New Release! SISTERHOOD: Dark Tales and Secret Mysteries

SISTERHOOD: Dark Tales and Secret Mysteries
In churches and convents and other religious communities, sisterhood takes many forms, forged and tested by such mundane threats as disease and despair, but also by terrors both spiritual and cosmic-Satan`s subtle minions and the Lovecraftian nightmare of the Outer Gods.

Sisterhood: Dark Tales and Secret Histories presents sixteen horror stories by some of the genre`s leading female voices. Their settings range around the globe and across the centuries, from 14th century Spain to 17th century Virginia to England in the present day.

In this collection, find my Mythos-inspired story “From an Honest Sister to a Neglected Daughter” written as a prequel to “The Dunwich Horror”.

Now available wherever books are sold, including

Announcing a Patreon Exclusive! Into Shadow Coming Feb 2021

Into Shadow | An Exploration of Personal Fears | Poetry

In my newsletter recently, I described how my nightmares and anxiety caused by the violence in our nation’s capital affected my ability to write last week. I announced in that update I’m channeling these emotions to explore my fears in February. I’ll be writing a poem a day for a #28DaysofPoetry challenge.

This month-long project will be offered to my patreons through Patreon for $2. Yep, that’s right. $2 for 28 poems about my personal fears.

Why charge so little? Since launching my Patreon, I don’t feel I’ve done a very good job helping patrons feel vested in my work. Last year, my patrons helped fund a new web cam–something I desperately needed during the pandemic and am hugely grateful for. I’m hoping that the $2 price will help reassure patrons that their financial support is greatly valued.

In terms of “What am I going to do with this?” The answer is: “I don’t know.” This idea is new, raw, and will be a journey. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve written or studied poetry, and I’m not sure if any publishers would be interested in this type of collection. What’s more, now that I’ve been practicing mini-art pieces for #makedontbreak, my creative mind might shift to illustrating these too. I just don’t know.

I hope you’ll consider joining this project. If you are already a patron, please accept my enduring gratitude. I look forward to sharing my fears with you.

Clarion Write-A-Thon Week 2: Draft Done! On to Liombruno

Dear readers,

I finished a first draft of my “Caterina the Wise” retelling for the Clarion Write-A-Thon. This week, I randomly selected a story called “Liombruno” from Basilicata. My Italian geography is not very good, so I researched the city and learned its geography is really cool. It is a southern Italian region in the lower middle part of the boot, and has over 140 rock-cut churches, mountains, and forests.

I hadn’t heard this story before, so I did a little bit of research. I did find an article snippet on Encyclopedia Brittanica (it’s buried behind a paywall so I can’t share it, unfortunately), but it was cited as exemplary of a popular folk style combining irony and common sense.

The story is about a fisherman who pledges his firstborn son, Liombruno, to the Evil One on his thirteenth birthday. Following this, Liombruno refuses to serve the Evil One and proves his worth. He is then rescued by a shapeshifting fairy named Fata Aquilina, who takes pity on Liombruno and showers him with riches. Missing his parents, Liombruno begs to go home and is given a magical ruby–an icon of her power–to call upon her magic. Only, the fairy warned Liombruno not to expose her for who she truly was. Which, after a time, he did.

The ending of the tale drips with forgiveness. She is dying from grief because she lost Liombruno and he betrayed her. When he reappears, he doesn’t not apologize. She pretty much forgave him and then went back to living happily ever after.

Hmmmm… This’ll be interesting to tackle. The heart of the story is really about the couple’s relationship, but at the same time any repentance story I’d write would absolutely have an apology in it. I’m just not sure repentance is the theme I want to lean into, because that feels off to me. I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

‘Til next time!

Other Clarion Write-A-Thon Posts

About this Post: In exchange for sponsor support, I promised to highlight how I’m processing my identity as an Italian-American and daughter of an immigrant through brainstorming, story selection, and first drafts. If you’re keen on following my progress, warts and all, I encourage you to become my sponsor and sign up for my newsletter.

Clarion Write-A-Thon Week 2: Getting More Out of Habitica

My Habitica Avatar

As I mentioned in my initial post, I planned to use this Write-A-Thon to assess and evaluate what’s working for me and what isn’t. Part of that evaluation is to assess my productivity tools. I was thinking about writing sprints, for example, and how they affect my word count goals.

To that end, I’ve realized that a lot of the times notebooks and planners don’t work for me. I’d love to say: “Yes! Putting pen to paper is the best idea ever!” Except, I have a thousand notebooks, post-its, etc. filled with all kinds of lists. Unless it’s a to-do list, it just doesn’t work for me.

Focusing on that part of my productivity, I circled back to Habitica and am now using it more regularly. (I am @booksofm) on that platform if you want to quest with me.) One tiny aspect of Habitica I hadn’t leveraged in the past is the negative points value, or the damage taken from Habits and Dailies. When I started using that, I got more out of it because it wasn’t just about getting things done. It was also about not doing specific things.

For clarification, Habitica has four categories: Habits, Dailies, To-Dos, and Rewards. Habits are a plus or minus feature that has built-in streaks. Dailies are routine-oriented tasks. The way I use Dailies is to plug in things like my newsletter or something that has more gravitas, like exercise, because those are more concerted efforts than taking my vitamins or doing the dishes. The To-Dos section I use to plug in projects that have deadlines or items on my To-Do list. These are things that often take considerable effort and have multiple steps. Finally, Rewards is your in-game loot, which you get for completing items. You can also create custom Rewards as well.

