Shadows of the Night…with Veronica Dale

Every single person has within them good and bad. Carl Jung understood this and called our less pious impulses our “shadow” side. It’s only when we embrace the shadow that we can come into the fullness of our true natures and be at ease and whole. This doesn’t mean we have to rob banks or kill people. It means we have to accept that we may have negative personality traits we deny or suppress. Because guess what? We all do. Vernie Dale captures this idea exquisitely in her just-released book of short stories Night Cruiser.

Many of the stories in this collection have been previously published in prestigious literary journals or have won excellence awards, or both. Each is a jewel in its own right. The last story, about a creative writing class, was so rich in real detail (I have taught creative writing) that the twist, when it came, flipped me from reality to fantasy and horror and even humor with a few skillful shakes. Other standouts include “Persons of Marred Appearance” for its faith themes, startling characters (the “grieving deacon”) and intense language like “shifting, dazzling water-stars.” What is faith? Dale seems to ask. “It’s the human condition” comes the answer from a not-quite human source. “Within Five Feet” shows hints of Dale’s COIN OF RULVE fantasy series to come, with its increasingly terrifying and astonishing imagery. Dale shows signs in this slim volume of capturing the world-wide web zeitgeist with the zeal and terror of Kafka. 

And lucky me, I was able to capture her for an interview on some burning questions I had about writing and, of course, the shadow. Here’s our talk:

Holding after resized

How does a sweet Catholic woman come up with such frighteningly horrifying stories? What compels you to write in this genre of fantasy horror?

Wow, thanks for calling me “sweet.” But I don’t think the stories in Night Cruiser are true horror. They’re pretty dark fiction, but some are funny and some have a spiritual dimension. They weren’t written to scare, but to take a good look at what we’re afraid of and ways we might deal with that. I guess the compelling thing for me is exploring Tolkien’s idea of the “eucatastrophe,” the terrible catastrophe that can become redemptive. That’s a theme in Lord of the Rings, the Gospel Passion narratives, and many other stories in which the protagonist’s struggle with the dark side results in great good. I like to compare that to an eclipse: you can’t see the sun’s glorious corona until it is blocked out by that scary black moon. So—to invent a word for it—maybe I can call the Night Cruiser stories “eclipsic” rather than horrifying.

I like that, Vernie. You are working on Coin of Rulve, a four part fantasy series. Any idea when the first book will be out? Are all four books complete or do you have a draft of each?

All four books are finished, but the last two are in somewhat rougher form. I’ve just begun seeking agent representation for book one, Blood Seed, and don’t know how long that will take. If I find an agent, she then has to get a publisher to accept the book, and then comes the long process of the publisher editing, proofreading, developing a cover, etc. My plan is to submit to a certain number of agents and, if none accept the book, to consider self-publishing.

I’m interested in your interest in Jung and “the shadow” — could you explain what it is, how you first learned about it, and how it jibs with your faith? What are some good books to read on this topic, particularly books or articles by Jung that inspired you.

I became interested in Jung when I was studying for my degree in pastoral ministry and learned about the relationship between psychology and spirituality. The shadow, according to Carl Jung, is the unconscious part of ourselves that we’re ashamed of, afraid of, or don’t want to look at. It includes our fears, our nasty side, and our weaknesses. The trouble comes when we think “Hey, I’m not like that; but he or she over there sure is.” It’s like how Christ shook his head in dismay when he’d see a person with a big stick in their eye making snide comments about someone with only a sliver in theirs. The more we deny our own shortcomings, in other words, the easier it is to project them onto other people or groups. This can lead to racism, age-ism, and all the other “isms” that our society falls prey to. A good place to start learning about the shadow is at Thirteen Quotations about the Shadow or an overview at Then you can branch out to writers like John A. Sandford, Morton T. Kelsey, or Edward C. Whitmont. 

What is your writing schedule like? Do you write every day? Morning or evening or whenever you find time? Do you need perfect quiet or can you write anywhere?

They say the most important thing about writing is to “put butt in seat.” In other words, sit down at your keyboard and click away. I love it when I can do that by 10 am, work to maybe 1 pm, start again after lunch for a few hours, take time to make dinner, and maybe get a couple more hours in after that. This hardly ever happens. Life, alas, gets in the way. So do the dreaded “technical difficulties,” like printers that suddenly don’t print, or emails that date themselves Dec. 31, 1967, or the doorbell box loudly demanding that someone “close cover!” All of which actually happened to me. Even the electrician didn’t know a doorbell box can talk. And yes, I really do need a quiet place to write.

