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

#Mentoring #WritingTips – Make Every Word Count

Today I want to address words and how to make them count. I know I’ll get some pushback on this from the masses but remember: these are only my opinions. Use what works for you.

When I start mentoring someone new, I ask them to go through their story and remove a certain word first thing. The word, “that”. This word is what I call an empty calorie (junk food) among the serving of healthy words. It’s become overused these days because it’s common speak (street talk, as I call it).

Try it. Go through one paragraph and remove the word that if it doesn’t change the sentence. Now read it again. Does it sound more concise? Do you miss the word if it’s gone? Does it give your sentence a “gut punch” effect? Finally, does it make your words and their delivery sound more confident?

Trust me, I still have to go through and remove them from my own writing. What I’ve noticed, however, is it’s such an overused and unnecessary word, it drenches the pages. I couldn’t believe it when I pulled 6 books off the shelf to peruse the first page, how many jumped off the page at me. I couldn’t continue reading because the sheer number of “that’s” took me out of the story before it ever began.

Go through your own story in Word. Do a word search for “that” and see how many times you’ve used it. Is it 20 times? 50? More?

The next step after removing unnecessary “that’s” is to search for any word ending in -ly.

Here’s where I get challenged most often: using an -ly adverb is lazy. I know. Hearing it stings. That’s what mentoring is, though. Correcting bad habits and creating good ones.

Ok, why do we remove them?

Reason number 1: Most -ly adverbs (quickly, slowly, quietly) can be considered perspective.

Example: He backed up slowly.

How slow? If someone is backing up, are they surprised? Afraid? Dizzy?

Try using your words and make them count.

He took a few steps back. Each step was tentative, seeking the ground beneath him to keep from tripping.


I raised my hand in slow motion, the room spinning around me.


Unsure of where the chair was, I took one slow step back before the other followed.

See how it gives the sentences a better visual? Instead of using “slowly” I gave a better idea of what slowly looked like.

Most times, you can change the position of a few words to eliminate the -ly word and it will make the sentence sound more confident, leaving the reader with a solid description of what’s happening. Adding -ly gives a meek sound to your words and gives the impression of a week vocabulary.

Are you up for the challenge? Give this a try and let me know if it worked for you. Do you feel it made your story more confident sounding? I’d love to hear from you!

If you love these tips and want more, please comment and share!

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 )

Discussion: Word Count VS Word Quality

One of the things I encounter a lot when I’m mentoring, or speaking to new authors, is the question, “What’s the average word count for _____?”

It’s not uncommon for new authors to face this daunting question, then fashion their work according to the rule of “word count”. My answer, however, never changes. I tell the, “Focus on the quality of the words, not the word count.”

I know there are naysayers out there who firmly believe in stringent rules for word counts. A novel must be over 60-75k words. Unless it’s in the Fantasy genre. Then we aim higher for 90k words. While these are fair goals to shoot for, it can start to hinder progress. If the author is caught up in shaving, or padding their story, the story itself suffers.

An author needs to be focused on things like character development, story development, timelines, grammar, and plot. Without these, who cares how many words are in between the front and back cover? I’ve encountered a fair amount of books where the story idea is a fantastic one, but the execution is flat. There’s nothing worse than getting your reader hyped for a cool plot then leaving them high and dry.

Essentially, when you put the time into the elements which make a story great, you establish trust between yourself and your reader. They know, no matter how thick, or thin your book is, they are in for a ride. And to be fair, you should always label your book in the correct category once it’s complete. Readers are very particular. When they purchase a book and expect a novel but only get 20k words, they get upset, too. Imagine you’re on the best date of your life, and right in the middle of it, the person turns and says, “I have to go.” Kind of the same thing, here. Especially if they are paying the price of a novel.

Another thing to consider, is editing. Once your story goes to an editor, they will decide whether your story can best be told without the padding, or if it requires more words. The best exercise you can practice, is to audit the words you use.

