Holiday Gift Giving -Why shop here?

Happy Holiday Shopping Guide! Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, the “bigger on the inside” bookstore at 65 James Street, is happy to present our 2019 recommendations of gifts for the winter holidays.

Hello, everyone. I thought that I’d like to write this blog a bit differently this time. First of all, let me introduce myself. I’m Selina, and I work at the store part time. I am also a frequent customer here! Instead of just recommending certain books for you to think about purchasing for those people on your holiday (and other) lists, I’d like to give you some of the reasons why I like to shop here for my gifts.

First of all, this is a woman owned, independent bookstore. That in itself gives me greater incentive to want to spend my money here. I would much rather buy from someone local, who lives locally, spends their own money locally, and who supports the community I live in, than buy from a large corporation in East Nowhere, North China. (or another online company that steals a lot of business from many local companies. Not mentioning any names…)

Secondly, if I am looking for a book, either we have it here, or we can generally get it here in a few days. usually at a great discounted price. All new books are 20% off the cover price, but some of the new books are 25% to 30% off the cover price. Some of the Christmas books are even 40% off!

 

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When you walk in the door to Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, you get the feeling of an old time bookstore, with books piled high on the shelves. It’s almost as if you’d find it in Diagon Alley, from the Harry Potter Books. There’s always a surprise waiting for you here. The inventory is always changing, so there is literally something new in every day.

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There’s free coffee, tea, hot chocolate and more, if you are so inclined, to enjoy on a brisk Winter day while looking for just the right item for that hard-to-please person.

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If that person is a child, Annie’s has a treasure trove of great Children’s gifts. We have boxed sets of books for young children, as well as funny hats.


For older children we also have boxed sets of books, and lots of graphic novels.

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There are some cute literary tote bags for kids or adults, too. I took pictures of a few of them, but I decided not to use one of of them because I bought the bag as a gift for someone!

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We are also the third largest Doctor Who merchandiser in the United States. I know I have a lot of friends that love Doctor Who, and would love some of the toys, books, magazines, audio tapes, etc. that we carry.

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There’s a lot to see at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester. The only thing is you may need a little time to go through the store and find the treasures hidden within it.

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Author Spotlight – Armand Rosamilia

Armand Rosamilia pic

 

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday Author spotlight on Armand Rosamilia, a – hold on – he’ll tell you himself!

Honestly, I am the sexiest and handsomest and… oh, wait. Honestly? I’m Armand Rosamilia, a crime thriller and horror author.  A New Jersey boy now living in Florida, where he couldn’t be happier. I write full-time and actually make a living from doing it! I’m also a podcaster, and really good-looking and…

Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester –though they should totally check here first!)

I’m on Amazon with everyone else. You can also find me on all the normal social media spots like Facebook (as Author Armand Rosamilia) and Twitter (as ArmandAuthor) and my website, https://armandrosamilia.com

How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?

My Twitter account is the most active. I love chatting with everyone and have built up a huge following over the years by just being me and having fun doing it. Of course, you could argue I should be writing.

For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write?  What can readers expect from Ogromny?

I’ve been at this for thirty years. Good and bad. I hope I’m getting better… I mostly write horror stories, which is my first love. In the past few years I’ve dabbled in other genres like contemporary fiction, supernatural thrillers and crime thrillers. Even though I’ve written less and less true horror books in the last couple of years, I know I’ll never abandon the genre completely. Unless someone offers me big, big bucks to write sappy romances or Hallmark Channel movies.

My latest release is Ogromny, a kaiju book released by Severed Press. It’s a giant rock monster from Russia who walks across the ocean and through San Francisco and Alcatraz. Chaos and destruction ensue.

What was the inspiration for Ogromny? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?

I’ve always loved monster movies like Godzilla and King Kong. Huge creatures stepping on cities. I had the idea in the back of my head for awhile but when I saw Severed Press had opened for submissions, I sat down and wrote it. I had to do a lot of research for it, like the distance from the coast of Russia to San Fran and how long a monster would take if it was really slow. Plus researching the areas it is set in like obstacles, etc.

Ogromny cover

What is your favorite part of being a writer?  Of the whole writing and publishing process?  What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?

