"I am always at a loss how much to
believe my own stories."
-Washington Irving, Tales of a Traveler, 1824


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Welcome to PenHead.org, an oasis of uninformed analysis in a desert of educated guesswork. What is a Penhead? Do you fancy yourself a writer? Enjoy a good read? Then you may already be a Penhead yourself!

We are your source for original stories, the occasional interview with our favorite authors, book and play reviews, recommendations (of current and forgotten finds), and more.

Our Goal: World domination through the written word via the vast network of the internet. Until then, we'll be found risking what's left of our reputations here, at PenHead.org.

Keep in mind the internet's similar to the Jersey Turnpike - it's all about hits and traffic - so visit often, share us repeatedly and we'll do our best to keep things interesting. Who knows... you might even be entertained.


There is, in effect, a genocide taking place in America today. Its victims don't come from any particular ethnicity or religion, but from across a wide spectrum of species. Mostly though, they're cats and dogs. The shelter system in the United States has become a monster, both in size and practice. Too frequently animals saddled with behavioral challenges are euthanized out of convenience, over necessity. Often, our shelter dogs and cats only just need to break through their emotional barriers to be set on a path to finding forever homes. Fortunately, there is a growing movement among animal advocates looking to help them do just that.

Joan Ranquet is on a mission. Her goal: To give voice to the voiceless in order to create harmony on this planet so the Earth can begin to heal itself. In 2022 she set the lofty goal of helping 22 million animals by year's end. For 2023, she's upped it to 23 million. By building an army of animal communicators and healers through her school, Communication With All Life University, she's confident . . . more >

The purpose of Elizabeth Elias Kaufman's Big & Little Animals is clear (as stated on the back cover):

    [To] enable your child to understand and relate to the animal world. The curiosity of a young child will easily be satisfied through full-color pictures and easy-to-read type.
Attempting to strike a balance between photos and text, Big & Little Animals serves as a basic introduction to the wild kingdom. Expect nothing more and you'll not be disappointed. Cat and horse lovers, on the other hand, might be. Though the cover sports an image of a kitten and horse going nose-to-nose, there's nary a housecat, horse, or pony to be found within . . . more >

Perhaps no other summertime tradition is more honored than the telling of a good ghost story around the campfire. It knows no ethnic or political boundaries. It doesn't care what type of music you listen to, or how much money you make. It is just what it is: a momentary thrill at campfire's edge, a world caught between the flame and night's pervading ink. This summer, turn the cell phone off and have a go at a good ghost story. There's nothing like it.

Life Imitates Art
Upon cracking open Charles Edwin Price's Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee, I am immediately reminded of another title: 10 Haunted Hotels. A fictional collection of haunted B&Bs, gathered together by Mike Enslin (played by John Cusack in 2007's 1408, a film based on the short story by Stephen King), an author/researcher of the paranormal. (He's also a skeptic, assigning skulls - one to ten - based on the "shiver" factor of each property, who ends up a scared witless believer himself by movie's end.) Which is not to say Price's book was put together to fill beds in B&Bs . . . more >

As in comedy, suspense is all about timing. Usually, it involves a race against time. Whether it be getting the ingenue untied from the tracks before the train barrels over her, or waiting for a jury to determine the fate of a defendant, timing is crucial.

Tales of Edgar Allan Poe contains eleven short stories by the master of suspense. Written in the nineteenth century, Poe employs a writing style that feels decidedly Old World. He borrows terms archaic by today's standards, and sets them to a meter that is pure bliss to read aloud. The result is a lyricism largely gone missing in publishing today:

    We had protracted our sitting far into the night, and I had at length effected the maneuver of getting Glendinning as my sole antagonist. The game, too, was my favorite, ecarte'. The rest of the company, interested in the extent of our play, had abandoned their own cards and were standing around us as spectators. The parvenu, who had been induced by my artifices in the early part of the . . . more >
Satire and her sidekick parody have been with us throughout the ages. Since at least 60 BC, when Juvenal penned Satires in which he observed, "It is difficult not to write satire," they have provided a convenient - not to mention entertaining- go-to for playwrights, poets and novelists alike. While parody and satire go hand-in-hand, it's no equal partnership: satire can hold her own without parody, but without satire, parody hasn't a leg to stand on. In an age when political rallies have more in common with the comedy roadshow than with campaigning, and cable news personalities morph daily into parodies of themselves in real time, we've no shortage of material. We're ridiculous - yesterday, today, and tomorrow - and nothing feeds satire like the ridiculous in us all.

In The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication, John Steinbeck deconstructs the French Revolution. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, he aims a spotlight at twentieth century French politics, revealing - while . . . more >

Kurt Vonnegut is a kingpin in the writing game. There is no subject he hasn't the courage to touch. Whether satirizing utopian society (Player Piano Laurel, $4.95), Nazis (Mother Night, Random House, $17.00), or the self-importance of man (The Sirens of Titan, Random House, $17.00), Vonnegut slices with the precision of an itamae. He tackles the themes presented in Hocus Pocus no less skillfully.

Written from the viewpoint of Eugene Debs Hartke - named after notorious Socialist Eugene Victor Debs (1855-1926) of Indiana, a darling of the American Labor movement for his activism and having declared, "While there is a lower class I am in it. While there is a criminal element I am of it. While there is a soul in prison I am not free" - Vonnegut tools him into storyteller and protagonist alike. A former teacher at Tarkington College, a small private school for the sons and daughters of the super-rich who can't cut it elsewhere, he is presently cloistered in the abandoned school's library, suffering from tuberculosis, while awaiting trial for allegedly . . . more >

America's national park system is immense. Its network of over 335 properties comprised of national monuments (129), national historic parks (57), national historic sites (85), national parks (64, including Gettysburg National Military Park), have made it the gold standard of park systems for more than a hundred years. In survey after survey, America's National Park Service consistently receives the highest marks of any government agency. While Americans can't agree on much these days, it's nice to know there's one thing we can: we love our national parks.

At the time of printing, The National Parks of America: An Illustrated Guide to All the National Parks, Preserves, Monuments, Seashores, and Historic Sites of the United States of America, by James Murfin, covered all the national parks, historic sites, preserves, monuments and seashores under the protection of the National Park Service. Since then others have been added, removed or redesignated. The National Park Service is a vast agency, managing properties across 47 states, four US territories . . . more >

In Views, Washington: A Collection of Photographs, Chris Jacobson focuses his lens on the Pacific Northwest. A compilation of scenic wonders in Washington state, he covers the ground from sea stacks on the coast, to the arid eastern wheat fields of the Palouse. The pages between are filled with tranquil scenes, including the Cascade Mountains and city skylines, each reflecting Jacobson's expert eye for composition.

While not all-inclusive of the state's national parks, Jacobson's aim is true. His photos capture vistas from unusual viewpoints, revealing mountainsides, forests, and lakes from perspectives the average park visitor . . . more >


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