Thursday, October 31, 2013

77 Shadow Street.

Title/Author: 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz.

Read by: Peter Berkrot.

Genre:  Horror.

Publisher:  Brilliance Audio.

Source:  Library

Favorite Quote:

Synopsis:  I am the One, the all and the only. I live in the Pendleton as surely as I live everywhere. I am the Pendleton’s history and its destiny. The building is my place of conception, my monument, my killing ground. . . .

The Pendleton stands on the summit of Shadow Hill at the highest point of an old heartland city, a Gilded Age palace built in the late 1800s as a tycoon’s dream home. Almost from the beginning, its grandeur has been scarred by episodes of madness, suicide, mass murder, and whispers of things far worse. But since its rechristening in the 1970s as a luxury apartment building, the Pendleton has been at peace. For its fortunate residents—among them a successful songwriter and her young son, a disgraced ex-senator, a widowed attorney, and a driven money manager—the Pendleton’s magnificent quarters are a sanctuary, its dark past all but forgotten.

But now inexplicable shadows caper across walls, security cameras relay impossible images, phantom voices mutter in strange tongues, not-quite-human figures lurk in the basement, elevators plunge into unknown depths. With each passing hour, a terrifying certainty grows: Whatever drove the Pendleton’s past occupants to their unspeakable fates is at work again. Soon, all those within its boundaries will be engulfed by a dark tide from which few have escaped.

My Thoughts:  I love haunted house stories so, the premise of 77 Shadow Street intrigued me.  I have to say that there are cons as well as pros to this book. 

Shadow Street definitely included some scary scenes that reminded me of Koontz's earlier works.  The monsters were creative and frightening.  The death scene of one of the characters was truly horrific (and cooool) and there were twists and turns.  Koontz came at hauntings from a different angle and I really liked that.  Time skips, evil scientists and an alternate or possible sorrowful future are explored.   

However, I feel the writing itself could have been edited down, the characters developed more (and some eliminated) and the plot tighter.  I am not a writer and don't claim to be and don't claim to be better than any published writer out there, yet there were times when this book felt like a draft.  Would this have gotten published if it were someone's first try?  I'm just not sure.  

Narration:  I felt that some of the characters were very convincing and some were not.  When Berkrot did the voice of "The One," it was very creepy and menacing.  The female voice portrayals were not very successful as is the case with many male narrators when reading dialogue of female characters.

Wrap up:  I recommend 77 Shadow Street for the cool monsters, the premise and the creativity.  But be forewarned about the long and overdone descriptions.

Other Editions:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween Hootenanny Skull Bracelet Giveaway #4

Vampire bracelet...
I made this using red Swarovski crystals, sterling silver beads, and ceramic vampire and coffin beads.  This has been strung on Stretch Magic and just slides on your wrist.  

~Leave your name (use what I can announce on the blog if you win) and e-mail address on the Rafflecopter form.
~Leave a comment below.  
~That's it! No need to follow, tweet, or like unless you want extra entries.

~Winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter.
~This contest is international!
~Please see my contest policy HERE.
~This contest ends on November 6, 2013 at 12:15 am.
~If winner does not contact me within 72 hours (3 days) of my first e-mail, unfortunately another winner will be chosen.

Good luck and thanks for visiting my blog!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 28, 2013

Guest Post by Boris Dzhingarov - Funky Couples Halloween Costumes

Halloween is a great time for you are your partner to dress up in couples Halloween costumes. You really need to think of something cool that will work out as a fine choice and be a hit with everyone around you. Here are a few couples Halloween costumes you two could use for Halloween 2013:

1.  Mickey and Minnie Mouse: Well if you love Walt Disney, then Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse are the perfect costumes for you two love birds. Mickey and Minnie Mouse Couple Mascot Costume

2.  A lock and key: If she is one that completes you then dressing up like a padlock with key is a neat idea which your better half will love.

