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Flowers in the Attic: The Origin

Worth the watch!

Like many of us, I have my unique “critter comfort” media that I love but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. I learned my lesson back when I was a teenager and recommended the drive-in horror flick, Dead and Buried to someone and never heard the end of it. The same could be said for the original Phantasm or dozens of other beloved “cheesy” horror and Lifetime movies. I love “camp,” and I always have, but I realize I’m in the minority, and I’m okay with that. Camp aside, I recommend Lifetime’s newest VC Andrews’ inspired series, Flowers in the Attic: The Origin, to anyone who enjoys a good family drama that’s well-acted and directed. The writing is excellent, and the settings and costumes bring the series to life.

Yes, there are changes from the book it’s based on, Garden of Shadows, the final book in the Dollanganger series penned by Andrews Neiderman from VC Andrews’ notes. The most significant casting addition is Foxworth Hall’s maid Nella. What could have been just a throw-away character to add padding to the four-part series greatly enriches the story thanks to good writing and performance by T’Shan Williams–a mostly musical theater performer. Well, she has found a new fan in me because I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. Some of the other changes included a “forbidden” gay relationship and a sub-plot concerning a mix-up of poisonous herbs and marijuana, which worked for the most part, although the animal slaughter scene was a bit over the top, even for me.

I’ve also developed a serious crush on Max Irons who plays the devious and dastardly Malcolm Foxworth. Discovering he was Jeremy Irons’ son only deepened my obsession. This is a series I will return to many times.

Unlike the cringe performances, clunky dialogue, and anachronistic costumes of former VC Andrews’ fair, it’s clear that money was spent on this production. I’m happy to see it, and I hope Lifetime continues to produce such excellent VC Andrews content. A little bird told me the Cutler Series is in the works. I can’t wait!

Check out my video review of the series. Have you watched it yet? If so, please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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For the Love of Trash!

I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on Shawn D. Standfast’s BookTube series, Desert Island Books (watch it here), where I was tasked with choosing eight books to read, presumably for eternity. It was challenging, and except for Wilderness Survival for Dummies, the list comprised mostly of classics I’ve read and reread throughout the years. It makes sense that in my island isolation I would include some old friends–and good books certainly are–in my survival kit. I also included Tolstoy’s War and Peace with the understanding that being on the island would force me, at last, to read it, perhaps telling me something about my time management. Interestingly, to me anyway, was that there was no room on my list for my beloved V.C. Andrews among the Shakespeare, Wilde, and Wordsworth. When confronted with the dark night of the soul, I quickly converted to old-time literary religion.

But since I’m still living in the “real” world of distractions, a good portion of my library is devoted to the aforementioned V.C. Andrews, gothic romances, and paperbacks from hell. I call it pulp and do so proudly. But trashy books are a different matter. In my opinion, as expressed in the video below, trashy books are frequently sexual in nature and may elicit enough shame to disguise with a discreet dust jacket. A personal favorite, Jaqueline Susann’s Once is Not Enough definitely fits that bill. Even as a young teen, I found that tome hilariously entertaining for the depths it was willing to plunge.

So, in the spirit of the #GarbAugust reading challenge currently making the rounds on Booktube, I’ve added a few new-to-me trash books to my August TBR, including a recently acquired vintage copy of Riders by Jilly Cooper. I’m hoping the book lives up to this wonderfully trashy cover. The only shame I feel is that it’s taken me so long to read it.

Shame aside, it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who appreciates good trash. Do check out booktuber CriminOlly videos to learn more about the fun challenge and follow #GarbAugust If you have any favorite trash books, please leave your true confessions below.

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One Year on Kindle Vella

Is it worth it?

