A Thankful Halloween

My first (and accidental) selfie at the Albuquerque Renaissance Fest.

My first (and accidental) selfie at the Albuquerque Renaissance Fest.

I have been thinking the last two weeks about this post and whether or not to write it. Mostly, I am not sure this will be an interesting post. But I am going to put it out there anyway because it’s OK to do things for oneself once in a while.

Today, Halloween, marks my 1 year anniversary of walking away from a steady paycheck, a career I had put years and degrees into, and off into the world of weaving, arts, and farm life. It doesn’t feel like a year; it has flown by and I have very little to complain about. When I left cubicle hell, I knew then I would miss the people. What I didn’t know was how much I would miss the camaraderie; adversity forges alliances and even friendships. In my new life, the few adversities I have are of a personal nature, so new friendships have matured at a slower rate.

Two of my jackasses, Tobiah and Solomon Elvis.

Two of my jackasses, Tobiah and Solomon Elvis.

In this past year, I have taken on more of the cooking and other housechores because the home is my office now and I love to be able to take breaks from weaving; housechores and cooking are the perfect excuse to get up and move. My Main Man (M3) still loves to cook and does so on the weekends. He also keeps the kitty litter in his car trunk until he changes the litter boxes; that is his self-imposed weekly housechore. How could I argue with the man? :)

We didn’t do a garden this year again because I wanted to focus on my growing business, but we did do container tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. The peppers and tomatoes finally put on fruit at the beginning of October. Haha! So they now live in my guest bathroom. The potatoes were a mystery. We had 1 big beautiful bushy potato plant that I nursed all spring, summer, and early fall. Then 2 weekends back, we tipped it out while we had family for a visit so the kids could help me harvest. There were zero potatoes. We had a lovely plant, but no potatoes. And what happened to all the ones we planted? There were no husks, no gooey potatoes, no shriveled, mummy potatoes, and no potato skins. So, there is my Halloween mystery: missing potatoes.

My little herd of goats.

My little herd of goats.

For over a decade, I have struggled with a kidney disease, currently having only 20% kidney function (and holding steady). At age 36, I need more sleep than most mid-30s folks. Being a weaver grants me this small blessing; I can sleep when I need to, as much as I need to. As a result, I feel the best I have in many, many years. I have also struggled with my weight for well over a decade. I have lost only ~10 pounds in the past year, but I have put on muscle. A year ago, it was a struggle and sometimes even painful to lift 20lbs. Now, I can shoulder carry 50lbs, up stairs.

Us at the Santa Fe Renaissance Fest.

Us at the Santa Fe Renaissance Fest.

The highlights from this past year include the two Renaissance Festivals I attended (one as a vendor), my irregular attendance to knitting circle, Bubonicon, the Taos Wool Festival (as a vendor), and learning to use a fancy phone. Ah yes, technology can be a cruel mistress, teasing and denying and yet demanding my attention. I worked behind a security fence for about a decade where fancy gadgets were not allowed. I also live in the sticks where there is no cell service. So for years there was no reason to have a touch screen phone with 3G and wireless capability. Now, I need such a wicked thing to do credit card swipes at my shows. Learning to treat the touch-sensitive screen with respect was extremely hard for me. I wrestle goats, beat rugs into being, and use my fingertips to give the donkeys vigorous ear scritches. I am not a subtle person. This alien, touchy tech that often defies me, requires patience and subtlety. I don’t know how M3 does it so well with his much larger fingers.

Foot stomped by donkey.

Foot stomped by donkey.

I am still learning how to manage my time. Of course, I want to volunteer for everything, hang out with everyone, read every book; basically revel in my freedom to schedule my time as I will. But, weaving comes first most days and then what time and energy is left goes into these other fun things. Hence, my appearance on the blog can be sparse for a few weeks at a time (because I have special orders or am prepping for and attending shows) and then there will be weeks where I am here every day (which means either I am not too busy or illness has me laid up in bed). I expect this to continue; hence, I am glad that I have never imposed a weekly blog schedule on myself. If you want to check out farm life, then see my farm blog, RoundTableFarms.com. If you want to check out my weavings, then look at WovenHearth.com.

Yet another big bug.

Yet another big bug.

The sun is nearly set here; the witching hour is soon to begin. I wish you a most magical night on my favorite holiday of the year!

Because you deserve it, here are a pair of strawberries large enough to fill out B cups!

Mutant organic local strawberries.

Mutant organic local strawberries.



Points of Origin by Darden North

NorthPointsOfOriginWhy I Read It: Sounded like a fun mystery that involved flames.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For those who enjoy a slow Southern mystery.

