Vampires for Adults

Madam Vampire 5I got hooked on vampires early. Sometimes I’m compelled to write about them. Recently I released Madam Vampire: Shifters in Ripper’s London. It’s an ebook containing my short stories Animals of London and Wolf Calls. The stories feature a bisexual vampire running a brothel in London during Jack the Ripper’s bloody reign. Her encounters with a werewolf put her business at risk. Rated 18 + because I have a dirty mind.

I relate to being an outsider. And to intense hunger. Violent urges. Covert expressions of sexuality. Deviance. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was hot stuff for its day. The TV show Dark Shadows imprinted on me. Le Fanu’s Carmilla remains one of my favorite vampire tales — and I read every one of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Saint Germain books. I read most of Anne Rice’s books, too. The ones that stuck with me most were her early historical novels, Cry to Heaven and The Feast of All Saints that don’t have any vampires in them.  I like that she broke new ground in depicting MM vampire relationships.

I’ve been fascinated with the Jack the Ripper case since I was a kid. Can’t seem to turn away from instances of terror and sudden death, speculations about the killer’s mind and motives. Unsolved crimes exert a greater hold than the solved ones. And there’s so much that’s dirty and repressed in that era. The Ripper’s existence drew attention to Whitechapel and the grim, human horrors there. It all still haunts me.

If you’re curious about Victorian sexuality, take a look at The Pearl. No vampires, but about every kink you can imagine.

Excerpt from Madam Vampire

Lizette didn’t care what we did, but made a pretense of being the most adult of us all. Her devotion included unquestioning acceptance of our eccentricities. She turned away anyone who came by during the day.

Candlelight gave her flaxen curls a halo, yet she shone on her own. The week the Ripper’s reign began, I saw that gold light around her when she collapsed on the walk from hunger. I brought the angel home. She fit with us. She honed her mind on our library, and added youth and playfulness to this old place.

Lizette met my regard and smiled. “You gave me the life of a princess, so don’t rile Theo too much. I couldn’t bear to go back to the cribs, or be cut up by that monster.”

I’ll behave.” I wouldn’t, but it pleased her to hear it. Few whores in London lived in such fine houses, and I didn’t want her fretting about being turned out into the Ripper’s streets.

“Jack the Ripper knifed another one, and carved out her breasts and kidneys.” She said, meeting my mind as she often did.

“I read the reports, and I listened to doxies talking near the pubs.” Unlike the others left butchered outside, he killed this prostitute in a room. He left her parts on the nightstand. The newspapers counted five women as Ripper victims between 31st August and that day, 9th November 1888. “You’re safe here with us.” I wanted her brief life to remain free of fear or hunger, the poor dandelion.

Vampire Madam on Amazon

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Posted in Writing

Free LGBT Science Fiction Story

An impenetrable barrier keeps Earth’s ships from leaving. Teams of specially trained and modified heroes fly the allowed space, wiping out the debris specialists suspect offended an alien force. Separated from her lover, Jane performs her duty, but she suspects a lie fuels the international sport. As her friend Julio battles the Hitchhiker virus, she faces the deadly force penning her planet.

In One Down, Jane faces secrets and betrayal. One Down is free today and tomorrow. I’ll be

publishing a new short every few days to see how it goes. It would mean a lot to me to find an audience for these stories.

one-down-smI’m having a life-changing experience in another country. Maybe that’s why I’m more open to taking risks. I stopped in at Kindle Boards Writer’s cafe and discovered a discussion of self-published short stories that sell well. I ordered a book cover and published one of my favorite shorts.

A couple of years ago, in the interest of making a living, I became someone else. That other writer makes a living writing fiction. It’s a good thing, except that only commercial fiction flies. It feels like a huge indulgence to spend time on stories I wrote because I had to write them, when I could be working on the next book that pays my bills. But I’ve missed being me.

After all this time, I finally get to have my own book with a spaceship on the cover. This isn’t how I pictured this moment.

