Swashbuckling Cats edited by Rhonda Parrish

Title: Swashbuckling Cats
Editor: Rhonda Parrish
Publisher: Tyche Books
Source: NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book cover of Swashbuckling Cats

If you think cats and water don’t mix, think again.

Plunge into worlds of piratical cats: some selfish, some mischievous, all fond of hitting the catnip stash. From ships on the deep blue sea, to ships flying through the depths of space, and even visiting from beyond the veil, these cats are determined and on a mission.

Featuring fourteen “tails” of adventure-loving cats, puns, and fun by: Megan Fennell; S.G. Wong; Rebecca Brae; Grace Bridges; Lizz Donnelly; Blake Liddell; Frances Pauli; JB Riley; Joseph Halden; Leslie Van Zwol; Krista D. Ball; Chadwick Ginther; Rose Strickman; and Beth Cato.

May 26th was the virtual release party for this book of short stories. I’m a friend and fan of Rhonda’s. I’m not a fan of cats (a barn cat peed on me when I was 10) but I can appreciate them and I figured I’d get around to reading it at some point. Lo, and behold, a few days after the release party when I was looking through available books on NetGalley I saw it was available. So I asked for it and was approved!

Overall, this short story collection is a good one. I always love to see the diversity achieved with the same prompt. These swashbuckling cats aren’t confined to nautical vessels. And the cats include ghost cats, pirate cats, shape-shifting cats, and kittens. Definitely not a one size fits all anthology.

My favorite story was “Buccaneer’s Revenge” by JB Riley. It tackles the pirate cat angle completely differently from the others. No, I won’t spoil it! There are puns for names which some might find childish or silly. I found them quite clever and they made me smile.

My second favorite story was “All Cats Go to Valhalla” by Chadwick Ginther. From the title it’s easy to guess this is a viking themed story. From the opening line you know it’s bad but you don’t know just how bad this journey is for another paragraph or so. Does Odin allow cats into Valhalla or do they go to Folkvangr with Freyja? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Scarecrow edited by Rhonda Parrish

Book Cover for Scarecrow edited by Rhonda ParrishTitle: Scarecrow
Editor: Rhonda Parrish
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Source: My personal library


Hay-men, mommets, tattie bogles, kakashi, tao-tao—whether formed of straw or other materials, the tradition of scarecrows is pervasive in farming cultures around the world. The scarecrow serves as decoy, proxy, and effigy—human but not human. We create them in our image and ask them to protect our crops and by extension our very survival, but we refrain from giving them the things a creation might crave—souls, brains, free-will, love. In Scarecrow, fifteen authors of speculative fiction explore what such creatures might do to gain the things they need or, more dangerously, think they want.

Within these pages, ancient enemies join together to destroy a mad mommet, a scarecrow who is a crow protects solar fields and stores long-lost family secrets, a woman falls in love with a scarecrow, and another becomes one. Encounter scarecrows made of straw, imagination, memory, and robotics while being spirited to Oz, mythological Japan, other planets, and a neighbor’s back garden. After experiencing this book, you’ll never look at a hay-man the same.

Featuring all new work by Jane Yolen, Andrew Bud Adams, Laura Blackwood, Amanda Block, Scott Burtness, Amanda C. Davis, Megan Fennell, Kim Goldberg, Katherine Marzinsky, Craig Pay, Sara Puls, Holly Schofield, Virginia Carraway Stark, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Kristina Wojtaszek.

Do you ever read a book and afterwards sit there stunned? A few weeks later I still have one word to describe this book. Damn. Day-um.

Yes, I’m friends with Rhonda. I look forward to reading anything she touches. But this was a surprise. The editor does a lot; comes  up with the concept, reads all the submissions, (maybe) pick the cover art, suggests edits to the authors, and much more I don’t even know about. I’ve seen some of these author names pop up from other projects Rhonda has worked on but playing favorites isn’t her thing; she’ll always pick what she thinks is the best work.

Variety – There’s a good mix within the anthology. Story lengths, settings, time periods, mechanical scarecrows, straw scarecrows… you get the idea.

Pacing – Each piece is well-paced. Every single story felt like it was building to a conclusion of some kind.

I feel like this is one of those very vague reviews. I guess because it is; I’m no pointing to any one story which is better than another. Each person’s experience of this anthology is going to be different. There’s truly enough variety that I’m sure anyone picking this up will find a story that sticks with them.

