Dracula: Not Even the Avengers Can Keep a Good Bloodsucker Down

Greatest, perhaps, feels like an expression to apply to Dracula. After all, he essentially amounts to a murder monster who feeds on the blood of human beings, either killing them or turning them into a monster themselves. Respect, however, must be paid. Dracula has undeniably contributed some incredible, wild, and bizarre moments to the Marvel Universe.

Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Cult Movie: Dracula AD 1972 a hippy horror from Hammer that’s bloody frightful

HAMMER films hit pay dirt when they unleashed their bold and bloody reboot of Dracula in 1958 but by the early 70s their dealings with Bram Stoker’s most famous gothic creation had pretty much run out of juice.

Frantically scrambling around for new veins for the Count to sink his cinematic teeth into, they decided that bringing him bang up to date was the way to go. Dracula AD 1972, their first attempt at doing just that, proves they were sadly mistaken.

Courtesy of the Irish News.

Getting my Writing (and Myself) Organized in 2019

I’ve made it a goal to try to be more organized this year in my life in general, and that includes my writing. Through what amounts to now decades of trial and error, I think I’ve devised a system that works for me. For some of you this may still be a little too messy and chaotic, but it reflects how my brain works. Your mileage may vary. So here’s what I use:

iCalendar. It’s basic, it comes preinstalled on every Apple device, and it syncs across all of them. I use iCaledar to keep track of appointments, the kids’ schedules, and any other event. I don’t need lots of bells and whistles for this, though you can set reminders, enter addresses (It interfaces with Maps.), and add other information if you want. If I’m out, it’s easy to pull out my phone and add something quickly. Also, I can color code events by work, home, travel, writing, or the kids, so when I’m looking at an overview of the week or month, I can easily see where everyone is supposed to be.

Pinterest. Yes, I actually use this to help keep organized. It’s not all about mason jars, burlap, and twine. I have a board of workout ideas, and another for clothes I like, but I also have inspirational boards for my writing projects. Check out the one for Daughters of Shadow & Blood. I also have one for Dreadful Penny full of all things 1972. Pinterest can also be an excellent research tool for all things visual. Need to know what the inside of some cathedral in Europe looks like? I can almost guarantee there’s a picture.

Evernote. This is where the bulk of my writing organization goes. I do the bulk of my writing research online. Evernote helps me keep track of all the websites, blog posts, Wikipedia articles, and other resources I find so I don’t lose track. It also helps me keep track of my writing expenses. One of the great things about Evernote is that your account comes with an email address, so you can forward emails directly into your account. From there you can sort it however you like, and you’re not using your email inbox as your to do list, which is what I was doing before. Evernote lets you sort things into notebooks and add tags as well. It’s also great for organizing travel. You can put hotel reservations, flight info, car rental info, and itineraries all in the same notebook. The other thing you can do is create a specific link for your notebook, and if it’s related to an event, you can drop that link into iCalendar and access everything directly from there.

Bullet Journal. Don’t know what a bullet journal is? Here is more than you will ever want to know. This is actually the third year I’ve tried to use a bullet journal. Twice I’ve failed to maintain it, but I’m hoping this year to stick with it. Since I have iCalendar and Evernote to do the heavy lifting on my scheduling and research respectively, I’m using the bullet journal to focus almost exclusively on my to do list and things that are just easier to keep track of with a pen and paper than a note on my phone, like quick story ideas, or book sales at a convention, or how many miles I ran on the treadmill. I try to keep it minimalist. No “doodles” of flowers that look like Vincent van Gogh himself drew them or fancy calligraphy. Also, one other modification to the traditional method is that I have weekly spreads instead of daily ones. Part of what didn’t work for me in the past is that found it tedious to copy to do items from one day to the next. I realized that I don’t really have a lot of things on my to do list that have to be done on a specific day, so it’s much easier to list things out by week.

Bullet Journal
My bullet journal weekly spread

That’s about it. So what about everyone else? How do you keep yourself organized?

Putting Your Worst Foot Forward: Why You Should Play to Your Weaknesses as an Author

Everyone faces the same steep learning curve when it comes to writing genre fiction. There are a lot of moving parts in a science fiction or fantasy story, and they all take tons of practice to master. The good news is that everybody, even novices, already has things that they’re good at—like you might have a knack for snappy dialogue, or a proficiency at worldbuilding. The bad news? The things you’re good at could become traps, if you rely on them too much.

Courtesy of Tor.com.

An update on new Dreadful Penny! (Finally)

We’re just a few days into 2019, and I have finally finished the first draft of Legend Trip, the latest Dreadful Penny novella. Well, sort of. For a number of reasons, I hand wrote a lot of this one, and I still have to type it in, but the story is done.

