San Mateo County Fair Writing Contests: for writers inside AND outside of California (Deadline April 1, 2014)

Written by Laurel on February 24th, 2014

Got writing?  Whether you write poetry, prose, fiction, nonfiction, literary, western, mysteries/thrillers, science fiction or fantasy, the San Mateo County Fair has a contest for you.  There are even special categories for podcasters and writers 55 years and older.  Plus, there’s an opportunity for a U.S. student writer to win a $20,000 creative writing scholarship to Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California.

Writers from BOTH INSIDE AND OUTSIDE of California may enter the San Mateo County Fair writing contests. 

Writers must be at least sixteen years of age to enter in the adult divisions.  The deadline is April 1, 2014.  The fee for each adult division entry is $10.

Most of the contests award cash prizes.

Winners in the adult divisions, pending their permission, will have all or part of their winning entries published in the annual Carry the Light Anthology.  The anthology, to be published by the Sand Hill Review Press, will be sold at the fair and on

For more information, go to:

Happy writing!

Laurel Anne Hill (Author of “Heroes Arise”)



Laurel Anne Hill Featured in San Francisco Examiner Online!

Written by Laurel on February 23rd, 2014

“February is Women in Horror Month,” writes Sumiko Saulson of the Arts and Entertainment section.  ”It is part of an initiative designed to celebrate and bring attention to the achievements of women in all aspects of the horror genre.”

Sumiko features ten women horror writers in her article, and I’m included.  I feel so honored!

The writers featured are: Anne Rice, Rain Graves, Jewelle Gomez, Fran Friel, Emerian Rich, Linda Kay Silva, Laurel Anne Hill, Sumiko Saulson, Loren Rhoads and Serena Toxicat.

To read the article, go to:

And please purchase (and read) stories by women horror writers.  Support our efforts!

Warm wishes,

Laurel Anne Hill



RADCON, THE AMAZING! (RadCon 2014 Photo slide show/video on Youtube, created by Laurel Anne Hill)

Written by Laurel on February 22nd, 2014

Hi everyone,

I’m back from RadCon 6B.  I always have fun at RadCon and this year was no exception.

RadCon is a science fiction/fantasy convention held annually in Pasco, Washington, during the month of February.  It’s a fantastic con and I really love the way youth as well as adults join in the fun.  RadCon sponsors writing and art contests for youth, and also arranges for guest participants to visit local schools and talk to students about their occupations and craft.  

Laurel, Dragon and David

One of my favorite costumes this year











 To view my slide show video of people and costumes from the RadCon 2014 event, go to Youtube:  


Enjoy!  And please visit  
May the memories of RadCon 6B be with you!

Laurel Anne Hill (Award-Winning Author of “Heroes Arise”) 




Laurel Anne Hill at RadCon 2014 (Plus Video from RadCon 2013)

Written by Laurel on February 5th, 2014

Link to my Video of RadCon 2013: Hotter than Ever!


Laurel and Two Dragons

Here’s my schedule the  RadCon 2014 science fiction/fantasy convention in Pasco, Washington.

Friday, February 14, 4:30-5:30 pm
Fundamentals of Research
Good research is fundamental to accurately studying any subject, whether it be history for re-enactment purposes or science for writing a speculative fiction novel. Even more importantly, it doesn’t have to hurt! Come learn the basics and how to integrate them into your future projects.
Ruth Frey, Laurel Anne Hill, MJ Engh, Vicki Mitchell

Saturday, February 15, 11 am – 12:30 pm
Autograph Session

Saturday, February 15, 4- 5:30 pm
Quantum Physics Meets Magical Realism
The way in which Quantum Physics describes the universe seems more and more to enter the realm of the fantastic. Where does reality end and fantasy begin?
DiAnne Berry, Laurel Anne Hill, Elton Elliot, Bruce Taylor, Lori White

Saturday, February 15, 8-9 pm
Know What you Write
You could just wing it and make stuff up — or you can research. When is Wikipedia appropriate and when should you dig deeper into actual books? How do you contact scientists and subject experts?
Dave Bara, John Dalmas, Laurel Anne Hill, Jason Bond, Lori White

Sunday, February 16, 10-11 am
Basic Emergency Procedures
How to stock for minor emergencies. Learn to adapt your emergency prep for your family, decide how much and what kind of supplies to stock, handling it on a budget, keeping it safe and defending what you have.
Klarissa Davis, Hugh Gregory, Laurel Anne Hill

I hope to see some of you there.

