The Weekly Dish 23/01/26

News from the local food scene

Celebrate Mardi Gras: Get your tickets now to the Franco-American Centre’s annual Mardi Gras celebration, happening on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 6 p.m. at the Alpine Club (175 Putnam St., Manchester). The event will feature a variety of Cajun and comfort items served buffet style, along with king cake and a cash bar. Activities will include karaoke, dancing, a costume contest, 50/50 raffles, door prizes and more. The cost is $25 for non-FAC members, $20 for members and $15 for 2022 volunteers. Pre-register online by Feb. 1 at — non-members will receive one free raffle ticket and members will receive three tickets for a chance to win the door prizes, and additional tickets will also be available for purchase for more chances to win.

From Venice to Bedford: Join the Bedford Village Inn (2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford) for its own take on the Carnevale di Venezia, a three-day ice festival happening Thursday, Feb. 2, through Saturday, Feb. 4, from 6 to 10 p.m. each evening. Attendees will be fully immersed in Venetian culture, enjoying the sites of ice sculptures and ice bars designed to pay homage to one of Italy’s most famous annual celebrations. Activities will include live music, martini bars with specialty cocktails, a whiskey bar, a beer and wine bar and lots of ice. The Inn’s Great Hall will be offering snacks and desserts available for purchase with tokens, which will be sold at the door. Food items each evening will include Italian sausage subs, Carnevale lasagna soup, Sicilian-style pizza, vegetable minestrone soup, Cape Cod oysters, Jumbo cocktail shrimp, traditional or double chocolate cannolis and tiramisu cheesecake. Ice bar tokens are to be used to purchase all food and beverages at the ice bar — cash and credit cards will not be accepted. Tokens will be sold on site in bundles of five, 10 and 20 via credit card only — they are not cash refundable but can be used at any of the Inn’s dining outlets from Feb. 2 through March 31 for the face value of $3.50 apiece. Tickets are $40 per person (event is 21+ only). Visit

QC Cupcakes completes move: Manchester’s Queen City Cupcakes has completed the move of its operations a few doors down, joining forces with its sister gift shop, Pop of Color, according to a recent announcement from its email newsletter. You can find the adjoining businesses, now known as Queen City Cupcakes & Gift Shop, between Market Square Jewelers and Granite State Candy Shoppe at 816 Elm St. Queen City Cupcakes has been open since 2011, offering freshly baked small-batch cupcakes daily in a rotating menu of flavors. Visit to see their most up-to-date cupcake menus.

A bittersweet farewell: On Saturday, Jan. 21, Blake’s Creamery closed its 353 S. Main St. restaurant. “We have had the pleasure of serving this Manchester neighborhood with great pride for nearly 60 years,” reads a recent announcement posted to Blake’s website. “We are deeply appreciative to our loyal customers, employees and vendors who have supported us throughout the years. We will miss all of them.” The announcement goes on to say that Blake’s wholesale ice cream business will continue production and distribution to its many wholesale customers across New England. Visit to read the full statement.

On The Job – Shelly A. Mead

Justice of the Peace

Shelly A. Mead is a justice of the peace who officiates weddings throughout southern New Hampshire.

Explain your job and what it entails.

My job is to write and officiate wedding ceremonies for any mutually consenting couple in New Hampshire. I am able to perform quick legal ceremonies, but I specialize in creating love story ceremonies for couples. This involves really getting to know a couple and having them open up about what makes their relationship work, what they love about each other and their favorite memories together. I translate those details into a ceremony that I perform on their wedding day. My ultimate goals are to make the ceremony planning process feel simple and straightforward for couples, and to create a relationship that allows them to feel as calm and confident as humanly possible when standing up in front of their family and friends on their wedding day.

How long have you had this job?

Six years.

What led you to this career field and your current job?

I officiated for the first time in 2017 for my brother-in-law with the intention of never officiating again. As it turned out, creating and officiating ceremonies is extremely joyful and rewarding work. Since then, I have officiated over 350 ceremonies, and 2023 will be my sixth wedding season.

What kind of education or training did you need?

To become a justice of the peace in New Hampshire, one must take an oath and then be certified by the governor. Much of my training was through extensive online research, and then on the job. I love learning from other officiants and have great local mentors. I get really excited when a couple brings up a new idea or tradition to research that can be incorporated into their ceremony.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

I typically wear a black or navy dress or suit, depending on the couple’s wedding colors.

How has your job changed over the course of the pandemic?

This past wedding season was incredibly busy as so many couples had to put off their big wedding from 2020 to 2022. I often officiate for couples who want to have a quick legal ceremony and then plan to celebrate with a formal wedding when there are fewer Covid restrictions or more open wedding dates. I think for a justice of the peace it is not that common to have repeat customers. With couples having a private elopement and then a big ceremony later, I sometimes get the honor of sharing their happiness twice.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

It is so important to set boundaries with clients. Having a detailed contract to establish ground rules is key.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

Something that not many people realize is that planning a beautiful and meaningful ceremony takes time — a lot of time. If you go to a wedding and the ceremony is executed flawlessly, with the couple and their guests sharing laughter, joy and maybe even some happy tears, know that years of experience and hours of time went into making that 15 to 30 minutes so completely perfect.

What was the first job you ever had?

I worked as a page at the Manchester Public Library in Manchester, Connecticut.

What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?

Always take a deep breath and smile at the beginning of a ceremony. It helps the couple to relax.

Five favorites

Favorite book:
Beartown series by Fredrik Backman
Favorite movie: Stranger Than Fiction
Favorite music: I always sing in the car to get warmed up for a ceremony. Currently, Lizzo and Adele are my top choices.
Favorite food: Cherries
Favorite thing about NH: I love that we can be in a city, the beach or the mountains all in just an hour. New Hampshire has it all.

Featured photo: Shelly A. Mead. Courtesy photo.

Treasure Hunt 23/01/26

Dear Donna,

Picked this up a few months ago. I thought it was interesting. It looks all handmade and has weight to it. It’s 4 inches by 6 inches. I think it could be an old chalkboard eraser. The bottom has about 1/4 inch of felt. Interesting, as I said. What do you think?

Luke in Berlin, N.H.

Dear Luke,

You got my interest!

First, you are right, it appears to be handmade. It looks old, but it’s tough to be exact with the age of handmade items.

My question would be why would it need to be heavy if it’s an eraser. My thought is that it’s more of a commemorative to a dog. Possibly a paperweight? You could be right, or maybe it’s even for something we won’t ever know.

To give it a value: It’s a homemade piece with good detail, construction and subject. I would say your little treasure is in the $40 range!

Thanks for sharing, Luke.


Kiddie Pool 23/01/26

Family fun for the weekend

Museum fun

• On Thursday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire (27 Navigator Road, Londonderry) will be hosting Lighter Than Air, an educational program and lecture about the people who pioneered flight through hot air balloons. The event will have photographs of the early pioneers of air travel, many of whom were in the Manchester region. Tickets to the event cost $10 for nonmembers and are free to members. Visit for more information.

• Join the Children’s Museum (6 Washington St., Dover) for a Robotics Petting Zoo presented by Sages Entertainment on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 11 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. Kids will learn about what makes robots special, how people use them in everyday life, and the code that brings robots to life. There will also be a robot scavenger hunt and robot-themed craft in the Muse Art Studio at the museum. Join the event by purchasing morning or afternoon play tickets at Tickets cost $12.50 for children and adults, $10.50 for seniors older than 65. Children younger than 1 year old are free.

• Build a plane with the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire (27 Navigator Road, Londonderry) at their student and family plane-build open house on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m. The open house is to promote a program with the Manchester School of Technology, where students will work with volunteers to build a plane from scratch during the school year. The program is free for students who meet the age requirement, and students from other schools or districts or who are homeschooled are able to participate as well. To learn more about the program, visit


• All three Chunky’s (707 Huse Road, Manchester; 151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua; 150 Bridge St., Pelham) will have a little lunch date showing the movie Shrek (PG, 2001) on Friday, Jan. 27, at 3:45 p.m. The family-friendly showing will have dimmed lights. Admission is free, but reserve a seat with a $5 food voucher at

• Get your claws and whiskers ready for a family-friendly production of Cats: the Young Actors Versionby the Majestic Academy of Dramatic Arts at the Derry Opera House (29 West Broadway). Opening night is Friday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. and following shows are on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 2 and 7 p.m. and on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $13 for seniors ages 65 and older, $10 for youth 17 and younger. Purchase tickets at

• Red River Theatres (11 S. Main St., Concord) is screening Frozen (PG, 2013) on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 10 a.m. as part of the Concord Winter Festival. Tickets cost $10 per person; visit to purchase tickets.