3.  Soap and Loofah: If you wouldnít mind being a Loofah to your husbandís soap bar act you two can hit the streets trick or treating. You can make your children bubbles if you would like to. Halloween costume ideas should be out of the box literally.
 4.  Shrek and Fiona: Shrek Costume Some green paint and some medieval dressing sense should help you get into character for the Shrek story. You could dress someone else like a donkey if they are up for it. Having your kids dress up like one is probably a bad idea.
  Fiona Costume  
5.  Steve Irwin and Terri Irwin: You and your better half could be out in Khakis dressed like the Irwinís did. If you love wildlife and wonít mind to pretend then you should definitely look into this costume. You could even get your baby or child to dress up like a crocodile.

6.  A doctor and an X-ray: If you could play a sexy doctor, your husband could wear a glow in the dark skeletal suit. You two would look awesome together. If you are a doctor this would be a hilarious costume to wear.

7.  Bowing Ball and a Pin Bowling Pin Adult Costume Ladies, if your man is obsessed with bowling then let him be a bowling ball while you can dress up like a pin. You will have a blast in these couples Halloween costumes. Bowling Ball Costume

8.  A baker and an oven: If you are expecting a baby then it would be great if you could dress up like an oven while your husband dresses up like a baker who put the bun in the oven. Your husband could call himself the bun maker. These Halloween costume ideas for women are will keep you busy planning till Halloween finally arrives.

9.  Edward and Bella:†If you like vampires, it wouldnít be a bad idea to dress up like Edward and Bella for Halloween this year. You could make your pet dog dress up like Jacob.
10.  Batman and Catwoman: Batman Halloween Costume Comic book freaks and batman fans can take these costumes and transform themselves into the vigilantes of Gotham city. If you have always wanted rock hard abs, your suit should do the talking for you.

You can also†dress up as other superheroes. Catwoman Halloween Costume   These creative couples Halloween costumes are sure going to attract peopleís attention. For all you know, you could be the talk of the town at this yearís Halloween parties. Why do something alone when you can do it together? You can also check some of the other Halloween costume trends for 2013 online.

Boris Dzhingarov is passionate about blogging. Currently he manage several blogs.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Guest Post by Inanna Arthen - Have Yourself an Old-Fashioned Halloween

Have Yourself an Old-Fashioned Halloween

Halloween was always my favorite holiday when I was a kid (way back in the 1960s)—even more than Christmas. Back then, it was a very child-focused holiday, with a few exceptions. My parents hosted a Halloween costume party that I will never forget. One of their male friends came as Little Bo Peep (my first experience seeing a straight guy in drag!), while my dad borrowed a theatre costume and dressed as a very authentic Henry VIII. But the day was really for the young. I looked forward to trick or treating all year long. Our costumes were homemade—only the tiniest tots wore the printed-jammies-and-plastic-mask costumes from the dime store.

When I became a serious Pagan, Halloween turned into Samhain and a sacred holiday for me. I continued carving Jack o’lanterns and dressing up to answer the door. But for twenty-five years I’ve lived on a country road too lonely and dangerous for trick or treating, and my observance of the holiday has been a very private one. In the meantime, Halloween as a social and cultural event has exploded in the United States. Evangelical Christians deplore “the glorification of evil and the occult” in vain. Halloween is big business, to the tune of $8 billion a year for candy, costumes, decorations and events. It’s the grown-ups who decorate their houses and yards and wear the costumes now, both often far more explicitly gruesome and macabre than anything from my youth.

If you don’t celebrate October 31 as a religious holiday (either Pagan Samhain or the Christian “All Hallows”), you may enjoy all the brilliant and technological festivities. You can buy Halloween lights in multiple colors and styles, and professional quality costumes and make-up. Elaborate yard displays include life-size ghosts, monsters and skeletons, or huge inflatable and/or animated figures (my neighbors have a giant spider on their porch roof right now that looks like it should be chasing Frodo through Cirith Ungol). But what if you fall somewhere between these two poles? Maybe you’d like to try some of the old-fashioned, quieter traditions for celebrating the day. Here are a few things you can do:

Carve a Turnip Jack o’ lantern.
The original Jack o’ lantern predates the introduction of the pumpkin to Europe from the Americas, where it was domesticated and cultivated by the Native tribes. The earliest such “punkie lights” were made from large root vegetables like turnips, rutabagas and mangel-wurzels. You can buy the big rutabagas in many grocery stores, often waxed to keep them from drying out.

