Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Fabulous Jan Kozlowski Reads at the Spookiest Little Bookstore in New England

(Jan Kozlowski, photo courtesy of Books and Boos)
You couldn't meet a nicer or more engaging author than the brilliant Jan Kozlowski.  And you couldn't experience a cooler Indie bookstore than the little shop among the tall pines, Books and Boos. Creative force-of-nature recently teamed with one-of-a-kind literary venue and treated a lucky audience to an unforgettable afternoon where books were celebrated, and the chill factor skyrocketed!

"Jan is so wonderfully down to earth and able to make friends with anyone. We had a lot of people stop in for her reading simply because they like her so much," says Stacey Longo, one half of the husband-and-wife team behind Books and Boos, and a talented scribe I've had the pleasure of appearing in print with on numerous occassions, most recently in the outstanding Anthology: Year One. "The night before the reading, Jan contacted us, as she thought reading from her new novel Die,You Bastard! Die might be inappropriate the day after the Newtown shootings. She was able to find another piece to read instead, and we collected donations that day for Sandy Hook. It was nice to feel like we were able to do something for the victims' families and survivors in our own state. It was an awesome afternoon -- we had food on hand, and a group of us just hung out, visiting and laughing and telling tales."

Jan shared a selection from her appearance in Hungry For Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance (St. Martin's Press, edited by Lori Perkins).  "I was really conflicted about what to read. Die, You Bastard!  Die! is dripping in human evil almost from Page 1, so I opted to go with my story "First Love Never Dies" from Hungry For Your Love. Most of the people in the audience had never heard it, including my husband's granddaughter, so I think it ended up working out for the best...or at least the best we could do on such a sad, sad day. We did end up raising about $80 for the Newtown Parents Connection, though, and I think it helped all of us to be among friends."

The fabulous Ms. Kozlowski, who I first met at 2012's Camp NECon, has been writing for as long as she can remember.

"My first memory is being about three and writing my grandmother a 'prescription' because she wasn't feeling well. It's interesting that I ended up working in both the medical and writing fields; sometimes I guess we're just wired for certain vocations," she says.  "Growing up I scored my first paycheck writing articles about raising tropical fish for my local newspaper at about the age of eleven and edited a nationally distributed newsletter, also about tropical fish, throughout my early teens. The writing took a back seat when I got my first 'real' job at Friendly's at sixteen and, other than working at the college radio station and writing and editing the ambulance company newsletter, I didn't do much more writing until I met my husband and he encouraged me to get serious about writing professionally.  So I opened up my own freelance writing shop, with sidelines in editing and research, around 1997. My clients have included: Poisoned Pen Press, The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, The Senior Network, ConnLife, Strong Books, AOL, Hips & Curves, and Remilon."

Jan's short fiction also appears in the Ravenous Romance anthology Fang Bangers: an Erotic Anthology of Fangs, Claws, Sex, and Love, NECon e-books' Best of 2011 Flash Fiction, and Weird Noir (Fox Spirit Books) among others.  A nonfiction exercise of hers is featured in the Tarcher/Penguin handbook Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.
(photo courtesy of Books and Boos)

"Reading at Books and Boos was outstanding! Jason and Stacey are wonderful hosts, and being members of New England Horror Writers, as well as writers themselves, they know how to make their authors and customers comfortable and happy. They provided not only a wonderful space, but a warm and inviting atmosphere, complete with a yummy spread of snacks and enough books and novelties to keep everyone interested."

Jason is author Jason Harris, Stacey's husband and co-creator of the Books and Boos experience.

"We were so lucky to find that spot. As soon as we saw the space, it felt right," says Jason who, in addition to his feature work for three Connecticut newspapers, also writes reviews for DVD Snapshot. "We spent a few weeks painting, doing trim work, setting up bookcases, and rearranging -- we still rearrange every week, trying to get it just right. In one room, we painted quotes from different writers around the top. We were hoping to do it in every room, but it wound up taking so long for me to do just one, now we're thinking about contacting the local high school to see if any of their art students want to finish that project up."

