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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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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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.

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Announcement!

Check out the authors involved in Local Haunts.

Local Haunts: A HorrorTube Anthology is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle. The ebook and print versions will be go on sale October 1 on Amazon and other platforms. Local Haunts is a compilation of short stories from some of your favorite BookTubers so make sure you check it out. The proceeds for this anthology will be donated to the literacy charity, First Book. Cameron Roubique designed the awesome book cover.

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The creepy allure of (Virgo) cult leaders

Keith Raniere, former leader of a “self-improvement” company called NXIVM and unwilling star of the new HBO series The Vow, demonstrates the creepy allure I’ve observed in other cult leaders.

At first glance, this schlumpy guy with a penchant for V-necks doesn’t look like your average seducer, but after watching the first two episodes of The Vow, I get it. Seeing this guy in action, and listening to the testimonial of his most gullible mark (also named Mark), a clear picture of Raniere’s mind-fuckery emerges.

The boyish manner, the weird fashion statements, and volley-ball obsession are part of his quirky charm. His claim to be child concert piano prodigy (the video of him plunking out a very basic Moonlight Sonata while other ooh and ah is particularly amusing) and a math genius with the “highest I.Q. ever recorded” help to secure his status as Vanguard of NXIVM.

In other words, he’s special, the guy with all the answers for people searching for meaning in their lives. But not everyone is so easily fooled. Watching Mark’s beautiful and sensitive wife trusting her gut and pulling away from the cult even while her husband, who thinks he’s found his soulmate in Raniere, digs in his heels is truly riveting.

In the course of my Wikipedia search, I noticed Raniere is a Virgo, which ups the creep factor a bit. Having a female Zodiac sign gives the Virgo male an extra dose of mystery. Like Mercury, you can never pin them down. “Try to catch me between sets at volley-ball tonight.” They appear boyish and oddly asexual. But behind the scenes, it’s a different story.

If you haven’t been following the case, Raniere was convicted of a slew of criminal charges. One of the most shocking revelations to emerge was his secret society of chosen women in the group who were required to be branded with his initials. The particulars of those events are quite nauseating. When it really gets down to it, for all of the bells, whistles, sashes, and Dalai Lama blessings, Keith Raniere appeared to only be about satisfying his own ego and sexual proclivities under the guise of enlightenment. Pretty basic stuff.

The closest thing I ever came to being in a cult was when I spent four weeks studying Shakespeare in the beautiful Berkshires. I recall that Werner Erhard, the founder of EST and also a Virgo, was somehow involved in the organization’s start. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but some of the exercises we were required to do had an EST vibe to them, including not allowing us to use the bathroom during a three-hour movement class. I wasn’t having any of it. I rebelled early and kept up the rebellion throughout the training duration, despite the cold shoulders from my peers who seemed all too willing to drink the Kool-Aid. The view out my dorm window reassuring me my car was still in the parking lot, and I could leave at any time helped me get through it. The experience stuck with me through. I even parodied it in one of the episodes of my web series, Gemini Rising.

Cult leaders won’t fool everyone, but they always seem to find their marks, the people who want to believe someone outside of themselves has the answers. It can, and has, led to tragedies. Here’s my recent discussion of a true crime story that happened near my home in late 1970s. Bill Bradfield, with his own creepy “Vanguard” Jay Smith, only held sway over a few willing victims, but the results were deadly. I wonder if Bradfield was a Virgo.

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