Family Obligations

IMG_8153A month ago, while we were having lunch in Japantown, my daughter started to cry. She had pain in her chest, pain so bad it frightened her.  We took her to the emergency room at the hospital where she was born.  They sent us on to Children’s Hospital.

Hours later, the diagnosis is that all the painkillers she has been taking for headaches over the last six months have starting chewing holes in her esophagus.  We left with two prescriptions and the assurance that her heart is healthy.

Four medicines later, the reflux pain is nearly gone.  The headaches aren’t responding as well. So far, none of the prescription medicines has made them stop. At this point, she’s taking three supplements and a prescription, but none of those prevented two bad headaches this past weekend.  We’ve seen a neurologist and an allergist, without getting any answers why her head hurts all the time.  We’ve got an MRI scheduled for next week.

Her grandfather suffered from allergy-triggered migraines, but all the doctors we’ve seen so far have shrugged that off.  Despite that — and because none of the medical suggestions have yet done any good at all — we’re trying an elimination diet to see if that will help.  This week she’s avoiding gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, things in the nightshade family, beans, citrus, and processed sugar.  She is determined to find some relief, so she’s committed.  I hope this will help.

We’re not to the end of things to experiment with, if it doesn’t.  I want her to come to the floatation tanks with me.  She thinks that sounds terrifying. There’s still acupuncture, massage, Chinese herbs…so many things we can try.

Dad011While we’ve been trying to sort this all out, my dad has been at the Cleveland Clinic, waiting for a new heart valve to replace the one they installed five years ago.  My mom has been staying alone in a hotel.  I want desperately to be with them, but I kept hoping that my daughter would feel better and be able to travel.  Instead, she’s regressing to the point that she doesn’t ever want to be alone.  One way or another, I will be back in Michigan before the end of the month.

Summers are always hard for me in San Francisco. The fog and the cold weigh on me.  The cure is to get out, walk in the light, see the ocean and trees, but it’s all I can do to pry my daughter out of bed.  Now I can’t even lure her out with the promise of a treat, because all treats are forbidden.

Wednesday is the 15th anniversary of my brother’s death.  His memory always hurts a little, but this summer, I could have really used his help. His absence feels like I’m missing a limb again.

I will survive this. I’m actually getting close to finishing the revision of Wish You Were Here, finally.  I’ve gotten back to the point where writing is an escape again.  My dad will either have another amazing medical reprieve, or he won’t. My daughter will eventually find some relief from her headaches and return to the amazing, talented, fun person she really is.  I believe that.  In the meantime, I know that depression lies.  It is my true enemy.  For the sake of my family, I will do what I have to, in order to fight it.

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San Francisco Ghost Hunt

IMG_8157I escaped the house Thursday evening to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: take the San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour! Borderlands Bookstore organized the outing for its sponsors and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. After the week I’ve had, it was a gift to be able to get out of the house, explore the city, and learn about its history as the sun set.

The tour leaned heavily on the life of Mary Ellen Pleasant, who came to San Francisco as a free woman, bought property, funded the raid on Harper’s Ferry, rescued people out of slavery and found them jobs in San Francisco, became known as the city’s voodoo queen, and eventually lost everything. Even her home is gone now, but six of the trees she planted still line Octavia Street, where our tour began.

The ghost stories about her incorporated crows, barking dogs, and people being pelted with gum nuts from Mary Ellen’s eucalyptus trees.

IMG_8162The only house I’d been inside on the tour was the former Mansions Hotel, once owned by silver mining millionaire Richard Chambers. His niece Claudia was killed in a bedroom in the turret in what the death certificate called a farm implement accident. No word on what the farm implement was doing inside Claudia’s bedroom.

The house underwent extensive renovations and was cut into a pair of condos.  Still gracious and lovely inside, the one I visited is apparently no longer haunted, according to its owner.

We stopped outside the home of Gertrude Atherton, whose stories have unfortunately fallen out of fashion.  She palled around with Ambrose Bierce and Oscar Wilde — and her collection of stories called The Bell in the Fog is legitimately scary.  The ghost story was delicious, too.

IMG_8166The tour wrapped up at the Hotel Majestic on Sutter Street.  We didn’t go into the haunted room on the fourth floor, but in the room across the hall, the lights flickered and strange breezes wafted through.  I wish I could have stopped in the hotel’s lovely bar for a drink, but I hope to go back another time.  Apparently they serve spirits inspired by the ghost tour.