This one was challenging, and I’m going to have to do a lot of editing, but I have a pretty clear vision of where I want things to go, and I’m excited to get to it. Don’t worry, Legend Trip is going to answer a lot of the questions you’ve been asking about Penelope and her friends. And yes, I can read my own handwriting. Mostly.

Writing notebook
Is that Sanskrit?

2019 Writing Goals

It’s that time of year again. I don’t do resolutions, but I do like to  set goals for the new year. Here are my 2019 writing goals:

  • Finish Dreadful Penny 1972
  • Start Dreadful Penny 1973
  • Audiobooks for the Daughters of Shadow & Blood novels
  • Audiobooks for the Dreadful Penny novellas
  • At least one new Serbian Bureau of Strange Occurrences short story (or maybe a novella)
  • At least one new Los Angeles urban fantasy short story (in the same universe as my stories in The Big Bad and The Big Bad II).
  • More original blog content.

Also, fitness-wise I’d like to drop an inch off my waist and go down about 5% in body fat. We’ll see which goals are more realistic. So, what are everyone else’s goals for the new year?

Read Another Excerpt from Local Haunts

Happy Friday! Enjoy another free excerpt from Local Haunts! Interested? Then follow the link to get your copy today!


“Did you try Charles again?” Zed asked.

She shook her head. “Still not answering my calls.”

“Have you been out there lately?”

“Not in a few weeks. Do you think we need to have another talk with him? Together?”

Zed barked a laugh. “Because that went so well the last time.”

“But it did. We almost had him back.”


She sighed. She didn’t understand the hostility between Charles and Zed, and she just wished Zed would try to be more understanding of Charles’ … unique problems. “We still don’t know what happened to him while he was in Vietnam.”

“My guess? They used to call it being shell-shocked, but from what I hear, now they’re calling it post-traumatic stress disorder. Lots of soldiers coming back from over there have it. They’re so traumatized by the stuff they see, they can’t get over it.”

Penelope considered for a moment what Zed was saying. It made sense, but she didn’t buy it, not completely. “This is different, though. I can’t put my finger on it, but something just seems off about the way he’s been behaving since the incident with Roy Arnold.”

Roy Arnold instigated everything, in a way. By attacking the Brown family, the rogue magician brought out revelations about her own father’s past, culminating in the discovery of his notebook. Charles, unfortunately, had borne the brunt of Roy Arnold’s frustrations when she, Charles, and Zed thwarted his planned revenge on the Brown family for all the ways, real and imagined, they had slighted him.

Zed shrugged. “Maybe you’re right, but there’s no telling with Charles.”

“I just wish you and Charles could get along, put whatever happened behind you.”

“I have tried.”

“Have you tried hard enough?”

He clenched his jaw. “I’ve done everything I can. He has to meet me halfway.”

Zed was just being stubborn, but Penelope couldn’t say she didn’t share some of his frustration. “I want to help him. I just don’t know how.”

She took a pen and a pad of paper out of her purse. Then she sat down on the couch and started copying the words and symbols coiled around one point of the pentagram. She could only copy part of it at a time, or else she ran the risk of her father figuring out what she was doing.

She wrinkled her nose as she studied her notes. “This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I can’t tell if ‘blood and bones’ are ingredients or the outcome of a successful spell. I could really use Charles’ library.”

“What about your antique dealer friend?” Zed asked. “Dan is his name? Doesn’t he have antique books?”

Penelope shook her head. “What are the chances of him coming across a book that would help me with this? Besides, he doesn’t actually get that many books. Seems the old families of Greenville didn’t make reading a priority.”

Zed grinned. “Given what I know, that doesn’t surprise me. He’s friends with other antique dealers, though, right? Maybe he could put feelers out or something.”

“I guess it’s worth a shot.” Also, it would be nice to talk to Dan again. She closed the notebook and placed it back in its hiding place. “Thanks, Zed. Try to get some sleep.”

He gave her a salute as she left. “Will do.”


Zed shut the door behind Penelope and let out a deep breath. He considered trying to go back to bed but knew the quest for more sleep would be futile. Instead, he turned on the television and found the Saturday morning cartoons. As the Roadrunner outran Wile E. Coyote for the thousandth time, he went to the kitchen and poured himself a bowl of cereal. Breakfast in hand, he came back and threw himself into the recliner.

Just as Coyote ran off a cliff and plummeted to the earth below, the show was interrupted by a breaking news announcement, though Zed couldn’t imagine what was so important to interrupt the Coyote and the Roadrunner.

