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Off Beat:Nine Spins on Song – COVER REVEAL!

Oh, this is delicious! Been waiting a while to tell you guys about this one.

Last year, while at ReaderCON, I read a few books, one of which was an anthology called TICK TOCK:  Seven Tales of Time. It was published by Wicked Ink Books. Most of the authors in the anthology I hadn't heard of (shame on me--I've since corrected that) but I read all seven stories in about an hour.

Very different, but very, very good.

For 2017, the good people at WIB were putting together another anthology. There would be seven stories from the original authors (Corinne O'Flynn, Kristi Helvig, Rebecca Taylor, Sue Duff, Shawn McGuire, Wendy Terrien, and A.G. Henley) plus two additional stories picked from a series of submissions.

The theme for the "new nine" would be stories inspired by song.

I decided to send in something that I'd been toying with since the 90's--a story called "Thanksgiving in the Park."

Long story, short: My story and one by Calypso Kane were accepted.

So. The cover. May I introduce OFF BEAT: Nine Spins on Song available for preorder on Amazon:


Inspired by favorite songs, nine fantasy and science fiction authors spin tales of adventure, intrigue, mystery, and horror.

  • A boy follows his girlfriend's suicide note to its disturbing conclusion.
  • A man must pass on an ancient curse of immortality before his time finally runs out.
  • Two lost beings fight for life, for each other, and to find a way home.
  • A serial killer from the future, banished to present day, must control her homicidal urges in order to survive.
  • A thief and a sex worker find their paths unexpectedly entwined in ways that threaten both of their lives.
  • For a caged girl, one hand gives, but the other takes away all she’s ever known.
  • To gain their freedom, quarreling townsfolk must find a way to cross a bottomless ravine.
  • A man interrupts a monster at work, and is determined to entertain the creature long enough to stay alive.
  • When his father's ghost appears, a businessman is forced to reflect on his life.

I'm excited about this one...proud to have a story of mine picked to stand with some very talented authors. I would be much obliged if you decided to preorder a copy today. And while you're at it, check out Wicked Ink Books.



Note that older posts under this thread are further down. Look for the time/date stamps for section breaks.

Also note that there are all sorts of Typos. Sorry about that. Typing on an iPad with large fingers is rather difficult.

19FEB 4:00 PM

I always find myself running out of time on the last day of a con to speak with everyone I want to. Struggled as i did to find folks, I wanted to take a second before the final posting of this year's Experience to thank people who took time themselves from their schedules to chat with me. In no particular order:

John Chu, Jeanne Cavelos, C. S. E. Cooney (Claire), Carlos Hernandez, Phil Merkel, Walter & Margo Williams, Milton Davis,
Paul Di Filippo, Allen Steele, Max Gladstone, Theodora Goss, Jim Kelly, J. M. McDermott, Brandon Sanderson, and Paul Tremblay.

Also an incredible shout-out to Melanie Meadors and Cerece Rennie Murphy for the laughter and the kindness.

And Erin Underwood who is a rock star.

This conference feels like the extremely well organized hippy cousin to ReaderCON--which is strange, since Boskone is older and actually spawned ReaderCON back in the day. I liked the variety of activities and the diversity of the programming. I liked the venue--way more than the Quincy Marriott ReaderCON has moved to. It felt as though the authors really wanted to connect to their fans, to meet upstart writers like myself and to make genuine new friends. In many ways, this was way better than I'd expected.

I think I'll go back next year.

But let us away to Sunday's program (my bit of it, anyway) before I reduce us all to uncontrollable sobbing.

(Return of) The Ten Worst Ideas in SF and Fantasy
Vincent Docherty (M), Daniel P. Dern, Paul Di Filippo, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Julie C. Day

We barely scratched the surface from the list of bad/overused ideas in Fantasy and Science Fiction before the panel ended. From the "Christ figure"--especially the white Christ figure through to invading aliens and the damsel in distress (and scantily-clad metal bikini-wearing princesses), each topic spun off more bad ideas. I'd like to point out here that when the metal-bikini-wearing shot was taken at Princess Leia, I pointed out that she (so far) is the ONLY Skywalker not to be tempted to the dark side and who ISN'T an asshole...also:she's a freakin' GENERAL. But I digress.