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Ponder House Press (2014)

Length: 12 hours 14 minutes

Author’s Page

Sher (short for Sherwood or Sherman, I forget) Foxworth grows up in the deep South in Larkspur, Mississippi. His grandfather has money, like mansion-size money, and his father was a successful plastic surgeon for a number of years. The first half of the book meanders through Sher’s early years and his family, his constant lack of attention in school, and his relationship with his grandfather. We know that Sher’s parents are out of the picture, but it’s not until much later in the story that we find out why.

I know I might be in the minority with this book, since it won an award or two, but I felt that it needed some work in several areas. First, it is very repetitive in some areas and this made the book longer than it needed to be (and potentially boring). As an example of the repetitiveness, I will point to a scene where Sher and his girlfriend get pulled over for supposed reckless driving. It takes ~20 minutes to get through this scene where Sher goes over again and again, verbally with the cop and in his own head, all the reasons he shouldn’t be ticketed. There are several scenes where this happens.

About half of the book is set up for all the good stuff you read in about in the book description posted on Goodreads, etc. If you read that blurb, then you know that eventually Sher joins a fire department. But this doesn’t even happen until 3/4 of the way through the novel. So the arson mystery is lightly touched on here and there but not really investigated until near the end of the book.

There were some discrepancies, places where a characters words or actions contradicted what they had said or did prior. I don’t know if this was something missed during the final drafts or left in and the explanation for the discrepancies were not made clear. For example, one of Dr. Foxworth’s plastic surgery patients came in for some fat removal and boob job. He also decides to give her a butt lift. As such, he has to draw the correct incision marks on her rump before she goes in to surgery. She is awake, aware, and not drugged when he does this. There was a whole discussion among all the characters involved. Later on, after surgery, the patient claims she didn’t know she was getting a butt lift. So, discrepancy? Or did the author plan to add in a bit about how the sedatives gave her a little memory loss but then forgot to do so?

Since the fire department stuff and arson mystery are part of the book’s description, I feel I can talk about them (even though some might feel they are spoilers since that all happens near the end of the book). Sher does a stupid thing at one point, running into a burning building without having called 911 or alerted a neighbor, etc. He has no equipment and no training at this point. Afterwards, Sher is regarded as a hero and invited to join a fire department. He eventually does so and goes off to firefigther academy, which takes up like 3 sentences. Sigh…..This could have been one of the most interesting parts of the book and instead is 3 sentences. Also, his fellow firefighters don’t beat the habit of running into burning buildings without backup out of him, which is what would happen in real life. Instead, he is praised by the fire department. So, I found that whole part (a crucial part to the plot) unbelievable.

OK, I just gave you 4 paragraphs of stuff I didn’t like. I can tell you I did like Sher’s complicated relationship with his grandfather. His life started off privileged and happy, with parents and a grandfather. But when his father’s surgery practice takes a decline, they have to live in the poolhouse at the grandfather’s estate. Depression and failure affects all, even the privileged. Still, I didn’t feel too bad for the Foxworth’s at that point. Later, when Sher’s parents are no longer in the scene, his bond with his grandfather grows, even as he struggles with college. I found these scenes concerning Sher’s family to be some of the best written in the book.

The ending was a surprise, but it also felt rushed. It came so quickly that I actually relistened to a few minutes of it to see if I had missed something. While the twist was welcome, making sense as it did, and giving me a bit of a surprise, I felt there could have been a little more to the wrap up to explain things.

The Narration: Wolinsky’s narration of males in this tale were good, each one being distinct. He carried out a believable Southern accent for the characters that required one. However, nearly all of his female characters sounded like little kids, and many of them were not discernible from each other. I have listened to other books narrated by Wolinsky and they are well narrated. Perhaps this was a book he narrated earlier in his career.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: The relationship between Sher and his grandfather; the cover; the twist at the end.

What I Disliked: Lots of repetition; some discrepancies in facts; unrealistic reaction by the fire department of an untrained, not equipped civilian running into a burning building; the ending needed a little more explanation; nearly all the women sounded like little kids and were difficult to discern from one another.

Tis the season for spooky suspense. I am participating in this year’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

What Others Think:

Audiobook Monthly


The League of Doorways by Tim O’Rourke

O'RourkeLeagueOfDoorwaysWhy I Read It: The first book was fun, so I checked out the sequel.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the narrator (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Fantasy quest folks who like a touch of the dark.

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Ravenwoodgreys (2014)

Length: 5 hours 58 minutes

Series: Book 2 Doorways

Author’s Page

Zach Black and his motley crew pick up just where Book 1 ended. Much of their time is spent trying to cross a desiccated and abandoned war zone. William Weaver the werewolf and Neanna the vampire keep him company as they continue their quest to find the Heart of Endra. Meanwhile, Anna Black is still in the hands of the ghoulish pirates along with uncle Thandel. Throat and his evil sister, Delf, continue to make plans to take out Zach and his companions.

