Friday, December 12, 2014

About the holidays...

So I was thinking about the holidays last night. Mostly because I've caught some respiratory crud and I'm not getting the things I want to get done, done. I'm two days behind on baking, which has to be done so that cookies can be packed into boxes which must be shipped very soon. But who wants cookies I coughed on?? Also, I barely have the energy to walk to the kitchen, much less stand there and mix cookie dough.

So while I wallowed in my "how the hell am I going to get all this done and I was doing so good" thoughts, I started thinking of holidays past. And trust me, I can out Martha Stewart all the other Martha Stewart wannabes when I set my mind to it, and have in the past. The last two years have been less MS-y because we went to Florida one year (didn't even seem like Christmas to me) and last year I had bronchitis all month. But I was on track for full Martha Stewartdom this year and I was on track for an early finish. Next Saturday is a huge day for me and I can't tell you why yet, but I need to have all or most of my Christmas prep done before then so I can be stress free for the days following. Now, my sister and her family, my folks, and CJ will be with us on Christmas, but we're doing Mexican food for dinner because my sister hates traditional fare, and everyone loves Mexican! I can make the enchiladas up ahead of time and freeze them. And the other stuff is mostly crock pot magic, so the meal won't be a pain. I've got all my Christmas presents bought, paid, and accounted for and a week to wrap them. So as long as I get this baking  done this weekend and packages mailed on Monday, I'm still on schedule.

But the thing that struck me most in my memories is that while I always have a good time on the day of the holiday, visiting with family, munching some awesome food, watching my loved ones open their gifts, my very best memories are the day after the holiday.

I remember distinctly one Friday after Thanksgiving when the kids were probably 5th, 4th, and 3rd grade just hanging out. Eating hot turkey sandwiches (you know, with the mashed potatoes and gravy, and sandwich, and dressing), and watching some show on TLC about carnival sideshows. I remember another day after Christmas when it was just Mike, CJ, and I cleaning up the massive mess that is usually my living room following Christmas day and watching Law & Order: SUV reruns. It struck me that it's those laid back, day after, times that are the most memorable. When the stress is done and everyone is just enjoying the lull following in the wake of the storm. Those quiet times are hard to beat.

So while I wish you a whole happy holiday season, including an awesome Christmas day, I also wish you all a peaceful day or two after, a day to relax, breathe a sigh of relief, enjoy the "pulling off" of your Christmas feats, and a deep appreciation of the quiet times with those you love.

Happy Holidays,

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A little bit of everything....

What a week, month, year this has been. Not quite what I'd expected that's for sure. But it's not time for the yearly wrap up yet, so I'll just talk about this last few weeks. I thought November was going to be a "quiet" month. I actually had a plan for NaNoWriMo (which is probably where I went wrong, you know, planning). I wanted to write ten stories instead of a novel, roughly the same word count, but so that I'd have something to submit. Know how many stories I wrote? Zip. Nada. It was a failure of epic proportions. Although I did get one story edited and subbed and rejected. Once. And I got my novella finished, edited, and sent off to the publisher. So there's that.

We didn't get back from California until the 5th and then I took a day or two off to rest. The grandbabies were sick pretty much the whole time we were there so I wanted to make sure my body had time to adjust and not end up sick myself. Then we got heavily involved in a project I'm doing that has nothing to do with writing and cannot be explained at this time. Let's just suffice it to say it's huge and I'm super excited about it and will share as soon as I can. But it ate up like a whole week. Then we got CJ for a visit. And two days later Mike got sick and was hospitalized for six days. We've been home for less than a week and boom! the month is over. How does that even happen??

Good news, Mike is mending. Not as quickly as he'd like, but he's mending. And he doesn't have colon cancer, and he didn't end up septic (just really, really close). That's a lot to be thankful for. Sometimes I think The Universe gives us these little scares in order to remind us not to take things for granted.

