Featured

When You’re Stuck…

Write a Scene.

Despite working under a tight deadline to prepare my new HorrorTube Anthology for pre-order (the clock is ticking), I’ve been diligently chipping away at my NaNoWriMo project. This morning, I was able to close the gap on my stats, which indicates—not to jump the gun here—that I may just make it to the finish line.

One tip I discovered that really helps me out when I’m stuck is to write a scene, any scene, as long as it involves my protagonist (an orphaned teen trapped in a scary gothic mansion) and one or more characters. You may find, as I have, that writing a scene, even if it’s not planned, helps to clear the creative cobwebs. And not only that, you may also discover (if you’re lucky) an entire aspect of your story hitherto hidden beneath sedimentary layers of stress and self-doubt.

Think of it as a game of Clue: Ivy (my MC) and Bentley (her stepbrother) in the choir loft with a pipe organ. Go! Sounds much kinkier than I intended, but you get the idea. This particular scene, which I’m still not exactly sure where I’ll insert in the final edit, opened up a story subplot I hadn’t thought of, which is the beauty of discovery writing.

Another thing that’s great about writing into the dark is it grants one the permission to write out of order. So feel free to skip around in your story and then circle back. Jump chapters or even time dimensions if you like. It doesn’t matter. The creative brain needs freedom from restraints. You’ll have plenty of time to buckle on those weeks from now when you pull your manuscript out of the proverbial desk drawer. That “My God, what have I done?” moment is waiting for you down the line. Isn’t it fun?

Well, this one is going to be short because I have a lot of editing to do. Here is one of my Patreon vlogs where I am very tired and talking about my NaNoWriMo process. For more scintillating (lol) content, consider becoming a patron.

 

 

Featured

NaNoWriMo – Prioritizing Writing

When it comes to my work schedule coinciding with NaNoWriMo, November, not April, seems to be the cruelest month.

I’ve participated in the novel-writing contest five times and “won” twice, although I completed all of those books eventually.

So with no one pressuring me except myself, I shouldn’t despair too much about my lagging performance in this year’s NaNoWriMo project, a gothic romance inspired by my love for V.C. Andrews titled Black and Blue Ivy.

Still, as always when I find myself in the middle section of any work in progress, frustrations set in. I’ve written enough to know those imaginary gremlins mocking me from computer screen, tempting me to scroll through Facebook or Instagram to “relieve some stress,” are part of the process.

I was definitely seduced by this beautiful new cover by Consuelo Parra.

Still, I have to concede it would have been far smarter to just complete my horror novel, Carni, instead of starting an entirely new project. Shamefully, I admit to being seduced by shiny object syndrome, the erroneous belief that a new project will not yield any of the angsts and frustrations I inevitably encounter any time I sit down to write, that somehow the words will effortlessly flow from brain to keyboard, perfection from start to finish. Of course, that’s pure folly which I’ve now discovered as I’m struggling to keep up with the daily word count of my new project while Carni (a killer clown ironically) taunts me from the sidelines.

 

Does it matter that no one is watching (or caring) and my mental gymnastics are mine alone to suffer?

Not really.

I am usually, creatively that is, quite productive, and although I write most days I do take off and then. For example, it doesn’t seem quite fair to force myself to remain in my monk’s cave and write when accepting a lunch invitation seems the better option. If wine is included then all bets are off.

What NaNoWriMo forces me to do (again, no one’s watching), is to make writing a priority, and therein lies the lesson.

Because of NaNoWriMo, I’ve stuck to an (almost) daily writing schedule despite being extremely busy. I don’t want to get overly confident and jinx myself, but even if I take Thanksgiving Day off, I think this year I just might cross the finish line.

How about you? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, feel free to add me as a buddy. We can spur each other on through the final stretch.

For weekly vlogs on the creative process and other topics, consider becoming a patron.

 

 

Featured

It’s Getting Cold Outside!

A little over a year ago, Local Haunts: A HorrorTube Anthology came alive, like Frankenstein’s monster, from the kinetic energy of many creative minds joining together on a sub-group of BookTube known as HorrorTube. And now, another creature emerges, this one from the ice. Served Cold: A HorrorTube Anthology slated for a mid-December release is now available for pre-order.

There are some returning authors from the first time around, veteran HorrorTubers like Cameron Chaney and Andrew Lyall, as well as some new voices like Janine Pipe and Aphrodite Lee whose work I’m happy to feature. Each of the twenty-two teeth-chattering tales probes the vast and terrifying landscapes comprising the chills and thrills of cold-themed horror. Just in time for the holidays too!

My efforts to pull this project together were assuaged by the aid of Steve Donoghue, the professor emeritus of BookTube. Steve’s daily dispatches from his charming Boston library, crammed to the rafters with books and the occasional dog, offer a true education in literature. Steve is helping with the editing and other sundry unglamorous tasks self-publishing demands.

Here is an excerpt from Steve’s foreword to Served Cold:

Leaving aside the increasing probability that the very concept of ‘winter’ will be completely foreign to the grandchildren of the authors represented in these pages (that’s a horror story of an entirely different order of magnitude, and alas, it’s no figment of somebody’s imagination), there’s a long-standing connection being celebrated here. Horror tales always give chills, not hot sweats. Think of the pervading cold in such horror classics as Dracula or especially Frankenstein. Remember that the heart of Dante’s Hell is not a lake of fire but a vast field of ice. 

Horror pairs naturally with the season of dark and cold, when hungry wolves could come down from mountain passes, cross frozen rivers, and ghost along village doorways in search of warm prey, when snowbound solitude created phantoms out of corner-shadows, and when the eternal patience of the ice and the dark seems extra pointed, and not at all friendly.

So wrap yourself in your favorite blanket, curl up by a fireside or in a warm bed, and enjoy these tales of sub-zero terror brought to you by some of the many voices of HorrorTube.

