Happy Anniversary, Penheads!

  • September 17, 2018
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celebrate photo

Last weekend I celebrated the formation of The Penheads—25 years of writing in our group. Over dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Greenwich Village, we discussed our current writing projects and looked back at our past.

As I’ve said elsewhere, we didn’t immediately form into a perfect group like some mystical key-in-a-lock connection or love at first sight. We met when we all worked in the same office, the publishing division of a financial organization. It made sense: we gravitated toward fiction and it was a natural progression to form a writers’ group.

We’ve had only a few rules, but they’ve stood the test of time:

Keep the group number limited to five people. Sometimes it’s difficult finding time to meet, and a larger number would increase the difficulty.

All of us meet or none of us do. We each have different viewpoints and are necessary to provide well-rounded critiques. (There have been rare times when we didn’t adhere to this rule, but the lack in our dynamic was obvious. We’re all needed.)

As with any group, there have been ebbs and flows in the work we’ve done, but we’ve persevered. Writing is life.

May all writers be as fortunate to find a group that tells the truth when something sucks and gives suggestions on how to fix it.

Here’s to at least 25 more years!

R.G. Emanuelle

J. M. Levinton

Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin

Arielle Prose

Anne E. Wagenbrenner



* Photo by Nickgesell (Pixabay)


Happy Labor Day!

  • September 03, 2018
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Today is Labor Day in the U.S., a holiday that celebrates workers.

Happy Holiday!

Just Chickens This Week

  • August 27, 2018
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Okay, and a mini horse. I spent a couple of hours at Jones Farm in Cornwall, NY and took some pretty shots of the chickens and roosters before heading into their gift shop and art gallery. So I’m sharing with you the pretty chickens, roosters, and yes, the mini horse.


Throwing Knives at the Renaissance Faire

  • August 20, 2018
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I’ve always wanted to learn how to throw a knife. I had been assured it wasn’t difficult but finding a place that would teach it was the catch. So I was thrilled to see stands set up at the Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, NY for knife throwing, axe throwing, star throwing, and archery.

Okay, for the record, I suck at knife throwing. Yes, my knife hit the target board—if you count the side of the hilt slapping against the board before falling to the ground. I did better at throwing stars, and archery—again, for my first time ever—was best of all.

So I wandered through the town of the faire and enjoyed the costumes, the wares for sale, and people performing throughout. Here’s a snippet of a performance by Vince Conaway, who plays a hammered dulcimer and can be found at vinceconaway.com.

I wandered into the Mayhawke Armoury and was entertained by this helpful ye olde salesperson, who informed me that the sword with sheath (below) was a Scottish sword for royalty. The Royal couldn’t eat with his hands because of his position, so a knife and fork were placed on the outside of the sheath:

Some comic relief:

(I walked up to him and said, “Promise?” 😉 )

Beautiful costumes:

And a reminder that most of the folk from that time period were not royalty:

Jousting before the torrential rains came:

I can see going back next year but preferably in costume. All are welcome!


A Contented Cat

  • August 13, 2018
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Nine seconds of bliss. Turn up the volume to hear my Frankie. 🙂


Yes, It’s Humid Here, Folks

  • August 05, 2018
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And what does one do when sweat slicks along the skin and hair becomes limp or frizzed out? When walking one block leaves clothes sticking like a rubber glove and suddenly there’s no energy to take another step?

Write about it, of course.

New York City is an open sauna right now. The good news? The muggy weather is great for dieting (nausea will do that to you).

It’s also good for starting conversations. The misery of melting outside, rain or sun, creates a feeling of fellow suffering. Just saying “Some weather, huh?” as I walk past people walking their dogs gets a relieved reply, as if we’ve unburdened ourselves of some deep secret.

Otherwise, I’m hard pressed to come up with a good justification for this nasty humidity. But I can take notes and use it in a future story.

Stay cool, everybody! And be nice to the tourists—poor things—who came here in the sticky month many New Yorkers try to escape.


Elements: Tales from the Substratum is Here!

  • July 29, 2018
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Elements: Tales from the Substratum

Welcome to our universe of tales centering on earth, water, fire, air, and ether. We hope our fans of urban fantasy, horror, lesbian fiction, and women’s fiction will be pleased.

