Thursday, October 4, 2018

Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976-1986


A few weeks ago, my husband Greg and I met up with a friend of ours, local Detroit author Zig Zag Claybourne (check him out!), at the Cranbrook Art Museum for their current exhibit, Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976-1986. It leaves on October 7th, so if you want to see it, GO NOW.


First off, I was surprised at the size and scope of this exhibit. Not only were there posters in shockingly pristine condition, but traditional punk clothing, buttons, matchboxes, handmade zines, TVs playing music videos, record players stationed throughout with crates of records, and more. 

All three of us wandered the halls both delighted and a little weirded out because, to varying degrees for each of us, we remembered watching these videos when they debuted, going to see these bands live, buying these albums, and wearing these clothes! I'd wear the clothes now, and Greg has gone to several concerts in the past few years. When a museum guide led a group - mostly comprised of people in their 20s by the looks of them - past us, explaining the historical significance of different display pieces, Zig Zag wanted to turn to them and yell, "I lived this!!" 

Few things in life make you feel older than a museum tour analyzing your past.


Still! We did enjoy the exhibit, and were glad we went. There were so many songs and bands that I had somehow forgotten about, possibly because my brother (almost four years older than me) was the one who collected the albums and went to concerts, and I just collected songs and borrowed his tapes and CDs. I did watch Mtv religiously, though, back when it embodied the name music television.


After the exhibit, we wandered Cranbrook's ground, Greg giving us a tour and showing us the places he used to hang out as a student. We had a lot of rain prior to that day, and mushrooms of all stripes had sprung up everywhere. The gardens were still very much in bloom, and in the Asian garden, the maples had begun to change to red. 


Cranbrook is a lovely school that sometimes reminds one of Hogwarts, and I am a little sad that I hadn't known about its existence when I was a high school student. I definitely would have investigated attending, even if it meant living in a dormitory (I was/am far too in love with The Worst Witch to not relish living in a creepy old world-style dorm.) Alas! I will just have to use my imagination. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales at the Grey Wolfe Scriptorium

Image courtesy of Grey Wolfe Scriptorium.

This past Sunday was my first reading and signing outside of a convention! My husband Greg, fellow Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales authors Aaron Isett and Kim Gray*, and I gathered at the Grey Wolfe Scriptorium in Clawson, MI (it's right next to Royal Oak, MI). It was an intimate gathering with a small audience that included Detroit-based Zig Zag Claybourne, author of the acclaimed The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan among many other tales.

I've never enjoyed public speaking, including reading my own work. When I was sixteen and my first short story was published in the local newspaper, I refused to read it in front of the crowd at the award ceremony, insisting I had to leave early, thus wouldn't be there for the reading portion. Instead of leaving, though, I hid behind a bookshelf and listened while one of the organizers read it - beautifully! - for me. 

I've been trying to get better about reading my own work aloud these past few years because I'm the only person who is the most driven to promote my work, and people really dig hearing writers read (for some reason). The Q&A I did with Diana was super chill and a lot like the interviews I do with the people I feature in my Crysta Goes Visiting column. The fact that I personally knew all but 2 members of the audience probably helped.


If you are unfamiliar with Grey Wolfe Scriptorium, they are a bookshop comprised of Michigan authors and a whole lot of genre fiction, especially of the Harlequin variety (which Diana is determined to pare down, so if Harlequin is your thing, you have hit the jack pot, my friend). The ultimate goal is to be a bookstore totally devoted to Michigan authors, which I think is awesome! They also know the business from both publishing and selling sides, so I feel secure with Grey Wolfe representing my book.


I was delighted to recognize a fair number of names and titles in the Michigan authors section, though I had just attended the Kerrytown Bookfest the week before, and many of them were there. At Ktown I was selling Queen of Clocks at the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library table and later representing the Ann Arbor Book Society (sign up for our monthly newsletter!). I sold two copies of the book at Ktown and two copies at Grey Wolfe. Yay!

We are hoping to schedule a reading and signing a little closer to home at Think Outside the Books here in Ypsilanti in November (indie published books make great holiday gifts). Greg has to get through the Black Cat Cabaret in October first (buy your tickets now).

Stores in Michigan you can buy Queen of Clocks: Bookbound (Ann Arbor), Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tea Room (Ann Arbor), Grey Wolfe Scriptorium (Clawson), Think Outside the Books (Ypsilanti). Also available for purchase online at BarnesAndNoble.com, Amazon, and more.