As a teen, it mattered to me, and still does, that I found books with people like me in them. Books with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and gender variant characters gave me a sense of connection and affirmation that was rare growing up in a small town. That sense of connection remains scarce in my life.

I suppose that’s part of why, after all this time, and after discovering repeatedly that my heterosexual books sell the best, I still want to put these stories out there.

Ursula K. LeGuin, Joanna Russ, Elizabeth A. Lynn, John Varley and George Nader gave me worlds where I wasn’t alone.

Get One Down and join my adventure.

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Posted in Bisexual, Fiction, LGBT, Queer, science fiction, stories, Writing

‘Secret Forest’ Gay Horror Hot New Release on Amazon

This new horror story came out of a productive and challenging time when I put myself through short story boot camp and taught myself to write fiction on demand. The original version was about 2,500 words, much less explicit, and I titled it “In the Garden of Secrets.” Returning to the story after a year, I saw how to expand and complete it, so I did.

As of today, Secret Forest is ranking as #5 on Amazon’s list of bestselling LGBT Horror ebooks, one line down from three of Anne Rice’s novels. I studied with her husband, the poet and painter Stan Rice at San Francisco State in the MFA program. I met her at one of his readings and I’ve read most of her books — not only the vampire ones. So, even though it’s a small thing, I’m getting a major kick being on the same page as The Queen of the Damned, The Vampire Lestat and The Vampire Armand.

If you look at this list while my book is new enough and popular enough to rank, you’ll see it on the right sidebar on the top row. There’s a link to the bestseller list below, above my book cover.

Back to the Beginning

Years of copywriting and other unsuitable gigs have often eclipsed my fiction, which I have to write. It never leaves me alone, even when it’s harmful to other work that covers expenses. It’s my most expensive and time-consuming habit but I’m unable to stop.

I read Peter Straub’s anthology Poe’s Children last April and wrote a new story nearly every day that month. It was the most short fiction I’d written in years. I ended up with 28 stories ranging from flash to full length. Many of them were horror and a few were science fiction or fantasy. The original version of this new ebook was in that batch.

For awhile it seemed like all those stories and the novels from those rocky years would stay on my computers, knocking around with me from place to place, but I decided to take another shot at the self-publishing adventure. Although having my story featured on the Amazon gay horror list wasn’t the result of a great number of sales, it was encouraging.

The Lure of Horror — or, I’m Addicted

One type of horror that compels me the most as a reader is firmly grounded in reality with supernatural elements creeping in. I’m also partial to the kind of horror that comes from a character’s mind. And to tales where it’s difficult to tell whether the evil is an outside force or the edge of madness.

No matter how many other things I have to do in life to survive, I always come back to horror. Fine editors including Straub and Ellen Datlow give me hope for the genre’s future.

I flinched while writing this post’s headline. The self-promotion aspect of being a writer doesn’t come easily. Yet seeing Secret Forest live was a happy thing, and seeing it featured as an Amazon hot new release in gay horror made my day. Who am I going to tell, if not for you?

Secret Forest 6

At the center of the charred structures, the timbers held strong on a massive piece that reached into the trees. Rungs mounted it to a platform with a trapdoor hanging open at its center. A noose swayed above it.

Please Note: Secret Forest is rated 18+ for language, sexual content and mature themes.

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Posted in Horror

Story Submission Mania: Rejection Meanings

This is another resurrected post about story submissions and rejections from when I expected this blog to be a success story about my fiction adventure. Last week I figured I’ll just tell the truth. This has been a bruising ride with bouts of elation, and there are probably a few writers who can relate. I spent 13 months trying to figure out the meaning of every detail of editor responses, from one-line form rejections to encouraging and constructive personal notes. Still, no means no. And despite being fascinated by scrying and divination since my teens, the fixation on minute details became ridiculous. Still, superstition may be a reasonable response to the carnival ride called — with due perversion — submission.

Editor Responses — What Does All This Mean?


A drive for publication or a hit and run accident — votes are still out.

