The De Sols: Backstory

I started writing about the De Sol family on, or around, the year 1996. It started with AOL RP rooms, and I brought out a table top character I put together once: Gabrielle De Sol. Originally, she started out as my dominatrix vampire. (Hey, I said it was for fun!) She evolved … I evolved … and the story of the De Sols came to fruition. A huge family tree blossomed, I recruited more people to play characters, and eventually … the “saga” was born.

The De Sols are a noble family. Mother De Sol was the goddess of the sun, and Father De Sol was Lord of Dragons and God of the moon. A star-crossed love brought them children, happiness, death, and destruction.

Before UNDERWORLD. Before GAME OF THRONES (TV). My love for dark fantasy took root in this simple concept: A family who was hunted by those who didn’t understand the love of two souls who were never meant to come together. It is a dark story, it is a story of Shakespearean tragedy. But overall? It’s the heart of who I am, and who I became, as a writer.

Some of the influences for Gabrielle were characters like “Razor” (comic book), and of course, there would be no roleplay without my love of D&D. Dragons, Drow, Trolls, Goblins … I love them all. Creatures with an epic story to pull you in, to lose yourself for a little while, and characters who become a part of you forever-those are the stories I love.

I write horror but I always mix an element of fantasy or science fiction to it. I feel it adds color and depth to the formula. With that in mind, I’ve decided to give you the De Sol Storyline, here. In the coming weeks, you’ll see it evolve, you’ll see the changes in real time. Hopefully, you feel a part of its process and growth. Feel free to comment and offer suggestions. Even if I don’t take the suggestions, it helps more than you know.

Until then … May the light fill the darkness and show you the way.

Artwork by Dorian Cleavenger

The Guide to Handling a Bad Review

One of the things I hear a lot about or get asked about are reviews.

Let me begin by saying this: as a new author I fell into this trap and it’s a very ugly trap to be in.

Reviews are never going to be 5 star across the board. In fact, having some bad reviews mixed into the gushing and glowing reviews is a good thing. It gives you and your book credibility. If a reader sees nothing but five stars they believe the reviewers are your friends and family.

So rule number one? Embrace the negative reviews.

Embrace them? Absolutely.

Every well thought out review has validity to it. Read it. Process it. Do better. The end.

Rule number two: Do. Not. Respond.

A lot of bad reviewers are also great “trollers”. Don’t get caught up in the fodder storm. You’ll end up wearing shit even if you “win” … which you won’t. It only makes you look bad in the end.

Rule number three: see rule number one, rinse, repeat.

Trust me, I know the temptation to chime in and set people straight. Let’s pick one of my own and put it out there.

I had a “duo” pick up a free copy of my book and review it. A review which seemed to be done in Facebook messenger then copied and pasted on their “review site”.

Reading the review was torture. It felt like a text-based, Mean Girls episode. It was incredibly juvenile but the worst part was when they said I needed serious edits when they themselves could not spell. Including “LOL” in a review is the first clue to run. Anyone who uses “OMG” and “LOL” in a review meant to be taken seriously isn’t worth my time of being upset, let alone a response. And believe me, I value my time.

You’re sending out a piece of art. Art is subjective. Not everyone gets your art and not everyone should. You’re not writing a how-to book so don’t expect everyone to understand your idea.

However, if your negatives outweigh the positives it might be something you need to consider. Take it as a learning experience and move forward. If you’re too busy reading and lamenting over a review you’re not writing and working towards something new. Your readers who enjoy your work are waiting. Get over it, dust your shoulders off, dry your tears, and get to work.

If you allow a nasty reviewer to keep you from doing what you love you’re not meant to be an author. This industry is cut-throat and you are supposed to be the expert. Get back to it or get into your cage. There’s no room for weak spines in horror.

Have you received a bad review? How did you handle it? Want to share a bad review and let us critique it for a good laugh? Leave it in comments!

Remember this one important fact: You write because you love to. Who cares if a couple people don’t like it? Are they so important it’s worth you losing your passion? Let me help you with the answer. No. No they aren’t.

And if you’re a reviewer who likes being nasty and rude for kicks? Go get a hug. Internet trolls are so 1997. It’s time to grow up. And get spellcheck “LOL”.

Let’s Get Real


I guess today I want to open up a little more about overcoming “issues” as an author and owner of a company who must be in spotlight.

