Mid-Winter Gift Ideas

Someone’s wise tweet – I think it may have been Nicole Valentine’s – commended a plan to buy all Christmas gifts from bookstores and museum shops. I love this idea for supporting great places hard-hit by the pandemic.

I have hopefully dogeared a museum shop catalog with a desire of my own. As for gifts to give – books are always top of my list, and I’ve been collecting a small hoard all year. Which is a good thing, because shopping is not as easy or as safe as last year. It’s very fortunate indeed that two of my local bookstores offer curbside delivery. You, too, can give a gift to your community and order books from your local bookstore if you have one, and stay safely at home while you do it. They may also be able to send them for you.*

Here are some books I am going to give this year (shhh, no telling).

For a science fiction and comic book fan: Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles: The Authorized Adaptation, which I was lucky enough to find at my local indie bookshop (they don’t have it in stock now, but it can be ordered from Barnes and Noble).

For a history/nonfiction buff, who, after reading on my blog about the Winchester Mystery House, was inspired to dig deeper: Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune by Mary Jo Ignoffo.

For a young adult horror fan, The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. Series #1) by Jonathan Stroud, because this book gave me great chills and I don’t even really love horror.

For a middle-grader with a big heart, a middle-grade book with great heart:  A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity by Nicole Valentine. This is another book I read and loved, though I am well out of the focus audience.

And for a dear aunt, a warm-hearted Christmas romance, Season of Hope by Laura Nelson Selinsky.

cover art for Season of Hope novella

For more ideas of books to give, you can see my blog on this from last year.

Another suggestion for gift ideas: are there local artists and artisans who might have websites you could order gifts from?

How about a gift for yourself: a short collection of fine tales to take you back to the old West? My writing friend VT Dorchester has a great tale online in the December issue of Frontier Tales. I’ve read a number of these, and they are fine stories. So far, I’m particularly fond of VT’s, “Horseshoe Nail Stew”, a clever and deepened retelling of the Stone Soup folktale. I’m looking forward to taking a small break and reading more stories, then choosing and voting for my favorite. Well done, VT!

Whatever holidays you observe, may you find the light, and celebrate and share it.

*Yes, you could probably get most if not all of these books at Amazon, but Amazon has done extremely well during the pandemic. Why not support bookstores, museums, and artisans who have been hit hard?

More Publication News from a Writing Friend

Author photo of Suzanne Mattaboni
Suzanne Grieco Mattaboni, fiction writer, ‘80s podcaster, essayist

My Running Wild Press colleague, Suzanne Mattaboni, has shared some good news which I’m very happy to pass on. Her novel, Once in a Lifetime, was accepted by TouchPoint Press. She describes it as “fun, irreverent coming-of-age women’s fiction set in a 1980’s tourist town, against a backdrop of new wave music and art.” It’s planned to come out in spring 2022.  Congratulations, Suzanne!

In the nearer future, Suzanne has short story, “The World is Lava,” coming out in a horror anthology called Little Demon Digest, which will be available on Amazon starting Dec. 8th.

Suzanne will also have a story in an anthology coming out in the spring of 2021 called Pizza Parties and Poltergeist—it’s a collection of horror stories set in the 1980s. Her story is called “Don’t You Forget About Me.”

Also, one of her short stories (“A Stain in the Ceiling”) appeared in August in Dark Dossier magazine, issue #50.

That’s a lot of exciting news, Suzanne!

Readers can also find a fine short story by Suzanne in the Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 2, available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

cover of Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 2
“Our” Anthology

Here are ways to keep up with Suzanne’s news and connect with her:

Email: suzanne@mattaboni.com

Website: suzannemattaboni.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/suzanne.mattaboni

Twitter:  @suzmattaboni

Instagram: suzannemattaboni80s

Congrats again, Suzanne!

In Memory of Rachel Caine

Last week the sad news came that Rachel Caine had died after her long, hard battle against cancer. Rachel Caine was a wonderful writer, and a wonderful woman, and she is sorely missed.

I first got to know Rachel Caine through her Morganville Vampire novels – fast-paced page-turners about what it’s like to go to college in a Texas town run by vampires. I worked at a bookstore then, and we had the great good fortune to have her come to a signing at our store.

Morganville Wristband and Whimsical mint tin
Book-Signing Gifts

In fact, I took one of the early calls setting it up. A woman on the phone asked to speak to my manager; well-trained, I asked who was calling. It was Rachel herself. “Rachel Caine! Rachel Caine! Rachel Caine!” I exclaimed, jumping up and down. Yes — I literally jumped in the air, and literally yelled in my excitement, right into the phone. Three times. Rachel just laughed her warm laugh.

Bookmark
Ghostly Bookmark

She was just as warm and friendly in person – so down to earth, so fun to be around. We had the pleasure of hosting her twice. The second time was for Prince of Shadows, the story of Romeo and Juliet but also the story of Benvolio, Romeo’s friend and cousin, a master thief who becomes close with Rosaline, Romeo’s unrequited love. I loved Rachel’s Morganville stories, but this book is just a marvel. Told through Benvolio’s eyes, it immersed me in a Renaissance Verona that’s lush and gritty. The stories unfold from unexpected corners, and with surprising twists and turns and depths. It’s a gorgeous book.

Cover Art of Prince of Shadows
My Treasured Copy

Rachel’s writing, which I loved from the start, just kept getting better and better. I was hooked and grabbed by The Great Library series. She wove an entire world for this series, full of rich characters fueled their love of books, invention, and knowledge. The main character, Jess, is a book-smuggler in a society where it’s a mortal crime to own your own book. Because this world is run by a tyrannical Library which has absolute power over all books and all knowledge, and they enforce their law with terrifying automata – pitiless lions, sphinxes, and gods. The story moves from England to Egypt to the wild, rebellious America. I am not half doing these books justice. If you enjoy fantasy, especially with a steam-punkish edge, go, take a look yourself.