I’m happy that what began as a creative whim of mine garnered enough interest from creators and readers alike to develop into what has turned out to be a growing trend. Last month, popular BookTuber from Down Under, Cam Wolfe, picked up the mantle with the release of his horror anthology We’re Not Home, of which I’m proud to be part. The proceeds from all three anthologies will be donated to children’s literacy charities.

The cover art by Cameron Roubique now occupies a sinister space in my library.  To receive a FREE ebook copy of Served Cold and other fun perks, consider becoming a patron of Regina’s Haunted Library.

Featured

Write The Next Sentence

Working on a new novel is always a bit destabilizing. You start off with what you think is a good idea, hopefully enough to galvanize the process, but then you reach the dreaded three-quarter section slump. My novels do tend to be on the shorter side, but I don’t see this one concluding for another twenty thousand words or so. I know where I want the story to get to, sort of, but how to get there?

While procrastinating before my morning writing session waiting for the caffeine to kick in, I often amuse myself by watching YouTube writing videos. There are some good ones out there, as well as some really bad ones whose advice you should never take. But among the videos I do find useful are the ones by Dean Wesley Smith. I’ve mentioned him before; the reason I like his advice is that he’s a pro who’s been there. He also put the idea of “writing into the dark” in my head. I read his short book on the topic, but honestly, you can glean enough from the videos to get the message.

I’ve written the past two novels, including my current draft, into the dark and I will probably never go back to outlining again. It’s not an easy process, but it’s a much more creative one. By not knowing what is going to happen next in my story, I am tapping into my creative brain, not the critical one. Now, that doesn’t mean a writer can’t get extremely creative inventing an outline, and I have approached writing that way in the past. But if all the creativity is spent on the pre-write, then isn’t getting the words down just an exercise in filling in the blanks? Many successful writers, I imagine, prefer outlining, but I’ve found it much more satisfying—and scary—to write into the dark.

As I approached this morning’s writing session feeling my way around blindly, hoping to grasp something familiar that will guide me to the light of sudden inspiration, that “aha” moment every writer lives for, I took Smith’s advice to not think too far ahead. Just write the next sentence and then write the next one.

So, I did that until I had written 1700 words in less than an hour. I feel pretty good about it, and not only that, during my writing into the dark session I found an entry point to the next scene I hadn’t thought of before. This is the value, and the joy, of discovery writing. It’s the essence of creative writing. When you get stuck, just write the next sentence.

It worked for me. If you’ve ever tried this approach or if you’re dead set against it, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

For weekly vlogs on the creative process, including writing into the dark, consider becoming a Patron.

 

Featured

Storms and Melodramas!

I am almost through reading the Landy Series by V.C. Andrews (ghostwritten by Andrew Neiderman). In one of the series’ most dramatic scenes (spoilers), the teenage protagonist gives birth while a hurricane rages outdoors, threatening to tear the Bayou shack down around the heroine’s ears. Just as I was reading this harrowing chapter in book two, Pearl in the Mist, real-life hurricane Ida was tearing through New Orleans sixteen years to the date of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. Luckily, this time the levees held.

As the storm moved north, I became more absorbed in my V.C. Andrews’ melodrama and less interested in following the weather report until I received the first-ever tornado warning on my iPhone.

What? Tornado? The only time I’ve ever confronted a tornado was during my annual viewing of The Wizard of Oz.

Laughing off my concerned friend’s “Go to your basement now!” text (my basement’s nasty), I obliviously returned to the next paperback in the series with its nifty step-back cover. The flickering chandelier lights and rain-lashed windowpanes added to my enjoyment. I only hoped the electricity would remain on until I got to the end of the chapter where the heroine was being chained to a bed in order to be raped by a drunken lout.

I was riveted, quite oblivious to the fact that a tornado was, indeed, about to rip through my town. The first image is about two miles from where I live and the second is only three blocks. Yeah, it was that close.

Yesterday, my husband and I trekked down the Delaware River banks to observe the damage at the bridge. It was humbling to see the evidence of Nature’s wrath, her ability to render tall young trees into scattered timber. 

Despite the danger, there is something about storms that always invigorates my spirit, provides grist for my poetry.  Here is an example.

Perhaps I’d view storms less romantically if it were my roof laying on the street. But somehow I doubt it.  Storms—like highly operatic melodramas—ease my own interior chaos like nothing else.

However, the next time my phone alarms with a tornado warning, I will take my friend’s advice and bring my book, my candles, and my loved ones down to my nasty basement. As much as I adore storms, I’d rather not star in my own melodrama.

Speaking of melodrama, here is my spoiler-ridden discussion of V.C. Andrews’ Pearl in the Mist. I am working my way through all of the V.C. Andrews series and loving every minute of it. If you’re a V.C. Andrews fan, please let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts.

On a different note, I just started a Patreon to help support my writing and my YouTube channel. My patron perks include weekly vlogs, ebooks, merch, and even personalized tarot readings by our own Batilda Belfry so please give it a look.

 

Featured

Whatever Happened to Gothic Romance?

I loved visiting my Aunt Rita when I was a kid. Her little brick house in Doylestown, PA was not only warm and cozy, it was also a few blocks away from a castle. Seriously, it’s called Font Hill, and here is a photo of it.

 

Widowed at a very young age, my Aunt Rita was a single mother who developed her talent for art, music, gardening, and pop psychology.  She was also an avid reader. Every visit to her house was an exercise in art emersion and mind expansion.  It was also the place where my much older teenage cousin kept a store of great rock albums, Mad Magazines, and underground comics, but that’s for a different blog topic.

One thing I loved to do whenever I visited her house was read from her seemingly never-ending stack of Gothic romance books. As a collector and reader of this brand of pulp fiction, I often wonder why the genre fell out of favor with readers. Or did it just evolve into Anne Rice and Stephenie Meyer? I enjoy Twilight, but somehow, the Cullen’s high-tech Washington home does not manifest the same chills as Wuthering Heights or Manderley. Nor can their mountain-top vampy ball games compete with bareback rides through the moors. I still long for the girl running away from the castle.

