My Creepy Christmas Tree Experiment


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My post with The Midnight Society this week is all about my attempt at creating a creepy Christmas (Creepmas?) tree. However, the photos won’t load on the site, so I am posting them here! And linking the two. Well, I have to try something!

At the end of last year, I found a seven foot slim artificial Christmas tree on clearance and decided to try to make myself a horror-ish tree. What’s one more Christmas tree to set up? Right?

Last Halloween, I found a few items that I thought might help in my mission…


Finally, the day arrived and I dragged the tree up from the basement and set it up.

I have no plan here…just going to wing it…and added the lights.

Only, Halloween ‘purple’ lights are…well, pink.


Back to the beginning…

Luckily, I found some cool white lights shoved somewhere.

Much better.


If you cut out the eyes and put a hole in the bottom of these fun little skulls….

They fit over the light bulbs!









I like that!

Now, onto ribbon. I have ribbon on all my trees. So why not?




Cutting it into strips helps…








Add the black, silver, and white ornaments…







I found white netting…maybe that will add a ghostly feel?

Yeah…no…more bridal. I stripped it off.

At this point, I give up. I have no solid ideas and am throwing stuff at the tree hoping something sticks. BUT NOTHING IS WORKING.

Until I discovered three skulls. Three skulls that missed getting packed into the Halloween boxes. AND I HAVE AN IDEA.





A little paint and a few dowel rods…








Place them in the tree…LIKE A HAUNTED TREE!





Now to add to that…


In the dark, it looks pretty cool!

A good start…I have ideas on what to add next year. A little odd. I lot cool. Something different. Christmas needs creepy too.





Beware! Dark Seas Author/Illustrator Showcase is Live

Today, my short story Inheritance is up on Jolene Haley’s wonderful blog as part of her Beware! Dark Seas author/illustrator showcase, happening ALL MONTH LONG.

This is my fifth year participating. Stories for the themes of haunted house, harvest festival, haunted hotel, and summer camp have all come before, uniting authors and artists with creepy fun. I have fun reading the stories and seeing the artwork, we all celebrate together, no accepting or rejecting…just art.

A HUGE thanks to Jolene for doing this every year. For thinking up a theme, for gathering people to participate, for posting all these stories. She is the best. Seriously.

Anyway…today is my day.

So go read mine. Then stay a while and read a few others. Have fun. But BEWARE!


The Tale of a Story


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Today, a book is released into the wild. An anthology.

And my story Faithless is in it!

I wrote this story a couple years ago for an anthology looking for asylum stories. I read it in my writers’ group, and had mixed reactions. Some people liked it and one or two wanted something else. Something more…asylum residents getting out and killing. But I didn’t want it to be the usual asylum story. So I cleaned it up and submitted it.

It was rejected.

But, I liked this story. I liked that it was different. So I let it sit until I found another place to send it.

One. Two. Three rejections…and I would not give up. Faithless would find a home…somewhere.

And it has.

Not where I thought it would, not in the publication I wrote it for. That’s how it goes.

Publishing. An interesting world of you-never-know-so-never-ever-give-up. What are the editors looking for when they put together a line up of stories for an anthology or magazine? Only they know.

My story was rejected. More than once. I did wonder if the writing smelled like dog poop, or the story left the reader with a whole bunch of confusion.

But I believed in it.

Sure, rejections happen because a story isn’t well-written or doesn’t make sense. But they can mean that the words don’t fit, the story isn’t quite what they were looking for. And with all sorts of people submitting, the choices can be great and choosing can be difficult.

Here’s Schreyer Ink’s blog with submission facts about this book…for the curious.

So many submissions. Mine just a drop in the bucket. But it was chosen.

If you like the weird and creepy…go buy a copy of Twilight Madhouse Vol. 4 on amazon!

Enjoy Faithless, my story exploring faith versus religion in a future where praying can get you a room in the Asylum for the Religiously Afflicted and a visit from Tech MT.

And when you’re submitting, remember…rejections are not always a reflection of your writing talent.

And never ever give up.

Happy Birthday, Jolene!!!


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If you don’t know the marvelous Jolene Haley, you should. She is a rainbow of goodness, a force of light, but wrapped in a bit of shadow. She loves to shine bright, spreading happiness and making the world a better place. Jolene writes a little kissing and a little killing, I personally love the killing.

Lots of death in the book she co-wrote with Brian! You should read it. It was a fun ride!