The first time I tried making a “turnip light,” I was surprised at how easy it was. All you need is a large metal spoon with a sharp edge. Slice the top off the rutabaga and start scooping out the inside flesh a little at a time. As you work down into the core, start scooping to the sides. You want to hollow out the rutabaga until the sides are between a half inch to a quarter inch thick. Make a “floor” at the bottom that can hold a tea light candle (or you can use a battery-powered Jack o’ lantern light or a small flashlight) When your rutabaga is completely hollowed out, carve it the same way you would a pumpkin.

Try Out Some Fortune-Telling.
Reading the future was a common tradition for a number of holidays, including New Year’s Eve, May Day and Midsummer Day. But there are more fortune-telling customs around Halloween than any other day. Many of them sought predictions on who would die in the coming twelve months, but many asked about love and marriage. A young girl would sit before a mirror with her hair unbound at midnight on Halloween. By the light of a single candle, she would eat an apple slowly and comb her hair, waiting to see the shadowy image of her future husband appear over her shoulder.

You could try reading the cards or any other divination method you know. The Ouija Board has acquired an undeservedly negative reputation, but you can make a “talking board,” the Victorian parlor game on which the Ouija Board is based. All you need is a large sheet of smooth paper on which you’ve written the letters of the alphabet, numerals, and any symbols or words you wish (“yes” and “no” help speed things along). Then you need a small flat, or flat-bottomed, object that will slide easily over the paper. The Victorians used an inverted wine glass (short stem, wide mouth and base). A large coin like a silver dollar also works well. To operate the talking board, two or more people rest the tips of their fingers on the slider very lightly. It can take a while for the board to come to life—it should start with the slider moving in broad, sweeping circles. When it stops, ask a question.

Speak to the Spirits.
Traditionally, Halloween was the old Celtic New Year and the beginning of winter. That made it a “threshold” holiday when different dimensions or planes of reality overlapped, and beings not usually seen in our world could enter. This might include the Fae, spirits of the dead, deities, elementals, and to Christians, angels or devils. Dressing up in masks and costumes (or “guising”) as these beings was a way of confusing them or warding off the harm they might do.

But Halloween was often a solemn time of communing with these spirits. You could set a “dumb supper” or empty place setting at your dinner table for them, or leave a lighted candle with food and drink by the hearth (if you have one) or on the doorstep. People sometimes sat before a mirror hoping to glimpse a lost loved one, or placed a memento under their pillows and made a wish to speak to the departed in their dreams. Pagans create “ancestor altars” with photos and small belongings of deceased family members, while Christians remember their beloved dead in their prayers.

Make Something Out of Blackberries.
The last blackberries of the year must be eaten before Halloween night—after that, anything left in the fields belongs to the “pwca” (or Pooka), a dark and sinister spirit shaped like an animal. Bake a blackberry tart or squeeze the juice for a deep red drink.

Bob for Apples.
Apples are a sacred fruit in many cultures, and autumn is their time of year. Bobbing for apples is one of the oldest and most common of Halloween games. An apple is floated in a large tub of water and the contestants have to try and retrieve the apple with their teeth. In a variation, you can hang the apple from a string—the winner is the first who manages to take a good bite out of it. The winner must eat the whole apple after the game ends, and supposedly will gain the gift of second sight.

Candy apples—dipped in candy syrup, caramel or another sweet coating and often rolled in nuts—are one of the earliest Halloween “treats.”

These and other traditional customs are less expensive and gaudy than animatronic zombies or cakes shaped to look like severed body parts. When you revive them, you’re connecting with your forebears who practiced them in simpler times. That connection with those who have passed on is the “true meaning of Halloween.” But whatever you do to celebrate, have a fun, safe and spooky October 31!