Waste Not: And Other Funny Zombie Stories by Rhonda Parrish

Title: Waste Not: And Other Funny Zombie Stories
Author: Rhonda Parrish
Publisher: Poise and Pen Publishing
Source: Author

Book cover of Waste Not: And Other Zombie Stories

Full disclosure: I’ve been online friends with Rhonda for several years and I tend to think anything she does is pretty great.

Waste Not is a very small collection; it contains a total of three stories. You can either drag it out over several days or buckle down and read it all in one sitting.

The first story is a realistic look at the limitations placed upon a farming family when zombies are out and about. It’s about payback with a chuckle.

The second story is a cat’s eye view of what happens when a pet’s owner doesn’t come home. The cat’s observations are wry. How fitting for an aloof cat!

The final story involves a drunk munchkin who thinks the Wicked Witch may not be as dead as everyone thinks. Or is it the alcohol which has his nerves on edge?

I was expecting more stories but sometimes what you want is just a little taste of something different to tide you over until you can jump into something which requires a time commitment. This is going to be one of those short story collections to fit the bill.

Release Day for C is for Chimera

You know what today is, right? It’s the official release day for C is for Chimera. I received an electronic ARC for review but haven’t read it yet. I misplaced my kindle cord and the poor thing has been sitting dormant for over a month. To date, I still haven’t found it so I ordered another one which arrived yesterday. Guess what book I’m looking forward to reading this week? 🙂

Below is the official info about it.

This installment of Rhonda Parrish’s alphabet anthology series asks skilled storytellers to write around the theme of chimera. The resulting tales are part fable, part poem, part dream. But like any chimera, the parts make up a greater whole.

Blend reality with fantasy. Mesh science fiction with mystery. Mix history with what should have been. They are all chimera.

A shadow tells a tale of schoolyard bullies. A long-vanished monster returns from the cold dark. Make-up makes up a life. Alchemy, Atlantis, and apocalypse. These 26 tales bring both chaos and closure to dark and elusively fantastic geographies.

Contributing authors include:

~ Alexandra Seidel ~ KV Taylor ~ Marge Simon ~ Pete Aldin ~ Michael M. Jones ~ Simon Kewin ~ BD Wilson ~ Gabrielle Harbowy ~ Sara Cleto ~ Megan Engelhardt ~ Michael Fosburg ~ Megan Arkenberg ~ Lilah Wild ~ Laura VanArendonk Baugh ~ Milo James Fowler ~ Brittany Warman ~ Michael B. Tager ~ L.S. Johnson ~ Beth Cato ~ C.S. MacCath ~ Sammantha Kymmell-Harvey ~ Steve Bornstein ~ Suzanne van Rooyen ~ Michael Kellar ~ Jonathan C. Parrish ~ Amanda C. Davis ~

A Flock of Shiny Stories!

Do you know what happened today? My friend’s latest anthology, CORVIDAE, was released.

Corvidae book cover

Associated with life and death, disease and luck, corvids have long captured mankind’s attention, showing up in mythology as the companions or manifestations of deities, and starring in stories from Aesop to Poe and beyond.


In Corvidae birds are born of blood and pain, trickster ravens live up to their names, magpies take human form, blue jays battle evil forces, and choughs become prisoners of war. These stories will take you to the Great War, research facilities, frozen mountaintops, steam-powered worlds, remote forest homes, and deep into fairy tales. One thing is for certain, after reading this anthology, you’ll never look the same way at the corvid outside your window.


Featuring works by Jane Yolen, Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, M.L.D. Curelas, Tim Deal, Megan Engelhardt, Megan Fennell, Adria Laycraft, Kat Otis, Michael S. Pack, Sara Puls, Michael M. Rader, Mark Rapacz, Angela Slatter, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Leslie Van Zwol

As a fan of birds and Rhonda, I’m looking forward to reading this collection. Blue jays are not an uncommon sight in my neighborhood, though sightings of Rhonda Parrish are rare. In fact, she has yet to come this far South in her travels.

Corvidae is the second book in the Rhonda Parrish’s Magical Menageries Series. I have to share some of the praise this anthology has received. You’ll notice it’s quite the mixture of professions.

“Smart and dark like the corvids themselves, this excellent collection of stories and poems will bring you a murder of chills, a tiding of intrigue, a band of the fantastic, and—most of all—an unkindness of sleepy mornings after you’ve stayed up too late reading it!”

