Local Author Panel for My Birthday

I can think of no better way to celebrate turning 53 than to meet new authors and chat about writing… so that’s what I did today. Joining Mel Carney, Darlene Deluca and Anola Pickett for the Mid-continent Public Library’s annual Local Author Fair we had a lively discussion about publishing, writing during the pandemic and our work.

Darlene Deluca is a romance writer so I’ve already started hopping in her inbox to connect and ask her genre questions. I’ve also repented of my genre biased ways and bought her book Something Good on Amazon so I can be more educated about the less fatal attractions.

Which, speaking of not killing anyone, I am just about at 30,000 words with Soft Deadlines and no one has died yet! There is a lightly creepy dream sequence where a giant silver praying mantis eats the head off our heroine Naomi but it’s only a dream. Dream death can be romantic, right? Side note: I’m told the praying mantis dream sequence will probably be cut before publication.

This week I did get waaaaay behind on my wordcount. This has been a crazy week of COVID issues at work. We had seven branches close almost all at once, and the decision was made to go back to curbside service only beginning this Monday. That’s the bad news. The good news is I will have time to catch up on all my emails, this NaNoWriMo and get the final issue this year of Space and Time out.

Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes across my social media. I feel loved. I’ll do my best to answer all of them because you all rock, and I love you.

And here’s the video from the 7th annual Local Author panel…

Local Author Fair Panel
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Watch Skeleton Hour 04: Black Cranes

I was so excited to be part of the fourth installation of the Horror Writers Association’s Skeleton Hour along with editors and authors from the new horror anthology, Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. I had a lot of fun with Sister Cranes Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn, Nadia Bulkin, and Rena Mason for a discussion about the book.

Almond-eyed celestial, the filial daughter, the perfect wife. Quiet, submissive, demure. In Black Cranes, Southeast Asian writers of horror both embrace and reject these traditional roles in a unique collection of stories which dissect their experiences of ‘otherness’, be it in the colour of their skin, the angle of their cheekbones, the things they dare to write, or the places they have made for themselves in the world.

Black Cranes is a dark and intimate exploration of what it is to be a perpetual outsider. This episode of Skeleton Hour was sponsored by the UC Riverside Palm Desert Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. Skeleton Hour is produced in collaboration with The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. Please buy books by the featured authors through The Last Bookstore or another indie bookstore near you!

Tomorrow I’ll be a featured author for the final Local Author Fair panel from 1:30-2:30 p.m. CST. The Local Author Fair panel will be on Facebook Live along with Mel Carney, Darlene Deluca, and Anola Pickett. This event includes a Q&A. Details here and you can watch here.

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Cover Reveal for Space and Time #139

All I can think of is… almost there! This last issue ends our third year of Space and Time. By some miracle we managed to stay mostly on schedule, in spite of everything. The Spring and Summer issues almost ended the magazine financially due to a wave of missing issues and replacement costs. We finally gave up and went POD through Amazon and that has saved us, but we are still catching up on missing issues and chaos. Thank you for your patience with the chaos.

But here we are anyway, against the odds. This issue has some crazy coincidences behind it I’ll share once it’s published. I don’t want to ruin any surprises ahead of time. I’ll just say, the lead story interference by Leonard Speiser and the cover art by Arthur Haywood were both created completely independent of each other. When I first saw the cover art I cried because they fit so well. This is when publishing takes my breath away. There’s a magic in it, I swear. This issue has that magic.

And I’m grateful, because we all need some magic right now. You’ll find some powerful messages in this issue’s art, poetry and fiction. Creative voices speak loud. Revolutions are fueled by art—by words and images that cause blood to boil and banners to wave. I hope this issue inspires unprecedented love, guerilla tolerance and politicized empathy.

There’s a lot of anger and fear right now. I hope this issue can help us to protest division and refuse nothing less but full unity and forgiveness. It’s the <insert-your-belief-system-here> way, if you look at the teachings at the foundation. Whatever the differences, we all understand kindness.

Love doesn’t discriminate, is bi-partisan, is not territorial, doesn’t withhold itself because of race, sexual orientation or beliefs. In fact, I believe a wise, ancient text most of us are familiar with says it much better than I can:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

—1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I’ll have an extra helping of that please. I just have to find out who is serving it. One day soon, I hope all of us.

But enough of my soapbox. Forgive me if I’ve offended anyone, but I find 2020 wearing away the filter that keeps most of what I think safely locked in my head. This post is to show off the latest cover of Space and Time Winter issue #139 and celebrate those that will be in it.

Congratulations to everyone who is a part of #139, on the pages and behind them. Thank you to Kyra Starr for putting the cover together and Arthur Haywood for the beautiful art.

Congratulations to all fiction and poetry selections for #139

Congratulations, and here’s the the last issue in 2020… and an end to 2020!

Space and Time, Winter 2020 #139

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Review: Lily Wong Books by Tori Eldridge

If you think a ninja’s life is all about throwing stars and black pajamas, think again. For Chinese-Norwegian born Lily Wong, it’s a mixed bag of fighting domestic abuse, family dynamics and this little issue with the Los Angeles Ukrainian mob. No big deal.

