Eating a Cookbook: The Weight Gain of Editing




A fellow writer asked me to copyedit her latest cookbook. Although my editing background is in a different field, she knew I loved to cook and loved reading cookbooks. She handed me a checklist and away I went, happy to immerse myself in the world of food.

Until I realized that no matter which recipe I read, even those including ingredients I wouldn’t eat, I was constantly reaching for things that were sweet or salty or spicy. And extra portions of…well, anything. The numbers on the scale crept up.

A Good Book Category Is Worth Its Weight in Gold



I like book categories. They save me time. I know exactly where to go to find the books I want to read. (And I’m very unhappy with my library’s decision to remove the mystery and science fiction categories and place everything under “fiction.” Come on, people! How much time do you think we have to go through the stacks?)

I was horrified to walk into a number of used bookstores and discover that the urban fantasy authors I liked to read were not in the fantasy/sci fi section. Instead, for some inexplicable reason, they were all in the paranormal romance section. And some of the stories didn’t even have a romance in it! (A nasty little voice in my head whispers it’s because they’re written by women but I hope I’m wrong.)

I use categories to help me find other books, other authors, who might not fall on my radar screen. Mislabeling means we, as writers, become more invisible.

Mislabeling drives me bats. What can we do about it? Any ideas?



*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


Reading Indie Books



After writing my blog entry The Joy of Reading Indie a while back, I bought a Kindle so that I didn’t need to read books off my computer. It was a wise decision. I waded through Twitter, Amazon reviews, and websites I stumbled onto and picked a number of indie books to read. Some were misses. (Yes, I really do mind grammar and spelling errors because they take me out of the story. And please stay on target with your plot.) Some were simply okay. Other people might have enjoyed them better than I did. That’s fine. Here, I prefer to focus on the ones I enjoyed and will read again:

What is Urban Fantasy?



When I tell people that my forthcoming novel is urban fantasy, I often get blank looks and an honest “I don’t know what that is.” When I say, “It’s fantasy—you know, like science fiction/fantasy?” they nod, reassured that they now know what I’m writing. But when I try to explain further, it’s like wading through mud.

Interview with Horror Novelist Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin



You write speculative fiction that’s mostly horror, like your recently published novel Snare (The Waiting Dark Book 1). Why horror?

The world’s a scary place. Writing about bizarre bad stuff helps me deflect what’s out there. It allows me to mold it into something I can deal with.

I heard you went a little above and beyond in your research. Something about duct tape?

Oh no, the duct tape! One of my characters was bound hand and foot and gagged with a strip of duct tape. I had to get her free but didn’t know how, so I asked my husband to tie me up (please stop snickering) and slap some tape over my mouth. I learned two things: duct tape smells vile (see the anagram for evil?), and sometimes there are ways to get it off your face without using your hands.

Good thing you didn’t ask about the crawlspace incident.

The crawlspace incident?

No way—I’m not going into that one here.

Okay, I’ll let that go this time. Is there a reason you went with traditional publishing instead of indie?

I wanted the structural support and industry weight a publisher can offer. Indie publishing is a lot of work—and to do it right is even more work. The whole marketing issue aside, I wanted to focus more on the writing and less on being general contractor to formatters, artists, and distribution entities. I see what indie authors go through and am in awe of the stamina required to do a fine job on both the writing and the business ends. I’m already involved in indie anthologies, but maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to attempt an indie novel or novella.

Do you have a writing routine?

I sit at the desk, push the cat off the keyboard, and vacuum the fur from the keys. Then I start writing.

Actually, my routine varies depending on what else is going on—editing work, family obligations, appointments. What I have is a certain amount of writing that I want to complete every week or every two weeks. I prefer writing in the morning until I reach a logical stopping point or have to turn to something else, but if mornings don’t work then I’ll do whatever it takes to reach the goal I’ve set for myself.

Any advice for writers?

Grow a thick skin. Be persistent. Do not give up. If you throw enough pasta against the wall, you will eventually learn how to make viable patterns that stick. Be professional. Be kind to your fellow writers. Be grateful to your readers. Love your pets.

Where can we find Snare?

It’s on,, and Smashwords. It can also be purchased through Permuted Press.

Where can people find more information about you or your other writing?

My website is I’m also on Twitter (@cvnelkin) and Facebook.






A New Horror Novel to Read



One of my favorite classic novels is Dracula. It’s (obviously) from another time period, where the buildup is slow and measured. The long road of events lets us travel along and immerse ourselves in a time and place of grays and blacks.

And yet, if you ask me, I’ll tell you that I don’t read horror. What I mean is that I’m not into blood and gore and axe-hacking. No, if I’m going to read horror, it’s going to be the Dracula kind, the rich tapestry kind that weaves into normalcy and turns it inside out. Just don’t ask me to read it at night.

When Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin began reading Snare to our writers’ group, the Penheads, uncomfortable chills prickled my skin. I didn’t want to be there on that deliberate, insidious ride that frankly creeped me the hell out.

And when we got to one scene—well, I looked at her in disbelief. She wrote that? If she hadn’t been a friend and I hadn’t known it was fiction, I would have clobbered her one.