I really enjoy being able to work without having pants on. I guess if I was a stripper or adult film star, or maybe a basketball player I could also work without pants on. In the thirty years I’ve been lucky enough to write and be published to varied success, the business has changed so much. Especially in the last few years. I love to write and promote and see if I can keep up with the young kids. I think I need to keep learning and listening to the writers coming up to make sure I don’t miss anything. I might be a slow learner but I get there eventually. And then something changes…

What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?

Read. Everything you can get your hands on. Not just in your favorite genre, either. Read other genres and pay attention to the characters, the plot threads, the beats to the story. How does it differ from the beats in the genre you write? I also love reading a lot of nonfiction. You can get some great plots and characters from them, and these are real people with real motivations and quirks.

What else can we expect from you in the near future?

Hopefully a lot more books. I have several novels, anthology releases and novellas coming out in the next year or so. I am always busy writing and promoting, and I’m blessed to be able to work with a great many different publishers as well as still dabble in self-publishing, too. I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket. I actually prefer my eggs scrambled with a few strips of bacon.

What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?

I am a huge baseball fan (go Red Sox!) and even in the offseason I’m constantly reading about rumors and player movement. I have always loved baseball, even though I grew up in NJ and root for the Bosox, to the chagrin of most of my family.

What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?

Controlled chaos? I have an office in the front of our house, so I can stare out the window and wait for the Amazon delivery guy each day. We order a lot of things. Over the years I’ve amassed quite the collection of items for my office from fans and family. Lots of zombie things. Marvel comics stuff. Several dozen Funko Pops. A ton of books, mostly signed by the authors. Promo material to send out to fans. Lots of coffee cups, too. People like giving me coffee cups.

What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?

The ability to travel so much each year, like driving up to Haverhill for the Merrimack Valley Book Festival to meet potential new fans, and then heading to New Jersey for a book signing in a Barnes & Noble the next day. We travel quite a bit each year up and down the East Coast doing signings. It’s great to be able to sample local eateries (we ignore the chains when possible) and see how other people live.

While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!

Silence drives me nuts. I need noise in the background when I write. I used to sit in a café and write each day and the background noise of the radio, customers and people in and out was relaxing. When I’m at home in my office I need music playing in the background, but it needs to be songs I’ve heard a million times so I don’t dwell on them. The worst things are when people talk to me while I’m working or a song I don’t know is on. Or I’m out of coffee.

Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re writing or editing a piece of work?

As you can tell from my author photo, I am in perfect shape… if you like round. I drink a lot of coffee each day. I mean… a lot. I’m also a big fan of chocolate, especially M&M’s. My desk and filing cabinet are always packed with junk food, and there is always a cup of coffee within easy reach.

Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy writing (and travel) schedule to answer our questions, Armand!

 

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Holiday Gift Giving -Speculative Fiction

Happy Holiday Shopping Guide! Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, the “bigger on the inside” bookstore at 65 James Street, is happy to present our 2019 recommendations of gifts for the winter holidays.

One of our specialties happens to be in the area of Speculative Fiction. That can include books classified as Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Urban Fantasy, even Paranormal and anything not in the realm of reality. Anything having to do with magic, unless it is considered non-fiction, is Speculative Fiction. So… That covers a lot of ground. And we have a lot of books, new and used, for your gift giving delight!

First of all, the trend in fiction now is for there to be many Female characters in major protagonist roles; Speculative Fiction follows those same trends. Two new books, The Throne of the Five Winds by S.C. Emmett, and The Women’s War by Jenna Glass have very strong women in power struggles against men in their kingdoms.

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The Riders of the Realm series by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez and Children of Blood and Bone and Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi  also include power struggles, but they add magic and magical beings to their cast of characters.

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Speaking of magic, it seems magical that we have many LOCAL authors that have written  books dealing with fairies (The Between by L.J. Cohen), mysterious edibles  (Midsummer Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca), growing things (The King of the Wood by J. Edwin Buja), myths and legends (Loki, by Mackenzie Lee), and short stories about frightening things (Growing Things by Paul Tremblay). They are all fantasies, some tainted with a bit of horror for good measure.