Horror and the Happy Ending
Jack M. Haringa (M), Paul Tremblay, Hillary Monahan, James Moore, Grady Hendrix

  Are you giggling at the title? We all were. However, the discussion was around use of the "Hollywood ending" in horror and had nothing to do with illicit massage parlors nor cash-only services. Putting aside the seemingly endless number of inappropriate questions I had, the discussion around all media (not just books) was fascinating--real inside into how to either give the reader/listener/viewer hope, or to destroy what would have been a good horror story. King's preference for the "happy ending" was discussed, as were Jessica Jones, The Alien movies, Mist, Cujo and a dozen others. I was able to bring up Josh Malerman's Bird Box which fit the discussion nicely and I'd just written an analysis for in my Contemporary Dark Fiction class with Richard Thomas.

I scheduled a reading next, as I've found that I can cognitively deal with only two panels before I need something different. Fortunately at this time,  Cerece Rennie Murphy (who is one of the funniest, sweetest folks I met for the first time at Boskone) was scheduled.

Although she didn't read from herOrder of the Seers trilogy, she did read from To Find You, which I went out and bought from Amazon right after.

I was done with panels and scheduled programming after that--I though the marvelous scenes Cerece read were a perfect way to end  my first Boskone. I spent the next hour saying goodbye the the friends I could find, then Ubered home. My wife and I will be making brownies today and I will type up my notes, as they are and leave typos and all for you to enjoy. Thanks for reading!

18FEB 11:40 PM

Yes. It's that late. Tina and I had dinner with friends last night--I think it was her way to distract me from the "overwhelming" which I have now decided to call any crowd experience from now on.

Bare with me. I had three martinis. I feel all 1950's "Mad Men" now.

So .  The last part of my day two adventure began with a reading by one of my favorites: Allen Steele.

Allen read, not from his upcoming Avengers of the Moon throw-back Sci-Fi Captain Future story available from Tor, but from a soon to be published short from his Arkwright  tome.

I have no idea why, but Allen's work always makes me feel like I did when I first discovered H.G. Wells or Jules Verne. He's a great guy and a wonderful storyteller.

Massachusetts Men with Beards...

I continued a day of attending readings by joining Theodora Goss and was incredibly excited when she (as I had hoped) read from her upcoming The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter.  She has written a wonderful tale from the point of view of the daughters of Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, Dr. Moreau...and others. Trust. You will want this one when it comes out in June!

So. Loved Allen's reading, 'Dora is ALWAYS a delight. How could I top that?

Ladies and Gentlemen--I give you Carlos Hernandez.

I thought he might read from The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria. Which made me happy and sad, as my copy won't arrive until after #Boskone is over and I wanted to get it signed.I mentioned the delay after the reading and Carlos reached into his backpack, signed a copy, and gave it to me right then and there.
Then he even offered to help me out with a story I'm writing that takes place at CUNY in the 80's (he is a professor there).

I can't even tell you how grateful and overwhelmed I am right now.

But the reading. Yes, he read from a hysterical YA work in progress. I'll admit it now...I pee'd a little. That's how funny the two chapters he read were.

Next was a jaunt through the art exhibit...then to a discussion of the Odyssey Workshop by Jeanne Cavelos.





From Jeanne: Since its inception in 1996, the Odyssey Writing Workshop has become one of the most highly respected workshops for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror in the world. Top authors, editors and agents have served as guests at Odyssey. Fifty-nine percent of graduates go on to professional publication, and among Odyssey's graduates are New York Times bestsellers, Amazon bestsellers, and award winners. The workshop, held annually on the campus of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, runs for six weeks, and combines an intensive, advanced curriculum with in-depth feedback on students' manuscripts.

I dunno. I'm not, after all the research and excitement, sure I can do this...interesting crisis of faith in my abilities. This is new for me.

18FEB 1:30 PM

Started the day with a brunch with Melanie Meadors. What a marvelous conversation about the industry and the state of publicist and writing in general. Energized for the morning.