Mo's pregnancy is going well. She's fifteen weeks along. We're all super excited for that 20 week sonogram so we can find out if it's a girl or a boy. I'm betting boy. She's going to have a houseful of rough and tumble hooligans.

Sean is doing well in North Carolina. Unfortunately he won't be making it home for Christmas. I had planned to drive out for Thanksgiving, but you know, The Universe intervened and all. I miss that boy like crazy.

And, I put up three previously published short stories on Amazon and Smashwords. All three had been published in different anthologies but the rights have since reverted to me, so I thought, why not? Maybe those of you who don't want to purchase a whole anthology of authors you don't know might like to purchase a story at a time. The fantastic covers were done by Rebecca Treadway of I highly recommend her excellent cover art. She's the master behind the truly frightening Snow Globe cover. So here are the covers, click on any of them to be taken to Amazon. But if you have a Nook, or other reading app, they are also available on

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, and are going into the holiday season with the most joyous of moods. I, myself, am feeling unusually Christmas-y this year. And for a change, I'm almost done Christmas shopping.
Stayed tuned for some big news headed your way on the Angelic Knight Press front this week. But above all, be good to each other. 'Tis the season.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Meet Lisa Hinsley

Yes, yes I did meet Lisa on Facebook. But oddly enough, not until quite a while after I'd read a few of her novels and a short story collection. To be honest, I don't remember how I came across her UK bestseller, Plague. I do know it was before Simon & Schuster picked it up. But somehow it ended up on my kindle and I read it. And I loved it. It made me cry, and it horrified me. That's sort of a tough combo. But I highly recommend the read.

Then, a couple of years later, I "met" Lisa through a women horror writer's group. And was lucky enough to get a free copy of her latest novella, Sacrifice. It wasn't in exchange for a review, but after I read it, I asked Lisa if I could interview her and review the novella. Mostly because I think writers I enjoy should get more attention. And it's my blog, so there. So, you can head on over to See Spot Read to read a review of the novella, (first in a series) Sacrifice, or you can stay here and read an interview. Or you can do both, because I'm all about free will.

1.     How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first poem around the age of five, so I guess that would mean a really long time ago as I am early forties now! By the time I was ten I was writing short stories and wrote my first novella at thirteen – it was an awful angst-ridden teen production where I destroyed the world in a great flood. Thirty years later, and I’m still regularly destroying the world in my books.
2.     What's the first thing you had published?   

I was first published in a school magazine when I must have been nine. It was a poem about autumn. I remember my mum being really proud as the magazine usually only took submissions from girls in the senior school.

 3.     Do you write full time or do you have a day job?   

Until recently I worked a day job, as a carer for elderly people. But I am now lucky enough to be a full time writer.

 4.     What is your writing routine?    Where do you write?

I used to write anywhere in the house where there was a free spot and I could sit down with my laptop. Usually this would be the living room or the dining room depending on where the kids were (I can’t write with noise and distractions!). This summer one of my children moved out and into her own place, and I am now converting her bedroom into my study. It feels like a real luxury having a space in the house that is all mine!


5.     Have you always been a fan of the Horror genre?  

I discovered Stephen King in 1986 when we moved to NH. I’d already read Dean Koontz and a few other horror writers, but King really hit the horror spot. I was fifteen and discovering a whole new scary world. I’ve been hooked ever since.

6.     What scares you? Any silly phobias? 

What lurks under the bed scares me most. I was in my late thirties before I got to a point where I wasn’t making long jump leaps onto the bed to avoid any evil creatures swiping at my ankles. I solved the fear by packing the under-the-bed space tight with junk. Anything would do, so long as it meant nothing sinister could fit under there. Now I am in my forties and own a dog. He sleeps under the bed and keeps me safe. Mirrors are also creepy. You never know for sure what will be reflected when you take a look into one.