It is generally agreed that the Gothic literature genre began with Horace Walpole’s 1764 novel, The Castle of Otranto. From there, the blackened vine wove its way through Ann Radcliffe and the Brontes. But what we know as modern Gothic romance probably began with Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca.

The distressed heroine is so meek she isn’t even named in the novel, and yet her goodness wins out against the “ghost” of wealthy Maxim DeWinter’s beautiful and accomplished former wife. The sweeping English estate, Manderly, is as much of a character as any other.

Recently, while preparing to write in the classic Gothic romance genre, I consulted a book written by Dean Koontz about the craft of genre writing. The book came out in the mid-70s, so much of it was outdated, like what is the ideal typing paper to purchase. But I took to heart his advice about not veering too far from the expected tropes. These include the virginal young governess type who arrives at the estate to fulfill some job. She is often an ophan, impoverished, but dignified and smart. Her status at the estate is far below the owner, but one step or more above the domestic staff which usually includes a hostile housekeeper. Mrs. Danvers exemplifies the trope perfectly. The lord of the manor is the Byronic hero personified. He is remote but charming. His reputation is stained from some past indiscretion. He is the subject of local gossip. The nearby village of “common folk” is often featured as a homey contrast to the corrupting influence of the grand estate. As our heroine attempts to perform her job, creepy supernatural events cause her to question her dashing but dangerous employer and inadvertently lead her into his arms.

In his chapter on Gothic romance, Koontz stressed that the “love scenes” should never go past gentle kisses and brief caresses and that the heroine should not be the “women’s lib type” because she will turn off readers. Interesting.

Perhaps the best primer in Gothic romance comes from the TV sensation Dark Shadows. Even before Barnabas Collins makes an appearance, young governess Victoria Winters grapples with the strange events at Collinwood, and soaks up some local color at the Blue Whale. I collect and read the accompanying books written by Marilyn Ross (W.E.D. Ross, the prolific genre writer) and they follow Koontz’s checklist to a T.

Did the Gothic romance genre evolve into domestic noir such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train as the article listed below suggests? Possibly.

The 2020 release of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia offered high hopes for a return of the genre. Although the book was well-received, I found it lackluster.  By making the heroine a “strong female character ” who pushes back against the patriarchy instead of focusing on her vulnerability and inner strength to overcome the doom-filled environment, the author missed the mark. In that respect, I think Koontz was right.

I attempted in my own way, to meet the criteria of the genre in my recently completed Gothic romance novella, Ravenscroft Hall. Read if for free on Wattpad.

 

I made this video a while ago. My obsession continues. If you’re a fan of Gothic Romance, please comment below with any of your favorites.

Additional reading:

https://www.toledolibrary.org/blog/a-glimpse-of-genre-the-gothic-romance

The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs

Featured

New Novel Inspirations – Carnival Horror

The new novel I’m working on, titled Carni, will be my first attempt at writing carnival horror, a sub-genre that includes killer clowns, freak shows, and tunnels of love leading straight to hell.

My story is set in South Jersey, specifically Burlington Island, 300 acres of wilderness wedged in between Jersey and PA on the Delaware River. The island has an interesting history that I’m using as a springboard for my creepy carnival story.

Burlington Island from the PA side

Called Matennecunk by the Lenape natives, the island became the location of New Jersey’s first recorded murder when two Dutchmen were slain by Lenape braves in 1671. No, my story will not include an “old Indian burial ground” filled with vengeful ghosts. I think that cliché has been done to death by now. That’s not to say I won’t be using established genre tropes because I always do. Creepy clown anyone? But I will be attempting, in my own way, to give them a fresh merry-go-round spin.

Island Beach Amusement Park

What inspired my story, besides the island itself, was that it was once the location of an amusement park called Island Beach. Judging by the old photos, it was quite a popular attraction. A fire in the 1920s ended the fun, however, and the island changed hands and purposes. It is currently owned by the state of New Jersey and is used for mining sand and gravel, thus the man-made lagoon at the island’s center. Clean-up efforts persist to this day, as do occasional exploration into the rusty relics of the island’s past lives. I’ve never set a foot on its banks, but I hope to soon. I want to absorb its essence for my story. I’ll probably absorb plenty of mosquito bites and Poison Ivy as well, but it’s all in a day’s work.

I begin my story with the fire at the carnival and who set it (all fictional). My villain is the Island Beach mascot called Carni, a killer clown inspired by Coney Island’s Steeplechase Jack—can’t tell me that grin isn’t creepy, and Alfundo, the Dorney Park mascot featured on this wonderful sign I remember from visiting Dorney as a kid. A fire in the mid-1980s destroyed most of Dorney’s original small-town charm, but the park is still there.

Dorney Park’s Alfundo
The Dorney Park fire

Creaky wooden rides erupting into sudden flames, roller coasters becoming derailed, creepy clowns with Glasgow grins, that persistent legend of the kid who lost his arm in the fun-house machinery—these are what adds those extra chills to the carnival thrills. As part of my story mapping, I’m not only recalling my own fond memories of being deliciously scared at carnivals and amusement parks, but I’m also revisiting some carnival-themed works like Dean Koontz’s The Fun House and classic horror films like Freaks and Carnival of Souls. From the unsettling strains of the calliope to the rough-trade roustabout who just might mess with the gears on that ride, there is always danger lurking within, and just outside, the midway’s colored lights. Isn’t it fun!

My latest video, adding to the discussion.

 

Featured

Read What Thou Wilt

Last week, I wrote a blog post about intuitive writing, a concept I’m finding useful while working on my current writing projects.