Kindle Vella’s first anniversary has rolled around to little fanfare. Do readers even know about it? I probably wouldn’t if I didn’t have stories on the platform. I rarely participate as a reader–yet. That could change. Before Vella launched, I deleted my Wattpad account despite being one of the platform’s “star” authors and winning a Watty award. That decision was complicated, but mostly I closed shop on Wattpad because it was holding me back as a writer, meaning it was time to stop giving away my work for free and take a more robust leap into earning money for my creative efforts. In that respect, Vella has paid off handsomely. I’ve made thousands of dollars on the stories I transferred from Wattpad to Vella, however, most of these earnings came from Amazon’s bonuses, not organic readers. That score has been pitiful, as I imagine has been the case for most writers crowding onto that platform. The top performers on Vella either already have a solid readership base eager to follow their stories anywhere–I recognize a few famous names among them–or have a hell of a PR campaign. There may also be some organic growth there, especially among the evergreen romance genres. My epic fantasy story, Starlex, was one of the first of its kind on Vella and had a great launch, which unfortunately lost steam as more authors jumped on the bandwagon. If Amazon is encouraging uploads to grow its content base, it appears to be working.


I won’t attempt to decipher the Amazon algorithm, but based on the bonuses I’ve received, it seems to reward frequent uploads over organic reads. Completed stories become quickly dead in the water, which leads to the question of how best to promote them. Sales savvy authors will figure out a way, but most of us seemed to have drifted to the usual Facebook groups where “promotion” boils down to “I’ll read yours if you read mine.”

There is a fine line between showing another indie author “support” through authentic reads and scrolling through their content, marking each episode with a thumbs up, and posting a screenshot to prove you’ve “read” it. Authors can undoubtedly be readers of other indie works–I certainly am–which is where the fine line comes into play. I welcome another indie’s opinion of my work and am happy to do the same, but I don’t want someone “unlocking” my episodes in exchange for the same. I want readers who actually read my episodes and enjoy them. The practice seems very much like review swapping, which is not only against Amazon’s policy, but also pretty tacky. That’s not the way to find readers.
Vella’s future is difficult to predict. Amazon seems to have modeled some of Vella’s designs after Wattpad–the token system in particular, but their interactive features are lacking. The poll never works when I try to implement it, and I do miss Wattpad’s social interaction and direct contact with readers and other writers.


Has it been worth it? For the money I’ve earned, I suppose so. It will be interesting to see how Vella will develop and how many authors will drop out once the bonuses stop. I plan to finish up my fantasy series on Vella–I’m currently on book two–and maybe write some romances under a pen name as an experiment.
Do you have a story on Kindle Vella, or do you use the platform as a reader? I’d love to hear about your experience, so please leave a comment below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Red Masquerade by R. Saint Claire

Red Masquerade

by R. Saint Claire

Giveaway ends July 25, 2022.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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The Bloodlust of Carmilla

It was a read-a-thon challenge on BookTube, #HorrorMAYhem if you’re curious, that finally nudged me toward reading a classic story burning up my library shelf (and Kindle Fire) for years. Maybe I resisted reading Carmilla because I was under the delusion that I had read it before—that was actually Coleridge’s Christabel. So, during my yearly creative retreat at a lakeside cabin in the woods, I finally cracked open my vintage paperback copy and took a bite.

Carmilla, the 1872 novella written by Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu, burst in my mouth like the wild red berries I’d indulged in during my morning hike—more bitter than sweet, but delicious.

Perhaps my resistance also had something to do with a belief that I needed a proper setting in which to absorb the story. After all, we live in a world of distractions that makes focusing on anything a challenge, let alone dense, Victorian prose. I had just completed Brian Keene’s The Conqueror Worms for Week One of the reading challenge, the assignment being supernatural creatures. After Keene’s gory gut punches, it took me a few paragraphs to adjust to Le Fanu’s writing style. Still, with only the music of birdsong—including a pair of owls outside my cabin—and soft breezes to accompany my reading, Carmilla stirred my blood in ways I hadn’t experienced in a long time.

