The Reader’s Best of Chicago 2016 – RUNNER UP!



So the Chicago Reader has an annual issue where Chicagoans all over can vote (free!) on The Best of Chicago in categories like food, entertainment, sports, and more. It’s an awesome way to bring attention to the awesome things about Chicago, as proclaimed by Windy City citizens themselves.

Apparently, my novel On The Isle of Sound and Wonder was voted the runner up for Best New Novel by a Chicagoan.



First of all – WHAT.

Second of all – EXCUSE ME.

Third of all – I literally would not have known that this happened except my lovely friend Ami posted it on my wall. THANK YOU for the alert, Ami!




I am amazed and really excited about this. Thank you, mysterious benefactors voters. My love for you is ETERNAL.

Thank you!


How I Met My Publisher (And Other Writer Questions Answered)

Upon learning that I am a Published Author, fellow writerly types often ask How I Got Published. I’m happy to answer, and to save on even more time, I thought I’d trot this out as a link that can be referenced anytime the story is prompted.

“How did you get published?”

In 2012, I was up to my waist in short stories, ideas for short stories, and the never ending hunt for places to submit them. Twitter was my happy hunting ground, finding contest after contest, anthology after anthology, and calls for submissions left and right. I would bookmark things diligently, schedule things out for myself so I had deadlines and opportunities scrawled all across my calendar. Amid the small lake of rejection emails (or lack of communication altogether) I finally got a positive response – Xchyler Publishing’s steampunk-classic literature anthology wanted my short story!

“Lavenza, or The Modern Galatea” was published in Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology in April 2013. I was thrilled to finally have gotten something I wrote into a real live book that people could order and buy and read with their hands and faces. It was thrilling. A few weeks after the release of Mechanized Masterpieces, I got an email from the editors at Xchyler (whom we lovingly refer to as The X) – they had liked my work, and liked working with me. Did I have anything else ready to publish? A novel, perhaps?

Well, the truth is, I had three novel drafts that could potentially be worked on and prepared for publication, but of the three, there was one that stood out to me as being “more ready.” On the Isle of Sound and Wonder was a fantasy, kinda steampunk retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest that I had written only a few months before, as my National Novel Writing Month project in November. It was poised to be reworked into something cohesive and really fun. So I sent them a note back and pitched them a synopsis and an outline of OISW. They liked it – a lot – and the next thing I knew I had been sent a contract and off we went.

Of course, I had a good friend who worked professionally as an editor/contract person for a big house educational publisher look over my contract with me and make sure I wasn’t about to get taken for a ride. She assured me it looked like I was in good hands, and so I signed it and the game was on.

Hours and hours and weeks and months of work and editing and revising later, OISW came into the world, and I unlocked the achievement of Novelist. Like any debut novelist ought to be, I was/am aware that my book has flaws, but it will always be special because it is my first.

Now the secondary question that inevitably follows:

“What are you writing now?”

Or perhaps worse:

“When does the sequel come out?”

Or even:

“When can I buy the audiobook?”


The answers currently are as follows:

  1. Yes. Several things. Slowly… Verrrrrrrrryyyyyy ssssslllllloooowwwwwlllllyyyy.
  2. Never. OISW is a stand alone. I may revisit the world or feature some characters in short stories. But no sequel.
  3. Uh. I love doing audiobooks – and I love listening to them. I would love to have someone amazing do this audiobook. I would likewise love to do it myself. I don’t know which I’d love more. But also, I have zero time to dedicate towards recording and producing it, and I have zero money to spare towards hiring someone else to do so. So, as of right now, never. Or at least no time soon.

Other queries of the burningly curious public include:

“Do you have an agent?”

Nope. I would LOVE one. As soon as I have another manuscript ready to shop, I will be querying for an agent. But I’m 100% open to suggestions and introductions between now and then.

“Can you get me published, too?”

Nope. That would be awesome if I could. But I don’t have a publishing company, nor do I hold any real sway in The X – except for whether or not confetti cannons will be used at our next convention booth.

“Will you read this thing I wrote and provide detailed feedback?”

Mmmmmm. Again with the not-enough-time thing. I will usually politely tell you I am unable to read it because of time constraints and scheduling. Sometimes I will make an exception because I Really Really Really Want To Read That Thing You Wrote. But I’m not an editor, and I’ve never been a terribly structured Critique Partner… I’m probably not your best bet.

“Why isn’t your book in stock at Barnes & Noble?”

If you ask a bookseller to order it for you, they can and will. It will probably make them happy that you are asking for help with something, if you are super nice, and it will make me happy because you’re shopping in a real book store. Better yet, go to your favorite indie bookstore and ask them to order it. Most bookstores will not have it in stock automatically because our press is so small that we don’t have mass produced stuff yet. But you can always ask, and they can always try to order it for you. Otherwise, you can go to my Published Works page, and click on the book to buy it from Amazon. I get extra bonus money when you order it through clicking on my site! Amazing!