And by energized, I mean lit on Espresso Martinis...

I'm thinking seriously of sending in my application for the Odyssey Workshop this year More on this later--but my first session today is a general discussion on Getting Ready for a Workshop
given by Victoria Sandbrook

After a good sessions that left me, I feel, ready for the discussion with Jeanne Cavelos of Odyssey--I headed for my first panel.

The Magic of Magical Realism in Literature
Carlos Hernandez (M), Cerece Rennie Murphy, Richard R. Horton, J. M. McDermott, Gillian Daniels

Carlos, as a CUNY professor, was perfect to moderate this panel of varying opinions on the definition of Magical Realism, realizing that the original has become more of a watered down and debased "marketing term." When it first came into use to describe the work of certain Latin American writers, and then a small number of writers from many places in the world, it had a specific meaning that made it useful for critics. If someone made a list of recent magical realist works, there were certain characteristics that works on the list would share. The term also pointed to a particular array of techniques that writers could put to specialized use. Now the words have been applied so haphazardly that to call a work "magical realism" doesn't convey a very clear sense of what the work will be like.

If a magazine editor these days asks for contributions that are magical realism, what she's really saying is that she wants contemporary fantasy written to a high literary standard---fantasy that readers who "don't read escapist literature" will happily read. It's a marketing label and an attempt to carve out a part of the prestige readership for speculative works.

Unfortunately, I asked my question about horror and magical realism rather late in the discussion--at which point the panelists agreed "it" should be discussed at greater lengths than time allowed.


17FEB 8:15 PM

Long day--and I left before half of it was done (There was a late night screening of Deadpool. I was SO tempted...but I never would have made day two)

So. Where was I?

Yes. Panels, Readings and such.

First, let me say that the logistics around Boskone were handled superbly. There are way more things going on here then at ReaderCON. The Dealer room is massive. There is a game room where hundreds of board games, card games and video games can be played. There are video screening rooms. There are art exhibitions. This felt more like one of the bigger conventions--not quite a ComicCON, but still quite large.

Yet, somehow, it felt less crowded. Maybe today it will be different, but Friday was pretty tame, professional and fun!

Wizards, Warlocks, and Witches
E.J. Stevens, Jane Yolen, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Adam Stemple, Bruce Coville (M)
So, the strike-thoughs are not typos. Only Jane (who I adore), Adam (Jane's son and who is a bit of a kindred spirit) and the lovely Cerece Rennie Murphy were at the panel.

And it was awesome.

There was some talk about witches and how women who have power were thought to have been way more evil then warlocks, Yoda, writing, politics and general stream of consciousness. I laughed for an hour--then more when I chatted with Jane and Adam in the lobby later. And even more when I caught up with Cerece in the dealer room.

Using History in SF and Fantasy
Bradford Verter, Jo Walton, Mark L. Olson (M), Dana Cameron, Ada Palmer

From alternate history to vaguely familiar settings in a unique story world, history is a great resource for inspiration. What are some of the most creative uses of history in fiction? How much research is needed before writing and fleshing out the story? Panelists discuss examples of how history has enriched some of our favorite novels. But can sticking to history hobble your creative instincts? When should we deviate from historical truths and strike out into the creative unknown?

More of a traditional panel--and was rightfully crowded. I must admit I left part-way through as the crowd was a bit much.

Some of the artwork on display
Ok. Here is a picture of Brandon. Quiet down, you heathens. Milton was WAY more accessible!

At 5-ish or so, I wandered down to the dealer room where Brandon Sanderson and Milton Davis were signing autographs. As you can imagine, the line for Brandon, as guest of honor for Boskone, was huge...I was never going to get to meet him in time to make CSE Cooney's reading--and there was no way I was going to miss Claire (although Carlos wasn't there---hopefully I'll see him on Saturday)

But I digress.

Milton was at a table near Brandon, but there was no line for him--so I took the opportunity to speak with him What a charming, intelligent and funny author! I'm going to make time on Saturday to pick up a book or two of his and chat some more--fascinating man who writes fantasy series NOT based on white European cultures. Great stuff.