*Photos taken by Kim Gray.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The End of Summer: Traverse City and Dancing in the Streets

September is here, the storms have rolled in, and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees overnight. Summer is ending. Soon fall will be upon us. But before I celebrate my favorite season, I will bid farewell to my second favorite by celebrating the good times.

A few weeks back, I took some much-needed time off and traveled with my mother and fellow adventurer Kimmy north to Traverse City. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Mission Point, making stops at the Mission Point Lighthouse, Chateau Chantal Winery, and the notoriously haunted Bowers Harbor Inn where we dined at the Jolly Pumpkin. We did not see any ghosts, but I think we were in the wrong part of the building.

That evening, we headed to downtown Traverse City and thoroughly enjoyed what turned out to be a private haunted tour. I love haunted tours! They're a terrifically fun way to learn about history, and spooky stories are a decent way to give yourself chills on a warm night. Our guide was knowledgeable and a great storyteller. I highly recommend booking a tour on your next trip to TC.

The next day we spent toodling around downtown (there are a number of wonderful bookstores in downtown TC!) and then an afternoon at the beach, my holiest of holies. 

Our last day we spent exploring the converted former psychiatric hospital, now a collection of shops, an awesome bakery, restaurants, condos, apartments, and what-all. Very cool! It's like its own village; they just need a grocery.(And maybe there is one, and we just missed it.) I definitely recommend checking it out.

For lunch, on the way home, we stopped at Mr Foisies in Cadillac for the best pasties I can recall ever consuming. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it. I got chicken and covered it in gravy. Magnificent! 

Now for something completely different...

Since I no longer work downtown every day, I am not privy to the various festivals and what-not that happen quite frequently in Ann Arbor. But when I do hear about them, I am often free to attend them, unlike before when they just sprung up on the doorstep of the store and I could only peer at them through the glass.


This year was my first time observing the entirety of the Dancing in the Street, which takes place every Labor Day weekend, and never fails to get the Martha and the Vandellas' song stuck in my head. (Yup, it's playing now.) 

Several blocks are closed off and stages set up for demonstrations of styles of dance from all over the world and throughout history. Some are participatory, such as the colorful may pole set up at the corner of Main and Washington and the English country dancing on Washington. Labor Day weekend was sunny and hot this year, so I didn't stay for too long. Still, it was nice to attend, and I may give it a closer look next year. 

Well, as I said, the temperature has dropped, though the humidity remains unbearable, and fall is on its way with its own promises of adventure.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

#BisexualBookClub


Back on June 1st, I launched a pet project that I call #BisexualBookClub. To quote myself:
Once a month I will post a book of various genres and time periods that in some way represents (or does it?) the bisexual experience. Sometimes the B word is used and sometimes not (that’s part of the discussion). My purpose is not to brand certain books or authors, but to add a much-needed bisexual voice to the discussion of literature and give the bisexual identity serious consideration and validity.
Because Twitter has a limited character count, only the picture is posted there, but if you go to the album on my Facebook page, you will find the questions (usually between 6 and 8) in the picture descriptions. 

Like many people who identify as bisexual, pansexual, ambisexual, or another term under the bi+ umbrella, I am seriously annoyed with society's all too common bisexual erasure (bi-erasure for short). Wikipedia defines bi-erasure as "the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, news media and other primary sources. In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure can include denying that bisexuality exists. It is often a manifestation of biphobia, although it does not necessarily involve overt antagonism." And yes, it's a problem.


People - and in the case of literature, film, and theater, characters - who exhibit attraction to another of the same-gender are not necessarily "secretly gay," as I heard time and time again in my literature classes. Maybe they're - GASP! - bisexual. They could even still be straight and having a bisexual moment. I'm ok with that because I believe physical and emotional attraction are fluid and highly dependent on the individuals involved. Just be sure to use bisexual and not homosexual, gay, or lesbian to describe it. People don't switch back and forth between being straight and gay. If they do, it's pretty much a dead giveaway that they are, in fact, bisexual.

I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing, which means I spent a lot of my five years in college reading books (not to mention all those English classes in middle and high schools). I also took a Gay & Lesbian Literature class while I was there, and I love reading, so I have read a lot of queer fiction in my day. (Written it, too.)