A few years ago, Jolene invited me to join The Midnight Society, a blog she created to celebrate everything scary, and I said YES! Boy, am I glad I did. Because this gal has been a bright spot in my life, always there with a smile and support to anyone who needs it.

And today is her birthday! In honor of the clownthology she will publish…




Let’s have cake!






We’ll bring presents. 







And food.




And maybe go spend a relaxing day in a peaceful cabin in the woods..


Dear Jolene,

Have a wonderful day. You deserve all the good things for being such an inspiration. Thank you for being you. Thank you for always being there with a smile and words of encouragement. Thank you for showing the world you can spread happiness while loving all the creepiness.






Release Day…WITH YOU ALWAYS by Rena Olsen


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Happy book birthday, Rena!!!

One of my bestest writing friends, one of the Shenanigals, a fantastic writer, Rena sets more of her words free today!

I am so proud of Rena, so grateful that I have been on this writing journey with her. She deserves all the good things and all the Gummy Bears. If you liked her first book, you will like this one.

Let’s celebrate MORE BOOKS!

In the wake of a painful breakup and struggling to prove herself at work, Julia feels adrift. When Bryce blows into her life, he seems like the perfect anchor. Handsome, charming, secure, and confident, Bryce brings out the best in Julia, sweeping her off her feet with attention and affection while grounding her with his certainty and faith. Together they embark on a path guided by the principles of his family and their church, each step a paving stone leading to happily ever after.

But this is no fairy tale.

Step by step, one small concession leading to another, Julia is slowly isolated from her job, her friends, and her family, until she comes to find that her dream come true is a cage. Then one day everything changes…and Julia is faced with no choice but to find a way out.


Want a copy? Of course you do! Go here!


Haven’t read her first book THE GIRL BEFORE? Read it. I cried. I cringed. In the end, I smiled. Go find it here!

Connect with Rena on Twitter, she loves new friends.



Release Day…Running Away by Julie Hutchings


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Today, we celebrate a book birthday! Today we celebrate the great Julie Hutchings (my Gorky!) as she releases her precious into the world! Lover of all things dark and delicious, Julie adds her words, her story to the shadows of the world. Always here for this fabulous person, I want to tell everyone about her new book!

Eliza Morgan is desperate to leave the horrors of her mortal life and understand why death follows her, leaving only one man—Nicholas French—in its wake. He’s the one she loves, the one she resents, and the one fated to make her legendary among the Shinigami—an ancient order of vampires with a “heroic” duty to their victims.

Nicholas is also decaying before her eyes, and it’s her fault.

On the ghostlike mountaintop in Japan, Eliza will be guided by the all-powerful Master for her transition to Shinigami death god. When Eliza discovers that sacrificing her destiny will save Nicholas, she’s not afraid to defy fate to make it so. Both Nicholas and his beloved Master fight her on veering from the path to immortality, but Eliza won’t be talked out of her plan, even if it drives a deeper wedge between her and Nicholas. Not even when Nicholas’s salvation tortures her with puzzle-piece visions, begging her to solve them.

Allying with the fiery rebel, Kieran, who does what he wants and encourages her to do the same, and a mysterious deity that only she can see, Eliza must forge her own path through a maze of primal traditions and rivalries, shameful secrets and dark betrayals, to take back the choices denied her and the Shinigami who see her as their savior. And she’ll start a war to save the loved ones that fate threatens to claim.

Want to find it? I’ll make it easy!

Book Name: Running Away (The Shinigami Vampires series, #2)
Book Genre:
Adult Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Book release date: 08/07/18

Buy Link:

Running Away (book #2) on Goodreads:

Running Home (book #1) on Goodreads:






Julie’s a mythology-twisting, pizza-hoarding karate-kicker who left her ten-year panty peddling career to devote all her time to writing. She is the author of Running Home,Running Away,TheWind Between Worlds, and forthcoming The Harpy. Julie revels in all things Buffy, Marvel, robots, and drinks more coffee than Juan Valdez and his donkey combined, if that donkey is allowed to drink coffee. Julie lives in Plymouth, MA, constantly awaiting thunderstorms with her wildly supportive husband, two magnificent boys, and a reptile army.

And that is why she’s awesome.




Because you WANT to connect with her. YOU DO!


Twitter:@hutchingsjulie|Facebook| Website:

Julieon Goodreads: or fill out my contact form.

Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a thing!



Running Home

The Wind Between Worlds

Standing Still (free through Instafreebie)



Dark Carnival: An Anthology of Horror

Halloween Night: Trick or Treat

Summer’s Edge



Visit her blog


Don’t forget to join in on the book buzz using hashtag#ShinigamiSeries

There you are! Another book out in the world. Sound good to you? GO READ IT!

