Dracula, Master of the Blood Suckers

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Happy Halloween! Let's jump in the wayback machine and visit May 26, 1897, the day the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker went on sale in London.

Abraham "Bram" Stoker was an Irish author better known in his day as the personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, owned by the actor.

Although Stoker traveled a great deal, often visiting the United States which he particularly liked, he never visited Transylvania where his famous novel was set.

Instead, the English village of Whitby, Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, and the crypts of St. Michan's Church in Dublin were part of what inspired his novel. Another part of his inspiration were dark stories told Armin Vambery, a Hungarian writer and traveler.

After meeting Vambery, Stoker spent years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires.

The Form of the Novel

Most people have never read the original Dracula novel which was written as a collection of diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship's logs, and newspaper clippings thus making what is called an epistolary novel.

Stoker's original 541-page manuscript of the work was thought to be lost. In the early 1980's, the manuscript was found in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania. The typed manuscript held editing corrections and on the title page, handwritten, was the title THE UN-DEAD. The author's name appeared at the bottom as Bram Stoker. The title was changed at the last minute prior to publication to Dracula.

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, purchased the manuscript. No price was given but suffice it to say that Allen is a billionaire. He's never put the manuscript on public display that I know of. By the way, a signed first edition of the book sold in the UK in 2013 for approximately $46,000 USD.

Dracula for Each Generation

If Stoker only knew how his vampire tale has morphed with each generation.

Instead of a Transylvanian vampire and English victims, we've had Lestat, the unforgettable vampire, and his sidekicks from the brain of Anne Rice; the comic Dracula played by George Hamilton for huge laughs in the movie Love At First Bite; Angel, the vampire with a soul on two television shows, both with a huge fan base; and a seemingly endless number of vampires in romance novels.

Indeed, the vampire in romance seems to have been a bridge over which the undead crossed to the other literary genres. And it all began with Stoker who had published stories for over 20 years before Dracula saw the light of day, uh, perhaps not the best cliche since some vampire mythology calls for vamps bursting into flame in sunlight.

Popular From the Get-Go

London was primed for Stoker's novel because the horror genre, created almost entirely from European folk tales and legends, was very popular. The Gothic movement in the 18th century strengthened the genre so that it carried into the 19th century. Notable examples are Frankenstein, 1818, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886.

Takeaway Truth

The vampire novel wears many labels today: alternative reality, urban contemporary, paranormal, and others. Whatever it's called, the tale provides fresh inspiration to each new generation which then puts its own spin on the master of the undead.

Thursday3Some: Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte by Susan C. Muller

My friend Susan Muller, author of Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte, is joining me for coffee today. Grab your favorite drink and let's chat about Susan's new book which sounds like an exciting romantic suspense. I can't wait to read it.

About Susan C. Muller

Susan C. Muller is a fourth generation Texan. She attended Stephen F. Austin State University where she majored in Business Administration but studied creative writing on the side.

She lives in Spring, Texas, and has two children and four grandchildren.

When not writing, Susan can be found doing volunteer work at a local hospital. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, snorkeling and taking long walks with her dog.

Find Susan C. Muller Online

Website: www.susancmuller.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanCMuller
Twitter: @susancmuller

About Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte

A frantic phone call leads Detective Remy Steinberg racing through the night and into the bayous of Louisiana searching for his kidnapped daughter. With time ticking away, he faces drug dealers and voodoo priests, yet the only two things that actually frighten him are the swamp he’s hated since childhood, and the ex-wife he’s never stopped loving.

1. When did you write Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte?

I wrote Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte during late summer and fall of last year. It took me about four months of writing time, plus editing. Before I started, I did quite a bit of research on voodoo over the Internet and read books set in Louisiana. But the most fun research was watching old, voodoo-themed movies. The hardest part was combining actual voodoo practices with superstition into an accurate but exciting novel.

2. What was the spark that gave you the story idea?

Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte is the third book in my Occult Series. The hero, Remy Steinberg, was introduced in the first two books. Readers already knew that Remy was half Jewish, half Cajun, born in New Jersey, and raised in Louisiana. They also knew he had more than one ex-wife and a child. My first problem was to redeem Remy as he had been painted as a womanizer. To do that, I felt the story needed to center around him saving his ex-wife and child.