Inanna Arthen (Vyrdolak) is an artist, speaker and author of The Vampires of New England Series: Mortal Touch (2007), The Longer the Fall (2010), and All the Shadows of the Rainbow (September 30, 2013). Book 4 is currently in progress. Inanna is a lifelong scholar of vampire folklore, fiction and fact, and runs By Light Unseen Media (, an independent press dedicated to publishing vampire fiction and nonfiction. She is a member of Broad Universe, New England Horror Writers, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE). She holds an M.Div degree from Harvard and is an outspoken advocate for the Pagan and LGBTQ communities. She is minister of the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Winchendon, MA. Her professional website is

Purchase All the Shadows of the Rainbow HERE.

By Light Unseen Media
The Vampires of New England Series

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Title/Author: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neal Gaiman.

Genre:  Fantasy.

Publisher:  William Morrow.

Source:  Purchased.

Favorite Quote:  Adults follow paths. Children explore.  ~The nameless boy.

Synopsis:  Sussex, England.  A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral.  Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother.  He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back.  And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road.  Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways.  The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy.  And Lettie - magical, comforting, wise beyond her years - promised to protect him, no matter what.
My Thoughts: One time when I saw Neal Gaiman speak, he said that this book was his favorite accomplishment and that it was about memories. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the story of a man who visits his childhood home and recounts the magical and very harrowing events of one summer.

This story is told in the first person and it took me a while to realize he didn't give his name, which makes it more mysterious and more accessible at the same time. 

Gaiman's writing is surreal and superb and he takes you by the hand and leads you into his fantasy. I love the characters of Lettie Hempstock, her mother Mrs. Hempstock and then there is Granny Hempstock.  All of these women have special abilities and teach the main character/narrator certain things about life and the universe.  I think it's not only about memories, but about self sacrifice. It's sweet and bittersweet at the same time.

I also loved the echoes of fairy tales, myths, spirituality and Paganism if you read between the lines.  The three ladies to me, represented Maiden, Mother, Crone. 

What I really loved about this book is the ending.  Sometimes an ending is weak compared to the story at large, but I felt the ending was stronger and more powerful than even the events leading up to it.  The conclusion also put together a lot of pieces to a puzzle I didn't know even existed. 

The only issue I had is that while it was creative and beautiful, I felt like I had read many stories like it before.  Maybe it's because the simplicity of the story - good vs. evil - or rather balance vs. chaos, is a common theme. 

Wrap up: A lovely and poetic fantasy story.  A must if you're a Gaiman fan.

Other Editions:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween Hootenanny Skull Bracelet giveaway #3

Not just for Halloween, this bracelet can be worn anytime...

I made this using purple Swarovski crystals, sterling silver bead caps, black ceramic round beads and fimo skull beads.  This has been strung on Stretch Magic and just slides on your wrist. The skulls are so subtle they can be worn anywhere!

~Leave your name (use what I can announce on the blog if you win) and e-mail address on the Rafflecopter form.
~Leave a comment below and tell me what literary setting you would like to visit for Halloween.  
~That's it! No need to follow, tweet, or like unless you want extra entries.

~Winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter.
~This contest is international!
~Please see my contest policy HERE.
~This contest ends on October 29, 2013 at 12:01am.
~If winner does not contact me within 72 hours (3 days) of my first e-mail, unfortunately another winner will be chosen.

Good luck and thanks for visiting my blog!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Interview with Heather Gleason - Dark Artist.

I recently signed up for a painting class at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  When I walked in I saw some pieces painted by the artist and teacher, Heather Gleason.  I realized that I had seen her work at the World Horror Convention this past June and had loved her whimsical style.  I didn't do any research before signing up for the class as to who Heather was, but I was SO excited that it was her.  And she was here!  And she was teaching the class!  It was such a fun experience and Heather was so patient and generous to share her painting tips.   When I asked Heather if she would participate in Halloween Hootenanny via an interview she graciously agreed.

Question:  How did you get started as an artist?  