When I first began writing, my biggest fear was having to meet people and having my life be on display. As an author, you make yourself vulnerable to a lot of things. The first thing you are exposed to is the obvious: Reviews. A bad review is like someone walking up to your newborn child and pointing out all the flaws she/he has. It’s natural to become (violently) protective and defensive.

The best advice I learned was to ignore it. Reviews are not for authors, they are for readers. Be happy they read the book and are talking about it.

I know this isn’t easy. Honestly? Veteran authors are still learning to deal with this every day. You aren’t a special case. We’ve all had them. Yes, even Stephen King.

The second thing I had to come face to face with is being social. Yikes. I am not a social creature. I like my cocoon (room for one, thank you) and I suffer from social anxiety. Let me be real and say, I feel awkward and exposed. While most people are laughing and having a good time, I’m wondering how I sound, if I said the right words, did I come off too boastful? Did I sound like a salesperson? Was there salad in my teeth? Was my hair a mess? Did I have resting bitch face on?

I could go on. Trust me. For days, even.

I got over this by having a support person with me. At first it was a friend or family member who I felt comfortable with, and then I got to know some colleagues who would attend the same events. Having a friendly face nearby who I could gravitate to did wonders for letting me cut loose a little. I also always have someone with me to watch the table so I can walk away and hide for a minute in order to avoid a full blown panic attack. Yes, the Darque Queen needs quiet moments alone. I don’t always enjoy the spotlight. In fact, it can make me debate whether to fabricate some rare, fatal virus to avoid it. I’m happier pushing others forward while I hang out and cheer from the sidelines.

The other way I got over it? I created the Darque Queen! She’s a character, or a mask, if you will. I wear the role and become her when I need to, then take the crown off and go back to being “me”.

Another get real fact? I need at least 48 hours to recover from public/social events. Weekend events take even longer. It drains me both physically, and emotionally.

Crowds? Forget it. My body is in a constant state of alert, my heart-rate is elevated, and I have to drop my instinct to throat punch anyone who gets too close while brushing my shoulder to get to a table.

Finally, and definitely not the least of all of these things: Bipolar. One of my colleagues asked me what kind as we discussed it-while at a convention-and I was still in it and completely misunderstood what he was asking!  derp!

I’m rapid cycling, which means I can go from zero to holy-psycho-bitch-off-her-ever-lovin-meds faster than you can blink. But in a silent way (which scares a lot of people). Most won’t even see it coming or going. Listen, I have to be professional. I also represent a lot of other people. I can’t let things like issues take over. Worst of all, I can’t let it take over in public. Depression is like wearing a spacesuit. You look out through the glass bubble helmet, words are blurred and distant, you can’t touch anything or feel it, and you’re floating in space a million miles away from everyone. You want to engage. You want to feel human again, but humanity is a million miles away. It’s safer to float in quiet orbit, watching it all like a movie crawl across your peripherals, than to discard the suit and risk … well, dying.

In the last 3 months, I’ve done more socializing, more public speaking, and more events than ever in my whole life. I’m getting stronger, but I know the core of who I am won’t always be. It takes practice, and it takes being a little forgiving of your own flaws. It also means using your middle finger once in awhile. If the crowd can’t treat you like a human, elbow check them in the face. Professionally, of course.

If this has helped you, don’t be afraid to comment and let me know. If there are ways you deal with it, share them. Someone else will be grateful from space.

REVIEW: Exorcist Falls by Jonathan Janz

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Chicago is gripped by terror. The Sweet Sixteen Killer is brutally murdering young women, and the authorities are baffled.
When the police are called to an affluent home in the middle of the night, they learn that a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy has attacked his family. The boy exhibits signs of demonic possession, and even more troublingly, he knows too much about the Sweet Sixteen killings. Father Jason Crowder, a young priest assigned to the case, must marshal his courage in order to save the boy and the entire city from the forces of evil.

But this is a darkness mankind has never encountered before. It craves more than blood. And it won’t rest until it possesses Father Crowder’s soul.

Jonathan Janz’s brand new release brings the original novella that started it all—Exorcist Road—and a brand-new full-length novel (Exorcist Falls) together for a shattering experience in supernatural terror.

I started EXORCIST FALLS because Jonathan and I have an interloping circle, and when I saw he’d written a book about Exorcisms-one of my favorite genres to read-and was also from my hometown of Chicago … I knew I had to give it a go.

