Back from Bellingham!!!

I have returned, triumphantly, from the Chanticleer International Book Awards Conference, where my second novel, Suburban Vampire Ragnarok, received First in Category for the 2018 CIBA Supernatural/Paranormal Fiction awards. This is, of course, big news, and I fully intend on allowing this to go to my head (for a short time, at least). It is vindication for me, after struggling for so many years and ignoring my calling as an author (it’s one thing for friends and family to tell you you’re a good writer — they’re just being supportive, you know — but for total strangers to tell you that you have something worthwhile is on another level entirely).

So, now what? There’s no resting on my laurels, which relates one of the big messages I heard at the various workshops and panels I attended at the conference — keep writing. Write every day. Write as often as you can, wherever you can (which reminds me, I need a laptop. Buy more of my books!). The classes and workshops were all great and I probably got more from this conference than any other conference I’ve attended (Not that I’ve attended many). There was plenty of one-on-one time with other authors, including the headliner, J.D. Barker, bestselling author of The Fourth Monkey, Forsaken, The Fifth to Die, and (with Dacre Stoker) Dracul (a copy of which I bought and had autographed at the conference!). All of them were approachable and more than willing to offer their knowledge of the craft and the industry. Hopefully some of that will sink through my thick noggin!

The other highlight for me was sitting on my first discussion panel, which I did on Sunday afternoon. The panel, hosted by J.D. Barker, was about paranormal and horror novels, and we discussed our interest in the topics and our motivations and inspirations for writing in those particular genres. I had a blast, and I can’t even remember what I said. I hope it was something intelligible!

On top of it all, the location (the Bellwether Hotel, located right alongside Bellingham Bay) was beautiful, the weather was beautiful (mostly sunny, and, while not exactly warm, was comfortable), and the food was good. On top of it all, I met a ton of great people from all over North America and from as far away as Australia and the UK. I had a wonderful time at this conference, and whether or not I submit my work again this year, I’d still like to attend the CIBA conference next year. If you’re an independent author, consider attending next year. Maybe I’ll see you there next year!

4/20 Update (2019 version)!!!

I haven’t done a general update in a while, so, here I go. I did one last year on this date, so why not again? Therefore, in honor of Bernie the Bigfoot and his favorite choice of recreational activities, I present this year’s 4/20 update!

  1. I am still working on what is my seventh novel-length project, which will be the fifth installment in the Suburban Vampire series. You may have seen a few references to this particular project; I am calling this one Suburban Vampire Redemption, and it is a monster in itself. I now see the light at the end of the tunnel: I recently set up the final movement in this magnum opus and the denouement is not far. It’s actually getting more and more fun the closer I come to the climactic action. I predict I’ve got another month of writing, then I’ll have it “in the can”, as they say in film-making. As I’ve mentioned before, this has been a tough one, but it’s been rewarding as well. I can’t wait to put it all together and get a working first draft ready!
  2. I will be attending the Chanticleer Authors Conference next weekend (April 26 to 28) in Bellingham, Washington.  As mentioned previously, my second novel, Suburban Vampire Ragnarok, is a semi-finalist for the 2018 CIBA Paranormal Book Awards (Ragnarok is a semi finalist). This is a pretty big deal, of course! Copies of both my novels will be available for sale there. If you’re in the NW Washington/SW BC area, maybe I’ll see you there! For more info, check out this link: Chanticleer Authors Conference
  3. A spot of bad news: I may have to delay publication of my third novel, Suburban Vampire Reckoning. Money problems, wouldn’t you know. As a self-published author, I have to make some fairly substantial financial investments in order to get my work out there, and while I’ve been making some money, it hasn’t been enough to support the publication of a third book. Let’s face it — self-publication is the bane of the self-published author. Now, this could all change if my books suddenly hit high positions at Amazon or other vendors, or if some other miracle should occur (like winning a major award? See above). Otherwise, I’ll have to wait on publication. I’d hate to have to put it off for another year, but I might have to.

That’s really all I have for now. Hope to see you in Bellingham, and buy my books!!!

Vampires are passe!

When I first pitched the idea of Suburban Vampire, I ran into a few publishers and agents that told me (either directly, or posted on their websites) that the whole vampire thing had run its gamut and was now old hat. “Nobody is interested in vampires anymore,” one publisher told me, then continued to tell me to drop that old and broken junk for some new hotness (whatever that was, they weren’t too specific). The funny thing is, I hadn’t started out to write a vampire story; that is just how my story and character evolved (perhaps, if I’d waited around a few years, they would have evolved into something else. Who knows?). However, when I started writing it down, I’d already settled on the vampire genre as the best way to to tell the story I had in mind. Now, am I a day late and a dollar short? If so, that’s the story of my life. Maybe, in terms of publishing, if I’d come up with this idea ten or fifteen years earlier, I might have a huge readership and be making the big bucks. But I didn’t have this idea ten or fifteen years ago. The whole “woulda/coulda/shoulda” thing is wishful hindsight, but it has no bearing on real life here and now. And the fact is, I decided to stick with the vampire genre (for now) and tell the story I have in my mind now. But does that mean I’m hopelessly outdated and unhip? I mean, I am outdated and unhip, but that’s just me. My question is, is the vampire genre used up? Are there no more tales to tell of our favorite bloodsuckers?

