Come Back and Tell Me—Guest Post Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin

  • November 22, 2021
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My father thought science fiction, fantasy, and horror were silly. He just didn’t get them, though he had a huge appreciation for folklore even if it verged on the fantastical. He was a practical man. He ran his own business, took care of all the repairs around the house himself, and didn’t have the patience for dippy interests.

Still, he was playful, and he may have accidentally pushed open a door I was already peeking around as a child.

I was an early reader. A young child’s mind that is unfolding to the world is fertile ground for the wonder of books, stories, fables, and magical illustrations. Kids have the equivalent of alluvial soil in their heads, all loamy and rich and waiting for stuff to plant itself. So I was already inclined a certain way, you might say, when this thing I’m about to tell you happened.

I was maybe nine years old. We’d just moved to a new house. On summer nights we’d sit on the front porch to catch a breeze under the trees. But on this particular muggy evening we were inside, in the kitchen my father was installing, and he turned to me suddenly and said, “Why don’t you go see if I’m out on the porch?”

I remember my momentary freeze as I processed his words.

“Go ahead. See if I’m sitting out there. Then come back and tell me.”

I was old enough to understand it was impossible, and yet . . . he was my dad. Who knew what kind of powers he might actually have, or what kind of secrets surrounded us all? At that moment I realized how much I didn’t know about the world.

I hesitated. “You can’t be out there and in here at the same time.” I knew I was right, and yet . . .

“Are you sure?”

I nodded. He broke into a grin and pulled me in for a hug.

Today’s nine-year-olds would be too sophisticated for that fleeting pause, you might think, and you might be right. But as I look back on that moment, I see it as a burning hole blown wide open, full of what ifs and maybes, alternate universes and cosmic mysteries, things unexplainable on a purely physical plane. The fodder of speculative fiction, brought to me by a father who didn’t like speculative fiction.

Years later I’d have a recurring dream in which a silhouette in a coat and a man’s hat would appear in the shadows of the porch on a foggy night, and I would run terrified away from the door. The man was not my father, and the dream not directly connected to my father’s joke, but the portal had been opened.

Thanks, Dad. I love you and miss you terribly.



Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin writes speculative fiction and poetry. Her stories have appeared in the four Penhead anthologies (most recently Colors: Stories in 5 Shades), Supernatural Tales, Luna Station Quarterly, Bards and Sages Quarterly, and other publications. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Carrie has published poetry in Third Wednesday, Writing In A Woman’s Voice, Grasslimb, and other places. She is author of the horror novel Snare and a member of the Horror Writers Association. You can find her at, on Twitter at @cvnelkin, and on Facebook (Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin, Author).




Original Photo by James Garcia on Unsplash

Two Middle-Aged Demons and a Same-Sex Couple—How I Add Diversity to Fiction

  • February 24, 2020
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inclusion photo

I’m sure most people have seen the image that went viral recently, that of a toddler in a wheelchair staring at an ad in a Target store—the model for the boys’ clothing ad was also in a wheelchair.

It’s a powerful image. That little boy saw the message: I’m not alone. There are people out there like me.

It’s a connection that feels so good when it happens.

My short stories feature a pair of demons living in middle-aged bodies. They even have sex (off stage, but still). They could have swapped bodies for younger, thinner ones but for some reason I don’t yet know, they choose to remain where they are. And even though they’re demons, I like them because they seem like middle-aged people. They’re not all-knowing creatures simply because they’re older. They have quirks and wrinkles.

My novel Magical Ties includes a minor character named Ro, a smart, beautiful woman, and her girlfriend, Alicia, who’s a mechanic—among other things. Including a lesbian couple into my story wasn’t a “thing” to me because frankly I see no difference between them and a heterosexual couple. They date and go grocery shopping, and I’m sure there will be arguing in future books. But I also remember the time I went into a bookstore with a friend who checked out the LGBTQ+ shelf and sighed. In the entire store, the fiction and nonfiction for that category were lumped together and barely covered one shelf.

Being invisible can be a terrible thing.

So, while Ro and Alicia didn’t have to be a same-sex couple (they could just as easily been Robert and Alicia), I made the decision to include them as they are.

But it’s tricky to add characters simply because they’re underrepresented in books. It can feel forced, and who wants to read something artificial? Not me. Which is why there’s no hard-of-hearing or deaf character in my stories. I’m hard-of-hearing, and every time I’ve considered it, the character refused to form. Maybe I’m too close to get a handle on one. Will I ever? I don’t know.

So, writers, what do you do?


By the Hungry Sea—Guest Post Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin

  • October 28, 2018
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For Halloween this year, I give you a weirdly appropriate post from author Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin. Hints of creepy, folks.


By the Hungry Sea—Guest Post Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin

If you want to spend time in the sun to escape the encroaching seasonal chill, you’ll find my short story “By the Hungry Sea” in the upcoming Winter issue (no. 39) of Supernatural Tales. But I warn you, the heat and sand and salt water will not comfort you. If unease is what you desire to get your juices flowing, do slip into this tale of a man who loses himself bit by unsettling bit. Then enjoy the other disquieting offerings in this awesome publication. Let yourself be haunted.

