Looking for something different? Try a Water Lantern Festival

Lanterns float in foreground of pavilion

Photo by Jen Connic.

For hundreds of years, there have been lantern festivals in Thailand. There are two, but the one that features krathongs (water lanterns)—is called Loi Krathong, which in 2019 will take place November 13. There are many stories behind the centuries-old festival’s origins, but it’s meant to thank the Water Goddess for a successful rice harvest (read more about that here: https://www.discoverydcode.com/dcode/articles/how-to-enjoy-thailand-water-latern-festival/)

Lanterns around the lake

Just so you can get an idea of how many lanterns were around the edge of the lake. Photo by Nathan Schoonover.

Here in the US, many set water lanterns afloat for Read the rest of this entry

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Join the DARK DISCUSSIONS crew in Mystic, CT, July 26 – 28!

DD at Regal Cinemas Waterford 9

The crew and fans of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast get ready to see THE MEG at the Regal Cinemas Waterford 9 in Waterford, CT at our annual meet-up in August of 2018. From left: co-host Abe, listener Kevin, listener Leo Pond (also host of THE DORKENING podcast), co-host Eric, co-host Phil, me, listener Pam and co-host Mike.

Wanna watch a movie and attend a taping of Dark Discussions? Now’s your chance! The crew—myself, Phil, Mike, Abe, and Eric—will be in Mystic, Connecticut, once again this summer for our annual meet-up.

DD at Mystic Pizza

The DD crew and listeners kick off the weekend in true film-lover’s style at Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT, at our annual meet-up, August, 2018. Counter-clockwise, from front left: co-host Eric, co-host Abe, me, listener Leo Pond, co-host of THE DORKENING podcast, co-host Mike, listener Kevin, and co-host Phil.

The weekend almost always kicks off with a dinner at Mystic Pizza (yes, of film fame). We see our movie the next day, and sometimes there are other activities in between or on the Sunday. This time around we’re hoping our film will be Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but what we see depends on what’s playing nearby. (Last year, for example, we were hoping to cover Searching, but the movie’s release date was delayed, so we saw The Meg instead. You can listen to that episode—taped with a couple of our fans at a Panera Bread—here: http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_351.html )

DD at Leo's

The DD crew records a bonus episode Sunday afternoon at our annual meet-up in August of 2018. From left, me and co-hosts Phil, Abe, and Mike.

Last year a few of our fans joined us as well, and it was a blast. For more details, reach out to me through my Contact Page.

Hope to see you there! Here are a few other photos from the weekend.

 

 

 

Off to the Cape to write…

The beach near our rented house.

The beach near our rented house. It’s my understanding that portions of this beach are reserved for the piping plover, a shore bird whose populations have suffered because of human activity on the beaches, and I did get to see some, which, as a novice birdwatcher, was a real thrill!

I’ll be up in Cape Cod this week for some much needed quiet time.

The writing life can be crazy, because no matter what anyone tells you about your writing coming first, you can’t always make the time you need to sit down and get to it: there is the job (most writers have some kind of job in addition to just writing). There are family and social responsibilities, house cleaning, errands, and marketing/promoting your work. Then there’s anything else you want to do, like podcasting, projects, and volunteer positions.

Yeah, I know, a retreat sounds like a big vacation or a week-long drinking party. And, sometimes, it might have some time like that each day, especially after everyone’s been off in their corners working in the silence for eight to ten hours. But mostly? A good writing retreat is one that is productive…and it’s always important to find a place that’ll work for you.

Martini

When I arrive at a retreat, usually before I even unpack my stuff, I have a cocktail. Last year it was a martini. This is up on the third floor porch, which has a stunning view, especially at night–it’s like you can reach up and touch the stars.

Cape Cod is that place for me. Check out these photos from last year’s retreat…I shared a house with several other writers from Broad Universe (you can learn more about this fantastic networking organization here: https://broaduniverse.org/

It’s also important to take a little downtime to enjoy your environment. On the first nice day we got, we hit the beach and made a few discoveries.