#1 Editors are often right. Yes, even when you’re new to writing fiction and think all your stories are perfect. Even when they make suggestions about a story you’re certain you got just right, down to each sacred word dictated by your muse. Even if you reject this premise now, bear it in mind. It will become more meaningful if you continue to write. Those of you who’ve been around rejection mountain, bear with me, I just had to say that.

Another thing: editors and slush readers aren’t in the critiquing business. They don’t have to respond to unsolicited submissions at all, and if anyone takes the time to comment on your story it’s a gift.

Pointer for novices: Never write back to argue about a rejection.

The Personal Rejection Report, or There May be Hope

Don't get carried away over personal rejections.

Don’t get carried away over personal rejections.

So, my rate of personal rejections has increased. I sent out 64 story submissions to horror, science fiction and fantasy publications in 2013. I was shortlisted, or bumped a few times at pro publications. I received 7 personal rejections. Most of those personals came from publications I was submitting to for the first time. This encouraged me to keep trying more venues. In 2014, I sent out 49 submissions and got back 13 personal rejections.

I’ve made three sales — tempted to call it four because Specklit bought two of my drabbles, but given it was a total of 200 words and one check, I’m counting it as one sale. Thank you, Alex Fayle. The other two sales were flashes to two Apokrupha anthologies, Dark Bits and Vignettes From the End of the World. Apokrupha is a semi-pro horror publisher; their vision resonated with me. Thanks, Jacob Hale and the Apokrupha team. That’s three sales in fiction since May 2013 when I returned to the fray after several years away.

BTW, I only count a rejection as a personal if it says something specific about the story. Email with my name, the name of my story and the editor’s name with the suggestion to send more are most likely auto-generated, although sometimes these are higher-tier rejections. Not always, though. A few publications have form rejections that invite everyone who submits to submit again. I picture an army of slush readers in a basement.

A few of these personal rejections contained constructive feedback. These are valuable. See #1 above. I’ve worked as an editor; I’ve survived as a copywriter for a few years and I was a creative writing instructor at a university — I’m still learning to write. My need to say this may show I’ve spent too much time scanning posts by people who think editors exist to climb over each other in eagerness to buy stories written that morning by people who don’t read the publications they get so angry at for not buying their work.

Other personal rejections contain specific compliments that assure me an editor read my story and appreciated it. Sweet. Keeps me going.

Overcoming Rejection Blues

Brain fever from submission mania — the Victorians were onto something.

Brain fever from submission mania — the Victorians were onto something.

I went through a downer time from all the Close-but-No responses. In the back of my mind I’ve analyzed the rejections for a pattern. Is there something specific I’m doing wrong, some way I need to improve to get from close to yes?

What’s left of my mind has obsessed about these questions for months. Requests to ‘send more’ made me sad. If I couldn’t sell anything, how would there ever be anything more to send? I got over it and went the ‘do it harder’ route.

After a round of revising to make sure every story was as strong as possible, I slammed out even more exclusive submissions, topping out at 14 stories with editors. I stepped up production of new stories. I stretched in different directions. I wrote funny stories; I wrote fantasy (not the dark kind) for the first time in years; I wrote some of the darkest, most painful work of my life, and I branched into contemporary fantasy, a new passion.

My new work is better than those resurrected stories I was so set on selling when I first emerged from my cave last spring. I also wrote a Gothic horror novel last fall and I’m in the middle of the second draft. So I’m getting a lot of practice.

My daily challenge to write at least 500 words of new fiction is paying off with lots of genre flash and short stories running less than 2500 words each. This may improve my odds of publication. I haven’t been able to sell science fiction and horror stories at my preferred length of 5000-6000 words.

My brain seems to have grasped that pro markets for horror and hard science fiction are in short supply. A few of my favorite publications rarely — as in, they say they’re open to it, but I’ve never seen it happen — publish outright horror. Competition for the few spots in the top publications for hard science fiction remains fierce and I don’t think I’m imagining things when I say most of those story slots go to well-known writers. One of my demons tells me I have to beat a certain top name I see in every publication I’m trying to break into. Nothing like a high bar. The demon is right.

An Attempt to Find Meaning in the Rejection Slip Tea LeavesVampire

Back to those editor responses. If I was going to take all this extremely seriously, evidence suggests my stories do not play well with others. This doesn’t surprise me. I’m bent. I picture an editor creating a pleasing arrangement of shortlisted stories for an issue or anthology, finding that mine doesn’t fit, and booting it back.

I consider whether I’ll ever fit, but it’s a bit late for that now. Years of reparenting might result in my being a different writer…who knows. Tongue far in cheek.

I immerse myself in my favorite publications and read anthologies by editors I’m courting. I keep collecting clues. Openings, bodies, endings — I analyze effective stories with the verve of a 19th century medical student with a fresh corpse. It’s possible that in the acute stages of attempting to break in as a fiction writer I tipped into mania. Once I found a database of sample rejection slips, including notes on different tiers. Don’t do that.

Lessons From Rejections

A rejection means the editor couldn't use the story. It doesn't mean you or the story suck.

A rejection means the editor couldn’t use the story. It doesn’t mean you or the story suck.

So how could I improve my odds of reaching readers? In those editor responses the best tip was to take greater care with the story opening. I flubbed one, and a top editor was kind enough to take the time to tell me so. He was right. See #1 above.

If anyone else is going through ‘How do I get out of the slush pile?’ or ‘Now that I’m getting out of the slush pile how do I get more acceptances?’ I recommend reading blog posts by slush readers. These people are on the front lines of separating the stories that don’t have a shot from the ones that do, and they lay it right out there. Some of it makes for funny reading, in a yikes kind of way. Some of it is startling. I had no idea that many people are writing stories about balls for genre publications. One slush reader hit her limit on stories with bodily fluids. Seriously, people, these posts are worth a read.

Easy ways to find posts by slush readers: check blogs of publications you read or enter ‘slush reader’ in a search engine.

Bonus tip: If you get really down, read as many Dave Barry books back to back as possible. People might give you looks for cracking up in public, yet it beats the alternatives. I’ve vowed to stay away from weed eaters until things improve.

Extra bonus tip: A rejection means the editor couldn’t use the story. It doesn’t mean you or the story suck. Write a lot more stories, but only if you must. If you keep at it, some fabulous editor might suggest that you explain ambisexual clusterbanging. This just happened to me.

When you reach the point of experiencing strange happiness from personal rejections you may be ready for a breakthrough — or you’re going around the bend. When I figure out which one this is, I’ll let you know.


Note: I wrote this on April 5, 2014 in the midst of submission mania, when I was still spending many hours per week writing, polishing and submitting short stories. A few weeks ago I decided to change course and stopped sending out stories. I’ve stepped up copywriting for survival, so I’m down to a few hours a week on my Gothic horror novel. I’m happy to report it’s almost finished.

I’m heartened that Lightspeed will be doing Queers Destroy Science Fiction.

Posted in Fiction, Horror, rejection, submissions, Writing

Crazy Hope & the Submission Numbers Game

Publish  or perish sounds like a joke until you try it.

Publish or perish sounds like a joke until you try it.

Now that I’ve been winging out stories for months in this latest round of publish or perish, I’m in some ways more obsessed with numbers than ever, and in others, letting go of supposed signs that used to get my hopes up.

All that hope, superstition, market studying, guideline consulting, submission preparing, stat-analyzing and rejectomancy came to just enough income to buy a few eBooks from one of my favorite online science fiction publishers.

Coming out of my shell to connect with writers, editors and readers has been the best part, so here’s an overdue blog post.

The Art of Submission-Watching

The longer I played the submission numbers game, and the more stories I kept in play, the easier it became to let go of fantasies about what might be happening to any particular story. For example, pro science fiction Magazine A has had my story for days longer than their latest responses, according to the Grinder.

A few weeks ago, I would have imagined this might be a good sign. Now I avoid that thought train. I see it flicker and reject it. Reject, see, I can reject, too.

For you numbers junkies, only one of my submissions was eaten by Internet bacteria.

For you numbers junkies, only one of my submissions was eaten by Internet bacteria.

There’s no telling why the timing is what it is. The story may be with a reader who hasn’t gotten to it yet. That’s the most likely answer to the nagging question of why there’s no response.

Unlike reading tea leaves, tarot cards, the I Ching or soy-based animal entrails, speculating on imaginary signs based on submission stats offers nothing in the way of useable results.

To reduce the email-watching, I decided to write more stories and send more out. Now I have 13 stories out. All are exclusive submissions.

What Submission Stats Mean About the Odds of Acceptance: Short Answer — Nothing

I read on a blog that one guy makes one story sale per 75 submissions. This was heartening. For all of a few minutes I felt better. Yet I’m not competing with anyone else. I’m just trying to place these stories.

Each submission is a cry against death.

Each submission is a cry against death.

On the happy side, I’m reading even more of what’s coming out: my favorite online science fiction, fantasy and horror publications, recent anthologies by editors I’m courting, the few remaining newsstand mags, and as ever, the annual best-of collections.

I muse a lot about the mysteries of inclusiveness.

Reading all those encouraging policies in submission guidelines got my hopes up, for about a year.

I’m cutting down on submissions to places that rarely publish characters like mine, and places that rarely publish anyone who isn’t a top name. As time-consuming as this has already been, I may as well focus on publications where I might have a better shot.

Overcoming rejection phobia didn't work out so great

Overcoming rejection phobia didn’t work out so great


I wrote this post many weeks ago while I was still circulating stories to editors, writing and polishing more stories, and doing everything I could think of to reach a fiction breakthrough.

None of those last 13 stories achieved publication.

During that 13-month bout of crazy hope I wrote more than 30 new stories and a Gothic horror novel, racked up more than 100 rejections, made three sales and went broke. Kids, don’t try this at home.

Three story sales out of 113 or so submissions is a better rate than one out of 75, yet it didn’t buy me the time I needed to continue the full-out fiction experiment.

That a few pro editors shortlisted several of my stories and sent detailed responses encouraged me, yet the highs and lows of hoping and crashing cut into my productivity on paid projects. I make all my income writing and get paid by the word — yes, I’m crazy — so bleeding fiction out into the danger zone wasn’t the brightest move. After months of cutting sleep to prioritize fiction, I stopped writing and submitting stories and went back to chunking out the words that cover the bills.

[Side note on all those thrilling “bumps” and shortlistings: In my case, not one resulted in publication and the crashes from those — usually extensive — waits for a verdict were worse than several normal rejections combined. Vicious, vicious hope. The bump-crash syndrome inspired me to self-publish my vampire story, Animals of London in December 2013, right before I lost almost everything for the second time in two years.]

A few weeks of intensive copywriting for survival have resulted in the usual more-intense depression, yet I’m working on the Gothic horror novel a couple hours a week.

I hope to launch it next month.  Guess I’m an addict.


“Persistence furthers,” sayeth the I Ching, or, I’m not dead yet.

Here’s some inspiration: Astronaut Gives Amazing Speech On How To Conquer Your Biggest Fears

And, for anyone who missed this exposé, Shimmer’s Beth Wodzinski tells The Truth About Rejection Letters.

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Posted in Fiction, Horror, Publishing, rejection, stories, submissions, Writing

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

Thanks for your work raising awareness. It’s grim, yet getting the word out can encourage actions that lead to change.

Joseph A. Pinto

I could easily give you the statistics about pancreatic cancer. Face value, they’re pretty grim. For all stages of pancreatic cancer, the five-year survival rate falls between 5 and 6%. There is still no early testing… and no cure, unless you’re among the less than 20% eligible for surgery to have it removed only in its earliest stages and even then, there’s no certainty. What’s more, there is hardly any federal funding.

I won’t persist with the stats, though. I never put much stock in them anyway; my dad sure as hell didn’t. One thing that’s for sure, he never lived his life based by the numbers.

Instead, I’m going to tell you a story, in more ways than one.

This November is pancreatic cancer awareness month. I’d like to share with you my father’s courageous fight – chapters, if you will, spanning several blog posts. Perhaps you’re much…

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Posted in Writing

Vignettes From the End of the World: Apocalypse by Apokrupha

Shrieks, excoriating agony, mind-shattering abasement, irredeemable loss, vaporization. Okay, curling up with 53 visions of the end of the world isn’t everyone’s idea of entertainment.

Vignettes cover, designed by Bob Ford

Vignettes cover, designed by Bob Ford

Yet there’s something compelling about going head-on with anxiety and even outright terror. The need to face the things beyond our control, ranging from possible harm to loved ones, death, and the all-too-possible end of everything has a long tradition in fantastic fiction.

Beyond the realistic fears that can keep us up at night, the realm of the unseen and unknown casts its own pall over the imagination. All over the world tales tell of supernatural and indeterminate forces and beings, things beyond our ken that can affect our lives in evil and annihilating ways.

The human mind keeps asking, and then what?

Storytellers take the challenge and go there, to those last moments, into the eye of the ending.

And so Apokrupha unleashes Vignettes From the End of the World, packed with flashes that detail the end of days, in narratives ranging from the quiet to the disturbingly explicit. Here’s an apocalyptic anthology that delves into the shadowy places, the squishy places, and the places where the light becomes too bright because it’s over and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Apocalypse. From ancient times writers have rendered the final days — or moments — of everything we think we know in the seen and unseen realms in vivid detail.

Whether we envision planetary destruction by existing weapons, a crushing, unknown power rendering us defenseless and done, a multi-stage last days based on a spiritual tradition — with or without four horsemen — or something intangible that gnaws at our minds, warning us that any day could be the last for all of us, there’s strange comfort in facing those fears, fleshed out, or with their flesh ripped off.

For some of us, the more we look, the more we have to, the deeper we need to go into those shadows and the shafts of light that make the raw places harder to bear.

I take pleasure in facing the apocalypse with the talented writers who contributed to Vignettes From the End of the World. With no slight intended to anyone not listed, the authors include E. Catherine Tobler, David Turnbull, Marie DesJardin, Michael Haynes, Rose Blackthorn, S.R. Mastrantone and many fine voices new to me. Edited by Jacob Haddon, assisted by the Apokrupha crew, the anthology sports a terrific cover by Rob Ford. Come join us in this cathartic adventure.

If you haven’t done it yet — dived into fear for the thrill and release of it — give it a try, and give this wicked rush as a gift. It’s available in multiple digital formats and in paper. Curl up with apocalyptic visions that might leave you hooked and wanting more. Apokrupha has that effect.


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Posted in Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Publishing, Writing

Gothic Horror Novel in Progress – Preview

Excerpt from Chapter 2

Foggy California with slayed virgins, a doctor Butcher-suspect and extraordinary women taking on a monster.

The carriage jolted along the rough lane. Fog covered the way, and the driver’s lantern turned the mist solid, gray as dirty linen. Branches struck at us before we could see them, scraping the carriage in a series of rending squeals.

We reached the clear stretch approaching home. A hiss carried over the horse’s hooves and the driver’s whistling. The carriage rocked and listed. The horses shied, neighing and stamping.

I gripped the strap, and in a surge of energy to survive, shoved open the door and dove out as the carriage overturned. It tumbled down the ravine, dragging the screaming driver.

A sickening crunch of skull sounded over the rockfall.

I scrambled to the edge. Less fog shrouded the ravine. Moonlight showed his jigsawed corpse on sharp boulders. The poor soul lay broken in every limb, blood pooling beneath his cracked head.

Behind me, a dragging sound. I had no light, no weapon.


