Strand Books, New York City
by Devon Ellington

I considered calling this “Ode to Strand Books”. It would be appropriate to pen a sonnet singing this store’s praises, but since I can’t write sonnets, I’m writing an essay instead.

If you’re ever in New York, there’s an independent bookstore you MUST visit — Strand Books, at 828 Broadway, on the corner of Broadway and 12th Street. It is a bibliophile’s heaven, originally opened in 1927 on Fourth Avenue, part of the wonderful Book Row (that no longer exists, unfortunately).

Strand is now run by the granddaughter of the original owner, and has over 2.5 million books between its location on Broadway and 12th, and the kiosk near Central Park, at 5th Avenue and 60th Street. They also do business via their website — thank goodness, since I no longer live in New York. They sell both new and used books, handle some wonderful rare books, and hold an exciting calendar of events.

I became a customer of Strand’s back in 1981, when I first started attending NYU. It was like walking into paradise, a feeling I still get every time I walk into the store. The smell of the books, the sheer quantity of shelving and contents. I might walk in there thinking I know what I want, but I leave carrying treasures I didn’t know I needed.

The further I grew in my writing career, the more I needed Strand, especially for research. They could help me find essays, printed diaries, information on steam trains or costume or anything I needed. I could dig into the archives at libraries, historical societies, and special collections, and the Strand would help me hunt down books I needed to own during the writing of a particular piece. Those books then went into my personal research library, and I find myself turning to them time and time again. Sometimes they’ll even come up with something not on my list, but that pertains to a project and ask me if I want it (the answer is usually yes).

The staff both loves books and is knowledgeable about them. They’re happy to help you hunt for something, but equally happy to let you browse the tall shelves — for hours. I went through a period where I could only order by mail, because if I actually walked through the doors — well, let’s just say they had to help me carry the bags of books out the door and load them into the cab with me!

Now that I live on Cape Cod, I still turn to them first when I’m hunting down research books for the myriad of projects I work on. Yes, I frequent the Cape’s many independent book stores (you’ll be meeting some of them on this blog in the coming months). But I also count on Strand. Even when I’m not sure exactly what I’m looking for, or if I’ve forgotten a title or an author, they can interpret vague ramblings and find what I need. Their shipping costs are reasonable, and they are efficient — as well as being friendly and helpful.

They are everything that is best about a traditional book store, while embracing technological needs.

In MY book, Strand Books equals perfection.

First and Last Books of the Year
by Devon Ellington

I always make a big deal about the first and last book of every year. I started doing this in my teens — I’m not really sure why. Choosing whatever book I wanted as the last book of a year, and choosing the first book to read in a new year feels meaningful to me.

Often, I will note on the flyleaf, where I write my name and the year I bought/read the book, if it is “the” book for December 31 or January 1.

The year I lived in Seattle, where I was so unhappy, I chose the “last” book of the year that still has significance in my life: Gail Fairfield’s CHOICE CENTERED TAROT. It’s one of the best tarot books out there (along with Janina Renee’s EVERY DAY TAROT and Rachel Pollock’s books on the Major and Minor Arcanas). That book not only had significance in the way I ended/started my year, but in the direction my life would take from that unhappiness.

I was wandering around Pike Place Market on New Year’s Eve, trying to talk myself out of being entirely miserable and hopeless. I don’t remember the name of the store in which I found it, but I remember seeing the title and the cover and feeling the significance: I wanted more choices. That particular book was a catalyst for me.

Both the last book of 2013 and the first book of 2014 were fiction, and both were gifts from a friend. The last book I read in 2013 was Val McDermid’s CROSS AND BURN, a breath-taking crime novel that doesn’t let any of the characters off the hook easily. My first book of 2014 was Robert Galbraith’s THE CUCKOO’S CALLING, another crime novel, and another one I enjoyed very much. (Of course, we now know that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for JK Rowling, giving her the freedom to try something new — it worked).

My second-to-last novel was Kim Edwards’s THE LAKE OF DREAMS — very different from the above, and quite lovely. She’s best-known for THE MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER, which I have not yet read, but now intend so to do. She doesn’t follow formula; she follows the growth of her characters. It was interesting to read this, as a writer, and see how being a literary fiction writer instead of a genre writer gave her a freedom with the organic character development she would not have otherwise had. Her protagonist, in particular, would have been forced into different choices by the genre if she’d been limited by genre. It showed the best of the freedom of the possibilities of literary fiction, without any of the pretensions.