“Your first short story is based on Frankenstein. Your novel is based on The Tempest. Will you be adapting other classic literature for modern readers?”

Currently I have no plans to adapt anything else… but the lure is always there. I am really hoping to do something “completely original” soon. There are just so many options!


I am fully aware that my path to publishing is not the same as everyone else’s paths. And vice versa. Everyone seems to do things differently, and that’s okay. I’m happy to answer any other questions you might have, to the best of my ability. The other thing to remember is that just because I got published doesn’t mean I’m ‘done’ or I’ve ‘made it.’ I have so much further to go, and so much work to do! Also I just read Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy and now I’m a hollow shell of a human being that thought she was a writer…He’s too brilliant. I’ll never live up to that. 

At any rate, that’s pretty much it. And there’s a long way yet to go. 🙂

Slice of Pie: M.K. Wiseman’s spicy-savory Bookminder is going to be delicious!

Behold! Another pie has appeared!

~A Slice of Pie!~

A tasty sample of something fresh cooked up by an artist of my choosing.


Who are you?

M. K. Wiseman, author. I can be found at!

M K Wiseman - promo photo



What’s your thing right now? That thing. You know. That thing over there. What is that?

That would be my debut novel, a YA historical fantasy entitled The Bookminder.



What do you love about this thing?

It’s my first novel so there’s a lot to be excited about. The project has been near and dear my heart for just over ten years now. Like most authors, I am an avid reader, and this book just ‘fits’ neatly into that ‘what I like to read’ corner . . .

What do you hate about this thing?

. . . which is terribly intimidating. Because I fear saying such things in case people think I’m off my rocker. I mean, who am I to add a book, an honest to goodness book, to the mix. The authors whom I love are rockstars! So I hate putting myself out there. (Which is only partially the fault of the book, I suppose.)

When/how/where can people read the thing?

ARC’s for The Bookminder are out now. The novel will officially release January 9, 2016 and will be available for purchase through Amazon and Barnes&Noble. (Or via special events as they are scheduled . . . At present I have planned Goodreads giveaways.) Also, we are looking to get Bookminder into libraries.

What thing would you do if you had all the money and time in the world right now?

All the time and the money? Whew . . . Okay, bear with me on this because I actually have an answer that comes to mind immediately but it’s kinda like the “you get three wishes” workaround that people try with a genie. e.g. Probably not what this question is asking.

I would work at completely eliminating world hunger and make sure that everyone has access to clean water. We are talking all the time and money, right? But that would be what I want to do with that. If I had that kind of power and means. (Note: this is not to say I’ll just sit on my thumbs in the meantime . . .)

What’s your new favorite thing that someone else has done/made?

CloudRise. A quasi-steampunk animated short that I stumbled upon earlier this year and promised I would share the heck outta because it is just gorgeous. Click to watch!


Possibly the most important question… If your thing was a pie, what kind of pie would it be?

140g | 2/3 cup dark brown sugar

90g | 1/2 cup sultanas

90g | 1/2 cup raisins

90g | 1/2 cup currants

75g | 1/2 dried cranberries

75g | 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

2 large cooking apples, chopped into small cubes

60g | 2 oz unsalted butter, cubed

60g | 2 oz whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped

Zest and juice of 2 oranges

Zest and juice of a lemon

2 star anise

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

2 tbsp brandy (or dark rum)

2 tbsp cherry brandy


Put all the ingredients apart from the brandy into a large bowl and mix together thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a large plate and leave overnight.

Preheat the oven to 110C  | 225F. Spread the mincemeat onto a large baking tray, cover loosely with foil and cook for about 3 hours. Cool completely. The butter, which will have melted in the oven, will solidify again and make the mincemeat look a little gross… this is how it should be! Put into a large sterilised jar (or two smaller ones). Pour in the brandy. Seal and keep in a cool dry place (no need to refrigerate). If, after a few days, the mincemeat is looking a bit dry add a bit more brandy.

Brandy butter *Optional but does taste delicious smeared over a warm mince pie!

85g | 3oz unsalted butter at room temperature

85g | 3 oz icing sugar

2-3 tbsp brandy

zest of half an orange



Beat the butter and sugar together by hand using a wooden spoon (or use a mixer). Mix the zest and brandy in. Keep in the fridge for up to a week or pipe into little star shapes and keep in the freezer until you are ready to use.

When ready to use, thaw and bake in your favorite pie crust.

Vegetarian mincemeat filling recipe found through

(Note: Now, there’s a reason—other than sheer cheek—for my having shared my answer in this way. Amongst the ingredients list is an item that inspired the name of one of Bookminder’s main characters.)

