Review of Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson

Brown Girl in the Ring, cover of the novel by Nalo Hopkinson, review by Melanie LamagaServing the Spirits

In this near future, post-apocalyptic Toronto, the wealthy live in the suburbs. In the inner city, government and social structures have disintegrated after a series of riots. “The ones who couldn’t or wouldn’t get out,” use a system of barter, and live under the shadow of crime-lord Rudy and his posse.

Ti-Jeanne, a young mother, has begun having visions of the violent deaths of people she encounters, accompanied by childhood songs in her head, and visitations from disturbing creatures like the Jab-Jab, a red stick figure with legs on backward and a face like a grinning African mask.

It all ties into the religious rites performed by Ti-Jeanne’s grandmother, Gros-Jeanne, (Mami), a traditional healer who may or may not be an Obeah woman. She claims not to be, but Ti-Jeanne knows she practices rituals that involve slaughtering chickens and a lot of screaming and falling down. Read more »

I’m Back…with News!

Lodge Photo Front 2.web2018 Update

Baja Magic Lodge (and Cedros Outdoor Adventures) are still going strong (original post below). This is the business that funds my life as a writer and editor, takes me Mexico for half the year, allows me to interact happily people from a very different culture (Cedros Island, where we employ about 15-20 people during the season, which is different even from Baja California, Mexico), enjoy the island itself, which is fascinating (inhabited for 12,000 + years), and has a stark, rugged beauty unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been.  If you’re interested in learning more about the island or the lodge, check out 

baby raven flying.web Room 1 2017.web

Baja Magic Moonrise Baja-Magic-Mel-photo-1024x764

Dear Readers, please forgive my temporary absence!

You know how they say when life gives you lemons make lemonade? Well, sometimes when life gives you an ambitious husband who decides to build an eight room private lodge on a remote island in Mexico in four months before your clients start arriving for the season you have to make… everything.

Shopping, decorating, driving stuff 800 miles, painting, cleaning…you get the idea. It was breaking my heart to put the blogging on hold but when you see the pictures I hope you’ll forgive. I had to help him make it happen.


This what Baja Magic Lodge looks like as of June, 2013. Open for business!

Meanwhile, my ideas for The Metaphysical Circus 2.0 have been percolating. More on that soon.

But for now, I have lots of news and book reviews in honor of the Clarion Workshop Reading Series at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego. Read on!

And although Baja Magic Lodge doesn’t have anything to do with writing YET, I’m thinking writers’ retreat one of these days… hmmm?


One of the first floor rooms



View from an upstairs room










6 Steps to Get Your Book Ready to Publish

How Do You Know When It’s Go Time?

Wish You Were Here, vintage photo collage by Melanie Lamaga, The Metaphysical CircusBefore you submit your manuscript to agents and publishers, you would be wise to make sure it is well crafted, polished and clean. This will greatly up your chances of finding what you seek. However, if you go indie, there is no gatekeeper other than yourself.

The biggest problem with self-publishing is that it’s potentially too fast and easy. You can write a book in a month, decide it’s good enough and with a few clicks of the mouse go live on Amazon, Smashwords, or half a dozen other places.

You can also dance naked down the street and call yourself Shakespeare, but it doesn’t make it so, any more than having 60,000 words of crap published in e-book form makes you an author in any meaningful sense of the word. Read more »

Short Stories by Kelly Link, a review

Review of Kelly Link, by Melanie Lamaga, The Metaphysical CircusNobody writes cooler stories than Kelly Link.

Link’s stories draw from fairy tales, myth, pop culture, experimental, horror, gothic, and detective fiction, the tabloids, dreams, nightmares, and half a dozen other things. But this is not merely pulp fiction—wham, bam, thrill and chill.

Link uses the tools of pulp fiction to deal with literary concerns: sex, death, love, loneliness, identity, and other existential issues. Despite these angsty undercurrents, her stories have a wry and often raunchy sense of humor.

Written in a lean, stylish prose Link’s stories charm and engage. You feel like you know her narrators, or you want to. As the mundane mingles with fantastic, ease back in your chair and let the stories work their magic. She’s taking you places you’ve never been before. It’s going to be strange; it’s going to be fun; and it’s definitely going to be cool. Read more »

Waking the Moon, by Elizabeth Hand

The Moon with a Knife-Sharp Edge

Cover art of Waking the Moon, a novel by Elizabeth Hand, reviewed by Melanie Lamaga, The Metaphysical CircusThree unwitting college students stand between the reawakening of a dark goddess and the Benandanti, a secret society of magicians who have been running the world for thousands of years.