Feedback…Ready Your Mind and Heart


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Feedback. So necessary. And sometimes completely heart-breaking.

Comments for my MG are coming in.

We all know how to react, what to do. Read it. Step back. Let it all sink in. Calmly. Let your creative brain sort through the comments and figure out what helps the manuscript and what doesn’t. Logically look at what you’ve written and prepare to delete and add and change all the things.

And we know what really happens when you first read comments…

Before you can let them sit, before you can step back, before you put the wall around your heart.


Yeah, that.

I live there now.

For a minute…or two.

One person sent me feedback and I am a mess. And I know better.


Self-doubt is weighing me down at the moment. Writer-me is struggling. So many decisions. So many words. So many questions. Things I should do…am thinking of doing…choices I face.

I remember a time when my writing was moving forward…then it stopped, standing still, motionless…now I feel as if I am moving backwards, being swept away.

I struggle against the current. A force we all fight sometimes.

But we need feedback. We need to know how others react to what we do. Every time, we open the door for doubt, we unlock the fear of failure…possibly right after we got that sucker chained down.

But we don’t stop writing. We can’t. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.

Now I prepare to really think about this manuscript. Think about what I want it to be. Fix what didn’t work. Hopefully make it into what it is meant to be…because of the kindness of others who read it.

The Ridiculousness and Frustration of Writing Queries


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The query letter.


I know. That word can send every writer running for their blanket fort. Well, not every writer…some like to write them.

Well, not this writer.

But here I am. Time to write a query. Or at least something that looks and acts like one that I can revise a million times before finally giving up and sending it.

A query. There are formats to follow. Guidelines. Things to include. Things not to include. Ways to write it. Ways not to write it. The more you read about them, the more hair-pulling there is. So many opinions.

In the end, it’s a get it the way you like it and pray.

Because there is no right way to write a query, though some people will tell you there is. Like our precious manuscripts, a query is as individual as we are.

Begin with a paragraph having the title and word count…or end with it.

Write a one line hook at the beginning or…just go into the meat of the story.

Write in the style and voice of the manuscript in present tense.

Give enough detail to grow interest, to make your letter stand out, but not too much that the query is too long.

There are formulas…there are guidelines. Use those! Get something on the screen, then make it your own. Want to try something really out of the box? Do it.

Ending with a question is frowned upon, but…people still like them.

Write a bio…or not…or kinda…

Individualize your query for each person you send it to. It can help…or it might not matter.

Spelling and grammar! Though we are all human…therefore we make mistakes. People understand this.

Book comps. I struggled with this, until I figured out that comp titles aren’t just which books my book is like, but which books they can share a shelf with. If a reader likes this book, they’ll like mine because of the tone or content.


Here’s what I focus on.

Set up the main character. Who they are and what they want.

Set up conflict…what stands in the way of them getting what they want?

What do they do to fight for what they want?

Then the big choice, the moment they face a decision and what they risk if they choose one path over another.

The biggest thing…focus on the MAIN story line. It’s so easy to want to write in the other plot lines weaving through the story, but words are sacred here. You only have so many.

I like to put the title, word count, and bio stuff at the end.

At some point you are pretty happy with it! Then you let people read it. Then writing a query goes haywire.

Everyone has their own way of doing it and all the comments on what to change will overwhelm your tired query-logged mind. I can guarantee that what one person loves, someone else won’t. The problem is…when you send out your lovely queries, you never know who will like what. One person will toss it in the no-way pile and another person will request pages.

A good query is essential. And so hard! And ridiculous. And frustrating.

So I’ll write a query. I’ll have people comment on it. Then I’ll do what I want.

One constant about the query…it has to come from you. It’s about your manuscript. Do what feels right to you.

Then pray. Wish upon a star. Brew a good-luck potion.

And wait.


SO Much More to a Writreat than Writing


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For the last few days I’ve been away. If you read my last post, you know where.

This was the first, but not the last meeting of the Shenanigals. A group of four writers who met on Twitter, then came face to face at a writers’ conference, and since then have become a source of support and love to each other.

Logo designed and drawn by Marjorie Brimer

I am lucky to be a part of this group. Seriously lucky.

Photo by a nice woman who was sitting by the pond…

So we spent a few days together, ready to write and chat and revel in general silliness.

I went with a manuscript that needs to be revised before I send it to a few critique partners. Others were thinking about notes from agents and editors. And one, dear Jamie, went through her entire book…again. A true rock star.