I enjoyed this book more than I did Doorways (book 1 of the series). We have a new character, Dr. Faraday, that Zach & crew meet in the desert. He’s a mechanical man and has plenty of talents along with mysteries about him and how he came to dropped in the middle of a desert, turned off. We also have Anna playing a more pivotal role, along with Willow Weaver (William’s mother) and Delf playing bigger roles (in Book 1 we were just introduced to them). In this book, we get to follow a few plotlines, instead of just one, as these secondary characters have tasks and challenges of their own.

And then there is this pretty cool thing: The mechanical men made a mistake some time back. Fascinated with the animal life of Earth, they brought several species through before they realized that Endra didn’t act as an exact mirror. They were changed when they came through, creating strange, wondrous, and often terrifying modified beasties, such as the semi-mechanical tiger motorcycles. I quite enjoyed this part of the tale because it was beautiful, sad, and creepy all at once.

Then we have the bad guys. Searching for eternal life and beauty, they have fallen into crustiness and flatulence. While Throat has become a shadow of the mage he once was, his sister Delf has open, maggot-riddled sores, horrid breath, and gas. They are both uniquely twisted and disgusting in obvious and subtle ways. Though I have to say that Delf does seem to care for her mount, a large dog, who she feeds maggots to.

While all this is going on, Willow went on a quest to find the League of Doorways and ask their assistance in saving Endra. She finds Wally, an old family friend. I don’t want to spoil how her quest turns out, but let me say that it wasn’t simple and the answer wasn’t what she expected.

Up front, we know there is a concern that a traitor exists in Zach’s little group. He’s vigilant, keeping his eyes on a possibility. The ending wasn’t what I expected and I look forward to having Book 3 on audio to continue the tale.

The Narration: I enjoyed Fred Wolinsky’s performance more in Book 2. I think his polish of his character voices increases with each book he does. Once again,  he had a variety of voices, both male and female, both human and nonhuman, and each was distinct. He did a great mechanical voice for Dr. Faraday and I really appreciate the extra effort that must have gone in to that.  Zach still sounded more like a 12 year old boy instead of one for a boy on the cusp of manhood but I don’t think this should deter folks from enjoying this series.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: High adventure; modified beasties; multiple plotlines to follow; Delf & throat make excellent villains; Willow’s quest to find the League of Doorways; unexpected ending.

What I Disliked:  Much of the time Zach’s voice sounded like a 12 year old instead of a 16 year old.

Tis the season for spooky suspense. I am participating in this year’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

What Others Think:

Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

Novels on the Run


Guest Post: Catching the Muse by Barbara Venkataraman

VenkataramanDeathByDidgeridooFolks, please welcome Barbara Venkataraman to the blog today. I have enjoyed her Jamie Quinn mysteries quite a bit. Check out my reviews of Death by Didgeridoo and The Case of the Killer Divorce. Today, Barbara is going to share a little about herself and then has a fun guest post, Catching the Muse, for us all. But then she has gone beyond that and given us Bittersweet, a short fiction piece, for us to enjoy.

Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law and debt collection.

She is the author of The Fight for Magicallus, a children’s fantasy; a humorous short story entitled, If You’d Just Listened to Me in the First Place; and two books of humorous essays: I’m Not Talking about You, Of Course and A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities, which are part of the “Quirky Essays for Quirky People” series. Both books of humorous essays won the prestigious “Indie Book of the Day” award.

Her latest works are Death by Didgeridoo, first in the Jamie Quinn series, The Case of the Killer Divorce, the second Jamie Quinn mystery, and, just out, Peril in the Park, the latest in the popular Jamie Quinn series. Coming soon, Engaged in Danger–the next Jamie Quinn mystery!


VenkataramanCaseOfKillerDivorceCatching the Muse

I wish I could tell you how to capture that vixen, the muse, the mythical creature who bestows inspiration–but it’s simply not possible.  She (mine is a she) is a shape-shifter who delights in dancing just out of reach, teasing me with fantastic tales sung in perfect pitch and enviable prose. When she does appear (and I never know when that will be), I must pretend that I can’t see her for fear she’ll leave me.

After countless attempts to conjure her, I’ve discovered that she finds water soothing and will whisper ideas in my ear when I’m swimming, or soaking in a fragrant bath. More importantly, I’ve learned what her favorite drink is. Sometimes, after a strong brew of energizing (and sleep-depriving) coffee, she will magically appear. Then, with a wink and a laugh, she will sit next to me, an ephemeral creature, her gossamer robes tickling my arm, and pluck ideas from my mind as if plucking a lute. Although the music isn’t always beautiful, or even original, it is mine and it flows like the water my muse loves so much.



