Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Baltimore City Cuts Funding: Save the Edgar Allan Poe House

Edgar Allan Poe House - Baltimore, MarylandI had the opportunity to visit the Edgar Allan Poe House — now a museum of all things Poe — when I attended Balticon a few years ago.

It’s tiny, very cramped, with a winding staircase to the second floor, so narrow as to be almost claustrophobic. The staircase is nearly ladder-steep, and I found it more comfortable coming down backwards, after viewing the bedroom, than trying to navigate the usual way.

The museum contains very little: some photographs, a city directory turned to the page of Poe’s listing, Poe’s lapdesk (which the curator refers to as his laptop) and a few more odds and ends.

Not much, really. (Still enough to hold this Poe fan’s attention for a couple hours.)

But Poe is so ingrained in the history of Baltimore that it seems a travesty to me to cut funding.

Yet, that’s what Baltimore has decided to do.

Beginning in 2012, the Poe Museum is required to be “self-sustaining” or it will cease to exist.

You can help by signing this petition begging them not to cut funding.

I posted a photo of Poe’s “laptop” and one of his grave on my Balticon post. See them here. I’ll dig up the photos and post a few additional ones in the next few days.

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Writing Prompt: What’s Your Super Power?

Kelly A. Harmon as the Super Hero 'Awesome Sauce'!
Me, as my alter-ego teleporting self.

I’ve done a few interviews in the last year where the interviewer asked me: “If you could have one super power, what would it be?”

That’s not something I ever gave much thought to. I’m always dreaming about my characters…not about me. So when I was asked, I had to give it a lot of thought:

Did I want a super power which was a lot of fun (like being able to fly) or one that could help people (like being able to heal instantly)?

If I were given a super power, did I have to use it for good? (Which doesn’t mean necessarily that I would use it for evil…) Did I even want to “use” it all? Maybe I could have a power so strong that it manifested randomly, sort of like luck.

What if I lived in a world where anyone “diagnosed” with having a super power, had to use it for the good of mankind, even if it meant that they couldn’t do what they wanted to do in life? What if in that same world I could be genetically enhanced to obtain a super power instead of being born with one….would I do it?

And would I do it still if it meant that having a power resulted in the loss of something else (like my sight or ability to hear)?

It’s a tough decision.

If given the opportunity, I want the power of teleportation: the ability to think myself anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye. No driving cross country if I need to get anywhere, no worrying about flights – or even accommodations: can you imagine vacationing in Italy, but spending every night in your own bed?

What would you choose, if you could have any power you wanted?

Here’s Your Prompt:

1. Choose a super power for yourself. (If you’re feeling feisty, head on over to Marvel Comics and use their Super Hero Generator and create an identity for yourself. Beware! You can waste a lot of time there!)

2. Write the rules for your super power: if you can teleport, can you take others with you when you go? If you’re invisible, can you still see? What’s the logic behind these rules?

3. What are the political and social ramifications in your world? Are you required to use your power for good? Do you have to give only a few years of your life, or all of it, in service to mankind? Are people with super powers shunned? Are they praised and emulated?

4. Finally, write the story of how you obtained your super power. Were you born with it, or were you mutated by something in the drinking water? Were you genetically enhanced? By choice? If so, why? What did it cost financially? What did it cost you socially? If not by choice, how did it happen? Were you kidnapped? Were you in the armed forces and it was required of you?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Oops, Nature Did it Again…

Snow - February 22, 2011
Snowy landscape just before sunrise this morning.

Did the the groundhog lie? I thought the wintry weather was officially over, but we got stormed upon last night. Again.

I’m not complaining – I love a fresh blanket of pristine snow. I’m like a kid when it starts falling: all giddy and hyper, not matter the time of day.

Some time before midnight, I turned on the floodlights and walked onto the back deck to listened to it snow.

I love how insulating snowfall is, blocking out all the other sounds.

