Never Enough 2019

Every year I recap the writing triumphs and disappointments of the previous twelve months. Every year I feel like I haven’t done enough, but that was especially true in 2019. The year started strong, then I got consumed with revising Angelus Rose. I wish I’d had the energy to hustle more. Hopefully 2020 will be more productive.

Book publications:

T4tcf new bookmarkTales for the Camp Fire: An Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief came out on May 2, 2019. Since then, it’s raised $2200 for survivors of the Camp Fire, which devastated Paradise, California in November 2018.  Every aspect of assembling the book — from the glorious cover art to the stories donated to the events the local Horror Writers Association did to promote it — exceeded my expectations. I am extremely proud of this book. If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, pick one up at Amazon:

Short fiction publications:

ODQ5 cover“Something in the Water,” an Alondra DeCourval story set in San Francisco’s Academy of Sciences, appeared in Occult Detective Quarterly #5, published January 15, 2019.

“In the Pines,” inspired by the blues song of the same name, appeared in The Siren’s Call, published on February 26, 2019. You can read the whole issue for free here:

“The Arms Dealer’s Daughter,” featuring Ariel Shaad and Raena Zacari from my space opera trilogy, appeared in Space & Time #133, published on March 20, 2019.

A new version of “Still Life with Shattered Glass” appeared in Tales for the Camp Fire, published by Tomes & Coffee Press in April.

Shallow waters vol 1“Silence of the Sirens” appeared in Shallow Waters, Volume 1: A Flash Fiction Anthology edited by Joe Mynhardt, published by Crystal Lake Publishing on June 24, 2019. Check the ebook out on Amazon:

“Rock Faces” appeared on the Ladies of Horror Flash Project on October 29, 2019. You can read it for free at this extremely long link (sorry!):

Short fiction sales:

Nothing upcoming. I wasn’t great about sending stories out in 2019. I only got 4 rejections last year, but I’ve got 5 stories out that I haven’t heard back on yet. Hopefully one of them will land.

Short Nonfiction Publications:

Mental Floss was so happy with how many of you read my 2-year-old cemetery travel piece that they published a new & improved version on October 10:

My essay “Fire Season,” about my brushes with wildfire in California, was published on Hook of a Book to promote TALES FOR THE CAMP FIRE on June 28:

My essay on “What Every Writer Needs” was published on No Wasted Ink on May 17, 2019:

My essay “Overlooked Elements of Promotion” went up at the Online Writers Conference or #HOWConference on February 24, 2019.

I only managed 4 columns for the Horror Writers Association newsletter in 2019. I tried to quit the column, but the editor is very persuasive (read: extremely complimentary). I really should give it up since I continually miss the deadlines. Maybe this year.

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5 Questions for Juliette Wade

AuthorPhotoColumnPeekJuliette Wade and I keep running into each other at our local genre conventions. We’ve been on panels together a couple of times, even shared the table of contents of the Strange California book, but we never sat down to chat until last FogCon, when I asked more about her work.  She told me about her amazing book Mazes of Power, which will be out next February. You can preorder it now. I’ll put the link below.

Juliette Wade never outgrew of the habit of asking “why” about everything. This path led her to study foreign languages and to complete degrees in both anthropology and linguistics. Combining these with a fascination for worldbuilding and psychology, she creates multifaceted science fiction that holds a mirror to our own society. The author of short fiction in magazines including Analog, Clarkesworld, and Fantasy & Science Fiction, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her Aussie husband and her two sons, who support and inspire her. Her debut novel, Mazes of Power, will come out from DAW in 2020.

Mazes of Power FCOThe cavern city of Pelismara has stood for a thousand years. The Great Families of the nobility cling to the myths of their golden age while the city’s technology wanes.

When a fever strikes, and the Eminence dies, seventeen-year-old Tagaret is pushed to represent his Family in the competition for Heir to the Throne. To win would give him the power to rescue his mother from his abusive father and marry the girl he loves.