I also started reading, on the first of January, ADAM BEDE, by George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans). A Victorian novelist who broke convention by living with her lover, this book is set in the late 1700s. I’d decided that I wanted to re-read Eliot over the winter, and catch up on the novels of hers I hadn’t previously read — I’ve only read THE MILL ON THE FLOSS and MIDDLEMARCH. So I read a biography of Eliot, and now I’m starting to read her novels in the order written. I’m fortunate because my grandmother gave me a complete set of Eliot novels published in 1887. I am turning the pages carefully, reading them slowly, savoring them.

A few paragraphs in the Eliot novel set me on a research course for what I think will be a new play. It’s amazing how the smallest anecdote can set off a spark of creativity.

First and last — significant, tone-setters for the year, even if we don’t see the patterns for awhile.

What was your final book of 2013? What will be your first book of 2014?


The fabulous writing team of Killion Slade joins us, with the release of their new book, the first of a horror trilogy. They were kind enough to spend some time with us.

Devon Ellington: What was the inspiration for this trilogy?
Killion Slade: The 2012 impeding apocalypse that did not happen. While living in Montana and being secluded from many people, it tends to make you think about the “what ifs” in our man- made society. In learning how to become more self-sufficient, we began to incorporate that into our storyline more and more. Overall, the vampire apocalyptic event and the struggle for humanity is what drove the inspiration for this series.

DE: How did you decide it was a trilogy, and not just a single book?
KS: After we outlined the entire story, we realized there was way too much to cram into one book. When we rewrote the outlines to fit screenplay beats, the series had to expand into four books. In this way too fast world of instant gratification, we wanted to slow down the stories just a smidge, so we could enjoy the character development arcs and allow their personalities to truly shine.

DE: What frightens you the most?
KS: Spiders! No seriously, I won’t speak those words aloud they frighten me so much. I don’t wish to give any energy to my fears. We do however, ask this question of our characters as they are faced with each of their own. Much of the premise is based on the real fears of people and will continue to be a theme throughout much of the series. We address very difficult fears such as kidnapping, rape, loss of a loved one, and losing your mind.

DE: Which character’s voice came to you most easily?
KS: Our heroine, Cheyenne O’Cuinn came extremely easy to us. She’s quirky, she’s smart, and she’s a lot of fun.

DE Which character was the most difficult to develop?
KS: One of our dragons, Torchy Gravenor. He is a Welsh dragon with a Scottish accent. Finding the cadence and just enough vernacular to get his voice to come through was a challenge, but we love him.

DE: Will you tell us a bit about how you work together as a team?
KS: Working as a team is very rewarding, and it has its challenges. We get an opportunity to talk about people who don’t exist and bring them to life. It’s exciting to hear how people care about our characters. I once had a reader explain to me how she was so concerned for both Roxas and Cheyenne [our H&H], that she had done her entire Saturday’s grocery shopping feeling worried about them until she could get back to the story. That to me was a fantastic compliment and a testament to how well try to craft the characters together.

As far as our challenges, we find that most of that is worked out in the outline process when we are brainstorming. Sometimes, while editing the battle is on, but those are silly, niggily things that we put aside quickly. It’s more important to us to work together as a cohesive team than to get stuck on a pride issue. We will finally ask the character how they would handle it and it usually isn’t long before they reveal the answer. It’s usually while I’m in the shower. So it becomes a moot point. ☺

DE: How do you split up writing tasks?
KS: We don’t really split up tasks. We discuss each scene before it is written. What are the objectives of the scene? What is the GMC for each person in the scene? Then we outline it together. With that kind of roadmap, it is easy to allow the words to flow out through my fingers.

DE: Do you switch off chapters?
KS: We used to switch up chapters, but for this book, we stayed consistent with the planning and the writing. In the third book, we have a subplot that is primarily written from his style. Often times Mr. Slade will write a draft of what he is trying to convey and then from there, we modify as needed.