Save the date

• Get prehistoric with the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St., Dover) with a dinosaur-themed Valentine’s Day party on Sunday, Feb. 12, from 1 to 3 p.m. The party will have a dinosaur-themed craft, stories, and a meet and greet with a friendly dinosaur. This event is a special ticketed event. Tickets cost $10 for members, $16 for nonmembers, free for children under a year. Ticket sales start on Wednesday, Jan. 25, for members and open to the public on Monday, Jan. 30. To purchase tickets, visit

• Winter vacation is just around the corner, and Park Arts (19 Main St., Jaffrey) is holding a winter vacation camp for all the little performers starting on Monday, Feb. 27. The camp will run the whole week and include a performance on March 4. The play for elementary students will be The Elves and the Shoemaker and the play for middle school students is Mystery Anyone? Each camp costs $90 for admission, with an optional $12 for a commemorative T-shirt. Registration is open and can be done at

Spring flower shows are back!

Get your tickets now

The spring flower shows are always a contrast to the cold, icy days of winter. Bright flowers, garden paraphernalia and numerous workshops make these events fun, for both beginner and expert. Here are this year’s offerings.

The first show of the season is a specialty show: orchids. The New Hampshire Orchid Society is holding its annual get-together Friday, Feb. 10, to Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Courtyard Marriott in Nashua. This is the show for orchid lovers. There will be vendors of orchids from Ecuador, Taiwan and the U.S. Members of the Society will bring their orchids to compete and to strut their stuff. Admission is just $10, or $8 for seniors.

Next up is the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show Feb. 23 to Feb. 26. This is a mammoth show with more than 3 acres of displays. As always, it is being held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Tickets are $20 at the door, or $17 in advance. Kids 5 to 12 are $5.

One of the greatest things about this show is the educational seminars. Here are a few workshops that interest me: “Good Bug, Bad Bug, Benign Bug.” This is great for anyone who tends to squish any bug in the garden even though most are not a problem. I assume there will be slides of insects we should recognize but probably don’t. Then there is one on organic lawn care, and another called “Shady Characters.” I know garden writer Ellen Ecker Ogden of Vermont will do a nice slide presentation and talk about kitchen garden design and how to make your veggies look artful. She always does.

One of my favorite shows is always the Vermont Flower Show. It will take place this year March 3 to March 5 at the Champlain Valley Expo Center in Essex Junction, Vermont. The theme this year is “Out of Hibernation! Spring Comes to the 100-Acre Wood,”a tribute to Winnie-the-Pooh.

The main garden display is always a collaborative effort by members of the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association. For three and a half days members of VNLA will work together to create a 15,000-square-foot display using their own and donated materials. Other shows tend to have displays by professionals that are competing with each other, but not in Vermont — they work together.

There will be more than 100 vendors and 35 workshops to attend over the three days of the event. In the past I have purchased seeds, seed potatoes, bulbs, books and garden tools. Tickets are $25, or $20 for seniors. Kids are $7.

The Vermont show is a child-friendly event with a craft room open all day. Go online to see the schedule of events for kids — there will be a magician, marionettes and music. Be sure to attend this year — it only occurs every other year.

A bit farther afield there is the Philadelphia Flower Show. Last year they held it outdoors in May due to Covid concerns, but this year they are back inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philly March 4 to March 12. According to their publicity, “The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show is both the nation’s largest and the world’s longest-running horticultural event, featuring stunning displays by premier floral and landscape designers from around the globe. Started in 1829 by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Show introduces diverse and sustainable plant varieties and garden and design concepts. In addition to acres of garden displays, the Flower Show hosts esteemed competitions in horticulture and artistic floral arranging, gardening presentations and demonstrations, and special events.”

I’ve been to the Philly show a couple of times and I am always amazed by the sheer size and diversity of the displays, vendors and workshops. It is best to go mid-week when crowds are smaller, and take two days, if you can, to see it all. Tickets are $43.50 for adults and $20 for kids.

A show I have yet to attend is the Capital Region Flower and Garden Show in Troy, New York, which will be held again this year at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy from March 24 to March 26. According to their website, there will be 160 vendors and exhibitors and eight to 10 workshops each day.

Then in May there is the New Hampshire Farm, Garden and Forest Expo being held this year at the Deerfield Fairgrounds on May 5 and May 6. It is now in its 40th year and is the least commercial of all the shows. It is focused on sharing information.

Finally May 23 to May 27 there is the Chelsea Flower Show of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in London, England. I’ve been, and it was well worth the trip. It’s held outdoors and is truly wonderful.

If you plan to go to Chelsea, join the RHS to get better access times and pricing. Members get a discount of over $10 per day, but prices still range from $89 to $46 depending on the day of the week. British women tend to dress up for this show and wear big colorful hats. The first two days are for members only, so it should be a bit less crowded.

The spring flower shows are fun — and we deserve that after a long New England winter.

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

Frozen fun

The annual Winter Festival in Concord is back

Intown Concord is bringing some post-holiday fun to the city with the annual Winter Festival, with ice sculpting competitions, unique food options and more starting on Friday, Jan. 27, at 3 p.m.

Haylie Stoddard, a representative from Intown Concord, one of the organizations that has partnered to run the festival for the last five years, said that this year will have a few new additions to the festivities.

“New this year we’ll have the Capitol Street warming hut and beer garden, and we’re excited to have that,” said Stoddard, adding that there is a lounge area in the tent as well, and the garden will serve local canned beers and drinks.

There will also be a dozen vendors, from media corporations to artisans. Stoddard said this was the first time in a while that the group had brought on vendors to the partnership.

The main event of the festival is the ice carving competitions, Stoddard said. This year the competitions will take place in front of the Statehouse. On Friday the sculptors will honor the sponsors of the festival with something inspired by the company’s logo or industry. Stoddard said that it used to be sculptures of the logos, but that proved to be too time-consuming for the smaller sculpting.

On Saturday, the six sculptors will spend the whole day working on creating the semi-permanent masterpieces. Stoddard said that it was important to the festival committee to give the sculptors as much free range as they wanted when it came to the creation of the frozen artwork. She said there is something magical about the ice and the way sculptors work it into their own vision.

“It brings uniqueness … during a colder time of year,” Stoddard said about the sculptures. She said it also gives people a chance to enjoy the winter weather. “Not everybody has the opportunity to get out, especially if they have a family and if they don’t do skiing or snowboarding. [The festival] gives a free option for families to get out and do something during the day and get some fresh air.”

Red River Theatres is partnering with the event this year and is showing family favorite Frozen (PG, 2013) on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 10 a.m. The Concord Public Library will host a snowy storytime that might feature everyone’s favorite ice queen and her younger sister.

The Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament,originally slated to coincide with the Festival, has been postponed to March 17 through March 19. According to Intown’s website, the O Steak & Seafood ice bar also has been postponed.

The winter festival is all about bringing the community together and outside during a time of year when most like to stay indoors, Stoddard said.

“It’s fun and something to do in the wintertime,” said Stoddard. “Get some fresh air and check out beautiful pieces of art. Even though it’s temporary, it’s exciting and unique.”

Concord Winter Festival
Where: New Hampshire Statehouse, 107 N. Main St., Concord
When: Friday, Jan. 27, from 3 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 28, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of Intown Concord.

The Hippo’s 2023 Wedding Guide

Why to marry at a museum, fall versus spring, and the trouble with desserts

Wedding tips and stories from the pros

You probably want too much dessert.

That’s one of the takeaways from the wedding planners who offer their experiences arranging couples’ special days. Wedding planner Anja Matukic reminds us that all the times you may have left a wedding early point to less need for desserts than most couples assume when they are planning their wedding meal.

Looking for more ideas on ways to make your wedding memorable and how to avoid some pitfalls? Take advice from these experts.

Anja Matukic of Fete & Festoon


How did you get into the wedding business?