— Karen Dudley, author of Kraken Bake


“Magic and corvids collide in this certain to intrigue anthology.”

— Joshua Klein, hacker and inventor of the crow vending machine


“A creepy, crazy kaleidoscope of corvids, Corvidae is what happens when you bring together ingenious writers and sagacious subjects. It’s nothing short of a thrill ride when this anthology takes flight.”

— Susan G. Friedman, Ph. D., Utah State University; behaviorworks.org.


“As sparkling and varied as a corvid’s hoard of treasures, Corvidae is by turns playful and somber, menacing and mischievous. From fairy tale to steampunk adventure, from field of war to scene of crime, these magical birds will take you to places beyond your wildest imaginings.”

—  Jennifer Crow, poet and corvid-by-marriage


Corvidae evokes the majesty and mischief of corvid mythologies worldwide—and beyond our world—in a collection that is fresh and thoroughly enjoyable.”

— Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger

To learn more about Corvidae visit the official World Weaver Press site.

A is for Apocalypse Cover Reveal Day

I love the premise behind A is for Apocalypse and I believe you will too.

What do you get when you take twenty-six amazing writers, randomly assign them a letter of the alphabet and give them complete artistic freedom within a theme?

A is for Apocalypse

A is for Apocalypse contains twenty-six apocalyptic stories written by both well-known and up-and-coming writers. Monsters, meteors, floods, war–the causes of the apocalypses in these tales are as varied as the stories themselves.

This volume contains work by Ennis Drake, Beth Cato, Kenneth Schneyer, Damien Angelica Walters, K. L. Young, Marge Simon, Milo James Fowler, Simon Kewin, C.S. MacCath, Steve Bornstein and more!

This collection was edited by Rhonda Parrish and the cover was designed by Jonathan Parrish. Expected date of publication is August 2014.

A is forApocalypse
Isn’t that a nice cover? Very simple. I think the sunset with the ghost text of the contributor’s names is a haunting image.

As part of the cover reveal, Rhonda asked some of the authors about their favorite “A” word. My favorite “A” word is Accoutrement. It’s a word that for a long time I just passed over whenever it was used in a book. But then it was used by Steve Carell in an episode of The Office and I’ve been hooked on it ever since.

If you’d like to get updates about A is for Apocalypse (including giveaways) there’s a mailing list signup here: http://eepurl.com/TzDN9

Without further ado, here’s Rhonda…

In choosing a theme for this, the first of a series of anthologies, I considered and rejected a great many “A” words. Tell us about your favourite word that begins with the letter A.


Alexis A. Hunter– As an author — ‘acceptance’ has a beautiful ring to it.  As a sci-fi writer — ‘apex’ is particularly engaging.  In general — ‘angel’ is one of my favorite words, because they’re one of my favorite ‘creature types’ to play with in stories.  Plus I have a thing for wings and feathers.


Michael Kellar – My “A” word would be arachnid. I’m a spider person. (You could consider this when you get to “S is for…”)


Damien Angelica Walters – My favourite word that begins with the letter A is anathema. It rolls off the tongue like a whisper, hiding its dark meaning in pretty syllables.


Marge Simon – Alliteration because it’s a beautiful word.  Sorry if it doesn’t connote anything bad, like assassin. 😉


Simon Kewin My favourite A word is (possibly) Archaeopteryx. I love the shape of the word. It’s exotic and fantastical and ungainly all at the same time – a little like the creature itself. It derives from the Greek archaeo (ancient) and pterux (wing). So, “Ancient Wing”. Archaeopteryx is a lovely illustration of the forces of evolution in progress; it’s a snapshot of a species in the process of changing from dinosaur ancestor to modern avian descendent. Here was a creature with a bony tail and teeth and feathers. And claws on its wings. I’d love to have seen one…


Sara Cleto – My favorite A word is amethyst, a purple-violet quartz often used in jewelry (particularly at Renaissance Faires!) As a little girl, I was obsessed with the color purple, and my mom’s amethyst jewelry was the subject of much fascination- I was sure the stones had some sort of magical property, and I seem to recall trying to do spells with them… And now, in my old age, I’m deeply amused by their purported ability to prevent excessive intoxication.


Beth Cato – Tricky question since my absolute favorite word begins with B. For A words, I have to say I like “anaphylactic.” It’s morbid, I know, since the meaning is a severe allergic reaction, but I like the word because it has a cool poetic rhythm.