Malicious Monsters: The Jackalope

Jackalope Real

This jackalope may look adorable, but according to legend, it’s a vicious beast.

In the summer of 2011, I needed an escape. I ended up going to see my sister, who lived in Austin, in my first-ever trip to the state of Texas.

Long story short? I fell in love with Texas. In an absolute, complete, I-see-no-wrong kind of love. The smell of burnt asphalt and cactus blossom laced with a kiss of mesquite. In Hill Country, woods and mountains not much different from Connecticut, but with the occasional surprise of a cactus thrusting from a blanket of past autumn leaves. The joy of watching over a half a million bats emerge from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. The 108 degree heat, hot glazed pecans at the HEB, and people who will absolutely talk to a total stranger without looking at him like he has five heads.

Austin Jackalope

Me at The Jackalope, a dive bar with incredible burgers on 6th Street in Austin, Texas. There’s a challenge associated with the giant jackalope that stares at you the second you walk in—you have to have a drink in your hand to climb on. It’s not easy. Trust me! To visit The Jackalope’s website, visit here: https://www.jackalopebar.com/downtown To read about my adventures at the bar when I visited in 2016, visit here: https://kristipetersenschoonover.com/2016/05/23/i-met-a-real-jackalope/

But during that brief visit, there was something much darker happening: Read the rest of this entry

For Mother’s Day, a ticket to the beyond

Greater Tiverton Community Chorus spring concert tickets

Tickets to the concert I attended the weekend before Mother’s Day.

We hear and see these stories all the time, especially now in social media: our loved ones who have passed on make their presences known. Admittedly, some of these tales may seem more like urban legends or click bait—there are, for example, three or four different versions of the ‘cardinal visits mom/sister/grandchild after daughter/sister/grandmother’s death’ and several articles across the web entitled ‘XX signs your deceased loved one is with you.’

But there are just as many things that happen to people, every day, that seem less like coincidence. Things that have no rational scientific explanation. Like my cat knocking over a piece of artwork a friend made within minutes of that friend’s passing, something my cat had never gone near or even noticed before. Or my friend seeing her deceased brother’s initials and birth date (including year) on the license plate of a car that pulled in front of her. Or another friend, calling out to her late husband to help her find the insurance papers; when she came downstairs the next morning, they were literally next to her coffee maker—but no one else had been in the house (shivers, right? Me too).

Sometimes these things are coincidences, and I won’t deny that. I have always prided myself on knowing the difference between a sign and a coincidence; sometimes, it’s tough to tell, and you really have to make the call. Others? Not so much.

I had one of these happen to me recently. Read the rest of this entry

DARK DISCUSSIONS: 2019 films so far…

I’ve been a bit remiss in keeping up with what we’ve covered on the Dark Discussions podcast, so here are the 2019 movies we’ve talked about so far and where you can listen.

Escape Room

This movie takes a look at the recently popular escape room trend and turns a few things on its ear. It was a great ride. http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_368.html

Glass

This long-awaited closure to M. Night’s Eastrail 177 trilogy, which began with Unbreakable and continued with Split, was an interesting take on the super hero phenomenon. It was disappointing to many, but I enjoyed it. http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_370.html

Velvet Buzzsaw

Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and Toni Collette are an absolute gas in this Netflix thriller that, despite its classic Poe-esque undertones, doesn’t take itself too seriously. So far, this is one of my favorite horror films of the year, and it’ll definitely make my best-of list.  The official description: “A feared critic, an icy gallery owner and an ambitious assistant snap up a recently deceased artist’s stash of paintings — with dire consequences.” http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_372.html

The Prodigy

“Bad seed” films are back in vogue, and while this movie makes a valiant attempt at something fresh, I found it extremely predictable. Its profoundly disturbing imagery just isn’t enough to save it. http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_373.html

Happy Death Day 2U

I missed this episode, but it’s my understanding that, despite a few small issues, this was a surprisingly good follow up to the super-fun Groundhog Day style horror flick, Happy Death Day. http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_374.html