Issue no. 39 will be available soon. In the meantime, check out previous issues of Supernatural Tales at


Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin is author of the novel Snare (The Waiting Dark: Book 1) and has published short speculative fiction in various places. She has a poem in the upcoming Winter issue of Mirror Dance and another story slated for the April 2019 issue of Bards and Sages Quarterly.


A Farmers Market, Delicata Squash, and Laurie Colwin

  • October 01, 2018
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I went to the Pleasantville train station this weekend to pick up a friend and there was a farmers market set up in the parking lot. I’m a sucker for farmers markets. They always give me the feeling of a tiny village congregating to do their daily shopping, with the scent of fresh dill and apples in the air.

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)


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, on Twitter at @cvnelkin, and on Facebook (Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin, Author)


Spring is Coming–Writers, Are You Ready?

  • March 05, 2018
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In preparation, I’m reposting a couple of blog entries to get us all in the mood.

Spring Cleaning for Writers


A Writer Battles the Paper Monster

*Image courtesy of vectorolie at




5 Steps to Deal with the Winter Blues (Part 2)

  • January 15, 2018
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One year ago I wrote “5 Steps to Deal with the Winter Blues.” The ideas work, but over the year it was sometimes difficult to do the things that would make me feel better. I thought about getting a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamp but didn’t know where to start.

Sometimes it’s as easy as a search online. I started reading Winter Blues, Fourth Edition: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder, by Norman E. Rosenthal. It gave me information that helped me purchase a SAD lamp.

The current thinking is to use the lamp for periods of 15 minutes or so (up to one hour). I turn mine on in the morning and read while eating breakfast. Fifteen minutes later my timer dings and I turn off the lamp. It’s that easy.

But does it work? For me, I’d say yes. It’s not that I’m suddenly euphoric, it’s that I’m able to continue throughout my day with better feelings. Is it a placebo? Frankly, I don’t care. Whatever works to get me through the dark and cold and keeps the negativity from bleeding into my thoughts and sapping my will (without compromising my health!) is fine with me.

In case anyone is wondering, this is the model I bought:

Verilux HappyLight Liberty 10,000 LUX Light Therapy Energy Lamp


A Writer’s Roots – Guest Post Arielle Prose

  • September 18, 2017
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writing background photo

Author Arielle Prose, a member of The Penheads and published in two anthologies, checks in:

A Writer’s Roots


I had the good fortune to be paid a ten-day visit from French relatives, my first cousin and her husband. My cousin and I knew each other in France when we were little, before my family emigrated to the United States. We both share a few memories from that time, and from when I visited her when we were adults with our own families. That was twenty-three years ago, so there was a lot of catching up to do.

I say good fortune not only because we got to renew our ties to each other, but also because, as a writer always on the lookout for new material, it afforded me the opportunity to use the experience for a new story or two.

Communicating with each other in broken French on my part and broken English on theirs was a challenge at first (good thing for translator apps), but with each passing day we became more and more fluent in each other’s language. It was amazing to me to recall French words and phrases I once owned but had forgotten. It was as if a part of my personality had long been dormant and was now waking up again.

Throughout their stay, I was doing everything to make their visit memorable: preparing meals, planning sightseeing trips, or just relaxing at home, conversing and reminiscing. But at the back of my mind, the part that lies in wait for a story inspiration, writing possibilities were humming. What would their visit mean in the overall scheme of things? Would I write about our interactions? How we sized each other up, or quirks of our personalities? What we mean to each other, or the kind of bond we formed?

In the meantime, I should write a detailed journal of the visit, so I can draw on it when the time comes that I have a story, a message I want to relate.

My takeaway from my guests’ visit, a day after their departure, is that it feels good to dig into one’s roots, one’s past, and bring it present again, especially from old friends and relatives. But a visit to your old school, old neighborhood, or simply looking at old photographs, can also do the trick.


You can read Arielle’s stories in Hunger: Stories of Desire, Discovery, and Dissatisfaction, and Smoke: Tales Between Dark and Light.


In a Writing Rut? Invite a Tourist

  • July 10, 2017
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I live in New York City, a city bustling with five boroughs of different temperaments all merged together to form a ball of energy.

But when someone asked me recently for the name of a good local restaurant, I paused. “I guess when I’m in my neighborhood, I just go home and cook.”

It’s when friends and family from out of town come to visit that I see my city through different eyes. I take them to my favorite spots and we explore places I’d always meant to go to but never did.

Tourist attractions with a guest are a completely different experience. I’m having too much fun looking through my guests’ eyes to pay attention to the fact that it’s, you know, a tourist attraction.

But yes, I know I live in a city where there are hundreds of thousands of places to see. What if I didn’t? I once lived in a small (well, small to me) city, population: 50,000. They had landmark signs tucked along the roads that I loved to follow. The locals no longer paid attention in the same way I no longer pay attention to the Statue of Liberty. And I loved those landmark signs and what they depicted.

So, go on! Invite someone from out of town and let them show you the sights. They’ll show you a place filled with detail and life. And in the process, your writing will light up with rich description and what ifs and—dare I say it? Magic.


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