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I need your help choosing a book cover for my upcoming novel Coffin Land, a vampire thriller with a steamy romantic subplot, set in Charleston, South Carolina in 1788. Vote for your favorite  cover idea to be entered into a random drawing for a $15 Amazon gift card. Tell me in a comment: Which cover would make you pick up the book?

Enter to win a $15 Amazon gift card by commenting on your favorite cover. Be as wordy as you want! Why do you think that one’s the winner? And which are runner-ups? Feel free to critique, but keep in mind these are rough mock-ups. Drawing date: Monday, August 24, 6 PM central.


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Bloodroom is now an Audiobook!


audiobook cover for Bloodroom


Who could resists those eyes! Wait’ll you hear him speak! Yes, Julian Mouret now has a voice, courtesy of award-winning narrator, Paul Heitsch. Bloodroom is now a downloadable audiobook. You can listen to a sample at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

Neither Julian’s power as a ruling vampire or his place in Charleston society could prevent the savage incident that put Natalie’s life in his hands. Unable to resist the lush curve of her lips and the sensual promise in her brilliant eyes, Julian’s playing for time in the riskiest game of his life.

Book bloggers, contact me if you’re interested in a review copy of this audiobook.

The Bad Death Bibliography

Adventures of an African Slaverby Captain Theodore Canot

I based Herbadale Farmington, the retired slaver, on Captain Theodore Canot. The book is his memoir of trading in Africa. It is a weirdly exuberant book. Canot didn’t have any sense that what he was doing was wrong. Absent that shame, the book reads like a travelogue of Africa and a series of adventures. He relates the customs and personalities of tribes without a missionary’s condescension. Tribal chiefs selling their war hostages as slaves considered Canot a business colleague and treated him as an honored guest.

Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect by Lorenzo Dow Turner

Gullah is a term referring to descendents of West African slaves who’ve lived for generations in coastal South Carolina and some of coastal North Carolina and Georgia. Isolated for centuries, they retained their unique culture which includes a language. In the early 20th century, Lorenzo Dow Turner interviewed Gullahs and studied the language. He traced words and speech patterns back to several African languages. His book enabled me to incorporate the Gullah language and snippets of African languages into dialogue in The Bad Death.

Apollo’s Angels: A History of Balletby Jennifer Homans

This comprehensive and entertaining trip through time helped me contrast Anika’s modern ballet (as performed by her possessing spirit) and the ballet as it was recognized by the other characters in The Bad Death trilogy.

A Woman Rice Planter by Elizabeth Allston Pringle

Elizabeth Allston Pringle was a remarkable woman. A native of Charleston from one of South Carolina’s leading families, she came of age during the Civil War. In the early 20th century she decided to plant rice as a cash crop, something that hadn’t been done profitably since the South lost the War. Her relatives thought she was nuts to try it, not the least of which because she was a woman. She not only did that, but she kept a journal of her experience. The journal was serialized in a northern newspaper and later became this book. Ms. Pringle wrote lyrically of the beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry. She writes in detail of rice growing cycles and she tells of her daily interchange with the Gullah people who worked for her. This book was a great help in setting The Bad Death’s environment and plotlines.

Black Aprilby Julia Peterkin

Black April is a novel entirely peopled by Gullahs. Julia Peterkin was the wife of a white landowner when she wrote it in the 20s. She captures the Gullah language and culture beautifully. The characters speak Gullah and are so real. The story’s unannounced character is the landscape itself. The novel’s atmosphere is so rich it practically drips on your head. You can smell it and taste it. I wound up using Black April as research for the atmosphere in The Bad Death.

Blue Rootsby Roger Pinckney

Blue Roots helped me realistically understand Gullah root medicine and magic.

Charleston Houses and GardensPhotos by N. Jane Iseley, Text by Evangeline Davis

This was great research for the grand houses and interiors in The Bad Death.

Charleston Receiptscollected by The Junior League of Charleston

These recipes go back to the 19th century (called receipts back then) and are unique to the region. This cookbook set Eugénie’s dinner party table with pine bark stew, partridge pie, and rice wine.

Chronicles of Chicora Wood by Elizabeth Allston Pringle

Elizabeth Allston Pringle, writer of A Woman Rice Planter, wrote Chronicles of Chicora Wood as a memoir of her childhood and homage to her mother. Chronicles gave me ideas for fleshing out Miss Elisabeth, Julian’s mother.

Cooking the Gullah Way, Morning, Noon, and Nightby Sallie Ann Robinson

Ms. Robinson’s cookbook includes folk remedies and stories of her days growing up on Daufuskie Island (one of the sea islands Gullahs have called home for centuries). Her cookbook gave Marcus and Anika crabmeat-stuffed flounder and Julian roasted oysters. It gave the nurse Risa mullein to make a compress for Chloe’s sore muscles. This book also taught me the method for corning fish used by Anika’s friends and neighbors.

Down by the Riverside, A South Carolina Slave Communityby Charles Joyner

Joyner wrote a comprehensive account of the way Lowcountry rice plantations worked, right down to the daily allotment of food given to field hands. It was invaluable research for being able to give The Bad Death’s environment an authentic feel.

Historic Charlestonphotos by Peter Vitalé and Steven Mays, written by Shirley Abbott

Beautiful photos and great info.

Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cookingby John Martin Taylor

The Lowcountry is coastal South Carolina, where the rice plantations made folks rich for centuries. Well, not only did the land produce rice, it was so full of fish and fowl that the Lowcountry became known for unique cuisine. John Taylor’s cookbook set Julian’s table with benne crackers, okra soup, and hoppin’ John.

The Plantation Mistress: Woman’s World in the Old Southby Catherine Clinton

This book recounts the complex and contradictory world of the plantation mistress. Legally powerless, she often managed all aspects of plantation business during her husband’s absence. She acknowledged that white men slept with slave women, while somehow remaining blind to the practice if it occurred in her own home. She worked very hard, but all colluded in the illusion that she was dainty and sheltered. I found The Plantation Mistress instrumental in writing the white women characters in The Bad Death trilogy.

The Swamp Fox, Francis Marionby Noel Gerson

Francis Marion was a rich plantation owner in the Lowcountry who became a Revolutionary War hero. His strength was his ability to track and skulk through the vast grassy, swampy landscape in order to spy on and jump British soldiers. Gerson’s book is a novelization of his life. I always thought Julian would have had similar experiences in the war and probably knew Francis Marion. I wrote The Bad Death with that back story in mind.

Thomas Jefferson, an Intimate Historyby Fawn M. Brodie

This bio was controversial at the time because of Ms. Brodie’s treatment of Sally Hemings as a legitimate figure in Jefferson’s life (a slave long rumored to have been his mistress). The book humanized Jefferson by discussing the challenges and conflicts of his personal life. I based a lot of Julian’s character on Jefferson’s strengths and supposed shortcomings.

Divine Inspiration, Conflict, Provocation, and Self Expression

Last night I read a few of my short stories from Night at the Demontorium. I read Bedring, Sparky’s First Day, and He Dreams in Yellow. The first two I wrote over 10 years ago. They’re so well written, so diverse, so original. I know that sounds conceited; but hold on, I have a point. And the point is that I should have been writing the whole time since. Who knows where my writing career would be by now if I’d made writing my primary focus? I lacked self confidence and let statistics about publishing scare me away. I spent ten years moving, flailing in relationships, and getting technical training and a Master’s degree. I don’t regret the education, especially since my firm’s tuition assistance program paid for it 100%. That and professional memberships are helpful on the day job front. But writing is my single talent. I can draw, but it’s nothing compared to writing. I was born to it. And I should do it constantly for the rest of my life. Going the whole month of May without writing (while The Bad Death is with beta readers) feels unsettling. I’ve been devoting my weekdays to marketing; but starting June 1, I’m writing every weekday, even if I have to quit six hours into a work day for marketing. That’s why successful self-published authors like JA Konrath hire out all other tasks; they know their job is the writing.

This month I’ve been thinking a lot about the next book in my series, House of the Apparently Dead. I think before the Greeley girls leave Charleston …oh wait, I should tell you who the Greeleys are. My series is set in 18th century South Carolina. The Greeleys are rich sisters who freed their slaves. They’re modeled after the Grimké sisters, two rich Charleston ladies who really were abolitionists and who eventually left the South under a cloud of unpopularity brought on by their condemnation of slavery. So in House of the Apparently Dead, the Greeleys will parcel up their plantation and deed it all away before shaking the dust off their feet on the way out. They will leave their mansion and immediate property to Charlotte, Julian Mouret’s sister. In The Bad Death, Charlotte is cossetted by her family as the fragile flower they believe her to be. But in House of the Apparently Dead, she suffers dreadfully and the Greeleys’ gift could be her salvation. There, that’s all I’ll tell you for now. No spoilers. I see the three books in my series as more than historical versions of the urban fantasy genre. I see them as carrying on the thing Jane Austen and Charles Dickens did so nicely — multiple character plotlines. Austen’s novels were about families. So, even though Pride and Prejudice is primarily a romance between Lizzie and Mr. Darcy, there were also Jane/Mr. Bingley, Lydia/Mr. Whickam, and Charlotte/Mr. Collins subplots, like vines running alongside the main plant. And Dickens — think of Bleak House, for one. Yes, there’s Esther. But there’s also Gentleman George and his estrangement from his mother and his loyalty to his ruined friend, Nemo. His inner conflict over these people lands him in jail. And there are the orphaned wards of Jarndyce who fall in love, but the boy is ruined by greed and ambition and lack of purpose. Then there’s poor Lady Dedlock, with her lost love for Nemo and her secret, illegitimate child. No wonder Dickens was a phenomenal success! Who can resist the longing within the hearts of these characters? And because each plotline holds not only its own conflict but conflicts with and propels the other plotlines, we’re hooked into the story and can’t let go until the end. So, in writing House of the Apparently Dead and the third novel (as yet untitled), I must find ways to interconnect the subplots so they conflict with and stir the others. It’s like a giant web. If you pluck a strand on the far upper edge, it causes all the other strands to move in reaction. How to make that happen? Well, that will come from God. I know that sounds conceited; but hold on. I’m just acknowledging that the talent isn’t really mine. So I must ask for an idea, and once given the idea, ask for guidance to do right by it. I’m a channel for the creative force that made me out of dust and gave me breath. The same is true for you.

What talent were you given? Have you been distracted from it? Did you play an instrument? Get it out of the guest room closet and dust it off. Did you paint? Find your brushes and start again. Don’t be afraid. Just start again. If you write, keep writing. Birds sing every day. Why not you?

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