble seeing what a character does, or why. But as for doing all that before writing, I'd have to say no. I start writing, and usually by the end of the first scene, I'll know if I need a roadmap or not.

Which element of fiction writing comes more naturally for you—plot, characterization, description, dialogue? Which one gives you the hardest time?

Oh boy, that's a tough question. I think I'd have to say that description is the easiest for me. I naturally tend to be attuned to how things look, how the light from the window plays on the furniture, the overall sense of things. Then, it'd have to be characterization, plot, and dialogue. But then again, this differs with the story too. Some stories I have to work exceptionally hard at my characterization, when the plot fell into place easy as pie. Others, I've got great dialogue, but my beta readers aren't feeling enough of a sense of place. It just depends.

Your style has a rich Victorian flare, very reminiscent of 19th Century horror writers. What authors have influenced your work?

Oh, definitely Poe. I love Poe. I remember reading "The Tell-Tale Heart" in seventh grade and just being astounded at the sheer dexterity of craft. I went to the library the next day and checked out an entire volume of his works just to skim through because I was so fascinated with his portrayal of the inner demons, the dark places in the psyche. When I read "The Fall of the House of Usher" in high school, I just loved how he was so able to connect his characters into the landscape. Just amazing. As for other authors, there are so many who have influenced my work, that I have a hard time remembering them all. (laughs) I studied a lot when I got my BA in English, and there were a TON of authors I just read one piece by, and it affected me. Many of them I can't even remember titles or names, but the work stuck with me. I'm thinking of a piece now that I read and got that chilling little frisson from; it was about a man who paints demons so lifelike, that it's practically impossible. And then the artist's friend finds out that the guy really IS painting demons, live demons, and oh, it was just great! But I can't remember for the life of me any specifics about the author himself. I hope I'll run across that one again some day, it was a real humdinger!

What goes on inside the mind of the horror writer?

I find it incredibly funny that people call me a horror writer. Most of my work I don't even see as scary -- they may have scary or chilling parts, but I wouldn't classify the entire work that way.... I don't know. Maybe I just view the world differently? "Wormwood" was actually the first piece I wrote that I truly considered 'horror.' The rest I consider more unusual, paranormal. Not Horror. Ah well!

Why do you think so many people enjoy a good fright while reading a book?

I think because it's a safe medium. Those nasty things aren't going to pursue you off the page. And, because, especially with the really good fiction, the reader can imagine the evil creatures or setting how they find it most scary.

How do you set to the task of promoting your short stories?

This has been a challenge. When I decided to skip the literary magazines -- I'm too much of a genre writer -- I looked into the ebook medium. Partly as a way into the publishing field, and partly because the truth is most of our society at this point is online for recreation. When it came to promoting, I took this into account and decided to focus most of my efforts online. I set up a website. I started pursuing networking mediums for added publicity. I wrote articles, posted on message boards, I did everything I could think of, even offering downloadable goodies from my site, to draw attention and interest. So far, the challenge to be creative with marketing has been fun, and I'm learning along the way. Marketing face-to-face, is very different, however. Luckily for me, I write short fiction. In my experience, people are more willing to read a short story online or on the computer than a longer work. That's not to say longer works aren't popular -- they are, for the tried-and-true ebook fans. In my area, most of the people haven't ever heard of an ebook, and they're very wary of it. But, they'll be brave and try a short story -- it doesn't take up a lot of their time. I find I have to work extra hard at making it sound like something they're interested in to get a bite. Bookmarks, promo flyers... it helps. If you can entice them to look, pique their curiosity, you've got a chance.

Would you like to share with our readers some of your current or future projects?

Well, I've got a set of three urban fantasy novellas I've been working on, the first one is out to publishers and I am working on the edits for the second. The third is in the drafting stage. I just finished two short stories, one literary, one more genre, and they are also out to publishers. I'm working on another short story featuring a zombie -- I've always wanted to write a zombie story -- and for now, that's it. (laughs) Between editing, drafting, writing, and monitoring submissions, I keep myself pretty busy.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works? Where are your stories available?

