Category Archives: writing

Johnny Worthen’s Beatrysel

This is the superb first novel from author Johnny Worthen, a man whose knowledge of the occult bleeds into his work, educating and illuminating.

It is also a tale of love and horror, refreshingly set against a modern day background of the American Northwest.

This is a horror romance that manages to inform as well as entertain, worth reading. You can buy the book here.

Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell

I have known Derrick Ferguson a long time as an online friend, and I’m proud to consider him a friend, even if we’ve never met in real life. For those of you out who think I’m an authority on film, I bow to Derrick as a master. He’s given me great writing advice over the years, but none so informative as the lessons I have learned simply by reading his work.

There’s a story I’ve told Derrick, and I guess (I’m really thinking positive here) the whole world as well on the GAR! Podcast, about a visual aid I was using at a point where I was trying to write in a pulp style. It was a sign I taped over my desk that read “I want to be Derrick Ferguson when I grow up.” That’s how well the man knows his genre. Derrick knows pulp, and he knows it so well, he has created a pulp hero for a new age – Dillon.

Dillon is a man who would make Doc Savage proud to know him, that’s how pulp he is. He is a man of skills, of integrity, of style, of exotic and mysterious background, he’s a lover, he’s a fighter, and most importantly he is a man of his word. Dillon is that rare entity in this dark world of ours – he is a likable hero we can root for, and a man who will win for the right reasons.

In the second novel (although it doesn’t much matter in what order you read the books) in the series, “Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell,” this pulp hero for a new age faces all the threats and situations that make the genre special. He must find an ancient artifact of great power, stop a civil war in an exotic island nation, and save the entire planet from the coming of a demon, along the way fighting femme fatales both human and shape-shifting, jet pack soldiers, warring airships, giant barbarian kings, and old fashioned tough talking gangsters. This was a hoot.

When was the last time you read a book that was fun? When was the last time you read a book where you cheered out loud for the hero? Where you hissed the bad guys? Where you laughed at the quips of the good guy? This is the book (books), and the hero for you. Check out “Legend of the Golden Bell,” and the rest of the books in the series, as well as all of Derrick’s other work. It, and he rocks.

The Writer’s Chatroom Presents C. Hope Clark

C. Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters, a well-known writer’s reference for grants, contests, markets, publishers and agents for the serious writer. The website and newsletters have existed for fourteen years, and been recognized by Writer’s Digest Magazine in its 101 Best Websites for Writers for thirteen of those years. 42,000 writers receive her newsletters each week.

She’s published in Writer’s Digest, Writer’s Market, Guide to Literary Agents, The Writer, as well as multiple trades, glossy mags and numerous Chicken Soup books. She’s been interviewed often by both writing and business websites, and speaks to writing conferences throughout the United States. Her book, The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success, continues to sell steadily.

She is also author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Lowcountry Bribe is the first in the series published by Bell Bridge Books. The mysteries describe federally employed Carolina Slade’s sleuthing abilities throughout rural, rarely seen South Carolina settings, facing crimes not found in your typical mystery. Her follow-up, Tidewater Murder, is now available too, and absolutely rocks. The third book in the series will be released in 2014.

Read more about Hope and Carolina Slade at here website.

I will be interviewing Hope and moderating the chat, as I have for over a decade now, tomorrow night (September 29, 2013) at 7 PM EST. Just go to The Writer’s Chatroom and click on “Enter Chatroom,” no password is needed. Hope to see you all tonight night!

Re-Reading The Shining

I am reading “The Shining” again for the first time in thirty-five, thirty-six years. Amazing how far author Stephen King has come, and so odd to see simple wording and point of view errors he would never make today. It is also something to marvel to read a simpler King, but also what may be a more sinister King.

Back in 1977, I started reading the big hardcover version of “The Shining” first, which my mom had borrowed from my book enabling big sister. It seemed like a historical romance from that cover, almost giving off a “Dallas,” “Dynasty” or sweeping John Michener vibe. There was the big hotel on the front (and back) cover looking almost similar to Tara from Gone with the Wind, painted images of the man, the woman, and the child, and the hedge animals. My sister needed her copy back, so then I bought the paperback at the local grocery store. That was a gray book with a blank boy’s face on it, and that’s the copy I still have today.