Yesterday, I finished a short story for a new BookTuber anthology that will be coming out in a few months. It took me about a week to get it to where I needed it to be. As many fiction writers know, short stories can be more challenging than full-length novels. I’m never completely satisfied, but when I find myself changing back things I already changed in the editing process, I know it’s time to let it go. Also, finding a reliable proofreader is always a challenge. Anyway, it’s gone through the internet chute and now I’m back to writing my new horror novel, which I will be attacking this week with a daily 3,000-word count—my goal is to finish it by the fall. But Sunday is my blogging and reading day so here I am.

Yesterday, I posted a video about what I’ve been reading lately, bemoaning the fact that I’m no longer accepting ARC copies to review because I don’t want my reading to feel like a chore. I want to support indie authors, but at the same time, I’m not really a reviewer. Or rather, it’s not my ambition to establish myself as a book reviewer per se. I’m just a lifelong reader who likes to discuss books. I like to hear what other people are reading too. I’m an emotional reader and I’m not ashamed of it.

Just recently, one of my favorite BookTubers with a popular channel put out a statement to defend his right to “pleasure read” after being criticized for not reading the books authors sent him. As an indie author myself, I empathize with trying to draw attention to one’s book. A positive review from someone with a large platform can create a real buzz. As someone who does both, writing and BookTubing, I am flattered when one of my books gets reviewed by a peer. But I don’t push it because I know what it feels like from the other end. Nothing makes me resist reading more than feeling forced into it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. If I wanted to subject myself to compulsory reading, I’d go back to school.

My reading tends to be all over the place and I’m okay with that. To illustrate, I am currently reading Moby Dick in tandem with a V.C. Andrews pulp novel. I love them both! Like many of us, I think of reading as my great escape. I can get into a seafaring adventure story as much as a family melodrama. As a commenter on one of my videos recently pointed out, if someone can watch several TV series at once (and most of us do) then why not read several books at once? He’s right, of course. Sometimes you want a little pulp, sometimes something more substantial. Both are valid if you enjoy them.

It’s good to remember the readers’ bill of rights: read what thou wilt.

Featured

Intuitive Writing and Why I’ll Never Go Back to Plotting

What Lies Beneath

The surrealists were on to something when they discovered automatic writing. By shedding the constraints of the rational mind, they were able to tap into the visions dwelling in the well of the unconscious and thereby discovering new truths to explore. Party games like Exquisite Corpse (lovely name) where artists collaborate blindly, perhaps with just their id’s as their guides, show how creativity unleashed is always interesting and often amusing. The “quality” of the results may vary, but what’s useful (for me anyway) about the intuitive approach is it feels like a direct line into the creative brain. This is exactly where I want to be when I’m writing fiction and especially poetry.

Spend any time trawling the internet for writing advice, and you’ll encounter the inevitable plotter vs. pantser debate. Pantser—the name sounds unappetizing—refers to writing by the seat of one’s pants as opposed to working from an outline. I used to be a great proponent of outlining until I just recently tried the intuitive approach on my last few projects. And the results were surprising.

Ain’t gonna lie, I was scared at first. I was an explorer sailing my ship into uncharted territory. But soon I discovered hidden treasures along the way which caused me to release my grip and just allow the story to guide me. Trade winds of fresh ideas filled my sails and I was gliding along freely, not thinking, not planning, just going with the flow. It was lovely. And fun! And before I knew it, three hours of solid writing had zipped by and I didn’t want to stop. Any writer who’s ever forced themselves to push through a writing session knows the difference.

Okay, you might say, that sounds great, but what about the results? Sure, you were having fun, but exactly what kind of unreadable drivel did you produce? Would you be surprised to hear it was some of my best work? Reading it back was a surprising delight. Yes, I had to go back and reshape, but the ideas were there—good ones— and buried not too far beneath, the structure.

Artists like Picasso knew how to paint “realistically” before they became masters of modernism. In other words, the structure may have been abstracted, but it was there. Not comparing myself to Picasso here (ahem) but I’ve studied story structure extensively, including reading Robert McKee’s Story several times and taking his seminar. In other words, I know it well enough to let my thinking side relax a bit, confident that my knowledge of story structure will be residing in my subconscious when the intuitive side takes over.

When embarking on a new writing journey, which side (intuitive or thinking) should be at the wheel and which below deck? After trying both, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to being a plotter.

Which type of writer are you? Have you ever attempted intuitive writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Featured

Kindle Vella – a Writer’s (and Reader’s) Perspective

Amazon’s new episodic fiction platform, Kindle Vella, launched last week, and a lot of writers have already jumped on the bandwagon, myself included. So, let’s take a look at how Vella is stacking up against what I imagine is its chief competitor: Wattpad.

As a Wattpad star and Watty winner, I’ve had a lot of success on that platform and have enjoyed the experience every step of the way. I especially enjoy the social interaction on Wattpad. It’s fun to chat with readers in the comments and offer suggestions to other writers via book clubs and contests. Politeness and positivity are encouraged.

Wattpad started as a free reading platform and has slowly adapted its business model to include a paid membership (no ads and a choice of profile color) and now offers paid stories redeemed with purchased “coins.” The latter seems to be Amazon’s inspiration for Kindle Vella, an app where readers may access stories (the first three episodes are free) by purchasing tokens. Additional features include author’s notes at the end of each episode. Readers may voice their approval with a thumbs up or by rewarding their favorite story with a coveted crown by redeeming tokens.

Caught up in the hype and eager to get in on the ground floor like many of my fellow authors, I uploaded the first eighteen episodes of my epic fantasy Starlex to Vella. The multi-character POVs and various plotlines seemed ideal for serialized fiction. For my launch, I did the requisite email blast and ran some Facebook ads. But after all the effort, my story is pretty much dead in the water. Not even a crown! (cue sad queen face).