To me, snowfall sounds like hot water sizzling in a cast iron pan. But last night, a bit of sleet sleet mixed with the snow. I found the patter of those thousands of tiny ice shards so inviting, so energizing– that had it been a bit warmer, I might have found a way to hang out with my laptop and write.

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Writing Prompt: Road Trip!

Sandia Park Tramway, New Mexico
Sandia Park Tramway, New Mexico

Some years ago I flew to Denver, Colorado with my soon-to-be Husband of Awesome™ and my in-laws. We were going to hike, see the sights, and take a train ride up to Pike’s Peak.

It was all planned.

The plane landed in cold, rainy fog.

We were up early the next morning, watching the national weather report, and saw this huge storm system stalled over Denver. It could take a week to clear, said the weatherman.

My soon-to-be father-in-law joked, “Well, there’s sunshine in Albuquerque!”

I joked back, “Roadtrip!” only to be met by dead silence, save for the drone of the TV, and then slow-appearing smiles.

We reached for our luggage, checked out, and drove six-and-a-half hours to New Mexico.

I have about a half a million photographs of mountains taken from inside the car on the road between Denver and Albuquerque. (Funny, each appeared different when I took it. Now all these mountain pictures look the same.)

I hiked in the Cibola National Forest in 80-degree weather, then rode the “double reversible jigback aerial tramway” at the top of the Sandia Peak where a squall dumped an inch of snow on us the same day.

And I still managed to do a few things in Colorado, like walk across the Royal Gorge Bridge and dip my feet in the Colorado River.

To this day, it remains one of my most favorite vacations.

Here’s Your Prompt: This prompt can go two ways:

1 – Write about towns and cities you’ve passed through or have stayed less than a week. Or, pick a specific moment from a longer vacation and focus on that. Write about a car trip, a train ride or a flight. (Choose one you really liked, or one that made you so miserable, you’re still angry about it to this day.) Write about a hotel you’ve stayed in or a campground or a motor home. Or, write about a vacation you’ve planned for later.

— or —

2 – Write about making a split-second decision to do something. Were you better off for it, or worse? Why? Are you still affected by the decision now? Or, is it all in the past? What did you think of the decision when you made it? How do you feel about it now, any regrets? Any ‘should have dones’?

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Fascinating Author, I Am

More newsy-news!

I was interviewed at the “Fascinating Authors” Web site a few weeks ago and it’s finally posted!

:: Exciting!! ::

They requested a written interview and then called me for a phone interview which has been recorded for the ‘net.

Here’s a link to the recorded version. This version is fun because you get to know what I *sound* like. The interviewer asked me some interesting questions and talked about how transparent I am on my Web site.

Here’s a link to the written version. Here I give advice to aspiring authors and talk more about Blood Soup, and I reveal what I do in my day job.

I’ll admit that I haven’t gone back to see what they’ve edited — if anything — for either of the interviews.

(Because I’m a chicken. My hometown newspaper did a piece on me over the summer and the paper is still sitting here unopened on my desk. What if it’s awful?)

And who really likes the sound of his own recorded voice?

Meh. Please, go listen and tell me how it is.

:: Still jumping, though… ‘cos it was a lot of fun! ::

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Meet Penny Lockwoode Ehrenkranz: A Past and A Future Blog Tour

Cover of A Past and a Future by Penny Lockwood EhrenkranzEdit 7:00 p.m.: I forgot to mention that Penny’s giving away a free story not included in the anthology to one lucky commenter. Please leave a note when you’re done reading.

I’ve known Penny Ehrenkranz for quite a few years now. She writes in a variety of genres, but I think my favorite are her ghost stories. Today I’m featuring Penny’s new short story anthology called A Past and a Future.

Here’s Penny’s official bio:

Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz has published more than 100 articles, 75 stories, two e books, a chapbook, and her stories have been included in two anthologies. She writes for both adults and children. Her fiction has appeared in numerous genre and children’s publications and non fiction work has appeared in a variety of writing, parenting, and young adult print magazines and on line publications. She edits for three small independent publishers.

