Monthly Archives: April 2012

Overwhelmed? Reprint of “Pulverize Pressure” in Latest Issue of The BroadSheet

If your life’s been anything like mine lately, you might be feeling overwhelmed with too much to do to the point at which you’re facing—or are already in—burnout.

March’s issue of The BroadSheet—the journal of Broad Universe, a national organization that promotes science fiction, fantasy and horror written by women—features my article “Building Better Balance: How to Pulverize Pressure and Plus Productivity,” which was originally printed in writer Tamara Linse’s blog on March 4, 2010. To read the article, visit here:

The BroadSheet’s March issue has articles and information that may be helpful if you’re a writer looking for advice on craft, marketing and other topics. You can check it out here:

If you’re a woman who writes science fiction, fantasy or horror and is interested in becoming a member of Broad Universe, visit here:

One Man’s Experience with Poe

The spot of the original grave of Edgar Allan Poe in Westminster Hall's Burial Grounds, Baltimore.

As a writer, I’m always fascinated by other writers’ stories of whose work affected them and how. The other day, I came across a man named Markham Lee’s reflections on how his first experiences with reading Edgar Allan Poe affected him (I’m especially loving that he’s nailed the whole prevalent theme of guilt and it is this undercurrent which affects him today—I was tempted to write him and note that I, too, was forbidden from scary movies, rock music and swearing when I was a kid and look where I am now.). I loved this heartfelt, honest essay so much I’m sharing the link here. Why? It’s a great reminder that my job as a writer is always to touch, or change, a reader. And on the day I read this, I happened to need that reminder.


52 Weeks of Spam: Winners, Week of April 2

Winners, Week of April 2:

New comment waiting approval on SCARY SCRIBES

Steven Kreuzer commented on GUEST LINKS & BOOKS

Customers are never so healthy as when, as being a chicken, it must do a certain amount of scratching around for it gets.
Carpe per diem – seize the check.

Um, what?

Everybody hates Spam—it fills up your Inbox (unless you’ve got G-mail, which does a great job of putting it in an appropriately-labeled folder), clogs your blog (WordPress does a great job filtering, too), and can threaten your computer’s security.

I have to say though, I love my Spam. It cracks me up—it’s poorly spelled, illiterate, and often leaves me wondering who would be dumb enough to click on the link for whatever product/service/lottery winning from mysterious relative in a country you’ve never heard of. So I decided in 2012 I’d go through my Spam each week and pick my favorites to share with the world. I remove the sender and any links that might be damaging (plus, who wants to give them press?).

See you next week! If you get any great Spam, you can post it here, just strip any links and the sender’s e-mail. And be sure to say something in the post to let me know you’re real. Otherwise I might think you’re…well, Spam.

Need something clever to bring to Easter dinner? Join me at Stratford Spring Showcase of Crafts this weekend!

Need a host or hostess gift for Easter? You might find one at the Stratford Spring Showcase of Crafts in Stratford, CT this Saturday, April 7. I’ll be at the New England Horror Writers table with writers Rob Watts (Huldufolk) and Stacey Longo (Hell Hath No Fury). I’ll have copies of Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World, In Poe’s Shadow, Love Notes, and Wake the Witch on hand. The event runs from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Ramada Hotel at 225 Lordship Blvd. in Stratford, CT. Admission is free. If you’re in the area, come say hello!

Hangin’ in Hanover: Pix from the NEHW at the Hanover Spring Craft Fair

The New England Horror Writers had a table at the Hanover Spring Craft Fair to benefit the First Congregational Church’s Food Pantry in Hanover, MA, this past Saturday. We had a great time (and I sold some Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole Tote Bags–sweet.)! Enjoy!

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Tamela J. Ritter on A.J. O’Connell’s BEWARE THE HAWK

Ever notice that when you start feeling sorry for yourself because you haven’t accomplished very much in life, the universe reminds you it isn’t true?

This recently happened to me.

From 2003-2009, I founded and moderated Pencils! Writing Workshop inNorwalk,CT.The group not only resulted in lasting friendships and relationships (it’s how I met Nathan, but I know of a few other couples who met in Pencils! and are going strong today), it launched a few writing careers or brought existing ones to new heights.

I was having one of those days when I wasn’t feeling great about my accomplishments when I purchased early Pencils! member A.J. O’Connell’s recently-released novel Beware the Hawk. I remembered A.J. would often bring pages of the novel to group, and after so many years I was dying to read it in its final form.

She’d gotten feedback from Pencils! on those early drafts; then she’d gone on to pursue her MFA from Fairfield University, where she continued to make improvements. After she graduated, she submitted the work to Vagabondage Press Books, which accepted it; as with any publishing house, the manuscript probably went through a couple more rounds of editing and improvement before it was published in both print and e-book formats. A.J. had invested years in herself and her work, and it had paid off.

So imagine my surprise when I purchased Beware the Hawk and read her dedication: For Pencils, my first writing group.

It was an amazing thing to see; Pencils! had been there in the beginning, but it had really been A.J. who had spent so much of her time and energy on making Beware the Hawk what it had become. Still, would Beware the Hawk be on the shelves today if there hadn’t been a Pencils! for her to go to? Would it have been started and never finished, or finished and just in some drawer somewhere?

A few days later, I found another early Pencils! member, Tamela J. Ritter, had written a review of A.J.’s book on Goodreads. Tamela’s early ventures with Pencils! included her novel-in-progress From the Ashes, which is being published in the coming year.