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If your gift recipient prefers stories about Outer Space and journeys to the Stars, there are also several new books that bring you to the far reaches of the Galaxy. They are: The Star Shepherd by Dan Haring and MarcyKate Connolly, The Sol Majestic by Ferrett Steinmetz, and Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz.

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Stan Lee and Kat Rosenfield collaborated on Stan’s last book which takes place in a Marvel Universe, created by Stan.  This book  is about two teenagers with extraordinary gifts who join together to try and right the wrongs of the world.  Kind of a superhero novel, but different.

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If you don’t see anything here that you think would satisfy your gift recipient, why not stick with one of the oldies but goodies? Oldies that have been reprinted as new books are very popular, such as: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by L. Frank Baum;  Something Wicked This Way Comes  by Ray Bradbury;  Billy and the Minpins by Roald Dahl; and Paddington Races Ahead by Michael Bond

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Don’t forget, though, if you don’t see the old book that you want in our new section, you can try looking through our many, many used Speculative Fiction books . If you count Paranormal Romance, we have over 10 bookcases devoted to it.

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We also have several boxes of Horror books for you to peruse through. Or, if you buy a gift certificate for someone, they can have the pleasure of digging through them.

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Stay Warm, and Stay Safe!

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Events Buzz Monday: Holiday Hustle and Bustle!

There’s only two weeks left in the decade, so the number of 2019 events we have to bring you here at our little bookstore that’s bigger on the inside is getting smaller.  But we are looking forward to continuing to bring you exciting products and events in 2020!

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We hope you have been enjoying the 2019 edition of our Holiday Gift-Giving blogs, written by Selina Lovett, our events and marketing coordinator.  There’s a whole universe of gift ideas just waiting for you here at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester.

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Holiday hours for the rest of the month are as follows:

Monday 12/16 through Saturday 12/21: 9am-9pm
Sunday 12/22: 9am-7pm * Monday 12/23: 9am to 9pm
Tuesday 12/24 [Christmas Eve]: 9am-5pm
Wednesday 12/25 [Christmas Day]: CLOSED
Thursday 12/26: 10am-8pm * Friday 12/27: 10am-9pm * Saturday 12/28: 10am-9pm
Sunday 12/29: 10am-5pm * Monday 12/30: 10am-9pm
Tuesday 12/31/2019 [New Year’s Eve]: 10am-9pm
Wednesday 1/1/2020 [New Year’s Day] 10am-6pm
Regular Hours Resume Thursday 1/2/2020

Don’t forget that we can mail your gift purchases to friends and loved ones! The last day for guaranteed postal holiday delivery via USPS Priority Mail for packages and USPS First Class Mail for gift certificates is Tuesday, December 17th.

Thank you so much for coming out this past Saturday to see sportswriter Christopher Daly, author of HUB HEROES, and for coming out this past Sunday to hear Harvard professor Deidre Lynch speak about Jane Austen and the comparison of her letter-writing to today’s social media.

Here’s our schedule for upcoming events for the remainder of December… As a reminder, the majority of our events here at ABSW are free and open to the public. Check out our page on SocialWeb.net


RECURRING EVENT: Monday, December 16 at 7PM – Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social! Bring a craft and enjoy an audiobook or audio drama with other crafty booklovers!

RECURRING EVENT: Tuesday, December 17 at 7PM – Game Night! Join us weekly on Tuesday nights starting at 7PM for card games, board games and more. Best score of the night wins a $10.00 gift certificate!

RECURRING EVENT: Monday, December 30 at 7PM – Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social! Bring a craft and enjoy an audiobook or audio drama with other crafty booklovers!

RECURRING EVENT: Tuesday, December 31 at 7PM – Game Night! Join us weekly on Tuesday nights starting at 7PM for card games, board games and more. Best score of the night wins a $10.00 gift certificate!

Exciting things are happening at our little bookstore that’s bigger on the inside… more opportunities to serve the Worcester community… more book talks, more author signings, and more workshops.  Keep an eye on the Events Calendar on our website for more details.

May your world be filled with wonderful words!

 

 

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Holiday Gift Giving – Art and Music Books

Happy Holiday Shopping Guide! Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, the “bigger on the inside” bookstore at 65 James Street, is happy to present our 2019 recommendations of gifts for the winter holidays.