*            *            *

M.K. Wiseman is a fellow author whom I met through Xchyler Publishing. Her short story “The Clockwork Ballet” (based on Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera) appeared in Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology alongside my own short story “Lavenza, or the Modern Galatea.” She and I are both regular attendees of Teslacon in Madison, WI, and were the first two Xchyler Publishing authors to be located in the Midwest region. She’s a right smashing lady and owns a jackalope puppet! The more you know!



Slice of Pie: Danielle E. Shipley’s Wild and Sweet Fairy Tale Journey

For my next trick, I’ll pull a Danielle out of a hat! Or a Danielle-flavored piece of pie. Or a pie. Pie from a hat?

~A Slice of Pie!~

A tasty sample of something fresh cooked up by an artist of my choosing.


Who are you?

The jury’s still out on that. Our best guess involves aliens and cybernetics, elemental magic and England, an alternate reality or two, and a few dozen people clamoring for control of a single mind. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll go with the name I use when trying to pass for human. Call me Danielle E. Shipley, wordsmith.


Danielle E. Shipley

What’s your thing right now? That thing. You know. That thing over there. What is that?

Ah, this. I was just admiring the newly revealed cover of my next publication. I’ve been cranking out this series of fairytale mash-up novellas since mid-2013, and it’s all scheduled to come to a close this October with “The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales)”.


What do you love about this thing?

Well, for one thing, we’re talking about my book baby. That means I’m going to love it on principle, for it is the work of my hands – of my head – of my heart. Beyond that, the book belongs, in large part, to a minstrel. And a minstrel tale means music wafting through every page. Such stories as these delight me.

What do you hate about this thing?

It’s sad, dang it. And I mean, part of me likes sad. “Sad is happy for deep people,” I’ve heard it said. But good pain is pain nonetheless, and I’m not quite so far gone ‘round the bend that pain is my favorite. It’s also aggravating that I’ve still got several weeks to go before I can share my beautiful agony with the public!

When/how/where can people read the thing?

The official launch date is October 13th, 2015, though chances are people will be able to get their orders in at least a few days early. It will be available in both paperback (via Amazon and CreateSpace) and e-book (Kindle and Nook). And there’s going to be a multi-day online extravaganza party for the book’s release and the series’ farewell, to which absolutely everyone with a Facebook account is invited.

What thing would you do if you had all the money and time in the world right now?

I’m going to Disney World! I’m going to Broadway! I’m sailing the seas on my own pirate ship! I’m building a castle in Sherwood Forest, complete with a private library full of all-ll-ll the books! And I had better save that stop for last, since I’m probably never stepping foot outside that door again. Unless a wizard drops by with an invitation to adventure. Then I might. (Which reminds me, I also need to visit Hobbiton, New Zealand…)

What’s your new favorite thing that someone else has done/made?

My current aural obsession is the soundtrack from Dreamworks’ “The Road to El Dorado”. I’ve been playing the songs into the ground for months, and I’ve yet to get sick of it. So, congrats, Sir Elton John!

ALSO! One Megan Ann Jacobs (we were once Town Criers together at the Bristol Renaissance Faire) has written, directed, and is soon to present an original play! To quote the info on the invite I received:
Alone in a New York apartment, the god of comedy is melancholy, and he wants everyone to know it.

Though bound to find a new person to inspire and complete an unfinished story, Sebastian, the last remaining Greek Muse, mourns the passing of his latest instrument and friend, amusing himself by successfully spooking, pranking, and sabotaging every opportunity for a potential replacement.

Until Nikki.

Driven by her own personal demons, Nikki stubbornly battles with Sebastian for mastery of the apartment. Though fully engulfed in their feud, things get all the more complicated when the two are plagued by an over-involved landlord, a well-intentioned fiancé, and a dramatic Sebastian-orchestrated duel between the two that results in good old-fashioned police intervention. “aMUSEd” captures and explores our tendency to honor the dead by refusing to live, and leads us, through the ancient art of comedy, to live with the past and move forward.

I had the privilege of reading an early draft of the play, which was a delight  – doubly delightful, in fact, because Megan tells me the first spark of inspiration for “aMUSEd” was my very own novel (serendipitously titled “Inspired”). The play’s scheduled to show at Brumder Mansion in Milwaukee, September 25th – October 17th. You can bet I plan to be there!

Possibly the most important question… If your thing was a pie, what kind of pie would it be?

It can only be blueberry. Plenty of tartness amidst the sweet. The deep, dark blue of the sky in the night. And bleeding its juices all over the place, much like the mess it made of my heart.


