I’ve just been looking back through my posts and realized it ‘s been a very long time since I updated this blog. I apologize. I didn’t mean to be away so long. In fact, I started several posts over the intervening time, but couldn’t finish them. Some were controversial. Others were simply too meandering. So a quick update on what’s been going on with me:
It’s been a rough year, but not horrible. Everyone in the world has felt the effects of COVID-19, of course. Though several of my family and friends came down with it, nobody suffered any serious effects. I’m very grateful for that. But my husband and I have grown isolated during the lockdown. We’re still happily married, despite being in each other’s hair. Erich tends to lock himself in his office during work hours, so we see each other about as much as when he worked away from home. 🙂 And we’ve been gathering together with vaccinated friends and family recently.
Our eldest dog has been worrying us for a while. He suffers from hip dysplasia and goes to physical therapy for it, but the real issue is cancer. He nearly died from a ruptured spleen this summer, but fortunately was saved by the emergency vet. Now he’s undergoing chemotherapy and doing well, but we’ve been warned he has a very aggressive form of cancer, so we’re just taking it one day at a time. We’ve had him since just before we married, eleven years ago, and losing him is going to be brutal. 😦
I have been writing, though it sometimes feels like I have no energy for it—or anything, really. It turned out to be a mistake, pulling all of my novels and novellas from Dreamspinner Press. I’ve republished my bestsellers, but the remaining list was too long and I was overwhelmed (see “struggles with depression”), so I made the decision to give DSP permission to relist a few of my backlisted novels and novellas, simply so I could stop worrying about it and move forward again.
As a result of this, I’ve finally updated the sidebar links, so if you click on a cover image, it should take you to an actual published ebook, either self-published or through DSP (and one through Beaten Track Press—Borderland, co-written with F.E. Feeley, Jr.). The paperbacks aren’t all there yet. I’ve self-published Violated as an eBook, for instance, but I’ve had trouble with the paperback formatting, so it isn’t listed yet. If you see a paperback going for an outrageous price, don’t waste your money. Those are people selling used copies and trying to scam you. The legit paperbacks won’t be that pricey.
Murderous Requiem and By That Sin Fell the Angels are going to be relisted soon. Several of my horror stories, including all of the Gothikastories, are being compiled into an anthology. That should come out soon, as well.
As I mentioned, I have writing, so you’ll be seeing new stories from me in the coming months—a new addition to the Gothikaseries, for one—but probably not until the Fall.
I missed Halloween with this post, so I’ll aim for the Day of the Dead instead! My intent was to blog about some of the scary/creepy stories I’ve written over the years.
I love horror, so I’m actually surprised I haven’t written more of it. For a very brief time, I made micro-budget horror films. They were of variable quality, and unfortunately you can only see one, at present, on YouTube. It’s really grisly, so don’t watch it if you don’t go for gore. I made it for the Eerie Horror Fest in 2006. They had a contest for filmmakers to submit ads for the festival. Sadly, ours “won,” simply because it was the only submission, but I’m proud of it. We were experimenting with lighting and learning how to use our new camera crane (basically a teeter-totter device that allowed the camera to smoothly pan up and down). If you go to the YouTube channel for Dunkirk Studios, you can see some trailers for other films we worked on. Some made it into festivals, but our big project, “The Resurrection,” was never finished, due to lack of locations willing to allow naked people covered in blood to run around on their premises. It would have been epic. EPIC.
After publishing some short stories and novellas (one I’d consider novel-length, in its second edition), I decided to dive into a full-length novel in same vein as The Da Vinci Code, in which the characters are piecing together an occult mystery by researching ancient tomes. The result was Murderous Requiem.
In this novel, I delved into the writings of Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), the Italian scholar who was more or less responsible for bringing the works of Plato to the West, and who believed that music could heal the human body by bringing our pure spiritual form into harmony with our physical form. He was a jack-of-all-trades – a doctor, philosopher, writer, and composer – so the story is about the discovery of a mass written by Ficino, which could go one step further and pull the soul back into the body after death. The story involves a beautiful drug addict with the voice of an angel, a murder, nearly everything my music theory major taught me in college, and ominous, supernatural flocks of ravens.
Bigfoot Hunters in Love was originally a free short story I gave away on my blog. You can still get it here. But I thought it needed more, so eventually I expanded upon it and contracted Scott J. Coatsworth to create a cover that conveyed both the silly elements of the story and the creepiness. It’s about a man who moves to the country and is chased into the forest one night by a monster. He loses his slippers and his dignity, eventually crashing headlong into a man who’s been hunting the creature for years. Along with our hero’s trusty dog, Thor, they set out to uncover proof that the creature exists.
Sadly, the anthology of bizarre stories set in the Old West edited by my friend and fellow author, Kim Fielding, is no longer available, except in used paperbacks. I’ll have to republish my short story from it: The Sheriff of Para Siempre. This was one of my favorite of my own stories, about two young men hiring themselves out as law-enforcement in a dying mining town. It ultimately involves a man who simply won’t stay dead, and the ending is the most tragic thing I’ve ever written. As one reviewer said: “I’m a blubbering mess right now, so if I’m not making sense, you can blame it on Jamie Fessenden. Quite simply, this story broke me. It broke my heart and it made me speechless.”