One great idea for a holiday gift that won’t break the bank, and will really be appreciated by any art lover would be a coffee table type art book, or a regular art book, if one so desires.  We have many books related to art that will satisfy all tastes.

The first set of books I will talk about are not necessarily considered art, but nonetheless have  art  aspects to them. They are books on Mythology, Cartography and Photography.  Cartography is the art of mapping, creating maps of geographical places. This is a very precise and painstaking art. Photography, as everyone knows, captures an image of a moment in time, a thing of importance or desired, or something just plain interesting. This book on Mythology shows pictures of sculptures, etc. that are associated with Egyptian myths.

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We have books on many different types of classic art, from Oil Painting, to Stenciling, Sculpture and Watercolor. We also have many books on how one can create their own masterpieces using some of these materials.

Types of art

If you know a person is interested in a particular artist, such as Rembrandt, Gauguin, Bruegel, Rubens, Geddes, or more, we have many books on various artists from many time periods who are totally different – Impressionists, Abstract artists, Dutch Masters, Modern Artists, etc.

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If your gift recipient’s tastes lean toward Middle Earth, we have a fantastic collection of The Hobbit Chronicles Art Books. These are only $9.00 each! I did say these books won’t break the bank, didn’t I?

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As far as Music books go, we do have a number of new Music biographies, from Debbie Harry to the Julie Andrews and Elton John bios mentioned in the Non-fiction guide. Other bios include Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.  Music, as well as Art reflect the culture and the times, and we do have several music books that fill that category. Music of the Andes, and The New Groove, Gospel, Blues and Jazz show how the music evolved.  And we can’t forget the old standby, A Guide to Orchestral Music, for those classical music fans.

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So, as you can see, we have Music and Art books for all kinds of tastes. If you don’t know what they like, you can also buy them a Gift Certificate so they can choose what they want themselves!

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Author/Artist Spotlight – Duncan Eagleson

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Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Spotlight on Fantastic Fiction Artist and Author (or Author and Artist) Duncan Eagleson. Duncan, Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your artwork?

These days I’m primarily a writer and illustrator. Through much of my career, my primary focus was on art – I illustrated book covers, comics, movie posters, magazine articles, games —  you name it, I drew or painted pictures for it at some point.  I was always sort of a hobbyist writer, but it was only in the early 2000s that I started to get serious about that, and I published my first novel, Darkwalker, in 2013.

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Through much of the ’90s and early 2000s, I had moved away from illustration, and made my living as a maskmaker, creating hand sculpted leather masks.  Besides selling my masks at renfairs, craft shows, and online, I did custom work for clients like the Big Apple Circus, the WWE, director Wes Craven, and even the Smithsonian.  In 2016  I retired from maskmaking to focus on illustration and writing.  My mask website is still live, though now it’s just a gallery now.  http://maskmaker.com/

In the meantime, indie and self publishing had exploded.  Those books initially got a bad rep, but I found there were a lot of great writers out there publishing themselves or going with various small presses.  Though the content was improving quickly, the quality of their covers lagged behind, so in 2015 my partner Moira Ashleigh and I founded Corvid Design to provide small and self publishers with professional looking covers that would also be affordable.  http://corviddesign.com/

In 2017 I was hired to illustrate and art direct Evil Overlord Games’ online urban fantasy / horror game, Susurrus: Season of Tides. https://live.susurrusgame.com/  That was a blast.  Right now, I’m illustrating and co-writing a children’s book, while also continuing to design and illustrate book covers.

Where can people can find your work (Besides Annie’s BSOW –though they should totally check here first!)

My own website is duncaneagleson.com., and I’ve got  portfolios on Art Station https://www.artstation.com/duncaneagleson, Behance https://www.behance.net/duncan2085, and Deviant Art https://www.deviantart.com/duncan-eagleson. I’m also on Instagram and Pinterest.

Both my books, Fire Aloft https://www.amazon.com/Fire-Aloft-Aero-Pyrates-Rev-DiCerto/dp/1948929228, written with Rev DiCerto, and Darkwalker https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1939056047, a solo novel, are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  and other retailers.  We’ve also got a website for The Age of Invention https://theageofinvention.com/, the series of which Fire Aloft is the first.

