Long time no write! I’ve had a lot of blog posts percolating in my head that I can’t wait to get back into. In the meantime, I’d like to announce the release of a dark fiction collection that I’ve edited and designed. It’s twelve short stories, poems, and non-fiction, including two stories and a poem by yours truly. Our first volume is themed on ‘Feast & Famine’—with a good mixture of both.

You can visit the collection’s blog to read it free online. Be sure to subscribe there for updates on our latest volumes. If you’d like to support the collection, you can purchase the print book at Lulu or the e-book at Ko-Fi.

I may post some of my stories later, but for now, here’s a little introduction to some choice stories…


The first short story in the book is a murder mystery starring a candy shop owner in a quaint little seaside town. Our nonbinary hero discovers the corpse of a friend just outside the candy shop door. Lydia calls it ‘cozy splatterpunk’ and I think this is a perfect description. The horror the story descends into is quite remarkable, given the charming setting.

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Today is a quickie post for something handy I learned. I’m writing a story about vampires who live for multiple centuries, so sometimes it’s difficult to keep their ages straight as the story goes through time. I came up with a simple method in Google Sheets, but this likely will work with Excel too. While I used this for immortal vampires, it could be handy for normal humans, or plot events you need relative time scales for.

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Hello! I know it’s been a long time since I posted; I’ve been working on some big projects I’d love to share with you soon. For now, I wanted to share this list with a friend of mine, and thought you all might like it too. This is a checklist I use for my editing process. I do more editing than this of course, but if you get through these all, you should be well on your way! I will include more general editing tips, as well as lists of specific words to look for. I’ll probably write more on this in the future, but this is a good overview.

1.) BASIC READ-THROUGHRead through the story, looking with an eye toward anything that seems rushed, poorly explained, or overly wordy. Highlight the passages, or edit as you go.

2.) TELLING NOT SHOWINGLook for passages of ‘telling’ instead of showing. You may want to expand them to be more descriptive, or just remove the phrasing that sounds ‘telling-ish.’

Search for these words in your document, for possible signs of showing.

NOTE — When searching for words, try different input to catch different forms. ex.) searching ‘know’ will get ‘know, knowing, known. Searching ‘Glanc’ will get ‘glance, glanced, glancing, glances’ etc.

KNOWING wordsFor more about these, check out this great article.

Thought/think (especially in dialog, ‘I think that…’)
Figure/figuring (as in ‘figured it out’)
Mind (her mind said… Changed mind etc)

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I recently read John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, Little Star. While I enjoyed the characterization and some great bits of suspense, at 620 pages, the book is far too long. The first quarter is taken up by the life stories of the two protagonists from birth to present day, and even the background of their parents. The title character’s story is unnerving, but the tension is evaporated by a hundred pages of another character’s relatively normal childhood. It could be an interesting slice-of-life drama, but it’s frustrating to plod through arts and crafts with Dad after the shocking, grisly end of the first section.

This gets me to the topic of shifting perspectives. The book is written in close third-person perspective. Our eerie title character is only ever observed from outside. The primary observer is the secondary main character, but we also hear from two sets of parents, a brother/guardian, and a sleazy publicist. We hear about their childhoods, love-lives, dark secrets, and personal interests, even if they die or vanish from the story before the halfway point.

We may want to write from a certain perspective, then change hands once the character’s plot is complete. For example, we could show what leads to someone’s death, or allude to mysteries that the other characters aren’t privy to. But Little Star constantly passes around the baton. Not just between its several acts, but also between chapters, some of which are only a couple pages. Someone’s plot might be getting interesting, then we switch, only to return after it’s all resolved. Some characters disappear for long stretches, or we don’t see inside their heads when it would be most exciting. One literally leaves on vacation toward the third act, never to return. At the end, rather than experience the climax with our main characters, we read from the POV of several strangers as they die one by one.

If we follow a single character too closely, the plot can bog down with the minutiae of their every move. But hearing from too many characters burdens proceedings with excessive detail. It’s frustrating to read all about a character’s childhood, only for them to not matter by the end. When you switch POVs, consider why the reader needs to hear from this character. If you just think they have a great tale of their own, maybe they deserve better than being spliced into someone else’s story.

I enjoyed Little Star, but we can miss key details and character beats when we’re distracted by plots that go nowhere, and minor characters hogging the spotlight.

(By the way, sorry for the pause in updates, NaNo was a beast! I got through it though, so I should be posting more regularly soon.)


Wilde has such a beautiful, vivid vocabulary that it was difficult for me to choose between words! You’ll notice a lot of flowers, fine materials, and precious gems, as well as architectural details. There is a focus on the luxurious environments to contrast with the gothic goings-on. I gathered this lovely set from The Picture of Dorian Gray.