The struggle for power distorts everything in this highly stratified society and the fever is still loose among the inbred, susceptible nobles. Tagaret’s sociopathic younger brother, Nekantor, is obsessed with their family’s success. Nekantor is willing to exploit Tagaret, his mother, and her new servant Aloran to defeat their opponents.

Can he be stopped? Should he be stopped? And will they recognize themselves after the struggle has changed them?

Did something in the real world inspire Mazes of Power?

Mazes of Power itself was not inspired by anything in the real world, but I can track the origins of the world of Varin back to a trip that I took to France when I was twelve years old. I had a chance to drive and camp around France at that time. We went to visit a place called the Gouffre de Padirac. It’s an underground cave system. You climb stairs down and down through an enormous sinkhole, and from there enter an extensive system of caverns where you can board a boat and continue your tour along an underground river. At one point, the ceiling is 110 meters above the surface of the water. I was absolutely awed by the place — and a year later, I invented a world where people lived in high-tech underground cities.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

I went back and forth on this question for a long time, because there are so many scenes I love in this book. In the end, I went with a scene that I love because I’m a geek who loves scenes of interpersonal interaction between people with very different cultural backgrounds. There’s a scene where Lady Tamelera, a kind noblewoman, invites her manservant Imbati Aloran to play a game of keyzel marbles with her. Keyzel marbles is somewhat similar to the game Halma, in that you have a round board with cradles in which colored marbles sit. Keyzel is a two-player game where people attempt to move blue or green stone marbles step by step across an obsidian board. Tamelera’s home has a gaming table and chairs made of inlaid wood — a rare and expensive substance in Varin. Aloran, having sworn himself to Tamelera’s service, truly wants to grant her wishes and play the game with her, but can’t bring himself to sit down in the extravagant chairs, and can’t wrap his mind around the idea that in order to play fairly, he would have to attempt to defeat her.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

My general writing process is to outline as far ahead as I can, usually several chapters ahead, but then to start writing the book from the beginning and continue in chronological order until I reach the end. In the case of Mazes of Power, I attempted to write it once and my momentum petered out at about the 40% mark because the outline was so long and unwieldy. At that point, I took a step back and realized that I had made the wrong person the primary protagonist. Mazes has three point of view characters: Tagaret, Nekantor, and Aloran. The first draft that didn’t work had been treating Aloran as the main character, when in fact it needed to be Tagaret. Once I had rewritten the book so that Tagaret’s was organizing its structure, everything fell into place. I was able to outline it all the way to the end, and able to write it in a way that worked.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

The best thing that happened was that I learned I had sold audiobook rights for both Mazes of Power and its sequel. The reason why this was awesome – besides just that audiobooks are awesome — was that I was able to stop teaching part-time and concentrate fully on my work on the novels.

What do you have planned next?

I’m currently writing the contracted sequel to Mazes of Power, entitled Transgressions of Power. This book also takes place in the world of Varin, and many of the characters from Mazes appear in it. However, it features all new points of view and goes to many places we’ve never seen before. I’m especially excited to be exploring the world of the Arissen officer caste in this book, given that I spent so much time with the Imbati servant caste in Mazes.

Preorder a copy of Mazes of Power on Amazon:

Check out all the books Juliette has had stories in: 

Or visit her website:

And read her blog:

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5 Questions for Sheryl R. Hayes

Writer lower resI met Sheryl R. Hayes at BayCon, my local SFF convention that takes place over Memorial Day weekend each year.  Sheryl usually has an amazing crocheted dragon perched on her shoulder or some fabulous handmade dress.  She’s also an author. Talk about triple threat!

Sheryl R. Hayes can often be found untangling plot threads or the yarn her cats have been playing with. In addition to writing, she is a cosplayer focusing on knit and crochet costumes and works full time at a Bay Area water company.

Her latest book is called Chaos Wolf:

Bitten by a werewolf. Taught by a vampire. At this rate, she’s going to start a war.