I remember plowing through it rather quickly, on the front porch swing during the days, and in bed before sleep, which defiantly came. This was King’s third book, chronologically at least, and I’m pretty sure I knew he was something special even then, that he was subversively teaching me writing skills and techniques. All that and he was a joy to read.

And what attracted me most of all, was that he wrote about writers. There’s the interviewer in “Carrie,” Ben Mears in “‘Salem’s Lot,” and now Jack Torrence. I could relate, and now I was hooked for a lifetime. Both my own and King’s, as writers would continue as protagonists and even antagonists for dozens of novels to follow, notably the nebulously aligned Harold Lauder in my favorite King novel, “The Stand.”

The young Stephen King plays fast and loose with perspective and point of view I’ve noticed. As an editor (and yes, I know how presumptuous this is), there are more than a few things I would have corrected in the book regarding POV. Let’s just say, he did get better. Much better, or at least as good as one of the best selling novelists of our era can be.

Young Danny’s perspective and understanding of things is a puzzle of complexity. Does he know and understand because of his psychic abilities? Or does he for the sake of storytelling? King walks a very fine line here, most times opting for the latter, and weaving a tighter more terrifying tale for the reader.

There is one difference I noticed in my Nook copy of “The Shining” however. The word REDRUM written in a graphic in my original paperback copy of the book, but not in my Nook copy. It was missed. Back in the day, tricks like that, raised and/or cut out covers, or the multiplying flies above chapters in “The Amityville Horror,” made books in the late 1970s a little bit more special.

There is also the matter of Jack Torrence’s alcoholism. At the time “The Shining” was released the public was unaware of King’s own struggles with old devil drink. This fact in retrospect lends a frightening realism to what was already horrific in the book. We knew King was a teacher, spent time in Colorado, but now, we can’t help but wonder… was he abusive as well? Dare I ask – did he harm his wife and family? Just how autobiographical is “The Shining”?

King has always made the distinction with Stanley Kubrick ‘s film version, that he had written a book about a haunted house, but the director made a movie about domestic violence. What if he protest-eth too much? What if King insisted on that because Kubrick hit too close to home? My intent is not to make accusations, mind you, but to report the extra dimension facts about the author’s life bring to the work. It certainly made some of it uncomfortable to read.

The sequel to “The Shining” has been a rumor that has floated around for years. It became just a little bit more real when Kung finally gave it a name, “Doctor Sleep.” When he wrote it and announced a release date, then things got hot. “Doctor Sleep” is scheduled for release today, and there’s also a preview at the end of my Nook copy of “The Shining” as well.

Author Frederik Pohl Passes at 93

There was a time in junior high school when I was devouring all the classic science fiction at the local small town library, or at least trying to. I was fascinated by Bradbury, found Asimov and Clarke far too obtuse, loved Ellison to death, dug Heinlein and Dick, and also really liked Frederik Pohl.

Besides Harlan Ellison, Pohl was one that entranced me into reading more of his work immediately. I spent some time exploring Gateway, Jem, and the secrets and stories of the Heechee. Fantastic stuff. I should give it another read after all this time. Two days ago, Pohl passed away at the age of 93. He’ll be missed.

Fran Metzman Interviews Robin Renee

Today on the Robin Renee Blog Tour, guest blogger Fran Metzman interviews our guest of honor Robin Renee on her inspirations, influences, and creative process. Take it away, Fran.

Fran Metzman: What inspires you?

Robin Renee: I am inspired by so many things – Every time I am asked this question, it feels entirely new. The strange rituals and pitfalls and triumphs of human interaction fascinate me, and make for good things to learn from and write about. Artists who show us the deep and sometimes bizarre bits of their minds inspire me (Salvador Dalí and Gary Wilson come to mind). People like that show me how it’s always possible to dig deeper and to talk about what’s real, what’s primal. I am inspired by dancing, costumes, laughter, and people who allow fun and joy to move through them without reservation. I am completely in love with the ocean. I strive to be my best self, so anyone I see who is pushing their own boundaries through what may be scary in order to get to something stronger and more powerful on the other side –they are inspirations to me all the time.

Fran Metzman: What instruments do you play, what are your favorites, and why?

