Happy Release Day to Masks!

I’m so thrilled to announce the release of the much anticipated anthology, Masks, filled with tales about Mardi Gras and New Orleans. This has been in the making since last year and it’s so rewarding to see the book finally in reader hands!

My short story including in this anthology is titled “La Femme en Rouge” and features a trans woman struggling to find acceptance with her father. It’s a suspense-filled tale that features tarot readings, mysterious encounters, and a washboard band.

There were really several factors of my life that inspired this piece. I have several friends in the LGBT community, and have witnessed first hand the kind of pain and bigotry they face for coming out to family and friends. I admire the bravery these people have in order to be who they know they are. I wanted to explore this with Josie. I wanted the reader to walk beside her and feel her struggles, her confusion, and her fear. I wanted to make this story feel personal.

That’s really a mantra I’ve carried in many of my stories lately. I’ve worked hard to write stories that get under the skin, so to speak. When Filles Vertes Press asked me if I wanted to write about Mardi Gras, I instantly knew I had to say yes because I wanted an excuse to write about New Orleans. That place lingers with you long after you’ve left it.

Back in 2000, I joined a bunch of internet friends I had never met or even seen in person and traveled to New Orleans with them around Halloween. I was a senior in High School at the time and was on the verge of burning out from stress. This was a cathartic time for me. We went ghost hunting, we dressed up like vampires, we experienced Bourbon Street. I wasn’t nearly as confident in myself as I am now, and that time seems almost surreal.

One of my friends was the only one of us who could speak fluent Creole and she was our negotiator and our representative as we navigated the enormous city. At one point we had to switch hotels because the first one we went to was so haunted that all of us had nightmares and couldn’t bring ourselves to stay. Our Creole speaking friend was the only one who could negotiate with the manager to get us moved. She was tough, quiet, and had the best acidic comebacks of the group.

As I began writing books and short stories, she remained my champion over the years. She always encouraged me to continue and demanded to get to beta read my first horror book when I got it put together. She loved reading horror, and she had the kind of personality that she would be honest with me if there were problems. I worked hard on my writing, preparing to send her my first horror book that she was excited to read.

A few years back, I learned that she had died of an illness she had fought for years without telling hardly any of us. That was the kind of person she was. She didn’t like to let on that she was struggling, and she didn’t want people to worry over her. That was her choice.

When this anthology offer came up, I leapt at it because I knew she would have loved it. She loved New Orleans. She posted about it constantly, knowing the streets better than she knew her own hometown. She never got the chance to live there, but she visited every chance she could.

This story is dedicated to her, because she knew the potential I had and she always encouraged me even when she probably feared for herself. Her love of New Orleans is weaved into the story of “La Femme en Rouge”, and I like to think she would have appreciated my attention to detail. She would have flipped at being able to read an entire anthology about Mardi Gras.

Masks is now available at Filles Vertes Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Cover Reveal for The Seeking

Amid all the chaos and confusion going on in the world right now, I come bearing some good news!

Today is the cover reveal for The Seeking, my young adult horror book featuring weird monsters, vicious rituals, creepy villagers, and a gruesome secret. This book comes out on October 27th, just in time for Halloween, from The Parliament House.

I’m thrilled because this is my first full-length horror novel, and although this is a standalone book, I hope to write more horror novels in this vein. Think of this as A Quiet Place mixed with Hunger Games.

I’m so pleased with how this cover came out and it has just the right amount of terror, empathy, and creepy that I love! Check out the synopsis listed below and make sure you add it to your TBR list on Goodreads!

THE SEEKING

Beware the Gray People

Each Seeking, the magic that protects the town of Carra must be renewed, which means the children of the Exalted Family must go into hiding. Whether it be through disguise or bribe, through trusted friends or perfect hiding places, every child of the Priest family must avoid capture for the full day.

When things go wrong with the renewal, it’s up to seventeen-year-old Dahlia, the middle child of the Priest family, and her girlfriend, Bisa, to escape Carra and find the magical beings responsible for the protection. They must learn who would require such a cruel game to be played every year and if the protection of the Gray People is really worth such a deadly cost. What they will discover is far worse.

Do you love this cover as much as I do? Please consider sharing this to any friends who love horror books! As an indie author, we rely so much on word of mouth to get our stories heard. Any help you can give is always appreciated. Thank you!

An Early Peek at La Femme en Rouge

Welcome to this leg of the Filles Vertes Publishing MASKS blog hop!

If you somehow landed on this page and haven’t heard about the blog hop, click here!

If you haven’t already, add MASKS to your Goodreads TBR

Also, pre-orders are available at FVPub.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, or your fave bookseller. Convenient links are listed below:

Enjoy this entertaining glimpse of one of the intriguing stories awaiting you in MASKS. Remember to look for the keyword/phrase and take a note of it!

Happy Hopping!

We are only a little over a month away from the release of Masks, an anthology featuring a slice of the darker side of Mardi Gras. Judging from the list of authors alone, I can already tell it’s going to be an incredible read!

My short story, “La Femme en Rouge”, or French for The Woman in Red, will be part of this piece. It follows a trans woman named Josie who struggles to embrace herself despite an abusive home life. When she encounters a strange woman in red one night, she’s drawn into a mystery and a discover she never expected. As Mardi Gras looms ever closer, Josie finds more questions rather than answers.