I also have author pages on Amazon and Bookbub.

How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?

I’m on facebook and twitter, and my own website has a blog section.  On the Age of Invention site, If you sign up on our mailing list, you can get free stories and other content, including art I’ve done for the series.

For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you do?  What can readers expect from you next (Latest cover, book, comic, movie, etc?) or what is the last thing you worked on?

I tell stories with words and pictures.  Sometimes that means I’m illustrating a book, sometimes writing a novel, sometimes working on comics or games, and occasionally I’m contributing art or design to a movie.  I’ve worked for clients as diverse as Tor Books, DC Comics, New Line Cinema, the WWE, and the Smithsonian.

My second book has just been published (Fire Aloft, a steampunk novel co-written with Rev Dicerto, for which I painted the cover), and I’ve got two more on the way, a sequel to Fire Aloft, and another solo book.  My most recent artworks have been a cover for the audio version of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, and covers for a series of vampire mysteries by A.E. Howe.

I’m also in the process of illustrating a children’s book about the winter solstice, written in collaboration with Moira Ashleigh, called Stag of Darkness, Stag of Light.  That story began as one of several live storytelling presentations which we performed several times at various solstice celebrations, and we’re now adapting it for print, and hoping to fund the publication through Kickstarter.

What kind of research went into your last project?  What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the final product, but you loved discovering?

I’m a real fiend for research, whether it’s visual research for a painting or factual research for a book.  Even when a story or a picture is total fantasy, it needs to be grounded in reality if it’s going to be convincing to a reader or viewer.

It was tremendous fun researching steam engines and airships for Fire Aloft and its sequel.  Of course, steam powered airships are not actually practical, so we had to fudge some things.  When we discovered that heating hydrogen increases the lift, we decided to make our Big Lie in the book that having a second boiler to heat the gas would give the ship enough lift that it could be armed and armored.

It wasn’t until after the book came out that I discovered there was a feature documentary on the Graf Zeppelin’s flight around the world.  Today’s airships are very unlike the ships of the period, and though we dove deep in our research, no matter how much you read and look at still pictures and diagrams, seeing films of an actual  early airship in operation is a whole different thing.   I was gratified to discover that we’d done a pretty good job, and got most things right, and the things we got wrong were pretty minor.

I did have one good laugh at myself while watching that movie.  They showed scenes on the bridge of the ship during flight, and I’m looking at these scenes, studying the controls, and wondering “Where are the Johnson bars?”  Then I remembered there wouldn’t be any – Johnson bars are a control device we borrowed from steam locomotives, and imported into our fictional steam powered airships.  So, of course, there wouldn’t be any on the Graf, as it was diesel powered.

What was the inspiration for Stag of Darkness, Stag of Light? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished piece of work?

As I said, Stag of Darkness, Stag of Light began as a performance piece, but we haven’t presented it for several years now.  Recently, a friend of ours who has since had kids, was complaining they couldn’t find children’s books about the Yule or the Winter Solstice, and asked if we’d ever considered putting our solstice stories out as childrens’ books.  We hadn’t – but we thought that was a great idea.

Because it was a spoken piece, we had to revise it considerably for print.  And because it would now be a picture book, we had to begin visualizing the characters more specifically.  When we started talking about that and exploring looks for the book, we found that while we were totally in agreement with who the characters were, how they behaved,  but we had somewhat different ideas about how they should look.  So there was some discussion and negotiation around that.  That was both challenging and wonderful, because that’s how collaboration works, when it works well – the negotiation leads to something better than either of you could have come up with on your own.

We made mood boards, and I gathered reference.  Moira felt strongly that it shouldn’t be too photo real,  and that meshed nicely with my ambition to start working in a somewhat looser, more painterly style.  Instead of finding models and doing a photo shoot,  I set up some of the scenes in a 3D program, and exported images to serve as specific reference. I intentionally made the output low res, so while they showed how shadows fell and how light affected the forms, I couldn’t get caught up in fine photographic details so much.

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What was the biggest challenge putting out Stag of Darkness, Stag of Light?  How did you overcome that challenge?

