Jack on the Case

Writer Girl


I am 14 again. My parents and big sister are still alive. I’m in my room in the 1950’s shoebox house we’d lived in since I was in the third grade. The usual household noise is going on beyond my closed door.

I want privacy so I can research something important in peace.

I’d wanted to be a professionally published writer since I was 11 and that ambition is literally in my grasp.

I’m on my bed reading an issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It cost fifty cents—which was my allowance for the week.

On the bed next to me is a battered library copy of the Writer’s Market for that year. It’s opened to the page that has EQMM’s address and submission requirements. I have them memorized.

Reading the current issue’s stories will tell me the kind of stuff they buy, which will be the kind of stuff I will write and sell to them. I want to be one of those writers.

It occurred to me that I could make a darn good living selling a story a month to EQMM. I would, in fact, be rolling in dough. To a 14-year-old limited to fifty cents a week, augmented by a dollar for every “A” on her report card, the payment of three cents a word for a five thousand-word story was a bloody fortune.

I read all the stories in that issue. I’d read all the stories in the collections at the library. I’d read Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie…I would be a mystery writer, sell a story to EQMM, and THEN people would take me seriously!

For weeks afterward I scribble on notebook paper fastened to a clipboard permanently “borrowed” from my dad’s office (the carport where he and the neighbors hung out next to his fridge full of beer). I’m writing THE story, the one that will send the editor at EQMM hurtling toward his checkbook, anxious to pay me so I wouldn’t send the story to some other magazine instead.

The writing consumed me at school. Or perhaps I wrote it in the summer, back to a wall, knees braced to hold the clipboard and my favorite blue pen in hand, words tumbling out of my ambitious brain almost too fast to write.

It was exhausting. I'd take breaks when I got tired and walk around the house, watch a few minutes of TV, maybe read a bit for inspiration, and then go back and write some more with classical music on my radio blocking out distracting house noise. That pattern of working would remain with me for life, though I didn’t know it at the time.

The story was finished. I typed it when I was alone in the house. I used carbon paper, addressed it to EQMM the way they instructed in Writer’s Market, triple-checked that I spelled the editor’s name right, included a SASE and cover letter, and then sent it out.

I wasn’t too disappointed that it was rejected. After all, every writer gets rejection letters; that was normal, so said all the books on writing. I filed the story away. (Some years later I found it, was horrified that another human being had ever read it, and quickly fed it to the wastebasket.)

I didn’t tell my parents about that first rejection. They’d not invented the term “dysfunctional” to describe them yet, but if I had shared, then I’d get a bunch of “I told you so’s” and with merciless teasing they’d never let me forget it. They knew I wanted to be a writer, but gave no encouragement. I was actively discouraged from writing. The idea was to protect me from rejection slips or something stupid like that. They had no clue of how wrong that was, but time and death cures much, allowing us to forgive.

My big sister wouldn’t have done that; she wanted to be a writer, too. I got the idea about becoming a writer from her. I may have told her. I just don’t remember. She’d have been nice about it, I know.

I got busy with other things. I was 14. Short attention span. New stuff to learn. Countless books to read. My whole life ahead of me. I was cocky, smart, and knew I was smart.

And sooner or later I’d send EQMM another story to consider, and maybe they’d buy it.

. .


. .

Decades later, I have to get out of my house. I’ve got deadlines, day job responsibilities to meet, writing stuff to do to press forward my tiny little publishing imprint (Vampwriter Books); there’s not enough in the bank to cover the mortgage tomorrow, the car insurance is coming due, and a few hundred other dreary, insane, and wholly stupid adult-life things no one bothered to warn me about are pressing, but I HAVE to get out of the damn house.

I don’t need it, but want it, ordering a burger and fries at a favorite eatery to screw up my arteries and add more lard to my writer’s spread.  But it tastes good and I appreciate every comforting bite. To entertain my brain I’m reading the 70th anniversary issue of EQMM. It has reviews mentioning novels I want to check out at the bookstore across from the burger joint.