Reading by C.S.E. Cooney

There are a lot of writers I have met through the years whether via writing groups, conferences of classes. Claire Suzanne Elizabeth (CSE) Cooney and her partner in crime Carlos Hernandez are two of my favorites that I was introduced to as a part of the whole Mike/Anita Allen Clockwork Phoenix/Mythic Delirium team of AWESOME.

Claire's Bone Swans collection of stories have won lovely awards and is worth a read. Or two. Just amazing stuff and she was good enough to sign my copy!

She read a short story last night--the name of which I can't remember 9DESPITE asking for the title specifically--then I refused to write it down, apparently) that was so funny my sides hurt from laughing. I love the way Claire paints such surreal worlds in her writing.

AND she left us hanging! Somebody better pick up the story soon because I need to find out how it ends!



I know it's early...but I head back to the train and home. Day two awaits and I must prepare to deal with the crowds...

17FEB 1:45 PM

Boskone Day One.

A Train ride. A mile walk in freezing temperatures.

An Irish pub (And those of you who know me KNEW I’d find an Irish pub).

Panels. Laughter. Lines. New People. Old friends.

I photoshopped out the frostbite

That’s the summary for day one at Boskone. This conference is wicked awesome, to use a Boston colloquialism.

I got to the Westin Waterfront in Boston and picked up my badge with 3 minutes to spare before the first panel. No chances to explore until later—I dove right in.

Steam’s Rising: A Proliferation of Punks

James Moore, KT Bryski (M), Victoria Sandbrook, Melanie Meadors

I arrived, breathless, and sans coffee (despite the fact that it was mid-afternoon, my body was craving caffeine). As it was the first scheduled panel of the free portion of the day, there weren’t, as of yet, a lot of people milling about. I knew that would change.

My friend, writer, and former Ragnarok associate editor Melanie Meadors was on this panel and I wanted to be there to support her. Moderator KT Bryski kicked it all off with introductions and the discussion began.

Steampunk, of course is the most well known of the “punks” (transgressive stories about rebellion with technological aesthetics of Victorian-era London). The integration, technology and cosplay typical of fans in this space were discussed. “Gaslamp” Punk, Deco (or “Flapper”) Punk, Diesel Punk, Solar Punk, Cyber Punk, and Dread punk were all touched upon with one question hanging over the panel—when do all these “punks” merge to be labeled just so?

Extra points for Melanie for wearing a 1920’s hat and costume to the panel!

Boskone 54 -The Pregame


Tomorrow I will be attending the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA) Boskone convention for the first time. Normally, I just do ReaderCON each year...but I've been told by many a folk that this convention is a good one.

I shall dutifully document my experience at the con right here over the next few days. Will it be worth it? Has my stroke-induced crowd anxiety subsided enough to enjoy the experience? Will they have cake?

We'll find out, dear sinners.

Check out the program here: Boskone 54


And so it begins…

No, this is NOT a throw-back Thursday picture of me...
No, this is NOT a throw-back Thursday picture of me...

It was five minutes after the last dish had been scrubbed on Thanksgiving when Christmas made itself known in our home.

"Ah, there it is. My house. And good old Cleveland Street. How could I ever forget it? And there I am, with that dumb round face and that stupid stocking cap. But no matter. Christmas was on its way.

Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas...around which the entire kid year revolved."

The first, of what will be MANY showings of A Christmas Story had begun.

Spent the last few days relaxing--my children (although at 20 and 16 years old, they can hardly be called children any more) were in Boston for a week.  No writing got done--but there was a ukulele concert given by my daughter and we all saw Dr. Strange (awesome) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (also awesome--author Anton Stout posted on FB that "Fantastic Beasts was the best Doctor Who episode he'd ever seen" and my son and I agreed).

Doctors appointments--the "Never Ending Saga of Pain"--continued as well.

So Today (Tuesday) is catch up on business, chores and finally getting back to he writing.  I have some work on Scoundrels to do for Emmett and of course I need to finish up Act 2 of Empress. The final edits for my Christmas Nightmares story are done and that anthology comes out in two weeks.