Warm wishes,

Laurel Anne Hill (Author of “Heroes Arise”)


Join Hands for Polytechnic, Friends Old and New (San Francisco Nostalgia from Laurel Anne Hill)

Written by Laurel on January 14th, 2014

The letter that changed my future for the better.

What school stands out in your memory?  Most people in the USA have a favorite–or least favorite–educational institution in their personal history.  I enjoyed school and loved every one I attended: McKinley Grammar School, Everett Jr. High, Polytechnic High, San Francisco State College, California Polytechnic State University (better known as “Cal Poly”) and UC Berkeley Extension.

Of all these, however, San Francisco’s Polytechnic High School earned my award for “most amazing.”  Poly’s teachers took an interest in me that pointed me in the right direction and secured my future success.  I continue to maintain many friendships with other Polytechnic High School alumni and with one of my former teachers.

Hail Polytechnic, we're loyal to you.

Polytechnic High School served San Francisco from 1894 to 1972.  The Frederick Street campus was dedicated in 1914 and demolished in 1987.  A group of Polytechnic alumni–the Cornerstone Project Team–now works to return the cornerstone of the 1914 building to its former Frederick Street location.

Thus, I recorded a podcast this week in honor of the Cornerstone Project Team’s efforts.  The podcast includes a little history, the music from the Polytechnic victory song (“Join Hands for Polytechnic”), and my reading of a touching story written by Marianne Eichenbaum: I am the Polytechnic High School Cornerstone, and this is my journey.

Hail Alma Mater, ever so true.

The music I use in the podcast is the Our Director march, composed by Frederick Ellsworth Bigelow in 1892 and recorded by the Victor Military Band on September 27, 1911.  Polytechnic High School used a section of the Our Director march for “Join Hands for Polytechnic.”  The U.S. Library of Congress kindly emailed me the Victor Military Band recording after Sony Music provided permission for my use of the piece in my podcast project.  Thank you, Sony and LOC!

My podcast is available for free through the following links to the Welcome to My Bedroom Closet site:


We come with praises singing your fame

All are welcome to Join Hands for Polytechnic!  Whatever your schools are or were, may the Polytechnic Parrot be with you!

Warm wishes,

Laurel Anne Hill (Award-Winning Author of “Heroes Arise”)


Hail Polytechnic, long live thy name!


Fault Zone: Shift (Anthology Book Launch on January 18, 2014, at Kepler’s Books)

Written by Laurel on January 7th, 2014

An Amazing Collection!

Fault Zone: Shift - An Anthology of Stories & Poems
Launch at Kepler’s Books

Saturday, January 18th, 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m., Kepler’s Books, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025

2:00 – Start of event
2:05 – Introduction by editors
2:10 – 2:30 Author panel moderated by Editor Audrey Kalman
Panelists: Darlene Frank, Laurel Anne Hill, Lisa Meltzer Penn, Karen Hartley, Frank Saunders, Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

Five-minute readings from the anthology begin at 2:30
     2:30 – Diane Moomey
     2:35 – Jo Carpignano – poem
     2:40 – Diane Jacobsen
     2:45 – Sandra Smith
     2:50 – Ann Foster
     2:55 – Tina Gibson – poem
     3:00 – Wendy Voorsanger
     3:05 – Lucy Ann Murray
     3:10 – Margaret Davis
     3:15 – TJ VanHook

 3:20 – 3:30: Mingle, refreshments, audience can sign and purchase books

About “Fault Zone: Shift
The San Francisco/Peninsula Writers have done it again. This is their fourth volume of short stories. Novelists Max Tomlinson, David Hirzel, Margaret Davis, James Hanna, Diane Lee Moomey, and Laurel Anne Hill join forces to produce a stellar anthology. Senior poet laureate Jo Carpignano and award winning poet Maurine Killough will jog your sensibilities. This anthology is chock full of great stories by professional and prize-winning writers. Other authors include Lois Young, Tina Gibson, Darlene Frank, Diane Jacobson, Martha Clark Scala, Don Redmon, Frank A. Saunders, Sue Barizon, Karen Hartley, Ann Foster, Tim Woolf, Bardi Rosman Koodrin, Lisa Melzer Penn, Wendy M. Voorsanger, Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, Tory Hartmann, and Lucy Ann Murray.

I hope to see you there!