It is what it is. A twisted road on streets I know very well in my city. A road that travels along evil lines and asks us to follow along. Or drags us into the Pit. You’ll have to decide.

You can find it at:




What Do Your Books Say About You?


I once had a bunch of writer friends come for lunch and the first thing they did was swarm all over the bookcase in my living room. It was 6 feet tall, 3 1/2 feet wide and stuffed with books.

As they roamed the shelves, pulling out books and pointing to titles, I was completely unprepared to feel as naked as I did. I’d no idea how much my books showed who I was.

These days my bookcases are all in one space (not the living room), and I looked them over before sitting down to write this, wondering what they said about me now.


Some definitely speak of the past—the time I spent trying to write a thriller, for example. I kept the books on weapons and poisons and autopsy tales because I still enjoy dipping into them from time to time. (I remember being amused as I read one of those books while sitting on the train at rush hour. The train was packed with people but no one stood in front of me.)

Some are a mix of past and present. I love to reread books so there are many treasured favorites even while I’m always on the hunt for new ones. I have shelves stuffed with westerns, mysteries, scifi/fantasy, cookbooks, craft books, and a host of others. Each book, each category, adds another facet that reveals who I am.

And I wonder if, aesthetics aside, that’s another reason why my books are tucked away in a space people rarely get to see. Is it the reason house design magazines rarely, if ever, display books? Are they afraid they might inadvertently bare something personal about themselves or the home they’re showcasing?

I used to look at home decorating magazines and feel frustration. Where were the books? Where did they fit inside that beautiful décor? Aren’t books beautiful? Don’t they inspire interest and communication?

Maybe it’s time to show them off. A little at a time, just as we show different faces of ourselves to the world in different situations. Maybe I should leave a book or two in the living room—not just the coffee table book, but my battered paperback copies.

What do your books say about you?



E-book vs. Paperback: I want to read it NOW but—




What do you do when you want to own a book in paperback but want to read it right away in e-book?

I just finished reading The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg and want to read books two and three immediately. I got the first book from the library and there was something so familiar and comforting about turning the pages of the paperback. It makes no sense really, but I want all three books in physical form to sit on my already crowded bookshelves.

But I want—no, need—to read the rest right this very minute. A quick search at Amazon shows me that the e-book price is reasonable. Except I’ve got my heart set on the paperbacks and the thrifty part of me is having trouble with the idea of buying both versions.

Heading to the library branch that has one book would cost the same in bus fare as buying the e-book. The third book is on hold. And it would take days to get them via mail. (For the record, the next person who tells me to my face that patience is a virtue will get a smack up the back of their head.)

This is a different kind of agony than the time I borrowed The Riddlemaster of Hed by Patricia M. McKillip from the library many moons ago and discovered it left on a gut-wrenching cliffhanger. I had to wait an entire night before driving to the nearest bookstore to get book two.

Now I have choices. It’s driving me crazy. And I can see this is a dilemma that will happen again.

What would you do?



* Image courtesy of adamr at


Meet Indie Poet Esther Lazarson


Self-published at 89 (yes, you’re reading that right), poet Esther Lazarson gave a reading this past weekend at the Bloomingdale branch of the New York Public Library. Now a sparkling 91, Esther read from her book Everyday Poems for Everyday People and included her latest works as well.

After she read the first poem, we applauded and she held up a hand. “Please don’t applaud, it wastes time!” We laughed but she was right—she had a wealth of material to read and it ranged from the funny to the poignant to the startling.


A friend was with her to read when her voice grew hoarse but time and again Esther took the sheaf of pages back to read, usually with a comment that made me laugh. “Oh, that’s one of my favorites.” Or “I like that one!” Her glee could turn serious in a blink as she read a poem that made us remain silent at the message.

One poem I enjoyed, titled “Birthday A and Birthday B,” was, sadly, not in her current book. Afterward, I approached and told her she needed to write a second book. She waved a hand and said, “I don’t know, it’s such a lot of work!” I repeated that conversation to one of the librarians there and she winked and said, “She’ll write another.”

You can find Esther’s book at Amazon at and if you enjoy it, please do leave a review. I just bought my copy and will be doing that soon.


Yep, It’s Summer




Okay, no, not really. With wind chills in the teens it’s actually freezing out there. And waiting for a bus or train on an open platform requires layers and layers of clothing. I’ve had to remind myself that I need to factor in an extra ten minutes before leaving the house, just putting on outerwear.

So how is it summer? In books.

The books I’m reading take me away from the frost and chill and place me among the throngs of people at an outdoor fair. Or let me tag along with characters who harvest herbs and smell freshly cut grass and eat ripe peaches. Or feel a hot, dry breeze comb my hair.

Glorious moments.

Here are a few to bask in, first, medieval murder mysteries, all by Ellis Peters:

One Corpse Too Many

St. Peter’s Fair

An Excellent Mystery

And a few westerns, by Louis L’Amour:

The Iron Marshal


The Cherokee Trail

So, which books do you read to get through the season?


* Image courtesy of robert bell at


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