Several adaptations, including a wonderfully cheesy Hammer film, have seized on the titillating “lesbian vampire” theme. Yes, the theme is there and it’s quite subtle (more Sappho than Sade), but my deep reading yielded so many more delights. For one thing, the setting could not be more Gothic. The story takes place in Styria, which a quick search on my phone informed me is part of Austria. Austria is a place I’ve always wanted to visit; my grandfather was born there, and I’ve only heard about its natural beauty and stunning architecture through stories and films. This setting is in the remote country, a lonely and primitive place, where English ex-pats can afford to live like kings and queens on modest yearly incomes. But the quiet beauty is haunted by the ghosts of an old aristocratic family, the Karnsteins, their lineage now reduced to mouldering tombs in a roofless church and an equally-desolate château which, in the thick of the forest, overlooks the silent ruins of the town.

The ancient estate (or schloss) the young heroine, Laura, and her father inhabit has a moat, a drawbridge, and so many rooms (replete with secret passages) that one’s screams in the middle of the night are undetected by other household members, as Laura discovers when at six years old she is attacked by a ghostly nocturnal visitor. This strangely beautiful lady-phantom kisses and caresses Laura in a way the motherless child finds comforting until she shocks her by penetrating her chest with two sharp needles. While Laura screams for her governess, the phantom disappears beneath the bed (a creepy image indeed). Later, she will return in the guise of a cat during her attacks.

Laura, now a young lady of eighteen at the time of the narrative, is still disturbed by the incident from her childhood. Will this strange apparition come back to haunt her? We know it will.

A dramatic opening scene sets the stage when young Laura, her father, and a few servants take a moonlit stroll and witness a carriage with footmen in full livery crash against a tree and overturn. The team of horses shied at the site of an ancient cross on the estate—someone remarks in a chilling bit of foreshadowing. A noblewoman dressed in black velvet, a turbaned woman within the carriage grinning derisively toward the ladies, and ugly, hang-dog looking grooms hint at the evil lurking beneath the gilded veneer.

In a rushed moment of chivalry, Laura’s father decides to let Carmilla, stunned in the carriage accident, remain at his estate until the mother can reclaim her in several months’ time. The plan is vague and not very well thought out, but Laura is happy to have a new friend even if the new friend is a bit…strange.

Carmilla is pale, languid, rarely eats except to nibble on some chocolate, and sleeps most of the day. She is also “abnormally” affectionate toward young Laura, caressing her and proclaiming her love with rapid breaths and a heaving bosom. Laura finds her young companion’s romantic expressions, like great beauty, both seductive and repulsive. Still, she’s inexplicably drawn to her.

Despite her sweetness and languor, Carmilla occasionally flames with the imperious indignation of a Countess Bathory. When a grotesque peddler shows up with some bizarre taxidermy of various animals stitched together and suggests grinding down Carmilla’s unusually sharp teeth, Carmilla retorts: “How dares that mountebank insult us so? Where is your father? I shall demand redress from him. My father would have had the wretch tied up to the pump, and flogged with a cart-whip, and burnt to the bones with the castle brands!”

I recognized in this early work of vampire fiction many subplots and characters recycled in every Gothic vampire story from Dracula to Dark Shadows and beyond, including midnight gallops, country doctor visits, superstitious common folk, misty graveyards, and even a Van Helsing character who shows up at the end with his “tool kit” to dispatch Carmilla, really the two-hundred year old Countess of Karnstein, with a stake through the heart followed by decapitation for good measure.

Glued to the page, I sucked down every word of this Gothic tale, and when I finished, my bosom heaved for more. In fact, I’d barely read the last line when I fired up my iPhone and listened to the audiobook while sitting by the lake, pretending I was in Villa Diodati. Like other favorite Gothic classics, Jane Eyre and Frankenstein among them, I will revisit this novella many times hence.

With my bloodlust for Carmilla unsated after two successive readings, I desperately searched for some film adaptations. Carmilla, a recent film written and directed by Emily Harris, is an atmospheric interpretation of how a sexually-repressed governess takes out her frustrations on the budding Sapphic romance between her teenage charge and her mysterious new friend. The film is pretty and meant to be poignant, but I yawned through most of it. I wanted more of Carmella’s fierceness, and I almost found it in The Vampire Lovers (1970), the first in a Hammer Film trilogy starring Peter Cushing. Here, you’ll find more boobs than blood. The late 60’s hairstyles and make-up had me giggling, but at least it stuck close to the original plot. I plan to watch the entire trilogy this weekend. 