Speaking of writing anywhere, I know you are a fan of trance music. Explain what it is, why it moves you, and if you think there is a connection between this form of music/dance and writing, specifically your genre.

More than trance, I like club or electronic dance music—a lot. I can hardly keep still listening to it. My favorites are Sandstorm, Café del Mar, and the music of Paul Oakenfold. Other favorites with a good, solid beat are Philip Phillip’s Home and Avicii Wake Me Up When It’s All Over. Summertime Sadness and Peace Sword in B Minor (from the movie Ender’s Game) are also so beautiful. I wish I had time to explore this whole area a lot more. This kind of music brings a deep-down joy to my body and heart; like writing, it takes me completely out of my mundane self.

 Let’s go dancing sometime soon! But back to Night Cruiser…this is your first book of short stories, although you’ve published non-fiction books in the past, is that correct? So far, how does it feel to be published again in a completely new way? I assume publishing has changed a lot since you first put out those early non-fiction titles. In your opinion, what ways are these changes good for writers and in what ways is it not so good? 

Night Cruiser is my first published fiction book ever. When I began writing fiction, I was convinced I would never get involved with “the vanity press,” as self-publishing was called back then. But then things changed. With the advent of self-publishing, writers could by-pass increasingly greedy contract terms, keep the rights to their own work, and get their book out in weeks instead of years. But you have to learn a ton of stuff in order to do that (which can be time-consuming, to say the least), and then you must become your own marketing and accounting staff (which absolutely no author I know likes to do). I think most writers would love to find an agent that would root for them and guide them through the maze of today’s publishing pitfalls. I sure would!

 How long have you been at work on Coin of Rulve? Could you explain the basic story (not giving away spoilers of course!) 

What is now the four-book series Coin of Rulve began in 2003. The story is about twin brothers who are born in a land ravaged by the child slavery and addiction forced upon it by the Spider-king. The brothers are separated as infants to keep their existence hidden from the despot that hunts them. Growing up in the midst of violence and cruelty, wounded in body and spirit, they have suffered so much trauma in their nineteen-year-old lives that they cannot believe the Creator Rulve has called them to an extraordinary destiny.

In addition to being feared and reviled as a foreigner, Sheft is haunted by a murderous entity that is attracted to his blood. The village priestess wants to restore the old rites—and herself—to their former power, even if a hated foreigner must be sacrificed to do it.  In order to protect Mariat, the young woman he loves, Sheft must steel himself to leave her. Teller grows up in an underground stronghold, surrounded by ambitious mages just waiting to seize his power of fire. He gives up everything he has to rescue a young girl from a grisly fate, only to find he’s been betrayed. The beautiful slave Liasit begs him to save her people, but Teller is struggling to save his own soul. Another “character” in the series is the Seani, the small walled community the brothers call home. It is the only force that stands against the growing power of the Lord of Shunder, who has been hunting Sheft and Teller since the day they were born. With the help of the Seani, the brothers confront the shattering realization of what they are called to do. In order to buy back the lives of many, they must willingly pay an appalling price.

Readers, I will certainly alert you when Vernie publishes Blood Seed and the rest of this series. And Veronica, thanks for answering my questions!

Night Cruiser is available on Amazon in e-book or paper by clicking here.

And you can visit Vernie’s website for more news and links to Vernie’s social media circles.

Love Caters All


Happy Release Day! Yes, Luke’s #1 Rule is now available worldwide in print and e-book editions.

So why am I blogging about Love Caters All, another authors’ story? Because I recently met Nicci Carrera on Facebook where we discovered we had the same publisher and that our books were being released on the same day. Yes, Nicci and I are release day twins! The coincidence was too big not to do something with it, so I’m talking about Nicci and Love Caters All and she’s talking about Luke’s #1 Rule. 

Before even reading Love Caters All, I got a little bit worried about the fact that our books seemed so similar. They’re both set in small tourist towns, both towns are on the water, they both feature red hot romance. So I’m thinking, these books are going to be too alike. But as it turns out, the only things they have in common is what I’ve already stated. Surface stuff. The stories themselves could not be more different.

What I loved most about Love Caters All is Maya, a strong heroine who supports her family and sacrifices every day to give them a better life. She’s so selfless that when she first meets rich guy Rick, she thinks about fixing him up with one of her beautiful sisters. This despite the fact that she falls hard and fast for his good looks and charm. Maya has her own business, and that’s something she and Rick share, that entrepreneurial spirit. But while Rick has made a fortune at his business, Maya toils long sweaty days in a food truck, catering to tourists in her tiny town of Lobster Cove.