Holidays are always wonderful, but it's now time to get back to the writing. Two deadlines loom in December...and they seem way closer this side of Thanksgiving.


NaNoWriMo 2016 and Visitors

Holy Crap! Here be children!!

Word Count: 54,014

Haven't updated you all in a couple of days so I thought I'd post a quick few words. So the #NaNoWriMo goal I set for myself has been achieved. Over 50k words before the American Thanksgiving holiday. Interestingly enough, I'm only about 3/4 of the way through Act 2.  The key will be making the habit of NaNo stick through to the end of Empress.

A few other things going on...Emmett and I are still going back and forth on Scoundrels and it's an awesome thing. We are tossing ideas at each other and the story is nearly there. We expect to have it ready for an editor in December (It'll be a 40k Steampunk/heist story Novella) so I'll need to hit up the network to see if anyone has a bit of editing time near the Christmas holiday. After a week of self-doubt, I sent Ink Washed Cat (originally published this year in Once Upon a Cursed Time) in for jury consideration by the Horror Writer's Association. Just taking the step to submit the story was huge; whether or not it goes beyond the consideration stage is another story entirely.

The as-of-yet-untitled ghost story hums along.  It'll be a short one--2,000 words or so.  I'd like to have it ready for submission to Gamut when their window opens again December 1st, but we'll see. I'll get Richard to take on one of my stories yet!

A few months ago, I mentioned that Thanksgiving in the Park was accepted into an anthology coming out in early 2017 with Wicked Ink Books.  I've just put the final edits in place for the publisher and at long last that story is locked.

What a nice sequel into Thanksgiving--my children arrived last night for the holiday. It's the first time I've seen them both together since last years hospital I admit I became rather emotional when I saw them at Logan airport last night. We are all heading out to see Doctor Strange shortly so more in tomorrow's holiday post.


PS  Oh yeah. At 50k, I "won" Nano:


NaNoWriMo 2016 – Day 14


Ending Word Count: 30,118

Mondays are hard. Three hours of cognitive rehab sessions leave me drained...and there is always a mad scramble to get all my preform organized and ready for the sessions.

Working toward the end of the first act and the excitement at what's planned kept me going today. It will have to care me through tomorrow as well.

Couldn't we have a little peril?

See, tomorrow is the first anniversary of my death. But to paraphrase Monty Python *SPOLER ALERT* I got better. The rest of tonight and tomorrow is for reflection. For counting my blessings.

For using this gift of additional time to write stories.

Tomorrow is a big day. Glad I'm still here to share it with you.

Once I finish Act One tomorrow, I'll post a much longer blurb. But for now, be at peace.

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Day 13


Ending Word Count: 27, 667

In fairness, it was 27, 666. But I just added an adverb (with apologies to Stephen King) to the last sentence. Superstition and all that.

I'm getting through the final couple chapters of act one. Exciting stuff is happening and I find myself typing so fast I'm forgetting things like conjunctions, spaces and punctuation.

I really should have paid more attention in that typing class in high school.

Oh God...I'm SO old...
Oh God...I'm SO old...

Last night had a Skype call with a good man. Emmett Spain (a fellow writer and comic book fan) and I are working on an interesting piece. It's a steampunk/heist novella with the working title: Scoundrels of Paradise. I have to be honest--he and I laugh so much during these collaboration sessions that less gets done then we plan.

Spending the rest of the day/evening outlining, plotting, and generally making characters of mine spanning multiple genres rather miserable. Ah well, such is the life of a writer. Blame it on the strokes.

Here is a snippet of today's #NaNoWriMo work. Enjoy and be at peace.

            “Symon!” shouted an angry voice with a familiar Irish lilt. “Wake up ye gob!”

            My eyes flew open. The ring on my finger instantly transformed into the black staff, Celtic runes came to life with a pop and a hiss, burning an angry red.

I'd just started to get out of my seat when the world turned on its side. There was a horrendous metallic screech and a gut-wrenching lurch. My brian barely had time to register sheer terror as the Green line train jumped the track and plowed into the heavy Boston holiday traffic.