Robin Renee: I play guitar, harmonium, piano and keyboards, and I kind of fake it on percussion at times. It is hard to say what a favorite instrument is, because in a sense, the best instrument is the one you need to make the sound for a song in that particular moment. Nothing has that amazing drone quite like a harmonium. So many sounds can come from a guitar – harmonic, percussive… All that said, I seem to have a very deep resonance with the piano. It is my first instrument, which may be why playing piano is so close to my heart. I am also a huge fan of electronic music, and I love the sounds that synths can make. I most often play guitar when I am performing out and about these days. The guitar is a more portable instrument, which is why I think I began to favor it, but lately I’ve had to wonder why I don’t spend more time playing and developing songs on keys. See response #1 re: pushing through boundaries and fears, perhaps. I predict more keyboard sounds in my future.

Fran Metzman: How do the various instruments enhance your music?

Robin Renee: I am not sure what you mean here, actually. There are some general things I could talk about. Harmonium gives a sense of Om – of well-being, acoustic guitar might invite tunefulness or singability – but I think you’d have to ask me about a specific song you’re curious about and I could talk about the roles of each instrument in it. What musical instruments do in any given moment isn’t really a static thing.

Fran Metzman: How many ways do you arrange a song before deciding on a final draft?

Robin Renee: There are no rules. I think sometimes it’s more about an incubation period where I can tell a song just doesn’t have the right melody or lyrics yet. When that happens, sometimes the thing to do is to sit down and work on it, but often enough it is more productive to let it float around in the back of my mind and when the missing pieces show up, I’ll know. During that time, the song needs to exist in the “I’m letting you percolate” zone rather than the “I’m avoiding you” zone. I’m getting better at keeping them in the former and not the latter.

Fran Metzman: Take us through your songwriting process, from start to finish, how do you do it?

Robin Renee: Again, there’s never really one way that this happens. Sometimes I am walking or driving and I’ll hear a trail of a piece of music that just sparks me to want to write. I might have a conversation with someone and a phrase will come out that screams “lyric.” Sometimes it doesn’t come from any prompt I can discern. When that spark happens, however it happens, it usually is like a few words, often with a melody, that show up very suddenly. I scribble it down or record a voice memo on my phone, or whatever, as soon as I can.

It might just go into a virtual pile of ideas for another time, but if there’s something pressing about it, I will take what I have and do some purposeful work on it. I like to write lyrics with an actual pen and paper- There is something about the tactile nature of it that seems to connect more readily to the creation of solid lines and meter. I may sit with pen and paper and guitar and just work freeform until the basics are there. Once the basic idea for verses and the structure of the song is there, it is less about the initial inspiration and more about the craft of writing. I’ll think logically about things like the progression of a story or where certain sounds will have the most impact.

A lot of the real formation of my songs happens in the recording. I will sometimes have some pretty strong ideas of what the full production should sound like, but it isn’t until I start adding sounds that what is really needed starts to reveal itself. At that point, when we’re adding voices, samples, and other sounds, it feels like sculpting.

Fran Metzman: How does kirtan influence your pop music and vice versa?

Robin Renee: Kirtan, has influenced me overall because of its effect on the mind and mental/emotional health. Like silent meditation, I think, it changes the brain and consciousness in positive ways. In regard to how my pop music has influenced the kirtan – pop, rock, and folk rock form the basis of how I play. So, I think it is natural that the kirtans that show up for me have those influences. I like that about the way kirtan is developing. The backgrounds and influences of kirtan artists can be very evident, so if you groove on rock, jazz, raga, simple melodies, or complex orchestrations, there are probably some kirtan sounds somewhere that will be a way into the experience for you.

How kirtan has influenced my pop music: It basically “insisted” on being part of it! There are a couple of songs like “I’m Coming Down” and “Holy River” that really seemed to cry out for mantra. I like the sound that has emerged from the integration.

In another sense, kirtan has held back some of my pop music interest. There were several years when I was so consumed with mantra that I really wasn’t writing, per se. It feels to me that this was a natural response to a practice that can make the stories of life seem insignificant in relation to the whole, the drive toward Oneness. It has taken some time for me to discover where I am now and relearn how to present what I do. I think the media loves a simplistic story, and for a while it felt like adding this overtly spiritual piece to what I do made it more difficult to make a clear presentation about who I am. I’m glad to be figuring that out now. Writing has reemerged for me and I have discovered that my message was hidden within the challenge all along – It is to insist upon being all that I am. That is the singular intention and image, and my work stands for those who are taking on a similar journey.