Warm wishes,

Laurel Anne Hill, Author of “Heroes Arise”




Creating an Apron for Day of the Dead (by Award-Winning Author Laurel Anne Hill)

Written by Laurel on December 28th, 2013

Front of Laurel Anne Hill's Day of the Dead Apron

Attention sewing enthusiasts who celebrate Dia de los Muertos:  Day of the Dead.  It’s not too early to mark your calendars for November 1-2, 2014, and contemplate making an apron for the occasion.  I found some stunning Day-of-the-Dead fabric in the spring of 2013, which I converted into a four-corners “reversible” apron — a Christmas gift for my sister.  I didn’t have a traditional pin-and-cut apron pattern, so I used my purchased-from-a-craft-fair four-corners apron as a PATTERN GUIDE and found some helpful instructions online.

The following link leads to many possibilities you may wish to check: Four Corners and Other Apron Ideas and Instructions.

Fortunately, I purchased three times the amount of fabric that I thought I’d need.  Otherwise, I never would have been able to center the large and complex “skeleton fiesta” scene optimally, nor place the pocket to blend into the overall front-of-apron design.  The reverse side of my apron contains a simple repeating motif of skulls and roses.

Laurel Anne Hill's Day of the Dead Apron, Reverse Side

My purchased apron, aka PATTERN GUIDE, measures approximately 24 inches on all sides with two 36” x 1-1/8” ties and one 22” x 1-1/8” upper loop to slip over the head.  The finished pocket is 6” wide and 7” high.  I made my Day of the Dead apron a little larger.  My finished product measured closer to 26 inches on all sides with 37” x 1-1/4” inch ties and one 23” x 1-1/2” upper loop.  My completed pocket was approximately 7” square.  You see, I cut my fabric without a paper pattern and allowed for potential uneven cutting and generous seams of ½-inch.  My Kenmore sewing machine—once owned by my grandmother—is of 1930s vintage and ample seams always help me sew straight.  Note that the front of my apron consists of the skeleton fiesta fabric square plus a border (two strips that were 3” wide before sewing and 2” wide in the finished apron) of the reverse-side skulls-and-roses fabric.  The reverse skulls-and-roses side of the apron has no border or pocket.

Here is how I made my apron ties:  I cut one 39” x 6-1/2” strip of fabric with one side along the salvage.  I cut that strip lengthwise down the middle to produce two 39” x 3-1/4” strips.  For each tie, I folded the strip in half lengthwise with the back side of the fabric facing outward.  I ironed each strip to line up the fabric edges for easy sewing.  I left one end of each tie unsewn in order to turn the fabric “tube” right-side out.  After turning and ironing, I sewed the open ends of the tubes shut.  I hid these less attractive ends between the two fabric layers of the main part of the apron.

In fact, the main apron, the neck and the pocket are also double-layered and have to be turned right-side-out once the two layers are sewn together.  For the main apron, leave three inches or so unsewn where the ties will go to permit turning room.  For the pocket, leave a couple inches open on the bottom.  Once turned, these “holes” become closed when attaching the pocket, ties or neck piece.

Right Apron Tie

Left Apron Tie

Tricks to turning fabric when two sides are sewn together:  Trim close to the seams (approximately 1/8-inch) at the ACTUAL CORNER AREAS.  With care, use a yardstick to gently poke at the corners after turning so they don’t appear rounded.  You can use a knitting needle on the ties if a yardstick is too wide, but DON”T poke a hole in the fabric.  If you don’t have special turning tools, patience is needed to turn two long apron ties that are only 1-1/4 wide in finished form.  Listen to some music you like.  Take your time.  The end result will be worth the effort.  Or, first watch the video at and then buy some real turning tools in a fabric store or on online.

Note that the upper corner of my finished apron has been turned down 3-4 inches and hand-tacked in place (after ironing) adding a decorative button.  I tried on my apron creation and checked the turndown distance before finalizing the neck strap.  And speaking of ironing, after I sewed each section of my apron, I ironed it.  I ironed the finished product, as well.

Notice the Well-Matched Pocket

Secure Stitching of the Lower Tip

I didn’t do a turn-down style pocket on my apron because I didn’t want to interrupt the skeleton fiesta motif.

When I used to quilt, I washed my cotton material before cutting it into pieces.  With cotton aprons, however, I simply purchase quality fabric and allow for a little shrinkage.  This is what my grandmother used to do and she was practically a one-woman apron factory.  However, fabric comes from all over the world these days.  You should consult with your local fabric shop when making your purchase to ascertain if you should pre-wash or not.

By the way, my sister loves the Day of the Dead apron I made for her.  Now it’s time to get busy on one for myself.  As a published author of science fiction, fantasy, steampunk and horror, I intend to wear my own apron throughout the year.

My Mexican ancestors would be proud of me, particularly because some of them sewed to make a living.

Happy sewing,


Laurel Anne Hill (Author of “Heroes Arise”)


Operation Pie Crust Pat-Down (Holiday Greetings from Laurel Anne Hill)

Written by Laurel on December 20th, 2013

Deck the halls with Who?

My rolling pin glared at me from the corner of my kitchen counter.  Each square inch of her smooth marble surface practically flashed pissed-off purple.

“On Thanksgiving morn,” her indignant voice echoed between my ears.  “Why aren’t YOU using ME for your most challenging culinary task of the year?”

Ms. R. Pin referred to my annual act of squeezing molecules of flour, margarine and water into pie crust dough, all the while praying the result would melt in the mouth rather than crack dental fillings.  Although I’d baked a variety of pies during the past 70 years—pumpkin, mince, lemon, cherry, rhubarb, custard, chocolate, pecan, apple and berry—each individual crust always possessed its own personality.  Some tough.  Some tender.  Others total flakes.  A few downright surly.  They were unpredictable characters in my life-long story.

Today, inspired by Elaine Cookman (the wife of Roger, my husband David’s second cousin once removed) I intended to pat instead of roll the crust for my annual pumpkin pie.  When we’d visited the Cookmans during our recent trip to England, Elaine had created delicious pie crusts without rolling them into submission.  With Google as my guide, I’d try to do likewise.

The loaf of sour dough bread was already rising in the pan when I commenced “Operation Pie Crust Pat-Down.”  My recipe called for canola oil instead of a solid shortening.  But all that liquid fat transformed the flour into mush.  Elaine’s dough hadn’t looked like this.  What should I do?

There are times in life when one needs faith.  In oneself.  In God.  Or maybe in the words written on a recipe card.  I’d never sat in an oven and watched a pie crust bake—for obvious reasons.  For all I knew, traditional rolled crusts initially turned squishy when the shortening melted.

As a scientist, I certainly realized that some experiments didn’t work.  No doubt about it, this crust was an experiment.  I glanced toward the clock.  Nearly 8 am.  I needed to put the bread into the oven at 9:15, then work on the turkey.  Talk about a time crunch.  I’d have to use this pastry or none at all.

I plopped the oily goop into my pie dish.  My fingers pushed the stuff into place.  Once I’d added the pumpkin filling, the experiment went into the oven.  Forty-five minutes later, I pulled out a pie with a well-browned crust.  Looked great.  But what about texture and taste?  Would my pie-crust character be a hero, a villain or a wishy-washy wimp?  Whatever, it would contain love, a main ingredient in all my cooking.  Didn’t love always help?

My thoughts turned toward preparing the turkey stuffing.  I’d chop the onion first.  Soon my eyes stung and watered.  The best yellow onions always made me cry.  This batch of dressing would be a winner.

Christmas, just weeks away, also always made me cry—tears of mixed sadness and joy.  The process of aging reduced the familiar cast of human characters around me on an all-too-regular basis.  In 2013, David and I had lost several more friends.  Plus David had taken a tumble in September and separated his shoulder.  Now he had one bad shoulder and another even worse.  I’d done most of the luggage hauling during our recent travels.  No complaints from me.  What if he had sustained a more serious injury?  David remained the beloved star in my life story.  We’d been lucky.

I added the chopped onion to the stuffing mix, then stirred in spices and chicken broth.  David and I probably wouldn’t be able to manage a real Christmas tree this year, even if we had help dragging a six-to-seven-foot fir into our house and maneuvering it into a stand.  Sawing off the branches in January to dispose of the tree would be beyond our present comfort zone.  A small fake tree might have to do.  Would our daughter, Alicia, be disappointed when she came home for the holidays? 

The morning hours of Thanksgiving melted into afternoon.  I served dinner at 5:00.  The mush I’d turned into a pie crust was delicious.  Perfect, really.  I’d never cooked a better pie.  Surely putting up an artificial Christmas tree would work out fine, too.  Wasn’t the real Christmas all about love?  And love always helped.

With love,

Laurel Anne Hill


SHANGHAI STEAM Steams Forward (News from Laurel Anne Hill)

Written by Laurel on December 17th, 2013

A Recommended Read

This month I received more exciting news about Shanghai Steamthe steampunk-wuxia anthology containing my short story, “Moon-Flame Woman.”  Shanghai Steam has been mentioned twice in the new book Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: How to Create Out-of-This-World Novels and Short Stories (September 2013) by Orson Scott Card, Phillip Athans, Jay Lake and the editors of Writer’s Digest.

First, on page 146 in the section Critical Reactions to Steampunk:

“A handful of editors and writers are tackling the issues of classism, racism, and imperialism head on, including independent Hades Publishing anthology Shanghai Steam (2012), which offers a Chinese view of the steampunk world.”


Recommends "Shanghai Steam!"

Next, page 150 lists Shanghai Steam in the section Recommended Steampunk Reading under the heading Anthologies, Short Fiction and Miscellaneous.

Then this past week, the ebook edition of Shanghai Steam made Amazon top 100 lists in both the steampunk and Asian myths and legends categories.  On the Asian myths and legends list, Shanghai Steam at one point was rated #11.

All this is in addition to the anthology’s nomination for an Aurora Award in Canada earlier this year.  I’m proud to be one of the authors featured in Shanghai Steam.

For those of you seeking a good book for yourself or a person on your gift list, please consider Shanghai Steam (Calvin D. Jim, Renée Bennett, and Ace Jordyn, editors).  Available on Amazon.

A description of Shanghai Steam is as follows:
From ancient China to a future Mars, from the British Empire to the Old West, 19 authors show you worlds with alcohol-fueled dragons, philosophical automatons, and Qi-powered machines both wondrous and strange in tales of vengeance, paper lantern revolutions and flying monks. Shanghai Steam is a unique mash up of steampunk and the Chinese literary genre known as wuxia (loosely translated as martial hero). Shanghai Steam includes works by: Camille Alexa, Shen Braun, Amanda Clark, Ray Dean, Tim Ford, Laurel Anne Hill, Minsoo Kang, William H. Keith, Crystal Koo, Frank Larnerd, Emily Mah, Derwin Mak, Brent Nichols, Frances Pauli, Jennifer Rahn, Tim Reynolds, Julia A. Rosenthal, Nick Tramdack, and K. H. Vaughan.

To view the book trailer, CLICK HERE.

Happy reading,

Laurel Anne Hill (award-winning author of HEROES ARISE)


SHADOW PEOPLE by Scott Thomas Anderson (Review by Laurel Anne Hill)

Written by Laurel on December 10th, 2013

 A Riveting Read!

Shadow People by Scott Thomas Anderson

by Scott Thomas Anderson

Want to read a touching tale during the Christmas season?  Curl up in a chair with your hot cocoa and let prose transport you to whimsical worlds filled with happy endings?  Well, Shadow People, by Scott Thomas Anderson, won’t take you to that warm-and-fuzzy location.  Nevertheless, his amazing piece of investigative journalism—created in association with the Coalition for Investigative Journalism—might just push your personal alert button in time to protect those you love.

Anderson uses the creative writing style of narrative nonfiction to show how methamphetamine addition and the crime that results from it are eating at the heart of rural America.  Plus, the laws meant to keep precursor chemicals out of the hands of clandestine chemists have only shifted the manufacturing of methamphetamine from mom and pop laboratories to the drug cartels.  In other words, wherever you build the demand—cities, suburbs or rural landscapes—the suppliers will come to that location.

From the back cover of Shadow People:
Sleepless and paranoid, methamphetamine addicts often see “shadow people” in the darkest hours of the night.  Yet it is the addicts themselves that cast a shadow over the most peaceful corners of America, driven in large numbers to commit fraud, identity theft, burglary, domestic violence, elder abuse, child abuse, assault and murder.

In 2010, award-winning journalist Scott Thomas Anderson began to explore the link between crime and methamphetamine, spending sixteen months as an embedded reporter with rural county law enforcement agencies and traveling to dozens of small towns battling the epidemic across the United States.  The result is Shadow People, an unflinching look at the havoc and heartache meth spawns in the open countryside—a window to how the drug is threatening America’s wide-open spaces, fueling crimes against citizens, breaking families apart, devastating innocent children and tearing away at the psyche of each community through which it spreads.

And here is just one of the book’s endorsements:
“A compelling and up-close look at one of the most corrosive issues that our communities face…this book is full of the kind of front-line reporting and gritty detail needed to illuminate the meth scourge.”

        —Greg Miller, National Security Reporter, The Washington Post

The happy ending for the seemingly “neverending story” of methamphetamine will come when “we, the people,” write it.  To start, we need to better educate ourselves and upcoming generations about the horrendous mental and physical disaster associated with methamphetamine addiction.

Purchase Shadow People (copyright 2011) and/or get the book into your local library.  This is a nonfiction book that as many adults and teens as possible in the U.S.A. should read.

With warm wishes for a happy and safe 2014,

Laurel Anne Hill (award-winning author of Heroes Arise)