The Golem

This quiet film, in the vein of The Witch, is from the makers of the found footage film Jeruzalem—although it’s completely different in feel and tone. In 1673 Lithuania, a Jewish woman tries to protect her village by creating a Golem—and gets some unanticipated results. Except for one unbelievable moment which proves modern movies can’t see beyond today’s sensibilities when dealing with the past, this is a fine film that explores grief and the struggle to overcome it. http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_375.html

The Hole in the Ground

This Irish film sports a confusing ending (not appropriately vague, just flat-out confusing) and a slow pace (not in a good way). While it has a couple of truly unsettling moments, they’re not enough to make up for its issues. It’s a “bad seed” film that, ultimately, offers nothing unique. http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_376.html

Us

Jordan Peele has quickly risen through the ranks due to his quality, multi-leveled dark films. Us deals with the haves and have-nots as well as the crisis of identity, and it’s more disturbing than his earlier foray, Get Out. http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_378.html

Pet Sematary

I couldn’t be on this episode due to prior commitments, but the guys have disappointing things to say about this (in my opinion, totally unnecessary) remake. http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_380.html

Braid

I also had to miss this episode, but this film—about a pair of women who screw up a drug deal and descend into dark worlds trying to pay back the dealer what they owe—is divisive, even though it’s gotten some high praise. http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_381.html

Photos from THE SHADOWS BEHIND release party

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to celebrate the release of my short story collection, The Shadows Behind, with a party at my house. Here are photos from the event!

SETTING UP

THE CAKE

THE GUESTS

THE CHAMPAGNE TOAST

THE READING AND SIGNING

THE AFTERMATH

 

You can get your copies where books are sold or through Amazon here: http://bit.ly/shadowsbehind

If you’d like a signed copy shipped directly to you instead, drop me a line through my contact page with your email and we can make arrangements.

 

It’s release day! Special preview of THE SHADOWS BEHIND

 

Cutting the cake at THE SHADOWS BEHIND release party

Man, I did NOT want to cut this gorgeous cake! It was worth it, though: a thick layer of cream cheese frosting sandwiched inside yellow cake, smothered in butter creme icing! YUM! Photo by Tom Libonate.

It seemed like it would never come, but it’s here: release day for my short story collection, The Shadows Behind! Want a preview? Here’s a reading of the first half of the short story, “Roots,” at the release party this past weekend.

You can get your copies where books are sold or through Amazon here: http://bit.ly/shadowsbehind

If you’d like a signed copy shipped directly to you instead, drop me a line through my contact page with your email and we can make arrangements.

 

Sinister Settings: Tambora

Tambora Caldera

Mt Tambora’s caldera, taken in 2009. Photo: NASA

We’ve all heard of massive volcanic eruptions in the past killing thousands of people and laying waste to cities and entire landscapes. Before Santa Maria, before Mt Pelee, and even before Krakatoa, there was Tambora.

Tambora is an active volcano on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. On April 10, 1815, Read the rest of this entry

I have a talented sister-in-law…

My sister-in-law, Rebecca Avery Petersen, spent countless hours making me these special cookies for THE SHADOWS BEHIND release party.

My sister-in-law, Rebecca Avery-Petersen, spent countless hours making me these special cookies for THE SHADOWS BEHIND release party.

My sister-in-law, Rebecca Avery-Petersen, loves to bake, and is really good at at it (much like my late mom). One day a few weeks ago, she messaged me and said she’d been playing around with doing something out of her comfort zone with her sugar cookies: my book cover.

If you’ve seen the book cover for The Shadows Behind, you know this is not a small undertaking. I really loved them, and she then volunteered to send me a few dozen for my release event this weekend.

I had to share, because she’s amazing. That’s a pretty cool person who just volunteers to take on that kind of thing out of pure love and passion. And suffice it to say the only thing I can bake is the stuff that comes out of those round tubes!

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