I've started off with some older books to not only give people a more solid background in some classics of literature (Western world so far, but we'll branch out), but to show that we've always been here. Bisexuality is not a fad, and it is far from a modern invention. Here is the list so far and why I chose them:

  1. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin: One of the sexiest, on-point writers of the English language ever, I had to start with Baldwin, and this book made such an impression on me when I first read it. What this man does with words gives me goosebumps. (You can find videos of him speaking on YouTube; he was also a brilliant civil rights activist.) You will likely see him return to the book list later.
  2. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall: The title says it all, but I see this as an important historical novel that highlights not only women, but what were called inverts at the time, what we might call transgender people today. It's complicated. Just read the book.
  3. Maurice by E. M. Forster: This is a much happier book. The happy ending, in fact, is why it was never published during Forster's lifetime. It was made into an award-winning film in 1987 and stars James Wilby, Hugh Grant, and Rupert Graves. (Helena Bonham Carter also appears uncredited.) The movie sugarcoats nothing (though Clive is portrayed more gay, less bi) and is absolutely worth a watch. Perhaps with a fan handy.
  4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker: COMING SOON! I was so engrossed in this book that I read it in a single day. This was also made into a critically acclaimed movie with a  hell of a cast in 1985, but I have not seen it largely, honestly, because I have been warned - repeatedly - that the film basically took out all of the "lesbian stuff," which is completely unthinkable to me. Did the producers not read the book?
So there you have it, my modest contribution to literary discourse. Perhaps one day it will grow into something beyond pictures on the internet and a Facebook album, but right now, with so many other projects going on, that is all that I have time for. If you have any suggestions for books of any genre written at any point in time that feature bisexual characters, please leave them in the comments and I will happily take a look at them!


Thursday, August 9, 2018

OUT in PAPERBACK: The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales


Were you waiting for the paperback edition of Queen of Clocks? Well, here it is! Available at Barnes & Noble (online store only), Amazon, Book DepositoryIndigo (Canada), and for special order at most independent bookstores (it's listed on Ingram) all over the world!

If you live in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, I hope to soon have copies in Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tea Room, Bookbound, and Think Outside the Books. The Ann Arbor District Library also said they would try to get it! (I still need to submit to the Ypsilanti District Library.)

I am hoping to get us into more indie bookstores. If you have any suggestions of favorite bookstores in your town that you think would carry it, please let me know in the comments! I hope to be working on that campaign soon.

Of course, Queen of Clocks is also available wherever ebooks are sold! Don't forget to give us a rating or a review on Goodreads to help us out.


Speaking of promotion, my husband Greg and I were at Think Outside the Books this past weekend for Books, Crafts, and Cats!, a fundraiser and adoption event for Crafty Cat Rescue. I burped a kitten (agh! so cute!) and met some great people, authors and regular folk alike, including - unexpectedly - J. D. Barker, author of, among other things, the upcoming Dracul with Dacre Stoker, a book that has been on my radar for some time (thanks to being a former bookbuyer). If you are a fan of Dracula, or vampires in general, it should be on yours, too!

Before I go, here is another reminder to check out another non-book project Cinema Guano, a bizarre films podcast spearheaded by my husband, writer and performer Greg Pizzino. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Motor City Steam Con 2018

I missed the update last week because we were so busy getting ready for this year's Motor City Steam Con. My husband Greg and I were both nervous about how this year's con was going to go after a bunch of completely understandable stuff happened that I do sympathize with and choose not to get into here. 

But we are so glad that we did! We got to once again hang out with fellow authors and all around fantastic people (so click their names and check them out on Goodreads!!) Zig Zag ClaybourneLeanna Renee Hieber, R. S. Belcher, and so many new and old friends that we rarely get to see. Greg debuted his latest panel, "Cults, Communes, and Secret Societies," we made some connections in the podcast community, passed out a ton of bookmarks for Cinema Guano and The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales, and we sold a few of our other books. 

I think we sold our last spare copy of Cosmic Encounters, the science fiction erotica anthology that includes my story "Heaven Ain't Close." (It's still available in paperback at the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor and Think Outside the Books in Ypsilanti, as well as online in ebook format.) I've had many people tell me how much they love my stories in the Valves and Vixens volumes, and I am proud of those stories and enjoyed writing them, but "Heaven Ain't Close" is a story that I wrote many years ago, and I worked on it off and on since the first anthology it was selected for failed to launch. After a few rejections, it eventually found its home in Cosmic Encounters just a few years ago, and I could not be happier. My mother is even fond of this story, and she is not a fan of scifi. (It has lesbians on Mars, what is there not to like?)