Literature major Jordan Abbey ordered a double mocha latte, but it wasn’t supposed to come with a side order bite by a love-sick werewolf. When a vampire comes to her rescue, gut instinct tells her he has questionable motives. But he’s the only one she can trust to help get in touch with her inner animal.

Within a week, her smart mouth lands her in trouble with the hostile Alpha of the local pack and the stiff-necked vampire Elder. She now has less than a moon cycle to master shape changing… or else. And the besotted werewolf who started this whole mess is stalking Jordan and killing her friends. He won’t take no for an answer.

In the Northern California town of Rancho Robles where the children of the Wolf and the Bat share an uneasy coexistence, one woman makes an epic mess of the status quo.


 Did something in the real world inspire Chaos Wolf?

Chaos Wolf is the book I wanted to read, but wasn’t able to find. In most of the urban fantasy stories I read, werewolves hated vampires and vice versa.  The explanation given was it is how it had always been.  I wanted to delve into the why, and if the rift between them could be healed.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

After Montgomery disappears and is presumed to be kidnapped, Jordan goes to Marcus, Elder Vampire of the Rancho Robles Conclave for help.  She doesn’t know that Alpha Shane of the Black Oak Pack is there to discuss Jordan’s latest indiscretion. When they start arguing over who is the cause of her poor behavior, Jordan forgets herself and chews them both out. She storms out, then immediately freaks out over what she did. It was fun to write the emotional whiplash she experienced when she realizes she’s mouthed off to the two most powerful supernaturals in the city.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

I had a strong idea of how the book end and rough steps about to get there, so I wrote up an outline to help keep me on track. But I left in enough flexibility that if another idea popped into being, it could be slotted in.

Then it was a matter of finding times to write.  I can’t tell you how many nights I spent transcribing scenes from scrap paper I had scrawled dialogue on during breaks at my day job.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

With the help of several friends, I threw a launch party at BayCon. It started around 9:00 PM and I thought I’d be lucky if we had a few people show up. I spent the evening chatting until things died down for the first time in the evening.  That was when we checked the clock and realized it was 2:00 AM.

What do you have planned next?

Chaos Hunt, the sequel will be out in October 2020. Keep an eye on my blog ( or my newsletter ( for the official release date.

You can check out her website at

Buy yourself a copy of Chaos Wolf in paperback or for the Kindle on Amazon:

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5 Questions for T. Thorn Coyle

Thorn blue hair 2018I met Thorn Coyle years and years ago, through Borderlands Bookstore. Although I barely knew them, Thorn contacted me just after my kid was born and told me that they were going to start writing in a cafe every week — and that kind of structure was exactly what I needed, so they would expect to see me there.  I was a little taken aback and didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but to be honest, those writing dates saved my sanity.  I plunked the kid in the stroller, hopped on BART, and wrote my way out of postpartum loneliness and depression. Thorn may not even know they saved my life, but I’m grateful nonetheless.

Officially, T. Thorn Coyle is author of two contemporary fantasy series, The Witches of Portland and The Panther Chronicles. They have written multiple books on magical and spiritual practice, including Sigil Magic for Writers, Artists, & Other CreativesKissing the Limitless, and Evolutionary Witchcraft. Thorn’s short fiction, poetry, and essays appear in many anthologies, magazines, and collections such as Fiction RiverPulphouse, and Fantasy in the City. 
Thorn has taught globally for decades and currently teaches online at Lifelong Creative.

An interloper to the Pacific Northwest, Thorn likes long walks, trees, and tea. They’ve been arrested at least five times.

Their most recent book is By Dark, the 8th book in the Witches of Portland series. If you like fast-paced plots, real-world issues, and a dash of romance, then you’ll love this magical series.

A witch with a bad feeling. A partner facing her own challenges. With the help of the ancestors, can they stop danger in its tracks?