Suzanne van Rooyen – This is really tough to answer! There are so many great words starting with A like analogy, allegory and awesome! But I think my favourite is actually a name. Atreyu. Atreyu – the character from The Never Ending Story – was my first major crush as a kid and that film was such a huge part of my childhood. If I ever have a son one day, his name is going to be Atreyu.


Brittany Warman – The first of my favorite words that begin with A that I thought of was “aurora” – not only is it frequently the name of the princess (or her daughter) from “Sleeping Beauty,” a favorite fairy tale of mine, but it was also my very first online screen name! I just love the concept and the way the word flows off the tongue too. It seems to convey mystery, beauty, and strength to me.


C.S. MacCath – My favourite ‘A’ word is ‘atonement’, because unlike ‘forgiveness’, it places the onus for righting a wrong where it belongs; upon the head of the person who committed it. If we were socialized to atone as much as we are already socialized to forgive, we might learn to be more careful with one another.

Giveaway and Recipe Exchange from Two Writing Friends

Oh!  I nearly forgot to tell you about a current giveaway and an upcoming recipe exchange.

Rhonda Parrish is giving away a copy of Shades of Greenon Goodreads.  The contest ends on September 30th.  I reviewed Shades of Green in February and followed that up with an interview.

Starting October 5th, Beth Cato is holding a recipe exchange to celebrate the publication of her story, “A Recipe for Rain and Rainbows” in Mountain Magic: Spellbinding Tales of Appalachia.  It’s an anthology of 13 stories and poems with a foreward by Lucy A. Snyder.  The recipe exchange should give you a head start on holiday goodies.

Interview with Rhonda Parrish

Yesterday was the official release date for Shades of Green by Rhonda Parrish.  She was kind enough to agree to be interviewed by email about it.  You can learn more about Rhonda and her work on her web site at http://www.rhondaparrish.com.

Amber: Shades of Green takes place in Aphanasia in 1690.  This is a world you created.  How many stories have you currently written about Aphanasians?

Rhonda: A lot. I’m not trying to be vague, but I’m not actually sure of the number. In addition to Shades of Green only three others have been published (Sister Margaret, There’s Always a Catch and The Legend of the First Reptar) but I have more sitting on my hard drive.


Amber: How far along Aphanasia’s timeline do your stories take place?

Rhonda: There is a very long span. The Legend of the First Reptar takes place prehistory, as you noted Shades of Green takes place in 1690 and my current WIP takes place a couple hundred years after that. It’s a lot of fun to be able to write a story set in different points of a world’s life cycle. I hope to eventually have something written that is set in all the major time periods of Aphanasia.


Amber: The novelette mentions swamp fever, battles between races, and a curse that reanimates the dead.  Is there ever a Golden Age in Aphanasia?

Rhonda: What fun would that be? 🙂 The truthful answer is, not in any sort of universal way. Like in reality certain aspects of life, or specific races might have a golden age, but the whole world is never sharing in one great utopian period. The Reptars’, for example, lived their golden age long before the time period in which Shades of Green is set. At that time they were the most technologically advanced race in Aphanasia but now…well, things don’t look too good for them.


Amber: I enjoyed reading the scenes of the Reptars’ everyday life – they clean their dishes and eat dinner together as a family.  Did you purposely try to not make them foreign or alien-like?

Rhonda: I don’t know how conscious those things were, actually. I did want the Reptar to be somewhat relatable so I didn’t want them to be too foreign, but I don’t remember sitting down and actually thinking about ways I could achieve that. Perhaps I should have LOL The problem with a good interview question is that it makes you think, and now I’m wondering if perhaps I might have made them a little bit too human. Hmmm. Thanks, Amber, this one is going to be plaguing my brain for a while to come.


Amber: The main character, Z’Thandra, is the last Swamp Elf.  Did it ever occur to her to try and find other types of Elves or was Aphanasia only inhabited by Swamp Elves?

Rhonda: There are other types of elves in Aphanasia, but I don’t think Z’thandra could survive on her own outside of the swamp. It’s all she knows. She would be lost in anywhere else.


Amber: How did you come up with the brilliant title?  It refers to so many things in the story including the jealousy felt by Orga.  I think most readers can identify with that feeling.

