March 28, 2013

Upcoming event, and a few links

Hello there, friends!!

I mentioned this on Facebook the other day, but I wanted to go ahead and provide y'all with the details for my first-ever author-event, here in Charleston, South Carolina, two weeks from now!

I'm so excited. I was invited to share this event by my good friend and brilliant author Jenny Milchman.  Her novel Cover of Snow is a dark, wintery thriller - read it with a blanket and a glass of good red wine to keep yourself warm. I finished it in a matter of days, and am thinking about it (and shivering) still.

Apropos of nothing...just a pretty photo from a
downtown Charleston graveyard 
Also joining us is super-sweet author Tina Whittle. Her Tai Randolph mystery novels have been called a mix of Pat Conroy and Dashiel Hammett, so you know they're exciting and cool.  I just started Blood, Ash and Bone, and let me tell you - I'm already looking forward to reading time tonight.

We'll be meeting up at Blue Bicycle Books (my FAVORITE) in downtown Charleston on April 11th at 5:00 p.m.  We'll have some time to talk about books, writing, and anything else that comes up - and you know, three women writers with very different books are sure to come up with craziness.  They'll have books for you to buy and sign, and I'll hang out and sign....Kindles? Ha. I'll have some post cards to sign if anyone is interested, but really, I'm happy if you just come by and say hello!

So please come join us! If I know you, yay! I want to see you! And if I don't, but you live in the area, I'd love to meet you!!  

Next week I'll be hosting both Jenny and Tina for separate interviews on the blog so you can get to know them.  Trust me - they're both fabulous, and it'll be worth your time to come hear them chat.

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In other news...I know I haven't been blogging much, but I promise I've been busy. 

I've had two stories posted at The Charleston City Paper, a writing gig about which I couldn't be more thrilled.

This review of Undead America made my day yesterday. It's such a rush to know someone enjoyed something I wrote!!

I have a guest post up at Penumbra eMagazine, a super-cool spot for all forms of speculative fiction, and will have further news from them soon. 

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I think that's all I have for now. I really, REALLY hope to see you at Blue Bicycle Books on April 11th! 

Have a great weekend!

March 25, 2013

Cover reveal: Secret for a Song by Adriana Ryan

I love taking part in cover reveals, especially when the books are written by good people I'm lucky enough to call friends.

Adriana Ryan is one such person - supportive, hilarious, and a fantastic writer, too. 

Her next novel, Secret for a Song, releases this June, and I'm excited to share her cover here this morning. 

Check it out! Isn't it gorgeous? (And much less racy than the last one. Maybe my husband can finally stop referring to my friend as "the girl with the naked lady book." Don't you think??)


Here's what it's all about:

Saylor Grayson makes herself sick. Literally.

She ate her first needle when she was seven. Now, at nineteen, she’s been kicked out of college for poisoning herself with laxatives. The shrinks call it Munchausen Syndrome. All Saylor knows is that when she’s ill, her normally distant mother pays attention and the doctors and nurses make her feel special.

Then she meets Drew Dean, the leader of a local support group for those with terminal diseases. When he mistakes her for a new member, Saylor knows she should correct him. But she can’t bring herself to, not after she’s welcomed into a new circle of friends. Friends who, like Drew, all have illnesses ready to claim their independence or their lives 

For the first time, Saylor finds out what it feels like to be in love, to have friends who genuinely care about her. But secrets have a way of revealing themselves. What will happen when Saylor’s is out?



A huge fan of spooky stuff and shoes, Adriana Ryan enjoys alternately hitting up the outlet malls and historic graveyards in Charleston, SC where she lives and imbibes coffee. Her husband and two small children seem not to mind when she hastily scribbles novel lines on stray limbs in the absence of notepads.

March 21, 2013

On teaching

What? Me? You want me to become a teacher for the next few months? Who, me? Teach my child things other than manners and how to roller skate? Like, teach her actual information about a list of topics she chose that range from computers to Great Blue Herons?

What?

Okay, sure. Fine. I'll try it.

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I have no idea how to be a teacher. 

There, I said it. I'm making this up as I go.

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Since St. Patrick's Day, Passover and Easter all fall back-to-back this year, we're taking the time to discuss each holiday for a week. Last week, we talked about symbols of St. Patrick's Day. We talked about Ireland. We talked about rainbows and leprechauns and pots of gold. We even sang Danny Boy a few times.