The live presentations had involved the two of us narrating, and there was a lot of crosstalk and “disagreements” between the narrators, as well as some fourth wall breakage that happened, which was where a lot of the humor lived.  Translating that into a text story while also preserving those aspects has proven to be quite a challenge.  Do we just figure out how to work that into the prose?  Do we create a framing device, and go the Princess Bride route of interrupting the story with passages that return to the narrators?  Since it’s a picture book, that would mean sacrificing a story page to a narrator’s page, and we were trying to keep the page count to 32.

Our solution arose from my work in comics.  On certain pages, the narrators will appear in a panel, similar to a comics panel, that’s set into the larger full page illustration.  At one point, we actually considered using comics style word balloons for those insets, but decided that straight text that matched the text of the story would carry the continuity better.

What was your least favorite piece of work and why? Your favorite? Why?

My least favorite?  Wow, that’s a hard one.  Most of the time, I really love what I do.  I suppose my least favorite dates back to very early in my career, when I did a painting for the  Defense Department, to be used in presentations about a new anti tank weapon.  It involved getting a security clearance, and was seriously over art-directed.  I was also not real thrilled about working for the military-industrial complex, but it paid well, and at the time, I needed the money.

Favorite project?  That’s also a hard call, there are so many.  When it comes to art, much as I love illustrating book covers, I get the most satisfaction out of more extended projects, whether it’s a whole series of covers, or an illustrated book, or a comic –  any project where it’s a deep dive into creating a visual world and characters.  I loved working with Neil Gaiman on Sandman, on Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour, and on creating and art directing environments and characters for the game Susurrus: Season of Tides. Stag of Darkness, Stag of light is a similar extended project.   Doing this recent series of covers for Howe’s Baron Blasko vampire series was also similar –  it was a re-brand, so I got to work on them one after another, as I had with a series of nine books by science fiction author Richard Levesque last year.

So I’d say my favorite project isn’t any particular one,  but it’s a type of project – an extended one where where I can really dig in to the story and characters, whether I’m bringing a visual manifestation to someone else’s story, or writing something of my own, or in collaboration.

How important has the New England setting been to your work?

Depends on the work, I think.  I was born in California, but raised mostly in New England, so New England has probably put its stamp on my work in ways I’m not consciously aware of.  But I’ve also traveled all over the country, lived in New York City for years, in upstate New York, Ohio, Arizona, and those places all exerted their influence on me. Both of my published novels take place in the southwest,  and several of my works have been set in New York City.

Mostly, I think New England expresses itself in my work through sensibilities, rather than direct references.

What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?

Joseph Campbell once claimed that the best predictor of a career in the arts is the number of different types of jobs a person does in their early life.  That was nice to hear, because before I settled on a career in freelance illustration, I worked a wide variety of jobs.  I’ve been a ditch digger and a screen printer, worked in wholesale and retail clothing,  sold musical instruments (I sold the first commercially available synthesizer), worked in advertising and printing, I’ve run office equipment trade shows, read slush for big publishers, I worked as a private detective, astrologer and card reader, bank teller, actor and stage combat choreographer.

Although that wasn’t intentional at the time, in retrospect, I think having worked in so many different fields really benefited me as an artist and writer.  The range of my experiences has made me comfortable in a variety of contexts and situations, and given me first hand knowledge in all sorts of areas.

What has been your favorite adventure during your career?

My favorite adventure is traveling.  There are few things that expand the mind like traveling to a place  that’s totally and completely unlike your everyday experience.

Back in the ‘90s, I crossed the country in a van a couple of times. My first time driving in the desert at night was a truly bizarre experience.  Although I was born in California, I’d lived most of my life in the northeast. So I’m driving along this long straight road, headlights making a cone of light in front of me, surrounded otherwise by the blackness of the desert night. And in my peripheral vision, I could swear there are trees crowded up to the side of the road, looming over me.  If I turn my head to look, they’re not there – all there is is the flat desert, stretching out for miles around.  Yet even though I know there are no trees there, when I look back at the road, I can still see them in my peripheral vision.

My brain, I realized, was manufacturing those trees because that was what I had always previously experienced when driving at night –  except near the ocean, there’s no distant horizon in the northeast, just trees and houses and buildings on either side of the road.