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Day 12


Ending Day Word Count Total: 25,017

Well, not the end of the writing day, but I'm at a good stopping point on The Empress' Curse. About to start chapter 11 and that will be a wild ride to finish out Act One. See, I'm about to wreck a train.

The connotation and denotation of that sentence is deliciously apparent to me.


This evening, I have some work to do on my as of yet untitled Humans Wanted anthology submission--its nice to be putting together a SciFi short story for a change.  Whether it's accepted or not--well, I need to get it in before 31 December before I can think about that. I also have a Skype session about my co-authored Steampunk heist story with the most talented Emmett Spain.  And we have a working title already that we'll release when we are a bit further along.  That has a deadline of 31 December as well.

Busy-busy.  But here is a bit from today's work  Enjoy and be at peace...

Again, I saw the seven towers.  I entered the middle one, but at a run this time. I took the stairs two at a time, reaching the ornate brass entryway. I grabbed at the massive, dragon-shapped handles and threw the doors open. They swung silently, effortlessly. The first thing I saw was a fireplace, in it a log--it was nearly three feet around and eight feet long, is it still called a log at that point--crackled and hissed, bathing the room in light and warmth. A black stone floor (polished to the point that it resembled the still surface of a lake) reflected the flames.

            By the giant hearth stood a man in simple, grey linen robes, his back to me.

            “It’s been a while Symon. I’ve missed you. Shall we continue your lessons?”

            The man turned around and I recognized, for the first time, that it was a young Eugene McGuire; former Cardinal and late head of the Pontifical order of the Magi.

            “You’re dead.”

            “How very observant of you,” the young man smiled. “Being dead doesn’t necessary mean I can’t teach you anything, though. Come. Join my other pupil,” he said.

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Day 11


ENDING Word count today: 22,415

Been a while since my last update. We had some interesting things happen in America over the last few days. Been writing off and on, but to be honest, I've been really distracted.

Got in about 2500 words per day anyway. Stephen King once said

"Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position."

This week was a test. For many reasons. But I'm determined to get this done, so onward to today's snippet:

“What happened to my sister? “ Eden asked quietly. “What really happened to Eve?”

“Tell my sister I love her and forgive her, okay?” Eve had said.

“I will.” I'd replied.

A knife. The sound of impact. Hot blood on my hands.

I looked away. “I told you already.”




Not sure where this is from, but grabbed it from author Shira Lipkin's FB wall because I loved it so...


Perhaps you heard. We, in America, had a bit of an election on Tuesday. The results were...infuriating to me. Depressing.


I've been near catatonic since early Wednesday morning.

I have LGBTQ+ friends who have removed themselves from social media out of fear. I have another friend who's daughter was heckled and referred to with a racist slur just because she is black. The kid is eight.

There are other stories. But let me share one about my 16-year-old daughter.

She FaceTimed me last night in tears, terrified--like many of us--at an uncertain future.

"But what can *I* do?" She lamented.

"A lot," I told her. Get involved, learn about what it means to be a citizen of this country. Work hard to fight for what you believe in. Do good.

I blinked after I said that. Why aren't I already doing that myself? I thought.

I told her I loved her and that she is a powerful force, an intelligent, vibrant individual with so much to give. After we disconnected FaceTime, I started my research. I *could* do something. But what?

In Boston, there was an organization called "Crittenton Woman's Union" which is now "Economic Mobility Pathways" or EMPath for short. They work to help people through the fundamental values of inclusiveness, diversity, mutual respect, support, and learning.

I'm calling them in the morning to volunteer my services in any capacity in which they can use me.

Being an American is advanced citizenry. It requires hard work. Sometimes, there are tears involved.

But this is not a time to throw up your hands. This is not the time to "move to Canada." This is a time to roll up your sleeves. It's time to say no to hatred and make sure the worst of us do not get to the best of us. This election was a wake up call for action.

It will be hard, maybe even impossible to fight the threatening darkness.

But goddamn it I'm gonna try.

I'm getting involved. How about you?

‘But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.’

– Samwise Gamgee