Later, in the store, I scan the magazine rack, then move on to the S.F. aisle, the mystery aisle, the romance aisle—the genres I love to read and have worked in for 20+ years. I’ve been published multiple times, felt that giddy rush of seeing a title on the racks, signed copies on the sly and slipped them back into their slots. Viewing the shelves full of new releases, I can’t help but feel a little pang of jealousy for those writers who seem to kick books out effortlessly, year after year. I know it’s not effortless, but that pang is never logical. I will use its energy when I get home to drive me to scrape new words from my brain and hopefully meet those deadlines and take some of the pressure off my head.

Then I recall I was to look for those EQMM recommended titles. I left my copy in the car. No problem, more are in the magazine section. I’ll glance inside, get the names and find the books if they’re here.

I reach in the back of the display and snag what feels to be a strangely thin copy of EQMM. The one I read from at lunch was a double issue, covering September/October. I have a seat, take off my glasses because they’re not good for reading, and flip pages, looking for the article.

It doesn’t seem to be there.

Check the contents, Elrod.

So I do -- and there’s my name.

It’s not the name I put on that first story I sent in all those years ago, but it’s still my name, and it is in an issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

This doesn’t register. Where’s the article I want?

I look at the cover. It’s familiar. I was sent three author copies about a month ago. I gave one to a friend, the other two are still on my desk in their envelope. The cover’s not the one I wanted. Where’s the copy with the cover I want?

I look again at the contents page and abruptly realize…

I say “Oh, good God” aloud, and stare at my name as though for the first time.

It’s not like this should have been a surprise. I’d submitted the story last spring, and some eight months later they accepted it. Some months after that they paid me for it. The money is no longer important. It never was.

What is, is that I have in hand the proof that I wrote a story good enough for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine to buy.

You can count it as something to tic off the bucket list or as a near-impossible life goal finally reached.  I’ll pick the latter.

But most importantly of all, as I sit there on that bookstore bench…

I am 14 again. My parents and big sister are still alive. I’m in my room in the 1950’s shoebox house we’d lived in since I was in the third grade. The usual household noise is going on beyond my closed door...

It’s a sweet moment. I take my time.

. .


The November 2011 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine has P.N. Elrod's story, Beach Girl.

She hopes you enjoy it. It's been a long, long time coming.


The magazine is available as a Kindle instant download

It will be up on Nook shortly.


Two Month Anniversary Sale!


Whee!  It's the two-month anniversary of the release of the P.N. ELROD LUNCHTIME READING OMNIBUS, so I'm having a 2-day sale with a 2.00 price cut!

Just enter this coupon code at Smashwords to download your copy!     SC84R


Sale ends July 17, so rush on over. 

Smashwords supports all the popular reading device formats, and you can absolutely download direct to your computer!



Pimping the Ebooks! Yeah, I know....


Yeah, I know, I also love the feel of a real book in my hand, too. I love the smell of a new book, the feel of crisp new paper.  No, I will never give up my beloved hard copies or deny myself the comforting sight of shelves loaded with favorite titles full of mystery and adventure.

But--everyone I know has an ereading device, is getting one, or has an ereading app on their computer. I've got Nook and Kindle, both are free downloads.

Love it or loathe it, the times have changed, so let's have some cheap and cheerful fun!

I'm always cheerful when I find a bargain.  Ebooks usually cost a lot LESS than their paper counterparts. They don't take up space, never go out of print, and you can carry your library with you 24/7. Allergic to book dust? Hey, no problem!

So here are the direct links to where my 3 current etitles are selling: Smashwords (which supports ALL the popular formats), Nook, and Kindle. The books cost the same on each site, so no need to bargain hunt.

Support a starving writer: buy her CHEAP (and feel cheerful about it!) books.

Jonathan Barrett, Gentleman Vampire
  Four novels; one download! 6.99
A reissue of the series, with about 120+ pages of new material added to the original 90's books and a smokin' hawt cover!



Info at DarkStar Books: http://www.darkstarbooks.net/dsb02.html#jbgv

I *had* a preview up on my site and it's apparently vanished. Grr.  Fixing soon. I did a makeover on the site and there are some bugs yet.