This week's lesson is all about Passover, and here's what I've learned: there is absolutely no way to teach Passover without delving into the Bible, and the Jewish faith, and heady topics like slavery and murder and the Angel of Death.

This was surprising to me. I'm not sure why.

I guess my first plan was to teach Zoe the Passover traditions of my youth - the Seder, Elijah's cup, the hunt for the Afikomen (the piece of matzoh hidden during the Seder, for which children hunt after the dinner is through). I remember Passover Seders at my great-aunt's house as fondly as I remember the jar of marbles she kept stashed in the back room that always smelled of mothballs (but in a good way).

But how to explain the bitter herbs we eat, without explaining the bitterness of slavery. How to explain the salt water into which we dip our herbs, without explaining the need to symbolize tears. How to explain the lamb shank without discussing the Angel of Death's passage over the Jewish homes in Egypt. 

Our Passover Project...
it's a far cry from the rainbows of last week

And how to tell the story of Moses, without talking of the Ten Plagues? Boils and lice, locusts and the death of all the firstborn babies?

Incidentally, we did find this video, which does lighten things up quite nicely.

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At a Seder, the youngest child is expected to ask the Four Questions. These can be asked in English or Hebrew, and ask about why certain traditions take place.

I planned to teach them to Zoe in English. As soon as she heard they could be sung in Hebrew instead, she wanted to learn.

Now we spend time each day practicing. Where my tongue finds the old, familiar words thick and heavy, and I struggle to pronounce each syllable correctly, my child hears only beautiful music that she wants to sing.

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Our "field trip" this week will be to an old synagogue in downtown Charleston. It also has a graveyard out back, so expect pictures.

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Next week we learn about Easter. Easter is easier. Easter has baby chicks and ducklings and the Easter Bunny and symbols every child can discuss without discussing religion. 

But now that I've taught Passover and all its religious implications, I have to balance it with the religious aspects of Easter.

Because I have to respect the religion behind that holiday as much as I respect my own.

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Our field trip will be to the church in Mount Pleasant where my mother-in-law was raised, Christened, married, and where my husband and his sister were also Christened. My mother-in-law will take us on a tour, telling us family history.

I think it will be brilliant.

March 13, 2013

Special guest post: Zoe Rhyne

Full-time mom-ing is keeping me way busier than I ever could have expected.

But it's more fun, too. I'm getting to know my child on a whole new level, getting to hear all the funny things she says, and getting some time to be with her and just...breathe.

It really is a gift.

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Today, while I was attempting to clean the house, Zoe kept interrupting to tell me all about the scary witch who does terrible things to her whenever my back is turned. Then she told me about the good witch who helps right all these terrible wrongs. 

Her descriptions were more vivid than usual, and she began to outline a basic plot. So when I was done vacuuming, we sat down at my computer to get her story told.

The following is what came of it (I mostly asked questions and transcribed). I hope you enjoy. I know I had fun listening to her tell the tale.
Witch-Witch and Eclair
by Zoe Rhyne (age 4) 

Once upon a time, there was a bad witch. Her name was Witch-Witch. She had gray skin, black hair, green eyes, and lots of wrinkles. Her hands were claws with sharp points and she didn’t wear underwear or pants. Instead, she wore a long, black cape.

Witch-Witch liked to make people look like herself. She sneaked into a child’s room at night and in the day, whenever the child was alone, and she made them drink a dark green potion. It tasted like there were boogers in it. It was very slimy, and there were worms and blood and mud in it. Also, there were poop, pee, peaches, frog parts, and zebras in the potion. It was really yucky, but it smelled like lemonade so kids would drink it. She made the potion in her castle.

After a child drank the potion, they turned to look like Witch-Witch, and then she took them away to her castle. There, she tried to make them drink more potion, but then they said no.

This was when the good witch, Éclair, would come. She was beautiful. She had brown hair, blue eyes, and white skin. She wore a pink dress and she remembered to wear her underwear and pants.

When Éclair came to the rescue, she turned the child back to themselves, and together, they raced away back home. To do this, Éclair turned herself and the child invisible.

But then they would go to other people’s houses, so they wouldn’t get much sleep. But they would be safe, all through the long, dark night.
The end.