Scrolling through the comments on some of the Facebook groups I belong to, I see that I’m not alone in my struggle to find readers. Part of the problem, for me perhaps, is that I’m trying out a new genre. I usually write horror so there hasn’t been much reader transfer. It’s also possible that readers haven’t yet discovered the new platform despite all the promotion authors have been doing, or maybe there is just too much damn competition. I’ve already detected notes of despair among some authors’ comments, some already expressing a desire to give up. Maybe there is too much expectation to strike Amazon gold. I went in with the attitude of experimentation so I am fine with diligently updating my story every few days along with a Facebook post boost expecting little returns and being pleasantly surprised if someone discovers my story.

Depressing? I suppose that depends on one’s perspective and is a topic for another blog.

On to the Vella reading experience. Stories are divided into episodes (akin to Wattpad’s parts vs. chapters). Leading up to Vella’s launch, there were plenty of discussions in the Facebook groups about how serial fiction differs from a standard novel approach. From the stories I sampled there doesn’t seem to be much distinction. There is, however, a lot of talent on display here. The stories I read were decent genre fiction I hope will attract a readership.

Comparing my reading experience on Vella to Wattpad, I have to say Wattpad wins out on two fronts. One, Wattpad offers a clever feature where the reader is shown how much time is left in the chapter. This is useful, like Kindle’s progress feature, for readers to gauge if they want to stick out the chapter (part, episode) or put it down for now. Vella’s episodes vary from 500 to 6,000 words so there is a lot of range. Coins are redeemed according to word count.

The second drawback is the reader’s inability to leave comments. After giving a thumbs up, I found myself returning to the Facebook groups to give a quick take on what I read and to offer words of encouragement, the same type of give and take that is part of the Wattpad experience. There are many conversations happening on Facebook that could be taking place on Vella. Vella does offer readers opportunities to leave a review (stars and comments) in typical Amazon style and there is apparently a return policy where readers may redeem their tokens if they’re unhappy with the story. Authors understandably are already taking issue with this feature given readers may read the entire story before requesting a return. Obviously, there is still some tweaking to be done.

So, what is your opinion? Are you checking out Kindle Vella as a reader or writer, or both? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. If you have any favorite stories to share, please let me know. I believe online fiction sites will continue to develop, hopefully offering more opportunities for writers to share their stories. But is there any real money to be made? Time and talent may tell.

Featured

Vella Story Launch and Mid-Year Reading Wrap-up

Kindle Vella

Kindle’s new reader platform, Vella, launched today and I have a story on it. Check out Starlex, my interstellar fantasy. I’ll be adding new episodes every week for what will eventually be a two-season epic!  Be sure to give it a thumbs up to help more people discover the story in this brand-new app.

I belong to several Vella authors groups on FaceBook and there are over 2,000 writers involved! Obviously, it is competing with Wattpad. I knew when I joined Wattpad that it was pioneering an excellent idea. I don’t plan to transfer my stories from Wattpad to Vella any time soon, but I thought I’d dip my pen in and try it out.

Speaking of Wattpad, I have a new gothic romance story I’ve been uploading regularly. The first draft is finished. I wrote that story consistently for most of the summer. It’s my first foray into vampire romance so exploring that genre and mixing it in with classic gothic tropes has been fun. I may even develop this story into a series depending on the reader response I get.

Do you plan on using Vella as a reader or writer, or both? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Mid-Year Reading Wrap-up

I can’t believe I’ve read thirty-four books so far this year! I discuss all the highs and lows in my latest BookTube video.

Featured

Beach Reads, Baby

It’s the Fourth of July weekend. My poor dog is hiding beneath my desk from the a-holes lighting firecrackers in the street, and I’m wishing I were down the shore with one of my favorite paperbacks, the more well-thumbed the better, sand stuck between salt-stained pages. Whether it’s a bodice ripper romance or an old-school horror classic, dog-eared and dirty evokes a certain nostalgia. 

One of my favorite Jersey Shore retreats has a stack of well-worn books I revisit each year like old friends. Some books may have been swallowed by the sea, left on the sand, or absconded in a piece of luggage, but another one is always left in its wake. When it comes to beach reading, my taste leans toward the sleaziest romance or horror offerings. Monsters or monster c***s hit the sweet spot every time. 

A few recommendations:  

Lace by Shirley Conran

No matter what beach rental I stay in, I always seem to find a copy of Lace. It doesn’t matter if I already know which bitch is her mother, I zip through the pages as if they’re greased with Coppertone. If rain ruins your day at the beach, you can always pop in the Lace mini-series. 

Once is Not Enough by Jacqueline Susann 

Forget Valley of the Dolls. When the sleaze includes a daddy-obsessed heroine, drug-filled orgies, a nipple-pinching Dr. Feelgood, and the rape of an entire convent of nuns, your sleaze bases are covered. One New York Times critic groused that the 1966 bestseller was, ” populated by “a cast of obscure, unpleasant, implausible, stupid, or sly characters who lurk in the mind for weeks only because one wants to meet and kick them.” For quality like this, one read is definitely not enough.

Jaws by Peter Benchley

Benchley reinvented the classic sea monster story with a realistic spin that made us all afraid of the water. The film is superior on many levels, but nothing says beach-read quite like a well-thumbed copy of Jaws. Just look at that cover!

The Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea

If you think sea monsters are scary, try driving through the New Jersey Pineys a night. The Garden State wilderness contains its own thrills and chills among the scrubby pines. Shea’s flying maneaters will keep you well-entertained as you bake in the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

For more beach read recommendations according to your zodiac sign, check out Batida’s July Horrorscope

 

Featured

More Writing Advice: Believe in Yourself

Because no one else will.

At least not at first.

Late last night, after working my “day job” as a theater “roustabout,” I received the fantastic news that my screenplay, Unmasked, was chosen as a finalist for the Best Horror Feature Screenplay Award at the Oregon Scream Week Horror Film Festival. A few months ago, on a whim, I entered my screenplay into a bunch of film festivals. So far, I’ve heard back from two. It won fourth place at The International Horror Hotel, and now it’s up for another award.

Look for rainbows and you’ll find them.