Check this post to learn how to make a vocabulary sheet for your own favorite books & authors.


Camp NaNoWriMo begins July 1st! If you haven’t heard of it, NaNoWriMo is ‘National Novel Writing Month’, though it has since become international. The goal is to write a brand-new 50,000 word novel in 30 days. November is the main event, with two ‘camps’ in April and July. The camps are a bit different, in that the goal is flexible. Most opt for a smaller word count or to continue a previous project. I usually do new projects for Camp, but this month I’m opting to finish my November novel. Here’s why I love NaNoWriMo so much…

The first time you win a NaNo is such a heartening experience. To know that you can finish such a big undertaking in only one month makes writing seem more possible. To see that we can still write with full-time jobs and all the usual responsibilities. It can be hard as hell, but writing 1,667 words a day adds up. It proves that we can just throw ourselves into a project, and the stars don’t need to be perfectly aligned. The first draft is a wild mess that needs plenty of revising, but spontaneity can make it more fresh and creative.

I’ve done NaNo many times (over ten years) but I still have so much fun with it. The structure is helpful– this is time to WRITE! I can’t dilly dally line-editing and fussing around. I enjoy writing with friends and get most of my words during ‘sprints’ — races to see who can write the most words in a set time. Peer pressure works!

A few years ago an infamous article complained that NaNoWriMo produced too many amateurs who would somehow junk up the scene and obscure more talented writers. That ‘real writers’ would write on their own. This is hogwash; how is more art in the world a bad thing? Writers are infamous for their lack of confidence. We’re surely missing so many wonderful stories due to their authors’ bad self-esteem. So how does it hurt to give people some encouragement? Not everyone has to be a published ‘professional’ either. As I mentioned in my previous article, there are many reasons to write, even if no one reads a word of it.

I’ll post more about NaNoWriMo, but I’ll end by saying I recommend everyone give it a try. Stick with it for the whole month, even if the goal feels unreachable. Even if you don’t win, you’ll have more words at the end of the month than you would have otherwise. If you are participating, let’s be friends!


Say it’s hot out one more time…

When we write our first draft, we tend to describe things by instinct. We say whatever seems obvious as we imagine the scene, but this can create repetitive writing. If our story takes place in a heat wave, we want to remind the reader of the heat, but don’t let it dominate. This is a good thing to look out for when you’re editing. Read through your draft and note what you describe. Do you keep mentioning how dusty the environment is? Is the sunlight filtering through the windows at a regular interval? Pick the top three things you describe, and highlight them.

Here’s an example from one of my drafts. I created a ‘key’ and color-coded them.

This is when the character first arrives at the location, so obviously I will want to hit these important descriptors.

But I need to watch how often I return to it, particularly as the story goes on. Try mixing up how you remind the reader. If it’s cold, have a character shiver and put on a sweater indoors, have them wince about putting their bare feet on the floor, have them hurry to the bathroom and let the shower run for a few minutes before they can stand getting undressed. The grass can sparkle with frost, icicles can drip down from the roof, trees can crackle as they move in the wind. This is more interesting and evocative than just saying ‘it’s cold’ for the 100000th time.

A companion piece about description will come shortly! Also, I’ve been fixing up my Tumblr and recreating my previous posts. You can follow me there for updates, though I still find WordPress to be the best reading experience.


Today’s block breaker is particularly useful to reveal a character’s motivation and their potential next moves. Wherever you’re stuck, write a ‘diary entry’ from your character’s POV. Even if it doesn’t make sense for them to drop everything and whip out a notebook, imagine what they would say if they could. Try writing entries for every character in the scene– give them voices that suit their personality, recall what came just before and what their mind state is. The same event could affect people in very different ways.

For an example, here are some entries from an epistolary story of mine where the characters describe their arrival to a tropical island.

Starting a new journal for this expedition. We just landed on Isla Diana this afternoon, now we are at dusk. The July weather is fine, warm but not sticky nor stuffy thanks to the altitude and the sea breeze. Saw an interesting moth on the way into the villa, wingspan as wide as my hand, a cream color with violet or perhaps blue markings. No chance for further observation as I was rushed inside by the others.

-Character A

Arrived at the island yesterday. I don’t think I’ll bother trying to write— well, anything beyond these journal entries for a couple days. There’s no sense throwing myself back into work so soon. I can’t believe this is real, that we really made it here. It looks just like we’ve stepped into a Rousseau painting, as Louis keeps saying. Thick lush vegetation, teeming with life, the haunting calls of unknown animals echoing on the ocean air. I wish I was more the outdoorsy type, as beautiful as it is around here.