Since the age and gender of his child had never been mentioned, I played with the idea of having him team up with his son to rescue his ex-wife. But if I wanted to re-kindle a lost romance, and I did, I needed him to spend time with the ex-wife. That would give each of them a chance to see how the other had grown and matured. It would also leave plenty of room for tension. And what could tug on heart-strings more than a missing daughter? A daughter abducted by a voodoo cult!

3. Why do readers buy Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte?

I hope they buy it because they enjoyed the first two books in the series. Each book is a stand-alone novel, and can be read in any order. But characters from each book appear in the other books. Hopefully, the reader cares about those characters and wants to know their story.

Louisiana seems to be an inserting subject with its bayous and local customs, and the study of voodoo is always titillating. This book offers equal parts of romance, suspense, and voodoo magic. A little something for everyone.

Buy Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte

Kindle Edition

Takeaway Truth

The weekend approaches. You'll need a good post-Halloween book to read. Grab one today.

Who Is Cinderella Blue?

My scheduled guest for today was unavoidably detained so I'm stepping in to cover for her.

Cinderella Blue

Love means never having to say: "You're under arrest."

I love that line because I always laughed at the tagline from the old movie Love Story.

Allow me to tell you about my next romantic comedy, Cinderella Blue, Book 2 of San Antone Two-Step.

If you read Nobody's Cinderella, Book 1 of San Antone Two-Step, you met Darcy's rough, tough, no-nonsense brother Detective Bruce Benton.

In Cinderella Blue, you'll meet Andie Luft, the woman who is more than a match for Benton.

Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Completing This Book

Well, it's not really funny but you have to laugh to keep from crying sometimes. This book was previously published under the title Most Wanted. I started expanding and updating it more than a year ago, and all hell broke loose.

Now, every time I return to the the book, something happens. I've become positively superstitious. Okay, not really, but I am wary each time I open the book file.

A case in point. I thought I'd finally finish it last week so it would be available on October 31, but a family medical emergency cropped up. Another delay. Again, this week, I have the end in sight. I'm almost scared to say it will be available by next Friday, November 7. (Just pretend I didn't say that.)

Price Drop

Today, I'm dropping the price on Nobody's Cinderella to 99cents. The price will remain there until after the holidays because Nobody's Cinderella is being included in the upcoming Romance Box Set, Christmas on Main Street, 12 full-length romance novels for only 99cents.

Excerpt, Cinderella Blue

Copyright © 2014 by Joan Reeves

Heat shimmered in waves above the pavement as Bruce Benton crossed the street. The photography studio, flower shop, and jewelers created one-stop shopping for women looking to drop a few grand on a pretentious wedding. Through the glass storefront of the photography studio, Bruce saw one such woman as he passed.

A moment later he stopped abruptly, turned, and retraced his steps, casually glancing at the window again. The woman he'd seen wore a wedding dress. The gun in her right hand didn't go with her wedding gown at all.

He drew his Glock and eased the door open. A bell over the door jingled as he slipped inside. The woman whirled. She held her gun in the same shooter's stance as he. He couldn’t help but notice that she was a real looker. "Take it easy, lady. Maybe the photographer took some lousy pictures of you. That's no reason to shoot him."

The blonde grinned. "Next thing I know you'll be thinking I'm robbing the place."

"It's hard to imagine why a sweet thing like you would have a gun."

"Sweet thing?" Irritation chased away the grin. "Lower your gun. Lay it on the floor."

"I'm afraid I can't do that. You see I'm a--"

Everything happened at once. A man rushed from behind her, slammed into her, and sent her flying into Bruce. They went down in a tangle of arms, legs, and miles of white satin.

She came up snarling.

Bruce leaped up, gun in hand. "Freeze!" He was the one grinning now. "I always wanted to say that. Just like a TV cop. I see you lost your gun, sweet thing."

He got his cuffs out and stepped toward her. With a snarl, she whirled. All he saw was a white blur. All he felt was agony in his hand. Then a roundhouse kick to his solar plexus cut off his gasp of pain, and he hit the floor. Wheezing, he tried to rise.

"Uh uh, sweet thing. You stay right where you are."

The blonde, smiling brightly, stood over him with her gun--and his--pointed at him.

Ah, crap. He'd never live this down.