I was not disappointed in any way. In fact, I was proud of my fellow Chi-town author for a well told and frightening story. Small details of Chicago filled every part of the tale, and brought a sense of nostalgia and history only someone who grew up, or at least lived for a quite some time, in the city would know. Mentions of the “Killer Clown”, John Wayne Gacy, Wrigley Field, the Blackhawks, and Rosemary Road, gave this story the ironclad validation of being a true Chicago-based horror.

Every single character was so well developed, I felt like I knew them from the old ‘hood and stomping grounds. Vivid details allowed me to feel, hear, smell, and recreate everything in my mind. I’m not ashamed to say it gave me some wild dreams. The scene where Father Crowder is cornered by the spirit in Casey’s room is my favorite part, and the suspense was in perfect pace with the creep factor. Well done. I went back and read it again, just to savor it.

The story leads you into several different directions while you play Sherlock Holmes, deducing from the suspects presented, who the real killer is. At the same time, there is a moral reflection to be had in this book. Is evil really evil? Are people who do evil able to be saved? Can someone who is evil do good?

Jonathan is a talented writer who weaves a world of horror around your neck like a rosary, leaving you with nothing but faith to get you through dark, twisted tunnels. I’ll definitely be reading more of his work. I’m not really one who likes to compare authors to others, even though I understand it helps establish style when recommending them. Some have compared him to Steven King, but I have to disagree without devaluing Janz’s writing skill. He’s closer to William P. Blatty, in my opinion, not only for subject matter, but for his classic writing style.

To find out more about the author, please visit his site:

REVIEW: Dark Homages II by HR Arswyd

A collection of “weird tales” in the tradition of Lovecraft, Aickman, etc. with contemporary influencing including Moore, and Lansdale.

Dark Homages II: Ill Met by Moonlight by [Arswyd, H. R.]


Let me just begin by saying, in this collection of five stories you will get a variety of stories ranging from ethnic influence as well as style influence. I love HR Arswyd’s range in story telling.

Each story takes you on a journey through a different time period and you get a strong sense of what it was like in both description and language. Arswyd’s knowledge, and understanding of the story as well as the characters shine through with with elegance and poise. What I mean is, you won’t be met with words dug out of a thesaurus for the sake of being “pretty”. Each word is carefully laid out and presented. Being a self-published author isn’t easy, and for that, minor flaws add to the value of this diamond in the rough. There is a classic simplicity in how he pieces every story together, proving the author is not only well-read but writes for the passion of writing. This is an author to keep an eye out for.

The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride

#amreading #amwriting #horror #womeninhorror #Halloween #Giveaway

Young Morrigan, the daughter of a local aristocrat, is full of innocence and life. Angus Wulfe is an eccentric and devious doctor who stalks her while he cultivates a plan to win her affection. Their two worlds collide in a grisly twist of fate when the Plague arrives on the shores of their town. With no cure in sight, and bodies dropping incrementally every day, the doctor uses his influence, along with his reputation in medical advances – stemming from his clandestine and macabre experiments-to manipulate Morrigan’s father. In return for her hand in marriage, the doctor would save her life. Clinging to life, Morrigan begins to feel a change. Has the doctor cured her, or did her father make a deal with the Devil?

♦◊Win your own copy on GoodReads


Lisa Vasquez proves with her novel “The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride” she is a writer of nightmarish vision and a new, poetic voice in today’s horror genre. Her prose sings like a sonnet while driving the knife of dread ever further into her reader’s imagination. In her villain, Angus Wulfe, Vasquez has created someone so dastardly and surgical in his malevolence he lives and breathes on the page. I also hope to see Wulfe again in another installment, if possible, as I was sorry to see the book come to a close. Wulfe is as terrifying in his polished yet sociopathic intent as Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter. “The Unfleshed” sets the standard for the modern horror novel, and raises the bar quite high!

– Peter Molnaron, Author

A copy of The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride, was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the author, Lisa Vasquez in exchange for an honest review. This is said review. This book is published by Stitched Smile Publications.

It has been quite a while since I have read anything from Lisa Vasquez. I think this is a combination of me being busy and Lisa being hellish busy setting up Stitched Smile Publications. I have been watching from the wings and this press is putting out some rather nice titles.

The first book I read of Lisa’s was The Unsaintly. I really liked it but it didn’t tick all the boxes for me so I was hoping for a bit more from The Unfleshed.

This is what I thought.

The year is 1348. The Plague is ravaging everything in its wake. In London, Doctor Angus Wulfe is convinced he can find a cure. For this, everyone thinks him a saint. Little do they know the level of depravity that goes on behind his closed doors.

