Tues. Oct. 15: HAUNTED NIGHTS #ReaderExpansionChallenge

HAUNTED NIGHTS edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton. NY: Blumhouse/Anchor Books. 2017.

This anthology fell directly into the theme for this month’s Reader Expansion Challenge. All the stories in the volume are built around Halloween.

The book includes stories by Seanan McGuire, Stephen Graham Jones, Jonathan Maberry, Joanna Parypinski, Garth Nix, Kate Jonez, Jeffrey Ford, Kelley Armstrong, S.P, Miskowski, Brian Evenson, Elise Forier Edie, Eric J. Guignard, Paul Kane, Pat Cadigan, John Langan, and John R. Little.

One of the things I love about anthologies is that they expand my reading palette, introducing me to authors whose work I haven’t read before. The only authors in this collection I’d previously read were Seanan McGuire and Jonathan Maberry.

That’s going to change. I have every intention of reading more by every author in this collection.

Each of the stories is unique and imaginative. They are tied to the night of Halloween, but not to each other. Yet the way they’re arranged in the collection flows and builds.

While I enjoyed all the stories, the ones that were my favorites were: Seanan McGuire’s haunted house tale “With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfsbane Seeds” which opens the volume; “The Turn” by Paul Kane; and “Jack” by Pat Cadigan.

One of the things that interested me in “The Turn” was the situation causing the conflict/terror for the male protagonist by a male author. The very thing that causes that problem is something that, if a woman did not do it, is likely to kill her when she’s walking alone at night. So would a female character meet the same fate? That sense moves the story away from the bones of the plot, and what I felt was the author’s intent, but it was something that struck me as I read it. Which is what excellent writing is supposed to do — make you think long after the piece is finished. Make you expand in new directions, inspired by the author’s imagination.

These stories made me think, made me feel, made me wonder. Which means the book will become an annual (or so) re-read, so I can make fresh discoveries every time. Isn’t that great?

What did you read this month? How did you feel about it?

Next month, for November, we read a book (or collection) built around family. We reconvene on Tuesday, November 19th.


Tues. Sept. 17: Anthology #ReaderExpansionChallenge

Many Bloody Returns: Tales of Birthdays With Bite. Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Keller. NY: Ace Books. 2007.

September’s challenge is an anthology. I love anthologies, especially themed anthologies, because it introduces me to writers whose work I don’t know, and I get the chance to enjoy short pieces by writers whose work I do know.

This anthology is about vampires and birthdays. There are thirteen stories in it (which makes sense). They aren’t linked to each other, but they are each author’s unique take on the theme.

All the stories I read are interesting. I skipped one, because it was in present tense, and I don’t like prose in present tense. But I enjoyed the twelve I read.

My favorites, however, were:

“It’s My Birthday, Too” by Jim Butcher. It’s a Harry Dresden short story, exceptionally well done. It reminds me why I enjoy this series so much, and makes me want to go back and re-read the series in order.

“Grave-Robbed” by P.N. Elrod, featuring un-dead detective Jack Fleming. I wasn’t familiar with that series before, but this story makes me want to read more. Jack helps a young woman protect her widowed sister from a scheming medium who wants to steal her fortune.

“Blood Wrapped” by Tanya Huff was my introduction to her Smoke series, and I’m going to read the whole thing. Vampires outside of Vancouver? One of them the bastard son of Henry VIII who writes romance novels under a female pseudonym? Yeah, I’m in.

“Vampire Hours” by Elaine Viets. I’ve been reading all three of Elaine’s series over the past few weeks, and enjoy her writing. This isn’t tied to any of those series; it’s a stand-alone, and it’s lovely and touching, about a woman facing menopause and divorce in Fort Lauderdale.

It’s always wonderful to find new-to-you authors and then seek out more of their work. I had a great time with it.

What did you read this month? Leave the answer in the comments.

We reconvene on October 15. October’s theme is to read something Samhain (Halloween) related.

Happy reading!

Death Sparkles — Murder and Mayehm in Nine Voices!

And Faith Dincolo, who wrote “Persephone’s Progeny” in this collection, passes the baton to me.

One of the joys about working with a group of writers is how differently we are inspired by the same foundation.

“The diamond necklace dangled from the dead woman’s hand.”

What I find exciting about this anthology is in how many different directions this prompt took each of us, yet still had that single sentence as a fulcrum. Contemporary, mystery, gothic, horror, science fiction — this collection has it all.

I admit, the first few drafts of this story were very different. They had to do with a small town beach community and a woman murdered less for the diamond than for other reasons.

The story didn’t work.

In the middle of the night, the character of Fiona Steele plopped down on the edge of the bed, woke me up, and said, “Yo, writer girl! Wake up. Got something to say to you.”

And there it was.

The first draft poured out quickly. It needed serious rewriting, smoothing out, getting rid of qualifiers, tightening — all the stuff you’ve got to do to make something submission-ready. The terrific writer, KT Wagner, was kind enough to be my Trusted Reader on it, and pointed out a few more flaws that got smoothed out. For a short story experience, it was terrifically satisfying.

Fiona, I promise, will be back. She’s definitely got more to say!

And so we circle back to Kelly Whitley, who started us on this journey of DEATH SPARKLES.

Excerpt from “Sea Diamond” in DEATH SPARKLES:

I felt the presence rather than the dramatic “a shadow fell across the bar.” Although dim inside The Wicky Cog, the lighting was uniform and didn’t create shadows with only me and my erstwhile companion as patrons. Even the bartender was virtual, until the next transport landed, or until the clock chimed Happy Hour. Time measurement differed from system to system, but Happy Hour was universal.

“What’re you doing on Sandegarde?”

“Drinking.” I didn’t even look up. I recognized the voice, I recognized the vibe.

“There are a hundred and forty bars just in this station, Steele,” he retorted.

“And why did I walk into yours?” I shot back. I looked at him now. For a cop, Rowan Wilde wasn’t bad. Not bad-looking, with the dark hair and blue eyes, strong physique, a brain to match, and wasn’t so bound by the rules he couldn’t see reason. On occasion. “Between jobs.”

“Good. I need your help, Fiona.” He sat on the stool next to me and tapped the screen on the bar surface, ordering his drink. An instant later, a panel opened, and a glass of beer rose up to meet his hand. I wasn’t sure what time it was, heck, I’d been traveling so long, I wasn’t even sure what time management segment it was, but the sight of Rowan Wilde drinking in a nearly empty bar, and the fact he’d used my given name rather than just my surname told me he was worried.

“Am I gonna need another drink for this?”

“Rather you didn’t. I need you on your game.”

“I’m always on my game, dickhead.”

He grinned. “Nice to know you’re still so fond of me.”

I let that pass. Not going down that road right now. Water under the bed, and all that.

DEATH SPARKLES is one of the top 100 sellers on Amazon.com, and is available here.

Devon Ellington
publishes under a half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction, including the Jain Lazarus Adventures (http://hexbreaker.devonellingtonwork.com) and romantic suspense as Annabel Aidan. Visit her sites www.devonellingtonwork.com and her blog on the writing life, Ink in My Coffee, http://devonellington.wordpress.com.













It’s here!  The Death Sparkles Anthology is available.  Here’s the Kindle link, and it will also be available on B&N and Smashwords.  I wrote the introduction and have the final story, “Sea Diamond” , a science-fiction mystery that introduces the ass-kicking, take-no prisoners Fiona Steele.  We WILL see more of her.

Nine authors contributed to this anthology, inspired from the prompt “the diamond necklace dangled from the dead woman’s hand” and nine very different interpretations of that.  The wonderful PJ Friel did the cover AND is a contributor, with “The Needing”.