I’m extremely proud of both of them, and I’m reminded my doing that one small thing—founding a writer’s group—affected someone’s life in ways it may not have been had I not founded the group at all.

I suppose if I never do another thing, I’ve done enough. I brought two people together who are good friends to this day, and both of them have their books on shelves.

I’ll remember that the next time I’m feeling sorry for myself.

Tamela has given me permission to reprint her review of A.J.’s Beware the Hawk here. This originally appeared on Goodreads and on Tamela J. Ritter’s website here: on February 11, 2012.

You can purchase Beware the Hawk just about anywhere; it’s in print and in all e-book formats. For convenience, here’s the link to the Vagabondage Press Books listing, which contains links for purchase:


Tamela J. Ritter’s review of A.J. O’Connell’s Beware the Hawk


It’s pulp fiction. Real pulp fiction, though, not like the movie. John Travolta is not in this book. Sorry.

That’s how A.J. O’Connell describes her new novella “Beware the Hawk” on her website. I’m not suggesting I’m an expert of the genre as I can honestly say that I have read very few (if any) pulp fiction novels (wait, does Elmore Leonard count?) I’m just saying, even I know there are a few things that are absolutely essential:

Feisty Dames (check) The protagonist of the story (who, lol, I didn’t realize until writing this up, is nameless and when I figure out how O’Connell managed to do that so effortlessly I will gladly share it with you) is nothing if not feisty. Jaded, yes, but not so much so that she’s unreachable and isn’t constantly surprised and dismayed. You can feel shocked by her predicaments, because you sense that she is too, no matter how above it all she tries to portray herself.

Clandestine Meetings (check) Protagonist and her Boston contact, Leo have a number of meetings in a seedy bar where things get more confused the more they’re explained.

Code Words (check) The title alone tells you this is true and yet it avoids being gimmicky.

Someone Overusing the Term “Sweetheart” (check) Sooooo many sweethearts! But, hey, a pulp fiction book that takes place in Boston where it’s not sweetheart, but “sweet-haht” isbegging for this overuse.

If, like me, you are unfamiliar with the genre, I highly suggest you start here. It’s a short, well written read that will have you wishing it was so much longer. Not in an unfinished way, but in a “I want to hang out with these characters for many, many more pages” way.

In addition to the subtle way that she avoids naming the main character and still makes us feel as if we know her almost intimately, the writer in me also admires and wants to know how O’Connell finds the exact perfect way with descriptions so that they not only tell us the physicality of a thing, but also a bit about the character who notices them without weighing us down with too many facts. It’s a gift that’s for sure.

Here are a few of my non-spoilery favorites that, thanks to Kindle being in every aspect of my life I can easily highlight on my reader and then cut and paste on my Kindle App for my PC (annotated and everything!!). ♥

It started as a tramp stamp but kind of took over. One of my roommates calls it a tramp stampede.

O’Connell, A.J. (2012-01-14). Beware The Hawk (Kindle Locations 334-335). Vagabondage Press LLC. Kindle Edition.

I turned my head to see three skinny girls wearing black tank tops and khakis. Danny picked all of them up in one gigantic hug and then dropped them. They fell on their feet, three Siamese cats, styled by Abercrombie & Fitch.

O’Connell, A.J. (2012-01-14). Beware The Hawk (Kindle Locations 355-356). Vagabondage Press LLC. Kindle Edition.

It’s taking everything in me not to share every single example and every single witty sentence (of which there are many) that I have highlighted here. But I don’t have the time (or copyright) for that. :)) Plus, you should probably read it for yourself and highlight your own favorites.

GhoStory Guru: Why Do We Love Creepy Dolls?

One of my best friends growing up, Kristina Hals Strobel, has a creepy doll collection to be envied! Here's a treasure she found she was generous enough to share with me. Love it, love it, love it!

Dolls don’t scare me the way they do most people. Honestly. I enjoy the unsettling feeling I get staring at creepy dolls.

I’m in a Facebook Group called The Spirit of Halloween. What I love about it is that, although sometimes we promote our work, it’s not a see-me board; rather, it’s a group of people who love talking about what scares them and horror books and films, among other things. Mostly, it’s lots and lots of really amazing scary artwork.

One of my favorite weekly events over there is “Creepy Doll of the Week.” Everyone contributes and it’s a ball. But seeing doll after doll, week after week, I began to wonder what it is, exactly, about dolls that scares us.

Enter Joyce Carol Oates’ short story “The Doll,” which I just recently discovered. I won’t put spoilers here, but I will say the theme of lost innocence (as a type of death) is prevalent. After I’d finished, I put my finger on what it was about dolls that unsettled me.

Their eyes are dead.

And those eyes foreshadow our own post-mortem.

Okay, that was my dark thought for the day. Here are a couple of recent “creepy doll” photos which I either have or will be contributing to “Creepy Doll of the Week”–a couple from my friend Kristina Hals Strobel, who has a collection to be envied and who’s been generous enough to share her photos with me. Enjoy.

These freaky doll heads are in a display case at the PaperMoon Diner in Baltimore. They were watching me eat my awesome blueberry pancakes and bacon!

This is from Kristina Hals Strobel's collection. I find this one particularly disturbing, but it might just be the way she shot the photograph. The doll just looks so...tossed aside.

Also from Kristina's collection. I think the look on this doll's face...I don't know, all I can think of is 'massive head trauma.' To me, the eye looks crossed.

Leave it to the folks at Baltimore's PaperMoon Diner! would you like a chandelier like this? Am I right? A dolly-ier. I might have to have one custom made and then wired into a light fixture.

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