Perhaps a definitive adaptation is out there. I’ll continue to search. In the meantime, Carmilla will haunt my dreams most deliciously. Feeling refreshed from my cabin retreat, a sweet female cat showed up on my doorstep when I returned home. She purred and threaded through my legs when I petted her and has shown no intention of leaving.

Featured

Call for Submissions – HorrorTube Anthology Vol. 3

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

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: Classic Horror! *Please, no horror erotica, paranormal romance, or romantic suspense.

Theme: MONSTERS! Monsters can be human or inhuman, but for this anthology, we’re seeking horror stories of a gorier nature, so don’t hold back! But please, no graphic depictions of sexual assault, child or animal abuse. Supernatural stories depicting unique monsters are encouraged. Contact Regina at reginashauntedlibrary@gmail.com with any questions. *See FAQs below.

Length: 1,000 – 5,000 words

Deadline: June 1, 2022

Details: Please submit your story as a separate attachment (word doc) along with a short cover letter including a clean 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.

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

Deadline: June 1, 2022

Release Date: October 2022

Cover Design: Cameron Roubique

Edited by Regina Saint Claire with a  foreword by Steve Donoghue.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered an “active” booktube/authortube channel? 

Your channel should have recent uploads (at least once a month) and include bookish and/or writerly content. 

Why is my story rejected?

The biggest reason for rejection is a poorly edited story. Another reason for rejection is if your story does not fit the theme. Also, poorly formatted stories annoy editors so please follow the directions for submissions including pasting a clean link to your YouTube channel in your cover letter. 

Are psychological horror stories okay?

Psychological stories are great, but for this anthology (slated for a spooky-season release), we’re looking for gory, “fun” horror stories with good suspense and satisfying “pay-offs.” Think R.L. Stine with more gore!

Are reprints okay?

Yes. But please do not break any contracts with other publishers.

What does “non-exclusive rights” mean?

It means you’re free to publish your story on other publications and platforms. 

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The Woman Beyond the Attic – Book Review

I recall the moment in my high school math class (my least favorite subject) when I spotted a classmate with a paperback copy of Flowers in the Attic stashed under her desk. I began to see the book floating around the halls and whispered about in the girls’ locker room—something about child abuse, incest with a brother. Beyond intrigued, I immediately bought a copy from one of those revolving racks in the drugstore. I read it in one day and never forgot it. It wasn’t just the unsavory sex that kept me riveted. The subject of family secrets, a mother and grandmother doing horrible things to children, was something rarely–if ever–discussed at that time. The gothic melodrama catapulted to the top of the bestseller list, threatening to topple Stephen King from his throne. And who can forget the cover!

When King accused VC Andrews of writing bad prose in his book On Writing, I doubt if it was just professional jealousy at work. If I’m being generous to Mr. King, I believe he meant that she is a bad writer in the same way Margaret Keane is a “bad” artist. I’m sure their popularity drove the cognoscenti of both art and literary worlds mad, but still, as Warhol quipped about Keane’s art, “If it were bad, so many people wouldn’t like it.”

We don’t expect ” good ” literature when we read VC Andrews or the many series penned by her ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman after her death. But we do expect to be entertained in the way only connoisseurs of the genre understand. And what is the genre exactly? Well, that’s been debated, but in Neiderman’s new VC Andrews biography, The Woman Beyond the Attic, he asserts that she created her own genre. I agree. And what a fun genre it is—a bit of romance, but no syrupy happy endings, a lot of sex and suffering. In other words, it’s like life, for many women especially, the keepers of family secrets. 

Neiderman’s The Woman Beyond the Attic delves into VC Andews’ life and exposes some secrets along the way, including her mysterious illness, relationship with her mother, and the impact of her work. 

Although I suspect many fans won’t be satisfied, I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read. Below is my video where I discuss the book in more detail. 

