September 2020 Highlights and Jane Doe

Japanese School Kids

Greetings! Well, we made it through summer. A friend suggested that if anything bad happens the rest of the year, go ahead and blame it on 2020. “You totaled your car?” “Hey, it’s 2020, man.” That kind of thinking makes me feel better.

Book News

As a reminder, The Blood She Wore, Book 3 in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series, is due to be published on November 2, 2020. You can learn more here.

I’m taking a break from the supernatural and turning my attention to a new thriller series, Jane Doe Cycle. Check this out for a sneak peek at the newest entry in the Tell Me When I’m Dead universe.

Speaking of Tell Me When I’m Dead, Book 1 is now free in the US, UK, and Canada. Use this link to grab a copy.

Recommended Reading

Don’t Tell Teacher Cover

If you’re into psychological thrillers, take a look at Don’t Tell Teacher by Suzy K Quinn. How far will a mother go to shield her child from an abusive ex-husband? You can read my review here.

Recommended Viewing

Hey, remember Jeffrey Dean Morgan from Supernatural and The Walking Dead? Well, now you can catch him in The Possession, now showing on Amazon Prime. A young girl acquires an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that inside lives a demonic spirit known as a dybbuk. Creepy stuff.

See you next month, when I go on the hunt for a Luigi costume with extra-wide pants for Halloween. Peace and love.

August 2020 Highlights and Sneak Peek

Dog Days [Explored]
Courtesy of Matthew

Greetings! Is it hot or what? Don’t you wish you were this dog right about now? No? Just me, then, I guess.

Book News

The Blood She Wore, Book 3 in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series, has a publication date—November 2, 2020.

For now, I’m making the ebook exclusive to Amazon, which means Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read it for free. As always, the paperback edition will be available everywhere. I plan to put the book up for preorder three weeks prior at 99 cents. On launch day, the price is $4.99.

With this novel, I’ve completed a trilogy that takes our intrepid hero Sarah Greene from stumbling onto a haunted mirror to a terrifying confrontation with the insidious evil that is plaguing Dos Santos. If you love the supernatural, you won’t want to miss this riveting conclusion.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of the book cover. Let me know what you think in the comments.

The Blood She Wore Sneak (S)

Recommended Reading

Mexican Gothic Cover

Speaking of ghost stories, check out this new release, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This is a bone-chilling story of horror and madness set in the countryside of 1950s Mexico. You can read my review here.

Recommended Viewing

If you are an Amazon Prime member, check out the new My Spy, starring Dave Bautista. It’s cute and funny, and there’s plenty of action. Pure escapism, my friends.

See you next month, when I attempt to set up an outdoor grill station for Labor Day. Don’t worry, I already purchased a fire extinguisher. Peace and love.

July 2020 Highlights and Book News

Sparklers
Courtesy of Kovis Lo

Greetings! Well, summer is in full swing, and most of us are still sheltering; still wondering if face masks are going to be a permanent thing. I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are well and that you have found ways to be happy in these extraordinary times. Me, I’m still writing. Speaking of which…

Writing

As I mentioned last time, I have finished Book 3 in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series. I sent it off to be copyedited, and I have commissioned the cover. In the meantime, take a look at the title and blurb.

The Blood She Wore

After finding a cursed object in her house, Sarah is driven to solve the mystery of why the town’s founder, John Dos Santos, turned to the demonic. Meanwhile, the streets are plagued by a terrifying wave of violence that includes the ritualistic killing of strangers. As Sarah gets closer to unearthing the truth, she discovers a connection to John that centers around the year 1925. But what is more frightening is the recurring vision of his housekeeper’s ghost covered in blood.

With this book, I have created a trilogy that takes Sarah from discovering a dead girl in a mirror to full-on evil erupting in the town of Dos Santos. It’s a journey that will test Sarah’s faith and take her to the brink. The book is scheduled for publication on November 2, 2020.

As a reminder, for those of you who are Kindle Unlimited subscribers, you can read Book 1 and Book 2 now for free.

Recommended Reading

What Has Mother Done Cover

What Has Mother Done is a first-rate mystery thriller that features lots of twists and turns and wicked humor. You can read my review here.

Tea Anyone Cover

If you’re in the mood for a cozy mystery with time travel, check out Tea, Anyone? by my friend and USA Today bestselling author S. R. Mallery.

Recommended Viewing

For those of you with a Netflix account, take a look at this scary movie, It Comes at Night. I thought the actors were convincing and the writing and directing tight. This film shows you what happens when the line between survival and paranoia is erased.

Stay well. See you next month, when I continue my search for face masks featuring members of The Monkees.

June 2020 Highlights and What Happened to May?

Empty Pool
Courtesy of Matt Jiggins

I know, I know. I’ve been trying to get a newsletter out on a monthly basis. And I was doing pretty well there for a while. Then, May hit. Now, a lot of people would defend themselves by offering lame excuses like “I lost track of time” or “Was I supposed to do that?” Not me. I’m guilty, guilty, GUILTY. I messed up. There, I feel better. I hope you do, too. On with the show…

Writing

I have finished writing Book 3 of my Sarah Greene Mysteries series, and the manuscript is off to the editor. Originally, I had planned to publish the novel next year. Well, this one should be out in late 2020. At that time, I also plan to release a box set containing all three books.

For those of you who are Kindle Unlimited subscribers, you can read Books 1 and 2 for free. And speaking of KU, I’ve decided to move all my books to Kindle Unlimited. By the time you read this, everything should be available.

Recommended Reading

Cades Cove Cover

As I said in my review, Cades Cove by Aiden James is one mother of a scary book. If you like ghost stories filled with history and dark magic, check it out. You can read my review here.

The Gun Cover

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura is a different kind of novel. Reading it, I couldn’t help imagine Holden Caulfield as an angry Japanese man with a weapon. It’s a fascinating story. You can read my review here.

Recommended Viewing

For those of you with a Netflix account, check out Black Spot, a dark thriller set in a French town located near a forest. Maybe it’s the trees, but the inhabitants of this town are seriously messed up.

And for you Amazon Prime members, if you like English dramas, then An Inspector Calls might be your cup of tea. It’s based on the play by the esteemed J. B. Priestley.

Stay well. See you next month, when I try to locate a swimming pool that only allows one person at a time. Peace and love.

November Highlights

Gather by Duchess Flux
Photo courtesy of Duchess Flux

Well, we’re in holidays. Are you looking forward to eating some fabulous holiday food as much as me? I’ve already lost ten pounds so I can gain it all back—and more. Yeah, the holidays.

Writing

Currently, I am doing rewrites on Book Two in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series per notes from my editor. I hope to send the manuscript to the copyeditor by Thanksgiving. I had planned on having the book out by Christmas, but I think January is more likely.

In the meantime, here is a sneak peek of the cover for House of the Shrieking Woman. Let me know what you think.

HSW Sneak Peek

Events

The book signing in Burbank went pretty well. I am in the middle of trying to schedule future ones, and I am now expanding to Vroman’s Bookstore. Be sure to check out my Facebook page for news on future events.

Recommended Reading and Viewing

The Little Stranger Cover

If you’re looking for something creepy that isn’t exactly a ghost story, be sure to check out The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. It’s a wonderfully written novel about a stately home infested with an evil you cannot quite put a name to. You can read my review here.

Ringu Cover

And if, like me, you are a fan of J-horror, check out the Ringu collection on Blu-ray, available now at Amazon. I’ve been waiting for these movies to be available again, and now they are. Each is presented in Japanese with English subtitles. Prepare to be terrified.

Until next time…

Three Things I Learned from ‘The Dead Don’t Die’

The Dead Dont Die Poster

I’ve been a fan of Jim Jarmusch since forever. What I love most about his movies is, he doesn’t waste time and money. His stories are lean, character-driven pieces that get to the point quickly. Films like ‘Stranger Than Paradise,’ ‘Down by Law,’ and ‘Broken Flowers.’ No boring backstory, no big government conspiracy. Just people dealing with everyday shit they have no control over.

Warning—Spoilers Ahead

Not Every Zombie Story Has to Be the Apocalypse

The Dead Don’t Die’ is the director’s latest film, and it’s a hoot. We’ve got Bill Murray as the police chief of a small town who, by his own admission, should’ve retired two years ago. Adam Driver as an officer, who seems to be the only person in Centerville that seems to know they are all in a Jim Jarmusch movie. And other wonderful actors like Chloë Sevigny, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Tilda Swinton, and Selena Gomez.

The script is smart and low key. Lines are repeated by different characters, giving the film an almost Sartre vibe where everyone is caught up in an existential nightmare that won’t end. Here’s an example, which each character varies a little:

What the heck was it, a wild animal? Several wild animals?

Oh, and there’s the dead. Yeah, they’re coming out of the ground like in the original ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ with at least one of them reeking of cheap chardonnay.

When the Dead Start Rising, That’s When You Know Who Your Friends Are

As things go from bad to worse, people act out in different ways. Hermit Bob keeps an eye on the proceedings from a distance, making comments like this gem:

Cliff and little Ronnie. Warriors. Among the dead. Zombies. Remnants of the materialist people.

Officer Mindy continues to freak out with each new horror. Meanwhile, Hank and Bobby have banded together to try and save the hardware store—and themselves. And good ol’ Farmer Frank goes it alone with his gun and deep-seated prejudices as he discovers all his cows and chickens have vanished. Tilda Swinton, who is always mesmerizing, is perhaps the only one who confronts the danger head-on, using a razor-sharp Katana to behead the invaders.

And some are just clueless, like the three out-of-town hipsters staying at the local motel. For some reason, Cliff and Ronnie have decided they are from Cleveland.

If You’re Going to Die, You Might as Well Have a Good Theme Song

Just so you know, everyone—and I mean everyone—in this thing dies at the end. I think Officer Ronnie said it best:

If you ask me, this whole thing is going to end badly.

Well, okay, maybe not Hermit Bob. I mean, someone has to survive to tell the story, right? But here’s the thing. If you’re going to make a movie about zombies taking over a small, peaceful town and ripping everyone to pieces, then you’d better have a good theme song.

And this movie does. The song “The Dead Don’t Die,” written and performed by Sturgill Simpson, is perfect. In fact, for those who might be squeamish about seeing so much blood and guts, you might want to purchase the tune so you can at least feel you were a part of the experience.

Fun fact: According to the credits, someone got hired as a zombie movement consultant. What a country.

Movie Details

The Greatest Zombie Cast Ever Disassembled

The peaceful town of Centerville finds itself battling a zombie horde as the dead start rising from their graves.
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tom Waits
Rated R for zombie violence/gore, and for language

October Highlights

Waiting - London Session 2010 by Davide Gabino
Photo courtesy of Davide Gabino.

Well, Halloween is almost here. Whew! Hard to believe the year is almost over. I genuinely hope you’ve had a happy and productive year so far. Here’s what happening with me…

Writing

I published The Girl in the Mirror on June 1st, and it has been selected as a quarter finalist in the Booklife Prize competition. This is the first book in a new supernatural suspense series called Sarah Greene Mysteries. If you’re a horror fan who likes ghost stories, you might want to check it out. You can read a free sample here.

Speaking of which, I just turned in my draft for Book Two in the series, House of the Shrieking Woman. It should be out in the next few months—I’ll keep you posted.

Events

I’m doing another book signing at Barnes & Noble in Burbank CA on Sunday, October 20th from 2—4 pm. The address is 731 N San Fernando Blvd, Burbank, CA 91502. So, if you happen to be in the area, please stop by and pick up a free zombie button. And yes, there will be candy. Sign up on Facebook here.

Recommended Reading and Viewing

Forgotten Bones Cover

I love reading, and I also love recommending books, movies, and TV shows. If you enjoy police procedurals with ghosts, pick up a copy of Forgotten Bones by Vivian Barz. It’s a story you won’t soon forget. You can read my review here.

Marianne Poster

And if you like horror with witches, check out ‘Marianne’ on Netflix. It is seriously scary and perfect for Halloween. Not suitable for kids, though.

Happy Halloween!

The Truth about Plotters and Pantsers

Stardust Memories
Photo Courtesy of IMDb

When I started writing fiction seriously, I pretty much began the process by staring down the blank page and typing words. I didn’t produce a complex outline or write detailed backstories about my principle characters. I just wrote. And wrote. And wrote. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a pantser. I knew this when I used to write screenplays. I was always taught to create the outline, define the characters—and only then, begin with FADE IN. I tried this once, and I got so frustrated, I gave up and banged out the damn thing. Take THAT, mother!

Defining the Terms
For those of you who might be new to the discussion, let’s first explain the terms. I am quoting the from a post I found over at “The Write Practice.” For my money, these comments work pretty well as definitions.

Plotters, having planned out their novel ahead of time, know what’s going to happen before they write it. This makes it easier to bust writer’s block. It’s harder to get stuck when you know what’s going to happen next. Plotters also tend to get their novels written faster, or at least more smoothly.

Pantsers have the freedom to take their novel in any direction they want. They have flexibility. They’re not stuck following an outline, so if they don’t like a character, they can simply kill him. If they don’t like the way their plot is going, they can change it.

I will say that if you read the article, you’ll notice the author is biased in favor of plotters. And I say, bully for her. Because, in the end, whether you are a plotter or a panster—if you’re a good writer—it doesn’t matter. Let me give you an example.

At the risk of bringing up Woody Allen, I would like to talk about that beautiful and funny opening scene in his 1980 film Stardust Memories. The whole thing was heavily influenced by the opening to Fellini’s 8-1/2, by the way. Even some of the shots are nearly identical. Never mind.

In this scene, the main character, Sandy Bates, finds himself on a train. He is surrounded by humorless passengers who look like they’re on their way to a mortician’s convention. He happens to look out the window and sees another train across the way, filled with well-dressed passengers drinking champagne and laughing gaily as they show each other their trophies. One woman blows him a kiss. Realizing he must be on the wrong train, he tries to get off, but it’s no use. At the end of the scene, Sandy’s train has arrived at a landfill. But so has the other train.

Now, I’m not saying plotters are humorless, and pantsers are happy-go-lucky folks who like to socialize with a drink in their hand (wink wink). It’s just that if you are a professional writer, you’re getting to your destination despite the How. By the way, that girl blowing the kiss? Sharon Stone.

The Problem with Labeling
I don’t like being labeled. No one does. So, whoever came up with these labels for writers must own a labeling machine company. My main problem is that calling someone a pantser vs. a plotter seems to imply that pantsers don’t care about the plot. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We do care, but we just haven’t figured it out yet. With each new book, we are on a road of discovery. And trying to lay it all out in advance isn’t much fun. It’s like eating your vegetables. We want dessert!

Another problem with labeling is that it encourages people to take sides, which is never a good thing. Need proof? How about the HUAC hearings in the late 1940s which led to the Hollywood blacklist. Yeah, that went really well; it practically tore the country apart. Fun times, people.

Finally, what if you’re a writer who is somewhere in the middle? I’ve adjusted my writing process to accommodate a short synopsis and a timeline, so I don’t trip myself up by getting dates wrong and such. I still don’t consider myself a plotter, because I don’t follow an outline. So, what does that make me, a hybrid? Sounds kind of SciFi-ish, don’t you think? Folks, to deal with the hybrid problem, I’m afraid we’re going to have to ban these nutjobs from ever using Amazon KDP again.

Okay, so here it is. When I sit down to write a new novel or short story, I have a general idea of where I am going, and I let my characters tell me where they need to go next. If that sounds a little new-agey, I get it. But it’s true. I can’t tell you how many times a character has surprised me by disobeying me. Come on—I’M the writer! And guess what—the story was better for it. I’m not sure those kinds of discoveries would happen if I forced myself to outline. And as far as plot, I can assure you, there is one.

Wrap-Up
So, whether you like to write copious outlines with detailed scene descriptions—or you’d rather put on your shoes, go outside, and see where the road takes you—I applaud you. Over the years, I’ve read many wonderful books by plotters and panters. And to be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference in terms of quality. They were both excellent. Why? Because the authors did the hard work.

Look, the point of writing is not to feel bad about yourself. Writers do that enough already. We should celebrate who we are and be professional writers. I don’t know, maybe out there somewhere there’s a plotter who wishes she were a pantser. Sure. And maybe unicorns are real.

Three Things I Learned from ‘The Rite’

The Rite Poster

The Rite’ is a wonderfully produced movie from 2011 starring Anthony Hopkins, perhaps the only actor alive today who could drop you simply by leveling his trademarked death-stare. I saw the film a few years ago, then recently read the nonfiction book that has to do with real-life exorcist Father Gary Thomas. In that work, the journalist Matt Baglio faithfully records what happens to the Northern California priest as he attends a series of exorcisms in Italy as part of his training. If you are interested in what happens during these rituals, I suggest you take a look at that book.

But I’m here to talk about the movie, which was suggested by the book. After watching it again, three things struck me that I’d like to share.

There’s Plenty of Evil in the World
When the main character, Michael Kovak, first meets Father Lucas, the exorcist he is to observe, he encounters a young woman who has been suffering from demonic possession for a long time. It turns out her predicament is not her fault. She was raped by her father and is now carrying his child.

We read about stuff like this all the time, and what it demonstrates is, as humans, we don’t need demons making us do bad things; we are perfectly capable of being evil all by ourselves. Nevertheless, when a tragedy like this occurs, it can open the door to something even worse. As proof, you can check out the scene where the poor girl coughs up black oxide nails.

Demons Are Real—and They Have Names
In 1973, ‘The Exorcist’ showed us that demonic possession is real and that the entities doing the possessing have names. Apparently, they also have ranks. Now, as a reminder, these creatures are pure spirit; that is, they never walked the earth, and they are as old as time itself. They’re also smart, so good luck engaging in wordplay with them.

As a matter of fact, this is precisely what the young seminarian does against the priest’s orders—he tries parrying with the demon possessing the girl. Big mistake. As a result, the beast begins toying with him, getting under the young man’s skin.

Without Faith, You Are Lost
Here’s something interesting that was hinted at in the movie but is prominent in the book: many Catholic priests do not believe in the devil which, when you stop to think about it, is messed up. Have these people not read the New Testament? Anyway, just because these are modern times, that doesn’t mean the old truths don’t apply.

What’s interesting about Michael is, on the surface, it’s not so much about his lack of faith in God as it is about his refusal to believe in evil during these exorcisms. It’s almost as if it’s the demon’s mission is to prove to Michael that he exists. And of course, once the seminarian can accept that, he can then be confident in the belief that God exists.

Wrap-Up
I am a huge fan of this movie. I’ve said often that my all-time favorite horror movie is ‘The Exorcist.’ But this film is a close second. It’s intelligently written and beautifully acted and directed. And it doesn’t hurt that it was shot in Italy. If you enjoy horror that makes you think, watch ‘The Rite.’

Movie Details
American seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donaghue) travels to Italy to take an exorcism course.

Director: Mikael Håfström
Writers: Michael Petroni, Matt Baglio (book)
Stars: Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, Ciarán Hinds

Mark MacNicol and the Dreaded Light Project

Mark MacNicol
Courtesy of The Fountain

I hope it will be different from anything you have seen. In particular the use of light.

I ran across an interesting film project and wanted to share it with you. Mark MacNicol is a novelist and playwright. Currently, he is raising money for a film with paranormal themes called Dreaded Light. Take a look at this interview excerpt, and be sure to watch the video. Good luck, Mark!

With two novels under his belt and several stage plays, Mark MacNicol is lending his talents to film, producing, writing and directing avant-garde feature, Dreaded Light, which he is funding through ‘crowdinvestment.’

Mark spoke with The Fountain about the project, extending this experience to young offenders and how crowdinvesting is different to crowdfunding.

TF: A new film project, Dreaded Light, how exciting, what can we expect?

I hope it will be different from anything you have seen. In particular the use of light (one of the characters has a phobia of daylight). I also hope you will struggle to put it in a particular box/genre.
As the Producer Writer and Director it means I can take chances that I wouldn’t be able to or allowed to under normal circumstances. Also authenticity of subject matter (we’ve done a massive amount of research into Spiritualism).

TF: And you are providing young people with social exclusions an opportunity to work on this feature, how noble?

One of my stage plays, Kamikaze, toured high schools and young offenders units. That was a humbling experience and I got to meet a lot of very special staff and young people. While that play was touring I knew at some point in the future (if I was able to) I would reach out to them and get them involved somehow.

To see the rest of this interview, please visit The Fountain.