Yes, my website is located at It's got everything on it. Bio, upcoming events, news about my work, copies of reviews and interviews. At the beginning of September I added a bi-weekly podcast. My stories are available through Echelon Press at and also through most major ebook retailers such as Fictionwise, .

What advice would you give to aspiring short story writers who are trying to break into the horror genre?

Advice for aspiring short story writers. Well, I'd say practice, because in a short story, the prose is so critical. You have to draw your readers in with your first sentence, you've got to be able to balance character, setting and plot in just the right amounts so your reader isn't slogged with information. Plus, it's got to be relatively short. As my creative writing professor said, "Only the essential story." So definitely, practice. And don't be shy about submitting. As Stephen King once wrote, "The short story is... not a lost art, but I would argue it is a good deal closer than poetry to the lip of the drop into extinction's pit. (Everything's Eventual, 2002)" We need more stories out there. We need people to help keep the craft alive.

Interview with Author James Richard Larson

What was your inspiration for your horror novel, The Right Thing? What's it about?
The Right Thing is about a rejected novelist, and her unique way of dealing with literary agents who have spurned her work. The inspiration came from viewing my own file cabinet full of rejection letters. Rejections are the rule rather than the exception — ask any writer who has submitted a manuscript. It must be an extremely rare occurrence when an author's first work is accepted by an agent or a publisher. It just doesn't happen. Rejection is part of the game, and an aspiring writer has to have a very thick skin.
Many struggling authors who read your novel will probably sympathize with your villainess and enjoy reading about what befalls the agents in your story. What is it about struggling authors and agents?
Agents are the guardian at the gate. A potential novelist soon realizes that the way to publication is through a literary agent. Publishers aren't interested in unagented work, period. Agents sift through submissions, reject the vast majority of them, and pass on the few deemed acceptable. Agents hold the key to success, and they're stingy about it — they have to be if they want to make a living. At times they're perceived as cold, uncaring, distant, and brutal. Aspiring authors love them at the same time they hate them. There is no nice way to say, "Thanks for your submission, but your work really sucks!"
The agents in your story were really well drawn out. How do you create your characters in your fiction? Do you write profiles before doing the actual writing?
As far as The Right Thing goes, a few of the agents in the story are based on agents I've dealt with. When writing queries one can't help but picture an image of the person on the other end reading the proposal. Some Pee Wee Herman-looking geek peering over his half-glasses whining, "Shirley, come over here and look at this politically incorrect query letter from Ms. Winfrey". Agents show photos of themselves on their websites, so it was easy to form a personality around the person. I don't write profiles. Sometimes characters pop into your mind when you least expect it. They come ready made — all you have to do is look. You instantly know who and what they are. Writing is spontaneous. Outlining, in my opinion, is a waste of time.
Tell us a bit about your other books. What was your inspiration for these books? Which themes obsess you?
The Right Thing was my third published novel. My first, titled The Eye of Odin, is an historical fiction depicting the life and times of the Viking explorer Erik the Red. My second, titled Wolfgar: The Story of a Viking, is the continuation of the first book, the second of a proposed three volume set. I have yet to begin the third Viking novel, because at the present time I have other projects in the works. I recently acquired an agent for my latest completed manuscript, a fantasy novel titled The Mirror. (Actually he's my third agent and hopefully I'll be with him for a long time). Presently I'm working on my fifth novel, a contemporary story about an outlaw motorcycle club.