Ahh, now there’s a word we don’t see often. We all know what editing is, but what is auditing?

For me, auditing is when you take stock of the words you’ve used and ask yourself this question, “Is this a powerful image?”

You want your readers to use all five senses when they read your story. We all have our own ideas of: beautiful, smells bad, dark, ugly. To be honest, it’s all perspective. Why leave it to them to interpret? Instead of saying, “It smelled bad.” Drag the reader kicking and screaming into it with you! Only – you have to be careful. Do not overload them with adjectives. This is what it means when editors say, “show, don’t tell.”

Simple examples:

Instead of, “There were a lot of trees.” 

You could say, “It was a lavish treeline.”

Same amount of words but paints a better picture.

I hope this has helped you in some way. Let me hear your thoughts! Going forward, I’m going to post some exercises, more tips and tricks, as well as anything else I can dig out of my box of treasures. I hope you’ll interact  and share with me. Let me know how something has helped you in the comments below!


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Women in Horror – I’m Not Bitter, I’m Sexy

Artwork by Tiff Trocki

Last week we delved into the many reasons why I felt women were a minority in the Horror genre. This week I’d like to continue with Part 2.

Why am I starting with this now, when Women in Horror month isn’t until February? Oh, it’s simple. February, is the shortest month of the year, for one. Also, I don’t need anyone to tell me when to celebrate being a woman. I do it everyday. Secondly, women get a period every month, why not have something wonderful to talk about to negate the dreadful week-long menses we must endure to give you life so you can complain about us celebrating our own gender.

I’m not an angry female. I’m comfortable in my skin. No, stop. I love my skin. In fact, I love everything about being a female from the softness of my skin, to the strength of my spirit. I love the complexity of my emotions. I love the nurturing warmth of which only a mother’s arms can give, and the ease of which I can stop hearts with chill of my gaze.

To me, being a woman is fascinating, beautiful, maddening, and sexy. I embrace it every aspect of it. The more it drives men mad, the more I love it. The more a man understands his own power and uses it, the more fun the games between man and women become.

So, now that I have expressed that I’m not angry or salty, nor am I whining because I think women need some special treatment. (A throne, daily worship, and adoration, perhaps? Anything less, is disappointing, of course.)

Women are getting crafty. For example, many women are deciding to branch out into smaller niches like “Crime” because they understand that the Horror genre is a male saturate genre and their books aren’t getting enough attention.

Patricia Cromwell is a great example. She uses her time and experience working for the Chief Medical Examiner to establish her area of expertise and give us not only a realistic version of murder and crime scene, but from woman’s point of view. And, let’s face it, women see things differently. Don’t believe me? Try to argue with a woman. She’s built up an argument for months before it’s ever come to the table.

Is this a bad thing? No, not at all. I give them credit for finding their way in the writing industry that works for them. I only wish they could step into whatever genre they *wanted* to, and have the same level of success. That, my dear reader, is my whole point.

Jack the Ripper, is Jack the Ripper. A gruesome, sadistic serial killer whether the genre is “Crime” or “Horror”.

Weigh in! Comment and let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear what your opinions are. 

Female Horror Writers (Women in Horror)


Every year in February we celebrate “Women in Horror” and the question comes up about whether there is sexism in the horror genre. In interviews, I get asked if I feel it is harder for women in horror than it is for men. Today, I’d like to discuss this and give my thoughts, and I’d like to hear from you guys.

In order to understand the gravity of this topic, we have to do some digging. I wanted to research “Female Best Selling Horror Writers” so I might have some back pocket information on which to speak.

On Ranker’s list of “The All Time Greatest Horror Writers” (it wasn’t even all female because the search engine couldn’t pull up such a specific request), there were 100 authors. Of these 100 authors, a quick count were approximately 10 female authors. Something struck me while I stared at the list, though. It wasn’t the small number of female authors. It was the fact that in the top ranks, the female authors who were named were authors who had lived – and died – a long time ago.