Who would have thought this could happen to us?  An economic superpower in our day and we never saw it coming.  Okay, that last part isn’t true. They did try to warn us:  the botanists and economists, the climatologists and even those pretentious foodies, damn them! But we refused to believe it.  So spoiled and gluttonous were we that we couldn’t imagine such a vacuum in our lives, couldn’t imagine that one of our greatest pleasures, second only to, well you know, could disappear so suddenly, leaving us in a glassy-eyed stupor.

At first, there seemed to be no cause for alarm.  Sure, a few high-end distributors declared bankruptcy and most of the artisanal boutiques quietly closed down, but that didn’t affect the rest of us. Even as the price started creeping up, we took it in stride, still happily gorging ourselves on a regular basis.  Every holiday was an excuse to buy new varieties created in whimsical shapes or mixed with exotic flavors like hot chili peppers, spicy ginger, aromatic curry powders or edible flowers.

People even ate it on insects!  Now, why would I make that up?  Others drank it in liquid form; some preferred it melted or frozen. Touted for centuries as an energy-booster, an antioxidant, and an aphrodisiac, it was all that and much more.  In fact, some of the wealthiest ladies went to luxury spas so they could bathe in it! Isn’t that decadent? The flavors were so rich and complex that no scientist ever managed to synthesize it in the lab. Believe me, they tried. If I told you its name meant “food of the gods,” maybe you could start to understand the depth of our loss…

In our defense, we had a lot of other problems to worry about. There were no world population councils back then so people could have as many children as they wanted. My own grandparents had twelve kids! The population climbed to 9 billion before we did anything about it. On top of that, the climate was changing and real estate which had been “underwater” due to the housing bubble was now literally underwater. Coastal areas were disappearing, Louisiana was sinking and the popular area known as South Beach was cut off from the mainland forever. At the same time, countries were locked in a massive power struggle over the dwindling supply of fossil fuels.

Is it any wonder we paid no attention to those whining foodies? I mean, they were always complaining about something.  If it wasn’t the shortage of truffle pigs, then it was the ban on pâté de foie gras or the counterfeit caviar flooding the market. Their concerns were so alien to the rest of us plebeians that we tuned them out when we really should have listened to them. Only the Doomsday freaks took them seriously and, naturally, they started hoarding the “food of the gods” because, well, hoarding was what they did best.  Always preparing for the world to end, they saw no sense in going hungry while they waited. It was the hoarding that jacked the price up enough for the world to finally notice.

Outside of our purview, the fragile crops that supplied the delicious elixir were dying from insect infestation, disease, and climate change, and demand was quickly overtaking supply.  Speculators entered the mix and real panic set in.  It became the hottest commodity in the world, even overtaking gold.  Financial markets were so volatile that in West African countries, where the crop was cultivated, ripe pods became the new currency, just like in ancient times.  Black markets sprang up everywhere and nobody could talk about anything else.  Elected officials were besieged by rabid voters demanding immediate action. Riots broke out and the processing factories were looted for raw materials. Even natural disasters couldn’t distract people for very long…

I’m sorry, where was I? You’ll have to forgive me but ever since I reached my 115th sun cycle, my mind has started to wander. Oh, yes, the governments became involved but, of course, they only made things worse. Truthfully, I don’t know if there was anything they could have done anyway. Our best agri-scientists worked around the clock but, in the end, all they could do was bank seeds in all of the master seed banks and watch it play out. In only ten years, all of the crops were utterly decimated, never to return. Even the hoarders and black marketeers eventually reached their last precious morsels. And, because they had no choice, the people of the world adjusted, but there was a sadness that permeated everything, a yearning that would never pass, a taste that could not be forgotten…

I know you’re wondering why I told you this long story, especially today, when we should be celebrating your 21st sun-cycle and eating a feast of the best synth food in town, but you’re my only great-great-granddaughter and I wanted to give you something really special. Yesterday, I went to my Cryo-storage unit to get your gift so that it would thaw out in time.  Here, please take this and remember to savor every bite:  it’s like nothing you’ve ever eaten before and nothing you will ever eat again. Yes, it is a curious shape, it’s meant to resemble an animal that’s now extinct; it was called a rabbit.  I hope you don’t mind if I watch you take a bite, it would give me great pleasure. Oh no, please don’t cry! Like life, chocolate isn’t meant to last. Only the joy of experiencing it lingers on.

Places to Find Barbara Venkataraman





The Case of the Killer Divorce by Barbara Venkataraman

VenkataramanCaseOfKillerDivorceWhy I Read It: Have enjoyed her other works.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Cozy mystery fans.