Takeaway Truth

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse at my next contemporary romance. Look for it at most book sellers next week.

10 Hashtag Tips

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Why bother using a hashtag, a keyword phrase used in Twitter conversations that is written without spaces between words and is preceded by a pound (#) sign, i.e. #writinghacks?

The hashtag brings conversations on the same topic under a single thread to make it convenient for those interested in that topic to find all the information about it.

(This article previously appeared in Writing Hacks, my free subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you want to read articles like this as soon as they are published.)

The use of hashtags isn't just for Twitter. You can use them on other micro-blogging platforms, like Google+, identi.ca, Instagram, and even Facebook.


Hashtags can tie conversations together from social media users in different countries. Just click the click a hashtag in a message, and you'll see the list of posts using the same one.

Hashtags also allow an audience to interact live during events. I'm sure you've seen the host of a TV show exhorting you to "Tweet hashtag such and such. They're useful for TV shows, conferences, political events, and other kinds of events.

You can find lists of popular hashtags at Hashtags.org. If you use HootSuite, a third-party downloadable Twitter app, you can use it to monitor hashtag activity too.

What To Do Next: 10 Tips

1. Find out if there's already a hashtag you can use by searching Search.Twitter.com for a list of those used in the past. You'll find out if the hashtag you find is currently active. If you find an existing one that's active, it might be better to use one that also hits the target audience but not used as frequently.

2. If there is no existing hashtag, you can register one. Go to Hashtags.org and sign up for a free account. In the right sidebar you'll see HASHTAGS verified. Click ADD YOUR HASHTAG DEFINITION and fill out the form. Be sure and proofread so you don't have a typo in your desired hashtag.

3. Be smart when creating a hashtag to register. The best hashtags are those that are concise, direct to the point, and universally relatable. Avoid the words love or hate or a word. Those hashtags do not fare well with the powers that be. Also avoid sensationalism. You don't want to unwittingly create a social or political furor because of a hashtag. Think it through carefully.

4. Be careful how you use a hashtag. Twitter has a policy on this of course.

"The following usages could cause your Twitter account to be filtered from search, or even suspended:

a) Adding one or more topic/hashtag to an unrelated tweet in an attempt to gain attention in search.

b) Repeatedly tweeting the same topic/hashtag without adding value to the conversation in an attempt to get the topic trending/trending higher. (The general rule is: If you Retweet something, remove the existing hashtag and add a similar one.)

5. Be specific when you use a hashtag. This is an example given on a hashtags.org article I read: if you’re a huge Game of Thrones fan, the hashtag #gameofthrones is better than #HBOshows.

6. Don't use too many hashtags. Two hashtags is the general rule. Too many hashtags is annoying to see and will result in your tweet not being read. Many will Unfollow you if your tweets are like this.

7. Design the best hashtag which is composed of a single word or a few letters. You should keep the hashtag under 6 characters according to Twitter experts. This is hard to do. All my registered hashtags – #writinghacks, #wordplay, #thursday3some, #slingwords, #writtenwisdom – are more than 6 characters with the longest #writtenwisdom weighing in at 13 characters and the shortest #wordplay weighing in at 8 characters. Sometimes you have to work with what you've got.

8. When creating a hashtag, use only numbers and letters in your keyword. You may use an underscore but I personally hate any hashtag or URL with an underscore. They're too hard to miss when the entire link becomes underscored. I've noticed a recent trend of people creating Twitter handles with an underscore at the end. Please don't do this. It's hard to pick up that final underscore.)

9. Learn what is not allowed in hashtags:

a) beginning the hashtag with a number
b) hashtags composed of all numbers
c) special characters like “!, $, %, ^, &, *, +, ”
d) hyphens or dashes.

10. Be careful using slang in hashtags because slang words can mean something different in another country. Effective hashtags are relatable across cultures in other words it means the same thing in France that it means in the U.S.

Takeaway Truth

When you learn the social media tricks, your efforts will be more effective and your time better spent.

Branding Quick Tip: What To Brand

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Branding Quick Tip
You want to brand your name, not the name of a book, because hopefully you will publish several books in your career. So you should have a website that is MarySmith.com NOT the BookTitle.com.

Hopefully, you plan to publish more books so your website needs to be your name. While it's perfectly fine to set up a Facebook page for a book, it's best to make your dot com be your name.