The nonexistent trees went away after a few hours, but it was a visceral reminder of how faulty our perceptions can be. It’s the same principle as when we connect a series of dots to form a picture –  in the absence of definitive evidence, our brains tend to fill in the blanks with what we expect to see.

While you’re working, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!

These days, it’s mostly silence.  I used to listen to music a lot, but when I began painting digitally, that was a steep learning curve, and I found it hard to concentrate on learning the programs and techniques while also listening to music.  So I got in the habit of painting in total silence.  It’s only now, after years of working digitally that the process has become so intuitive that I can afford to play music again. It doesn’t happen that often – like most people, I tend to be a creature of habit, and I haven’t rebuilt that music habit yet – my default approach is to work in silence.  But I’m shifting that now.

I’ve also found that when writing, I can’t listen to vocal music, it has to be purely instrumental.  I guess hearing lyrics must engage the language center of my brain too much, and it doesn’t do well taking in language while also trying to put it out.  Interestingly, my sometime writing partner, Rev, doesn’t have that problem.  He’s also a musician, and for him, a vocal line becomes just another part of the soundscape when he’s writing.  Me, I can’t divorce myself from the fact that the words are words, so for me, it has to be instrumental music or silence.

Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re creating a piece of work?

Coffee.  Definitely coffee.  When I’m writing, I’ll occasionally sip some single malt scotch, or when I’m painting, I might indulge in a little cannabis (fortunately legal where I live now).  But I learned early on not to over-indulge in either of those things, because then the work goes to shit, and the next day, you look at what you did and you’re like, “WTF was I thinking?”  Used judiciously, substances that alter your consciousness can be great for inspiration, but they’re generally not helpful when it comes to execution.

What draws you to the particular genre or style that you create? What do you think draws readers to these works?

I create across several genres, and I think what draws me, and readers, may be slightly different for different genres.  Author David Farland has suggested that each genre has its own predominant emotion that it evokes, and that emotional experience is what readers or viewers are seeking.  Horror evokes fear, fantasy wonder, and so forth.  I agree with Farland that those essential elements may be what initially draw us to a genre, but I also think if we don’t end up finding much more in them, we’re not gonna hang around all that long.

In the hands of intentional, skilled creators, every genre potentially has the depth and vision of any other – including the so-called high art genres. Those initial emotional tones may be what draws us in, but ultimately what we stay for is the characters, their relationships, their highs and lows, their reflection of, and on, our own human experience.

 

Duncan, thanks so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to be with us today.

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Holiday Gift Giving – Literary Fiction

Happy Holiday Shopping Guide! Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, the “bigger on the inside” bookstore at 65 James Street, is happy to present our 2018 recommendations of gifts for the winter holidays.

There are many new books coming out these days that belong in the Literary Fiction category. They are usually novels dealing with real life situations and emotions. Many of the new books are either hardcover or trade paperbacks rather than the mass market paperbacks.

Some of these books can be about soul searching, or lost souls. The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld,  Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams, and Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson all have a sense of people trying to figure out who they really are and who they want to be.

Butterfly

There are many new books about the roles of Women, and three novels we have deal with the roles of Women during wartime. The Poppy Wife by Caroline Scott deals with a woman during World War I. The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff and The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Layton are about women in the midst of World War II, and focuses on the roles each of these women played. The Last Train was based on a real woman who saved many children from the Nazis.

WW2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family drama and conflict is always a good topic for a great literary novel, and The Dutch House by Ann Patchett has just that. So does Bowlaway, by Elizabeth McCracken.  The House of Brides by Jane Cockran has family intrigue, as well as a suspenseful mystery.  And speaking of mystery, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a murder mystery, but it is also a coming of age story.

Brides

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family issues can also be loving and fun (or funny), and  Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson fits that bill perfectly. The last new book I will share with you is Olive, Again by New York Times Bestselling Author Elizabeth Strout.  Olive, Again Continues the life of Olive Kitteridge, who touches many family members as well as anyone around her.

Nothing to see

Just as a reminder, we do also have many more pre-read books in our Literary Fiction section.  You can find authors from Austen to Woolf on our shelves. Here’s just a small example.

Scarlett letter

As you can see, Literary fiction is a also a great gift idea for people who enjoy reading classic novels as well.

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