Narrator: Carrie Lee Martz

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 2 hours 56 minutes

Series: Book 2 Jamie Quinn Mystery

Author’s Page

Note: Although this is Book 2 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

Jamie Quinn, family practice lawyer, returns in this sequel to Death by Didgeridoo. She’s handling cases that she’s trained for (mostly divorces) until someone ends up dead and her divorce client is a suspect. Once again, folks turn to Jamie to untangle a murder mystery. She calls in her associate, an annoying man who just happens to be good at his job as a private eye, Duke Broussard. To add to the mess, Jamie wishes to find her long lost father, or at least, learn a bit more about him. As with Book 1 in the series, this mystery is set in modern day Hollywood, Florida.

I think I enjoyed this book even more than Book 1 because there were two plot lines; the main plot followed the murder investigation and the minor plot was the search for info on Jamie’s father. Plus there was a little side romance that added to the story and was not distracting from the main plot. The story starts with a judge dismissing Jamie’s motion in a divorce case. Becca and Joe have 2 kids and now Becca has to allow Joe to see them on Friday. She has a bit of a melt down when Joe, once again, threatens to sue for sole custody of the kids. Plenty of nasty things are said back and forth and one of these lovely people ends up dead.

The story was easy to get into and it was quite fun riding around in Jamie’s head as she tried to solve the murder mystery, while at the same time untangling the mystery of her long lost father. Duke Broussard alternately irritates Jamie and perks her up. He’s a good friend, even if he can be a bit annoying at times. I really enjoyed the back and forth between these two. While the ending was a little predictable, this is a great read for day off in a porch swing, or curled up by a fire.

The Narration: Martz once again was a good voice for Jamie. She imbued the role with emotion as needed. I loved her accent for Duke.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: Fun, quick pace; more than one plot line to keep the reader entertained; the cover.

What I Disliked: The ending was a bit predictable.

Tis the season for spooky suspense. I am participating in this year’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

What Others Think:

Reading with Monie

Every Free Chance



Olde School by Selah Janel

JanelOldeSchoolWhy I Read It: The cover was a big draw for me.

Where I Got It: Review copy via the blog tour with TLC Book Tours (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy plenty of humor, a note of the dark, and some modern tech in your fantasy, then check this book out.

Publisher: Seventh Star Press (2014)

Length: 1428 pages

Series: Book 1 The Kingdom City Chronicles

Author’s Page

Kingdom City, formerly known as Thadd’s Kingdom, has been modernizing for the last few decades. Now trolls, humans, and pixies can all enjoy a nice steaming cup of coffee at the local diner while checking their emails on the free local wi-fi. But not all are ready to modernize and many pick and choose what they want to modernize. Flat screen tvs and fold up concealed maces are popular while online banking and dating has only been accepted by certain parts of the population. Paddlelump Stonemonger is one of the first businesstrolls the kingdom has seen and he runs a toll bridge. Folks use it to cross a ravine to his lands of open meadow and forest. His older troll friends, Uljah and Izzpick, give him quite the ribbing over his business suit and lack of weaponry. But, hey, he’s a troll. Who the hell is going to mess with an 8 foot tall troll?

This book is heavy on the humor and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a great read for this time of the year if you are looking for the lighter side of Halloween. While it does take a while for the main plot to put in an appearance, you won’t be bored adventuring around Kingdom City, experiencing the ambiance and getting to know the characters. Flora (the waitress at the diner) and Nobody (maid to Paddlelump) are the two major female characters, though they both take back seat to the male characters. Flora has a sharp wit and isn’t cowed by troll, ogre, or studly prince wannabe. Nobody is introduced as a maiden in distress, who is looking for work and a place to pasture her pet cow. Paddlelump hires her to do the cleaning, laundry, and cooking, meanwhile allowing her to pasture her cow in his meadowlands. As she repeatedly fails to get the daily chores done, Paddlelumps friends encourage him to let her go, but he hesitates, much to his detriment later on when the plot arrives.

More characters are introduced as the story unfolds. I enjoyed learning about Grimclaw, the head detective/sheriff ogre, as the body count starts to build. Then there is Clyde. Ah, Clyde! Such a fun character. I loved his snooty attitude and his humor. Paddlelump himself is forced to grow as a character as life’s roadblocks continue to pile up on him. There’s the aforementioned issue with the maid, he’s in a tiff with the City Mayor, and then, about a third of the way in to the book, things turn grim indeed. I have to say I didn’t see the shift in tone coming for this book, but I liked the darker note intruding into this story. It gave it weight and made me care more about the characters. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you were thinking about reading this aloud at story time for small kids, you might want to give the entire book a skim first.