 7.     What other writers do you admire, or have influenced you the most?  

Stephen King is probably the writer that has influenced me the most, but I have read widely and love sci-fi as well. Early sci-fi writers like Ray Bradbury (his many short stories) and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) have also left their mark on me, as well as Michael Crichton (Sphere) and Clive Barker (Weaveworld). Richard Matheson (I am Legend) and John Wyndham (The Day of the Triffids) are also hugely influential. I could go on, but I’ll stop there. J

 8.     I know most writers hate the “where do you get your ideas” question, but as a writer, I ALWAYS want to know. So, where’d you get the idea?                 

I get a great many of my ideas from the newspapers. An article will spark an idea and I will ask that all important question: but what if…? And then I’m off running with a new story idea. I also get ideas from my conspiratally-minded husband, who often spouts off about something he’s read on one of the odd websites he visits. The idea for my bestselling book, Plague, came after a late night talk about terrorists using viruses and bacterium as a weapon.

9.     I didn’t realize that Sacrifice was part of a series when I read it. What made you decide to go with a series of novellas, instead of a stand-alone novel?    

I think novellas will become increasingly popular as time-constrained readers look for books they can consume in a few hours or over several nights. This has driven me to write shorter works, and I have seen other authors doing the same. The idea of producing the series with Sacrifice partly came out of the time scale involved, with years separating each installment, but also because the following novellas will focus mainly on individual characters, with their individual problems coming to the fore. To me, it seemed logical to make each as stand-alone as possible, with the running theme of the storyline keeping the novellas as a series.

10.    I first read your work when I read the novel, Plague. I have to admit the book brought me to tears. I couldn’t imagine the horror that these people were facing. And yet, that was all man made horror, with no supernatural leanings. Which type of horror do you think is more terrifying? Which is easier to write?                                                                                              

To be honest the supernatural scares me far more than manmade horrors. I don’t write much supernatural horror, I think partly because it scares me so much even to think about it! I am planning to do a series of books featuring ghosts, but I’m still trying to find the courage to write them. Lately I’ve been reading lots of zombie books, which I find entertaining, but not scary. I’d love to try my hand at one of those, but there are too many authors out there doing a far better job than I would!

11.  Best writing advice you've ever been given?  

No1: If you’ve got an idea, just write. Get it out of your head and onto paper.

No2: Pay for an editor! If you want to produce a professional piece of work, you must hire an editor to point out all those plot holes you can’t see and find the errors you skip over as they are invisible to the writer. If you can’t afford to do that, or you are just beginning as a writer, find a critique site to become a member of. These can be an invaluable (and free!) resource. I spent years as a member at a number of various sites and received advice that got me to where I am now.  Here are a few I’ve used over the years (in the order I found them). There are many more out there, find one where you click with some of the other members.


12.  What advice would you give any newbies out there? 

Enjoy what you do. I love to write. It’s not a chore, it is a pleasant release. I love to get my ideas out of my head and if one other person reads my story and likes what they’ve read, then I’m happy. I saw a video of a Stephen King talk a couple of months ago which I found very interesting. He compared ideas to sand. If they trickle through your fingers to be lost, then they weren’t worth pursuing. The big ideas that refuse to fall between your fingers (and be forgotten) are the ones to chase and write. I’m not sure I entirely agree with this, and I certainly didn’t when I first heard him say this. I have notebooks of ideas, lines, single words, links to things that have inspired me waiting to be referred to. Most of these ideas are forgotten, they gather dust in the notebooks on my shelf and in the hard drive of my computer. The ideas that tend to get written are the ones that refuse to leave me alone, so maybe the master of modern fiction does indeed have it right.
Thank you, Lisa, for answering all of my silly questions! If you'd like to connect with Lisa, you can find her here:

Twitter: @lisachinsley


Again, I really recommend Plague, as well as her other books. Thanks for dropping by!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

This is not about writing...

I wanted to be up front about that just in case anyone wandered in looking for author type stuff. This blog is about being an amazing pioneer woman/catch, I mean, canning things. Yep. I can things. So far, mostly jam. But today is salsa day. Yum!