Author and friend, Eli Easton, came up with a great idea for an anthology: Gothic horror romances to be released each Halloween, each with a specific theme. The first was called Gothika #1: Stitch, and Eli did the cover for it. It was gorgeous. I even made a book trailer, which looks a bit clunky, in retrospect, since it was the first time I played with Movie Maker. But I’m very proud of the music I wrote for it. (Yes, all those tens of thousands I spent on my music theory degree paid off!)
I won’t describe all the wonderful stories in these anthologies, since that would take forever, but I’ll briefly describe the stories I wrote. For Stitch, I wrote a story called Watchworks, about a watchmaker in Victorian London, who is called to the home of a wealthy gentleman for a bizarre purpose: to repair the intricate mechanical hand of a handsome young man. The hand is so lifelike, it’s impossible to tell it isn’t flesh, unless the artificial skin is removed. But as the watchmaker attempts to repair the hand, he begins to suspect more and more of the young man is clockwork. Just how much of him is still human?
For Gothika #2: Bones, I wrote a Young Adult story about two teenagers living in a Latinx neighborhood in Manchester, New Hampshire. One has a grandmother (abuelita) who runs a botánica – a shop that sells folk medicine and magical items used in vodou rituals – and when he attempts to acquire a copy of the dreaded Book of St. Cyprian for the shop, he accidentally releases a dark spirit that possesses his friend’s dog. The two boys work frantically to exorcise the spirit, before it can hurt the dog or, worse… abuelita finds out what they’ve been up to.
Don’t expect any sex with this one, but it’s fun and creepy and has some interesting stuff about local vodou practices. I had a couple of Spanish-speaking friends take me to the botánica in Manchester, so we could quiz the owner and see what she had for sale. And, yes, the Book of St. Cyprian is a real book, rumored to be so evil, anyone who reads it risks losing their soul.
Isolation (Gothika#3: Claw) is adapted from a screenplay I wrote, but was never able to film – mostly because we weren’t able to find a good location. It follows a man who once had a great relationship with his best friend and lover, but chickened out of a long-term gay relationship and married a woman. Years later, after his marriage has disintegrated, he comes back with his tail between his legs, hoping to rekindle what he and his friend once had.
But he finds his friend living deep in the woods, isolated from the town, and not at all willing to get into a relationship with him… or anyone, apparently. And he soon discovers there is something sinister prowling through the forest at night…
For Gothika #4: Spirit, the theme was ghost stories, and I delved into the history of the old mill buildings in New England, which were plagued by fires that killed massive amounts of workers – usually young women. The most famous is the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire which killed 146 workers, mostly Italian and Jewish immigrant women in their teens and early twenties (the youngest was 14), because the doors to stairwells and exits were locked to prevent workers from sneaking out on breaks.
For The Mill, I adapted a ballad about the Granite Mill to my fictional mill building, and had a team of ghost-hunters investigating appearances that have frightened off construction workers so often the building now lies empty and abandoned.
The last Gothika we did was called Contact, and it dealt with stories of alien abduction.
My story was called, not surprisingly, Abduction. It’s about a man who visits an old boyfriend and finds that he’s basically had a nervous breakdown and ranting about aliens abducting him and implanting things in his body. Our hero agrees to stay the night and help watch for aliens, and to his horror, he’s abducted.
The aliens don’t experiment on him, but that’s because he was abducted by different aliens than his friend was abducted by. In order to save his friend, he has to take sides in an interstellar war and befriend the commander of the ship he’s a prisoner on. Over time, he and the commander discover they have a connection…
So I did have a novel (Violated) come out in the fall, and it did pretty well. It’s pretty dark, and the resolution — while happy — isn’t the big catharsis a lot of readers hoped for, simply because my goal was realism. A story like this isn’t resolved by an epic bout of sobbing in your lover’s arms. Ever. Derek and Russ find the best possible, realistic happily-ever-after for them.
At Christmas time, I was delighted to be offered the chance to do a Christmas story on the WROTE Podcast — one of twelve stories representing the twelve days of Christmas in the carol. I hadn’t had time to get out any of the Christmas stories I was working on (I have one contemporary novella in the works, a free holiday story that revolves around the characters in the Dreams of Fire and Gods series, and a re-write of a previously published novella), so this was a great opportunity. I’m delighted with how the story came out, and Brad Vance‘s wonderful narration! All of the stories are terrific, so if you’re still in the mood for Christmas….
Moving forward, I’m currently working on a novella about alien abduction for the next Gothika anthology (see previous installments: Stitch, Bones, Claw, and Spirit). Eli Easton, who originated the series (I helped a little), won’t be joining us on this installment. The authors participating in this issue are Kim Fielding, BG Thomas, FE Feeley Jr., and myself.