 

 

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New Release!

Writing Goals

One of my goals for 2022 is to release new fiction (a short story, novel, novella, anthology, or collection) every month. So far, I’m right on target. I even began a month early with Served Cold, the second horrortube anthology, which was released in December.

Speaking of Served Cold, here is a guest blog post I wrote for horror author Nicholas Kaufmann’s blog, in which I examine what’s scary about producing an anthology. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, but not completely. Writing is general, can be pretty scary.

Scares, of mostly the internal kind, are what I explore in Women in Trouble, a new collection of female-themed horror. Some stories have been previously published, but there are quite a few new pieces included. It’s been out about a week. If you enjoy psychological horror, as well as a few supernatural chills, please check it out. Here is an excerpt from the foreword written by fellow horrortuber, Lydia Peever.

Trouble transcends the traditionally feminine here—be it physical, psychological, or perceived—and brings us to a more modern stage but with roots in timeless sensibility. This is the signature of Saint Claire.

Below is a video where I discuss Women in Trouble, and other new projects coming in 2022.

I’m going to keep this post short today because I’m currently editing my next release, a young adult paranormal romance. If you’d like a sneak peek, the first book in the series is currently on Kindle Vella and doing quite well on that site. If any other writers are trying out Vella, I’d love to hear what you think of it so far. Please leave a comment and we can compare notes.

P.S. To receive a free digital copy of all my new releases, including Women in Trouble, consider becoming a patron.

 

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A Holiday Gift of Horror

Book Cover design by Premade Book Covers. All rights reserved @RSaintClaire 2021

 

Dear Friends,

I wrote this holiday horror story to share with you this holiday season . You may read it here it is entirety, or download it for free to read on you Kindle or other device. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season!

XOXO

Regina

 

 

 

 

HO HOW HOWL

by R. Saint Claire

“Uncle Buck smells, and he’s weird,” whispered Carrie beneath the covers. My kid sister clung to me for warmth the way six-year-olds who still act like babies sometimes do. But I had just melted away into a very cloudy dream starring Mark Batters from my fourth-grade class and resented the intrusion greatly.

“Shut up,” I said, facing the wall to emphasize my point. But when she started blubbering about how mean I am, I rolled back.  “Okay. He smells. So what?”

“I used the bathroom after him today.” Carrie’s little face puckered. “Pewee.”

I tucked the blanket under her chin. Her light brown hair had been washed that night; she smelled of strawberries. I wished I had her hair. Mine was dark, like Dad’s, and wiry, and cut too short for my taste, but whatever. “He’ll be gone soon.”

“But why is he here?”

“Because it’s Christmas.”

“So?”

“Don’t you remember last year when he fell off the roof while pretending he was Santa Claus?”

I recalled waking up to what sounded like the house shaking, followed by my mother screaming, and then a string of curses from my dad, including the really bad word.

Uncle Buck was Dad’s older brother, the black sheep of the family, I suppose. He worked at a garage in Philly—the grease under his fingernails was legendary—but he liked to hunt in the country, which is why he used to come to our house almost every weekend. Mom put her foot down after the incident when he hung a deer he’d shot on our lamppost, and every dog within miles came during the night and tore it down. We awoke to pieces of deer strewn all over the front yard, which not only made Mom cry, but was super gross. I could never eat venison after that.

Dad admitted Uncle Buck was irresponsible with his shotguns and his beagle, Schmoke—weird name for a dog—who snapped at me once when I tried to pet him. But every Christmas, Dad would get sentimental. Also Schmoke had just died.

“Buck has no place else to go,” said Dad to Mom.  I suppose their Christian spirits won out because here he was again, taking up the entire sofa with his legs spread, watching football games when it was time for our favorite cartoons. Mom would set down a plate of food and a cold beer for him, and he wouldn’t even say thank you. Also, he smoked cigars. Outside the house, at least, but the smell lingered around the door, making me gag every time I stepped outside.

Yeah, Uncle Buck pretty much sucked.