What are your writing habits? Do you work on an outline before starting the actual novel?
The historical fiction novels required the base outline of history, so the story had to be chronologically accurate. Also, the first book spanned three generations, so in the research I had to list births and deaths, events, etc. The second book chronology is only one generation, so it wasn't as difficult as the first. Although I didn't outline the plot, it had to correspond with history. Once I become committed to a project, I have a daily ritual whereby I write a minimum of 500 words. No less. I keep tally of the word count on an Excel spreadsheet. It might go as high as 1000 to 1500 words a day, and on rare occasions 2000. At 500 words a day, you're looking at a 100k novel in 200 days. My first two novels were well over 220k words (200k words after editing) - - or around 500 pages on a 9 by 6 inch trade paperback. The Right Thing and The Mirror each topped out at 100k words after editing.
Which element of fiction writing comes more naturally for you — plot, characterization, description, dialogue? Which one gives you the hardest time?
In my experience, characterization, description and dialogue are relatively easy. Once you know your characters, the rest come almost naturally. Plot can be difficult at times, and I believe plot is the culprit with most writer's block problems. You want to resolve your story and tie everything together at the end in a comprehensible, nice tidy package. That part isn't always easy to do.
What goes on inside the mind of the horror writer?
Well, I've only written one novel in the horror genre, so I'm new to this scene. I wanted to create trepidation, anxiety, and that feeling in the pit of the stomach that something bad is going to happen. I wanted to create a character that was pure evil, and have him interact with everyday people, with the reader knowing that something really bad was going to happen, over and over.
Why do you think so many people enjoy horror fiction while at the same time loathing death and violence in real life?
Because it is fiction, and they know they're safe. Having to face that gut-wrenching fear in real life — well, that's something entirely different, isn't it? How much time do you spend promoting your novel? Any strategies you'd like to share? As much spare time as time allows. Promotion never ends. For my first novels I've given speeches and held book signings, with more planned. The internet continually opens doors to promote. Amazon reviews, blogs, interviews and reviews from newspapers, magazines and other sources make your work visible. Asking bookstores to stock your work, etc. – the possibilities are endless, really. But you can't sit on your hands - you have to hustle.
Would you like to share with our readers some of your current or future projects?
My latest completed novel, The Mirror, is a story about a rather despicable character who inherits a run-down old house when his only living relative passes away. Among the interesting things he finds in the house is an antique mirror. Soon he'll learn what he has discovered in the dusty, ancient attic is indeed far from ordinary.
My current work, titled A Biker's Story, is a tale of an outlaw motorcycle club whose members discover that one of their trusted club brothers is in fact a Federal Agent.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?
There's my website and samples of my work can be found at Authorsden. What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are trying to break into the horror genre? Read every day, write every day, hone your craft, write that great horror novel, edit it until it's perfect, query agents, get a good reliable agent, get published with a big house, and see your book as a #1 best seller on the New York Times list! Best of luck to you!


