Best Halloween Movies – 2018 Edition!

It’s my favorite time of year again! Fall, particularly October have always held a special place in my heart, which is probably why I wanted to get married in this spookiest, most mysterious of months.

But, this is NOT the time for romance, but for thrills and chills. So, here is my 2018 edition for great movies to watch leading up to Halloween.

If you want to check out my previous Halloween movie post, click here.

The Haunting (1963): Forget about the dreadful 1999 remake and stick with this glorious addition to the haunted-house genre. This is the way ghosts stories should be told! Spooky noises, little to no visual evidence of an actual presence, and leaving the viewer in doubt whether all that’s happening is REAL or if the main character is nuts.

And, as a bonus, pick of the original book by Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House

 

Young Frankenstein: A classic parody of the monster movie. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder made this a classic. So, if you’d rather have a laugh than a scream during Halloween, check this one out.

Bonus read: Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

 

The Craft: I probably shouldn’t advocate for this movie since much of the witchcraft is pretty off. BUT it does give a much more nuanced view of witches than most movies. Plus it’s such a fun 90s romp through the occult that I can’t help but love it.

Bonus read: Though The Craft wasn’t base on Sherryl Jordan’s The Juniper Game, Jordan’s book does explore the consequences of teens messing around with forces they don’t fully understand.

 

What Lies Beneath: Another fantastic example of how moviemakers SHOULD create a ghost story. It has everything listed above, plus a very human twist that ups the suspense. Brrrrr!

Bonus read: Again, not a perfect companion to the movie, but a chilling little YA thriller that features a female protagonist pitted against a ghostly female apparition with vengeance on her mind.  The Accident by Diane Hoh

 

Sleepy Hollow: This next trailer will seemingly contradict everything I just said above about ghost stories. But the fact that Tim Burton made this somewhat of a parody excuses the excessive gore – at least to my way of thinking. And Burton does such a nice job of creating atmosphere that, even during the funny parts, you get a delicious shiver down your spine.

Bonus Read: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving

 

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: To go along with the entry above, I’ve included this delightful cartoon that featured prominently  in my childhood. Mr. Toad is sort of an add-on here, since we’re really interested in Ichabod, Disney’s version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” A little spooky, a little funny, and all early Disney animation.

Bonus read: same as above

 

Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Despite the title, this movie doesn’t really adhere to the original book. BUT, that’s a good thing in my opinion. I found the book drippy in its sentimentality and two-dimensional. However, Francis Ford Coppola managed to create a Dracula that was completely horrifying, and completely human – the best sort of bad guy. And, notwithstanding Keanu Reeves’ horrid British accent, this was well acted, incredibly costumed, and the music… that in itself is a horror movie for your ears – in a good way.

Bonus read (just ’cause I didn’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t): Dracula by Bram Stoker

 

The Worst Witch (1986): Again, forget the remake and stick with this little gem. Yeah, yeah the special effects were super corny (typical of the 80s), but you’ve got Diana Rigg, Charlotte Rae, Fairuza Balk, and… Tim Curry!  I didn’t put the trailer because it gives away WAY too much. So here’s a little clip instead.

Bonus read: check out the original series by Jill Murphy

 

Poltergeist (1982): I’ve said this a lot in this post, but, really, just root out the original of a movie and enjoy it. Most remakes are pale shadows and not worth the time you’d invest in them. This is another example that proves that point. If you can handle a bit more scare, Poltergeist delivers without resorting to gore and gratuitous violence.

I don’t really have a bonus read for this. But there is a novelization out there written by James Kahn, if you want to check that out.

 

The Watcher in the Woods (1980): OMG, the trailer still gives me the creeps. Even though this was a Disney production, it really amps the spook factor. However, I’d like to offer a little caution, if you get the DVD, don’t watch the included alternate ending. Just stick with the original theatrical ending. It’s much more mysterious and satisfying. The alternate ending is silly – much like the ending of Stephen King’s IT.