March 6, 2013

Adventures with my father

A couple weeks ago, Charles, Zoe and I drove home from my sister-in-law's house through rural North and South Carolina back roads. We saw ancient shacks reclaimed by sprawling forests, Main Streets boarded up and falling down. Farms. Swamps. Vast collections of rusted out cars in front yards.

I loved it. I found it inspiring. I wanted to remember every bit for future writing.

But I didn't have a camera with me.

Still, I came up with a plan to write a short story collection inspired by these items. Nature, abandoned towns, falling-down buildings, all things old and decrepit.

In my last week at home by myself, before my homeschooling project with Zoe, I asked my dad to take a ride with me, so I could take some pictures. There are lots of swamps and forests nearby. I hoped to find inspiration.

I planned to take an hour, maybe two. I should know - adventures with my father take longer than that. It's one of the reasons I enjoy them so much.

I picked him up and he told me about a dream of a well he's seen at an old plantation called Botany Bay. In the dream, we set out to explore inside the well, and we never came back out. 

I had to see it.

So off we went.

I pulled my Jeep to the side of the road outside an antique store, where a face from an old ship stood watch.


I felt weird taking pictures, so when the owner of the shop came out and said hello, I requested permission to photograph it. 

"Of course," he said, leading us inside. "Photographers love my store."

It was easy to see why. Crammed to the brim with oddities in all hues of brown, gray and dusty, it's a collector's dream. Old chairs, old electronic equipment, old anything you could ever imagine. Nothing looked organized except for a handful of chairs, hanging from one corner of the ceiling.


As we followed him, I explained I was a writer and not a photographer. When he found out I wrote horror, his face lit up. "Well, I've got all kinds of stuff to show you then," he said in a sleepy southern drawl.

And show me, he did.

Sitting haphazardly on his desk was a certificate from the 1800s granting permission for a person to transport a dead body. A mourning medallion in which was woven the hair of a man nicknamed Indian Killer prior to the Civil War. A Currier and Ives lithography called The Tree of Death. Old dolls. Ancient toys.


We stayed nearly forty minutes, peeking in corners and stirring up dust. We left, empty handed but for the memories.

I am dying to go back.

Our next stop was an old church, the idyllic kind with white clapboards and a tall steeple. A sinking graveyard sat beside it.

It had rained here for almost two weeks straight. The ground everywhere was soft and soggy and starting to collapse (they don't call us the Low Country for nothing). Nowhere was this more evident than in that graveyard.

Graves were indents in the ground capped by battered headstones. Water pooled around burned out wood and fallen down trees. The ground was loose, soft, and the sky was steely gray and ominous.

Had a gnarled hand pushed its way through the soil and reached out from a rotten casket, I would not have been surprised.


Terrified, but not surprised.

"Well, that's sad," my father said, his voice gruff.

A lone gravestone stood in the middle of a sprawling puddle. The earth had shifted, forming a small lake in which the coffin drowned while the stone stood silent vigil.


We drove down bumpy, pockmarked dirt roads to get into Botany Bay. I drove the Jeep (purposely sometimes) through puddles and potholes. I almost got stuck, but didn't.

On the plantation property, we signed in and got a visitor's packet. As I drove, my father read about the local bird life and the old slave quarters. Outside, warbling birds warbled and dive-bombed our car.

Finally, we reached the well.

It was...well, it was a well.


We drove on, at least until we reached the deer hunting checkpoint. Then we had a little fun, hanging from the deer hooks. Because we're totally normal.


We ate lunch at a little seafood shack on Edisto Beach, one of the only open places for miles. The decor was palm trees and colorful drink coozies. The sweet tea was sweet, and the fish was fried. 

I don't know that I got exactly what pictures I needed for my vision of a short story collection.

I don't care.

Because I found a lot more.

March 4, 2013

Author Interview: Sean Ferrell

You see people on Twitter sometimes. They're funny, so you follow them. They write books, so you try to learn from them that secret that makes them successful, so you can mirror it yourself.

Ok, maybe you don't do that, but I do.

So then, they make you laugh with their tweets, and occasionally cry with their blog posts for those suffering from self-doubt, and you're happy you found them.

And then sometimes you buy their books, and it turns out...fabulous.

