Author Fest


Tomorrow I’ll be joining some of my favorite local authors for Author Fest at the San Mateo Public Library.  We’ll be reading short excerpts from our work and talking — and selling — books from noon to 3 pm.  Admission is free.

I’m in the mood to read some space opera. I think I’ll read from No More Heroes.

Hope to see you there!

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Behind “The Drowning City”

Venice Church postcard

Chiesa dell’Assunta ai Gesuiti in Venice’s Cannaregio is where the story begins.

I’ve only been to Italy once. The owner of our penzione in Florence told us she hoped we would arrive in Venice during the day because it rose from the water like something from a dream. This proved to be true. The train from the modern city skated over a narrow causeway, as if floating across the lagoon to the fabled city of canals.

The old city itself was marvelous. It was too easy to get lost, which only made it seem more magical.

After we’d checked into a hotel room with a ludicrous glass chandelier, my husband Mason and I went to look for the vaporetto to San Michele in Isola, the cemetery island. On our way, we passed the Church of Santa Maria Assunta detta Gesuiti, which looked just as Alondra describes it, except for the shadows gathered behind the choir rail. Instead, the sun-filled church was bright and all its marble adornments were amusing and cheerful. The stone balcony with its marble draperies really did make me laugh.

Venice stone balcony postcard

It’s all stone: even the tassels, even the drapery.

The Siren was inspired by Renee Fleming, who I saw perform as Salome with the San Francisco Opera. At the beginning of the second act, someone pulled the fire alarm by accident. Strobe lights started to blink at the edges of the stage. It could have been a disaster as three thousand people, many of them elderly, hurried down the slick marble steps to escape the Opera House.

Fleming tried to continue singing, but the audience was restive in the dark. Even the orchestra got distracted.

She could have gone backstage, hidden in her dressing room or escaped the theater altogether—both of which would have been completely understandable—but instead she remained on stage, apparently very calm. She flounced exaggeratedly over to the armchair at the front of the stage, flopped down into it, propped her fancy shoes up on the ottoman, and arranged her brocaded skirts. As someone who suffered from debilitating stage fright, it was a revelation for me to see someone so calm in a potentially life-threatening situation. Fleming was so self-possessed in the face of the audience’s worry, I fell in love with her.

That’s another favorite, but you get the idea.

Cassio, the brilliant sound engineer in my story, was named for the mass-produced plastic keyboards of my youth. It’s a stage name he chose as a joke. His sonic wizardry was inspired by talking with my musician husband, whom I would love to see perform in Venice.

I’m prone to ear infections. The first time I punctured both eardrums as an adult was just as painful as Alondra describes it. In fact, I took notes the next ear infection I got, with the intention of putting it into a story.

“The Drowning City” was originally published in nEvermore: Stories of Murder, Mystery, and the Macabre, edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles. I was a Kickstarter backer for the project, buying in at a level that allowed me to submit to the anthology without any guarantee my story would be accepted. As it turned out, that was the best $50 I’ve ever spent! I was thrilled to appear in the table of contents alongside Tanith Lee (one of my childhood heroes), Margaret Atwood, and Christopher Rice.

In 2016, the book won Best Anthology of the Year at the Paris Book Festival and was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in an Anthology.

After its initial publication, the story was reprinted in Best New Horror #27, edited by Stephen Jones. That was my first appearance in a “best of” anthology, my first experience with signing a signature sheet to appear in the front of the book, the first time my fiction appeared in a hardcover book—and the first time I shared a table of contents with Neil Gaiman: one of my life goals.

You can read the story in the newest collection of my Alondra stories, now available for your kindle on Amazon:

Nancy Kilpatrickauthor of_Thrones of Blood seriesPower of the Blood series

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5 Questions for John Palisano

28684810_10156159037148088_2534877975632937581_nJohn Palisano is someone I’ve known so long that I can’t remember when we met.  We’ve run into each other over the years at World Horror Conventions, but the night that sticks in my mind is when John met me for dinner after I came down to LA for the first Death Salon.  Over enchiladas and beer, we had an amazing conversation about what horror means to us and how writing saved our lives.