Over all, this was very enjoyable read. It kept me up way to late a few nights in a row as I didn’t want to put it down. I am very much looking forward to future installments in The Kingdom City Chronicles.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: The cover; trolls having coffee at a diner; Uljah’s concealed fold-up mace; Clyde (such a fun character!); the darker note to the story.

What I Disliked: Being nit-picky, I would like to see more female characters and have them doing something besides waitressing and maiding.

Tis the season for spooky suspense. I am participating in this year’s R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

What Others Think:

Check out the blog tour hosted by TLC Book Tours

Interview: Selah Janel, Author of Olde School

SelahJanelAuthorPicEveryone, please clap eyes together for Selah Janel! We chat about a ton of stuff in this interview, ranging from comics (Batgirl, Sandman) to books (American Gods, Ray Bradbury), to Welcome to Night Vale, along with lots of other interesting bits. Enjoy!

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

First, thanks so much for having me on! I’m an unabashed geek, so there are a lot of books I’d love to see branch out into some sort of interactive play. I really love Neil Gaiman’s work, so I’d have to say that I’d be all for some sort of American Gods or Sandman game. Both of those worlds are so rich in settings, characters, story, and mythology, so you could do a lot with any type of game experience. You could even have different players actively working against each other with either title, so that would be a lot of fun. I’d totally be down to play Death or Delirium in Sandman!

Ray Bradbury is also probably my favorite author, and I have an unhealthy love of carnival-themed stories, so I would absolutely love to spend all evening playing any kind of version of Something Wicked This Way Comes. It would be so cool to play as Jim or Will and go around exploring the carnival, then seeing the town come undone and having to figure out the reason for it, then face down characters like the dust witch, Mr. Cooger, and Mr. Dark.

And honestly, I’d love to eventually see Olde School get that kind of treatment. Kingdom City and The Land in general is a huge area with a lot of great characters and places to explore. I’d love to see people playing their way through the city and Thadd Forest, dealing with characters like Nobody and Addlebaum, and facing off against the Olde Ones. There could be so many fun possibilities there!

JanelOldeSchoolWith the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

I tend to read a little bit of everything, and I like perusing the new section of my library and grabbing titles with no prior knowledge, so I don’t know that I’ve been lured outside my comfort zone without expecting it to happen. I like discovering different work, and even if it makes me feel uncomfortable, I’ve discovered a lot of great titles by being open. So I suppose if classifying a work in different genres helps people who may not go looking for something discover that they like more than what they assume, then it’s definitely a good thing. Anymore, as cross-genre titles become more popular, it’s almost impossible to distinguish a title by one genre, anyway. The genre labeling helps bookstores and marketing, sure, but at the end of the day, I think most books tend to be more than one classification. Sure, there are people who only go after certain genres: horror, paranormal romance, etc., but even those two examples encompass a lot of subgenres.

My book, Olde School, is a good example. It looks like a fantasy book, and it encompasses a lot of those creatures and plot elements. It also has a lot of folklore and fairy components, but lends itself to urban fantasy because of its modernized setting and the fact that there are paranormal/Lovecraft-type horror elements coming into it from another realm. On a shelf it would probably be found under fantasy, but I’ve had all sorts of people get into it and enjoy it – some of whom made it a point to mention that they never read fantasy, but really enjoyed this title!

In that way, I think marketing to different genre shelves definitely helps authors, but it also helps readers expand their horizons and find titles that they might have overlooked. It’s the equivalent of me wandering through the library grabbing whatever’s interesting. If I hadn’t picked up Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez, I may have just thought it was some goofy title playing on the horror genre and not the really clever book and well-written story it is. If I’d walked past This is Gonna Hurt by Nikki Sixx, I’d have assumed it was yet another rock star bio and not a really incredible photography book combined with musings about living a creative life and not judging people (plus I’d have missed out on a book that probably changed my creative life). It all goes back to not judging a book by the cover, and if the various genre filing does that for a reader, then I’m all for it!

JanelMoonerWhat reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

I’m really (really, really, really) into fairy tales and folklore of all types, as well as myths from all areas of the world, so I can definitely get behind a well-written retelling or a story that uses the characters, settings, or arcs to make them new. The Tenth Kingdom miniseries came at a time when I was starting my twenties and had gotten away from a lot of genre fiction because I was a freshman in college and studying theatre. Although I’d been brought up with various versions of fairy tales, it seemed that only the Disney versions made it into popular culture, so to see something closer to the Grimm versions used in such unique ways blew my mind. I loved the way the story incorporated the “real” world and original characters, and utilized a lot of themes as well as just having the fairy tale characters show up. Diane Wiest is so amazing in that, as is Ed O’Neil. The humor is fantastic, and I love that it doesn’t shy away from slightly bawdy themes and some really dark territory. I really don’t think Olde School would have gotten written if it hadn’t been for that influence – it made me think years later of what was possible and just go for broke, giving me permission to do my own slant on old themes.