Alejandro has it good, except everything in his life feels wrong. But when his partner challenges him, and a possible new love interest comes knocking, the last thing he wants is to face another challenge, this time from a long-dead family member. As this ancestor desperately tries to communicate the danger targeting Alejandro’s friends, he gets the sense there’s more to the situation than meets the eye.

With the help of his coven, Alejandro must uncover the deep secrets of his family’s past, and the secrets Portland holds. To protect his relationships and his life, he must risk everything he knows before death strikes yet again…


Did something in the real world inspire By Dark?

The whole Witches of Portland series is inspired by real world problems and events: police violence, greedy real-estate developers, the sweeps of homeless camps, violence against women, fascism…

Plus, By Dark includes navigating queer, polyamorous relationships, which is a real world thing that doesn’t often get written about. At least, not in my experience.

Still, despite a grounding in the real world, the paranormal elements are key to the plot, as they are in the entire series.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

There are two scenes I particularly love, which are diametrically opposed. The first is when Alejandro flashes back to an ancestral memory and realizes he’s in real, personal danger. I felt a lot of tension in my body as I wrote that scene. It gets a bit hairy.

The second scene is the meet cute with his new lover, Thomas. It’s both delightful and a bit awkward, as so many meet cutes are. It was so refreshing to write a bisexual poly meet cute!

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

I brainstormed the whole series while flat on my back, laid out with my chronic illness, barely able to work. I let my imagination run wild with images of a coven of witches fighting for justice in the streets of Portland, Oregon. I couldn’t be out in the streets myself, but with Arrow and Crescent, I could imagine all sorts of exciting scenarios: Avenging Goddesses. Insistent ancestors. Ghosts. Black-clad anarchists. Magic. Love. During every phase of the moon and every season of the year, the witches were busy.

These books were fun to write because—unlike my previous series, The Panther Chronicles—they weren’t research heavy. After I pick the two central POV characters, which are Alejandro and Shekinah in By Dark, I jot down loose scene brainstorms onto 3×5 cards and then let the characters lead me further and further into the story. They characters are always changing things around, which is why I’m not a heavy plotter.

I use a combination of dictation and typing, of scene cards and writing into the dark. It’s a pretty loose, organic process. Every book is slightly different.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

There was no one thing, other than the ongoing positive response. People have become attached to Arrow and Crescent coven, which is great. It’s always a wonderful feeling when people relate to something you’ve written. I’ve had a few people tell me they’ve already read the series more than once and are waiting for Book 9, which is the conclusion!

One piece of feedback I’ve gotten on By Dark in particular is that folks enjoyed seeing the challenges a stable couple go through, even while they are both involved in romances with other people. Since I enjoyed writing it, it was great to hear that people resonated with that.

One thing that didn’t happen during promotion, but was a bit of delightful synchronicity, happened around book one: By Earth. There’s a café that figures largely in the series, based on one of the places I regularly write. In By Earth, Cassie—a witch with curly red hair—works in that café. Months later, I walked in for a writing session and there was a new barista. She had curly red hair. Her name was Cassie.

That was pretty cool, and the café owner—who loves the series— was very excited!

What do you have planned next?

Witches of Portland Book 9 launches in mid-December, completing the series. I’ve been brainstorming and world-building a new series for months now. It’s a post-apocalyptic epic fantasy called The Steel Clan Saga. I’m really excited by it. It’s been great to research different technologies and explore some of the characters, plus, I’m working with an amazing artist on original art for the covers.

It’s always great to stretch myself. I try to learn something new with every new series. Epic fantasy is something I’ve enjoyed reading, but this will be my first time writing it. I look forward to the challenge.

Other than that, I write essays and short stories regularly for my Patreon folks, teach online creativity classes, and go for long walks in Portland, dreaming up new ideas. Walks, tea, whiskey, and story. That’s what’s always next.