Sean Ferrell is one such person. I started reading his book, Man in the Empty Suit, early last week, and I was immediately drawn into his world of wonder, full of time travel, self-indulgence, love, anger, paradoxes, and all kinds of drama.

This is the kind of book that makes you have weird dreams, because the world is so immersive. That makes you consider what you'd do in a similar situation. That makes you love a character so much you want to punch him in the face when he does something dumb.

For all these reasons I'm excited to introduce you (and myself) to Sean Ferrell today - I think you'll enjoy what he has to say about time travel, mulletts, and being a dad.



LR: Ah, time travel. Man in the Empty Suit is all about the time travel. So. First question. If you could go back in time and change one thing, without having to worry about messy paradoxes (should that be paradoxi? paradoxices? Word says no, but I like them…) what would you change?

SF: I'd probably tell my 19-year-old self that "mullet" is a filthy, filthy word.

LR: Our narrator in this journey is nameless but for the names he gives the different iterations of himself. Nose. Yellow. Seventy. Screwdriver. The Inventor. I’m working on a book right now in which I have a lot of characters with a lot of different names, and I had to create a cast of characters spreadsheet in order to keep everyone straight. How’d you keep track of which guy was which? Especially since they’re all nuanced versions of the same character?

SF: At first they were all referred to by age. That was far, far worse. Try setting up a scene between 36, 37, 41 and 42 sometime. Once I hit upon the naming convention is was fairly easy keeping them straight. Each of them had a different motive that sprang from a single root (that root being that they were all the same man). Somehow, they all kept in line. 

LR: Though the main hotel setting of the story could be anywhere, and nowhere, the beginning of the book felt very much like a New York story. You so carefully mention New York places – Lincoln Center, Central Park, etc. I know you’re a New Yorker - how does living there influence your writing? (Also, will you send me a bagel? Or some pizza? Because I miss them.)

SF: I'm very aware of how the place affects me. This many people, yet feeling isolated. It's a marvelous city, and it's easy to fall for, but like all crushes it's not a requited love. It will carry on without me. I think that is an element that leaked into the novel: places continue, despite our finality. 

LR: I loved how you handled the youngest of the time travelers – the Sixes and Sevens. It was very tender. I know from reading your blog that you have a young son. What part, if any, did he play in shaping those boys? 

SF: That's a part of this I've never considered, but now that you point it out it seems remarkably striking. I guess it's the desire to not make mistakes with the youngest of them. They are a fragility added to events that the narrator may not be ready for, and if that's not a metaphor for fatherhood, I don't know what is. 

LR: I’ll be honest, reading Man in the Empty Suit makes my head spin (in a good way). The first night I felt like there were ten of me watching me sleep, and it freaked me out. I don’t know how much I’d love seeing myself at a party. So I wondered….what do you think it would be like for YOU to run into dozens of past and future versions of yourself? 

SF: If there is enough rye on hand, not too bad. 

LR: What’s the coolest thing that’s happened since releasing Numb and Man in the Empty Suit? Any cool fan stories?

SF: I've been able to work with some amazingly talented people, and having a book published opens up the opportunity for more of that. I'm incredibly lucky to get to work with the agents, editors, publishers, publicists around me, I'm even luckier to call so many of them friends. And all of that pales when compared to strangers taking time out of their day to read something I've made. Words can't express my gratitude. So, there's not one single story, but a lot of tremendous ones all sewn together. 

LR: Are you an outliner, or a seat-of-your-pantser? 

SF: Pantser. I have great respect for people who can outline and make it work. I tend to go off the path and then feel like I've abandoned what I'm "supposed" to be doing. The result is: I don't outline. 

LR: Favorites time! Favorite character from a book you read as a child? 

SF: Winnie the Pooh. 

LR: Favorite movie? 

SF: The home movie of my son sledding down a hill while the dog chases after him. 

LR: Favorite book?

SF: Right now: Moby Dick. 

LR: Favorite band or album? 

SF: Right now: I just fell in love with Atoms for Peace "Amok," which is a Thom Yorke (Radiohead) side project. It's amazing.

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Thanks so much, Sean, for stopping by. For more info, you can find Sean on his web site or on Twitter.

As for me, I'll be starting his first novel, Numb, very soon, and I can't wait.