  P.N. Elrod Omnibus

15 of my favorite stories. Most have gotten a refurb and polish and hey-- a NEW VAMPIRE FILES story is in the mix: DRAWING DEAD.

Previews on my website for ALL the stories:  http://www.vampwriter.com/EBOOKS.htm




The Devil You Know the sequel to Bloodcircle! 3.99
Jack Fleming and Jonathan Barrett team up to solve a murder. High-jinks ensue!




Vampwriter Editing is Open for Business!


I've hung my shingle out again as an editor!

The last time was in 2008 and not a lot happened. But things have changed in publishing as more and more new writers are uploading their works to digital hosting sites like Kindle, PubIt!, and Smashwords.

I'm no different--I've three titles from my backlist up and the books are earning money. I edited the hell out of them, proofing, tweaking and proofing again. I'm a perfectionist about that kind of thing, and it helps to have 20+ years of experience in the craft.

So I got to thinking other writers with books to upload might want to have a professional edit before releasing their words to the wild.

Where to go for a pro edit that won't cost too freaking much? That would be me.

The pitch is on the website, along with rates and turnaround time, and I DO cost a lot less than the others. The rates suggested by the Editorial Freelancers Association are also linked in, so you can compare the two.

My target market are those writers wanting a professional level edit for their baby. You get the same effort I put into the anthologies. Please, do check the names of all those NYTimes bestselling writers who have stories in them. 

No, your book probably won't make that list, but it WILL read all the better for an editor's input.

To quote Amanda Hocking: 

"My biggest word of advice to any new/future writers thinking about diving into Kindle: Edit. I don't care what you think, you didn't edit enough. Some people won't care that there's errors, its true, but enough of them will. And they paid for it, so they have a right to. So edit more. And then again. Really."

Sounds like a plan. 




Vampire PI Jack Fleming travels to Long Island to attend a funeral Problem: There's more than one body in the grave. Delving into his past, Jack follows clues leading to an old murder, new betrayals, and a hard look at the man he was vs. the vampire he's become.  The Devil You Know is a (nearly) direct sequel to book three of the Vampire Files, "Bloodcircle" and is full of spoilers for that novel. While this story can be read on its own, you will enjoy it more if you have read "Bloodcircle" first. You have been warned!


What's more fun than one vampire on a case?...
(Read more)

The Devil You Know is a (nearly) direct sequel to book three of the Vampire Files, "Bloodcircle" and is full of spoilers for that novel. While this story can be read on its own, you will enjoy it more if you have read "Bloodcircle" first. You have been warned!

It's gone live on Kindle!  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00538M1ZG

And Smashwords!  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/62750


What's more fun than one vampire on a case?

Two--especially when they don't like each other!

Wise-cracking, street-savvy vampire gumshoe Jack Fleming teams up with the archly genteel Jonathan Barrett, Gentleman Vampire, who's found a body on his Long Island estate and has no idea what to do about it.

Clues take Jack back to his old stomping grounds in the newspaper world, only slightly hampered by Barrett, who has his own ideas on how to conduct a murder investigation.

Before you can say "machine gun" both are up to their fangs in mobsters, murder, and mayhem in this fast-paced mystery adventure set in post-Prohibition New York.

This novel is also available as a
signed, numbered, limited-edition trade paperback exclusively from VampWriter Books.

Just to be on the safe side with conservative parents, the author rates this one as having adult content because some of the characters use a bit of salt in their language.

PREVIEW EXCERPT! Check it out! 

Available for immediate download at Smashwords which supports all popular reading device apps including Kindle and NOOK.

Don't have an e-reader? Not to worry, you can download and read from your computer!


Jonathan Barrett: Gentleman Vampire RETURNS

Yay--and it's a bargain fresh from DarkStar Books.

Four novels.  ONE download.

It's at Nook and coming soon to Kindle.

Check out the awesome new cover by Jonathan's namesake, Julie Barrett!



Yes, hard copies are available on Amazon! I gave this e-edition a bit more polish to be its best for a new generation of vamp fans.

Thank you Julie Barrett and publisher Tom Knowles for all your hard work!

Jack on the Case

New Jack Fleming - Vampire Files story!