As far as which novels I’m working on goes, I’m having a little trouble with that one. I have several in the works. My YA novel Martian Born, a novel about a spy in the Soviet Union during the cold war (currently called Chimera), and a novelization of the Jomsviking Saga, about a fortress full of Vikings in the tenth century. I’m also tentatively working on an untitled novel about “cavemen” (what we used to call Cro-Magnon Man, but is now referred to as “Early Modern Humans” or “Anatomically Modern Humans,” because they are physically no different from us).
This probably sounds like I need to focus, and that would be correct. Martian Born is closest to being finished, but it’s intended for the mainstream science fiction market. This means a long, tedious process of sending queries to agents — most likely over a year or two, if not longer — because mainstream publishers, by and large, no longer accept submissions directly from authors. So while I do want to get that process moving, I’m also looking at getting other novels out more quickly.
This probably means I’ll either finish up Chimera or The Vikings of Jomsborg. But both still have a lot of work to do on them.
In the meantime, I have two stories that will be coming out soon. One is actually the first part of Chimera, presented as a short story called Train to Sevmash. This will be part of an anthology published by DSP Publications. I wrote the story first, then got permission from the editor of the anthology to expand it into a novel.
The second story is in an anthology put together by BG Thomas called A More Perfect Union — a collection of stories about same-sex marriage written by gay men who are actually married. My story, Destined, is a fictionalized account of how I met my husband and how we created our life together. The characters aren’t exactly me and Erich, but the events are largely true.
This has gotten lengthy, and I haven’t even touched on other projects I’ve been working on, such as finishing the Dogs of Cyberwar trilogy (I’m nearly done the second novella (A Mote in the Eye), but my publisher wants the third, before we move ahead), the samurai tale I’ve been adapting (Shinosuke), and the sequel to Murder on the Mountain, which is in the plotting stages (murder mysteries take a lot of plotting).
Yes, I’m a bit over-extended. But it’s my fault — ideas keep popping into my head. I just need to focus and prioritize.
In the meantime, I have the re-release of my first novel, Murderous Requiem, available for pre-order on DSP Publications. It will be released on March 22nd. This edition isn’t enormously different from the first, but I did go through and tighten things a bit, as well as clarify some of the confusing sexual issues in the novel. The story centers around an occult order in what is basically a “free love” commune, so all of the characters are in open relationships. This upsets some readers, who regard it as “cheating.” I do not. I wrote it for my friends who are involved in open or polyamorous relationships where everything is up front and honest, and everyone’s feelings are taken into account.
But that isn’t actually what the novel is about, anyway. It’s about an ancient manuscript containing a requiem mass that, when performed, may cause death… or possibly may resurrect the dead.
So I hear it’s a good idea to do a blog tour, when your novel comes out. This consists of guest posts on other author’s blogs in a fairly organized sequence, promoting your book and generally giving away free copies.
Well, I’ve been trying to do that with Murderous Requiem since it came out, but the “organized” part has completely eluded me. Some of you may have seen some of the posts go by, but I utterly failed to present them in any kind of orderly manner.
However, for anyone interested in Murderous Requiem, there has been some interesting information in these posts, concerning magick, Marsillio Ficino, herbalism, Renaissance music, and other subjects that come up in the novel. So even though many of them are no longer giving away free copies, I thought I should post them in a list here, just so they’re easily accessible.
I intend to post one or two more, before I’m done with it. And the one on Renaissance music (on Shira Anthony‘s blog) still has a free giveaway going on until July 7th!
Over at MM Good Book Reviews, it’s received 4 out of 5 stars! “The mystery and suspense are good and leaves a thread of tension throughout the book. There’s death and betrayal, love and hope and occult dealings. I actually think this is an intriguing story that shows a ‘whiter’ or good side to the occult. It has informative information and you can see that the author has done a lot of research. I will recommend this to those who love mystery and suspense, occult dealings, twists, betrayal, underhand dealings, murder and manipulation and a happy for them ending.”
Here’s the Blurb:
Jeremy Spencer never imagined the occult order he and his boyfriend, Bowyn, started as a joke in college would become an international organization with hundreds of followers. Now a professor with expertise in Renaissance music, Jeremy finds himself drawn back into the world of free love and ceremonial magick he’d left behind, and the old jealousies and hurt that separated him from Bowyn eight years ago seem almost insignificant.
Then Jeremy begins to wonder if the centuries-old score he’s been asked to transcribe hides something sinister. With each stanza, local birds flock to the old mansion, a mysterious fog descends upon the grounds, and bats swarm the temple dome. During a séance, the group receives a cryptic warning from the spirit realm. And as the music’s performance draws nearer, Jeremy realizes it may hold the key to incredible power—power somebody is willing to kill for.
I just received the finalized design of the cover for Murderous Requiem!
This was created by Brooke Albrecht, whom I’ve never worked with before, but the design came out beautiful and I love it!
We don’t have a firm release date for the novel yet, but I’m told it might be some time in April.
EDIT: The cover design was just modified slightly, so I’ve uploaded it again. Originally, the characters in the center spelled out the Tibetan prayer, Om Mani Padme Hum, but that wasn’t really appropriate to a story about ceremonial magicians. So it was replaced with Enochian letters, which is the magical language the characters work with in the novel. The letters spell out the word Requiem.