I studied hospitality and events in college and got my professional experience in the hospitality industry. I was working for a corporate planning company based in Boston when the pandemic hit and I lost my job. I had done some freelance event work here and there and always thought about starting my own business. I strategized a brief business plan, made a website and some business cards, and here we are today. One reason I particularly love weddings is the strong sentiment and emotion behind each experience. These are such special days … and I love that I get to be a small part of it.

Describe one of your most memorable weddings.

It was an oceanfront September event in 2021. Min and Hunter hosted their wedding on Hunter’s parents’ property — a private yacht club in Portsmouth. It was a custom-built event from start to finish that contributed to the guest experience while showcasing their love story. They honored the groom’s late mother in countless ways: just like for Hunter’s parents’ wedding, Min was brought to the ceremony on a boat, and they had the ceremony on the pier. They were married by the same bishop and danced to the same band that performed at the groom’s parents’ wedding nearly 30 years earlier. Hunter’s father built a deck on the island’s edge, which was used as the dance floor. Engineers themselves, Min and Hunter built their own marquee lights, lighting fixtures that hung in the tent and wood lanterns for centerpieces. Min’s family traveled from South Korea to attend, and they honored her family’s background with a custom menu served by the yacht club’s private caterer. It was an expertly crafted quintessential New England wedding day, enhanced enormously with the couple’s personal touches.

What’s a fun wedding location people may not have considered?

I’m a sucker for museums. One gorgeous, often unconsidered location is Manchester’s Currier Museum of Art. They have several stunning spaces to pick from, and it’s not your traditional wedding space; it’s a little bit of Europe in southern New Hampshire, and it feels so elevated. Plus, designing your wedding is much simpler when you have literal masterpieces surrounding you.

Winter, spring, summer or fall wedding, and why?

Early fall, right at the tail end of summer. The air has that touch of crispness to it, but the sunshine and warm temperatures still hold up without feeling scorching hot. It’s the perfect weather to wear a suit without sweating through it and to wear any style of dress. You’ve got quite a broad selection of design themes and florals to pick from.

What’s one thing that’s worth spending extra money on? What’s something that you can go cheap with?

Many couples think they can skip out on a planner. I’m not saying you need to hire someone to plan your wedding, but you should at least hire someone to execute your wedding weekend. … All events are prone to in-the-moment changes and potential disasters, and you want someone in your corner who understands your values and will take care of it. They’ll trouble-solve the inevitable issues, make sure everyone’s where they need to be and pick up the pieces when a vendor drops the ball. … You’ll feel that weight lifted off your shoulders … so that you can enjoy every moment.

You can save some money on dessert. Almost every couple over-orders their dessert when there are many guests who won’t indulge or will leave before it’s even served. I recommend only purchasing enough dessert for 70 percent of your guest count.

Recount a wedding mishap and how you handled it.

The dessert provider delivered a three-tier cake minutes before the ceremony — completely smashed. The top tier looked just fine, but there was no way the bottom two tiers could be salvaged aesthetically. The venue and I put our MacGyver hats on. The cake was supposed to sit on a flat cake stand in the center of a dessert display. The one tier would have looked silly if we stuck with that plan, so we decided to build a taller cake stand to keep a similar setup. We were able to salvage the second tier using some icing from the bottom, but it didn’t look pretty. Once we put the cake on the stand, we hid the imperfections with some leftover blooms that matched the topper — and voila. During the ceremony we contacted another baker who was able to give us a couple of smaller cakes to feed the guests. Our makeshift two-tier delight lasted long enough to cut into the top tier, and then the venue sliced up the backup cakes to serve guests. The couple didn’t even notice.

How do you help a couple when each partner has a different vision for their wedding?

My first step, before we even begin planning, is to get to the root of why they’re even hosting a wedding. It sounds like a silly conversation at first, answering a seemingly simple question — why are you having a wedding? With every response, I continue to ask ‘why?’ until we get to the deep, meaningful heart of it, and that becomes my mission for the entire experience. When it’s time to start making decisions, I always refer back to this and triple-check that the decision contributes to that mission. When a couple has disagreeing visions, we’ll come back to this ‘why’ together and have a discussion comparing their visions. Sometimes one partner will quickly realize their vision doesn’t contribute to the mission. Other times we’ll take pieces of both visions to craft something truly theirs.

How are weddings today different from what they were pre-pandemic?

The pandemic … forced the world to slow down and consider how time is passing them by, and the same is true for weddings. Couples are more in tune with what’s important to them and why, and they’re not as willing to compromise on those values because of family expectations or tradition. Weddings feel more personal and less like the pageantry of the past. If a tradition doesn’t feel right, get rid of it.

Angela Desrochers of Angela Marie Weddings


How did you get into the wedding business?

I decided to become a wedding planner after planning my own wedding. I wanted to work for myself and have more flexibility with young kids at home. My background in data analysis was a great asset to making this transition since wedding planning is all about details, organization, time management and logistics. Wedding design has allowed me to tap into my more creative side.

Describe one of your most memorable weddings.

Our favorites are those that bring in elements that embrace them personally, such as Dungeons & Dragons-themed centerpieces or Nerf guns. Yes, we had a group of bridesmaids ambush the groomsmen with Nerf guns. One of my favorites was an autumn boho wedding inspired by the Celtic harvest at Allrose Farm in Greenfield. They selected Celtic music and included an ancient Celtic oathing stone ritual during their ceremony. Every element and detail represented the couple and their love for one another.

What’s a fun wedding location people may not have considered?

Non-traditional wedding locations sometimes come with unique logistical challenges, but a butterfly sanctuary, zoo, aquarium or museum are great options we don’t see a lot of. A warehouse or nightclub are also great blank canvas options to design however you want.

Winter, spring, summer or fall wedding, and why?

We love fall weddings. The fall foliage and vibrant colors of nature make for a beautiful backdrop. We’d like to see more winter weddings. They’re not ideal for outdoor weddings, but many venues have off-season pricing, making it a great option for your wallet. The snow is pretty, too.

What’s one thing that’s worth spending extra money on? What’s something you can go cheap with?

This [depends on] what the priorities of the couple are. When a couple is looking to cut costs, we recommend a lower budget for flowers and stationary. Also consider, in place of a full open bar, serving beer, wine and a signature cocktail. Food and entertainment are often areas that couples are happy to spend extra money on, as a great guest experience is typically a high priority.

Recount a wedding mishap and how you handled it.

Being in the wedding business for nearly 10 years, we’ve had our fair share of mishaps ranging from a guest falling and dislocating a shoulder and Champagne flutes left off a rental order, to an intoxicated guest making a scene. It’s important to stay calm and in control, helping to keep the couple and guests calm as well. … Recently we had a DJ who was two hours late. We found a portable speaker and a Spotify playlist to get through cocktail hour, organized the bridesmaids to announce the newlyweds, made a few toasts without a microphone and rearranged the timeline to move the first dance to later in the evening, but everything stayed on track, and at the end of the day everyone was happy.

How do you help a couple when each partner has a different vision for their wedding?

It’s important to get couples on the same page before the planning begins. We discuss each of their individual priorities and then come up with joint priorities. It’s a simple but effective exercise. We [act as] a third party impartial resource, providing facts and pros and cons to help them make a decision they both will be happy with.

How are weddings today different from what they were pre-pandemic?

Things are mostly back to the way they were before — no more concerns about social distancing, masks and sanitizer or buffets and food stations. The biggest impact we’re seeing is inflation; everything just costs more, which has forced couples to downsize their flowers or reduce their guest counts to save on food costs.

Christa McLean of Christa McLean Events


How did you get into the wedding business?

Growing up and working my way up the ladder in hospitality, I always found the most special occasions were the occasions I could help make lifelong memories for guests. … Being around events for years, eventually you find a natural rhythm in planning and executing. … I coordinated and managed weddings periodically, but after a long commute back to New Hampshire from managing a music venue in Cambridge, I connected with a New Hampshire wedding venue and worked at that venue full time for eight years before starting my business.

Describe one of your most memorable weddings.