He is in love with Morrigan. When she becomes infected, Wulfe convinces her father that he can save her, as long as he consents to giving Wulfe her hand in marriage.

Is he really Morrigan’s salvation, or is he really going to cause the total destruction of London.

In terms of characters in this one, Angus Wulfe is without doubt the main one. In the times, he is known as an upstanding member of society, purely because he is a doctor. No one truly understands the level of evil lurking inside this man. He is one of the characters I have hated most in my reading career. His sidekick, Marshall, goes along with most of the bad things Wulfe does. But he has a conscience at least. It’s a case of being too afraid to do the right thing. Morrigan is the beauty in this tale opposite Wulfe’s beast. Coming from a well to do family, she is well respected and lusted after by many. She was destined for bigger and better things before the plague hit.

There are a host of other characters that all play their parts extremely well in this tale, but I want to talk more about the writing than the characters in this one.

The plot is simple. Wulfe loves Morrigan but doesn’t stand a hope in hell of ever getting her. Until she gets ill, and he cons her father into his consent to their marriage. He takes Morrigan back to his pad and……….

It sounds simple. It actually sounds a bit like a chick flick, doesn’t it? Ugly boy falls in love with beautiful girl who wouldn’t normally go near him and they end up together. The sort of film you could watch with your mother.

Oh, how very wrong you are!

The previous book I read from Ms Vasquez was very deep. It was confusing at times and the story took a bit of getting used to in terms of how everything came together in the end.

Not this baby. This is horrible. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I mean it in the most positive way possible. Lisa Vasquez has a really nasty streak in her, in terms of her writing. The previous book was centred around a wholesome girl. This one is centred around, as I said earlier, a character that I hated more than most I have ever read about. He is vile. He is evil personified. If he was standing beside the person you most hated in the world and you had a gun with two bullets and were allowed to shoot them both, you would put both bullets in Wulfe.

The clever thing about this? You wouldn’t hate him as much if it wasn’t for the way Lisa Vasquez has written him. This can only point to one thing. This girl writes good!

The story itself is simplistic, there are no two ways about that. It has the possibility of turning into a rather stale tale but Ms Vasquez keeps the story entertaining and revolting at the same time. Each time you think it is going to go lame, she introduces something else and takes it back to the horrific side of things again by introducing some scenes that I would not like to read whilst eating.

The story develops very well into a fast-paced race against time, for both Wulfe, and those against him.

So why not full marks then? There were a couple of things that I found to be a little off-putting, for want of a better phrase. Even though it is made clear that this story is set it 1348, it felt, to me anyway, like the times got a little bit mixed up. There were a couple of occasions where I found myself believing this was set much later in history and it pulled me out of the story a bit. I have a feeling that I will be the only person alive to think this when reading the book but I need to be honest after all.

I also was a little disappointed in the ending. Again, I am probably being over critical but it felt as if it ended very quickly. A bit rushed.

Putting that aside though, this is a crackin book. Lisa Vasquez has taken some interesting facts from our history and given them a distinctly evil twist, turning this story into a style of horror that some of our ancestral horror writers would be very proud of, if they had written it.

To summarise: a horror tale set in olden times that will thoroughly entertain you while turning your stomach and having you scream for someone to kill the bad guy the whole way through.

General rating:
★★★★ enjoyed this one.

Horror rating:
★★★★ certainly scary.

‘The Unfleshed’ is definitely the scariest thing I’ve read this year. I pride myself on my de-sensitivity to violence and my ability to stomach even the most macabre Rob Zombie flick- but this shook me a little.

From the very first page Vasquez drops us into the proverbial and she doesn’t stop hitting us with gore until somewhere after the second chapter. This is not a ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ horror, nor is it a build-you-up-for-five-hundred-pages slow burner. ‘The Unfleshed’ hits you in the face on page one and doesn’t let you go until long after you realise you are dealing with a serial killer. Hard hitting is an understatement. Reading it is almost a dare…you dare yourself to turn the page, you dare yourself to finish the chapter…It would seem that if you want a good scare you need to get this woman to do it.

The cold depth of the male antagonist gives a fresh approach to the serial killer genre. A true killer- an evil maniac; is not Dexter. He is not approachable and friendly, he is not warm and fuzzy and he does not make you laugh. Vasquez has somehow managed to capture the monster without making us want to throw up all over the page. Great work lady, keep paving the way for women in horror.

And one last thing… Do not read this before you go to bed.

– Katriona E MacMillan
(author: Edelwiess; Dark Science )