Author John Palisano has a pair of books with Samhain Publishing, DUST OF THE DEAD, and GHOST HEART. NERVES is available through Bad Moon. STARLIGHT DRIVE: FOUR HALLOWEEN TALES was released in time for Halloween, and his first short fiction collection ALL THAT WITHERS is available from Cycatrix press, celebrating over a decade of short story highlights. His latest book, NIGHT OF 1,000 BEASTS, is now available.

John won the Bram Stoker Award in short fiction in 2016 for “Happy Joe’s Rest Stop.” More short stories have appeared in anthologies from Cemetery Dance, PS Publishing, Independent Legions, DarkFuse, Crystal Lake, Terror Tales, Lovecraft eZine, Horror Library, Bizarro Pulp, Written Backwards, Dark Continents, Big Time Books, McFarland Press, Darkscribe, Dark House, Omnium Gatherum, and more. Nonfiction pieces have appeared in BLUMHOUSE, FANGORIA and DARK DISCOVERIES magazines. He currently serves as the Vice President of the Horror Writers Association.


Screen Shot 2018-07-02 at 8.04.49 AMDid something in the real world inspire Night of 1000 Beasts?

We were traveling on a train up the side of Pike’s Peak in Colorado when the idea formed. Looking out at the vast, untouched snow-covered vistas, it wasn’t hard to imagine how fast it’d be for nature to overcome people. I thought about my work in animal rights and how just it would be if animals hunted us and made us go through some of the awful things we do to them.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

There’s a few scenes where a man who runs a dog-fighting ring finds himself hunted by pit bull things. That felt extremely healing, in a way, to see such a person get theirs. That’s my second-favorite scene. The first favorite is one I don’t want to ruin, as it puts the entire book in a different light near the end.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

Night of 1000 Beasts was written in a frenzy. Most of it happened during a few trips to Colorado with my partner Fawn as we visited her family. The room I was in had this great little desk and lamp, and the book poured out in record time.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

So far, things have just started in that regard, but I’ve most surprised at how many people enjoyed the discussion around animal rights that the story brings up.

What do you have planned next?

I’ve been working on LOST CANYON for nearly two years. I’ve had to stop twice and do serious research. It warranted my doing so and was a lot of fun to embark upon. It should be done and out for submission by month’s end. Hoping to find a new home.

Thank you so much for having me!

SUMMARY of Night of 1000 Beasts

During the longest night of the century in Deer Springs, Colorado, native creatures turn into the hunters, targeting a group of vacationers and turning their winter vacation into a living hell. For the ones who lurk in shadow, anxious to even the score, tonight’s the longest night of the century. The night of a thousand beasts. The night when they rise up and get to do to us what we do to them. It only happens once every seventy years. The night smells like blood and fear and sweat. The night smells of death.

You can get a copy for your kindle here: or pick up the paperback: Check out all of John’s books on Amazon here:

Follow John’s work at

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Alondra’s Adventures

Nancy Kilpatrickauthor of_Thrones of Blood seriesPower of the Blood series

The newest collection of Alondra stories will be available later this week, but you can preorder a copy for your kindle now on Amazon. Here’s the link:

This time, Alondra travels to Tokyo and to Venice. She meets a Shinto nature spirit, finds herself in the middle of an ancient vendetta, and walks into a Japanese ghost story. The stories made the long list for the British Science Fiction Association Award and Ellen Datlow’s Honorable Mentions in Best Horror of the Year #9. One was published in Best New Horror #27, edited by Stephen Jones.

Nancy Kilpatrick, one of my idols, says the collection is a must-read. Please check it out:

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5 Questions for Anne Born

B55F0A53-D2C7-4669-9A61-266CD1B6622EI’ve never met Anne Born in person.  We met years ago online, when both of us were writing on a blogging site called The Red Room.  Anne wrote a beautiful, spooky piece about looking for family graves in Ireland.  I was thrilled to be able to reprint it on Cemetery Travel. You can check it out here.

Anne Born is an award-winning New York-based writer who has been writing stories and poetry since childhood. She blogs on The Backpack Press and Tumbleweed Pilgrim and her writing focuses on family and life in a big city after growing up in a small one. She is the author of A Marshmallow on the Bus, Prayer Beads on the Train, Waiting on a Platform, Turnstiles, and a contributor to the 2015 anthology, Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox, edited by Joanne Bamberger. She is also curator of The Late Orphan Project.