It took place on the most perfect fall day. … This wedding had some hiccups along the way, but the solutions truly worked out better than the original plans, so we had an ‘everything happens for a reason’ mantra going on. The wedding professionals had all worked together numerous times so the flow was on point. There were a few special entertainers, including the bagpiper from Dropkick Murphys and Celtic music by Celtic Beats as well as traditional Scottish line dancing. The key features in this wedding were personal to the couple. During planning, they came up with epic ideas, then discussed with their vendors, who all discussed together to come up with the best way to execute.

What’s a fun wedding location people may not have considered?

Flag Hill Distillery and Winery has a special place in my heart. Its vineyard is stunning July through September, and it’s fun that you can go back to visit for a tasting on your anniversary.

Winter, spring, summer or fall wedding, and why?

There’s certainly a magic about fall weddings in New England, but each season has pros and cons. … If you have travelers, don’t choose winter in case of inclement weather. If you’re choosing an outdoor venue, spring is great due to freshly done landscaping. Summer will provide the full, lush greenery that’s so trendy. Ultimately, choosing a date that’s special to you or will allow you to have a special anniversary is a good idea. But if you go into wedding planning with a season in mind but not a date, that’ll allow you to find your perfect venue and then base your date on the availability.

What’s one thing that’s worth spending extra money on? What’s something you can go cheap with?

Don’t downplay the importance of photos and video. Whenever I have a hard day or am in a mood, I watch my wedding video and am able to snap back into a good place. To be able to capture memories of your best day ever is amazing and can only happen once. Imagine hiring someone who misses a special moment. Go cheap with programs and favors; they’re usually left behind by guests.

Recount a wedding mishap and how you handled it.

The buses that someone was supposed to book weren’t actually booked, and guests weren’t going to get there for the ceremony that was starting in 20 minutes. I called a connection at the bus company and had two buses ASAP. The ceremony started 20 minutes late, but just about everyone was there and had a great time, and the bride didn’t find out until the end of night.

How do you help a couple when each partner has a different vision for their wedding?

I discuss pros and cons based on experience. We find a way to sometimes weigh what the priorities for each of them are and meet in the middle of some ideas. Coming together to plan the biggest event you’ll ever throw for yourself can be a lot, but you learn to compromise when needed.

How are weddings today different from what they were pre-pandemic?

I’m seeing less [weddings with] 200+ [guests]. Couples are also definitely more interested in how things are going to be executed, especially food. Pre-pandemic the focus was more on if the food tastes good and is at a fair cost. Now I get more questions about where it’ll be and how it’ll be served.

Melanie Voros of Blissful Beginnings Wedding & Event Design


How did you get into the wedding business?

I celebrated Blissful Beginnings’ 25th anniversary last fall. I had been working in a bridal shop and loved the elements of fashion and design, but I equally enjoyed working with the brides and their entourage, helping them stay on budget and hearing about the event details. … At the time, wedding planning wasn’t something you could study in college, so I took a certificate course through Weddings Beautiful Worldwide to become a certified wedding planner and opened my business shortly thereafter. Over these 25 years, I’ve worked with over 1,500 weddings across New England.

black and white photo of two people walking through snowy courtyard, night, string lights
Blissful Beginnings. Photo by Kelsey Regan Photography

Describe one of your most memorable weddings.

One extra-special wedding was actually a 10-year surprise vow renewal and anniversary party for a couple whose wedding I planned and officiated back in 2012. The husband called on me to help him coordinate this 120-guest party as a complete surprise to his wife, back at the same venue where they were married the first time. I was honored to once again officiate their ceremony as well. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wedding in Jackson, New Hampshire, where I met my now-husband back on July 7, 2007.

What’s a fun wedding location people may not have considered?

The most special locations are those that mean something to the clients, so I often work at private homes, family vacation spots and places where memories can continue to be made long after the wedding day. Many clients choose to incorporate fun excursions or activities … to introduce their guests to a place that’s special to them. One couple planned a scavenger hunt on the campus of their alma mater Dartmouth College to share the story of how they met with their friends and family.

Winter, spring, summer or fall wedding, and why?

In New England, ‘wedding season’ is mainly spring, summer and fall, but to me, that makes winter weddings even more special. There’s something about the dramatic build up to a winter wedding, as well as the different activities and design elements that can be incorporated that make them so unique. For a recent winter wedding, we created a magical outdoor winter welcome party the night before, complete with fire pits, festive lighting, night sledding, a live ice sculpture demonstration, hot drinks and fair food.

What’s one thing that’s worth spending extra money on? What’s something you can go cheap with?

The best-spent money is always on elements that benefit the entire group or overall success of the event, such as appropriate amount of waitstaff and bartenders, the correct tent size, heating or cooling and enough food. I like to help my clients create a priority list of ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ so they can budget for some of their fun but less imperative ‘wants’ while also covering their ‘needs.’

Recount a wedding mishap and how you handled it.

I had a wedding that was held on a family estate in a field far from any power sources, so everything was run by generator. A pretty intense storm passed though and the restroom trailer was hit by lightning, causing the motor to burn out. … I quickly called the company owner as well as a local electrician. Thankfully we had enough time to get the trailer working before guests arrived on property, but it could have been a huge issue if it wasn’t detected early.

How do you help a couple when each partner has a different vision for their wedding?

It’s most important for couples to have an open dialogue about what’s important to them and work through the pros and cons of different elements. Most of the time, common ground can be met by discussing what’s most important for both parties and finding a place in the middle.

How are weddings today different from what they were pre-pandemic?

I still have clients who prefer plated dinners to family style or communal sharing-of-platters types of dinner service. We also see more late and week-of-the-wedding declines from guests due to Covid exposure. We saw a lot of weekday weddings in the past few years as the backlog of weddings from the pandemic years had filled the 2021 and 2022 weekends. I also see that guests are even more happy to be able to attend, travel and celebrate after the limitations during the pandemic.

Samantha Sheehy of The Perfect Match Weddings


How did you get into the wedding business?

I’ve loved weddings since I was a little girl. The idea of dressing up, having all your family and friends in one place, eating awesome food and having beautiful flowers fascinated me. I’ve always had a knack for organization and connecting with people and realized wedding planning was the perfect combination of my creative side and Type A personality. I started out working for another wedding planner while working full-time in public relations. … Starting my own business seemed like it just made sense, and I wanted to see how I could have an impact on the wedding industry.

Describe one of your most memorable weddings.

Last summer we hosted a wedding in an airport hangar. The groom was a pilot. … The bride flew into the ceremony on a plane, and we transformed the airport hangar into a reception space.

What’s a fun wedding location people may not have considered?

Renting an Airbnb. This idea became popular during Covid since many venues were shut down. Some rules and regulations have changed through Airbnb since, but it’s such a cool way to have a place all to yourself for the weekend. … I would highly recommend hiring a wedding planner to help you navigate the logistics of a nontraditional location. You’ll need to bring in everything from tables to chairs, trash cans, lighting, linens, china and more.

Winter, spring, summer or fall wedding, and why?

Spring. This is an unpopular opinion being a New England wedding planner where everyone loves the fall foliage, but spring has the best flowers, it’s not too hot, and everyone’s excited to be outside again.

groom and bride walking hand in hand outdoors in front of white building
The Perfect Match. Photo by Linds and Max Photography

What’s one thing that’s worth spending extra money on? What’s something you can go cheap with?

When all is said and done, the only things you have left to remember your wedding are the photos and video. Many couples are tempted to hire a friend who’s a photographer on the side or to skip the videographer, but trust us on this one — you’ll regret it if you cut corners here. Think about how much time and money you put into making your wedding look beautiful. It’s important to have a professional there who knows how to properly capture this and tell the story of the day.

We suggest trying to cut costs on dessert. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good after-dinner sweet, but … guests are busy dancing, drinking and socializing, and dessert often gets wasted.

Recount a wedding mishap and how you handled it.

We’ve [handled] everything from restarting generators during power outages, getting stains out of shirts minutes before walking down the aisle, a groom with a sprained ankle, high winds threatening to knock down tents, blizzards and more. We show up on your wedding day with an emergency kit so we’re ready for anything. Our kit includes safety pins, stain removers, any over-the-counter medication you can think of, hair spray, scissors, lighters, fashion tape and more.

How do you help a couple when each partner has a different vision for their wedding?