Answer: I have been creating art since I was a little girl. Not always professionally of course ;) My mother got me into painting, which for many years I disliked until i actually tried it lol. Being a stubborn teenager not listening to your parents. I now look back and think UGHH I should have listened to my mother ;) 

Question: You mentioned you were self taught.  Can you elaborate? 

Answer:  I was used to pencils and ink, then thought i would expand my mediums.  So I bought the paint, something I was not used to and of course the wrong kind of brushes lol.  Made my first painting and it was horrible.  I had to do my own research on all types of brushes by buying them and figuring out what ones worked for me.  Eventually I found the right brushes while painting everyday. I had the help of my Friend Anna Weber who showed me some techniques with oil painting.  BUT while one technique may work for one person, it may not work for another and that is what happened with me. I was following her techniques step by step and they did not work for me.  So I let go and did what worked for me with the outcome being so much better for me as an artist in what i was trying to create. Practice, Practice, Practice. There is still way more for me to learn and as a painter the learning never ends and different techniques are always out there. 

Question:  You also said your mother is an artist.  Did she influence or encourage you?

Answer: Yes my mother since retiring LOVES to paint. She is a part of a few well known Artist Groups here in NY. She yelled at me to start painting so yes she plays a BIG part in me painting right now. We both have very different styles when it comes to painting, but we enjoy talking about classes she takes and the people she meets along the way.  Every time we have a visit we seem to chat about painting.  

Question:  Do you have a "style" and can you define it? 

Answer: STYLE...UGHH hahaha! I don't think i have a style.  It's weird to even describe my work as it's hard to even put it in a certain category since my mind is all over the place when i paint and the outcome is always different. 

Question: How do you come up with the subjects or concepts for your pieces? 

Answer:  I can be sitting eating dinner and have an idea pop in my mind. I will jot it down. Sometimes i will be in the middle of an email and an idea will pop in my head so i will email myself the idea so I don't forget it.  I always come back to the ideas that I jot down. They seem to haunt me until I paint them.  If I don't paint the ideas they never go away.  That's when I tend to go a little nutty. The hardest part is to actually get what I was thinking onto the canvas. If it does not come out right I am still haunted with that image.  It does not happen too often but it does happen.  Also my children play a very big part of me being the BIG kid I am and stir up fun emotions on a daily basis which in return come out in my characters i create. 

Question: What is your favorite Halloween/Horror subject to create? 

Answer:  I love making witches as they are everyday people. You can make so many different expressions on their face. They are always on the go and doing something. 

Question: Did any particular artist influence you? And/or can you name some of your favorite artists? 

Answer:  One of my biggest influences is Edward Gorey I would have to say. My mother was a HUGE fan of "Mystery" when i was a kid. I remember seeing the intro for the first time and being so mesmerized by the simplicity of it. It gave me an eerie feeling and took me to a different place. I never watched the shows with my mother but I would always be around for the intro. I made weird creepy stuff as a parents never understood it. Seeing Gorey's intro at a young age probably opened a new door for me.  As in favorite artists there are sooo many of them.  My favorite artist to date is Laurie Lipton. Its not paint but the subject matter is truly unique and straight from her mind. I LOVE IT! 

Question: Is there a favorite piece that you've done or has special meaning to you? 

Answer:  I have a few pieces that are in personal collection that I love and just cannot give up. One in particular is a painting of me. With 3 skeleton children playing around me. Two of them walking around me the other piggyback, lol.  I woke very early at three a.m. one morning around 2008-09.  I created the painting with acrylics in 4 hours. I don't know why I woke so early to paint it.  At the time i did not have 3 children but now i do!

Question: Why Halloween Art? Why does it appeal to you? Why do you think it appeals to others? 

Answer:  Halloween has always been a big deal to me.  It brings out that inner kid feeling. Being able to create it everyday i guess makes me a BIG kid.  The images I create are cute yet creepy. I try to just make straight up cute but it never comes out right until i add a little twist to it.  I think others have the same feeling i do when it comes to Halloween. There is an emotion attached to the Holiday. You want that emotion to come back and by doing so creating Halloween or collecting Halloween evokes that fun, happy feeling.  I love creating Halloween for that feeling. Sometimes I just can't help it.  Images just pop up in my mind. Its just so much fun to create no matter what time of year it is. 