Rick wonders why Maya hides her considerable culinary talents. Maya bristles at Rick’s know-it-all attitude. Sparks fly. These two clash on so many levels, but they are clearly made for each other. Readers will see it, but the lovers don’t, and here’s another area where Nicci Carrera shines. She sets up a no-win situation. You know, the kind where you wonder how these two are ever going to get together because the thing between them is too big to ever forgive or forget? I love when writers do that, make me think that all is lost. For good. For real.

Biting my fingers, turning the pages, enjoying the fantasy element of what it would be like to be courted by a super-rich sexy guy who pulls out all the stops to win my–I mean Maya’s–love, I was getting close to the end of the story with things still not resolved. I didn’t want the novella to end. The intensity of the inner lives of these two characters and how they managed their heartbreak, each in isolation, made me ache for them. But I never gave up hope that somehow, some way, they’d find a path back to each other. I couldn’t see how Carrera was going to pull it off, but I had faith that she would because her words sparkle like diamonds and her plotting skills are just as sharp as Maya’s kitchen knives.

Reader, I was not disappointed, and you won’t be either, because love really does cater all.

Now for some extra goodies Nicki has for you, read on.


When hard-driving CEO Rick Nordan arrives in Lobster Cove under strict orders from the family doctor to take a break, he discovers the rental house comes with a family attached, including one sexy dynamo of a caterer. She’s nothing like his ex-fiancée who wouldn’t sign a pre-nup, but maybe that means she’s the real deal and not a gold digger.

Maya Cruz wants life for her widowed mother to get easier by renting out her house during the summer. But teaching Mama business means explaining Rick isn’t a “guest,” he’s a “customer.” And the first thing Mama does is invite Rick to join their family activities. Having Rick around wouldn’t be so bad if Maya didn’t find him so attractive. The last time she fell for a vacationing millionaire, she had her heart broken.

She swore off his type, and he’s not looking, but this might be a recipe for love.


“Doc made me unplug. Ordered me to read books. Even went so far as to write out a prescription.” Rick reached in his pocket.

She took the paper he’d retrieved and read it. Sure enough, their website and the words, No electronics, read a book were scrawled on an Rx sheet in Doc’s handwriting. She handed back the note. “I’d recognize Doc’s penmanship anywhere.”

“Penmanship!” Rick grinned. “You can see from Doc’s chicken scratch, if I had to rely on the Internet for entertainment I’d be out of luck. It’s old-fashioned bound-paper for me this week.”

“I love books. In our library, you’ll find the classics, westerns, and some spicy romance.” Maya thought she’d just toss the last genre in there to see how he’d react. He grinned. Her stomach fluttered. This man was nothing like the conceited ass she’d dated last summer. Both men might be rich, but they were so different. “History, biography, and a Bible.”

“Will there be a quiz?”

“Only on the romance.” His laugh was so sensuous she could roll in it.

“I really need to dry the floor. I’ll get a rag. Excuse me.”

Mama passed her at the hall closet. “We should invite Mr. Nordan to our party tomorrow.”

Oh no. Rick was going to meet the gorgeous twins before Maya even had a single date with him.


Nicci Carrera lives to write contemporary and spicy love stories with sassy heroines and sexy heroes. Nicci believes the perfect man makes lots of bread…the kind you eat hot from the oven with butter. She lives in Silicon Valley with her husband, and yes, he bakes all their bread. When not at her keyboard writing a romance, in the kitchen, or curled up with a book, Nicci enjoys photography and long walks.

Where to find Nicci on the Internet:



An interesting Nicci fact: she actually spotted a food truck like the one she created for Love Caters All.





My book group is coming over tomorrow. We are not discussing the book, MaddAddam, the final novel in a dystopian trilogy by Margaret Atwood, because in November we decided to reread The Year of the Flood (Book 2 in the trilogy), since we had read it several years before and wanted to be fresh for MaddAddam. I was the only one who got through The Year of the Flood. Not only did I get through it, I loved it all over again and couldn’t wait to read MaddAddam.