I didn’t know what exactly would happen. I didn’t really know what to expect, considering we had hung out at a writers’ conference, but never in this type of setting.

Writing did happen…

As did silliness…

Adoring a beautiful kitty…

Aw…Pepper! Photo by Jamie.

Watching a show called Botched…so much cringing…

Good food…

Deep discussions about, well, everything…

Much brainstorming about what we are all working on. The creativity was flowing freely…

Possibly a tattoo…

Okay, yes, a tattoo. Isn’t it wonderful? Go, Jamie! You handled that like a champ! You be the light in the world!

Yet, something happened that I wasn’t expecting. I went in with fear. Fear of these revisions. Fear of messing up this manuscript. Fear of failing.

As I sat around with these great people, my fear lessened. I started revising. And then I met chapter nine, learned that nothing happened in that chapter, faced that I had to rearrange things and fix it…panicked slightly…

But everyone gathered around and reminded me that I am pretty cool…and pretty talented…and to not be afraid.

So I did it. I faced chapter 9 and redid it. Let me tell you, it is so much better now. The words felt right as I wrote them.

Even though I still have to pick up the mess of restructuring the story, I am not afraid. I am ready. I am going to power through the rest of this story and get it sent to those fabulous readers, who are waiting.

All the memories. All the fun. All the learning about each other and building stronger bonds.

I carried fear in with me and left it there, dropped it and let it die. So no matter how much writing I did or didn’t get done, that is the best thing that could have happened for my words.

This is what’s best when writers unite. The bonds. The support. The willingness to chat about everything. The acceptance.

Shenanigals forever

And I might have a signed ARC of Rena’s new book WITH YOU ALWAYS…OUT IN A LITTLE OVER A MONTH! Okay…I DO HAVE ONE! You can be jealous.




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Book three of the Mine Series is here! It’s been a long wait, but we made it. I love the world of Saicean! Wonderful and fantastical! The mystery of Estelle unfolds, the only female in a race of men. Orontes returns! YES! His kind of evil intrigues me. The romance might not be my thing, but the world and the characters keep me going back.

Let me introduce you to the newest book in the series!

Sachael Discovery

War has come to Saicean. With Orontes as King of the Oceanids, the threat to Saicean and its inhabitants has never been greater. The Oceanid army has laid siege to the underwater paradise, and Estelle Bailey once again finds herself trapped by Orontes’s hand. This time, within the walls of what should have been a safe place.

Tensions mount as supplies run short, and being the only female Sachael in a world dominated by desperate men leaves Estelle feeling vulnerable. Tired of having to live like a prisoner, even a well-treated one, Estelle decides to act. They need a weapon. And she can think of only one person who still has the means to kill Orontes and end the war—Michael.

With Azariah and Chanon in tow, Estelle flees their world, heading to the remote islands of the Faroes. But their mission to find Michael yields so much more than they expected. Faced with information that could change not only the war, but the course of all Sachael existence, the trio must make a choice: return to Saicean with Michael, or follow a lead that could change everything and pray they make it back in time to save their home.



Book Three of the Mine Series, Sachael Discovery layers new intrigues and betrayals into Estelle’s journey, escalating the stakes to levels as sweeping as the backdrop of beautiful locales.







Growing up, Melody Winter showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write far too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but eventually ended up working in finance. Melody is convinced that the methodical time she spends working with numbers fuels her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.

Melody lives in North Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two teenage sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of ‘boy’ activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or listening to 80’s music on her IPod.

Melody has a tendency to fall head-over-heels in love with her main characters, even when they frustrate her and refuse to act the way she wants them to. She is a romance writer at heart and loves reading and writing about anything mythological or magical, as well as exploring the gritty side of love affairs and the complexities of being in love.


SACHAEL DREAMS was her debut novel, (REUTS Publications, USA) and the first in the New Adult Romantic Fantasy series—the ‘Mine Series’. The second book in the series, SACHAEL DESIRES’, was released in November 2015, and the third book, SACHAEL DISCOVERY, is due to be released on the 19thJune 2018. SACHAEL DESTINY is due to be released in 2019.

Melody has also self-published three books, INIQUITY, the first book in a Dark New Adult Romantic Fantasy series— ‘The Ascent’. (The second book in the series, ADVERSITY, is due for release 2018.) STARSHINE, and PROMISE, both contemporary romance, were released last year.





Amazon page:


YEA! Congrats, Melody! Now we wait for book four…