We have a huge area near us that is full of blackberry bushes and we picked tons and tons of blackberries over the month of July. Now, just in case you've never been blackberry picking, and have visions of wandering through a beautiful sunlit meadow with a wicker basket, let me break this down for you. Blackberry picking, while extremely rewarding, basically sucks. You have to put on long sleeves and pants, and I recommend rubber knee boots. Because blackberry bushes have thorns, large ones, that will scratch your skin. And our blackberry bushes grow wild, which means in a jungly tangle, amidst other weeds, and trees. Also, the grass is really tall and there are snakes (hence the rubber boots). Although I only saw one once which is awesome since I froze for a full fifteen minutes afterwards and then had to pep talk myself into continuing in that direction. And it's Illinois in July, so it's hot and humid and sweaty, especially since you are wearing all those damn clothes. And we get so far back in the patch that you can't see us, and we get tangled up in the vines, and bitten by mosquitos, and fight with spiders, anyway, it's not particularly fun. I think it's the sense of accomplishment that keeps us going. (And by "us" I mean myself and my daughter, Molly, when she's home, and my niece, Madi, when she's here; don't even think that Mike is picking berries.)

But as Molly, Madi, and I were discussing once while picking, we all evolved from tribes that basically hunted and gathered. And women were the gatherers. So being good at it, fearless in the face of the heat and (sort of) danger, fulfills some deep need in your evolutionary core. I told Molly that since she's a good gatherer, a good gardener, and births babies easily, she'd be quite a catch in her tribe.

So we picked many times over the month (once in the dusk and rain, talk about difficult and spooky), and gathered a shit ton of blackberries. The boys ate a lot of them. Who knew toddlers could pack away so much fruit? We made some cobblers, some blackberry shortcake, and then I decided to make jam. Now, I'd only made jam once before, in England when I was about 13, with an elderly neighbor lady. We made black currant jam and it was awful. So my knowledge of jam making and canning was almost nil. So I turned to the internet and by toggling between a few sites learned what I needed to know. Then I bought canning supplies. Hello, expensive. But since you only have to buy the pot and tools once, it's worth it. And then I made jam.

First you have to rinse, smash, and cook the berries. Then you spoon it into jars, leaving headspace, getting out air bubbles, putting on lids, and then bathing the jars in a hot water bath. And that's the part that worried me--what if they didn't seal right? What if I gave everyone botulism? But they did, and I didn't, and I heard the satisfying "ping" of lids sealing very clearly. So I made more. I ended up with three batches: Blackberry, Blackberry Cherry, and Blackberry Blueberry. It was delicious. So much so, that I went from this:

To this:
Way too quickly. I sent some home with my parents. I sent some home with my niece. I sent a jar to Sean. I gave a jar to the neighbors. And then Molly and Luke took 5 jars with them when they left. But, because I'm a nice person, I offered a jar to my mailman yesterday. And it went like this:
Mailman: (handing over three boxes of books) Here you go.
Me: Thanks so much for bringing them to the door.
Mailman: No problem.
Me: Would you like a jar of homemade jam?
Mailman: (Huge sigh) Thanks, but my wife makes jam. She made so much we're trying to get rid of it.
And he left. What?? But, but, you don't understand. I don't have much left so my offer was not me trying to get rid of it, but me being really generous. It's my first jam making. It needs to be celebrated!! Don't turn down my jam!! But he did. And then he walked back to his jeep. And I felt this odd sense of rejection. Although, if I think about it, he may think I'm slightly odd, and well, I wouldn't take jam from someone I thought was odd either. It's like taking candy from strangers.
So, in closing, I've thought a lot about the amazing feeling of accomplishment I got from making and canning homemade jam. Cooking always fills me with a sense of "rightness" and accomplishment. And I think it's because I grew up in a family (and extended family) where that's what women did. We do the cooking, and it's a way of showing love and taking care of your family. And I know that a lot of folks today will think that's old fashioned and silly, but frankly, I don't care. For me, fixing a meal and having everyone at the table will always be my happy place.
And learning the art of canning, which I know isn't that big of a deal considering women have been doing it for centuries, and with far less convenience than my modern kitchen, still filled me with a sense of wonder and an amazing satisfaction. And maybe it's because I joined those ranks: I can grow a garden, I can make food, and put it away for later use. I can make sure my family is fed from my own labor. I rock.
Also, I can make a mess:

And clean it up.
Today, I'm making and canning salsa with tomatoes and peppers from my garden. Because I can. And also because it's yummy.
What do you do that gives you that amazing feeling of pride? Seriously, I want to know!


Thursday, August 7, 2014

I hate it when things don't go my way...

And by that I mean how I pictured them in my head. Take last Friday, for instance. I had scheduled a Dr. appointment to discuss with my doctor decreasing some of my meds. In my mind, he was all, "sure, no problem. What a great idea." In real life it went more like this:

The nurse takes all my vitals (down another two pounds since I saw him in April), blood pressure and heart rate good. Unfortunately, I've managed to catch a really bad cold/sinus gunk. The doctor enters.

Me: Ironically, I'd scheduled this appointment to convince you of how healthy I am, but now I have a cold...

Him: Stop talking.

Me: My niece came home from camp with a cold and then my grandson caught it...

Him: Seriously, stop talking!

At this point I notice that he's taking out and donning a surgical mask as though I was typhoid Mary. It should have been a clue, maybe, that this wasn't going to be my best visit ever.

Him: Any drainage? What color? Blah, blah, blah...

And he prescribes me an antibiotic.

Me: Okay, so this bout of whatever not with standing, I've been really doing great. I've been eating healthier, slowly (excruciatingly slowly) losing weight, my check up was great, so what I've been considering is xxx (sorry, but this part is a secret unless it becomes a reality).

Him: That's a really bad idea. You have Fibromyalgia.

Me: Yeah, I know, but I'm feeling really good lately.

Him: That's because you take medicine. In order for your plan to work you'd have to stop taking most of the meds. Then you'll feel awful.

Me: No I won't. Because I'm being healthy.

Him: Yes. You will. My answer is no.

Me: Okay, so this isn't going the way I thought it would and you aren't giving me the answer I want so I'm just going to keep talking until I've coerced you...

Him: I'm not going to change my mind.

Me: But it's not like this will cause any lasting damage or be fatal.

Him: There's no way to predict that. And that's why the answer is no.

Me: Hmm. Well, let's say that hypothetically I do this against your better judgment, how would one go about cutting down my medication? I know you can't just stop cold turkey.

Him: Stop taking this, this, and this, and cut this down to half. The call the office when you can't take the pain and we'll put you back on the meds.

Me: Oh, Ye of very little faith. I think you're seriously underestimating my stubbornness and pain threshold.

Him: We'll see.

And that is how my doctor became an unwilling accomplice in what he seems to think is my craziest idea yet. Later, I relayed the news to Mike.

Me: So, Dr. L is so not on board with this idea.

Mike: I'm not sure why you thought he would be.

Me: Well I'm not giving up yet.

Mike: Of course you aren't. Because you are one of the most stubborn people I know.

Me: Hmph. Have you met your son, Sean?

Mike: Yes. Where do you think he gets it from?

Anyway, I decided to wait to cut down the meds until the grandkids go home to California, as they are a bit hard on my body. Then we'll see.

Also, apparently I can be allergic to every antibiotic they can prescribe as I broke out in a horrendous rash and had horrible stomach cramps from the one he gave me. Thank goodness the sinus gunk cleared up anyway. Now if I could get rid of the rash, I'd be a happy camper.