As a kid, I also grew up with Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. Those episodes were just mind-boggling and seemed so real. I was mesmerized…and terrified. A local library happened to have the novelization of those stories, and I checked it out so often that I’ve probably still got some of them memorized. I always found it a shame that his fantasy work always gained more of a cult following, because things like that series are exquisite – just perfection, and really show what you can do with puppets, great acting, and fantastic stories.

A few years ago I stumbled upon My Father He Killed Me, My Mother She Ate Me, which is an anthology of fairy tale retellings. Like any anthology, I gravitated to some stories more than others, but The Color Master by Aimee Bender…to this day I am in awe and incredibly jealous of this story. I love any version of Allerleirauh I can find, and to have it told from the perspective of a craftsperson really spoke to me since I sew and design costumes in my daily life. The emotion in the tale brought me to my knees, and the descriptions of making the three dresses really spoke to me. It was such an unusual take on the story and it’s done so well.

Obviously I’m really into Sandman – that series never ceases to make me feel on a visceral level and give me something to think about. American Gods, too – that’s one of the few books where I really didn’t see a lot of the reveals coming. You can really tell that Neil Gaiman knows what he’s talking about. He doesn’t necessarily cram anything down a reader’s throat but uses the revamped characters and themes in some subtle ways. I still catch things when I go back and reread both titles.

As far as ones that haven’t worked for me…I honestly don’t get into movie revamps that purposefully take fairy tales and make them “dark.” This doesn’t make sense at all to me…they’re already dark, it’s just that we’ve sanitized them so much in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Just go back and tell older versions of the story and tell them well! You don’t need to work so hard throwing in twenty action sequences and over the top love triangles and things that just don’t fit. I get the fixation, I get wanting to modernize things, but I can’t help but think that there are better ways. I really wish that instead of taking the same five or ten stories and continually showing the “true” version or cramming them into some new subgenre, people would take a look at a lot of the international versions of the stories and work with them. I mean there are over three hundred known Cinderella stories and we regularly use maybe three. That’s a shame, especially when some of them have some great elements like the heroine leaving home to find her own way or man–eating trolls.

JanelInTheRedWhat is your favorite fictional holiday (from books, movies, or tv)?

Speaking of Jim Henson…and probably showing more of my inner workings than is healthy….Refrigerator Day, from the TV series Dinosaurs. I would totally be all about celebrating the glory of the fridge.

JanelHollyAndIvyIf you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Oh, man! Questions like this always get me! I always have to fight the instinct to put a bunch of people together that might become a powder keg, just to see what would happen. Definitely Jareth, the Goblin King, from Labyrinth. I’ve always really been intrigued by that character since you really don’t know a lot about him other than his role (that he seems bored by), and if you believe his interpretation of things in the end scenes, that may be a front because it’s how Sarah expects to see him. Barbara Gordon/Batgirl would be one that I’d definitely want to talk to, but only in her pre-new 52 version. I found her transformation into Oracle so emotional and inspiring, and it did wonders for her characterization in the comics. I really hate that all that got reverted. Salem the cat from Sabrina the Teenage Witch because I am that big of a geek and a cat person and I cannot help but think that it would be hilarious. Cecil from Welcome to Night Vale because I just want to know everything that goes on in that town and he’s probably the best one to get the dirt from. And I’m sure Clyde from Olde School would make me invite him to keep the peace – he’s annoying like that. He was once a magical/possibly evil entity, and now is stuck as a non-magical songbird with a deep, sexy voice who helps the lead character in my book as long as it means he gets unlimited access to red wine and cable television. He wouldn’t want to be left out…plus he’d probably give Salem a run for his money.

Man, only five? I guess I’d have to save the invites to Eowyn, Aslan, Meg Murry from Madeline L’Engle’s books, The Endless from Sandman, Tamora from Titus Andronicus, Loki, Skinner Sweet from American Vampire, The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in your Home from Welcome to Night Vale, and half of the standard fairy tale characters for the Christmas party……..Come on. You know that would be amazing!

JanelTheOtherManCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I feel like this happens on a day to day basis for me. I tend to talk prolifically about anything I’m really enjoying, be it a band, movie, book, whatever. I know it gets obnoxious and although I try to dampen that down, I do get really passionate about what I’m into at times. I’m also still not used to people coming to conventions to see me or coming up to me to talk about my books, so I have to really stop myself from going “Me? Really?” and looking around in confusion.