Rhonda: Oh my goodness, the title was such a huge pain in the butt. Seriously. There’s a pretty long story there. When I first submitted it the story was called “A Love Story”. It wasn’t a title I was particularly happy with, but it seemed appropriate and referred (to me) to more than just the obvious ‘love’. My publisher, hated it. From the start he was like “I love this story, but the title? It has to go.” We batted some ideas back and forth and eventually settled on Shades of Green. I’m glad we did, I think it’s better suited to the story than “A Love Story” was and you picked up on exactly why. It touches on so many parts of the story, the colors of the swamp, or people’s eyes, or reptar’s scales as well as more intangible things like Orga’s feelings for Z’thandra. I’m glad you liked it 🙂


Amber: Many writers say the real writing begins with editing and multiple drafts.  How long did you work on the novelette before you decided to find a publisher?

Rhonda: Shades of Green was revised less than most of my work, but even so, I’d been working on it for quite a long time. It started out as ¼ of a novel-in-stories I’ve been working on for a couple years. I wrote the first draft as a NaNoWriMo novel in 2007. After revising the novel-in-stories I decided that it didn’t work in that format and tore it apart and re-revised it to be four separate pieces (including Shades of Green). It was after that point I decided to find a publisher for it and was incredibly lucky in that it was accepted by the first one I sent it to. There’s always micro-revision that goes on as well, of course, right up until the time it goes to the printers.


Amber: Your writing is available in various lengths and formats (short stories, novels, poetry, and so on).  Does the variety keep you energized to keep pushing ahead?

Rhonda: It really does. I have stories I want to tell, and if one format doesn’t suit a particular tale it’s fabulous to be able to move on to a different one that does. Also, I tend to have a short attention span so being able to do shorter pieces while I’m working on a novel, for example, keeps me (usually) from becoming distracted by a new novel idea and dashing off to write it while leaving the WIP to gather dust.


Amber: Are there any upcoming publications in the near future?

Rhonda: I have a short story, “Share”, which will be included in the Trafficking in Magic / Magicking in Traffic anthology from Drollerie Press. I’m incredibly excited about that because Drollerie has long been on the list of publishers I wanted to work with, and I’m pretty fond of my story too.


Amber: Is there a new project you’re working on?

Rhonda: There are three major ones at the moment. The first is a chapbook of zombie poetry, the second are extensive revisions on another ¼ of the novel-in-stories Shades of Green was once a part of. Lastly, I’m working on the first draft of a novel I’m very excited about. It’s also set in Aphanasia and is currently titled See The Sky Again.

Shades of Green by Rhonda Parrish

Title: Shades of Green
Author: Rhonda Parrish
Publisher: Sam’s Dot Publishing available at The Genre Mall
Source: Author

Shades of Green

Z’thandra, the last swamp elf in Aphanasia, lives with the Reptar, a fierce race of lizard-people, most of whom resent her presence and want her gone from their village. When she discovers a human in the swamp and falls in love with him she must face the most difficult decision of her life. Will she pursue a life of happiness with the man she loves and in doing so condemn the Reptar to extinction, or will she chose to sacrifice her future to offer them hope? In the end the choice she makes will affect the Reptar for generations.

I believe the cover does a good job matching up with the synopsis.  It shows Z’thandra with the man she loves and a Reptar in the background.  I’m not sure if the Reptar is angry or fierce-looking but I would think twice before purposely crossing paths with one. 

Z’thandra has no choice though.  Her adoptive parents are Reptars so she sees them every day.  They do give her a little more attention than their birth daughter but Z’thandra does them kind favors in return.  She doesn’t take them or their love for granted. 

The Reptars were once a technologically advanced race.  Z’thandra’slife would be a little bit better if they would fix the indoor plumbing.  She bears all her hardship with more grace than the Reptars who barely tolerate her presence.  The wounds caused by racial wars have not healed. 

By the time Z’thandra meets Dorian, the human, and falls in love with him, it’s easy to see Z’thandra’s future with the Reptars is a bleak one.  Without her adoptive parents’ protection Z’thandra may not even have a future with the Reptars.  The reader really wants her to be selfish and run off with him.  It doesn’t matter that she would be running from something instead of to something even though such romances usually don’t end well.

The ending is a bit of a surprise but it’s what sets the story apart from similar tales.  It ties things up neatly in a way that isn’t obvious on a first reading.  If you want to lose yourself in the story of the last Swamp Elf for an hour or two this is the novelette to pick up.

Come back tomorrow for my interview with Rhonda Parrish to learn more about Rhonda and Shades of Green.