"For me, owning a bookstore always seemed like the ideal job," adds Stacey. "To be surrounded by the thing I'm most passionate about -- books -- sounded like heaven. It was the job I dreamed about while doing my regular day job. When we finally decided to get off our butts and pursue the dream, it was fortunate that we were so involved with the NEHW and the horror community. We knew we wanted to give shelf space to books that don't normally garner that kind of attention at places like Barnes & Noble. We were able to contact writers through the NEHW to let them know their book would have a home on our shelves, if they were interested. Being writers ourselves, we know how hard it is to get small press books into peoples' hands. We also got the word out to local artists that we had room for them, too. We now have paintings and professional photographs on our walls, etched bookmarks, hand-crafted cribbage boards, crocheted Cthulhus, hand-sewn blood stain pillows, and sculptures crafted from recycled flatware in the shop."

(photo courtesy of Books and Boos)
Books and Boos opened its doors on Tuesday, November 20, 2012, and in its short existence the shop at 514 Westchester Road in Colchester, Connecticut is already flexing its limbs.

"It seems like every day we need more shelves and bookcases," says Stacey. "We have a short-term plan to rearrange -- yet again -- to fit more books as needed. Of course, we'd love to get bigger, but that depends on how successful we are!"

"I would like to get authors of all genres into the store. If any author or speaker wants to do a reading, I welcome a call or email to talk about it," says Jason.  "I would like to have all kinds of presentations and talks. At the moment, I'm working on getting a person in who takes ghostly photographs, a woodcarving group, and a gentlemen who makes pens."

And, of course, an encore visit by the delightful Jan Koslowski is an event worthy of  marking up calendars!  Boos and Books can be contacted at: (860)861-6214.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Have a Secret

(In the Gertrude Stein Salon.  Photo Credit: Julie Foster Hedlund)
Actually, I have two.  But due to signed NDA agreements, at this point I'm unable to discuss the television series production team I've joined as a writer, or the national book award I'm judging.  I will, however, in due time.

Ever since I was a young boy lifting up the other telephone in my grandmother Lovey's house and listening in on adult conversations, I've had this thing for secrets. I write about them constantly -- family secrets, secrets that terrify, secrets that inspire.  In recent years, I've attempted to make my life that cliched 'open book' and often remark that if you're not interested, stop reading and move on to other peoples' stories. Still, I find it difficult to resist the attraction of secrets and mysteries.  More than twenty years after its broadcast on network TV and the big screen treatment that followed, I'm fascinated by, fixated on David Lynch's surreal glimpse through the curtains of a seemingly sane and simple American town called Twin Peaks.  There, the secrets were ominous, deadly.  And oh such fun.

So here's the latest news from my world regarding the things I can discuss.  In the past month, I was cursed with a crippling knot in my neck and one of those zombie colds popular at this time of the year. But the blessings far outweighed nagging ailments -- the world did not end on the Twenty-First of December (not that I thought it would), though after a fashion it transformed, as on that very afternoon, we learned that our offer on the new-old house we sought to buy was accepted.  A beautiful lady, we knew instantly that Xanadu was the home for us.  There, I plan to continue the prosperity I've enjoyed here in our present home, but in my new and, hopefully, final Writing Room.  One of my 2013 goals is to pen the writing manual that has haunted me for a few years now, If You Can't Eat It, You Don't Need It: A Starving Writer's Guide to Survival, a subject I'm something of an authority on.  My new home office is stunning, with wide antique pine floors reminiscent of the knotty pine walls of the enchanted cottage where I grew up.

(Welcome to Twin Peaks -- from my articles file)
In 2012, I traveled to three writing conferences, four writing retreats, and gave two readings -- one in New York City.  The total time I spent on the road enjoying these adventures tallied to almost three full months -- an entire season!  My most recent found me back at the wonderful When Words Count writer's retreat center, where it snowed daily and where I wrote some 10,000 words over the course of my four days, including the concluding pages of my novella "The Arsonist," a project I am most proud of.  While camped out in the luxurious Gertrude Stein Salon at WWC, I added up my 2012 word totals: 377,000 between fifty-two completed projects -- three novels, five novellas, the rest stories short and long.

While 2012 was a year of travel and adventure, I look forward to 2013 being one where I snuggle down in our cozy new-old home to write and complete even more of my stories, old and new alike, though the possibility of travel exists via the incredible promise contained within the TV series.  And the awards ceremony, held in New York City.  But again, I can't talk about those luminous and exciting facets in my writing career's orbit just yet -- they're still secrets.