There are so many decisions that need to be made throughout the wedding planning process … so when couples have differing opinions, there’s often an opportunity to include their idea in another part of the wedding. For example, if one partner wants the wedding to have an elegant feel but the other wants it to be more casual, we can compromise by having an elegant venue but fun and casual food choices such as a taco and mac and cheese bar.

How are weddings today different from what they were pre-pandemic?

The pandemic gave couples the excuse they needed to downsize their weddings and cut out the things that weren’t important to them. We see this trend continuing into 2023 and 2024, and it’s what we encourage all of our couples to do. If you don’t want to have a wedding party, don’t have one. If you don’t like cake, skip the cake and get doughnuts. This is your day, and just because something’s “traditional” doesn’t mean it has to be a part of your wedding.

Megan Thomson of Willow Tree Events

North Conway,

How did you get into the wedding business?

After years of hosting my own events and being the go-to person to help my friends and family plan theirs, I decided 10 years ago to dive into the industry on my own. … My career is based on granting wishes, making the impossible possible and bringing people together. … The love I have for what I do is deeply rooted in me, and I could never do anything else.

bride and groom outside standing in front of red vintage car surrounded by trees
Willow Tree. Photo by Dual Photto.

Describe one of your most memorable weddings.

It was heartbreaking as a planner to go through month after month of canceled weddings [during the pandemic]. … The first big wedding we had after all the pandemic restrictions were lifted [included] a venue filled with smiling, hugging, dancing and singing people. I was overcome with so much relief and gratefulness for my couples to be able to have their day again. I’m not sure my eyes were dry all day.

What’s a fun wedding location people may not have considered?

I’m a lake and mountains kind of girl, so I suggest spots like Echo Lake, Cathedral Ledge and local breweries. Pull the outdoors into your day and find a spot where you have more freedom to do your own thing on your own time and not be tied down to restrictions and time limits.

Winter, spring, summer or fall wedding, and why?

All of the above. We live in New England after all. Winter for the quiet romance of it, spring for the new blooms, summer for the longer nights and fall because fall in New Hampshire is simply perfect.

What’s one thing that’s worth spending extra money on? What’s something you can go cheap with?

Never skimp on your entertainment, always add the extra hour of photography and go for the video. … If you’re looking to save, then skip the programs and Champagne toast.

How do you help a couple when each partner has a different vision for their wedding?

You talk it out, and, just like with marriage, compromise.

How are weddings today different from what they were pre-pandemic?

Higher RSVP counts and more multi-day celebrations. We all missed out on so much, and no one wants to waste time or miss a thing anymore.

Jennifer Matthews of Memorable Events


How did you get into the wedding business?

When I was growing up, my parents owned a catering company. I also was a DJ when I was younger, so it was a natural transition. I’m headed into my 19th wedding season.

Describe one of your most memorable weddings.

This past wedding season, I did a really amazing four-day Indian wedding that was a huge undertaking and certainly one of the most memorable ones.

What’s a fun wedding location people may not have considered?

We’re so blessed in New Hampshire to have amazing venues [like] summer camps, lake and oceanfront venues and private estates tucked in the woods. I love when weddings are weekend-long celebrations at a venue that can house many or all of the guests.

2 brides walking rows of celebrating guests at indoor venue
Memorable Events. Photo by Kate Preftakes Photography.

Winter, spring, summer or fall wedding, and why?

It’s a personal preference. My schedule tends to be the most full in the fall because of the foliage, cooler evening temps and less bugs.

What’s one thing that’s worth spending extra money on? What’s something that you can go cheap with?

Photography is usually worth the splurge; the photos are what you’ll have left when the day is done. One area where I see a lot of people pulling back are extravagant favors; keep in mind that many could get left behind.

Recount a wedding mishap and how you handled it.

A caterer pulled out of a wedding just three days before. … Thankfully I was able to have a conversation with a catering company I’ve used several times, bring them up to speed, and they pulled together a miracle menu.

How do you help a couple when each partner has a different vision for their wedding?

I work with them to find middle ground or even lead them in a direction they may not have thought about that they both love.

How are weddings today different from what they were pre-pandemic?

By 2022 … weddings were back to ‘normal.’ But something non-pandemic-related I’m seeing a lot more of is couples including their dogs in the festivities, which I love.

Featured photo: Angela Marie Weddings. Courtesy photo.

The Art Roundup 23/01/26

The latest from NH’s theater, arts and literary communities

Stories of ballooning: Hear the stories of balloonists who explored New Hampshire skies in the 19th century at the presentation “Lighter Than Air” on Thursday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. at the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire (27 Navigator Road in Londonderry;, 6699-4877). Leah Dearborn, the museum’s assistant director, will discuss balloonists such as Eugene Goodard, Thaddeus Lowe (an aeronaut for the Union Army during the Civil War) and others, according to a press release. “Early pioneers of local skies took to balloons and other lighter-than-air vessels for a host of reasons. Some were intended to pursue military reconnaissance and scientific inquiry, while others were simply daredevil stunts designed to attract a crowd,” the release said. Admission costs $10.

Paint night: Katrina Reid will lead the “Bearly Winter Paint Nite” at Chunky’s Cinema Pub (707 Huse Road in Manchester; on Friday, Jan. 27, at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Reid brings the materials and the know-how to teach the art of painting, according to the website. Admission costs $35; reserve a spot online.

Call for art: The Lakes Region Art Association is looking for pieces for its upcoming exhibit “Love, Passion & Chocolate,” which will run Thursday, Feb. 2, through Friday, Feb. 25, at the Lakes Region Art Gallery (120 Laconia Road, Suite 300, in the Tanger Outlets, Tilton), according to a press release. An artists reception will be held Saturday, Feb. 11, from 4 to 8 p.m. featuring chocolate from Rocky Mountain Chocolate, the release said. The rules for submission: Each artist can submit up to five unframed pieces no larger than 8 inches by 8 inches, artwork music be dry and ready to be bagged, all artwork must be for sale, there is an entry fee of $25 and artwork must be received by Jan. 28 by mail or dropped off on Wednesday, Feb. 1, from noon to 6 p.m., the release said. See

Upcoming auditions for Cue Zero:Cue Zero Theatre Company will hold auditions for its April production of The Wolves, a gritty drama by Sarah DeLappe directed by Erin Downey, on Monday, Jan. 30, and Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the Arts Academy of New Hampshire in Salem. All characters in the production are female/female presenting, according to the press release. Sign up for an audition slot at and those auditioning should prepare a one-minute dramatic monologue and be prepared to read sides on request; callbacks are Sunday, Feb. 5, the release said. Get information about the character breakdowns on the website.

Other Cue Zero auditions on the horizon include for Be More Chill, which is based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, and the CZT Lab Series productions Empathy and Join, original pieces. Auditions for Be More Chill, which will be presented at the Derry Opera House on Friday, June 23, through Sunday, June 25, will be Wednesday, March 8, and Thursday, March 9, at the Arts Academy of New Hampshire in Salem. Auditions for the Lab pieces, which will be presented in August, will be Sunday, March 12, also in Salem. See for all the details and to sign up for auditions.

• “Winter Frost” winners: The Seacoast Artist Association announced the winners of its “Winter Frost” show, which can be viewed through Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Association’s gallery at 130 Water St. in Exeter (the gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.), according to a press release. Martin Lamon of Stratham won Best in Show for his painting “Winter Sunset” and Mark Leavitt won the People’s Choice Award for his watercolor “New Snow in Vermont,” the release said.

The Seacoast Artist Association’s next show is “Let Me Show You What I Love,” with a dropoff for local artists to submit their works on Saturday, Jan. 28, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (see the rules and find the application at, the release said. A reception for that show will be held Friday, Feb. 10, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Painting and photography: The new exhibit by Center for the Arts in New London will open Friday, Feb. 3, at Bar Harbor Bank and Trust (321 Main St. in New London) as part of the Center’s First Friday Gallery Stroll. The show, “Where Painterly Art and Photography Converge,” will feature 15 paintings and one sculpture displayed with photographs used as reference images, according to a press release. The exhibit will hang at Bar Harbor Bank for three months, the release said. The exhibit will feature the works of 12 painters and four photographers, the release said.

The February First Fridays from the Center for the Arts ( will run from 5 to 7 p.m. and include four other galleries: the New London Inn with the work of Kim Schusler, the New London Barn Playhouse Fleming Center Gallery for Contemporary Art, the Tatewell Gallery and the Candita Clayton Gallery; the Blue Loon Bakery (open from from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.) also features the work of Susan D’Appolino, the release said.

Sculpture: 3S Artspace (319 Vaughan St. in Portsmouth; will feature the architectural sculptures of Frank Poor in the exhibit “Relics,” which opens Friday, Feb. 3, and runs through Sunday, April 2. There will be an opening reception on Feb. 3 from 5 to 8 p.m, according to a press release.

Music at the Andres
Support the Andres Institute of Art (106 Route 13 in Brookline;, 673-7441) with a night of music from the Soggy Po’ Boys on Sunday, Feb. 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Institute’s welcome center. General-admission tickets cost $25; a five-seat table in the first row costs $200 per table, according to a press release. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served before the show and a cash bar will be available, the release said.

Circus with a Chance of Meatballs:The High Mowing School middle schoolers (Pine Hill Campus, 77 Pine Hill Drive in Wilton;, 654-6003) will show off their circus skills with their show Circus with a Chance of Meatballs Thursday, Feb. 16, at 4 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 17, at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 18, at 1 p.m. Admission is a suggested donation of $10 for adults, $5 for children; bring a donation for the Wilton’s Open Cupboard Food pantry for free popcorn, according to a press release.

• “Comic thrill ride”: That’s how the Community Players of Concord describe their production of The 39 Steps, a comic riff on the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock movie, which will run Friday, Feb. 17, through Sunday, Feb. 19, at the Concord City Auditorium (2 Prince St. in Concord). Tickets cost $20 for adults and students, $18 for seniors. The performances are slated for 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday, according to a press release. See for tickets.

Music at the Andres: Support the Andres Institute of Art (106 Route 13 in Brookline;, 673-7441) with a night of music from the Soggy Po’ Boys on Sunday, Feb. 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Institute’s welcome center. General-admission tickets cost $25; a five-seat table in the first row costs $200 per table, according to a press release. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served before the show and a cash bar will be available, the release said.

The faculty presents: The Manchester Community Music School’s Faculty Performance of “Chanson d’Amour” featuring Harel Gietheim on cello and Piper Runnion on harp has been rescheduled (it had been slated for Jan. 19) for Thursday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. at the school, 2291 Elm St. in Manchester. Admission is free but pre-register at to attend in person or online.

A winter oasis

Concord Garden Club holds 20th annual Art in Bloom

Every year the Concord Garden Club celebrates the winter with its Art in Bloom event. This year’s show features 23 bouquets inspired by the creations of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.

“It’s not all paintings, textiles, pottery,” said club president Nancy Betchart. “It’s interesting to see the creativity and to see what people use to come up with arrangements.”

Betchart’s own project was inspired by a birch tree lamp with a red and orange shade. Betchart said that she and her partner took a few hiking trips in preparation to mimic the lamp with their vase, covering the glass holder with birch tree bark and arranging a colorful bouquet in the vases.

Other projects florists have selected for inspiration in years past have been hand-sewn clothing, pillows, woodworking and more. Betchart said it’s not just about capturing the visual representation of the craft, but it could be the color palette, the textures or even the feeling that it evokes in the club member.

The hardest part of the show, after selecting a craft, is sourcing the flowers for the arrangement, Betchart said. The wintertime makes it challenging to find the vibrant blooms and specific flowers the arrangers might be looking for. Betchart said she’d seen club members use flowers from a grocery store in a pinch.

“Garden club members aren’t professional florists,” Betchart said. “It’s just a lot of fun. It’s a way to develop a new friendship and just an opportunity to be creative.”

One of the most creative displays Betchart ever saw, she said, was when a garden club member created a flower cushion to match a throw pillow. She said the florist copied the design and texture of the craft, and it was something she never would have thought of.

Each bouquet will be on display next to the item that inspired it. The display will have a plaque that tells viewers what flowers and techniques were used in the making of the bouquet, and a sign explaining the item that inspired it.

Garden club members who participated in creating the bouquets will be at the gallery for the opening day, Thursday, Jan. 26, at 1 p.m. to talk about their creations and why they were inspired by the crafts they chose.

“It’s a nice way to encourage people to see some creative things and to get out and mingle and see the nice crafts artisans are making,” Betchart said.

The Concord Garden Club’s Art in Bloom
Where: 49 S. Main St., Concord
When: Thursday, Jan. 26, 1 to 5 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 27, and Saturday, Jan. 28, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Featured photo: Art in Bloom photos courtesy of Nancy Betchart.

It came from New Hampshire

Get fantasy and science fiction thrills and horror chills from Granite State authors

With everything from zombie apocalypses to high fantasy and futuristic concepts, the imaginations of the Granite State’s genre fiction writers are seemingly limitless. Katelyn Sahagian and Matt Ingersoll caught up with several New Hampshire-based fantasy, science fiction and horror authors to discuss their inspirations, influences and most recent projects.

Scott M. Baker

Before becoming a prolific self-published author of horror fiction, Scott Baker of Dunbarton worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for 23 years. Born and raised in Everett, Mass., he lived in Virginia during most of his tenure with the CIA, along with a few stints overseas.

While working for the CIA, he developed an idea for an espionage novel about North Korea acquiring five nuclear weapons. As Baker recalls, it was initially well-received — he even had a literary agent who was ready to sell the book to a major publisher in New York City — but then the Sept. 11 attacks changed everything.

“The minute 9/11 hit, everything dried up,” Baker said. “There was no market for espionage. … About three or four days afterward, my agent called me up and said the market died.”

A few years later, Baker said, he became inspired to switch genres from espionage to horror after seeing the 2004 film Van Helsing with a close friend.

“As we were walking out of the theater, I said, ‘You know, I could write a better story than that,’ and she looked me and smiled and said, ‘Well, why don’t you?’” Baker recalls. “So that’s what got me writing in the horror genre.”

His first three books made up The Vampire Hunters trilogy, followed up by The Rotter World trilogy, a series about a zombie apocalypse. He also became inspired by his then-10-year-old daughter to write a five-volume young adult series called Shattered World, about an ill-fated scientific experiment that causes portals to open between Hell and Earth.

Currently Baker is busy working on three separate additional series, including Book 9 of a planned 10-book series called Nurse Alissa vs. The Zombies.

“It’s about a typical nurse who is just your average person,” he said. “She’s working in the ER at Mass. General and she’s at Ground Zero during a zombie outbreak, so the whole series just deals with her getting out of Boston, trying to survive and picking up friends along the way.”

He also has a spin-off series set in the same universe, titled The Chronicles of Paul; the second volume was just released in October. A third series, meanwhile — known as The Tatyana Paranormal series — is about a young graduate student who discovers she has the ability to talk to spirits. The Ghosts of the Maria Doria, released last August, follows the titular protagonist as she finds herself stranded upon a haunted cruise ship.

While Baker most often dabbles in series, he does have a few standalone novels. One of his latest is Operation Majestic, released in December 2021.

“When people ask what that book is about, I say, ‘Think Indiana Jones meets Back to the Future, with aliens,” he said. “It’s a time-traveler [novel].”

All of Scott M. Baker’s novels are self-published. For more details on Baker’s work or to purchase an autographed copy of one of his books, visit or search for him on Amazon. You can also join his Facebook group, “Scott Baker’s Realm of Zombies, Monsters and the Paranormal,” or follow him on Instagram @scottmbakerwriter or on Twitter @vampire_hunters. Baker is one of several local writers who will attend the New England Author Expo’s Authors at the Vineyard event at Zorvino Vineyards (226 Main St., Sandown) on Sunday, Feb. 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to that event is free.

Matt Ingersoll

Gregory Bastianelli

Some of Gregory Bastianelli’s earliest memories involved watching Creature Double Feature on Saturday afternoons around the age of 6. He first read the short stories of Ray Bradbury — whose 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes is one of his all-time favorite books — before diving into the works of acclaimed horror writers such as Richard Matheson and Stephen King.

“I think I wrote my first short story when I was 11 years old, and then I just kept writing stories all the time,” said Bastianelli, a University of New Hampshire graduate and a native of Dover. “Pretty bad ones, but they were fun, and that’s how I sort of was cutting my teeth. … Another book that [had] a big influence on me when I was in junior high was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I remember reading that and just being so moved and so terrified by it.”