And now for the interview:

Kelly, thank you for hosting me today and giving me the opportunity to talk about my book.

Who is Penny?
I am a writer. 🙂 I am also a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. During my life, I’ve ridden motorcycles, taught yoga and meditation, traveled across county in a VW van, toured parts of Europe, Canada, and Asia, visited most of the United States, and lived in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, and Oregon. I’ve worked most of my life in office positions, first for big business and lastly for county government. In my “spare” time, I enjoy gardening, crocheting, walking, and spending time with family, friends, and pets.

Tell us your latest news?
My collection of short stories, A Past and a Future has been released by Sam’s Dot Publishing. I’m excited about this collection of fantasy and soft science fiction stories. Each one is different with unique plots, characters, and obstacles to be overcome.

A Past and a Future, is my collection of short stories, half of which are fantasy and half soft science fiction.

Ghost for Rent (electronic version), is a middle grade paranormal mystery. (Available in paperback at Amazon.)

Dragon Sight, is a young adult illustrated chapbook.

KAH: To read more about the books Penny has available — including two more releases later this year –check out her Web sites listed at the end of this interview.

When and why did you begin writing?
My dad used to tell me bedtime stories he made up for me when I was a child. Although the memory is vague now, I do remember thinking being able to create stories was so wonderful. I’m sure that was the impetus behind my own story crafting as a kid. I would write my stories, illustrate them, then bind them between shirt cardboard, and tie them together with a ribbon. I still have some of those stories which my mother saved.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ve always enjoyed reading, and it seemed a natural extension to write my own stories, which I did as a child and continued to do as an adult. When I first tried to write professionally, I didn’t know what I was doing and promptly got rejected. The wonderful support systems in place now through the Internet weren’t available to young writers way back in the stone age. It took me until my mid 40’s to try again. Once I did, I quickly became a published writer concentrating primarily on short stories, and non-fiction articles both for adults and children.

What inspired you to write your first book, Ghost for Rent?
My daughter actually was the inspiration for this. I’d been writing short stories and articles for a number of years, but she didn’t think I was a writer because I didn’t have a “book.” Her friends and my other family members acknowledged my accomplishments and congratulated me on my successes. To feel like a success, I felt I needed to write a book my daughter could hold. Thus, Ghost for Rent was born.

 Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? (Has anyone ever realized it?)
I would say most writers include bits and pieces of people they know and events from their own lives in their writing. I am no exception. I have never created a character that totally resembled another person or myself. Although some of my animal characters popping up from time to time are animals who have been a part of our family. No one has ever said to me, “hey, were you writing about me?” I don’t think I would want to do that, although a few of my friends over the years have been such amazing characters I’ve certainly thought about it!

What are your current projects?
Right now, I’m trying to regain my rights to my first middle grad novel, Ghost for Rent. I’ve completed the sequel, Ghost for Lunch and have contracted to have it published with 4RV Publishing. I would like the series to remain with one house and 4RV has indicated an interest in having the first book. I am also working on a fantasy novella, “Weaving of Powers,” and a YA short story, “A Bit of Fairy Dust.” A lot of my time is spent editing other people’s work as I am a copy editor at MuseItUp Publishing and Damnation Press, LLC. I am also an acquisitions editor at 4RV Publishing.