To gamify Habitica further, there are four things I would love to see. I will probably suggest these at some point; I’m not really active in that community and don’t have the programming skills to help. Right now, this is just me “musing” out loud.

  • Assign Damage to Missed Deadlines on To-Dos: One of the nice features about To-Dos is that you can assign a Deadline. I really like the “Scheduled” view for To-Dos
    which re-orders the items based on due date. I’d love to take that a step further, and have damage taken for a missed deadline. (Even something small like a quarter point per day would be valuable.)
  • Optional: Assign Rewards to To-Dos: Sometimes, there’s To-Dos I have to complete that I really don’t want to. By assigning a Reward to a To-Dos, it’d be a specific reminder that action has consequences.
  • Optional: Add a Projects Category: For me, To-Dos is a combination one-off projects and multi-tiered assignments, so being able to use the existing functionality as another category would help me separate the one-off To-Dos from the larger projects. This functionality already exists within the To-Dos category; you can add multiple steps to a To-Dos that you’d need to check off. Basically, I just want the bigger ones broken out from the one-offs visually, and I’d sacrifice Habits to do that. But, I can see how some people need Habits, which is why I’m suggesting that be optional.
  • Optional: Calendar Integration: I would love to have the ability to integrate my digital calendar with the deadline functionality, but as an option. Again, I’m looking at those longer-term projects I’m already plugging in to get reminders on. If there isn’t a way to do that, I’d take alerts or reminders instead.

Habitica’s strength is that it does gamify your to-do list and it is fun. I love the 8-bit look and feel to Habitica; it’s very old school. If interested, check out

Other Clarion Write-A-Thon Posts

About this Post: In exchange for sponsor support, I promised to highlight how I’m processing my identity as an Italian-American and daughter of an immigrant through brainstorming, story selection, and first drafts. If you’re keen on following my progress, warts and all, I encourage you to become my sponsor and sign up for my newsletter.

Clarion Write-A-Thon: More on Retelling Catarina the Wise


Last time, I gave you some initial thoughts on “Catarina the Wise”. Today I want to dig a little deeper, because there’s something eating away at the heart of my process. Simply, the question: “Should this be a literal retelling, beat for beat, or should I capture the essence of it?”

I thought about the story’s themes related to equality and how they’re presented. The idea that education should be free for everyone, regardless of class, is not the “point” of the tale–but it is a message that is more powerful to a reader in the past than it is today. While the gender equality message is present, I feel it’s specific to cishet marital relationships and the father-daughter bond. It’s for this reason I think the story’s lesson has two different audiences. First, it’s a story about Italian, family-minded cishet men. My take is that fathers and husbands shouldn’t regard their daughters and wives as anything but equal. However, Caterina the Wise also presents as a lesson for the cishet women in these relationships, too. That is: it’s better to bend the existing rules than to try and change them.

I want to point out that Catarina doesn’t interact with other women in the story; her mother passes away off-screen early on. Her worth and value is shared through the perspective of her father and her abusive husband, the prince. When she gets in trouble, she does ask her father for help, which he provides, he then stops helping. I don’t know how much you know about Italian families, but the fact that the father left Catarina to her own devices is a huge deal. Huge.

After re-reading the story, Catarina’s methodology to teach her abuser a life-changing lesson feels wrong to me, because she lies about who she is, sleeps with the Prince, and has several children she then uses as leverage. She doesn’t simply leave him. She stays and changes him by teaching him a lesson–which…well, that’s problematic AF. In this specific instance, the fact that she is not the villain flips the trope that cishet women who use their sexual power are evil. Catarina is not depicted as such. Instead, she’s the heroine of a tale who beat the Prince at his own game.

Here’s where these resonate tones get complicated: I made a pledge to not include cishet white men in my stories to challenge myself. I’ve already decided I’m not going to simply flip the genders because that’s the easy way out for me; I don’t know enough about the power dynamics in queer relationships to write them well and provide the necessary, authentic subtext either. Instead, I’m looking at the essence of this story to see if that’s portable to 2020. Then, I’ll build characters around the abuser-victim dynamic who make sense for the story. So far, I’ve been leaning into the heroine’s name–Caterina the Wise–and the lesson of entitlement with respect to class. I don’t believe that lesson requires a sexual relationship (or the use of children as leverage).

Oh! I don’t think I mentioned this before, but the reason why I am not choosing the name ‘Barbara’ from Calvino’s retelling is because of its meaning. Barbara is a Greek name that is the root of the term “barbarian”. I don’t regard Catarina as being the villain in this story, and changing her name to Barbara (strange or foreign) from the Italian version of Catherine (pure) feels like an odd choice for her character.

Anyway, blogging about “Caterina the Wise” has been interesting for me; I hope you’re enjoying this look into my process. Short stories, in particular, are something I must read a couple of times to fully appreciate, understand, and unlock all their complexities.

Other Clarion Write-A-Thon Posts

About this Post: In exchange for sponsor support, I promised to highlight how I’m processing my identity as an Italian-American and daughter of an immigrant through brainstorming, story selection, and first drafts. If you’re keen on following my progress, warts and all, I encourage you to become my sponsor and sign up for my newsletter.

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