DE: Are you ever each responsible for writing from one particular POV or the other?
KS: We might plan on doing that in a different series, but for Exsanguinate, we’ll most likely stay the on the present course.

DE: How do you split up research?
KS: We each take sections that intrigue us. We’ll take the deep dive down the rabbit hole and show the other what we found. We always want our stories to be a lot of fun, so we go where it’s good for both of us.

DE: Do you know what you want to work on once this trilogy is complete?
KS: The screenplays for the World of Blood series. Actually we have a couple of ideas that have been mulling around in our heads. We are torn between an alternate reality government conspiracy and a high fantasy science fiction. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Thank you very much for having us today as your guests. It is always a wonderful pleasure to work with you. ☺


A Halloween scream night theme park adventure for software gaming developer Cheyenne O’Cuinn reveals a hidden supernatural reality she never dreamed existed. Recovering from a vicious attack and her sisters’ abductions, Cheyenne must rescue her sisters from vampiric kidnappers before they’re used to breed warmongering dhampirs.

Betrayal lurks in every corner. Cheyenne must evade attackers by unconventional means through her online role-play game. She must navigate through virtual, tortuous clues and mailed body parts, which cross over from her virtuality into reality. Can a team of dragons, vampires, and werewolves come together to help her? Who can she trust? Will the help from her virtual lover become compromised when he learns of her new immortal existence and crush the fragile love they share?

Amidst an impending vampire apocalypse, Cheyenne finds herself both in conflict for survival and for her heart. Will her immortal self derail any hope of solving the multiplying puzzles before time runs out to save her sisters, herself and her humanity?

Official Book – Interactive Second Screen Website:
Official Author Website:
Publisher: Draconian Publishing – Spirit Imprint
US Amazon Link:
Print book will be available on December 20th at Amazon.
Video Trailer:


About the Author

Killion Slade is a married writing team who met in the virtual realms of Second Life and virtually enjoy everything. Members of the Horror Writers Association and the Paranormal Romance Guild, they storyboard their characters inside Second Life as their avatars reveal their stories. Tucked away in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Northern Montana, they stay busy chasing kids, corralling horses and cats, and enjoying the harvest from their garden. Married on Halloween – they love to live life to the fullest and embrace one another each and every day.

Killion Slade can be reached at the following:

KV mod cvr Let’s give today’s guest, Chelle Cordero, a warm welcome, for her new release, KARMA VISITED.

She was kind enough to spend some time with us, talking about the book and the process.

Devon Ellington:  What sparked the inspiration for this novel?

Chelle Cordero:As a child I had nightmares that often had similarities to actual news events – I had no way of knowing how true they were, but some of the dreams really haunted me. One such dream was actually the babysitter in the burning house. I wondered what it would have been like to control some of these “visits” and actually be able to help people.

DE:  Is it a stand-alone, or does it build on any of your previous novels?

CC:Karma Visited is stand alone, I’ve never used any of the characters in any of my other books and at this time I have no plans to build on this in future books.

DE:  What kind of research did you do into police procedure, home invasion, homicide investigation, and dream work?  Did you use sources who answered questions previously?

CC:I did a lot of online research regarding the types of law enforcement, gun laws and even social events in the area where I placed my story. Some of the “facts” came from my own experiences – I live in a small town and have been to many town meetings, I spent several years in the NYC Auxiliary Police and witnessed police procedure and I have many friends in law enforcement and emergency services today. And as I said above, I used to have dreams myself and have always read up on what they meant.

DE:  Do you read in the same genre you’re writing in while you’re deep in a book?

CC: I always read every genre I can get my hands on although I do have my preferences. The fact is that I believe a writer has to be open to all forms of reads in order to understand the craft. I really don’t think that a writer has the right to say “Oh, I never read ____”

DE:  What’s your writing schedule like?

CC: I am a full time writer since I also work as a freelance journalist and prepare many articles for several magazines. I try very hard to get my deadline work done first but sometimes an idea hits me and I just have to get it down on paper. Since I work from a home office most times it’s easy to spend a night writing instead of sleeping.

DE:  What do you do to clear your head?