The picture switched to a reporter standing in front of a motel somewhere. “We’re interrupting this program to report on a grisly murder overnight here in south Greenville county. Police are telling us that two people were stabbed to death in a room in the motel you see behind me on Highway 25 just north of Sandy Springs Road. They haven’t revealed any more details than that, although we do have the names of the victims. They are twenty-two-year-old Tammy Ryan, and forty-one-year-old Lloyd Baker. As soon as we have more information, we’ll be sure to let you know.”

The show switched back just in time for Coyote to be hit by a train coming out of a tunnel he had painted on the side of a mountain. Zed let the cereal on his spoon fall back into the bowl. Without a doubt, he knew who the killer was.

Patrick Wheeler.

Yet another rogue magician who seemed to have it out for the Browns, Patrick Wheeler had bribed Lloyd Baker—who used to work at the Brown warehouse—to leave a side door unlocked. He was responsible for all the demonic activity in the warehouse, including the pentagram on the warehouse floor, the death of Bobby Parker, and the homicidal tractor.

And now he was apparently back for more.

Zed leapt out of the recliner and grabbed his phone to call Penelope, but she didn’t pick up. There was only one other person he could think to call.


Rather than go home after leaving Zed’s place, Penelope pointed her car toward the Greenville County Public Library. The small occult collection—not generally accessible to the public—wasn’t nearly the size of Charles’ library, but until he decided to be more agreeable, it would have to do. She was about halfway there when she noticed the car behind her.

The gold Ford sedan always remained a few car-lengths back, slowing down when she slowed down and turning when she turned. Could just be a coincidence, of course, but she knew better. She drove down Buncombe Street past the library, just to see if her follower would stay with her. He did.

She glanced at her wrist. The charm bracelet Charles had made for her hadn’t so much as twitched. The last time someone followed her, in the library itself, the bracelet turned warm to warn her about the dark magic directed her way. That in and of itself didn’t mean much. The same person might still be behind the wheel of the car. He could just be waiting for the right moment.

Penelope thought fast. She could double back and pull into the library parking lot, where there would hopefully be other people around, but the lot was small and cramped, and she ran the risk of being boxed in. She could instead go back to Zed’s. That might be safer, but even there she’d make herself a pretty easy target getting out of her car.

But before she could do either, her decision was made for her.

The Ford revved its engine and accelerated until mere inches separated the two cars. The glare off the tinted windshield kept Penelope from getting a clear look at the driver’s face. The Ford swerved from side to side as the driver honked the horn. Penelope hit the gas and shifted up, trying to put some space between the cars, but the driver of the Ford had other plans. With another burst of speed, the car rammed into her back bumper. She lost control of the wheel, and her Lincoln swerved up onto the sidewalk. She slammed on the brakes and screeched to a halt inches from a telephone pole. The Ford sped past her. She sat frozen in fear, expecting the driver to turn around, but the car receded into the distance.

Penelope waited for her heart to stop pounding before she eased the Lincoln back onto the street. The car didn’t seem too damaged. At least it moved. She’d have to take a look at the back bumper later. At the next intersection, she turned right. She didn’t have it in her to go to the library anymore, but she really didn’t want to go home. She needed to talk to someone, someone who didn’t have anything to do with ghosts or demons or dark magic.


Charles lay in bed, staring at the ceiling of the tiny room. The air was hot and sticky. The sounds of the city at night drifted in through the open window. He had to admit those sounds carried a certain melody, a song the city sang. He was sure if he stayed there long enough, he could learn to sing it, too.

But the bed wasn’t his bed, and the room wasn’t his room. He wasn’t even himself. In this dream world, this facsimile of New York City in 1919, he was Isaiah Jenkins. At least that’s what the letters he found from Isaiah’s sister in Charleston said. He even had some of Isaiah’s memories, nothing truly tangible, just flashes. People he’d never met. Places he’d never been. But at the same time all so familiar.

The face that appeared when he closed his eyes, though, belonged to Millie Priest. In Charles’ own time, she was a ghost who had taken up residence in his house. In 1919 she was a jazz singer with a voice like smoky glass. The last time he visited this dream version of New York, he’d heard her perform at The Boiler Room, a jazz club in Harlem. That same night, a group of white men burst in, destroying everything in the club and attacking the patrons with baseball bats and crowbars. One of them hit Charles on the back of his head while he was trying to protect Millie. That was the last he’d seen of the living version of her.

As he drifted off to sleep, he wondered if he’d run into her again.

Charles woke up on the floor where he had fallen. Very slowly he sat up. His head pounded, and his shoulder hurt where he had hit the hard wood. He was back in the front room of his own home, an old farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere, far from the city, where he generally preferred to be. The book he had been holding when he went out lay open next to him, pages down. He scooped it up and tried to smooth out the bent paper. A section of the spine disintegrated in his hand, and he swore under his breath. He pushed himself to his feet and spent a few wobbly moments regaining his balance.