Short Story and Chapbook Writing Contests!

Passing along two writing contests that might be of interest. I’m working on something now for this first one. Book Smugglers Publishing is looking for stories about Gods and Monsters. Deadline: December 31, 2016.

Book Smugglers Publishing: Open Call For Short Stories Submissions (Summer 2017) | The Book Smugglers

This second one sounds interesting, but I don’t have time to get something together for it.

Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest Aug 1-Oct 17, 2016

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If you enter either or both of these, good luck!

From Star Trek to Stranger Things

Two weeks ago, I was off from work on a Tuesday to deal with some personal matters. To take the edge off, I decided to pop over to the local Carmike Cinemas and catch a matinee of Star Trek: Beyond.

I was not terribly fond of J.J. Abrams’s 2009 reboot. Further, I absolutely abhorred its sequel Into Darkness and among my circle of friends, I was not alone in that sentiment.  When early reviews for Star Trek: Beyond were surprisingly effusive from those very same friends, I thought I’d give it a chance—and I’m glad I did.

Finally, they got it right.

Star Trek: Beyond, while not perfect, is a grand adventure that allows generous screen time to each cast member. The story was well-written, although it’s another variation of “we have met the enemy, and he is us” that seems to plague Starfleet in some of the previous films such as Undiscovered Country, Insurrection, and the aforementioned Into Darkness.  I won’t give away spoilers, but you’ll understand if you see it.

The pacing, action, and humor were impeccable and the tribute to Leonard Nimoy and the original cast was a fine touch. Even if the last two films didn’t do it for you, I recommend Star Trek: Beyond.  As both a writer and a loyal Star Trek fan, collector, and convention attendee since the late 70s, I actually walked away from this film feeling buoyant, as if the weight of my recent personal stresses had been lifted, if only temporarily.

Star Trek Beyond poster Star Trek Beyond poster

After that, things got weird…or should I say strange. Last week, my wife learned about the new eight-episode Netflix mini-series, Stranger Things. I hadn’t heard one peep about it until we sat down to watch it and I was instantly hooked by this atmospheric science fiction thriller.

It’s 1983 in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. Led by Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), the Department of Energy conducts mind experiments on an 11-year-old girl named, appropriately, Eleven (deftly portrayed by Millie Brown). At the same time, Will Byers, a boy of similar age, goes missing. His frantic mother (Winona Ryder) and older brother (Charlie Heaton) are convinced that Will is alive, but their search leads them to bizarre and horrifying territory.

The two plots intersect in a story that channels everything from The Twilight Zone to E.T. to The Goonies.

Although much darker, Stranger Things is comprised of many of the same tropes and story elements as J.J. Abrams’s Super 8 (which I thoroughly enjoyed). Both focus on the adventures of a group of pre-teen boys and one girl, clueless parents, an alien creature, and a secret government project.

Stranger Things is not only privileged with brilliant casting, but the 80s styles, music, and pop culture references were crafted with a respectful nostalgia for the time period in which I grew up. I look forward to season two!

Stranger Things Alternate Poster Stranger Things Poster

Book Review: Mr. Monk Helps Himself

Life has changed for Natalie Teeger. After leaving San Francisco months ago to work as a temporary police officer in Summit, New Jersey, Natalie’s career in law enforcement has advanced beyond the role of mere assistant to renowned detective Adrian Monk.

Upon returning to San Francisco, Natalie sets her sights on passing the P.I. exam and becoming Monk’s partner.  As a first step in that direction, she begins calling him Adrian instead of Mr. Monk. This does not sit well with the obsessive-compulsive detective who hates change.

If there’s one thing that Monk hates more than change, it’s clowns. When part-time clown Dudley Smith—aka J.P. Tatters—dies after handling cash coated in poison, SFPD Captain Leland Stottlemeyer calls Monk in to consult.

Meanwhile, to help bolster her confidence and reduce her stress before taking the P.I. exam, Natalie turns to celebrated self-help guru Miranda Bigley, creator of the Best Possible Me program. Along with Monk’s new girlfriend Ellen, Natalie visits Miranda’s campus known as the Sanctuary. There, Miranda and her husband Damien teach several workshops including yoga, meditation, and self-affirmation.

On the day that Monk turns up at the Sanctuary to dissuade Natalie from joining this “cult”, Miranda Bigley leaps to her death in front of dozens of witnesses. It isn’t long before Natalie suspects that Miranda might actually have been murdered, but she is unable to enlist Monk’s help since he reluctantly agreed to assist Stottlemeyer track down the clown’s killer. Thus, Natalie recruits Ellen to infiltrate the Sanctuary in search of the truth surrounding Miranda’s death.

This is the first MONK novel written by Hy Conrad, who not only took over from the fabulous Lee Goldberg, but also wrote for the TV series. I missed the final two installments penned by Goldberg, but Conrad does an admirable job of filling in background details. In my humble opinion, this is not the best of the MONK novels, but I’ll give Conrad kudos for his first try. He maintains crisp pacing throughout the story and, with few exceptions, the same humorous banter between the characters as seen in the TV series. Even though all of the MONK novels are told from Natalie’s first-person POV, Mr. Monk Helps Himself is focused far more on her than on Monk, which might turn off some readers.

Mr. Monk Helps Himself


River Reads Book Festival

Join over two dozen of your favorite local authors for readings and book signings at the River Reads Book Festival at Prallsville, Mill in Stockton, NJ on Sunday, October 23 from 10AM to 4PM.

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The festival will feature a day of readings and author signings from a variety of authors from the Delaware River Valley. In addition to myself, the current list of participating authors include Brandi Megan Granett (event organizer), Kathryn Craft, Donna Galanti, Jack Hillman, Kerry Gans, Phil Giunta, Kelly Simmons, Mary Shafer, Heather Webb, Kate Moretti, Nicole Loughan, Dylann Rhea, Marie C. Collins, Karen Hodges Miller, Nomi Eve, Caron Kamps Widden, Ethel Rackin, Karen Katchur, Kit Grindstaff, Casey Caracciolo, Richard Ziegler, Sandra Carey Cody, Curt Herr, Kim Kurki, and Kate Gallison.

Click here for more info! 

And click here to read the article on!

Hope to see you there!

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