The Ninja Daughter and The Ninja’s Blade by Tori Eldridge

Lily Wong is a heroine for modern times. Gutsy, humorous and bad*ss, she takes on injustice wherever she finds it, using her skills to defend women against those who would enslave them. Loads of action will keep readers turning pages faster than Lily can break a knee cap. There’s even a little romance thrown in to round out the story.

There’s more to Lily than martial arts, however. Author Tori Eldridge brings personal struggles to the table as Lily faces issues of being mixed race, loss of a loved one and how to preserve non-traditional values with a domineering grandmother. Despite her prowess with martial arts, Lily is far from being an inaccessible character. Flawed and conflicted, she’s easy to identify with.

I enjoyed being exposed to new concepts like the kunoichi, a female ninja. Unafraid to touch the hard topics of racism and human trafficking, Eldridge doesn’t disappoint in the second book of her series, The Ninja’s Blade. Lily will go to any means to protect those who would otherwise be victimized. If you are looking for a fast-paced action read with plenty of social value, Tori Eldrige’s Lily Wong series will not disappoint.

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Poetry Live with Hipness & Outrage

November has been much more chill, but not chill enough to forget our monthly Live Poetry on Instagram! Amy Zoeller and I have so much fun chatting about death, hot guys and cake that we are talking about starting an actual poetry show… most likely called Cake & Hyperbull. Amy is already composing theme music.

Why Cake & Hyperbull? It’s just nonsense that sprang from the last show, which you can watch below. Amy seems to have a lot of poems that involve cake and I’ve challenged myself to write something bright and happy about cake. If you haven’t heard Amy’s poetry yet, you are in for a treat. Her verse is full of light and life, love and vitality. She makes me happy. We all need more happy.

So where’s Hyper Bull come from? After reading I made a comment that I often don’t know how to pronounce words properly. It was within the last five years that I found out hyperbole (hai·pur·buh·lee) is not pronounced as hyper bole (hai·pur·bowl). Amy thought I said hyper bull, as in that’s so much bull it’s hyper. We both loved the word and claimed it. Shall I use it in a sentence?

2020 is already so hyperbull, what else can happen?

Want to witness this historic exchange? Or just watch two weirdos talk about poetry and nonsense? Here’s last Sunday’s live reading, in parts one and two. Sideways, because that’s how we roll.

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Review: Spineless by Amy Langevin

It’s uncommon for a work of horror to have a message of hope and a happy ending, but that’s exactly what Amy Langevin accomplishes with her book Spineless. Equal parts horror and empowerment, she presents the very real situation of abuse from the POV of a victim turned vigilante.

Spineless by Amy Langevin

Slade seems like he is in control of his secret and unconventional treatment center and for years he’s had a successful system going without a hitch. Everything begins to spin out of control when a past client has a situation relapse and requires extra assistance. All that Slade thinks he knows collapses and he struggles to find new solid ground.

There’s an eclectic mix of everything in this story from crime thriller and romance to straight-up horror and self help. Visceral and unflinching, Langevin faces the ugly not so secret real life story of abuse and lays out the cycle in a fictional story that will challenge readers to examine their own point of view to find the potential “worms” that may be hiding there.

I especially recommend this book for those that may have a history with abuse. Langevin doesn’t mince words as she describes the damage and self harm that can be passed on to us from others… but she also astutely recognizes the circle of abuse for what it is—a deep pit that pulls everyone within proximity down. A wonderful horror, Langevin inspires with shock and wry wit.

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NaNoWriMo: Tough Week for “Soft Deadlines”

The second week started off strong. Having a blast with romance, I participated in my first live NaNoWriMo Write-In and I did over 1k words in an hour. My keyboard was blazing. I was invincible. And then something important came up and I missed a day. I’m rocking this, I thought. I’ll write extra tomorrow to keep my lead.

No worries, because I was ahead of schedule, remember? I could afford to miss a day. Then, something came up the second night and I missed a second day. But I’m really only one day behind, I reasoned. I’d been a day ahead before.

Third night I realized I had double the writing to do. I’d worked all day, one of my kids needed to talk. I squeezed in a quarter of what I needed to accomplish and limped through a third day of writing. Having soared too close to the sun, I pouted as I plummeted to earth. Why do I do these crazy things to myself, I thought. Who am I to write a romance anyway?

Fourth night was another long day at work. We have so many people out, my super-part-time job has gotten intense. I was tired and depressed. I calculated out what my word count needed to be the next day and, not being a math-er, somehow got three different answers to my problem. Math is stupid, and so am I for trying to do this, I snarled. I’m a failure at life.

Fifth morning I had two days off in a row. I woke up, downed coffee and started typing for dear life. I worked all day, off and on. I drank far too much coffee. I looked for excuses to do anything else. By evening I recalculated how short I was—less than 2,000 words behind! I can do this, I thought. I can catch up and stay on track from here.