Probably the best example of me overreacting isn’t actually me gushing to anyone, but an incident that happened a handful of years ago. I was in the middle of just a lot of different things going on and I’d recently lost a family member, so I was a ball of tension anyway. I love going to the library and I had found a book of source material written by Ray Bradbury around the same concept of Fahrenheit 451 that either didn’t make it into the book or were written before or after, etc. I didn’t realize until I’d gotten home that it was a limited edition…a signed limited edition.

The thing about me is I’m a huge lover of Ray Bradbury. His work really encouraged me to keep writing, and I could speak about his influence forever. He’s one that I keep slowly going through the list of his works, debating whether to read it all or leave some go, so there’s always something to look forward to. And having that book in my hands that I happened to check out, knowing that it wasn’t available anymore and at the time I didn’t have the money to spend on it, anyway….
….this is so embarrassing, but I lost my ever-loving mind.

There’s a story he wrote in Dandelion Wine called The Happiness Machine, and it involves a husband trying to make his family happy by building a machine that would show them all these different things that they didn’t happen to have. The wife comes out of the machine sobbing and says something to the effect that they were things she didn’t even know she wanted, and now she knew she’d never get them. That’s about what it was like for me, to hold that thing in my hands, running a finger over the signature, knowing I’d love reading it, knowing I’d get attached to it, knowing I had to give it back…

Yeah, definite meltdown. My mother happened by and actually thought someone else had died or some other tragedy had happened until I calmed down enough to explain. After realizing that she’d given birth to a crazy person, we actually sat down and tried to find a way around the situation, but by then most of that edition had been bought up.

A lot of my friends suggested a lot of ways around the library process, but I couldn’t in good conscience do anything with a book that advocated literacy and shared knowledge, so I actually had my mother take it back so I wouldn’t be tempted. I never read a single part of that book because the thought of having it but not having it just tore me apart.

In hindsight, a lot of it was probably me expressing a lot of grief and frustration at the things that were going on, but man that was a huge catalyst that actually got me to express a lot of that emotion. I was also fortunate enough that a dear friend of mine found a signed copy of Dandelion Wine (my favorite Bradbury book) and sent it my way to ease the ache. I’ve never forgotten the gesture and it helped to reorient my headspace at the time. Still, I will admit that I’ve never tried to check that book out again.

JanelLostInShadowsWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

I feel like this happens once a week, so it’s really hard to choose or remember a specific incident. I get involved in the Marvel vs. DC debate a lot, and I end up getting way more detailed in any Batman discussion than I probably should. People tend to rope me into a lot of discussions about fantasy or fairy tales. Sometimes I’ll play devil’s advocate about titles I’m not really into or things I love but don’t think need endless sequels, just to make sure everyone keeps an open mind. Lately, since I’ve become a regular listener of Welcome to Night Vale, the most recent geektacular discussion involves deciding out of my friends and family, who would be a resident of Night Vale and who would belong in Desert Bluffs. I got talked into moderating a fanfiction panel at a writing convention a few weeks ago. Whatever your feelings on it (and I have many different ones), as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed this secret theory that fanfic is the new oral tradition and a lot of the “new” archetypes specific to it are downright Jungian, but for slightly different reasons and goals. I’ve had a lot of moments lately traumatizing people with that more intellectual take on fandom. It’s always something – if I can inject people’s daily lives with a little bit of geekiness and get them to appreciate all the fun stuff out there, then I’ve done my job,

HartnessLeverettBigBadFinally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Most of my upcoming stuff is still in the development stage at the moment – I’m finishing up some standalone manuscripts to shop, working on a few proposals, and plotting out the next Kingdom City book. I’m discussing a few other projects, including an issue of Tales of Indiscretion dedicated to my short fiction, but as of yet I don’t have any official dates on anything. I’m hoping to make an appearance in the Columbus, Ohio area on October 25, but that’s still being finalized and I’m still working on my 2015 schedule, as well.

I will have a story in The Big Bad 2 anthology, which focuses on characters traditionally seen as “evil” getting the spotlight. “A Family Affair” will be a prequel to my vampire story “Real Wild Childe” in the first Big Bad anthology, and deals with cold war era vampires and a fairly interesting housewife.

There’s a lot to discover on my blog, though! After a short break I’m trying to get back to regular posting, and a full list of my available releases, as well as magazines and anthologies I’m in is there. There’s also a full page of different Kingdom City fun, including little shorts featuring Clyde the bird. The main link is http://www.selahjanel.wordpress.com and the rest can be found by clicking at the subheadings. I always welcome people to message me on my FB author page or tweet me or leave a comment on the blog. I love hearing what people have to say!

Places to Stalk Selah Janel





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