I say no. And lots of other folks say it, too. I have some evidence for my optimism, not from literary circles (although I’m sure I could find it there), but from my good friend, television. And behold! What should I see on TV these days? Well, here’s a peek at what I’ve been seeing lately…

The Passage

Midnight, Texas

A Discovery of Witches

What We Do in the Shadows


And I’m not even mentioning the now canceled CW series The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. I’m also not mentioning the upcoming AMC series NOS4A2, or the rumors of a new Blade series.

How is that for proof? Now, compare that to zombie TV series. Here, we have:

The Walking Dead

Fear the Walking Dead


Z Nation 

And two of those series, iZombie and Z Nation, are ending. That leaves two zombie series (although, since one is a spin-off of the other, does it really count?). Zombies were supposed to be the next big thing, the supernatural (although, the ‘walkers’ of TWD seem to have a biological origin of some sort) replacement for vampires. Maybe not, it seems.

For me, it’s simple — vampires are passé when I say they’re passé. I’m not done with my vampires yet, so, guess what? Readers, of course, get a powerful say as well, and they’re not done with vampires either. So, quit worrying about whether or not a certain genre is outmoded or not, and tell your story the way you want, or enjoy those stories you want to enjoy.

Going where I don’t want to go

My current project has been difficult to write, perhaps more so than any project since my first. That’s because it goes places that are dark and personal, and it’s bringing up some memories that are kind of painful. It deals with loss and grief, and I’ve had more experience with those than I care to think about. And yet, I am compelled to put this pain down on paper; I’ve drawn from my inner turmoil and darkness before, which is what helps make my main character, Scott Campbell, so sympathetic. He’s not just some blood-thirsty vampire, he’s a person who has had his share of sufferings, and will only come into more suffering as his story plays out. So it is with life.

Needless to say, this has not been the most enjoyable project I’ve done. I’d love to skip through the hard parts and get to the more exciting and fun part, but I can’t. That would be short changing Scott’s journey. It would not be honest to his story, or to the stories of the characters involved. So here I go, into dark territory, because I feel I must.

Perhaps it’s a form of catharsis. I’ve found writing to be quite cathartic, as a way of working out my struggles and frustrations, and this, I hope, should be no different. I confront my pain, my darkness, and that way acknowledge its truth, but in a way deny its power — that pain and darkness is there, but it does not dominate me. At least, that’s the idea.

I don’t suppose the pain ever goes away, and, to some extent, I don’t want it to go away. I’m afraid, that if it does go away entirely, then I’m not honoring that which I have lost. If the pain goes away, then I’m afraid that the pleasant memories will mean less. I don’t know if that’s true, I only know it’s the way I perceive it.

Life is hard, and none of us gets out unscathed. I remember back to JRR Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings: In a line that was paraphrased in the movie version, Frodo tells Gandalf that his wounds from a year earlier are still aching. Gandalf replies, “Alas! There are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured.” And so it is in life; some wounds will never fully heal, not in this life. That does not mean they will destroy us, or that they will poison us, only that they remain, and we who live on must learn to carry on despite that pain.

And then, there’s the fact that certain characters in the Suburban Vampire series have run their courses. Their stories have been told, their contribution to the whole story of Scott Campbell have been made, and now it is time for them to retire, to go to their rewards. For some, these rewards will be rich and joyful, for others, not so much. There is a catchphrase about “killing your darlings” that has been bandied about literary circles, and, in the interest of ‘keeping it real’, here I go, killing some of my darlings. Now, don’t get the wrong impression; I’m not going full George RR Martin here, but I am telling a continuing story, one that includes not only loss, and hardship, and darkness, but also love, and hope, and light. Perhaps it is because of darkness that the light is made all the more brighter. Perhaps it is because of hardship that hope is made all the more sweeter. Perhaps it is because of loss that love is made all the more dearer. Perhaps, as cruel and evil as things seem, there is more to the story.

I have faith, and hope, that, in the immortal lyrics of BB King, there must be a better world somewhere. A world where pain, and grief, and loss, and hardship, and darkness, are no more. I am staking my claim on that. And I hope I am able to communicate that through my writing. That includes going places I don’t want to go. But I know I’m not going there alone.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a bit of a thought that is true, no matter what you believe or where you are in life, because it’s a universal truth: “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT).