Special Announcement: Check Out “The Devil’s Tree” from Fellow “Quoth the Raven” Author Susan McCauley

October is coming fast, and while many of us read horror stories throughout the year, there’s a special thrill in immersing yourself in creepy tales all month long.

One tale coming out is The Devil’s Tree, the debut novel from fellow Quoth the Raven author Susan McCauley! (Read my interview with her here)

471252_Flatlay Devil's Tree 1_072319
Preorder The Devil’s Tree today!

From the publisher:

Kaitlyn didn’t believe in ghosts—not until one killed her boyfriend and her best friend. Now she must stop the spirit haunting the Devil’s Tree, or she could be next.
 
Seventeen-year-old Kaitlyn wants to escape her drunk mama and her trailer park home life to enjoy a Saturday night off work. Instead, her boyfriend, Hunter, convinces her to go with him and their best friends, Dylan and Keisha, to photograph a desolate tree with an evil past. A terrifying presence chases them from the tree, killing Hunter and Keisha. Left alive with Dylan, Kaitlyn must struggle with her unexpected romantic feelings for him, come to terms with her loss, and face being trapped in a dead-end town. Kaitlyn is desperate to put the past to rest, but when their friends’ spirits begin haunting them, she and Dylan have no choice but to seek help from a Catholic priest and attempt to set the trapped spirits free. 

I was a fan of McCauley’s story, “The Cask,” in Quoth the Raven; and I’m sure readers of The Devil’s Tree are in for a real treat.

You can preorder the book from all major outlets on Books2Read.

Out Now: “Without Condition”

I’m happy to announce that Without Condition is now available on Amazon!

Without Condition. Cover Art by Doug Puller Art by Doug Puller

Without Condition tells the story of Cara Vineyard, who lives a quiet life in rural North Carolina. She works for an emerging brewery, drives her truck late at night, and lives with her mother on a former pumpkin farm. Her mother is proud of her and keeps a wall displaying all of Cara’s accomplishments.

Cara isn’t so much proud as she is bored. She’s revitalized when she meets Jackson Price, a pharmacist in Raleigh. Every day they spend together, she falls for him a little more — which in turn makes her life more complicated. When Cara goes on her late-night drives, she often picks up men. Those men tend to die. And when Cara comes back to the farm, she brings a memento for her mother to add to her wall of accomplishments.

Cara’s mother loves her no matter what. But she doesn’t know if Jackson will feel the same — and she doesn’t want to find out.

Without Condition is my second novel. I’m excited to release it out into the world. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

You can pick up a copy in ebook or paperback. Please be sure to also leave a review once you’ve finished it.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Celebrating Women in Horror Month

Today is Feb. 1, meaning it’s the first day of Women in Horror Month! (Though really, every month can be Women in Horror Month if you try hard and believe in yourself)

I plan to celebrate as both a writer and a reader. I’m participating in the monthly Ladies of Horror Flash Fiction Picture Contest, and will be featured as part of author Elaine Pascale’s “Ones You Don’t Bring Home” series throughout February. You will also see me popping up on various blogs and review sites, doing interviews and being reviewed, because …

Without Condition will be released on February 12!!!

. Without Condition. Cover Art by Doug Puller
Art by Doug Puller

*throws confetti*

We’re less than two weeks away from the release of my next book. You can check out more on this very site, and also see some early feedback from reviewers on Goodreads.

I’m also pleased to see Without Condition included in the Ladies of Horror Fiction’s Women in Horror Month Read-Along. They’ve set up five categories for their readathon, with the books they both recommend and plan to read. Without Condition is included under Indie Author.

lohf-readalong

I have four books I plan to read for Women in Horror Month:

  • The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes by Sara Tantalinger
  • Let’s Play White by Chesya Burke
  • Cruel Works of Nature by Gemma Amor
  • The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

I plan to read more for sure.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Women in Horror Month this year, and beyond!

“The Crow’s Gift” Turns 1!

One year ago today, I published my short story collection, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales!

the crow's gift
Art by Doug Puller

The Crow’s Gift contains many firsts. It holds “All the Pieces Coming Together,” the first short story I wrote when I got back into writing seriously. It was the first time I collaborated with Doug Puller, who designed the cover and formatted the book; and the first time I worked with Evelyn Duffy, who edited the collection. It was the first book I put together, as well as my first short story collection. It was also my first venture into self-publishing.

That final first (an oxymoron if there ever was one) was probably the most nerve-wracking. I’d only ever shared my work amongst a few friends, a couple family members, and teachers. I’d never put something out into the world that was out of my hands when it came to who would buy it and read it.

It’s been a great experience. I’ve loved seeing people’s responses to the stories in the collection — especially when friends and family send me pictures of, and tweets about, crows. I’ve also gotten less nervous about collecting my work and putting it out there (just less nervous, though — not free of nerves). And, I’ve stayed inspired to keep writing more.

Thanks to everyone who’s purchased and read the collection, and who’s shared it with their friends. Your support means the world to me.

If you’d like to buy The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, it’s available on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.

If you’ve read the collection, please be sure to review it on Amazon.

And if you want more short stories, my next collection, Wither and Other Stories, will be out on October 9, 2018.

Back from Dublin

Last week, I visited Dublin for the first time. I’ve never been to Ireland, period, so I was glad to start in one big city that had so much to do, that we still had things we didn’t see or do even after staying there for a week. We ate a lot of brown bread and drank a lot of whiskey. We heard a lot of seagulls and walked along a lot of cobblestone streets. It was a wonderful trip.

dublin writers museum

One thing I found appropriate was the proximity of our hotel to the Dublin Writers Museum. The museum is a bit small — two floors — but a must-see for any literary travelers. The museum has letters, first editions, audio recordings, photos, and more from some of Ireland’s most famous writers, including James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.

My favorite display was the case devoted to Bram Stoker. The case housed a first edition of Dracula, along with other old copies. The museum came with an audio guide, and the entry for Stoker included a reading of the “Children of the Night” passage. I grinned from ear to ear as the narrator spoke. I’m due to give Dracula a reread.

bram stoker's dracula

My only critique is that the museum was focused almost entirely on men. Some women were featured, but not many. I understand the earlier years will have more men than women, but I also believe more women could’ve been found to be showcased. The museum certainly has room.

The museum is taking a step to rectify this by putting together a special exhibit on women writers. A nice step, though I do hope they’ll reconsider the current name of the exhibit: “Ireland’s Other Writers.” Come on.

the women's room dublin writers museum
Really?

There was plenty of non-literary fun to be had as well. My husband and I visited many pubs. My favorite was The Ha’Penny Bridge Inn near the River Liffey. The patrons were friendly, the drinks were great, and the walls were filled with poetry.

the mouse on the barroom floor
One of my favorite poems.

We also took a day trip to Northern Ireland. The tour was focused on Game of Thrones filming locations, including the Dark Hedges and Ballintoy Harbor. We also visited Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s a wonder to behold. It’s filled with rock walls, stepping stones, marshy shores, and hills to climb. Give it a visit if you find yourself in Ireland or Northern Ireland for sure.

The Dark Hedges

the dark hedges

giant's causeway
Giant’s Causeway

giant's causewaygiant's causewaygiant's causewaygiant's causeway

ballintoy harbor
Ballintoy Harbor

ballintoy harbor

cushenden caves
Cushenden Caves, where Melisandre gave birth to the smoke monster in “Game of Thrones.”

cushenden caves

cushenden caves

I’ve been back for almost a week, and I still miss waking up to the sound of seagulls. I hope to return sooner rather than later.

rainbow in dublin

Summer Reading: Memoirs and Whiskey

My manuscript for Without Condition is with Evelyn for editing. I’m writing a short story, doing a final revision on Wither, and outlining ideas for future projects as I wait to get the manuscript back. I’ve also been doing a lot of reading.

This summer, I’ve been most pleasantly surprised by memoirs. I like memoirs, so I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised about liking them; but I was surprised at how much I liked two in particular that I read recently.

The first is Educated by Tara Westover. Westover talks about growing up with her religious family in rural Idaho. She was home-schooled until the age of 17, when she enrolled at Brigham Young; then later went to graduate school to earn her PhD. While her school trajectory is remarkable, what’s most remarkable is that trajectory in the full context of her home life: her family were Mormon extremists, with a patriarch who was convinced that the end of the world was coming and that the government was coming for them.

Westover’s experiences were harrowing. However, she narrates almost every traumatic event with the same calm demeanor as she describes school, being in plays, and spending (less tumultuous) time with her family. I found this remarkable not only in how it still worked to convey horror, but added the extra layer of such horrors being a part of her every day, and thus, narrated as such. It also drives home the idea that it’s harder to talk of such horrors as horrific when they’re normalized by being a part of your family, the first connections you develop and, often, the ones that are hardest to break.

I found a similar narrative voice in another memoir: Sick by Porochista Khakpour. Khakpour reflects on her life leading up to her career as a writer, all in the context of Lyme disease and her struggles with chronic illness. Khakpour leaves nothing out when it comes to doctor’s visits, relapses, hospital stays, emergency room visits, prescriptions, homeopathy, and more. If you were exhausted reading that sentence, imagine what she herself has gone through and continues to go through every day. (Khakpour has a GoFundMe for her treatment, if you’d like to give)

Khakpour creates that connection to her illness with beautiful prose throughout. Sick is an elegant piece, one that weaves her experiences in and out of places she’s lived with ease. Just like Educated, it was hard to put down even with such difficult subject matter.

While memoirs have led the way in my favorite summer reads, I’m also reading a lot of good fiction. I recently finished Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith. It tells the story of a recently-widowed woman, her brother-in-law, and during the time he’s alive, her husband. The story weaves in and out of points in time, and the order in which it reveals key things about each character is exceptional. It’s not easy to do that well, and Cross-Smith does it almost perfectly.

The story itself is also melancholy and sweet, good for an August day in particular. I was immediately drawn into the narrative, and was sad to see it end. I plan to read it again to see how it feels knowing what lies ahead.

What have you been reading this summer?

Progress Report: Inching Ever Closer

I am writing from the airport, about to head off on an anniversary trip to Montreal with my husband. I denoted this time in my writing agenda to not write — it’s a vacation and I should take a break. Still, with an hour to go before my flight boards, I decided to cheat a little and finish up the last couple paragraphs needed to finish a chapter in Book #2.

With my work this morning, I crossed the 80,000 word mark. While I still have more to write (and more to trim later on), this is the word count I see the final piece being close to. It made me smile to see 80,000 words and almost 300 pages in my master document. Back in December, I had maybe 30 pages and a lot of doubts on whether I’d be able to settle down and write this thing.

I’m somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 finished. I’m at the point where all remaining pieces are either in bracket notes, scratch notes, or outlined — no mysteries, no unresolved questions. nothing except pages I need to fill. It’s both exciting and scary. I’m a little nervous about the prospect of finishing, as I’m always nervous that my notes, thoughts, and outlines won’t turn out well once I actually write them. But overall, I’m excited. Another book — another finished book! And one that I’ve stayed excited about since thinking it up! It’s always a nice feeling.

I originally set a goal to finish a draft by today. Even in March, I suspected that wouldn’t happen. I set a new goal for the end of May, and I think I can reach that one. The finish line is getting close. This could actually happen.

It’s a good feeling.


Here’s where I was this time last year: celebrating a finished first draft of Please Give, which I finished before last year’s anniversary trip to Miami.

I did find the time to write a quick poem in Miami and post a picture of the beautiful beach.

I was also coming to terms with how it feels to have a finished draft.

Thanks for reading!

Texting in Text: How Do We Write Dialogue that’s Typed?

I’ve been thinking about text messages in stories lately. My next book has texting, though I’m having to remember what it was like to write text messages in 2004. I also laughed really hard at two jokes in Barry, a new show on HBO that’s quickly becoming a new favorite; and both jokes involved texting.

Texting has become its own form of dialogue. I’ve seen it portrayed in various ways — and with various results — on film and in print. I find it fascinating to see how it’s depicted, and am also curious if we’ll ever see an agreed-upon format in the future.

Texts are written, and italics are usually used to denote writing. I do this myself. It’s easier to type and means less fiddling around with fonts (fonts that may not even remain in an ebook if someone changes their Kindle settings). I do this for handwritten notes, emails (especially since I just include the body of an email — I don’t like including email address, sender, subject line, time sent, etc., but that’s for another blog post), and text messages.

However, I found that using italics for text messages isn’t always so simple. Please Give uses text messages second only to spoken dialogue in terms of how the characters communicate. I love writing dialogue, but lines of quotes read very differently when they become lines of italicized text — especially lines of italicized text that need to indicate a back-and-forth without constantly writing, “She texted ____. He texted ____” (I find that tedious, and thankfully, it hasn’t appeared too much in the books I’ve read — not nearly as much as excessive “she said/he said” lately, which is also for another post).

My solution was to try and only do this for three or four lines if I needed to, or to put in the few (or sometimes several) minutes it often takes people to text back and to keep the responses short. One of the questions I had for my beta-readers was if it was clear who was speaking to whom and who was texting to whom. They all said yes, and I hope that other readers agree!

But writing the act of texting is a challenge, and while I’ve seen smooth integration of text messaging in books, I have yet to see a universal format. One book I read put the entire exchange into a centered block denoted by each sender’s initials. It read like a chat screen, and while it made the exchange very clear, it seemed a little odd placed in the middle of regular text in the book. The book I’m reading now denotes text messages in its own line, and in a fixed font that’s smaller, bold, and in a colder font. It’s also very clear, and while momentarily a distraction, it flowed more seamlessly than the block of chat-like text. It flowed like what text messages are: dialogue.

As a reader, what formats have you seen in books for text messages? Are there any you prefer?

As a writer, how do you incorporate text messages into your stories?

Whether a reader, a writer, or both, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


As a P.S., I wanted to talk a bit about texting in TV and in film. That’s something I’ve watched with great interest, from both my communications and film studies perspectives. Texting as dialogue onscreen seems to be evolving, even though there still isn’t an agreed-upon format. Most movies and TV shows seem to have moved away from characters reading text messages out loud, which is a blessing — it had the same lack of naturalness as the one-sided phone conversation where the person onscreen repeats whatever (we presume) the person on the other end said.

A popular form for a while now — and still in use sometimes — was to put the text messages on the screen, sometimes like typed-out subtitles and most often by text windows popping up on the side like Pop-Up Video. I found this awkward and weird, but something that couldn’t really be worked around — much like fixed font text messages in a book.

More shows and movies, though, seem comfortable just showing someone’s screen with the text message on it. This is easier to do with bigger phones and clearer, more colorful screens; and I prefer this method. Text messages aren’t spoken and they also aren’t word bubbles like dialogue in comics. If we can see the phone’s screen, we should. As I mentioned above, I recently saw this used to great effect on Barry, which in addition to just showing the iPhone screen with texts, incorporated some of iPhone’s text message features, like confetti falling over the screen when a celebratory text is sent (and the text message the confetti accompanied was a very dark thing to celebrate). I look forward to seeing how communicating text messaging in stories continues to change over the years — or given technology’s current pace, over the coming months.

Remembering Anita Shreve

anita shreve
Anita Shreve. Photo from Associated Press/New York Times.

I found out over the weekend that Anita Shreve, one of my favorite novelists, died at age 71 from cancer.

I was heartbroken. Shreve was one of my first favorite authors and remains so to this day. I first heard of her when The Weight of Water was adapted into a movie. I never saw the movie, but I picked up the book from the library. I was drawn into both the historic murder mystery and the modern-day plight of a woman who can’t quite prove her husband is cheating but feels it in her bones.

The Weight of Water was the first of many books I read by Shreve. My favorite was Fortune’s Rocks, about a 19th century girl who falls in love with a man, has a baby, loses both, then manages to get both back — though the baby comes back through a sensational custody trial.

Shreve was from New England. Though I only lived in New England for four years, I feel drawn to authors from the area and to stories set there. Almost all of her books take place there, namely in seaside towns or on the beach. I learned when reading her obituary that Shreve once took a photo of a beachside house in Maine, and that photo served as an inspiration for several of her books.

Shreve had a talent for writing stories that were both romantic and melancholy. I felt comforted reading her prose, even when it was sad. She will be missed.

If you’d like to read her books, a few of my favorites are below:

Out Now: Paperbacks of “Please Give” and “The Crow’s Gift”

I’m happy to announce that both Please Give and The Crow’s Gift are now available to order in paperback!

please give by sonora taylor Art by Doug Puller

Purchase Please Give

Purchase The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales

I’m very excited to offer both books in print. As I mentioned previously, it was something else to be able to hold each book in my hand. If you are a writer and interested in self-publishing, I highly recommend using a print-on-demand service like CreateSpace to create paperback copies. The books both have glossy covers, good-quality paper, and the look of an honest-to-goodness book — because that’s exactly what they are.

I also recommend hiring someone to format your books for paperback if, like me, you are not a graphic designer. Doug Puller formatted both books, and just like he did with the covers and the ebook versions, he did an excellent job.

Both books are available in paperback and as ebooks on Amazon. You can purchase either format of Please Give here and The Crow’s Gift here.

And, if you’ve purchased and read either book (or both books) already, I’d love it if you would please leave an honest review on Amazon or somewhere online (if you post a review somewhere else, please leave me a link in the comments).

Thanks for reading!