Read, listen to music and change writing topics. Because I work on so many writing projects at once I feel like I never suffer writer’s block, I just change the subject I am writing about and keep the words flowing. The idea is to just keep writing and keep creating. I love the computer phrase “garbage in, garbage out” and when I really feel stuck I read as if I were starving – words in, words out.

Chelle’s Bio
Chelle Cordero writes stories of Passion and Suspense. Vanilla Heart Publishing has published nine Cordero novels: Bartlett’s Rule; His Lucky Charm; Within the Law; Courage of the Heart; Final Sin; Hostage Heart; A Chaunce of Riches; Common Bond, Tangled Hearts; and Hyphema. VHP just published The Many Faces of Chelle Cordero, featuring several short stories which attest to Chelle’s unique range of writing abilities. She is currently working on her tenth novel and promises another action packed adventure and heartwarming love story. Chelle has been writing both fiction and non-fiction for the bulk of her adult life and has been with Vanilla Heart Publishing since early 2008.

Her books have earned many plaudits which include: Bartlett’s Rule was named one of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Top Ten Reads for 2009; Final Sin was an Honorable Mention in the Fiction Category of the 2010 NY Book Festival and a 2009 Pushcart Prize nominee.; Hyphema won the Dec 9, 2011 Friday Book Cover Vote on the Shades of Love website; A Chaunce of Riches was Winner of D. Renee Bagby’s readers’ choice for The Best Overall First Chapter, April 2010; and Hostage Heart, Final Sin and A Chaunce of Riches had top ten finishes in the 2009 Preditors’ and Readers’ poll. Chelle was also featured in “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” published by The Author’s Show in 2010.

Chelle Cordero maintains an author’s blog at, a promotional blog at, and offers a weekly writing workshop for Kindle Blog subscribers at Her website offers information on all of her books and her appearances. Bloggers and the media are welcome to visit Chelle’s media room at with downloadable photos and other information.

Chelle lives in the northeast with her husband, Mark, and family. They have two adult offspring. Jenni (& Jason) and Marc (& Trish); they also live with three mischievous and spoiled pussycats, one of whom has taken up permanent residence on Chelle’s desk. Chelle is a full-time freelance journalist for multiple publications; her articles appear regularly throughout North America and she writes a monthly column on NYS Emergency Medical Services issues as a NYS Emergency Medical Technician (First Responder News).

Excerpt from Karma Visited:

Tears streaked down her cheeks and left lines on her soot stained cheeks. I rested my hand on hers and hoped she felt at least a little bit of comfort. The children were safe, she made sure of that. I let her know I admired her bravery. She appreciated the compliment, for just a moment, and then fear grabbed her again.

She stood again and tried to shake the bars free from the window. Safety bars. Those bars were meant to keep evil out and now all they did was trap her in. Luckily the little ones could squeeze between the wrought iron rods and she dropped them to horrified bystanders on the street. She understood that there was no way she could escape, but she was determined to save the children.

One by one she made sure that her charges would be alright, they were safe. And now it was time for her to die, but now the fear of how she would suffer terrified her.

Coughs seized her body as she sank back down to the floor and cried some more. Flames were licking the walls. There wasn’t much time left. We were both scared, but I knew I had no reason to fear for myself.

We could hear the sirens of the approaching fire trucks, but there wasn’t time. Her eyes were haunted as she looked at me and I prayed that the smoke would claim her before the flames. My prayers were answered. I sat still and stroked her limp hand and felt so sad that the girl’s last minutes were filled with terror.

As the burning ceiling above us sent flaming stalactites raining down, I knew she was at peace.

Blurb from Karma Visited:
Do you believe in karma? Annie Furman has a gift that allows her, while she sleeps, to visit people in their time of need – but who will be there for her when she needs help? Undersheriff Dave Turner is investigating a series of home invasions and homicides. He has no idea that solving this case will lead him to the woman of his dreams.

A Biblio Paradise is on summer vacation!

Read a lot, write a lot, play a lot!


We’ll see you back here on Tuesday, September 3, starting a new season of author interviews, bookstore profiles, essays on the writing life, and more!


Have a great summer!

THE CREATIVE HABIT:  LEARN IT AND USE IT FOR LIFE.  A PRACTICAL GUIDE.  By Twyla Tharp.  NY:  Simon & Schuster 2003.  $25 Hardcover, $16 Paperback.