Do you ever have problems with writers block? If so how do you get through it?
Writer’s block isn’t an issue for me as I’m not the type of writer who feels compelled to sit and write every day. I have found the system which works best for me is to write when I get inspired. That can be something I’ve read or something someone has told me or just an idea which pops into my head. I also don’t limit myself to one type of writing. My short stories for adults tend to be fantasy and science fiction, but I also write sweet romance and have two stories coming from MuseItUP Publishing at the end of this year. I also write non-fiction with an emphasis on parenting tips, teen self-help, and writing tips. In addition, I write for young adults and children. I have four books coming from 4RV in the next few years, a middle grade novel, Ghost for Lunch, and three picture books.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
The advice I give all new writers is to read in the genre in which you want to write, whether it is fiction or non-fiction. You need to see what’s out there and how the successful authors craft their stories. I also encourage writers to attend writing conferences. With the Internet, there are a host of free online conferences, so there is no excuse not to network with other writers. I also strongly urge writers not to give up, like I did when I first started. Since then, I’ve found it’s often a case of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right story.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I write my stories because I enjoy escaping from the reality of everyday life. When readers are engrossed in my stories, I hope they have a chance to escape as well. Many of my jobs have been working in situations which are distressing to say the least. I’ve worked for our local women’s shelter, a human dignity group, the juvenile justice system, and the district attorney. In these jobs, real life intrudes. By writing fantasy and soft science fiction, I can take myself and my reader to new places and new adventures far removed from reality. I have no lessons to teach, no ulterior motives, I only hope each reader can escape from their own life for the short time he or she has traveled with me to a new land or time.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.

To learn more about Penny, see other interviews and excerpts of her work at other stops along her blog tour, see Penny’s blog. Her entire tour is listed at the bottom of this post here.

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Sappy Valentine Post

Wedding of Kelly A. HarmonSo today in church, the Husband of Awesome™ and I renewed our wedding vows.

This was quite unexpected, but I can’t say I’m unhappy. In fact, I’m a little giddy.

I’m totally in love with my Husband of Awesome™ (and he with me, I’m certain) — it just worked out that way.

The renewal was the idea of our new pastor, Father Jason, who started today’s homily by asking all married couples to stand.

The seriousness of the moment dissipated quite fast (for us, anyway). Father Jason intoned from the lectern: “Look lovingly into your spouse’s eyes…” and of course the Husband of Awesome™ was making silly faces at me (the story of our marriage: lots of laughter). I couldn’t keep a straight face.

And then Father Jason said, “Repeat after me…”

And the Husband of Awesome™ and I both said at the same time, “After me…”

…probably a bit too loudly, too, ‘cos there was quite a ripple of laughter through the (now rather large sanctuary, since the old church burned down.)

The woman standing behind us slapped the Husband of Awesome™ for this bit of effrontery. (We know her, so this is okay. I guess I’m lucky she couldn’t reach me, too.)

But, I digress.

We repeated our vows…and Father Jason ended with, “You may now iss your spouse.” [Which was totally KEWL because when we were originally married, the Mass did not include the option of a kiss. Our first married kiss took place after the ceremony, outside the church.]

So, I’ve been walking on air today, stoked from the little ceremony this morning, and knowing that I’ve got all day tomorrow to celebrate, too. But, if truth be told, every day around here is a bit like Valentine’s Day.

Lucky, lucky me.

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Love is in the Air!

Valentine CandiesMonday is Valentine’s Day!

And while I can’t stand frilly stuff, and hearts-and-flowers as decor on anything usually make me barf, I LOVE Valentines Day and the celebration of love.

I can’t help it. I’m in love.

I met my Husband of Awesome® my second year of college, and we’ve been together ever since. Totally storybook romance. (I won’t bore your with the details.)

Below are both journaling prompts and story starters. Switch them around and use your romantic moments to write a fictional story, or, let the story starters jog your brain for events in your past to journal. Combine more than one to create a complex tale.

I’m sensitive to the fact that many people don’t have my rosy outlook on romance. For them, I’ve included some prompts about the flip-side of love.

All the way at the bottom are some prompts for school-age people.