But I digress. Greg and I stayed in the hotel this time rather than driving in every day, which allowed us to stay up later for shenanigans and gatherings. If this con happens again next year (and I truly appreciate the time and energy that went into this one, so if there is no MCSC 2019, I will totally understand), I am going to insist on a hotel room again. I can't miss out on late night cocktails and smoking bourbon, and talk about scifi and past lives and writing inspirations!

Sadly, one of the reasons I wanted to stay at the hotel was so I could swim in the pool, and this pool was too cold to swim in. (SIGH.) So I paddled in circles in the confines of the hot tub, which did feel good on my sore neck. The food at the hotel restaurant was surprisingly great. I ate the most Michigan thing I can think of: coney pasties. And it was delicious. If you ever stay at the Sheraton in Novi, give them a try. 

I picked up a very cool zodiac-themed parasol and some new brass jewelry from Ohio Kimono, some delightful milk oolong and Scotch toffee puerh teas from Teaologie LLC (based in Ann Arbor, woo!), and a Slytherin pin that says "Ambition" and a secret present for a friend from Leanna Renee Hieber (we also traded books, and I think she got the last copy of Cosmic Encounter). 

We ducked out of the con before the final events on Sunday so that we could go see a documentary on lost ships of the Great Lakes at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle in Detroit, which I found riveting, and Greg nearly fell asleep because the room was warm and he does not find shipwrecks nearly as enthralling as I do. Then we went home, got dinner, and snuggled with our very needy felines who had thought they would never see us again. 

As about everyone knows in Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor-adjacent, this week is Art Fair (dun dun DUN), so it's another busy weekend for me. There are plans for kayaking the Huron River tomorrow, which I am stoked about, and then wandering Art Fair on Friday, which I have not been able to do at leisure in years because in the past, I was always working downtown during Art Fair, and this week, with my different job, I am not. (It better not storm while I am there...)

I plan to be back on schedule next week with a post about s'mores bars, a terrific summer treat, at the food blog. Bye for now!

Friday, June 29, 2018

From the Coffee Shop: Hyperion


The benefits of no longer having a set schedule is that I can request the same days off as my husband (who gets his schedule for an entire month at a time; I get mine perpetually three weeks ahead). Thus I find myself on this lovely summer day working on writing projects next to Greg at Hyperion Coffee in Ypsilanti’s Historic Depot Town. He is enjoying coffee (they roast some great coffee) while I sip an iced Cascara Soda (little bit fizzy, little bit sweet, totally refreshing). 

I am having trouble connecting to wifi with my laptop, so I am using my phone to do what work I can, and this is being typed up in a LibreOffice document for later posting. Ypsilanti is great in that it offers free wifi that covers much of downtown and Depot Town, but my laptop is just having none of it. (Or at least not enough for it to be useful to me at the moment.) 

...And I think my phone is giving out, too, and that’s backed up by satelite. 

Current projects include my two columns for the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal, articles for Pulp and the Ann Arbor Book Society, and research for a special project with cohort and occasional podcast co-host Kim Gray (aka Kimmy, Kimmeh, and K. Gray). The bulk of the writing can be done off-line (it’s a handy trick that many writers employ to minimize distractions). Surprisingly, a lot of the project research has required me to go off-line, too, and there is a stack of books in my living room next to a notebook and a pen. 

Upcoming, we have the Motor City Steam Con July 13th through the 15th where Greg will be presenting his “Cults, Communes, and Secret Societies” panel, and, if it's available by then, we may be selling paperback copies of The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales if you grab us (we were not able to get a table, and there doesn’t seem to be an authors’ room this year). 

If you can’t make it to MCSC, DON’T PANIC. You can buy your copy of Queen, paperback or ebook, online or special ordered from your favorite local bookstore – yes, even outside the U.S. If your favorite local bookstore orders from Ingram (and most do), they can order this book. If you live near Ann Arbor, check out the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tearoom or Think Outside the Books in Ypsilanti, with possible additions later. I will be doing a big post here when the book is available. Having some printing issues at the moment.

Also, don’t forget to check out our film podcast Cinema Guano on its home blog or your favorite podcast source. New episodes are posted every other week. Episode two with the stellar New Zealand horror black comedy Black Sheep was posted last Sunday! #teamsheepfetus