Bonus read: If you want to subject yourself to the badly written original material… The Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall

My 10 Favorite Movies to Watch at Halloween

Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year.  And Halloween, the crowning moment in a season of magic (wow, that was a bit melodramatic, wasn’t it?). As a kid, I always tuned in to the Halloween specials that played on TV. Disney put out some great spookfests comprised of classic cartoons and contemporary films.

As an adult, I still hold a special place in my heart for those children shows, but my tastes have, inevitably, grown up a little. So, here are some of my favorite films to watch during the Halloween season.

 

What We Do In the Shadows – a HILARIOUS take on the whole vampire craze that swept the world (sans sparkling). It’s also a play on the mockumentary trend that I still adore.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – I pretty much love everything Peanuts.  All I can say is that Charles Schultz was a genius and The Peanuts get better and better the older I get.

Fright Night (1985) – Now,  a remake of this movie came out in recent years, but I really recommend sticking with the classic 1985 version. Much as I think Colin Farrell is drop-dead sexy, the original version had the campy-80s-fun aspect that just can’t be replicated.

 

Disney Classics: Donald Duck – So this entry is made up of several videos. Disney made a quartet of spooky cartoons starring Donald Duck that always put me in the Halloween mood.

High Spirits – Oh, man, oh, man! This movie is just so many things: fun, zany, romantic, with a touch of creepiness and, of course, the gorgeous settings. Not to mention Peter O’Toole. Everything the man touches is gold! And I don’t give a w*!t that he was awarded a Golden Raspberry for his performance in Super Girl, I loved that movie too!

The Addams Family – Not many filmmakers can pull off a production that features a family of blood-thirsty, amoral psychopaths and make them seem lovable. But it was done and it was fantastic!

Beetlejuice – Two words: Michael Keaton.

The Wolfman – I honestly don’t know why I like this movie. There is so much wrong with it, but it still entranced me when my husband and I watched it the first time.

The Ghostbusters (1984) – Now, I actually kinda like the all-female version that came out recently. But the original has a special magic that, again, could only happen in the 80s. I don’t know what it was about that decade, but things they did in movies were simply legendary. Ghostbusters is a prime example of that.

Hocus Pocus – This was a bit past my primary years as a child (won’t say how past), but it still delighted my childish heart when it came out. And every Halloween, I have to drag out my DVD copy and watch it to remember how special Halloween was when I was a kid.

NaNoWriMo is HERE!

It’s National Novel Writing Month again! Are you excited? I’m excited! I’ve got my novel all set up on NaNoWriMo’s site and a daily word goal in mind.

Because my husband and I made a deal back at the beginning of September, my total word goal is a bit different. In September, he challenged me to write 100,000 words by the end of November (three months to write 100K). If I succeeded, I would get money to take horse back riding lessons, something I’ve desperately wanted to do for YEARS. Well, as of today, November 1st, I have a little over 34,000 words. So, for November, my goal is 64,280 words (that’s a little over 2,100 words a day).

I think I can do it. Last year I managed to write about 72,000 words in November alone. When the stories hot, I don’t have a problem churning out a daily average of 2,500 words.

So, ready, set, NaNo!

My Takeaway from WorldCon 2016

This was my first year attending WorldCon (aka MidAmeriCon II). Since the Hugos are such an historic thing in fandom, I was super excited to attend and see what all this was about. Here are some positive things I took away from WorldCon 2016.

WorldCon is an amazing way to discover new authors: one of my major takeaways as far as new writers go is the discovery of several speculative fiction poets and literary magazines catering to speculative poetry. We all know about The Odyssey, The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost, Beowulf, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Virgil’s The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy,  and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These are ancient texts – many of them written for holy/sacred reasons. But they have also become precursers not only for our modern versions of epic fantasy but for amazing speculative poetry. Two of the poets I was most excited to learn about this last week were Rose Lemberg and Mary Soon Lee – two amazing poets and storytellers. Other authors I’m excited to read now are Robin Wayne Bailey, Alyssa Wong, Mary Doria Russell, Nnedi Okorafor, Hao Jingfang, Nick Wood, and Naomi Kritzer.

rose lemberg   robin wayne bailey   mary soon lee

 