Fran Metzman: Where do you see yourself in the future musically?

Robin Renee: I don’t want to predict too far into the future, but right now I am interested in electronica and ambient music. As I mentioned, I have always been big into synth sounds and sometimes haven’t reflected that in my own music as much as I would like. I hope to retain the kind of singer/songwriter craft that feels natural to me while bringing in more electronic sounds and see where that takes it. I’m very open to collaboration these days, so I am looking forward to finding out what’s next, too.

Thank you Fran, and Robin.

You can check out Fran’s website here, and the Blog Tour continues tomorrow at the South Jersey Writers blog, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey.

Robin website can be found here, and you can purchase her music at CD Baby, ReverbNation, and iTunes.

Her new single “All I Am” is available at CD Baby, with proceeds going to the You Will Rise Project.

The Robin Renee Blog Tour

Today marks the start of the Robin Renee Blog Tour. For the next week or so, we’ll be guiding you through a journey of the work singer/songwriter/poet/activist/journalist, Robin Renee.

Who is Robin Renee? Besides, my talented and creative friend of several decades of course, Robin Renee is Mantra-Pop! – accessible, lyric-driven alt-folk rock with a spiritual twist. Conscious and melodic with an edge, think of blending the voices of Chrissie Hynde and Joan Armatrading with the wordsmith intelligence of Elvis Costello and the mystical passion of kirtan chanting.

Her CDs include In Progress, All Six Senses (produced by the world renowned Scott Mathews who has worked with George Harrison, Elvis Costello, Barbra Streisand, and many more), Live Devotion (East-meets-West chanting), and spirit.rocks.sexy – mantra-pop headlines from the clairaudient dreams of the evocative Robin Renée.

She has shared the stage with some of the West’s best-loved kirtan singers including Krishna Das, Dave Stringer, and Girish. Also a poet, artist, and writer, Robin’s work has appeared in PanGaia, Big Hammer #12, Curve Magazine, Songwriter’s Market, Blessed Bi Spirit – Bisexual People of Faith (Continuum Press), That Takes Ovaries – Bold Females and their Brazen Acts (Random House), and many other publications.

Her newest recording, This. (chant and sacred song), will be followed by ..and Everything Else (songs and spoken word) in 2014.

Here’s the schedule for the Blog Tour:

Tomorrow, Thursday, July 18th, Shelley Szajner will be interviewing Robin at her blog.

Friday, July 19th, Marie Gilbert will be hosting at her blog, Gilbert Curiosities.

Saturday, July 20th, Becca Butcher will be hosting at her blog.

Sunday, July 21st, we return here to Welcome to Hell, where I’ll be reviewing Robin’s “This.” Album.

Monday, July 22nd Patti O’Brien will be hosting at her blog, A Broad Abroad.

Tuesday, July 23rd, Fran Metzman will be guest blogging an interview with Robin here at my blog, Welcome to Hell.

Wednesday, July 24th Marie Gilbert will be hosting an interview with Robin at the South Jersey Writers Blog, Tall Tales and Short Stories.

Thursday, July 25th Robin Renee will be a guest on The GAR! Podcast, with Ray Cornwall and myself.

Friday, July 26th I will be conducting an interview with Robin Renee at Biff Bam Pop!.

Saturday, July 27th I will be closing out the blog tour here at Welcome to Hell.

And don’t forget to check out Robin Renee’s new single “All I Am” at CD Baby, with proceeds going to the anti-bullying organization, the You Will Rise Project.

See you tomorrow, at Shelley Szajner’s blog!

James Gandolfini Dead at 51

Actor James Gandolfini died today in Italy from a massive heart attack, he was 51. The three time Lead Actor in a Drama Emmy winner was best known for playing bipolar modern gangster and family man Tony Soprano in HBO’s “The Sopranos.” He was also a producer, and a star of stage and screen, besides his television work.

I first became aware of the man when he played a very evil piece of work in Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino’s True Romance. His menacing presence made him perfect for the complex character of Tony Soprano in my opinion.