Gothic Seduction, or Why I’m Doing This

Influences: Along with indulging my fascination with Edgar Allan Poe, and early exposure to Hitchcock in all his forms, I rampaged through my mother’s Gothics as a child. The lurid covers of gowned heroines dashing down steep .hillsides away from lowering manors remain as vivid to me now as they were alluring then. Some of them were by Phyllis A. Whitney, and I wish I could remember the others.

My mother also took me to horror movies, and this novel is a tribute to one that left its mark on my mind when I was in elementary school.

My mother also had a lot of books on true crime, medical anomalies, real life horrors of all kinds, tabloid weirdness, the supernatural and historical shockers, no doubt leading to my obsession with Ripper lore and many gruesome things that happen to flesh–to the living and the dead.

Later I discovered the Brontës, and later still, Gaywick. I discovered darker things yet, in the flesh, in certain shadowy low-rent parts of San Francisco.

All of these things made me the person I am and the writer I am. I’m still working out my obsessions.

Gothic Horror Meets Unmentionable Deviations

Along with the horror influences, reading novels by Egyptologist Barbara Mertz — aka Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters — taught me to lighten up and include love in my work. That was a stretch for me after many years of being grim.

As odd as it sounds to write about characters as though they have some separate existence outside my control, my protagonists have lately insisted on falling in love.

This is whacked in a way, as I wasn’t intending to write novels that have romantic relationships in them. Damned inconvenient, as it goes against what I had in mind for the novels originally — why is the gay protagonist of my other novel in progress, a mystery/thriller, falling in love not only with one man, but two?

Given the Gothic tradition and the many Gothic romances I whipped through as a child I suppose it makes sense that when I finally write a Gothic novel, heterosexuals have to hook up. It’s not an entirely heterosexual tale, though.

Demons change when you face them and talk back.

Demons change when you face them and talk back.

I stopped dating years ago — one of many side effects of shifting from urban life to a tiny town where being different, and shy, is even more excruciating. I take refuge in old-growth redwood forests and along the coast where watching the Pacific surf gives me the sense of sitting on the edge of the world.

And then these people take over my mind and want me to tell you stories. The stories go where the pain is, from separation to love, from enlivening desire to death.

Talking to Demons

I’ve wanted to write a Gothic for years, and thanks to a submission call, I did it last fall. I wrote the first draft faster than I’ve worked in more than a decade, thousands of words a day, possessed.

Somehow I screwed up the word count calculation and thought I fell too short for the Gothic horror novella call. And I couldn’t bring myself to submit fiction that raw.  I missed the deadline. So the novel is mine, all mine. Turns out it’s longer than 50k.

I’ve considered sending it off to the editor whose call inspired it. Yet I’m leaning toward self-publishing. This may become my 2nd self-published eBook. Racking up rejections in short fiction for several months — albeit with some shortlisting, encouraging notes from top editors and a few small sales — has left me less than enthusiastic about submitting anything anywhere. Cue worm song.

Then there’s all that control in self-publishing to satisfy my obsessive heart: power over the cover, the format, every word of it, changes in future editions — even audio, paper,  illustrated and graphic novel editions down the line… yeah. I can get into that.

The crazy thing is writing this novel cost me almost everything I had left to lose.  Horror stories are supposed to stay in written form, that was the contract. Lying demons. So it seems like something ought to come of it, some way to balance the scales and get something back. I’m not sure of anything anymore, so maybe it’s enough that I did it.

So against the demons, I say, I did it. 

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Posted in Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Writing

Resurrection: Failsafes for Drafts and Manuscripts


Avoid the brain strain of having to recover your writing from your head.

Most writers have lost work one way or another. Physical manuscripts, computers, backup systems and many components of our tools are vulnerable to damage, theft and loss. Many, although not all, manuscript mishaps are preventable.

I seem to have lost the physical first draft of my in-progress Gothic horror novella. Not a dead loss, as I have it on my laptop and backed up, yet I dictated most of it in Dragon and it’s going to be tedious to make corrections without the original manuscript.

That loss — and recent posts on forums from writers who lost works in progress due to computer issues — moved me to jot out a few methods I use to reduce the risk of losing work on the computer.