Conventions are so much more fun if you have a compatible buddy to share it with. I was very fortunate to have a roommate for my stay in Kansas City. Not only did it cut my trip costs, but I got to have a super-fun time! Lyn Godfrey and I stayed at a hotel off-site and so had a short commute to and from the conference center. Usually, I would think of that as a big inconvenience. But, this time the drive and staying off-site gave me the opportunity to get to know Lyn better. She and I were in a now defunct writers group together a while ago but never learned very much about each other. WorldCon more than made up for that as we explored Kansas City together after hours, had a blast eating delivery in our hotel room while watching Big Bang Theory on television, giggling over the silly puzzles the WorldCon committee put in the Hugo Awards brochure, and cat-fighting over the Darth Vader cosplayer who flirted with us in the hallway (he actually flirted with me, but Lyn doesn’t agree). So, my advice would be get a roommate for these things. If nothing else, it will help defray expenses. And you have the opportunity to enhance your Con experience and make deeper friendships.

 

WorldCon is also a great place to discover new artists. Along with new authors, I also got to find out about new artists. I went prepared to ooh and ahh over Kinuko Y. Craft, award-winning fantasy artists and one of the main reasons I became a fan of Patricia A. McKillip. And, while I DID get Craft’s signature (on a 2017 calendar and her rendition of Beauty and the Beast), my biggest find was a potter who produced the pieces pictured below. Her studio is called Mudcat Studio and she creates the most amazing stuff. I walked by her booth in the Dealer’s Room several times, afraid to stop and look, though her work caught my eye every time, because I knew it would be expensive. But, I finally did stop and found the mug and bowl below. Let me tell you, this is quality pottery: heavy, well-made, gorgeously decorated and glazed. I use the mug everyday (the picture I took of the mug does NOT do it justice. It is so much prettier in person)and the bowl now sits on my Mega Desk. I look at it often while I write and draw a lot of inspiration from it.

The thing is, she has no retail space – either physically or online. CRAZY, I know! I spent five minutes encouraging her to get on Etsy because I would definitely start collecting her pieces if they were readily available. But she said she was fearful of technology as it confused her. If you like the pieces below (and, unbelievable as it might seem there were even more beautiful things there), click on the link for the name of her studio and you will find her business phone number as well as the studio’s address. Call her, mail her and let her know that she would have business if she set up an online store. If a web genius out there is willing, maybe you could help her set up a basic, easy-to-use website with a store option.

IMG_0195 IMG_0196

 

 

Fandom has pretty thoroughly embraced the need for welcoming EVERYONE into its gates. I think this year’s Hugo Awards made it pretty clear that SFF fandom is ready and willing to embrace new voices and viewpoints. The sad/rabid puppies once more tried to load the Hugo ballots with their slate of authors/artists they felt upheld traditional SFF (whatever the hell that means since SFF has always been about breaking traditions and pushing known boundaries). But, when the awards were handed out, it became clear that the fandom who voted for these winners was done with that nonsense. Despite what the sad/rabid puppies think, we chose authors/artists based on the quality of their work and not some bullshit PC agenda. It was a very proud moment and I am glad I was there.

So, that’s my takeaway from my first WorldCon. I won’t be able to attend next year’s since it is in Helsinki, Finland. Although, that would be an AMAZING event. So if you have the means to get there, please go and support the Hugo Awards and the fantastic artists and authors who make our world just a little more magical.

 

So You Want to Be a Writer…

So you want to be a writer? Delve into that heady, intoxicating world of make believe. Invite others into your secret worlds and be admired for having imaginary friends. Ahhhh! The writing life. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Get ready to become a pathetic version of Jekyll and Hyde. There are weeks I am THE most brilliant writer I know. Everything I touch turns to f**king gold. Everyone loves me and I’m on my way to super-stardom. Those weeks come along about once every two years or so. Sometimes a bit more often if I’m lucky. More often I’m doggedly swimming against a current because I love what I do and am determined to find SOMEONE, ANYONE who agrees with me. And then there are the dark times. When the only thing talking me down from tearing the world into a million pieces is copious amounts of junk food and reruns of The Office, Golden Girls, King of the Hill, and Archer.

Be happy with less. Because writing don’t pay. Unless you’re one of the rare and beautiful comets that streaks across society’s sky, blazing with golden light, you ain’t gonna make much bling. Certainly not enough to quick your day job or not be subsidized by a spouse.

Prepare yourself to get kicked in the nuts/vag at least once every six months (and the odds are likely it will be way more often). And those kicks come from everyone: agents, editors, reviewers, readers, your family, friends, and especially yourself. It astonishes me that any writer can have any arrogance at all.

Practice stoicism. My husband is a student of stoicism and often treats me to mini-lessons on its virtues. Basically, train yourself not to give a f**k because there will crap you cannot control. And if you react/lose it/invest too much in said crap, you will lose your freakin’ mind.

Announcing #FicFest 2016!

Feather Image by EL Wicker

 

All us in the creative arts now how hard it is to get our work into the hands of those who can, in turn, get it out to the widest audience possible. One of those people with the “keys to the kingdom” is an agent. Agents are your offensive line, your center forwards, your battalion of foot soldiers storming the castle. Sheesh, I suck at these sorts of analogies!

 

Long story short (ha, yeah right!), agents can often make or break a literary career. And so, I am very excited and pleased to announce the inauguration of a new contest, called #FicFest, geared specifically towards hooking up writers with agents.

So, what is #FicFest? Well, to quote the contest organizers:

“#FicFest is an online writer’s contest which helps put manuscripts in front of literary agents. This contest, unlike most, is open to manuscripts in ALL genres (including those usually excluded such as Paranormal Romance or Erotica) in the categories of Picture Book, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult.

“#FicFest mentors are structured into fifteen (15) teams. Each category [listed above] has three teams. Each team is comprised of a team leader, and two (2) team members. Once the submissions open, each team will choose three (3) finalist manuscripts and one (1) alternate manuscript to advance to the agent round. This means that an equal number of manuscripts for each category will move to the agent round, guaranteeing that one category does NOT overpower another when it comes time for the agents.

“45 manuscripts total move to the agent round, with 15 manuscripts being held as alternates in case one of the main finalists drops out of the contest for any reason. This is one of the things #FicFest [organizers stress] because most contests are overrun with Young Adult. In many contests, they may advance 40 manuscripts to the agent round, but the problem lies in the fact that 30 of that 40 are all Young Adult. That won’t happen with #FicFest.

“Nine manuscripts from each category will make their appearance in the agent round. No more, no less. NINE each. [To reiterate]: in the agent round, you will have 9 Picture Books, 9 Middle Grade, 9 Young Adult, 9 New Adult, and 9 Adult. Everyone gets a fair chance.”

Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? And unlike many fiction contests out there, you don’t have to pay any entrance fees, reading fees, buy the judges cake and ice-cream fees. All you need is a spectacular submission – polished, edited, copyedited, and ready for reading.

 

Here’s the timeline the organizers have set up:

March 20, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST

Guidelines & Theme Revealed on the Host Blog

March 27, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST

Meet the Team Leads & Their Members on the Team Lead Blogs & Host Blog

April 3, 2016 @ 6:00 PM EST

Agent List Announced on the Host Blog

April 17, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST – 10:00 PM EST

Q & A with Team Leads & Host on Twitter – Using #FicFest

April 24, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – April 25, 2016 @ 11:59 PM EST SUBMISSIONS accepted

April 26, 2016 – May 3, 2016

Teams will chose their finalists and alternates

May 4, 2016 @ 10:00 AM EST

List of Finalists and Alternate Revealed on the Team Leads Blogs

May 5, 2016 – June 30, 2016

Chosen submissions undergo suggested revisions

July 8, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – July 14, 2014 @ 11:59 PM EST

Agent Round

 

You can bet your sweet ass I’ve got a book under my pillow to send in.

How ’bout you?!

