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Happy Vamptember!

My vampire novel CODE RED is now for sale on Amazon.

I will probably be selling it on other platforms too, but for now, you may buy it in ebook and print. Also, if you’re on NetGalley, you may download a free copy through October. I proud of this book which began as a Wattpad story and ended up winning a Watty award in 2020. Here’s the premise:

The Vampires are Running the Asylum!
Wormwood Asylum, a private mental hospital located in Southwest Virginia, specializes in treating adolescent psychoses, including Renfield’s Syndrome, an obsession with drinking blood. But when a young man is committed to Wormwood because he believes he’s a vampire, it turns out he wasn’t lying, and soon rapacious revenants are running rampant through the rural mountain community. To fight the blatant bloodsuckers, the local sheriff teams up with a candy striper and her moonshiner grandpa, who just happens to have an arsenal of war-grade weapons stored in his prepper bunker, for a bloody country hoedown of epic proportions.

To celebrate my take on vicious vamps, I thought I’d share my favorite vampires in lore and legend. Not the most original list in the world, but here goes.

Barnabas Collins

Like many from my generation, Dark Shadows, was part of our daily routine. A soap opera fully steeped in campy Gothic tropes, the show lasted for a good chunk of my childhood. The feature film based on the series, The House of Dark Shadows, was the first horror film I was allowed to see when I was a kid and it scared me to bits–in reality, I was a bit young for it, but I’ll be forever grateful for my older sister who dragged me along and turned me into a horror fan forever chasing that first high. Just the other day, I discovered a Dark Shadows book and comic bonanza at my local antique mart and rejoiced at adding to my collection. Perhaps one day I’ll happen upon the elusive Dark Shadows Cookbook we decimated as children, now selling for hundreds on eBay. As far as I’m concerned the Tim Burton travesty doesn’t exist.

Carmilla

I’m late to Carmilla, having only read it last year, but man, it did not disappoint! Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella about an ancient aristocratic vampire with Lesbian tendencies has a titillating premise, but to be fair, the sexuality is as subtle as a cool whispered breath on a fluttery bosom. What I enjoyed most about the story was its slow burning Gothic atmosphere. Its influence on Stoker’s Dracula is quite obvious. This is a creepy story I will return to each fall while spending a holiday at a haunted Austrian castle or at least a misty morning in my neighborhood graveyard.

Lestat

I discovered Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire when it became a paperback sensation in the 80’s and I immediately fell in love with the seductive Lestat de Lioncourt (as did Batilda). I was less impressed with Tom Cruise’s performance in the film adaptation. It wasn’t his fault he was miscast, but his performance and the film has grown on me with subsequent viewings. In the decades since I discovered this classic, I’ve been slowly working my way through The Vampire Chronicles. Rice’s lush, meandering prose can prove frustrating at times, but what an incredible character she created in Lestat. His seductions are immortal.

Dracula

All roads lead back to Drac, but which incarnation is best? I confess, it took me two reading to appreciate Stoker’s novel. Now, it shares a shelf with Frankenstein, the fraternal twins of Gothic literature. There have been so many film and television adaptations, from the ridiculous to the sublime, but I think the original silent Nosferatu comes closest to doing the Count justice. He’s a weirdo, and not as seductive as some renditions–Frank Langella’s coifed 70s styling comes to mind–would suggest. In truth, I love each portrayal for different reasons, with a particularly fondness for Gary Oldman’s seductive count, but now when I read Dracula, it is Max Schreck’s version I envision. His is a different kind of seduction. Not quite human, here is a monster whose talent for inspiring fear and fascination can never be matched.

Do you have any favorite vampires? Please comment below and let’s share notes. Vamp on!

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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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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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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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.