Waking the Moon, which won a Mythopoeic Award and a James Tiptree, Jr. Award, is part horror, part coming of age story, and part romance. Chock full of arcane lore that draws from prehistoric matriarchal cultures, the aspect of the goddess portrayed is more akin to Yeats’ rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem than Quan Yin or Mother Mary.

The novel centers on Catherine Sweeney Cassidy, just entering college in Washington D.C. at the University of the Archangels and St. John the Divine. Attending her first class (Magic, Witchcraft & Religion), Sweeney is gob smacked by the stunning Angelica di Rienza, and the brilliant and bizarre Oliver Crawford. To Sweeney’s surprise, these two charismatic creatures seem drawn to her, as well. Read more »

Bird House

Bird House, collage by Melanie Lamaga, The Metaphysical CircusFiction by Melanie Lamaga

It was a typical day for Michael—to the office by 7:00 a.m., coffee-fueled meetings, lunch with Dave, writing reports, out by six.

Driving home from work in his convertible with the top down, Michael began to sing a wordless tune that filled him with exaltation. He felt as if he was picking up on a faint radio frequency, distant but familiar, almost nostalgic.

He attributed his soaring mood to spring: trees budding and air fragrant with honeysuckle. Gliding along the river road, past green leaves swirling with yellow and violet flowers, it almost felt like flying.

Michael turned onto the street that led to his house, a renovated Colonial. He and his wife Aleta had been decorating it together for five years, but it was just recently, he felt, that they’d finally gotten it right.

As Michael coasted into the drive, he glimpsed, scattered in the front yard, piles of furniture, clothes and shattered electronics.

Adrenaline hummed through his body and he flew from the car, ready to do battle. Then he realized this wasn’t a robbery. Thieves steal, they don’t mutilate expensive goods in broad daylight.  Read more »

Sojourn with the Watercolor People

The Watercolor People, a collage by Melanie Lamaga, The Metaphysical CircusFiction by Melanie Lamaga

The Watercolor people are angry with me. You may not think that sounds ominous, but believe me, they have a list of people they’d like to kill. They’ll go through with it, too, given the chance. Even the children can be vicious.

Now you’re laughing.

Perhaps you, like many others, have been fooled by the appearance of two-dimensionality, their pale colors and wispy bodies, their soft, translucent skin. Once I made the same mistake, but then I fell in love with a Watercolor girl. Read more »

7 Reasons to Self-Publish, 7 Reasons Not to Self-Publish

The Evolution of Publishing, collage by Melanie LamagaIn case you haven’t heard the news, writers now have a choice when it comes to publishing books. I’ve done a lot of research over the past year and here is what I’ve learned.

You Might Want to Become an Indie Author Because…

1. Mo’ Money

Most publishers give you an advance, and then between 5 to 15 percent royalty (after you sell enough copies to pay back that advance, and most books never do). As an indie publisher, you get to keep 35-70% of your profit (after costs). Compounded over the life of a successful book this can add up to serious green. Read more »

Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly Orange Prize) Longlist Announced

Great Reading for You… and Yummy Cover Designs!

A friend just posted an email on our community’s newsletter asking for reading recommendations, and look what the universe delivered!

I’ve been doing a lot of research on design as I work on the cover for my upcoming book, and so I’m particularly attuned to the visual aspects of books right now. As it turns out, we do judge a book by its cover…and these make me hungry to read…just delicious… and they make me proud to be a woman writer.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Cover of the novel Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson

Well, obviously I like this one, since it looks like one of my photo collages. Aside from that, the archway draws me in, reinforced by the lines around it pointing to the center.

The monochromatic tones, which in general I think are more difficult to make work for book cover (because bright colors grab attention) here work splendidly, giving a moody feel. The retro girl and the title give me the idea this is a story about reincarnation, which it is.

Must read! Read more »

Give Your Creative Self a Gift

Give Your Creative Self a GiftBirthdays, The Daily Show, and Books of the Future

It’s my birthday this week, and let me say this right off: I’m not one of those self-effacing, ‘aw shucks, doing nothing special’ types. That’s something else we could learn from 4-year olds. Bring on the cake! Bring on the Party! Pin the tail on the stripper!

It’s not that I expect the world to stop for me, but I think I should at least stop for me. We’re on this planet for a reason, and it’s kinda hard work, no? Sure, it can be a blast too, but just getting these high maintenance bodies through the day in one piece is an achievement, not to mention any self-actualization-type goals you might be harboring. Read more »