 

 

 

 

Best Books of 2015

One of my goals for last year was to read 52 books. So, about 1 book a week. I ended up exceeding that goal by about 4-5 books. Now, when I say I read 52, that means books that I finished. There were TONS more than I started and could not get into. I’m not going to rehash all of those because it’s a waste of time and… I don’t really remember them anyway. Probably why I didn’t finish them. What I want to talk about are the BEST of the BEST. These were the books that made my 2015 reading adventure a blast. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend you pick them up and add to your 2016 reading list.

They’re listed in no particular order.

SAvage Breast

Savage Breast by Tim Ward

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction. Just not my bag. But I do ocassionally find a book that rivets me as effectively as  good novel. Tim Ward did that with Savage Breast. It is his personal journey to discover the history of goddess worship throughout the ancient world. He stays mainly in the Grecian area (and some eastern Europe), which provided PLENTY of material for one book. I would love it, though, if he did a similar book with goddesses from India and then on east. And then another volume on the goddesses of  middle and western Europe. And then one all the goddesses of the Americas. Seriously, this would make an amazing series if done in his personal, travelogue, memoir style.

 

goblin emperor

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

In all honesty, I started reading this book because of the fascination I had with the whole Hugo Awards debacle. This was on the shortlist for best novel and it sounded the most interesting so I checked it out from the library. My God, t is wonderful! And you wouldn’t think so if I gave you a blow-by-blow account of it. There is little to know action, no romance, now high-drama. But Addison draws her main character, Maia, with such depth and such feeling you can’t help but be drawn into his story.

 

six of crows

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Hands down one of the top three books I read this last year. I had never read anything by Bardugo before (now I am set to read all her Grisha books) and she made an instant fan of me. Incredible character development, masterful pacing, tight storyline. Everything just WORKED here. It actually received one of my rare 5-star ratings on Goodreads. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

 

Tiny_Beautiful-680Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Okay, this one was so good, I bought copies to give my sister and mother for Christmas. Yeah, it’s like that. And I really, really hope they read it. I hope everyone reads it. It could change your life, that’s how good it is.

This was also in my top three. I cried every time I opened it to read another letter.

 

the girlThe Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

I’ve heard this one is being made into a movie and I’m torn. While Carey writes with cinematic flair and this story is definitely worthy of translation to film, I know how the movie industry can be. They often screw up wonderful books for absolutely no reason.

But, back to the actual book. Heart-pounding, tear your throat out thriller/adventure/dystopia. Carey keeps everything very human, though, and the characters, not one of them, is easily pigeonholed. This is literary fiction when done by a genre writer. Gorgeous, wrenching, and just a damn good tale.

 

RadianceRadiance by Grace Draven

I’ve got to hand it to her: Grace Draven is a force to be reckoned with in both the romance and fantasy genres. She blends the best elements of both to make something tender, exhilarating, sexy, fascinating, and incredibly fun. If all indie authors were producing this kind of quality, traditional publishers would be going out of business for good.

 

the shiningThe Shining by Stephen King

I’ve been fascinated with The Shining for years, long before I finally read it. I saw the Stanley Kubrick film version and thought it one of the most disturbing, mind-bending movies I’ve ever experienced. But it didn’t capture the real spirit of Stephen King’s horror masterpiece. I say that because in Kubrick’s version Jack Nicholson, while wonderful at putting on the crazy, never convinced me he actually cared about his wife and son all that much. And that is the true horror of the book. That a man, who genuinely loves his wife and child, could be driven to do unspeakable things to them. King masterfully depicts the three main characters and because they are so “real” their terror became my own. Amazing book, just amazing.

 

Kraken

The Kraken King by Meljean Brook

One of the best romance novels I’ve ever read. And do you know why? Because Meljean Brook doesn’t write like a romance writer. She writes like a fantasy writer or an adventure writer. She highlights the desperation of the circumstances with the romance. But doesn’t let her characters or the story become consumed by it.

 

A monsterA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Wow! What a moving and creative way to look at the grief process. Ness takes a topic that is too often cluttered with Hallmark sentimentality and off-base religiosity and makes it accessible and meaningful. Ness writes beautifully and blends elements of fantasy with middle-grade fiction so seamlessly. This is definitely one of those books that, though written for kids, transcends generations.