YE OLDE REN FAIRE PHOTOBOMB (of Danielle, by me)

Danielle is one of the most pleasantly off-beat people I’ve ever met – and we met at the ren faire, so that says a lot. Her tales are fun and lavish and her words are always chosen with mischief, love, and delight. She plays the lute because she’s a hardcore bard, and she rocks out new fairy tales like it’s her job. Which it is. Check her out at Ever On Word and her Facebook author page for more sweet stuff!

Slice of Pie: Nathan Thompson’s Gothic-Steampunk Orphan Tale

One of the things I love about being a creative type is meeting other wild and crazy folks who make cool stuff too! I am proud to have an eclectic plethora of strange and wonderful humans in my life, and so to help them keep making the art they’re making, I thought I’d offer up a new flavor on the blog. Presenting….

~A Slice of Pie!~

A tasty sample of something fresh cooked up by an artist of my choosing.


For our inaugural Pie-tasting, we welcome Chicago actor/author/producer/oddball Nathan Thompson. Nathan and I met while acting in a production of Anton Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard” in 2012, but it wasn’t until our second show together (a British Panto called “Bah Humbug”) that we really started to talk shop about sci-fi, spec fic, and our writing projects. Since then, Nathan’s been an indispensable advisor on many topics, and we’ve worked on a lot of different projects together. I’m super pleased with his current work, which I’ve asked him to talk about.

Who are you?

“I am Nathan Thompson.”

What’s your thing right now? That thing. You know. That thing over there. What is that?

“That’s The Macabre Tale of Edmund Moulde. It’s a serial web-story that follows odd life of Edmund Moulde, an orphan who is adopted by the stern and mysterious Matron Moulde of Moulde Hall. He then has to deal with his new relatives who don’t like that Matron suddenly has a legitimate heir to her fortune.”

Edmund never thought he would be adopted.
Prospective parents just seemed to walk past him, looking for children with fuller cheeks, ruddier skin, or even just blinked a bit more often.
It wasn’t that he minded much — he wouldn’t know what to do with a family. It was just that he had never been beyond the gates of Mrs. Mapleberry’s Home for Wayward Lads and Ladies, and he had read and heard so much about the soot-choked city of Brackenburg that lay just half an hour away by coach.
Then, one day, Matron Mander Moulde arrived at the orphanage, and Edmund soon learned there was much more beyond that wooden fence then he could have ever imagined.

The Macabre Tale of Edmund Moulde is an episodic story posted Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Follow Edmund as he journeys from the rickety orphanage on the outskirts of town, to the Brobdingnagian mansion perched on Haggard Hill, and beyond.

Art by Ilana Brodsky

What do you love about this thing?
“Well, it’s writing, and I love writing. I also love that it lets me put my work out there for people to read at their leisure. There’s something primal about people you’ve never met suddenly finding you and striking up a conversation about something you both love.”

What do you hate about this thing?

“I hate marketing. I’m no good at it, and there are still quite a few people out there who don’t know about it. I should see if one of my friends is willing to put me on their blog or something…”

When/how/where can people read the thing?

“They can find Edmund at You could sign up to my RSS feed, get each post as an email, or visit the website every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to catch the latest update.”

Note: You can also follow Edmund himself at @EdmundMoulde. His peculiar word choices and vague understanding of Twitter are charming!

What thing would you do if you had all the money and time in the world right now?

“I’d…keep doing what I’m doing, really. Just with less Job. Write like crazy, act in plays, create art both online and offline, GM Roleplaying games, etc.”

What’s your new favorite thing that someone else has done/made?

“Why, THIS BLOG, of course! No, seriously…that’s a tough one. I like lots of different things and for different reasons… The first one that pops into my head is A Smile and A Gun, the Roaring Twenties blog of one of my friends. She periodically posts cocktail recipes. It’s good stuff! I should also shout out to Drinkin’ Dames, a periodic web-show about drunk women trying to recall old movies they saw long ago, and The Witching Hour, an upcoming webseries about two agents who try to drink away the pain of dealing with the supernatural.”

Possibly the most important question… If your thing was a pie, what kind of pie would it be?

Well, If Mrs. Kippling made it, it would be a Soup pie.

If Edmund made it, it would follow the following recipe:

1 1/2 pounds of Wrought Iron,

1 large Spooky Mansion, minced,

1/8 teaspoon of Over-dramatic Ennui Bouillon granules

4 cups of something bubbling,

2 tablespoons of freshly ground smirking

2 tablespoons of freshly ground smirking

1/4 cup of tea

1 crusty old crone pie crust

a pinch of Macabre to taste.

Edmund Moulde (art by Ilana Brodsky)

Check out Nathan’s work by following his Facebook page and subscribing to Edmund Moulde’s curious and unusual story. Also you can check out Nathan’s super neato spec fic novella “The Watch in the Sand.”