Guest Blog: Joanna Parypinski

Today, to promote her first novel, Pandora, author Joanna Parypinski’s blog tour lands in my neck of the woods.  Although I haven’t yet read the novel (but I am ordering it this weekend, as should you!), if it’s anything like the pieces of short fiction I’ve encountered, then I can guarantee it’ll be worth your time.  One story in particular, The Viola D’Amore, was part of the March 2012 edition of Cover of Darkness Magazine and remains one of the best stories from a new author I’ve read in a long time.  Read on to find out about The Origins of Pandora…


How did I come up with the idea for PANDORA?

Ideas for my writing usually come to me in pieces. I’m not J.K. Rowling: my character didn’t just stroll up, fully-formed, into my mind. Often I’ll have multiple ideas floating around, seemingly disparate plotlines for different books, and the great moment of epiphany will be when I realize they can all come together to create one fully-developed story.

It started with an image: Pandora’s Box. In my mind, it was an intricately carved, ancient chest made of ivory, and inside of it, all manner of creepy plagues from Greek mythology awaited their release.

But just the idea of the box wasn’t enough for a book. You need plot, characters, themes, and a great climax. So I started creating my characters (a cook, a teacher, a bullied teenager, an alcoholic writer, a paranoid priest), and I started outlining how their lives would be affected by the box.

It was still missing something. I was only 18 though: a novice by many standards. Though I’d been writing short stories and even a few YA novels since I first learned to pick up a pencil, I still wasn’t fully developed as a writer.

Those other books, by the way, were written during my high school years: the first, called The Legend of Blackbeard’s Island, involved three teenagers who stumble across Blackbeard’s cursed treasure, along with his headless remains. The second, called Northern Lights, was a science fiction/murder mystery/ghost story in which the appearance of the Northern Lights allows us to perceive the frequency at which ghosts exist.

But I digress. The point is that, for a brief time, I was at a loss as to how to turn my idea into an actual story.

Then, on the Fourth of July, 2007, it hit me.

I was sitting in a neighbor’s backyard, on the edge of a manmade lake surrounded by large houses. Someone was setting off a firework show over the lake, the glittering explosions shimmering on the black water below. The fireworks were so close; debris rained down on us, still burning embers. Ash littered the grass. There was something enchanting and horrifying about the experience, being so close to something both magnificent and dangerous. What would happen if the grass caught fire? What if one of the fireworks went off just a little too low, a little too close to the houses and lake?

This moment cemented the rest of the book for me. I suspect you’ll understand better once you’ve read it yourselves.

If you’d like to read it for free, then why not try to win an e-book copy right now? Post about the PANDORA Blog Tour on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Then come back here and comment below with a link to each place you’ve mentioned the tour (as well as your e-mail and whether you’d like a PDF or ePub version). The more links, the more chances your name will get pulled out of the hat to win the e-book! This mini-contest ends at 11:59 PM PST, Sunday, September 30.

Don’t forget to enter to win the grand prize at!

The Pandora Blog Tour continues tomorrow at

Horrorhound Columbus 2012

Unfortunately, I’m not able to get out much to conventions as I’d like (blame the lack of vacation days at my day job), but when the opportunity strikes to not only leave town and road trip to somewhere I’ve never been to for a con, but see my friends who I only get to hang out with two, maybe three, times a year, I’m jumping at the chance.

I’ll admit I’ve only been to a couple of cons.  In previous years I’ve only been able to make it to Indianapolis for Mo*Con (which I’m pissed that I’m missing this year), and last year I was fortunate enough to be an author guest at Horrorfind Weekend in Gettysburg, but I’ve yet to make it to Horrorhound.

Myself and three of my best friends from Pennsylvania drove out to Columbus, Ohio to spend the weekend catching up, having fun, and over-the-phone fighting with a pizza guy who decided to deliver our food to a hotel on the other side of town.  I’ve never been the big picture taker, but here are the few I did manage to snap off:

The room before the rest of the group arrive.

Susan and Michele tasting the local flavor from my hometown.

The “Day of the Dead” cast reunion panel.

The “Creepshow” ashtray.  (Watch the movie and try to spot it in every separate story.)

The lovely and super cool Lori Cardille.  (Sarah from “Day of the Dead”)

And, of course, the highlight of the weekend: the legendary Pam Grier.

I had a great time at the Columbus Horrorhound, and I plan on trying to attend at least one of the days of Horrorhound Indianapolis in September.

An Open Letter to 2011

Dear 2011,

You’ve been one hell of a year, you know that right?  From start to finish you’ve brought on with full force an emotional roller coaster that hasn’t stopped.  Am I saying that you were bad?  That you somehow kicked my ass, spit on me, and threw me in the gutter to rot?