 

InvasionThe Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

This was one of the more brutal books I read in 2015. I read the first installment and walked away thinking, “Meh.” So, the only reason I gave the sequel a shot is because I found an Advanced Reader Copy for sale at the Friends booth of my local library.

It was almost instantly obvious, though, that Johansen had received MUCH better editing advice on this book than on The Queen of the Tearling. All of the things that really irritated me about book 1, were fixed in book 2. Johansen is not kind to her characters but she also makes them strong, believable, smart, and vulnerable. A vast improvement on her earlier work and makes me eager for book 3.

 

So, those are my top reads for 2015. Anyone got some of their 2015 choices they want to share. Drop ’em in the comments!

Startling Poetry… Sorta… In Mountains

This isn’t a poem in the truest sense. And it’s not necessarily a song in the truest sense either. It’s this weird and wonderful mash-up of styles and genres that I found haunting. Seriously, I just can’t get it out of my head! I encourage you to check out Historian Himself’s website (just click on his name) for more of his music and art. It’s all pretty amazing.

Earth Beasts Awaken: In Mountains by Historian Himself (Brian Engh)

My Objective is Obvious: An Interview with Dru Pagliassotti

dru 2

RLM: What would you say are your greatest strengths as an author?

DP: Well, I started running Advanced Dungeons & Dragons way back in the 1980s, which taught me how to construct detailed storyworlds, complex political relationships, and internally logical magic systems.

RLM: Any weaknesses?

DP: I love worldbuilding, but I’m afraid I can get carried away, sometimes — my writing group keeps reminding me to spend more time exploring my characters’ emotions and relationships and less time describing some interesting little social custom or architectural quirk.

clockwork heart

RLM: Along with writing, you are a university professor. How do you balance your work at the university and your writing?

DP: I wish I did! I’d be lost without summer break. I can edit and polish what I’ve already written while I’m working, but for real, original composition, I need long blocks of focused writing time that are really hard to find during the semester.

an agreement with hell

RLM: Writing can be a lonely and draining process. How do you keep spiritually strong and your mind well-oiled?

DP: I’m an introvert, so I can tolerate a lot of alone-time before I start to crave company. I try to keep my mind disciplined through meditation and martial arts; the former reminds me that most of my “problems” are only thoughts, and the latter reminds me that sometimes it’s best to stop thinking altogether. That’s not an easy thing for a professor to do, by the way — I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten smacked in sparring practice while shuffling around overanalyzing the situation….!

RLM: I love learning about other writer’s processes. Tell me about yours, from first inspiration to completed manuscript.

DP: I usually start with a particular image or character I want to explore — for Clockwork Heart, it was a mental image of a young woman with mechanical wings flying through giant floating gears. Then I work backwards, figuring out what kind of culture needs to exist in order to support that image or concept, and what conflicts are likely to arise in such a culture. After I’ve determined the culture and conflicts, I can zero back in on that original image or character to figure out what’s going on.

I’m terrible at outlining novels — at best I have a general storyline worked out, but it’s liable to change as soon as I begin to write. I try to write my first draft with minimal backtracking — National Novel Writing Month has taught me to plow forward and simply make notes wherever I need to go back to fix something, rather than getting hung up on one scene after another. By the time I’m done with the first draft I usually know a lot more about my world and characters than I did when I started, so the second draft involves building in detail and backstory and tweaking the plot for better pacing and characterization. I usually write several drafts before I’m ready to show my manuscript to anybody else.

clockwork lies

RLM: Your Clockwork Heart Trilogy is an intriguing mix of steampunk and outright fantasy. What led you to set Taya’s adventures in a world of your own making rather than the typical steampunk setting of the Victorian era?

DP: Early steampunk was very much a gritty, realistic alternate-history genre, but I didn’t feel like retconning the entire history of Earth just to tell the story I wanted to tell! Overthinking academic that I am, I would have tried to make everything as historically accurate as possible, and the novel would never have gotten written. Plus, I wanted to feature a female protagonist (almost every early steampunk protagonist was male) without having to deal with real-world prejudices. Creating my own world allowed me to focus on the story without all the distractions and problems that arise when you write alternate history.