I was surprised when I saw a 2003 copyright on this book.  I thought it was a more recent release.  My next response was, “Why did it take me so long to find this?”

Twyla Tharp is one of the iconic artists of modern times.  She is a unique and groundbreaking choreographer.  Broadway audiences know her as the creative of MOVIN’ OUT, set to Billy Joel’s music.  She has a reputation as dedicated, passionate, and resolute.

This book reinforces that reputation.  Tharp shares of one of my strongest beliefs about creation — one doesn’t “wait” to “have” time — you make time, steal it, wrest it, wrestle it.  If a life in the arts is your choice, it is also your priority.  That means you have to remove other non-essentials that do not serve your life.  There are no excuses for not “getting around to it”.  If you are an artist or a writer or a choreographer — you DO it.

Tharp talks about triggering rituals (such as athletes use).  She talks about the need to subtract certain things from her life during intensely creative periods, such as movies, multi-tasking, numbers, and background music.  She has a system of creating “boxes” for each project (similar to my project-specific bins), keeping all her research and notebooks together and easily re-accessible once the project is complete.  She talks about “scratching” for ideas, categorizing, and making the most of one’s skills, and how to get out of creative ruts.

She mixes personal experiences and anecdotes with exercises.  A word of advice — don’t skip the exercises.  Because she is a choreographer and works in terms of movement and dimension, her exercises will get you off your butt and into action.  Although I discovered the volume at the Sandwich Library, I’m investing in my own copy.  This is a book I will return to year after year to shake me out of my own creative ruts.

–Devon Ellington

Amazon buy link here.

coverlinked-thru-timeLet’s give a warm welcome to today’s guest, Jessica Tomese!  Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.
Devon Ellington:  You used your father’s family as inspiration for the book — how did you find the characters evolving away from their original inspirations?  Did you ever struggle with that?
Jessica Tomese: I guess I always kept their personalities in mind, but no one character is a specific person. I took strengths and stories I remember hearing about certain relatives and incorporated them into the story. My main goal was to take the real, genuine way of life my father’s family lived and keep it alive for myself and any others that read the books. My father’s family was poor in money but rich in values and character. I tried to keep that the focus in my character development. I also never wanted an aunt or uncle to read the book and think, “Oh, no! Is that me she’s talking about?” I took the best of what I admired of people and combined them into all my characters.
 DE:  As someone who was born in the 1960’s, I shudder to think of it as an historical period, which of course, it was!  😉  Can you see yourself exploring other historical eras?  To which are you particularly drawn?
JT:  In my sequel, Lost Through Time, I go back to the early 1900’s, to a time in Baudette’s history when an epic fire wiped out 300,000+ acres. The courage to rebuild and start over in such a harsh environment really spoke to me. People hid in tiny streams and cellars while fire blazed all around. Some survived…some didn’t. But I love history in general. I think my generation is very spoiled when it comes to luxuries, free time, and choice. I am drawn to know the courageous ancestors before us that had to fight tooth and nail just to make it each day. Specific time periods that fascinate me are during the time of Henry VIII, the French Revolution,  Colonial America, and stories from the Old Testament.
DE:  How much outlining do you do? Or do you research, and then just sit down and write?
JT:  I do a quick chapter outline, basically making sure I know what I want to include in each chapter. But, my main style is to sit down and start writing- walk away for a few days- then edit.
DE:  What is your favorite marketing tool?  The hardest part about marketing?
JT:  I am horrible at marketing. I am trying to reach out to fellow bloggers and authors to help support each other. I use a lot of giveaways and hope for notice on I can’t sell myself- even though I believe in my books, it’s not my personality. However, I have received such great feedback from my books, it inspired me to make the first into a trilogy. When a random stranger says they love my book, or character, it’s the greatest feeling in the world!
DE:  Have you thought about what you want to write beyond the trilogy?  Can you share that with us?
JT:  I do want to wrap up the trilogy and get back to my initial book series, which is a children’s chapter book series that I am self- publishing. I have visited a few schools and the kids love my first adventure book, so I want to keep that up. (M&M Twins, Lost in Browser Cave). And I have ideas for two more YA books- a futuristic one, and a more coming of age style one. I am excited to keep the creative outlets open.