Fuck no.

I went into you, 2011, not sure what to expect.  You started off a bit unsure, placing me in a very short lived relationship with someone who basically used me as a Friday night date buddy and played me like a fiddle for everything my wallet had.  But after a few shitty past relationships, I had learned my lesson and moved on.  Enough said?  You’re right.

I’m not here to bitch at you, 2011.  Quite the opposite.  I’m here to thank you.  For everything–and I mean everything.

I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am, buddy, that you’ve finally decided to bless me with the best year of my life.  You must understand, the last few years I’ve been doubting myself, wondering who I am, who I’m meant to be with, just what the ever-loving fuck am I supposed to be?  Don’t get me wrong, your older brother 2010 wasn’t a bad guy to be buds with, but it was you, 2011, who helped bring me out of my funk and showed me that there are better things out there to strive for.

First off, after 4 years of writing I can finally say with a proud smile that I am a published writer.  It’s the best feeling in the world to finally say that.  I’ve spent most of my life being a musician, but my achievements as a writer have far exceeded that.  My shelf (in the picture above) shows the anthologies that my stories are placed in.  Yes, I know, there should be two more anthos sitting up there, but we all know why they aren’t there.  I’ve moved past that, and trust me I’m better off because of it.  I also found myself as a guest author at this year’s Horrorfind Weekend in Gettysburg, PA, where I got to read one of my favorite stories “By The Throat” to a small crowd who really seemed to enjoy it.  It’s rush to read to people, to get their reaction to your words, especially if you’re reading with specific voices, getting louder or softer, yelling and moving around if need be.  It’s something I’ve come to really enjoy and hopefully will be able to do more of.

Second, I have the best friends a guy could ever ask for.  They took in an outsider and made me feel like one of the group–an equal (even though my PA friends constantly give me shit for being a Midwesterner).  And I’m extremely proud of each one 0f their own personal achievements.  My “PIC” Brent Abell went on to sell numerous stories this years.  My very good friends Michele Mixell and Nikki Graybeal sold their first couple of stories.  Matt Blazi and Dave Thomas wrote screenplays this year, as well, and Susan Scofield had several sucessful art showings.  Ron Dickie and Mandy DeGeit drank a lot, so that accounts for something right?  My big bro Bob Ford finally had his wonderful novella “Samson and Denial” published, and big sis Kelli Owen took Thunderstorm Books by, well, storm with her stellar debut novel “Six Days” as well as the following two novellas “Waiting Out Winter” and “The Neighborhood,” and as I’ve been told many more to come from both.  Every one of these people have impacted my life in some way, whether it was just a phone call, a laugh, a point in the right direction, an unwanted picture of a naked ass on my camera when I wasn’t looking, or a shoulder to cry on when things went momentarily sour.  I’m so gratefull to have each one of these people in my life.  They’ve helped change me into a better, happier person, and I hope they know that I would do anything for them, no matter what.

Which brings me to Katie.  For the last four months I’ve been in the best relationship I’ve ever had, with the best girl I’ve ever met.  For the longest time, I really didn’t think I’d ever find someone, but my weekend at Horrorfind proved me wrong.  I never thought I’d ever be in a long distance relationship–God know’s there have been enough stupid movies made on the subject, most completely over-the-top and unbelieveable–but this…this works.  And in a few short months we won’t have to spend hours on end talking on the phone or Skyping.  She’s taking the plunge and moving out here to start her new life with me, which makes me even happier than I could have ever imagined.  She’s truly one of a kind.  She makes me constantly laugh, smile, knows just the right things to pull me out of a bad mood.  Occationally, I’ll read to her selections from Jeff Strand’s story collection “Gleefully Macabre Tales”, or a poem or two for a good laugh.  She knows how to pull me out of my comfort zone and gets me to just let go… And believe it or not, we share the same birthday!

Back in November, we went on a trip out to Philadelphia.  I never got around to putting the photos on Facebook, 2011, but I’ll put them here for your enjoyment.

The Philly Zoo

Yes, this monkey has some huge boobs!

I even got a great looking author’s photo out of the trip:

Unfortunately I forgot to charge my camera, so it died not long after this was taken.

Thank you, 2011, for being the best year ever.  I know you’ve been hard on people, some of them being very close friends of mine, but I truely believe that your brother 2012 will be another great year, and will be bring the happiness to those who need it, as you did for me.

If not, tell him I know where he sleeps. ;)

Rest in peace, 2011.  Rest in peace…

Your bud, Wes.