The moral of this story is, "I do what I want." It's kind of our family motto.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Writing process blog tour

I was tagged for this blog tour by the wonderful Aaron Gudmunson, who put up his post last Monday. You can read it here. And if you haven't read his debut novel, Snow Globe, I suggest you check it out. Not only is the cover scary enough to induce nightmares, the story itself is one of the best I've read this year. And I read a whole heck of a lot!

For the tour  I'm required to answer four questions and then pass on the torch. So here goes~

1.) What am I working on?

Currently I'm working on my novella, "The Night Air", which will be released in February 2015 by Ragnarok Publications in a four novella anthology--Grimm Mistresses. I'm sharing book space with some extremely talented female authors: CW LaSart, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Allison M. Dickson. The stories are all modern takes on Grimm fairy tales. My story idea came from a half dream/half lucid incident a few years back when my son had pneumonia and spins a new take on "The Pied Piper."

I'm also working on several anthologies I'm editing that should be releasing in the next few months: Fairly Wicked Tales, in which familiar fairy tales are told from the villain's point of view. The scifi/horror blend No Place Like Home: Tales From a Fractured Future whose tales envision what happens when the government controls too much. And the anticipated Demon Rum and Other Evil Spirits anthology, co-edited with Clint Collins. All the stories have alcohol as the central theme.

And a few short stories I'm writing. :)

2.) How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I'm not sure it does differ much. I will say (and probably should not admit it) I don't write deep stories, layered with hidden meaning. I don't write stories that leave you confused and bewildered or wondering if you missed something everyone else got. I think, when in the hands of the right authors, those stories have their place. But others just leave me shaking my head when I finish reading and that bites. So I write stories I would want to read, stories that entertain, and hopefully, scare the reader. I've always said my sole goal is to make someone leave the bedside light on. That's when I'll know I've succeeded. I want the reader to walk away from my story satisfied with what they've read and saying, "Wow. I didn't see that coming." I want them to still be thinking about it the next day. To me, those are the stories we should be writing.

3.) Why do I write what I do?

Mainly, because that's where my mind goes. I've tried to write other genres, but something horrible always seems to happen to my main characters. I wrote a blog post about the making of a horror writer, which you can read here, but long story short I was raised on a steady diet of horror shows, books, and spooky pranks. It's in my DNA. And I think horror serves a purpose in our lives. I mean, let's face it, things happen all the time in the world we live in that are far more horrific than anything I might write. So writing and reading horror give us a chance to escape the real world horror and allow some of that fear to come out, sort of like letting off a little steam before the pot boils over.

4.) How does my writing process work?

Usually a story will pop into my head through either a scene or a significant line from the story I've yet to write. Then I build the idea from there, mostly through a process I call "what if?" Where I walk around thinking and occasionally asking people "What if you were a pioneer and your family member died in the winter and the ground was too frozen to bury them? Where would you keep the body? How creepy would that be?" Or something of that nature, until the idea is a little more formed. Then I figure out where I'd like to see the story go. How does it end? And eventually I start writing. But I don't have a specific word count or anything, although I do like to at least finish the scene, or chapter, I'm working on. But I write while the words are flowing well. If I have to stop to think too much, I stop. Then I'll do some mindless task like dishes, mowing, laundry, taking a shower and the idea will keep tumbling around in my head until I get the next bit. Then I go back the next day, read what I've written and get the next bit out. I'm slow. Seriously slow. It can take me two weeks to write a short story. Then I have to go back and edit, send it to a friend, make changes based on their suggestions, read it aloud to my family, and finally it might be ready to submit.

Or, if I'm lucky the whole damn thing bursts out of me in five or so hours. :)

And there you have it. At least I hope you're still with me. I'm passing the tour to the lovely, talented Mercedes M. Yardley. Her post will be up next Monday, June 30th, but be sure to check out her blog before then. If you haven't read any of her work, you should. You will not be disappointed! I'm interested to see her answers to these questions. How writers write has always been fascinating to me.

Thanks for stopping by, don't be a stranger (though I hear strangers have the best candy...)!
♥ Stacey