Rosy Prompts for Those In Love:

  1. Write the story of your most romantic encounter.
  2. Write the story of being reunited with “the one that got away.”
  3. Write your true love a letter. (Seriously, when was the last time you did this?)
  4. Write about your Best. Date. Ever.
  5. Complete this sentence: “I know ________ loves me because ….”
  6. Story Starter: When I looked up and saw Cupid with his bow, I knew we were both in trouble.
  7. Story Starter: Jake Kennedy used to think Valentine’s Day was for suckers until…

Not-so-Rosy Prompts for Those a Bit More Jaded about Love:

  1. Someone has betrayed you – though not necessarily in love. Tell a story about the moment of betrayal and/or when you discovered it.
  2. You come home and find your lover and your best friend in bed together.
  3. Turn betrayal around: write the story about when you betrayed someone. Why did you do it?
  4. Write a letter to the person in the world you despise the most.
  5. What if the person who broke your heart the most came crawling back. How would you handle the situation?
  6. Write about the most awkward, embarrassing moment you’ve experienced in love.
  7. Write about falling out of love.

School-Age Prompts

  1. Write an essay telling what makes someone a good friend.
  2. Write about your first crush.
  3. Story Starter: Janis woke up itching with red spots all over. Oh, no! She had chicken pox…and on the day of the school Valentine Party…
  4. You’re the World’s Greatest Candy Maker. Move over Willy Wonka! Design a fabulous new candy for Valentine’s Day.
  5. Make a list of all the people who love you…and then give one reason why you know they love you.
  6. Write an acrostic poem using the word “LOVE,” or “FRIEND.” If you’re feeling ambitious, make one using the word, “VALENTINE.”
  7. Write a love letter to anyone in your family, letting them know how much they mean to you.
Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Bits of News and Stuff

I had planned for 2011 to be a quiet year as far as being involved was concerned. I want to write more, finish more and submit more than I was able to do last year due to the blog tour, and teaching, and conventions.

And so far, so good. I’ve gotten much more writing done this year (so far) than I had in the same time frame last year.

But, suddenly, there’s a lot going on. Which is good, I realize, so I’ve decided to roll with it.

Here’s the news:

I’ve been interviewed for the Fascinating Authors web site…. link to interview here… and there’s an accompanying radio interview, too. That hasn’t been posted yet, but I’ll mention a link when I have it. (The radio interview was A LOT of fun!)
Hellebore and Rue Anthology Cover
And I’ve gotten an invitation to Syndcon – a gaming convention in Rockville, MD, (in April) and I’ve accepted. I’m tentatively scheduled to teach a writing workshop with some other writers in the area, as well as appear on some panels.

Any gamers lurking out there who want to learn a bit about writing?

We’re brainstorming some gaming/writing ideas right now. If you’re interested in seeing something in particular, send me a note. I’ll suggest it to the programming staff.

(I hope I’ll get some gaming in, too, during the con. It’s been a while since I’ve taken my bag of dice and characters out for a spin.)

I’ve also been invited back to Darkover. I had a total blast last year, so you can bet I’ll be back. (Darkover happens over Thanksgiving weekend.)

And saving the best for last: Hellebore and Rue is officially out! (I’ll post some buy links as soon as I track them down.)

I’m still in love with that cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?

If you enjoy stories of women wielding magic, you may want to check it out. I’ve written a tale about a swordsmistress who fights a wyvern — with the help of a sorceress.

(You’ll have to let me know what you think if you read it.)

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Women on Writing Podcast

Some of the women in Broad Universe (an online group of women writers from around the globe) have put together a podcast about women and writing called Broadly Speaking.

This is the first in a series. It’s theme is going to run parallel to the monthly Broad Pod Fiction broadcast that Broad Universe produces monthly. Here’s the blurb:

Broadly Speaking brings you interviews and insights from women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror – and all the realms in between. Keeping with the Broad Pod’s theme of Faith and Fear, Broadly Speaking will chat with Jennifer Pelland, Morven Westfield, and Gail Z. Martin about how they’ve used faith and fear in their writing, advice on how to do it well, and even how selling and marketing can be affected. Join host Trish Wooldridge for some true tales of women’s adventures in writing!

Here’s a link to the podcast.