Draft Protection for Writers

I got in the habit of emailing drafts to myself immediately because my last flash drive became corrupted. It’s a fast way to keep copies of my work archived and accessible from all systems. After reading about a cloud service that accesses users files, I opted not to go that route. Email servers do that, too. Since I’ll be emailing most of my fiction at some point anyway, I’ve decided to live with it. For works in progress, I email every scene.

I set Jarte to save every minute. Jarte is excellent free tabbed wordprocessing software built on Notepad. It’s great for working on multiple projects without losing anything. The main thing for saving your writing with Jarte is to set up the autosave and name each file immediately. If you open a new tab and start writing, you could lose your copy because the autosave only kicks in when the file has a name.

Most word processing software allows you to autosave at chosen intervals.

Scrivener, my favorite new writing tool, also does frequent backups to avoid writer’s regret/cursing/laptop destruction.

Resurrect All Text Fields in Firefox

I use Firefox for everything I compose online with an add-on called Lazarus that resurrects copy in case of mishap. It has saved me a lot of money over the past few years. It even recovers blog posts, anything you enter in a text field.

I’ve tried a couple of the text savers available for Opera, yet nothing works as well and consistently as Lazarus.

Save your work.

Save your work.

Protect Your Writing on Your Computer:

Always use autosave.

Use textsavers when you compose online.

Backup your files frequently. Always make more than one copy of your work.

Keep your backups in a separate location from your device.

BTW, I have no relationship, financial or otherwise, to any of these tools. This is only for sharing information. I didn’t want to buy Word, and once I found Jarte, I found the tabs so handy for research and writing, I haven’t looked back. A couple of times I’ve used the latest trial versions of Word and I’m turned off by the cluttered interface.

May you refrain from losing any writing, and if you do have a mishap, I wish you a full resurrection.

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Posted in Resources, Writing

Coffee, Writing and Royalties


Low blood caffeine levels may be a leading cause of vehicular homicide.

It’s possible that not all writers are caffeine addicts. Yet I suspect I’m not unusual in being able to tell you the best coffee venues by the cup and for whole beans in bulk within at least an hour’s radius of the places I spend most of my time.

I’ve been paying more attention than usual to the quality of cafe coffee and related amenities because I’m spending more time writing in public.

My First Vampire eBook Report

I also just checked my Kindle sales reports and discovered that I’ve made $2.10 in royalties on my first eBook adventure, which is a bit more than the cost of a cup of coffee at a few of my local venues in northern California. I pay from 1.00 to 2.00 for a cup. And of course I tip. Those servers may share my affliction. The two places nearby that have aromatic, sensually superior dark roast and free refills are at the top of my favored coffee spots list.

I’d hoped for more interest in my Vampire Madam launch. Given that I pushed myself to get it out there during my birthday month — December — and didn’t set up any promotion in advance, I’m appreciating that it hasn’t languished there with no sales at all. It’s a short story, a taste of my world where vampire prostitutes grapple with increased patrols and a different kind of john in Jack the Ripper’s London. The next one will be longer.


“…nothing left to lose.” My fiction addiction may require leaving America.

During the initial surge of energy to get Animals of London out, I imagined getting the rest of the series launched this month. Life events interfered with that plan, and it may be just as well. I’ve always liked to live for a time with new fiction before I share it.

I’ve written a few more episodes of Vampire Madam and am keeping it to myself until I have the time to devote to completing it. This time I’ll do advanced promotion in hopes of reaching more readers.

As with my adventure in submitting short stories, it’s challenging to sustain the liftoff enthusiasm. But hey, at least I’ll get some coffee out of it.

Update on Royalties

Amazon notified me of my first royalty check yesterday. First blood, sweet. Tiny taste, yet sweet. It’s for the one copy that sold in the UK — and three copies in the US — right after I published it at the end of December. Whoever you are dear readers, thank you.

And thanks to all for stopping by for my 13th fiction blog post.

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Posted in Fiction, Horror, Publishing, Writing
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