I’m thrilled! Unmasked was the first feature-length screenplay I ever attempted to write, the first draft produced in a weekend fever dream over a decade ago. Since then, I’ve written many novels and other works, but Unmasked convinced me I could do it.

I don’t think there is one writer, professional or novice, who doesn’t feel a level of terror when facing the blank page. I’ve written about this before. There is always trepidation, the fear that you can’t do it. The only way to prove to yourself that you can do it is to sit down and do it.

Easy right? Not really. I think what holds most creatives back, and I’m certainly not immune, is that it takes a great deal of self-belief even to attempt a creative endeavor, let alone complete it and work it to some level of competence. Framed another way, you’ll never prove to yourself how incompetent you really are unless you try. The dreaded I suck! fear is probably the number one reason most of us make excuses about why we can’t do something.

I’m telling you, you can. But it takes work. And practice. Most of all, it takes belief in yourself. We’ve all seen examples of mediocre talents who’ve gone on to have tremendous success because of their unwavering confidence in their abilities. They shake off criticism like a dog after a dunk; they keep pushing forward no matter what. As annoying as some of these creatives are—Madonna, I have you in my sights—you have to admire their tenacity.

Conversely, there is another type of which many of us are all too familiar. You may count yourself among them. I’m referring to the creative person with immense talent who never seems to complete any project, or worse, has a self-destructive bent. I’ve seen it manifest in many ways. In fact, I’ve explored that destructive messaging myself in my work, including UNMASKED, which is essentially a horror story about a dysfunctional family. I know the territory all too well.

If you can turn your pain into art, people will respond to it.

Believing in yourself means showing up for work every day without expecting any accolades. Keep working and keep pushing forward. People will start to notice. You’ll gain fans and maybe even turn it into a lucrative venture. I’m still waiting for the latter, but in the meantime, I’ll keep working on it every day because I love it. If you are struggling with your creativity, start with self-belief and let the rest of the world catch up.

Read UNMASKED
Featured

Ten Writing Tips

I tend not to give writing advice because I’d rather leave it up to the true experts, but I thought I’d share Ten Writing Tips that have worked for me in my writing development. Most of these are not original (I’ll try to give credit where I can), but I’ve found them helpful. Here goes:

  1. Writing as Practice – I got this idea from Dean Wesley Smith’s YouTube channel, and I couldn’t agree more. Musicians practice every day, so why shouldn’t writers? Think of writing as practice and take the pressure off yourself. Learn while you practice and develop good writing habits.
  2. Daily Word Count – Set a daily goal and try to reach it. I keep a spreadsheet of my word count, and I’ve been averaging around 2000 words a day. If I keep it up, I’ll have a 60,000-word manuscript by the end of the month. That’s a short novel! It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Don’t wait for inspiration (see tip #1). Just sit down and write every day.
  3. Immerse Yourself in Language – You won’t improve if you don’t read. Read for pleasure, read for entertainment, but read every day. I read for an hour a day at least, and lately, I’ve become obsessed with audiobooks. Immersing myself in language makes me a better writer because I’ve learned to discern good prose from bad, to hear the musicality in a graceful turn of phrase. I may not be as good as (most of) the books I read, but they’ve given me a target for which to aim.
  4. Keep a Reading Journal – This sounds a bit nerdy, but I always try to keep a notebook handy, and when I read an interesting phrase or clever use of an active verb or mind-blowing description, I’ll stop what I’m doing and jot it down. Later, that verb that I never considered may find its way into my manuscript. Read (and listen to) good fiction and learn from the best!
  5. Keep it Active – I didn’t realize how much I was using the passive voice in my writing until I read Stephen King’s book On Writing. Now, I see it everywhere. He also advised against using adverbs, although I see he uses them quite often, at least in his early fiction. The problem with this type of advice is that there seems to be an entire generation of writers who now live in fear of the dreaded adverb or passive voice. Both have their place in the English language. Just don’t overuse them.
  6. Develop Your Own Style Naturally – One of my reader’s pet peeves is overwritten, purple prose that is trying too darn hard to be “fancy.” If I can’t find the story for all the filigree, I’ll put down the book. Each one of us has a unique voice. An excellent place to start developing yours is by writing clear and clean sentences that advance the story.
  7. Use All the Senses – Of all the five senses, I tend to neglect the olfactory variety, which is why I place a written reminder at my writing desk to add a smell every two pages or so. Nothing evokes emotion like a scent.
  8. Mistakes Are Inevitable – When you think of writing as practice, you’ll worry less about making mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, so is bad writing at times. I once read a book on skiing that advised to always try to ski just at the point where you are falling. I was bruised by the end of my skiing adventure, but I think I improved more than if I hadn’t pushed myself to the edge. When I sit down for a writing session, I try to force myself to write a little beyond my skill level. Sometimes I surprise myself.
  9. Write a Clean First Draft – This tip may seem like it’s a contradiction of the previous one, but if you write a sloppy first draft, you may not be able to repair it in the second (or third) go-around when you can’t even remember what you were trying to accomplish in the first place. This is why I believe that setting an unrealistic word count can be counter-productive.
  10. Banish the Critical Voice – Nothing kills the creative spirit like that nagging, critical voice telling you how badly you suck! Save your inner “Karen” for polishing your prose, not in the creation of it. One way to beat the inner critic is by becoming so emotionally involved in your story, feeling it through all your senses, that there’s room in your writing space only for creative discovery!

Do you have any writing tips you’d like to share? Please leave a comment.

Featured

Rock n Roll Horror

Summer is the time for outdoor rock concerts. But lest you get bored between set-ups, make sure your day-pack includes a well-thumbed horror paperback. Horror and rock go together like coffee and cream, but with a lot more bite—especially if it’s a vampire story. Lestat de Lioncourt infamously became a rock star in the 1980’s.