It is fine that the rest of the group is done with dystopia for now. We’ve read several. Several series, even. However, now I have nobody to discuss MaddAddam with…there are just a few things I keep thinking about. One, it’s fiction. Liking the story does not mean I like depressing future scenarios in which almost everyone on the planet dies. I find them fascinating, horrible, possible. But as a story, this novel works like any other. There are good guys and bad guys. Who will win? What’s at stake? How will it end?

To say that Atwood’s novel is “like any other” in a conventional story way is not to say it is ordinary. It’s told with great skill and humanity and cunning  humor and honest reckoning. I loved it all, the characters, the world, the premise. Isn’t every dystopian novel at its core a cautionary tale? Yet it can be read on several levels. How deep do you want to go? She’ll take you there.

This is a woman who has written over 40 works. A lifetime of words. I went back to my collection and looked at her first photos in the earliest books and there is Atwood, fair-skinned and red corkscrewed hippie hair. Young and beautiful. And now her cover photo shows the passage of time. Her hair is silvery white and while her skin has aged, it is still soft and she is still beautiful. For some, aging is a thing to be disguised, perhaps because aging brings death closer. For Atwood, aging is a triumph. I’m still here, she seems to say, and I’m still writing. Still inventing new ways to tell the human story. 

I like it that she is not afraid to show her age. I like it that she is not afraid to face what might be a possible future for feckless humanity. After the book ends, she writes this note “Although MaddAddam is a work of fiction, it does not include any technologies or biobeings that already do not exist, are not under construction, or are not possible in theory.” Atwood calls this genre not science fiction but speculative fiction. What if… I won’t spoil the end of the book. It is too good, and comes around wonderfully in a way I would not have imagined when I started on this journey with Oryx & Crake (first in the trilogy).


Reviews, Blurbs, Templates & Taglines

What a morning! Woke up to a 4 star review of Sister Issues from Rosie Amber. Thanks Rosie <3.  Another reviewer asked to read The Paris Notebook for possible review! Plus I final-edited the template for my new novel, coming soon, and sent it off to my fabulous editor. Now I’m working on the tagline and blurb. As a former professional book reviewer, those things are easy and fun for me to write.

Back in the day, I loved composing a perfect tagline or a pull quote for the authors I reviewed. I made it a point to put something in the review that praised the author’s work. Sometimes, back  when I still visited bookstores, I’d check a book I’d reviewed and sure enough, there was my tagline right on the cover. Some of the writers even used my name, although most times it was just “RT Book Reviews” or “Publishers Weekly.” Still, I knew whose words they were:)

So I’ve come full circle and quite looking forward to sitting with my pen and notebook today, coming up with the perfect tagline for my new book.


Give Me Everything You Have

For awhile now I’ve known I need to go back and finish out my teaching career if I want to receive my pension. I gave myself time to write all the books in my head, and I resolved to start teaching full time again for just the semester or two it will take to make my 10 years. I’ve been teaching, off and on, for 20 years, but most of it was part time, and that was my choice. I’ve been able to write and teach and it’s been a perfect combo for me. Most of the time.

I’ve had issues with students over the years, but nothing as serious as what James Lasdun encountered when he met a talented creative writing student he calls Nasreen. His memoir of being stalked by her over many years is every professor’s worst nightmare. And yet he mustered the creative spark to tell the deeply instructive tale.

My life is typical of many writing lives: teach part time for money, write part time for a lot less money. Lasdun set himself up in the same way, but on a much bigger scale than I’ve ever achieved. He’s taught at Princeton and other high brow institutions; his books are brought out by a New York publisher. I teach at a community college and have an e-Publisher. Lasdun’s life is big, mine is smallish. And, after reading all he’s been through, I like it that way.

Lasdun has a wife and children. He did a good job keeping his family safe and mostly out of Nasreen’s destructive path, but he took so many hits, I’m amazed he even wanted to write about it. And so grateful he did. I’ve heard for years about the harm people do on Amazon review pages. It hasn’t happened to me, but then I might have the lowest number of reviews ever. Nasreen did more than write bad reviews about Lasdun. She accused him of stealing her work, wrote to his publishers, and even sent out emails supposedly from him. She was an internet terror. And there was almost nothing anyone, not the police, not the FBI, could (or would) do.

This is a horror story. But it is also true and teachers of creative writing everywhere should read it today. When I decided to go back to finish out my teaching career, before I read Lasdun’s book, I decided I’d like a new direction. I have asked my dean for courses that teach the students who need to learn the basics of grammar and sentences and three paragraph essays. After reading Lasdun’s harrowing nightmare, I’m really glad I made that decision.