Jessica was recently voted Solstice Publishing’s 2012 Author of the Year!
Jessica Tornese’s debut novel, Linked Through Time, was inspired by her home town Baudette, MN. She graduated from high school there and continued her education at Minnesota State University – Moorhead where she earned a degree in education. She spent several years coaching in the Junior Olympic volleyball program in Minnesota as well as the junior varsity team for Lake of the Woods High School in 2010.
Her favorite hobbies include reading, scrapbooking, playing volleyball, and extreme outdoor sports like caving, ziplining, and white water rafting. Jessica is also active in her church and has run several Vacation Bible School programs and Sunday school programs. She enjoys working with kids of all ages!
She hopes to finish her Linked trilogy soon, and continue writing. Recently, she self-published her first juvenile fiction book for kids online. (see M&M Twins)
Jessica is married and has three children. Her family recently relocated to a small town in south Florida.
Twitter- @jltornese

Linked Through Time-
Fifteen year old Kate Christenson is pretty sure she’s about to experience the worst possible summer at her grandparent’s farm in rural Baudette, Minnesota. Without cable, cell phones, or computers, Kate is headed for total isolation and six tedious weeks of boredom. Until the storm.
A freak lightning accident has Kate waking up in 1960. But she is not herself. She is the aunt she never met, but has eerily resembled her entire life. Thrust into living a dirt poor, rural farm life, Kate struggles to make sense of her situation- a boyfriend with a dark side, a “townie” who steals her heart, and the knowledge that 1960 is the very summer her aunt drowns in the local river.
Even with every precaution, Kate cannot stop fate, and an unexpected twist adds to her dilemma. To her horror, Kate finds out firsthand her aunt’s death was not an accident or a suicide, but something much, much worse.

Steering carefully into the gravel drive of the Rapid River parking lot, I swore under my breath as the bike’s rear wheel slid on loose gravel. Trying to right the bike too quickly, I ended up swerving sharply to the left and crashing into the brush at the side of the gravel lot. Flying over the handlebars, I landed in a patch of overgrown weeds, my knee striking a rock hidden in the ground. Pain radiated from my knee, paralyzing me for a moment. I lay sprawled face first in the grass, breathing in the smell of earth and dry grass, cursing myself and everything on the planet.
Emotions overwhelmed my frazzled, fragile mind and I let loose with a string of profanities that would have definitely earned me a whipping. Rubbing my throbbing knee, I groaned.
Lightning flashed and the breeze picked up as if on cue, sending the cattails above my head into an agitated dance.
With great effort, I stood and flexed my leg. I could feel the slightest trickle of blood dripping a warm path down my shin. Perfect, I grimaced. Can anything else possibly go wrong tonight?
My vision had adjusted slightly to the moonless night, but I still had to partly feel my way to the place Travis and I spent the evening. Pushing through the brush, I couldn’t help but sense that uneasy, creepy feeling that comes from wandering in the dark, as though eyes watched you and monster hands waited to grab at your feet. My heart pounded loudly in my ears, the tingling creep of fear working its way from my head down through my limbs. I forced myself to keep my eyes forward, ignoring the nagging feeling that someone or something watched me from the shadows of the rocky shore.
Limbs of the interlocking pines poked and prodded my bare arms as I threaded my way through the trees. The pounding of the rapids had increased with the coming of the storm; the wind tossed the water upon the rocks, sending spray high into the air.
When I broke through the tree line, I stood mesmerized by the awesome power of the roaring water. It looked as if the rapids were fighting to break free of their rocky channel, its watery fingers washing over the rocks, reaching far down the wall, only to withdraw and try again.
Above the churning waters, a simple two-lane bridge hung defiantly in the air, its thick concrete arches planted firmly around the dangerous rocks. Suddenly, a semi loaded with logs thundered across the bridge overhead; its headlights lighting up the darkness for a matter of seconds. I used the momentary help to break my gaze from the water and search the outer banks for my sweater.
A flicker of movement amidst the trees caught my line of sight, and I focused in on a ring of pines to my right; the very place Travis and I had been a few hours earlier.
“Travis?” I called out hopefully, thinking he had remembered to retrieve my sweater.

Lost Through Time cover copy