Question: And since this is a book blog, can you tell me a few of your favorite Halloween/Horror books?  

Answer:  Stephen King's, IT,  Brian Keene's The Rising is really cool as well. Believe it or not R.L Stine's Goosebumps are great.  Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark. We have a large collection here at the house.  I rarely get to read as I am always painting.  

For more information about Heather and to purchase her artwork, please visit her website:

Connect with Heather on Facebook:


~I will be giving away one (1) copy of Heather's Book The Myserious Spooky Stories of My Eclectic Mind. 

~Leave your name (use what I can announce on the blog if you win) and e-mail address on the Rafflecopter form.
~Extra entries are optional.  

~Winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter.
~Sorry, this contest is for US only.  
~Please see my contest policy HERE.
~This contest ends on October 29, 2013 at 12:15am.
~If winner does not contact me within 72 hours (3 days) of my first e-mail, unfortunately another winner will be chosen
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 17, 2013

ARC prize pack giveaway.

I have the above prize pack of ARCs to give to 1 (one) winner. 
~Marie Antoinette Serial Killer by Katie Alender
~Ink by Amanda Sun
~Mind Games by Kiersten White

~Leave your name (use what I can announce on the blog if you win) and e-mail address on the Rafflecopter form. 
~That's it! No need to follow, or leave a comment unless you want extra entries.

~Winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter.
~Sorry, this contest is for US and Canada only.  
~Please see my contest policy HERE.
~This contest ends on Tuesday October 23, 2013 at 11:45 am.
~If winner does not contact me within 72 hours (3 days) of my first e-mail, unfortunately another winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Halloween Hootenanny giveaway - skull bracelet #2.

Not just for Halloween, this bracelet can be worn anytime...

I made this using red Swarovski crystals, sterling silver beads, and fimo skull beads.  This has been strung on Stretch Magic and just slides on your wrist. The skulls are so subtle they can be worn anywhere!

~Leave your name (use what I can announce on the blog if you win) and e-mail address on the Rafflecopter form.
~Leave a comment below and tell me what bookish character you would like to be for Halloween.  
~That's it! No need to follow, tweet, or like unless you want extra entries.

~Winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter.
~This contest is international!
~Please see my contest policy HERE.
~This contest ends on October 22, 2013 at 12:01am.
~If winner does not contact me within 72 hours (3 days) of my first e-mail, unfortunately another winner will be chosen.

Good luck and thanks for visiting my blog!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Author Interview - Justin Kramon.

Like many bloggers, I get a ton of requests from authors. But it's not often that one catches my attention with their personable and intelligent demeanor even over e-mail.  Justin Kramon is one such author and he seemed to want to share, not just promote.  My gut didn't steer me wrong as is proven in this interview.  This is an author who gives a lot back to the writing community.

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.  Did you always want to be a writer or did you fall into it?

A: I wouldn't say I fell into it.  Falling into writing is probably a little like falling into a career in baroque furniture repair.  It's a pretty obscure, specific, and possibly outdated way to spend your time.  But I do love it, care about it, and hope that it sticks around as a way for people to express themselves.  I was pretty interested in music in high school, but at some point I realized I wasn't good enough to be a professional musician.  But there was something in music about expressing the things you can't say in everyday life, of tapping into things that might not even quite be sayable -- and I think writing and books do that, too, if in a different way.  They approach that core mystery of life.

Q. I see you graduated from the Iowa Writer's Workshops.  What was that like?  Can you recall a great piece of writing advice that helped you?