– Character B

At the island at last. What a miserable trip it was, the five of us rocking around on that dingy like unfortunate slaves. I stayed in bed as long as I could get away with, and not for any kind of fun reason. At least early in the trip we worked in some games of cards and had a decent conversation or two. Today I wore my fuchsia silk shirt, though it was far too warm for the matching jacket.

– Character C

Character A is an amateur naturalist, Character B is a depressive author, and Character C is a frivolous noble. Characters A & C are eager to move on to new events, whereas Character B is more reflective, and will be slower to jump into an adventure.

Let your characters pour their hearts out and reveal things they never would to another person. Even minor characters could have something to say. The 2-dimensional bit player might have an intriguing secret you hadn’t noticed before.

Click here for the previous block breakers…


Your new audience

We writers often run into seemingly intractable plot holes and roadblocks. Sometimes we can set it aside and the solution will dawn on us while washing dishes. Frequently, we are not so lucky. We might not even know what the problem is; we only know that something’s not working. So what do we do?

‘Rubber duck debugging’ is a method used by programmers, as Wikipedia says: ‘in which a programmer would carry around a rubber duck and debug their code by forcing themselves to explain it, line-by-line, to the duck.’ Some of us may have wonderful friends who will listen to our plot woes, and laugh as we solve our own problem before they say a word. The genius of rubber ducking is that you don’t even need the patient friend! Talk to your dog or cat or stuffed animal, summarize your plot for them and explain the issue. That explanation seems to be the key. We are inside our stories so much that we forget the bigger picture. When we are forced to verbalize the situation, it re-frames the problem and might present the solution we’re looking for.

Another method is to type out the problem. I often talk to myself in my notes– sometimes in separate documents, other times I just yammer away right there in the chapter. I state the problem and start asking questions and theorizing. Here are a few choice quotes from different projects:

“Now here’s a problem, what’s going to happen after (character) gets stuck in the mirror world? He’ll get bugged by (antagonist) and try to deal with (love interest.) But that’s not very exciting and it’s not very Gothic. What are some twists that could happen? Well he’ll have some problems with (character B) & (antagonist) is going to give him the business.

“Where are they traveling? Brno might make sense, but wouldn’t take long to get there. Maybe they just end up at some little village that has been ravaged by the plague.”

“I feel like this is far too whimsical, and needs to get spookier. We have this arrogant MC, and there are of course a lot of fairy-tale-ish elements, but we need to bring the spooky factor. What’s spooky?

The castle— Of course we have this Gothic trope, the crumbling castle over the sea. What’s spooky about it? It’s not very safe, one could fall off the cliff or be flooded. The interior is old and chilled, may contain sinister things inside. It’s isolated from the world, could be difficult to escape from. There may be places where people could be imprisoned. It may be haunted with ghosts from the past. “

This is just a sampling of the yammering I do. It might not make sense to anyone else; some of it is mysterious to even me by now! But it’s the act of writing it out, going step by step through your problem. It might take several rounds of interrogating the problem before you figure it out. Be sure to highlight any revelations and keep going. An important warning — If you ‘rubber duck’ on your own, don’t insult yourself or your writing. I used to do this, and it will absolutely kill your motivation. You don’t have to mince words; you can say ‘this part is boring,’ but don’t focus on it. Pretend you’re advising another writer. Boring or bad writing is just writing that needs work and you wouldn’t berate someone who had the courage to show you their rough draft. Be kind to yourself! There are important stories to be written and that evil voice in your head doesn’t deserve the attention. Plus, those innocent rubber ducks shouldn’t hear such vulgarity!


Just wanted to put the word out there — Bandcamp is waiving their cut of anything purchased on June 5th, starting at midnight PST. (You can check this site to see when the event begins in your time zone.) Many artists lost their primary income when concerts were cancelled. Streaming services pay very little for indie acts– You have to listen for over eleven straight hours on Spotify for the artist to earn one dollar. (Assuming about three minutes per song, and it’s likely even worse as it’s divided between labels, each band member, etc.) I cancelled my Spotify premium subscription and started giving that monthly fee directly to the artists. It feels great to actually own the music you love and not rely on internet speeds and corporate overlords. It’s also nice to send a word of encouragement with your order; they might even write back!

You can use this site to enter a Spotify playlist and get links to purchase the music on Bandcamp. A lot of labels and artists are donating their proceeds to charities, many focused on racial justice. Of those I particularly recommend Dais Records, Dark Entries, and Sacred Bones Records. Finally, if you’re into dark wave, minimal wave and post-punk music, I recommend everything in my collection! I’d love you to follow me there so I can check out your taste in music. 🙂