Our beloved Mary Shelley, for example, who paved the way for women to not only write horror but to write intelligent, well-thought out, science fiction. Which, I might add, wasn’t too far off from real science (organ transplants save lives every day).

Of course Anne Rice is on the list, and is still writing to this day, but to this list I say … “Really? Is there no other female author who is deserving of the Best Seller title?”

There are a few other things which need addressing as well. Horror isn’t for everyone. Let’s face it. Someone women don’t want to write horror. (Gasp! I know, right? It’s crazy!) This genre is hard. Not harder than other genres in complexity, but harder because the world is already hard, and there are enough scary things going on. Why would anyone want to write about these horrible atrocities on a daily basis?

To them, I would say this …

Love is hard, too. Romance isn’t always about googly eyes, saving a silly girl from her stupid mistakes, and making her feel all warm and fuzzy. It isn’t always about lost loves finding one another again. Sometimes it’s about growing apart and learning to hold on while the winds of chaos try to pull you apart. Sometimes it’s about letting go because you’re in an unhealthy relationship. It’s not always a rush of butterflies, but years of friendship and respect. It’s not full of sex, fluffed up into rapturous orgasms wrapped up in pretty lace lingerie. Love is difficult, quiet, stormy, steadfast, fleeting, stupid, and painful. And you never read that in a romance novel.

And don’t get me started on any 50 Shade of whatever because I’m sure there were plenty of 911 calls, ER visits, Walgreen’s late night runs for salves, and bandages and rise in divorce for women (and men) who thought, “Oh this sounds so hot!”

Life is hard. Life is scary. It’s real and it sucks sometimes. Horror is psychological, and it exorcises demons living in the scars of reality for a lot of us. Some can face it, some can’t. There is no right or wrong genre to write in. Do it because you want to, and you’re doing it for the right reason. When you can’t do it anymore, stop.

With all that said, many women don’t have the stomach for horror and that’s OK. The concerning fact, as I mentioned, is the number of women who make the Best Seller List. Being an Indie Author, I don’t have grandiose expectations of turning into a Best Seller without hard work and years of putting my nose to the grind. Looking at the odds, though, I can’t help but feel a sense of doom-and-gloom when it feels I have better chances of winning the lottery than seeing the fruits of my labor paying off.

I put a lot of time and effort into helping other authors, both male and female, and it would seem unjust to watch these efforts fade into the background. Many women end up settling for the role of “editor” or “agent” because getting recognition for their written works is next to impossible.

I’m sorry but I can’t go down like that. I may be a starving artist until the day I die, but I refuse to give up because I know this is something I love to do. Who knows? Maybe after I’m long gone, my works will finally get the recognition I feel it deserves.

The truth is, there is sexism everywhere. It’s just another fact of life. I don’t feel it is holding female authors down. It’s a simple matter of statistics. There are so many male authors who write horror and of those authors, a fraction of them will make it. Of the females who write horror, only a fraction of those will make it. Take into consideration the natural order of networking, cliques, friendships, etc. Guys will bond, they will chat, go have beers, and maybe collaborate. John Doe will introduce Bob Doe to his friend Jack Doe, and so on. When you start introducing females it can be a little intimidating, especially if there are wives involved! (Note: Sorry, but it’s true. Wives are very territorial, as are men. Especially when their significant other is always on a computer, taking time away from family to pursue a dream.)

I know this article is getting long-winded but if you’re still with me, you understand this isn’t an easy answer. There is a solution, though. If you have read a book by a female author, whether it is an Indie Author or not, spread the word. Lend the book, Tweet about it, give them a shout, and most importantly … leave a review. Reviews are the reader’s way of telling the people who publish authors what you, the reader, want to read. Otherwise, it will be decided for you (and believe me it has been, years in advance).

Let me know what you think about this subject in the comments below!