Too true! I've a shiny new Vampire Files story along with some shiny new pages on my website. The new tale is in the
P.N. Elrod Omnibus, my first ebook!

If you don't have an ereader, no prob--you can download the apps FOR FREE from Kindle or Nook and read books right from your computer. I have both on my laptop. It took only a few minutes!

If you already have a reader, then you can download the book immediately, because Smashwords supports all the popular formats, including Kindle.

But you want to know about the new Vampire Files story--maybe read a SAMPLE??? How about samples from ALL of them?

Here ya go! 

DRAWING DEAD began life in the novel,
THE DEVIL YOU KNOW--which is back in print by the way!  I soon realized it slowed the pace of the book, but would make a fine stand-alone story, so I put it aside until the time was right.

The time is now, so check it out!


Jack on the Case



It's with a heavy heart that I let everyone know that my big sister, Michele Dvorak,  Mickee to me, always, passed peacefully away on Feb. 11 from an e-coli infection combined with pneumonia.

I left home on the 5th after getting a call from St. Mary's Hospital in Madison and arrived the next night. She was on a ventilator, unconscious and not responding to antibiotics or meds to keep her blood pressure up. The next days were spent cleaning her apartment with the expectation that when she recovered, she would have to go into a nursing home for managed care.

Which did not happen. The staff at St. Mary's did their best, but it just was not to be.

She's survived by her three sons and a grandchild she never got to hold. What she loved most in life was being their mother.

If not for her I'd never have gotten the idea of being a writer. I owe her. We all do.

I will ask my Facebook friends to please not post condolences. And please, no one send me sympathy or thinking of you cards.  I'm just not ready. That's why I've disabled the comments on this blog.  I know you care, but I'm not up to dealing with it and hope you'll respect that.

My deepest gratitude goes to the friends who got me through this nightmare. Bill and Jody for going above and beyond the call of friendship, giving me a bed, distraction, emotional support, and sheer physical labor. I cannot thank you enough. There just aren't enough words.

Also, in no order, Teresa, Julie, Rox & Cat, Jackie & Bill, Tom-- again, I have no words, but thinking about all of you got me through the worst of it.

Also Father Gary for treating my sister like a member of his church even if she never joined. I'm so grateful you were there and said the right things when they were most needed.

Also the friends Mick made at her apartment house. You were more help than you know with your kindness and help.

Also my next door neighbors for stepping up to the plate and looking after my dogs the whole time I was gone. Thank you.

For those who wondered, Mickee's old dog is here with me and my own girls, who have grudgingly accepted her. She's being well looked after in an honorable retirement and seems to be adjusting to a new home better than I'd hoped.

I'm going to try to get back to work. Mick would kick my ass if I didn't.

But gently.

Need help from The Devil You Know proofreader!


Hello everyone!   It's been awhile since I posted here. I've been distracted by FaceBook and another blog on another server. oh and writing--lots of writing!.  Hey, it happens!

This is a LONGSHOT, but I'm hoping the right person will contact me.

Some while back one of you sent me a PM with a thorough list of typos and gaffs that appeared in THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. There weren't that many, perhaps a dozen or so, but you impressed the heck out of me with that level of nit-picking. I kept thinking "Wow, what a hell of a great copy/proof reader she is".  Pretty sure it was a lady.  Who *might* be in California, but don't hold me to it.

I'm hoping you know who you are, because I need that list *again*. By the time I got to the point of needing it, the original mail you sent had mysteriously vanished. I suppose LJ has a time limit on how long one may keep emails and I just blew it. I hang my head in shame.

There's a SLIM chance a copy of the mail might be on an old computer, I'll be looking around there later today, but am not hopeful,

If you're the one, then PM me again -- hopefully you'll still have those corrections, because I was going to send you a shiny new copy of the next print run as an inadequate thanks for all the effort.

For the rest of you, yes, I'm just about able to order another 500 of the signed, numbered limited edition of the Vampire Files book: The Devil You Know.  They will be the same price, 10.00 + 2.50 S&H and available only through my website and at personal appearances.

The new run should be ready within the next 30 days or so, depending on the schedule of Tops Printing. I'm really looking forward to this!