Here are the five stories we’ve written for you:

  • A demonic duo in the air, on a mission. In our first story, J. M. Levinton’s “Airborne,” Jonas and Valerie—the demons extraordinaires who also appeared in The Penheads’ first two anthologies—find that nothing is quite what it seems. On an airline flight across the U.S., they meet an affable passenger who’s under a curse. Will Jonas and Valerie succeed in breaking it?
  • A peek into the scary part of the ether. In Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin’s nuanced horror story, “An Opening Black and Infinite,” a horror writer is “helped” by a brujo. But can she trust him?
  • Hunting humans on earth, New Orleans style. In Anne E. Wagenbrenner’s “Walk Around On Earth In My Body,” an unsuspecting tourist vacationing in New Orleans with her husband is ambushed by an evil spirit, and fights for her life.
  • Visions in fire. In “Pyromaniac,” by R.G. Emanuelle, Penny—gifted with paranormal abilities—falls in love with Deirdre. While overjoyed to have found this attractive, warm woman, Penny fears how Deirdre will react when Penny reveals her psychic ability. It is a recurring, frightening vision, however, that leads Penny to pull away from Deirdre. Will Deirdre accept Penny for who she is? And more importantly, will Penny’s vision lead to disaster?
  • Plunging into the waters of a new stage of life. Our fifth story—Arielle Prose’s “A Sea Change—walks us through Twila’s last day of work before retirement. The impending life change causes Twila to wonder about the future and reflect on the past. How will retirement affect her marriage? Has her life been a success, a failure, or something in between?

In these stories, our characters navigate the five elements of the universe, seeking to belong, to be safe, and to live happily.

We hope you enjoy them.

Available here at Amazon.

Living Between the Layers – Guest Post Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin

  • July 22, 2018
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A new post by author Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin. Enjoy!


A few years ago, when my husband and I drove to Vermont for a long weekend, I felt a peculiar kind of anticipation. This was my first trip back to the state since completing the final draft of my novel Snare, which I’d worked on for more years than I care to admit. An important part of the novel was set in Vermont, largely from memory.

I’d started and trashed so many novels that getting to the end of this one had become an obsession. I’d had to live in my head for a long time to recall vividly the foliage and the light and the graded roads and the thickness of the dark in December. Now, as we pushed north on the Taconic Parkway, I felt as if I were traveling into the story I’d spun.

We stopped for lunch at a diner where I’d set a scene. Three of my characters were with us, discussing their next move as they chowed down on road food. This bizarre overlay continued through the weekend as we drove down the street where my villain lived with his sister and up a mountain road fronting the house where my heroine and her friends had stayed.

It was the first time that I found myself residing in two worlds at once—the real one, and the one I’d created, which had become no less real to me.

It didn’t matter that I had added to, subtracted from, and altered enough things about the locations to make them distinct from their nonfictional counterparts. I had manufactured a parallel universe, and this fact was almost as scary as it was enthralling.

It made me realize how much a writer can end up living inside her head, in places and with people no one else can quite share the same way. As with all alternate worlds and imaginary friends, this can be a comfort and a haven—or something very different. No one can follow me into that sphere, although my writer friends understand the pull.

All art can be obsessive. I have friends who are afraid to start painting again because they suspect it will consume them. They can’t look at a building or road without seeing line, perspective, and symmetry. I know writers who can’t write unless they carve a huge chunk of time that will allow them to live inside the writing a while without it spilling over into the rest of their lives. And I know writers who are writing in the back of their brain every single moment. The perspective we gain on such matters is always hard won.

These days, when I walk down a certain street near our home, I enter one of two fictional pieces where this road figures. Everything transports me, from the smell of trampled pine needles and dog droppings to the chattering of squirrels in the overhead branches. In the nearby marshlands, hundreds of bees pollinate the goldenrod baking in mud-scented air, their humming forever now a backdrop to one of my short stories. The real and the fabricated, vibrating at different frequencies, overlap one another and become something more than either one alone.

This thing that unnerved me at first, this superimposition of the invented on the real, I now see as an absolute marvel. It is my life, mine and mine alone. It can be communicated but never repeated in anyone else’s existence. I am awe-struck, lucky to be so enriched, and would never trade the gift away.


You can find Carrie at www.cvnelkin.com, on Twitter at @cvnelkin, and on Facebook (Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin, Author)


Not Playing Hooky, But…

  • July 15, 2018
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This week I’ve been formatting The Penheads’ latest anthology, Elements: Tales from the Substratum, as an e-book with fellow author Arielle Prose. Formatting takes concentration and a bit of technical know-how, but it becomes more challenging when there are five authors and five different versions of Word dumped into one file. For the record, I loathe the newest version of Word. (Seriously, Microsoft? Go back to easy-to-understand versions that still get the job done and keep the dazzling, confusing version for yourselves as a lesson on what not to do. I worked on the production side of e-publishing in-house for seven years and I’ve never seen such a hot mess.)

Okay, rant over. (For now.) There are other reasons why the book can’t simply be whipped out in a day, but mainly it’s because it deserves to be as perfect as we can make it. Garbage code creeps in, spacing changes, and the table of contents is its own special brand of Hell.

But the most difficult part is, while I’m formatting, I can’t write. My brain needs to be in focused technical mode. There’s a kind of joy watching everything look and behave exactly how I want it to, but while I’m doing it there are no stories in my fingertips.

So if you have a production team taking this job out of your hands to give you the time to write, send flowers. Coupons to a day spa are nice too.


Playing Hooky

  • July 01, 2018
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Stay cool everybody!


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