Rachel was a prolific writer, who wrote so much more than I have had a chance to read. There’s her Weather Warden series, adult urban fantasy about Wardens, “gifted with a supernatural ability to control the weather … sometimes. On a good day…But the Wardens—Earth, Weather, and Fire—work as much against each other as with, and their captive Djinn are on the constant verge of rebellion. Add to that a sleeping, but intelligent, Mother Earth, and this could get very messy.”* Outcast Season is a companion urban fantasy series about an outcast Djinn. These sound like books I have to explore.

And there are more. Stillhouse Lake  is the first in a series of adult thrillers. My husband and I started the audio book – it was gripping and intense. Too intense for us, honestly; it may be the audio format was just too vivid, or that we’re just not thriller people. The writing was excellent. If you like enthralling, chilling thrillers, go and check this series out.

There are even more fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi novels and series to explore on her website. For anyone who loves great writing in these genres – go, have a look.

I got to know Rachel more through her Twitter. Even as she fought an aggressive cancer, she was warm, kind, passionate, and honest – an ally and advocate for writers and people in need in general. I learned still more about her through a tribute written by people who knew and loved her.

Rachel’s legacy lives on in the books she’s written and the lives she’s touched. It was my honor and pleasure to meet her, and to grow to know her in her writing. Readers and lovers of good writing, you can help keep her legacy alive. Find her books, and dive deep into new worlds.

You can find her books in bookstores, at Barnes and Noble, and at Amazon. Many of her ebooks are on sale now for a very good price. And you can watch her Morganville Vampire series on Amazon Prime.

*Quote from Rachel’s website

All Hallow’s Eve

photo of a moon light with a glass raised before it
Raising a Glass to the Blue Moon

It’s a rare occasion when a full moon falls on Halloween, and rarer still when it’s a blue moon! To celebrate this banner event, I offer a poem for the season.

Down from the forested mountains run
Broad shadows from the waning sun.
Hovering in the mistbound air,
The hidden moon waits, pale and fair.
A lingering rim of sun burns on,
Then the mountains gape and the light is gone.

Deep shadows drowning barren trees,
A whisper rustling fallen leaves,
A shiver in the wind, a sigh,
A mournful undulating cry~
The moon lets fall her veil and breathes
Her grace upon All Hallow’s Eve.
Gemma Brook

Candlelit Jack O Lantern

And inspired by VT Dorchester, whose mouth-watering date cake recipe makes me hungry and ready to bake, I also offer a recipe (though without VT’s flair).

I got this recipe as a kid from the Peanuts Cookbook by June Dutton, put out by Scholastic (long out of print, I believe). I made a “healthier” variation several years ago. We’ll start with that; it makes a dense, not too sweet cookie. It’s not for every one’s taste, I readily admit!*

Gemma’s “Great Pumpkin” Cookies
1/3 cup granulated fructose
2 ½ T canola oil
¼ cup plus 1 tsp liquid egg whites
2-4 T water as needed
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole grain rye flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
4 ½ T dark seedless raisins, chopped
½ cup walnut pieces, chopped

Preheat oven to 375˚. Sift all dry ingredients together. Beat egg whites lightly. Mix oil, pumpkin, and water (I usually need the full amount of water). Fold in egg whites. Stir wet into dry ingredients, then fold in nuts and raisins. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I use unbleached compostable). Drop batter by spoonfuls onto the paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen.

Peanuts’ “Great Pumpkin” Cookies
1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
½ cup shortening
2 eggs
1 lb. can pumpkin [do they make 1 lb. cans anymore?]
2 ¾ cups flour, sifted
1 T baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ginger
1 cup raisins
1 cup pecans, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 400˚. Mix sugar, shortening, eggs, and pumpkin thoroughly in a large bowl. Sift dry ingredients and add to pumpkin mixture. Blend well. Add raisins and pecans. Drop batter by teaspoonsful on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven, and lift off with a pancake turner. Makes about 6 dozen. A delicious snack while you’re waiting for the “Great Pumpkin.”

Or a great snack while you’re waiting for the Halloween Blue Moon! It will rise a little after sunset hereabouts.

Happy All Hallow’s Eve!

Jack o Lantern glowing from within

*I baked this recipe on All Hallows’ Day, with what I had on hand (only whole wheat for flour, and olive oil for oil.) And — I quite like this batch! Of course, they’re always best fresh from the oven…

Publication News from Writing Friends

I’m delighted to share the following news.

Aud Supplee, my critique group friend and Running Wild Press colleague, has recently been published in the Friends Journal. This is a monthly international journal of the Quakers, and Aud writes about her faith with humor, warmth, and spirituality. Her article appeared in both the online and print versions of the journal. You can read it free here.

Aud Supplee, Author

I’m equally pleased to report that another writing friend and RWP colleague, VT Dorchester, will be published online in the Winter Solstice edition of All Worlds Wayfarer. This is a quarterly speculative fiction literary magazine; I’ve peeked at a couple of stories and found them so excellent I was immediately sucked in. As VT says, “If you pre-order, the issue should be delivered to your Kindle on Dec. 21 and Kindle editions will include a bonus story. The issue will also become available on the All World’s Wayfarer website for free in December.” You can preorder the full baker’s dozen of stories for just $2.99! I just did, and I was pleasantly surprised by the low price.

VT Dorchester Portrait by Scarlet Frost

Happy reading! And well done, VT and Aud! I can’t wait to read what each of you has in store for us in the months to come.

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