Maybe I’ll even spend the night.

The San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour goes out five nights a week, Wednesday to Sunday. You can find them on Facebook or at their homepage. Christian, the guide of our tour, has a wealth of history in his head and knows how to tell a spooky story, too.

He’s got a one-man magic show coming up next weekend: Obscura at Z Space.




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Review of Kill By Numbers

Kill By NumbersI just came across this again, right when I needed it. Family life has been complicated, lately, and I’m finding it impossible to concentrate and write. So it’s a gift to read this review right now.

“It’s tough to be a human in space. Other races look down on humans because they think of them as violent sociopaths. With the human empire disbanded, they are spread out across the galaxy trying to make a living. This brings us to former assassin Raena  who is trying to get a new start on board the alien space ship,the Veracity. Raena has a complicated past, she was a prisoner as the Templars were wiped out by a genetic plague and the situation has created some bad psychological effects.

“Raena is having nightmares of shooting her ex-lover in the head and she has to deal with the fact that the now extinct Templars have left booby-trapped biotechnology throughout the galaxy and her ship is infected. Raena and the pirate crew that she is with must learn to trust each other and figure out how to fix the booby-trapped technology or the galactic economy could collapse….

“I love good character development in a story before we get into the action and Kill By Numbers does an excellent job of it.”

Read the rest of the review on Horror Addicts.

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Bay Area Book Festival

BookFestFor the third year in a row, I’m returning to the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley to hang out at the Horror Writers Association table. I’ll be there all day tomorrow, Saturday, June 3, from 10 – 6.

The book festival is amazing, because it brings together authors, writers’ organizations, publishers, bookstores, and —  most importantly — readers.  It’s amazing to see the streets absolutely full of people who love books.

The last couple of years, I’ve really enjoyed spending the day chatting with everyone who comes by the table. It’s been great to meet local members of the HWA, too. It’s hard for me to imagine anything better than talking about books and writing all day.

If you feel the same way and you’re in the area, please come by. We don’t bite…


Last year’s crew at the Bay Area Book Festival: Roh Morgon, Sumiko Saulson, me, Oz Monroe, Jeff Seeman, and Crystal M. Romero with Carlos.

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Like a Rainbow in the Dark

18405576_10212850673009557_1669623808_oLisa Lane drops by my blog to announce a special Vampire Tour of San Francisco this coming weekend.  Lisa and I met in person for the first time at StokerCon, but we shared a table of contents in the anthology Demon Lovers back in the day.

Q: What’s red and white and wrapped in bell-bottoms?
A: Jane the Hippie Vampire after sucking a degenerate dry.

I was so honored when I received a letter from “Mina” of the Vampire Tours of San Francisco that she wanted Jane the Hippie Vampire featured in the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love tour. The tour is given year-round, with special events also available. For more information on the Vampire Tours of San Francisco, go to I’ll be attending the special Summer of Love tour, which starts at 8 pm on June 3rd, dressed in my own hippie-vampire finest.

18378691_10212850672929555_1425734790_oJane the Hippie Vampire fell victim during the Summer of Love, and has been trapped in a seventeen-year-old body ever since. Inspired during the hippie revival movement, Jane continues to seek redemption for the lives she’s taken, ever escaping her haunted past and the dark shadows she can’t seem to shake.

18378656_10212850672969556_2017625963_oI love exploring the hippie-vampire dichotomy in Jane. She’s such a kind, generous, selfless soul, and yet she finds herself capable of such savageness when she “goes red.” A true flower child, Jane just wants peace (cue the fingers), and she can’t seem to pull her head out of the Sixties. She’s watched so much change occur around her, yet she’s incapable of moving on with it all. Perhaps she sees her attire and motivations as a connection to the time when she was still innocent; by clinging to what she must know to be outdated attire — which also makes her stand out no matter where she goes — she’s clinging to the person she wishes she still was. Given what she’s seen of other vampires, she does have much to fear in the monster she could become if she were to allow it.

18339352_10212850673049558_1916010001_oIn anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, Jane the Hippie Vampire is going old school. For the first time ever, Love Beads, Flashbacks, Hair, and Dazed and Confused are available individually in trade paperback.

Love Beads
Dazed and Confused

On June 3rd, Jane will be celebrating in style with the Vampire Tour of San Francisco, where there will be a hippie vampire dress-up contest, along with all sorts of fun and prizes honoring the iconic Summer of Love’s 50th anniversary. Get your tickets here:

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