I’ve just kicked off a summer BookTube series highlighting some of the best in Rock Horror. The first video looks at rock and the occult, a subject with deep roots indeed. Luckily, the book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll by Peter Bebergal is available to guide us into the underworld. The book is a treasure trove of rock and roll lore, and I drank it down like black mass communion wine in two days. Bebergal traces the roots of rock n roll’s connection with the occult from the crossroads of Mississippi to the flashy Hermetic images pulsing from the latest Hip-Hop videos. The book is an excellent read.

Postscript: a day after posting my video, the author Peter Bebergal contacted me to thank me for my review and graciously offered to send me a signed copy of his book for one of my giveaways. Just goes to show you, authors do read their reviews. Please tune to for my rock n roll horror series this summer for more book and film reviews and a chance to win a signed copy of Bebergal’s book!

Featured

Reading and Writing for Pleasure

The unfortunate shift occurred when I decided to take my writing “seriously.” Like many of us scribblers, I began reading and writing at an early age. I filled reams of notebooks and diaries. I wrote because I needed to. The same with reading. I didn’t think about it. I just did it.

However, after I had several novels and writing awards under my belt, I noticed an unfortunate shift not only in my attitude about my own writing but also about reading. Suddenly, it felt like work. For a while, I deluded myself into thinking this critical approach would enhance my writing skills. After all, I was now developing a greater appreciation of important concepts like flow, plot structure, and style. My critical brain loved to dissect a paragraph as an editor might, often jotting notes in the margins or using my Kindle highlighter to mark certain passages. My critical brain loved highlighting eloquent prose and brilliant turns of phrase. But more often in was the shitty passages that would get my attention, a note to self of what not to do. With all that highlighting, I frequently missed the pleasure of getting lost in the story.

My critical eye turned on my own writing like an exacting tutor, hovering over my shoulder during my writing sessions. You call that a paragraph! Awkward! or even You suck!

Overnight, I became my own worst critic to paralyzing effect. I quickly discovered that work produced this way, if you can manage to get any words to stick to the page, is often stilted and boring and blah. Pablum par excellence and no fun to produce. No wonder it felt like work. When the things I enjoyed most in the world became chores to cross off a list, I knew things had to change.

As if Google read my mind (I’m pretty sure it does), a video appeared in my YouTube recommendations, and I spent the next several days devouring the videos of veteran author Wesley Dean Smith. Smith, who mostly writes Westerns, looks and sounds like he just stepped through a swinging saloon door. He’s written over one-hundred books, brags of making a good living at it, and lectures new writers on how he does it. His advice centers around Heinlein’s Rules. Robert A. Heinlein was a prolific pulp fiction writer who offered the following deceptively simple advice to aspiring authors:

  • You must write.
  • You must finish what you write.
  • You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  • You must put the work on the market.
  • You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Most of us writers will come up short at that third rule, but there’s a lot here to consider. Smith also wrote a book about the method titled Writing Into the Dark. I discussed it in a recent YouTube video.

While binging on Dean Wesley Smith’s YouTube playlists, I came upon a video that supported my recent revelations about how I needed to shake my critical approach to reading and writing and return to doing both for pleasure. Smith asserts one should only read for pleasure. At least the first time through the book. Then, if you want to go back and note the author’s genius technique or dissect it for information about what not to do, you may. He advises one write the same way too, with the creative voice, NOT the critical eye.

My instincts agree wholeheartedly. I’m reading for pleasure again, and writing that way too. I’m not sure if it’s improving my technique, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun.


From Regina’s Haunted Library

Featured

Writerly Updates

I’m a Watty Winner!

The biggest news to share is I won a Watty!

This truly is a dream come true. I’ve been a member of Wattpad for over three years now, and I’m a huge fan of the platform. In fact, I consider Wattpad an essential part of my writing process. My winning story is Code Red, an Appalachian vampire tale. Click on the book cover to check it out.

Here I am gushing over my win, along with some other author updates.



Winning in the horror category makes me especially proud because I love being a part of the online horror community. And speaking of the horror community, Local Haunts: a HorrorTube Anthology is still garnering great sales and reviews (all proceeds go to the charity First Book). My BookTube friend Steve Donoghue and I are busy putting the next anthology together. If you’re on BookTube or AuthorTube and you want to submit a story, the deadline is January 10. Click HERE for more details.

In other news, I completed my third NaNoWriMo, meaning I wrote 50K words of a new project. This is a follow up to my Wattpad story, Starlex. It’s very much a draft with a very long way to go. But for now, I’m setting it aside with the hope that I’m not too horrified when I dust if off again.

A chilling holiday horror

I have a new release! Snowblind is a horror novella with a holiday theme.

This spine-tingling tale is about a woman who has had enough of her husband’s abuse. When she and her best friend (and secret lover) decide to bump him off during a Christmas holiday getaway in the mountains, things go terribly wrong. If you like a quick read and a page-turner with a lot of twists and turns, check it out.

Snowblind is available on Amazon and Smashwords for the low, low price of $1.99.


And finally, here is Batilida with your December Horrorscope. Enjoy!

Featured

NaNoWriMo Update

Well, it’s day 20. We survived an election and the Thanksgiving holiday looms. Life is as stressful as ever, and yet every day (except one), I’ve met my word count in my latest NaNoWriMo project.

It’s a good feeling. It hasn’t required much effort to make the roughly 1,700-word count every morning. I am already thinking of the next book I want to write. Shiny object syndrome notwithstanding, I feel like I’ve established an excellent daily writing habit this November.

That’s the good news. The bad news, I suppose, is that at this point, my fantasy story is a great big mess. I never wrote so quickly without going back and revising clunky turns of phrase, nonsensical hypotheses, and god-awful dialogue. That will all be waiting for me at the finish line. But what’s important now is that I get there. Barring sudden illness (God forbid) or force majeure, I think I’m going to make it this time.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, let me know how you’re doing and we can cheer each other on.