Anne is also a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago. Her latest book is Buen Camino! Tips from an American Pilgrim, published by The Backpack Press in December 2017.

What inspired Buen Camino?

C08CFEE7-C53C-4DCC-A73A-C34DE5B881CCI’d been working on the book for about four years, off and on. I had the idea of writing about my experience walking the pilgrimage road, what it was like to become a pilgrim, what I had learned, but I couldn’t even get myself really interested in that spin. My spiritual journey? Nope. Too hippie for me – and I needed to write something that would be a book I would look at and buy. The solution actually came to me about a year ago while I was in Spain, on the very difficult Camino Primitivo, the original route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. I needed to give potential pilgrims the practical things I had learned. What good is it for me to learn how to do this if I can’t help other people? So it became tips. Tips for American pilgrims from a veteran American pilgrim. Well, and stories too because at heart, I am a storyteller. I figured it would make reading tips less dry.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

I have a very dear friend who lives in Spain. He writes wonderful, thorough, thoughtful travel guides to the various routes across Spain and he suggested I write a letter. A letter directed to my target audience of American pilgrims. So I added it last. It’s honest, it asks people not to be fearful about undertaking this adventure, and I tell people flat out why I wrote the book. I wrote the book I wished I’d had when I walked my first pilgrimage in 2009.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

It was anguish and heartache and frustration – I guess like anything that’s worth doing. I would sketch out an outline and walk away from it for weeks. When I got back to it, I’d start in another notebook from scratch, never revisiting the one I’d done earlier. And I got nowhere fast. That’s really what took so long. I had this giant big huge idea of a book and couldn’t really get into the writing of it because I wanted to do it all. Then, I was having dinner with two friends up by Columbia University and I whined that I wasn’t getting any real writing done and the book was starting to languish. If only I had a place I could go, like a cabin in the woods out in the middle of bust-ass Pennsylvania or something. I wanted a place where I had nothing else to do but write – and my friend gave me her house for a weekend. I rented a car, drove to bust-ass, which is beautiful by the way, and I wrote 70% of the book over three days of nothing else to do. I sent a draft out to four readers a week later.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

I had never done travel writing of any kind before. I suppose it could be called my “Duh” moment, but it never occurred to me to do it. I have such tremendous respect for travel writers and I know some of the really good ones, so I never felt up to their level. Now I have this little guide and it really is geared toward the travel industry, meaning if you are planning to go to Spain to walk the Camino, this is the book you want to read. So I wrote to my friend who is a premier travel agent in Spain and I sent her a pdf of the book. She read it and wrote about it on her business website, she Tweeted about it, mentioned it on Facebook, and I was blown away.

I spent one whole Saturday night writing to a half-dozen more travel agents – all of whom offered tours of the camino or self-guided walk on the camino and I met some really lovely people – virtually – including one lovely woman who interviewed me and translated the English conversation into Spanish and then published them both. And when I was in Spain in April, I told the hotel I was staying at that I had mentioned them in the book as being “pilgrim-friendly” and they had a note on Facebook ten minutes later with a link to that Spanish interview. I never set out to advertise or promote to the travel industry, but the response I have gotten so far has been overwhelming.

What do you have planned next?

I am always writing poems and essays, journal entries, chronicles of life in the big city, but yes, I want to do more travel writing. I always like to write as if I am bringing you, the reader, along to the physical geographic place I am in right now. I love describing people and places so you, the reader, feel like you can see it too. I go lots of places by myself now that my children are grown and it’s a way to have some company. That’s my “Duh” moment. Why haven’t I been writing travel books all along? Well, I guess in many ways I have. Most of my work has been written on the subway or the NYC bus system.

Summary of Buen Camino: Tips from an American Pilgrim:

This is just the story of timid Anne from Niles, Michigan: a young girl who fell for the Camino, and the older lady who finally experienced it. The book is full of Camino de Santiago preparation essentials and the perfect companion to your walk! Not a guide book, no maps, not a step-by-step, no long-winded history — just lots of fun little stories and helpful tips from a veteran American pilgrim. Ideal for first-time pilgrims and anyone interested in traveling on The Way of Saint James. How to plan, where to stay, how to pack, what not to miss, and how to have a Buen Camino from the #littleoldladywalking!

You can get your own copy of the book here:

Check out all of Anne’s books on her Amazon Author Page:


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