“The Sopranos” first entered my wheelhouse during its second season. I had written a still unpublished novel with hyper-violent overtones. Two beta-readers told me I needed a balance between the violence and the drama of everyday life, and both, separately suggested that I had to see “The Sopranos” so I could see how it’s supposed to be done. I got HBO, and was blown away. I quickly caught up, and was addicted to the show until its end.

Most of the reason the show was so successful was Gandolfini’s talent and presence. If we did not believe Gandolfini as Tony, the show falls apart. He was the show in many ways.

The man was perhaps the best lead in perhaps the best show ever made for TV.   It is so sad to lose such a talent so young. Who knows what might have been in his future. James Gandolfini will be missed.

The South Jersey Writers’ Group 2014 Anthology

Welcome to the South Jersey Writers’ Group!

About the Group

The South Jersey Writers’ Group, founded in 2006, provides networking and development opportunities for local writers in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area. The group meets regularly several times during the month for topic-based discussion about the craft of writing and the publishing industry.

The group welcomes writers of all ages, backgrounds, genres, and experience levels. Among the events offered by the group are Write-Ins, Topic Discussions, Critique Sessions, Book Signings, Author Appearances, and Blogfests. For more information on the group, visit the website, Like them on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.

The Next Big Adventure

In December 2012, the group published their first short story anthology, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey, which is available in paperback on Amazon, select local coffee shops, and other vendors. The book was a labor of love, but it’s highly entertaining and showcases the diversity of our writers. It turned out to be a neat little book, and for being such a hyper-local focus, sales are still going really well, and it has generated a lot of interest in the literary community of South Jersey.

Now we’re planning the next one, taking the lessons learned and building on success. The 2014 Anthology will feature longer, more intricate stories, aligned along a theme or within a genre. With the support of our backers, we’ll be able to pay the authors and designers for their talents and skills.

We are doing this through Kickstarter, a terrific way to raise money for creative projects and also offer great incentives to those who donate. We are trying to raise $3000 by June 23. The details are here, along with the many incentives available depending on the amount of your donation.

Upcoming Book Signings

  • July 13 at Book Asylum in Blackwood NJ, 12-3 PM
  • September 14 at Authors on the Greene in Smithville NJ 11 AM – 5 PM
  • October 5 at the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, look for our table.
  • November 2 at Bogart’s Books & Cafe in Millville NJ 10:30 AM – 2 PM
  • Please see our schedule for added events and details.

    Now Accepting New Members

    The South Jersey Writers’ Group is accepting new members through the end of June. The special discounted fee for half-year membership is $15, and then will be closed until October. Act now!

    Contact Info

  • Amy Hollinger
  • Marie Gilbert
  • southjerseywriters@gmail.com
  • www.southjerseywriters.com
  • Lowcountry Bribe by C. Hope Clark

    LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE by C. Hope Clark has the best opening line I have read in quite some time: “O-positive primer wasn’t quite the color I had in mind for the small office, but Lucas Sherwood hadn’t given the décor a second thought when he blew out the left side of his head with a .45.” I was hooked.

    Hope’s descriptions don’t end with that beautiful Tarantino-esque opening. In what sounds at first like the last thing I would ever read – an agricultural mystery in the Deep South – Hope delivers fast paced, easy reading, absolutely compelling prose. Her sense of place and people put you there, and the tension and twists don’t let you put the book down. I read it in one sitting, and I don’t do that often. I loved the characters, and the edge. And this is coming from someone for whom mysteries are just not in the wheelhouse.

    Carolina Slade Bridges is a strong female protagonist, a good woman drawn from equal parts Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Cornwell, and Elmore Leonard. She’s tough, she’s harsh, she’s by the book, and quite often, she’s Hope Clark herself – or at least the woman, mentor, and friend I have come to know after a decade of interviewing her at The Writer’s Chatroom. It’s no secret the book is loosely based on real events, but how close, no one’s talking. Any way you slice it, Slade (don’t call her Carolina) rocks, and I can’t wait for the next installment – TIDEWATER MURDER, due next month. Four stars out of four, highly recommended.

    Buy the book here, and be sure to come by The Writer’s Chatroom this Sunday evening for a chat/interview with the author.