Get to know Thorn at

Pick up a copy of By Dark on Amazon at:

Or explore the whole Witches of Portland series:

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5 Questions for R. L. Merrill

DSC_0690I met Ro Merrill last year at the Author Day at the San Mateo Public Library — and I immediately adored her.  She has bright pink hair, plenty of tattoos, and loves cemeteries.  We’ve run into each other a couple more times at the Library and I’ve discovered that I love to hear her read her work in public.  Plus, she always has the most amazing dresses!  I asked if I could interview her, to get to know her better…and she has a holiday romance out, so it seemed like kismet.

Once upon a time… A teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ‘n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and starting purging her demons. Several self-published books and a debut gay romance with Dreamspinner Press later, R.L. Merrill is still striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. She writes stories set in the places she loves most: Hollywood, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Iowa, and Northern California. Ro also loves connecting with other authors online, as well as at the annual Romantic Times Booklovers Convention and chapter meetings for the Romance Writers of America, of which she’s been a member since 2014. A sucker for underdogs, Ro has adopted a wide variety of pets including cats, dogs, rats, snakes, fish, and a chameleon named Godzilla. Her love of horror is evident the moment you walk in her door and find yourself surrounded by decorative skulls and quirky artwork from around the world. You can find her lurking on social media where she loves connecting with readers, or educating America’s youth, being a mom taxi to two busy kids, in the tattoo chair trying desperately to get that back piece finished, or head banging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Dover Billings sold his handcrafted wares at the Dickens Fair in San Francisco for over twenty years. He’s not as outgoing as the other artisans at this yearly Victorian celebration and prefers to observe the festivities from the shadows. That is until a new corset-maker moves into the booth next door and unsettles his carefully constructed life. Landry Malcolm is handsome, well-dressed, and the life of the party… one Dover wants no part of. Too bad he’s attracted to his confident younger rival.

Landry desperately wishes to get through to the beautiful artist next door, but every move he makes seems to be the wrong one…until a drunken kiss seems to break through Dover’s serious demeanor. Miscommunications plague attempts to find common ground, leaving Landry wondering what—if anything—he can do to make things right. Will a custom-made peace offering open the door to friendship, cooperation… and maybe more?

Did something in the real world inspire A Peace Offering?

I shared a classroom for years with a teacher friend who is an actor/participant at the annual Charles Dickens Family Christmas Fair and Holiday Party. The fair has been a huge part of her life for decades. For the weeks leading up to the event every year, I’d hear about her massive preparations: sewing a new dress or undergarments, creating hairpieces, all the building and workshops that would take place. I went to visit her several years at the fair and the transformation of the San Francisco Cow Palace into Victorian London never ceased to amaze me. The fair was fabulous for the actors, the scenery, and the food, but it was the artisans there that I looked forward to seeing every year. I did a lot of my Christmas shopping there, as a matter of fact. So when my publisher put out a call for holiday stories with the theme of “homemade,” I thought what if a smoldering and serious artist was vying with the new corset-maker for the best retail spot at the fair? What kind of sparks could fly at this unique event? A Peace Offering was born. I’m so very proud of this story.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

The drunken kiss in the men’s room at the planning meeting.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

I actually used a tool this time. Amy Lane, authoress extraordinaire, let me look at an early draft of a craft book she’s putting together on writing category romance. She had so many helpful hints, it made the story that much stronger.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

Having folks who attend/work Dickens Fair say they loved it!

What do you have planned next?

SO MUCH WRITING! I’m working diligently to have at least book two in the Summer of Hush series out in 2020, plus there will be more paranormal silliness as part of the Magic and Mayhem Universe PLUS I’ll be featured at Book Lovers Con in Nashville as a hostess of the Rustic Prom and I can’t WAIT! I’ll have goodies for everyone who gets to join me in the VIP room.

Scope out A Peace Offering for the kindle at Amazon: or pick it up direct from the publisher: or find it at your favorite ebook retailer:

Link up with R. L. Merrill on social media:

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