<keyword: Masks>

See below for a sneak peek at “La Femme en Rouge” coming March 31st in Masks from Filles Vertes Publishing!

Frosted pink lipstick, sweet summer sunset eyeshadow, and blushing rose rouge: my hands trembled so bad that the eyeliner went on crooked.

“Shit,” I muttered under my breath, arching my face up to the light and dabbing at my eye with my pinky finger, trying to smooth out the line, trying to make it perfect. The false lashes were next, and I swallowed down the dryness in my throat. The lash glue squeezed out slow and smooth, a white strip on the back of the lash. Then the door to the bathroom opened with a loud clacking of heels and I nearly dropped the lash onto the grimy floor.

I turned to look, blowing lightly on the lash, waiting for the white to go clear. A woman with dark hair and spray-tanned skin slipped into one of the stalls. Hopefully she didn’t notice me. No questions, no comments, no wondering why I had a whole makeup bag dumped out on the countertop. I leaned forward over the sink and tried to place the lash on my eyelid, shaking so badly I was afraid I was going to poke myself in the eye.

The toilet flushed and I froze, breathing so close to the mirror that it fogged up. I tried to avoid her gaze as she walked up beside me to wash her hands.

Sidelong glances. Unreadable features. I tried to focus on the lash instead.

“La Femme en Rouge” by Marlena Frank

Next up!

M. Dalto talks about her story, “Epiphany”!

Go check out Blog Stop #4!

How Long Did It Take?

Image of cactus and typewriter from Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

“How long did it take you to write that book?”

This is something I hear from people often. They ask how long a book took to write, and regardless of what you tell them, there’s usually a nod and an unspoken understanding. What they take away from the answer depends on what they’re really asking. Sometimes they ask out of curiosity, but sometimes it’s because they’re trying to decide if their work is worth trying to complete. Sometimes they’re judging themselves for writing too quickly or too slowly for what they see as a standard speed.

Let me just take a moment to say: it doesn’t matter.

The speed of your first draft does not determine how good it is or whether it’s worth publishing. You can take thirty days or thirty years to write it, and it will still need to be edited, proofread, and formatted. It will still need to be shopped around to publishers, reviewed, and marketed.

One of the things I love as a reader and as an author is that every book has its own story from inception to landing in your hands. Sometimes its been written in fits and starts over decades. Sometimes it was trunked, or buried away somewhere and abandoned, before being dusted off and given new life. Sometimes it’s written in a month and given a few months of editing before being published. All of these methods are completely valid and absolutely normal. There is no right speed for crafting a book.

Do you know what every book has in common? It was finished.

Now, I don’t mean it’s perfect because there is no perfect book, but it is pushed as close as it can be before being allowed to fly on its own. Art is all about striving for that impossibility, for making the story match the pictures you have in your head, but it will never completely match up, and that’s okay. As long as you can create a similar story in the heads of your readers, that’s the real win.

So to all those people working on a book slowly over time, or to those hopping from one partially finished manuscript to the next, remember that finishing it is the only real requirement. Even thirty minutes a day, or even a week, is all it takes.

You can finish it, I promise.

A Dark, New Cover

I wrote Night Feeders back in 2012, and let me tell you, it was in desperate need of a complete makeover. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the old cover.

The old cover for Night Feeders

It didn’t give the gritty western vibe of the book. It felt generic and sorely dated. The story itself is still fantastic, and I just spoke with a reader a few months back who told me how reading Night Feeders got him back into reading for fun. (I can’t tell you how much joy that brought me as an author!) I realized as he was discussing the characters, the setting, and the action that I haven’t given this book the attention it really deserved.

You can check out the book page for Night Feeders and see the love that readers have shared for it. They not only enjoyed the story, but they hunted down my website, found the post about the book, and commented on how much they loved it. Considering how limited my formatting skills were early on, that’s dedication.

This new cover, though, I just fell in love with. It was designed by Saba Designs over at The Book Cover Designer. It reflects the horror in the blood splatter, it feels like your protagonist could be a gritty detective, and the fact that this picture could have been plucked up straight from the pages only makes it better.

Here you go, the brand new cover for Night Feeders!

The brand new cover for Night Feeders!

Isn’t it amazing? I love the detail, the color, the way it makes you want to open the doors… okay, well maybe not that part.

If you haven’t gotten the chance to pick up this horror western featuring a werewolf detective, a vampire brothel, and one bad sheriff, I hope you’ll give it a shot! It’s a quick read, but very engaging!

This book is a prequel to a series I’m working on because I really love everything about Colton and his world, from the historical aspects, to the terrifying monsters that lurk in the shadows. If you want to peek at what the adventures planned for Colton, check out the Books page and look for One Way Down!

Night Feeders

There’s a bad sheriff in town.

It’s a dangerous existence living out in the Old West, but it’s even worse for supernatural entities. When a brothel of concerned vampires reaches out to the Agency for the Betterment of Supernatural Creatures for help, werewolf detective Colton Fen steps in to solve a disappearance.

Sheriff Ritters keeps a ghastly group of monsters underground to keep the impoverished people of Clarkville in line. Anyone foolish enough to cross his path is thrown to the creatures. Can Colton solve the disappearance and bring peace to the terrified town without getting killed?

Now available on Amazon, and at many other online retailers.