Prior to publishing his first novel, Bastianelli lived in New York City, where he worked as a copy editor for a company that published law books. Returning to the Granite State at the end of the 1980s, he worked for Foster’s Daily Democrat as a copy editor and writer.

“Two of the highlights of my career were … getting to do an interview with Alice Cooper, who I was a big fan of, and then also interviewing Bruce Campbell. Anyone who knows horror knows Bruce Campbell — king of the B-movies.”

While working at Foster’s, Bastianelli published a few short stories in some obscure horror magazines. Through a contest, he finally found a publisher in 2011 for his debut novel, Jokers Club, a project he had been working on and off on for more than two decades.

“Before the contest ended, I got a call from the publisher and he said that, regardless of how it did in the contest, he wanted to publish it. I was just thrilled,” Bastianelli said. “It did end up winning second place in the contest, but the fact that he reached out to me and said that he was interested in publishing, it was a dream come true.”

Since then Bastianelli has moved on to a larger publishing company, Flame Tree Press, out of London, England. In January 2020 he released Snowball, a novel about a group of motorists who are stranded on a New Hampshire highway in the middle of a blizzard on Christmas Eve. His latest title, Shadow Flicker, was published in March 2022.

Shadow Flicker is about an insurance investigator who goes to an island off the coasts of Maine to interview some residents … who are complaining about some wind turbines, believing that they cause some ill effects,” he said. “In the course of his investigation, he stumbles upon something even darker going on on this island, and he gets sucked into a phenomenon that is beyond anything that he could realize.”

Bastianelli called Snowball a “straight-out horror novel.” Shadow Flicker, on the other hand, has been referred to by some as horror and others as a science fiction or speculative mystery.

Bastianelli is a regular participant in speculative fiction writers’ conventions like NECON in Lowell, Mass., in July. He has also attended StokerCon, put on by the Horror Writers Association, and the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival, held in October in Haverhill, Mass.

“One of the things that I’ve learned from going to a lot of these conventions and events is that … a lot of these authors that you grew up loving, they love to hear that you talk about their books and that you enjoy their writing,” he said. “That’s what they do it for.”

Gregory Bastianelli’s latest novel, Shadow Flicker, is available through Flame Tree Press ( Learn more about Bastianelli and his works by visiting, which provides links to various ways to purchase his books. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter, or purchase his books online through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Matt Ingersoll

Justin Bell

While most authors jump from subject to subject in the same genre, Justin Bell takes a much different approach. His writing is specifically in the post-apocalyptic subgenre, which focuses on what happens to humanity after a catastrophic event.

For example, the series Bell just finished writing focused on what would happen if the world became too radioactive for humans to survive above ground.

Bell started his writing career by working for a handful of different independent publishing houses, gravitating toward the post-apocalyptic subgenre the whole time. When he was picked up by his current publishing house, Muonic Press, he got the chance to shine.

Muonic, Bell said, exclusively publishes post-apocalyptic science fiction, and on top of that, the company is one of most-read publishers for the subgenre on Amazon. Bell saw a drastic increase in readership, he said.

His books get millions of reads a year, averaging between 12 million and 15 million. He said one year during the pandemic his page reads was up to 20 million.

“It’s amazing,” Bell said. “I was a struggling author independently published. I started in 2014 with middling success and exposure. … Later in 2018 I’m getting hundreds of pre-orders per book and it’s been life-changing.”

Bell said he just completed his most recent book series in June 2022, and a collection of the six-book series dropped in November. Now he’s putting all his efforts into his new novel series, After the Fall, with the first novel coming on Feb. 3, and a new book coming monthly after that.

Bell said that he’ll continue writing post-apocalyptic stories for as long as the subject remains interesting to him and inspires him with different ideas. His favorite part of the subgenre isn’t the disasters and chaos but the resilience of the characters thrown into those situations. To him — and his readers — it becomes a story of the human spirit and of hope.

“What’s great about these books is you’re putting [characters] through different situations but seeing, in spite of odds, that they persevere,” Bell said. “They find a light in the darkness and that’s what I like most about them.”

Visit Justin Bell’s website at to learn more about his works, which are available through Amazon and its products Kindle and Audible. All of his works are published by Muonic Press. To learn more about Muonic Press, visit their website at

Katelyn Sahagian

David D’Amico

David D’Amico grew up with a love of writing. He said that when he was young he always had story ideas floating around in his head. It wasn’t until his twin brother announced he would be a writer that D’Amico decided to take up the craft as well.

“All my life I was the one with the stories,” D’Amico said, jokingly adding that he “couldn’t let [my twin] become the writer.”

D’Amico has won numerous awards for his science fiction short stories, including winning Writers of the Future in 2011. His stories have been published in popular science fiction magazines, including Analog. While his stories are typically around 5,000 words, he said that it’s become enough space for him to get a good grasp on his storytelling abilities.

Typically, when writing a story, D’Amico finds it much more important to focus on the characters than the world that he’s built for each story. He said that character studies are better received by publishers and readers.

“I write majoritively straight sci-fi, slightly in the future, a little bit like The Twilight Zone,” D’Amico said. “I’m heavy on characters, and it’s not epic quests, usually.”

Right now D’Amico is working on publishing collections of his stories, called “Through Machine Eyes,” which are illustrated through an artificial intelligence art program. Two have already been published, and he hopes to put out more in the new year.

Even this early in the new year D’Amico has sold one of his short stories. He said that he’ll sell approximately a dozen over the course of 2023, depending on the process. Some of his stories can be as short as 42 words long, but he prefers a bit more length to establish context.

In addition to submitting his short stories to different magazines and working on his AI project, D’Amico is working on completing his first full-length novel. He said that he’s begun several but wants to really stick to it this year.

D’Amico has learned over the years that writing isn’t just a career, it’s a passion. To him, readers can tell when authors aren’t happy writing, and that is the most important part of the craft.

“Write what you like,” he said. “Enjoy it. Don’t worry about the other stuff until after the draft is done.”

For more information about David D’Amico, or to read his short stories and purchase a copy of his anthologies, visit his website at His second anthology of stories Through Machine Eyes: Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories Illustrated by AI Intelligence, Volume Two was a self published title.

Katelyn Sahagian

Elaine Isaak

Fantasy steeped in real history is what Elaine Isaak’s writing is all about. She strives for a level of realism in her work, tying archaeology to magic, and adding a fantastical element to history.

“My author brand is knowledge-inspired fiction,” Isaak said. “I find ideas by reading nonfiction or doing museum visits [about] something that excites and inspires me.”

Isaak said that binding her love for history and art with her writing has been one of the best things that has ever happened to her. Her novels will take something like an obscure medieval clock and turn it into a doomsday device the protagonist must find a way to stop, as in her most recent novel.

While she primarily writes fantasy novels, Isaak is exploring new territories with her upcoming young adult sci-fi series about space dragons, the first book of which is set to be released on Feb. 7.

The series was written for her son, who she said loves robots and dragons, and she wanted to find a way to combine the two. She got the idea when another writer mentioned doing the same for their child.

“I didn’t want it to be fantastical dragons,” Isaak said, explaining her reasoning for choosing a sci-fi approach to traditionally fantasy creatures. “I thought, if they’re not fantasy and those tropes, then they’re probably aliens.”

She’s taking her research-forward approach of writing to this genre too, looking at how some animals communicate non-verbally. One inspiration she mentioned was learning that elephants use the vibrations from their footfalls to communicate across miles. Another is looking at animals like dolphins and platypuses that have electroreceptors that give them the ability to sense their prey underwater.

Isaak said that she wanted the series to make people think about what communication and culture are, and what it would look like in aliens wildly different from humans, as well as planets different from Earth. She said the most important thing she can do with her books is create a world her readers can enjoy, one that sparks their own imagination.

“A work isn’t complete until there’s a reader,” Isaak said. “[Books are] a collaboration between me and my words and the reader opening their imagination to the world and characters I’m creating.”

To learn more about Elaine Isaak’s work, visit Her most recent work, Drakemaster (written under the pen name EC Ambrose) was published by Guardbridge Books. Her novels are available online at Amazon and wherever books are sold.