Featured

Another year, another Nano

I’ve decided to start this Monday morning’s NaNoWriMo writing stint by updating my long-neglected blog. This year has been strange, and with tomorrow’s Election Day looming, I expect it to get even weirder. But here I am doing another NaNoWriMo writing challenge. I feel more prepared this year than I ever have before. For one thing, since my Covid lay-off, I have a lot more time on my hands. That can be a blessing or a curse for procrastinators, but I’m usually good at knocking out my daily words first-thing in the morning when my brain is fresh, and the caffeine is pumping.

For this year’s Nano, I’m writing the sequel to my Wattpad fantasy book. It’s called Hyperia Rising, and I already have this lovely cover by Consuelo Parra to inspire me. I love using Wattpad to try out different genres. I know fantasy readers are a tough crowd to please, so before I release this into the Amazon jungle, I want to have at least three completed books in the series ready to go. But that’s getting ahead of myself. For now, I have to write this sucker, and I’m only 2000 words in. Here’s book one of the series on Wattpad if you’re interested taking a look.

I’m attempting to up my word count this year (50K is about half the average fantasy book). So, I’m setting the goal for least 2000 a day, maybe more if I’m feeling particularly inspired.

And because I’m not quite ready to face the blank page yet, here are some tips I’ve learned from doing previous Nanos (completed or not).

  • Write at the same time every day. It helps to establish the habit. I like to write in the morning before the world rushes in, and my brain is alert. Like exercising, getting it over early in the day keeps that dark cloud of procrastination from following me around. Find the time of day when you have the most energy and put in a good hour or writing with no interruptions.
  • Get in the zone. I listen to mediation music from the YouTube channel Yellow Brick Cinema every time I write. It’s become such a habit that just hearing the first droning chords signals my brain to get in the writing zone.
  • Just write. Don’t rewrite. This is difficult for me to do. When I know the sentence I just wrote is horrible, I do sometimes pause to revise, but in general, I try not to stop. I know I’ll be going over it again and again and again…
  • Know what you’re going to write each day. Some writers (planners) have elaborate outlines. Some make it up as they go along (pantsers). I do both. For this novel, because fantasy generally has more characters and complicated storylines, I created a more detailed outline than usual.
  • Try to complete your word count in one sitting.

Well, I think I’ve procrastinated enough this morning. The coffee is kicking in, and I’m ready to face the blank page. If you’re participating in NanoWriMo this year, feel free to add me as a buddy so we may spur on each other’s progress. Let’s have fun this year!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Featured

Open Submissions Call

HorrorTube Anthology Volume II

Served Cold edited by R. Saint Claire and Steve Donoghue.

Seeking submissions from authors with active BookTube or AuthorTube channels for the next HorrorTube Anthology.

Our first release, Local Haunts, has been very successful so far, reaching Amazon’s number #1 bestseller rank in Canada and Australia and garnering excellent reviews.

Again, we are looking for a diverse group of authors with active BookTube and/or AuthorTube channels (no channel too small) so please do not hesitate to submit.

Genre: Horror, including suspense, mystery, and weird fiction. Sci-fi and fantasy are fine as long as there are some horror elements.

Theme: Winter horror or any story concerning the cold. No overt erotica or anything too hardcore. Contact Regina at reginashauntedlibrary@gmail.com with any questions.

Length: 1,000 – 7,000 words

Deadline: January 10, 2021

Details: Please submit your story and other materials as separate attachments along with a link to your YouTube channel to reginashauntedlibrary@gmail.com. Please use the standard submission format. For guidance see https://www.shunn.net/format/story.html.

Please submit only your best, most polished work. Reprints are okay. The terms include the nonexclusive right to display, copy, publish, distribute, transmit and sell digital and print reproductions of your story worldwide.

English language only.

Pay for accepted submissions: $10 honorarium, print and digital copy. All proceeds will be donated to the literacy charity First Book

Deadline: January 10, 2021

Release Date: February 2021

Cover Design: Cameron Roubique

Featured

Spooky Season is Upon Us

Local Haunts: a HorrorTube Anthology is now available in print and paperback, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the reception. Word has been spreading on social media, and sales have been good. This project was so much fun, we may do it again. Hint. Hint. Keep your eyes open for that announcement coming soon. You still have until Saturday, October 10th, at midnight to enter the Local Haunts giveaway. Check out the video below for more details.

But for now, we are in the Halloween season, which is every horror lover’s favorite time of year. What are you doing for Halloween? COVID has changed a lot of plans, and I’m not even sure if my little town will be letting the kids trick-or-treat or not. Either way, Batilda, Lilly, and I will be ready with our annual Halloween BookTube special. This year we are pulling out all the stops, so be sure to check it out. I’m also planning to go live on Instagram during Halloween week while I visit a few local haunts around my neck of the woods (which just happens to be steeped in ghost legends). Go figure.

I’ve been doing the #HalloweenReadingExtravaganza readathon that is currently making the rounds on BookTube and Instagram. The first book I’m tackling in the challenge is Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea. So far, I love the old-school horror vibe. Considering I may have seen the Jersey Devil a very long time ago when I was driving through the Pine Barrens at night, this book is giving me extra chills.

Lilly is not intimidated by the Jersey Devil.

I’ve also been watching plenty of horror movies on Shudder and other platforms. In particular, I’ve been enjoying some new and old takes on the Frankenstein story. It’s my favorite novel of all time, and I never tire of revisiting its timeless themes.

A bone-chilling tale of murder gone wrong.

I know we have a few months until winter, but if you’re looking for a new story to chill you to the bone, you may download a FREE ebook copy of my new novella SNOWBLIND when you sign up for my email list.

This holiday getaway includes a wife, her sister, an abusive husband, a secret lover, and a murder plot. What could possibly go wrong?

If you like to purchase Snowblind, digital copies are for sale on Smashwords along with some other scary treats. As always, I appreciate your support.

Until next time, I hope you have a safe, and fun, spooky season.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.