Sixth morning, another long slog but I was hopeful. I had coffee, went on a walk with the dogs and Ryan and buckled in to work. Piles of leaves beckoned to me outside. My Pokemon Go app needed to be restarted and I got sidetracked by cleaning out my inbox… but I’d force myself back. Lucky for me I finally reached a part I’d been excited for since day one and I sped forward and caught up, at least for today.

I’m still off track over all, as you can see in my progress graph but I have hopes that I can get some extra words in this next week when things promise to slow down. If I stay at this pace I’m on track to have 50,000 words done by December 3rd. I can live with that, but I still have high hopes I’ll finish ahead of schedule or go over wordcount (if the story calls for it).

I love where the story is going and see no reason not to publish this next February (after edits and clean up, of course). That’s the important thing. Pushing myself for 30 days to write something I can work with—setting up habits that put my writing back at the top of my To Do list. In spite of everything, still here… still tapping.

And if I keep tapping, tomorrow I should hit 25,000 words—the official halfway mark. Crossing fingers, humbled and wiser.

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Now Accepting English Students for Alessandro Manzetti’s Creative Writing Academy

Pleased to announce I will once again be taking a limited number of students as the English component of Alessandro Manzetti’s Creative Writing Academy. I’m modeling my curriculum on the successful program already instituted by Manzetti in Italian. Each course is individualized to work with each student’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Basic Course, lasting 6 months, is free for candidates aged between 18 and 26, as part of the Under 26 Young Talent Project supported by us, and paid for from proceeds from the Academy. The Advanced Course, lasting 12 months, is only available for a fee. You can read about the courses here.

Space and Time magazine will be considering exceptional work from both Italian and English students for possible publication in the magazine. The student would be compensated for their work and retain rights as if it was a regular submission.

Students interested in applying please contact me at admissions.angela.yuriko.smith@gmail.com

Please include your current educational qualifications, any other courses taken complete with a list of publication credits and a 500 word essay on why you are a writer.

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Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Possibly the first thriller I’ve reviewed on my blog, this twisted but well crafted plot deserves the premiere position. The pacing kept me tightly bound to the story even through the recent… er, current… election dramas. Quite a feat for any book, Annie Ward kept me wrapped up until the shocking and unexpected end.

The book has the perfect beginning for this past year. “Should I see a therapist?” types the protagonist Maddie. The Google search for 2020, it sets the mood for the rest of the book. A damaged mother is trying to protect those she loves, even if it harms. This book has plenty of dysfunction, betrayal, physical and mental trauma… and a grisly murder scene of course.

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

While the tendency for the storyline to jump back and forth between periods of time can be disconcerting, it’s definitely worth sticking with it.

Bouncing across time and space, from the Balkans to my own Kansas City, the book is an adventure for curious arm chair travelers who want to get a taste of the Soviet Bloc without the commitment. I especially love the Kansas City she portrays. I’d missed the fact that she is a Kansas City resident as I read. From her love and attention to detail I knew she must have at least been through here.

Tonight I got to meet her on Zoom and found out we were probably within 20 minutes of each other. When COVID is past maybe we can have coffee and I can pick her brain for more details about her real life time in the Balkans, my absolute favorite parts of the book.

Highly recommended for anyone looking for a fast paced thriller that explores our emotional dynamic along with the external clues that something is not right. This book will lead the reader on a riveting ride that will not let go until the unexpected ending—I did not see coming! A perfect read for this year of dysfunction, Beautiful Bad will have you questioning what it would take to crack up… and the answer may be less than you think.

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Review: Whitechapel Rhapsody by Alessandro Manzetti

When I prepare to read Manzetti there is a certain ceremony to it. I do not read his work in a public place. This level of darkness is to be savored alone. No innocent bystander needs to be exposed to this razor edged text. One should approach of their own volition, understanding the nightmare to come.

Jack is Back

I do not read it fast. His work requires a slow chewing through the text, tasting and imagining the horror. I light a candle, curl up in my favorite chair and consume every twisted line. Once the last page is turned and the cover closed, I digest. I can read nothing else for at least a day. I’ve been digesting this latest work from Manzetti for a month and a half.

Whitechapel Rhapsody is everything I’ve come to love about Manzetti and more. Where much of his work I’ve read is about a fictional landscape, Whitechapel is real. Based on eleven murders that began on April 3, 1888 in the poor area known as the Whitechapel district in the East End of London, the last killing was February 13, 1891—a lucky Friday the 13th. It’s when the killings attributed to Jack the Ripper ceased…. as far as history knows.

Whitecastle Rhapsody tells the story of Jack the Ripper from both the point of view of those investigating the murders as well as Jack himself. Using well researched situations and text clipped from the original police, medical and news reports gives the already gruesome imagery the chill of reality. Not only were these bodies real, the reader comes to realize, but sometimes the victimization occurred to them after death. Not even the sanctity of coroner’s office could protect their corpse from further humiliation.

Highly recommended, but not for the sensitive reader. If gruesome and vivid imagery of death, poverty and perversion bother you, bypass this book. For those willing to look behind the curtain they will see more than the horrific true life tale of a monster. They will also see the horror that occurs in a place where life is not sacred and has no dignity, and the only god is made of copper coins.

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