For the record, though, genre-bending is a marketing headache. When Clockwork Heart was first published in 2008, steampunk pretty much equaled Victorian England, fantasy equaled monsters and magic, and romantic steampunk didn’t exist. So a steampunk romance set in a magic-free fantasy world? My first editor really had her work cut out for her! Today, of course, none of that is unusual anymore.

RLM: Taya’s story has a romantic element running through it. What, in your opinion, is key to creating a convincing and satisfying love story?

DP: I expect everybody has a different idea of what makes a love story convincing and satisfying. I like cute romances with mismatched individuals who eventually discover common ground, rather than angsty romances full of misunderstandings and drama. It seems to me that in real life, the couples who stay together over the long term usually do so because they’ve become close friends who respect each others’ quirks and differences, rather than because they are constantly overwhelmed by some torrid passion that sweeps them along powerlessly in its wake….

boyslovecovermed

 

RLM: You also do quite a bit of horror writing. How does your approach to writing horror differ from fantasy?

DP: I really love dark fantasy — it’s the best of both worlds! I suppose I lean more toward writing fantasy than horror, though. Let’s face it — cell phones are the bane of contemporary horror. How often does a writer have to resort to the cliché of cutting off or blocking cell phone coverage, or supernaturally draining their batteries, in order to set up a scary situation nowadays? Being able to take and share a monster’s photo with the rest of the world and instantly get texts and tweets back from cryptozoological experts removes a lot of the fear factor. Since fantasy offers more freedom, my horror stories usually have a strong fantasy element and are often set in some alternate history or world. My completely contemporary horror novel An Agreement with Hell does end up mentioning college students uploading videos of the monsters to Facebook, though; I just couldn’t see any reason why they wouldn’t, if they lived long enough!

RLM: So, you once served as editor for an ezine called The Harrow. What was the impetus behind that ezine?

DP: Publishing has always been my backup career choice; there’s something almost as satisfying to me about editing and publishing somebody else’s work as in seeing my own work in print. I created The Harrow (after Kafka’s machine) in 1998 after grad school, while I was working on a trade magazine and looking for a teaching job. The Harrow allowed me to combine my love for horror and fantasy, my grad-school experience with peer-reviewed journals, and my interest in website design all in one place. The zine lasted eleven years, and by the end we had a great staff of all-volunteer editors and reviewers who provided detailed feedback on every submission and encouraged promising new writers to revise their work until it was accepted. I still love hearing that one of “my” writers has sold a new story or novel! But eventually running The Harrow became more work than fun. We closed it down in 2009 and two of us spun off The Harrow Press for a few more years, which published several horror anthologies before being shuttered.

 

RLM: Do you believe it will ever come alive again?

DP: I really enjoyed working on The Harrow and The Harrow Press, but right now my academic responsibilities and my own writing projects are taking up all my energy. I can’t imagine that changing for at least the next four years, which is when I finally rotate out of my position as department chair.

clockwork secrets

RLM: What do you want to have accomplished in your career when it’s all said and done?

DP: I’ve accomplished my childhood dream — ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to write a novel and see it in print, and now I have. Every book since Clockwork Heart has just been icing on the cake! I don’t have any grandiose career ambitions; I just want to share my worlds with other people, and I hope they enjoy what they find there. That’s enough.

RLM: What can we expect next from you?

DP: Right of Rule is a political fantasy set in a world of genetically reinscribed humans and biotechnological saurian overseers. The three main characters are a lovesick state executioner whom everybody fears and shuns, a bad-tempered young temple initiate whose father the executioner executed years ago, and a flustered lord mayor who’s trying to keep the capital city together while factions fight over the nation’s throne. You can find the list of dramatis personae, a city map, and some conceptual drawings up at Right of Rule. I think I’m on the hundredth draft or something right now, but I’ve sworn a sacred oath to finish it and get it to my agent by the end of the summer!

Catch up with Dru on her website as well as on Facebook and Twitter.