Katelyn Sahagian

Troy Osgood

Building imaginative worlds is only one aspect of Troy Osgood’s writing. He creates worlds within worlds, choosing to use video games to trap his characters in alternate realities. He likes the diversity this allows him, bringing fantasy and sci-fi together.

One of his most recently completed book series, Sky Realms Online, follows this almost exactly. He said the plot is about a popular online virtual reality video game that sucks in some of the players. The players have to navigate the world of floating islands held together by magic and defeat boss battles and quests, all while trying to figure out how to escape the game.

“I want to write adventures and entertaining stories that people want to read more of,” Osgood said.

Sky Realms Online was completed last November, followed by the completion of a similar saga with fewer fantasy elements called Battlegrounds Online — the final book in that series was released in December.

His next series, Connective System, will be a bit different. Instead of characters being sucked into the games they’re playing, a game will “hack” the world, giving humans superpowers and special abilities. Osgood said the story will fit more in with the post-apocalyptic subgenre of science fiction.

“They’ll have to rebuild their world with superhuman powers,” he said, adding that he plans to release the first in the series in either March or April.

While Osgood’s more adult books focus on the sci-fi worlds of being trapped in video games, or video games affecting the outside world, his books for younger readers are more steeped in the fantasy genre. He just finished writing a series called The Viral Rose Sprite, and he hopes to get more young reader fantasy out in the coming year.

“You can get away with a lot more stuff,” Osgood said about his fantasy writing. “As long as your magic rules make sense, anything goes. You can have a lot of fun and just go crazy.”

To learn more about Troy Osgood’s writing, visit His books, (print, e-edition, and audio) can be purchased at Amazon. His most recent book, Onyxgate, was published by Aethon Books.

Katelyn Sahagian

Chris Philbrook

While Chris Philbrook’s books will almost always have a science fiction or fantasy base to them, he likes to tie them to thriller and horror tropes as well.

“I got my big break with post-apocalyptic, so where horror and science fiction meet,” Philbrook said. “I’ve written urban fantasy, too. I tend to gravitate toward horror themes. I like having characters meandering into places where they are stressed out by situations and given the chance to rise up or succumb.”

His most recent novel, Ghosts, is the 13th in the Adrian’s Undead Diary series, released last Halloween. The series follows Adrian as he tries to reunite the dead and help their souls move on. Philbrook said he wasn’t sure how long the series would continue, but he started it back in 2010 and people have seemed to really enjoy it.

Philbrook is currently working on both the 14th volume of Adrian’s Undead Diary and the third book in The Darkness of Diggory Finch series. Right now, he doesn’t have a concrete publishing date for either book, but is aiming for the spring for Adrian’s Undead Diary and the summer for The Darkness of Diggory Finch.

The Darkness of Diggory Finch series is cosmic horror set in the woodland border of New Hampshire and Vermont. The main character, Diggory Finch, finds himself inheriting land at the border, and once he moves there he finds out that nothing is as it seems.

“The series is [Diggory Finch] dealing with the locals and [figuring] out what the deal with his family is,” Philbrook said, adding that there are twists and turns, like cults and “monsters and bears and weirdos, oh my.”

Philbrook said that most of his inspiration for writing comes from living in the Granite State. Although he has lived in Boston and Arkansas and has traveled across the country promoting his novels, Philbrook said there is something special about living and writing in New Hampshire.

“It’s a neat place to be a writer,” he said. “New Hampshire is a cool nexus of culture and location that isn’t very common in America.”

Find information about Chris Philbrook’s upcoming books at His works can be purchased online at Amazon, but Philbrook would love for his readers to support independent book shops by ordering his books through them. His most recent book, Ghosts, was self-published.

Katelyn Sahagian

Jeremy Robinson

It takes a lot of effort to create one world for a book or series to take place in, but Jeremy Robinson decided that just one world wasn’t enough. His 80 books take place in something he calls the Infinite Timeline, a multiverse that existed long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“Readers have tried making a map of how all 80 books are connected,” Robinson said. “It’s fun for me and it’s fun for the readers as well.”

Robinson said most of his novels could be read as stand-alone books. He said the only thing that stays the same for some of the books is that they will feature the same characters. His most recent publication, Khaos, blends Greek mythology with the science fiction world he’s built.

The next book after Khaos will be called Singularity, which will be coming out on March 21. Robinson said that Singularity will officially tie the whole universe together.

Due to his extensive catalog of work, Robinson has amassed a large following across the country. He’s been a New York Times bestselling author and the No. 1 bestselling author on Audible. He’s even had people in Texas host a “Robinson Con,” a convention to discuss and enjoy the books he’s put out over the years.

Robinson gained popularity because of his skill with the subgenre called creature features, where monsters are the star of the show. He said he strives to make his books interesting to all readers, and interesting to write, by making the plot get increasingly strange.

“It’s probably that I’m ADHD and, for me to write, [the stories] have to get progressively weirder to hold my own attention,” Robinson said. “I start with real science and then I get to go crazy.”

His favorite creature that he’s created is called Nemesis, a kaiju that spawns out of different New Hampshire locations and destroys Boston. Robinson said he’s working on Nemesis Wages of Sin, a reboot of his original series that featured Nemesis, called Project Nemesis, and hopes for it to come out sometime in 2023.

The book will be written in conjunction with a television show that Sony is producing about the first book. Robinson said he feels fortunate to have had all these opportunities for his writing.

To keep track of Jeremy Robinson’s upcoming projects, visit his website Robinson’s books can be purchased online or from local bookstores. His most recent book, Khaos, was published by Breakneck Media.

Katelyn Sahagian

Tony Tremblay

Tony Tremblay’s lifelong love of horror started when he was around the age of 9 or 10, reading, of all things, the Old Testament of the Bible.

“Those stories were scary as heck, and they left a lasting impression on me,” said Tremblay, a longtime resident of Goffstown. “As I grew older I started to look at some of the horror authors that were out there at the time, and really enjoyed what I was reading. … I thought maybe I could try to write something on my own, but just never got around to doing it.”

About 15 years ago, at the encouragement of a colleague, Tremblay joined a writers’ group at his local library, which helped him learn all of the fundamentals of how to write fiction.

“My first stories were horrible. But I learned fast and I started getting stories published in anthologies and websites and magazines,” he said. “The writers’ group helped me tremendously.”

Tremblay published his first book of short stories, The Seeds of Nightmares, about a decade ago through Crossroad Press. His latest work — 2022’s Do Not Weep for Me, available through Haverhill House Publishing — is a follow up to The Moore House, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in 2018 for “Best First Novel.”

“Bram Stoker, of course, is like the Oscars of the horror industry, and I couldn’t be prouder,” he said. “It was a great honor.”

Both novels are set in the same universe and deal heavily with the macabre side of religion. The Moore House in particular, he said, has been compared by many to the 1971 novel The Exorcist.

“All the action happens in Goffstown, so if you’re a Manchester or a Goffstown resident, you’ll see all the familiar sites in there, [like] the bridge downtown, the popcorn stand and all that stuff,” Tremblay said. “So that’s a lot of fun for the local people.”

While reading The Moore House first is not necessary to enjoy Do Not Weep for Me, Tremblay said it absolutely does make the experience “more fun.”

“Both of them are very fast reads,” he said. “I’ve had people write to me, [saying] they’re on airplanes and they didn’t want the flight to end because they wanted to finish the book. It’s that thrilling, and that’s what I was trying to write.”

Tremblay said he hopes to complete his next novel by Halloween, and he also has a new novella and a new short story in the works for later this year. Throughout the year, he participates in regional conventions alongside many other names in horror fiction. He even has co-produced one in Manchester, known as NoCon, which has been on hold since the pandemic.

“I’ve read thousands of books, and what’s kind of neat is that now I’m the one that’s selling them and going to these conventions and speaking on the panels,” Tremblay said. “If you asked me if that would ever happen, I would’ve laughed in your face back then. But it just proves that anybody can do it. You just have to buckle down and learn.”

Tony Tremblay’s latest novel, Do Not Weep for Me, is available through Twisted Publishing, an imprint of Haverhill House Publishing ( Find out more about Tremblay’s work by visiting You can also find him on Facebook or purchase his books online through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Matt Ingersoll

Featured photo: It came from NH

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