“Why does he have to ruin Christmas?” moaned Carrie, her lament hovering ghostlike below the shadowy ceiling.

“I’ll talk to Dad about it.”

“Promise?” Her arms circled my waist. She was nice and warm, so I allowed her to stay there.

“Promise. Now go to sleep.”

Continue reading “A Holiday Gift of Horror”

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Served Cold is Launched!

It’s been a long time coming, but Served Cold: A HorrorTube Anthology is now available in print and ebook. EBook copies are also available on Smashwords. I’m happy to report our initial launch was very successful. We earned Amazon’s little orange #1 check mark, which is always a pleasant sight.

As Served Cold continues to make strides, I am so happy to see how much our HorrorTube community has come together with not only our love of horror fiction, but also by sharing that passion with each other. Below you’ll find a short promo video created by a very talented member of our community, the lovely Mers from Harpies in the Trees. I’ve never met Mers in person, but she is part of an informal group of HorrorTubing women I communicate with during our occasional “Creepy Cocktail Hour” via Zoom.

I’m not sure if I will be editing another anthology anytime soon—I have many of my own projects commanding my attention—but ask me again in six months and I might already be planning the next one. It’s a lot of work, but the rewards are great. Of course, I am someone who always thinks big, so I can imagine in the near future HorrorTube having its own conference where we could all come together and meet in person. How cool would that be? As a new year approaches, I am considering a few projects along those lines, including creating a completely analog HorrorTuber zine, but more about that later.

If you would like a FREE ebook copy of Served Cold, consider becoming a Regina’s Haunted Library member. Also, I will be sending out many free ebooks to my mailing list subscribers, so considering signing up.

I’m keeping this post short because I’m a bit distracted after just finding out this morning that the great Anne Rice has passed away. I plan to post a video about her this week on my YouTube channel.

Here’s Mers’ promo video for your enjoyment. Remember, all proceeds for Served Cold benefit the literacy charity, FirstBook.org. Thanks for your support!

 

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Another NaNoWriMo Win and Why I Left Wattpad

It was down to the wire, but I was able to complete my NaNoWriMo project this year. It wasn’t the most ideal time to write a 50K word draft (is it ever?), but I was happy I didn’t give up. It will require another 20K words to flesh it out. I’ll get there, but until then, into the file drawer it goes.

I had fun writing my V.C. Andrews’ inspired melodrama, but there are a few other projects now requiring my attention. I hope that when I return to Black and Blue Ivy in a few weeks, it will be with fresh eyes and insights and I won’t run screaming with horror at what I’m reading.

Speaking of horror, I’m working on two projects now (besides getting Served Cold up and running). One is a short Christmas horror story I hope to have up on Amazon by next week, and the other is Code Red, the vampire novel for which I won a Watty last year.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to confess that I’ve left Wattpad for good. It is with no animosity. I was honored to win their top prize and to become a Wattpad “star,” but it got to the point where I wasn’t really growing on that platform. It was, however, a wonderful place to develop my writing skills and grow confidence.

My decision to leave was based on a few factors. One, I wasn’t participating as much as I used to and I found that another social networking platform was draining my time and energy. Two, after five years on the platform, I found there was little to no transfer of readers from that site to purchasing my books on Amazon. Even with over half a million reads and tons of active engagement with readers, I could barely convince them to sign up for my newsletter. Wattpad readers like to read stories for free. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I got tired of giving away my work for free, which leads me to reason number three. There comes a time when you’ve “‘practiced” enough and you need to enter a higher echelon of professionalism. In that respect, I felt that posting “good enough” stories on Wattpad was holding me back. In the month or so since I transferred two of my stories from Wattpad to Kindle Vella, they’ve already made over $500, so there’s that.

Still, I would encourage new fiction writers, as I was when I started five years ago, to consider Wattpad as a place to share their stories. I have no regrets for my time spent there. I just knew it was time to make a change. If everything goes as planned, Code Red will be released on Amazon in 2022, along with the seven or so other fiction projects I wrote during the Covid isolation months.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the new year holds.