Same with a blog. Use your name. Your goal is to always increase name recognition. That's what sells books. Always use your name in your website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.

Takeaway Truth

Your name is your brand which should be synonymous with the kind of book you write.

Good Life Advice: Slow Down

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Last year I made the decision to unplug on the weekends. No tech unless it was fun tech.

Since a year has passed, I thought I'd give you an update on how this has worked out.


The results have been mixed. Circumstances have found me drifting back into the habit of email, Twitter, etc. on weekends despite my good intentions simply because my writing time has been commandeered by tons of life crap that keeps on hitting the fan.

I've been trying to finish Cinderella Blue since last year when we started moving. Then remodeling. Then moving into the remodeled home. Then there are the many family medical crises that also show no sign of stopping.

In other words, I'm living in a state of perpetual overwhelm that makes me feel as if I'm always short of time which is why I slipped back into the habit of working on the weekend.

Take Stock

This morning, I stepped out onto the porch and took a deep breath of the cool morning air. With my morning cup of coffee in hand, I sat there and watched the layers of mist floating above the meadow. I could feel the tension ease.

Slow Down To Move Forward

Viggo Mortensen said: "One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren't enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.

Takeaway Truth

That's a nice reminder of what I was attempting with my weekend unplugging. I'm going to slow down and move forward.

What about you?

Thursday3Some: Dream Doctor by J. J. DiBenedetto

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Grab a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable, and join me in welcoming J.J. DiBenedetto, paranormal author of Dream Doctor, to SlingWords.

About J.J. (James) Dibenedetto

Born in Yonkers, New York, J.J. currently resides in Arlington, Virginia, with his beautiful wife and a cat he is sure has taken full advantage of its nine lives.

(When it comes to the cat, he often wonders, but then again it might just be his imagination.)

J.J. enjoys suspending disbelief with suspenseful paranormal tales that are a perfect blend of reality meets fantasy. His popular Dream Series continues to delight readers with each and every exciting installment.

Find J.J. DiBenedetto Online

Website: http://www.writingdreams.net
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jjdibenedetto
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Dream-Series/107699179403603
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/349874-j-j-dibenedetto
Amazon Author Page: http://viewAuthor.at/JJDiBenedetto

About Dream Doctor

Between adjusting to life as a newlywed and trying to survive the first month of medical school, Sara Alderson has a lot on her plate. She definitely doesn’t need to start visiting other people’s dreams again. Unfortunately for her, it’s happening anyway. 

Every night, she sees a different person and a different dream. But every dreamer has one thing in common: they all hate Dr. Morris, the least popular professor in the medical school, and they’re all dreaming about seeing him – or making him – dead. 

Once again, Sara finds herself in the role of unwilling witness to a murder before it happens. This time, there are too many suspects to count, and it doesn’t help matters that she hates Dr. Morris every bit as much as any of his would-be murderers.

1. When did you write Dream Doctor?

I wrote it in the fall/winter of 2012, as soon as I finished the first book in the series, Dream Student. I had a lot of “momentum,” I suppose, and I just couldn’t stop writing, so I just went on ahead with the sequel (I had no idea it would turn into a series with eight books and counting!)

2. What was the spark that gave you the story idea?

There were two things, actually. First was simply following up on the end of Dream Student (Sara’s going to go to medical school, and her boyfriend is going to propose to her). I thought, why not follow that up and see how Sara handles being a newlywed, and a first-year med student. The second idea was reversing the mystery of the first book. Instead of knowing who the killer was, but having to puzzle out where he was and how to stop him, this time Sara would have a more traditional mystery challenge – several suspects, all of whom are dreaming about killing the same person. And it’s up to Sara to figure out which one is actually trying to do it, before they succeed at it.

3. Why do readers buy Dream Doctor?

Because Dream Doctor, and all the books in the series, really, are a mix of romance, suspense, mystery and the challenges of everyday life, all tied together with a paranormal twist. There’s a little something for everyone in these books, and I’d like to think that all the heart I’ve put into them shows through, too!

Buy Dream Doctor

Amazon Kindle

Apple iBooks

Audible Audiobook



Takeaway Truth

Want some inexpensive entertainment this weekend? Get a good book and get ready for fun.