A: Iowa Writers' Workshop was great and awful.  Great because you're surrounded by smart and talented writers, and taught by writers whose books you love, but also frightening for people like me who get easily frightened.  I had a hard time writing there.  I had a hard time living there.  But I took a huge amount from the teachers and fellow students, which I was later able to use in my writing, once I'd settled into an environment where I was more at ease.  I'm hugely glad and grateful that I attended the program, and that I stuck it through and graduated from it.  I don't think I would be writing and publishing now if I hadn't gone there.  More than a piece of writing advice, I think one of the most valuable things I learned there was how to take writing seriously as a job, or even a lifestyle choice, as funny as that sounds.  I also learned to feel comfortable about the fact that I often don't like my own writing.  I realized that this was part of what it meant to take writing seriously.

Q: How did you get involved in teaching and also supporting writing groups?

A: Teaching was a natural.  There's not much else you can do professionally with an MFA degree.  While I was writing my first novel, I had a host of random jobs: bookstore clerk, bartender, lounge piano player, overnight supervisor in a homeless shelter.  My resume looked a little like a list of Quantum Leap episodes.  Once I started publishing a little bit, and I had some opportunities to teach fiction writing, it seemed like a great relief to be able to talk to other writers, and I got a lot out of sharing my interest in fiction with them.  It's a special experience to get to spend so much time talking about something you care about.  Then, after my first book came out, I realized that there was a lot of simple, practical information I wished I'd known about the publishing process.  So that led to the writing group visits, since I figured I could just share stuff that had been helpful for me in getting my book published.  It was a nice way to stay in touch with writers, and was something I could do even while I was touring for my first book, since I organized everything into a single class/seminar.  Once people saw how pale and awkward I am, they knew I was the real thing.

Q. Your new novel The Preservationist seems quite different from your first novel Finny.  Finny seems to be very lighthearted while The Preservationist looks pretty dark.  Can you tell us how these two novels came about?

A: That's a good point, and very true.  While I did think there was some darkness under the surface in Finny, this new book is a different kind of story.  Often, my ideas for books or even short stories come from things I'm reading.  With Finny, I was reading a lot of big coming-of-age adventures, mostly from the nineteenth century, and I wanted to retell those typically male adventures from the point of view of a young woman.  I just thought it would be interesting, and I loved all the larger-than-life characters, and the romance and adventure -- just that old-fashioned storytelling.  With The Preservationist, I was looking more at psychological thrillers I loved: Misery by Stephen King, The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, Felicia's Journey by William Trevor.  I love suspense novels, especially when they go deeply into the heads of the characters, both the victims and the criminals.  So my idea for this new book was to bring these stories into a modern college campus, and go back and forth between this small set of characters who are all involved in something dark, something that's leading toward violence, though at first it's not quite clear how.  In Finny and The Preservationist, the common thread is that I was reading books that somehow restored my love of reading, and I wanted to use that as a springboard into a story that felt personal and interesting to me.

Q. Now since we're in Halloween Hootennanny, tell me what you love about the season.

A: I love the way that Halloween stares diabetes in the face without blinking.  It's a bold holiday, irreverent.  It tosses FDA guidelines to the wind.  I think it takes guts to consume an amount of candy that would fill a kitchen trash bag.  I also feel very freed by the fact that I can wear whatever I want, and always have the excuse that it's "just a costume." Leotards, ascots, and leather chaps are not out of the question.

Q: What will you be doing for Halloween?

A: This year I'll be on book tour, which means that most likely I'll be crying myself to sleep in a Holiday Inn with an episode of The Golden Girls playing in the background.  I love to end an interview on an uplifting note!

Oh no!  There's no crying on Halloween!  I think if Justin would tell me his Halloween location, I bet I could find a few places for him to go and celebrate.  Thank you Justin for this eye opening and at times humorous interview.

Justin Kramon is the author of the novels Finny (Random House, 2010) and The Preservationist (Pegasus, 2013).  A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he has published stories in Glimmer TrainStory QuarterlyBoulevardFenceTriQuarterlyAlaska Quarterly Review, and others. He has received honors from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America, Best American Short Stories, the Hawthornden International Writers' Fellowship, and the Bogliasco Foundation.  His website is  You can also find him on Facebook at

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