Mayra's Reviews

The Right Thing
By James Richard Larson
ISBN: 0-595-42736-7
Copyright 2007
Trade Paperback, 284 pages, $17.95

Have you ever been rejected by literary agents? Have you ever fantasized about making them pay? If yes, this is the book for you! In this his latest novel, talented author James Richard Larson shows a chilling, terrifying portrait of a rejected, aspiring writer who brings her dreams of revenge to reality.

Deeply depressed by her struggling life as an aspiring author, Elsbeth Malone takes her own life, but not without making a pact with an ancient evil being first. Her husband and the protagonist of this story, Johnny Malone, is left heartbroken and stunned at the realization that Elsbeth had been practicing magic before her death. Soon horrible incidents begin to happen to various literary agents, agents that, as Johnny eventually finds out, are in Elsbeth’s ominous list of agents who rejected her manuscript, A Circle of Light.

One after another the agents begin to die under grisly circumstances after meeting a mysterious British man named Mr. William Bagnold, a man clad in black who claims to represent Two Ravens Publishing. There’s only one problem—Two Ravens Publishing stopped existing in 1944. Then one day Johnny receives a message from a Ms. Lane, one of the agents whom Elsbeth had sent her manuscript to. Due to changes in publishing trends, Ms. Lane believes that Circle of Light, which she had previously rejected, now has great marketing possibilities, and so she offers to represent her. Johnny informs her Elsbeth is dead, but agrees to meet her because nothing would make him happier than seeing the manuscript published. A sort of romantic relationship begins to develop between them, but hell breaks loose when Johnny realizes she is one of the agents on Elsbeth’s doomed list. Will he be able to break the ‘curse’ and save her from a terrible death?

I found the story riveting from the very beginning. The premise is good, and Larson has great skill in developing detailed, absorbing, well-drawn characters. The unsympathetic agents are realistic without being cartoonish, and the secondary characters are as well developed as the main ones. Around the middle of the novel the focus seems to go off Johnny and settle on some of the secondary characters, but these subplots are so interesting, realistically written, and engrossing that they didn’t prove distracting, even though I had to ask myself ‘Where is Johnny?’ a couple of times. I’m not sure whether Larson meant this on purpose, but I think if Johnny would have been more involved in the middle of the story, the novel would probably have been even better.

The ending is ingenious and shocking and took me completely by surprise. I had to read it a couple of times to make sure I had understood it correctly. The Right Thing is definitely a great read this Halloween for everyone who enjoys a chilling, atmospheric modern horror. If you’re a struggling author, you will get an extra kick out of it as well.


"A Slip of Wormwood"
By Heather S. Ingemar
Echelon Press
(An Echelon Download)
Short story, 21 pages, $1.50

With “Slip of Wormwood” I have the pleasure of reviewing yet another short story from talented author Heather S. Ingemar. Ingemar has the gift of writing with a vivid, atmospheric, elegant style reminiscent of 19th Century paranormal authors.

This particular story revolves around an eccentric and not particularly well-liked pharmacist nicknamed Mr. Frog who has just inherited his brother’s estate—a large, three-story manor house on twelve acres.

Consider the following description, which happens to be the opening of the story:

“When Mr. Frog, as he liked to refer to himself (it was
a nickname gone well past the limits of childhood), strode
down the main walk of town with a wide grin on his face,
people wondered. He was a pharmacist, and a dour,
dismal sort of one, who pranced about in a dark pinstripe
suit, with a narrow, saturnine face to match. Today,
however, his creased and crinkled features were turned up
in his version of a chipper attitude (but was really a slimy,
creeping kind of smile).”

Through Mr. Frog’s memories, we learn of his constant childhood rivalry with his brother, the good, well-liked ‘Toad’, as he used to refer to him. Toad was always the parents’ favorite, and Frog grew up in bitter and well-concealed hate as a shadow of his brother. Now, filled with self conceit, Frog prepares to close the small village pharmacy in order to move to the manor, which is off on the Westbury countryside. However, once there, strange, horrific things begin to happen. Are they real, hallucinations, or a product of Frog’s guilty conscience?

This is classical, ghost story writing at its best. The writing is, in one word, exquisite. Ingemar manages to create an excellent picture of Mr. Frog, his manners, feelings and motivations. The words and sentences flow lyrically and effortlessly. The setting is strongly atmospheric, making this the perfect little story to cuddle up with on a grey, rainy day. Ingemar is definitely an author to keep an eye on.



Fantastic Realms, a community of fantasy writers.
Broad Universe, organization for women writers of fantasy, SF and horror.
Cryptopedia Magazine, new horror ezine launched by Jonathan Maberry.
Katie's Reading, great blog filled with reviews of paranormal books.
Vampires & Slayers, vampire-centric site. A free service of finding the best price on books among the major online stores.
*Museitup Annual Writing Contest. For details, go to Deadline is October 6th. First Prize will be $100.
*I'll be giving away a print copy of my paranormal thriller, Dark Lullaby, on Halloween day. To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment at the bottom of my posts during the tour. The more comments you leave, the higher the chances of winning that free copy! For my schedule, visit my website at