Spring Is Coming!

A mysterious death sends one investigator deep into her hometown’s dark and bloody past.

 See The Trailer Here!

It’s a past the local coven of witches would rather keep buried. Can justice be served or will the witches succeed in keeping their centuries-old secrets intact?

For nearly two-hundred years the sleepy, little town of Barnesville has kept a secret, several in fact. Had it not been for the gruesome death of Peter Wakeley, those secrets may have remained hidden another two centuries. Authorities deem it an accident when an 85 year-old-man is crushed to death under a headstone during a particularly heavy March snow storm. Detective Sergeant Simon Michaels and his assistant, Angela Jennings, are two of the first on the scene. Angie grew up in Barnesville and almost immediately suspects that not all is at it appears to be. Without the help of police to back her suspicions, she quickly takes it upon herself to investigate.
The more she digs into the victim’s life and the role his family played in the founding of the town, the more bizarre things become. Even the town historian and librarian, a good friend of Angie’s mother and a self-proclaimed witch, is reluctant to discuss matters until after the passing of the Scarecrow Moon. It seems the past has come back to haunt and torment the current residents of Barnesville or at least those involved in the witchery on which it was founded.
Even Angie is not immune as vivid and gruesome dreams and uncanny hunches begin to plague her. Eventually she must face one of her deepest fears to unravel the mystery, break the spell, and reveal the dark secrets of the Scarecrow Moon; secrets laced with blood, witchcraft, and at least one scarecrow that refuses to stay where it should.
$14.99 trade paperback or $3.99 on Kindle

BUY IT HERE!

My First Ghost Story

Author’s Note: Written when I was the ripe, old age of eleven, The Strange Well was my first ghost story.  The original hand-written manuscript survives to this day thanks to my father. He saved a lot of my writing from back then and for that I am eternally grateful.  In typing it, I’ve left it as written, spelling and punctuation mistakes included. I felt correcting them would take away some of the childhood charm. It’s a very simple tale and certainly has more than its share of flaws. Some of it doesn’t make sense at all, but it, along with the fully illustrated and adventurous story of Bill, The Worm Who Ran Away, written that same year, sets the stage for what would grow into a life-long passion for writing.

                     And so, without further adieu – the World debut of … The Strange Well.

The Strange Well

Copyright © 1977 Pamela A. Morris

“You’ll have lots of fun at your Aunt Martha’s,” said my grandfather. The reason I was going to my aunts because my mother and father had gotten into a car accident and died. I had to go to my aunts, even though I didn’t like her very much.

“But, Grampa, I don’t want to go, theres nothing to do there, all you do is sit around and watch television,” I said.

“Well, it’s too late now, we’re already here,” he said. “You know I’ll miss you, Corry, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir, I know,” I said. “Oh, Grampa. I don’t want to go, please oh please, don’t let me go!!”

“I’m sorry, Corry, but I can’t help you. I love you,” he said.

Well I finally got into the house. I didn’t see anyone, so I figured that she might be either upstairs or in the garden out back. I went upstairs, looked in all the rooms but she wasn’t there. So I went back down and out the garden. I looked around, there she was picking tulips next to the summer house. I ran down the hill to where she was.

“Aunt Martha,” I said in a quiet voice.

“Corry, my dear, don’t sneak up on me so,” she said, in a sort of startled voice.

Aunt Martha had sort of a musical voice. Nothing like mine, but everyone said I looked like her, same color hair and eyes that’s all.

“Well dear, you better get in the house. You’re probably very tired after that long ride,” she said. “I have a room all ready for you. It was my grandaughters room when she came to visit me.”

“What was her name?”

“Miranda Lee,” she replied, “come on lets get to your room.”

That night I couldn’t stop thinking about Miranda Lee. I couldn’t get to sleep at all that night. I worried about making friends and school. What would it be like? Would I make friends or not? I must of fallen asleep, because the next think I knew it was time to get up.

That afternoon while I was walking down the street and I happened to bump into a girl about my age. “Hi,” I said. “Who are you?”

“I’m Sheala, who are you,” she said.

“I’m Corry,” I said.

“Hay, are you new around here, I never saw you here before?” she said.

“Ya, I just moved in with my Aunt Martha. Do you think that you could come up to my house for a little while?” I asked.

“Sure, my mother wouldn’t care,” she replied. “Lets go. I’ve always wanted to go into that house.”

That day we played games and went down to the summer house. There was something about this place that was strange. Then I saw it. The old well was gone. Aunt Martha said thats where Miranda Lee died. She was playing on the egde, fell in and drown. Then the well was full of water, not it wasn’t it only had a little bit of water in it.

“You know Sheala, my aunt said that every Saturday night Miranda growns something but she can’t under stand her,” I said.

“Really, Wow, do you think we could come out here Tonight and try to see what she wants, and give it to her?” she said.

“Sure, meets ya tonight,” I said, “bye!”

“Ok bye, I’ll bring a flashlight,” she said.

That night we were both there, listening, waiting. Then right on time twelve midnight. The groans began. At first thats all it was, but then it became clear.

SHERRY MAY, SHERRY MAY

“Hay that’s the doll Aunt Martha said I could have. I’ll go get it,” I said.

When I came back, I threw the doll into the hole and the voice stopped.

“Well, I guess we did it,” said Sheala, “we won’t have to worry any more, right Corry?”

“Right Sheala.”

After that Sheala and I played and had fun. I want to her house. It was nice inside. School went fine. And I had a friend or two, or three. Miranda never bugged us again.

THE END

By. Pam Morris – 11

Writing From An Alternate Reality

Every writer gets asked, “Where do your ideas come from?” at least a thousand times. The short answer for me is, “I don’t really know.” Another answer could be, “Everywhere.” In my upcoming Psychological Horror novel, Dark Hollow Road, a partial answer is from a simple road sign we passed while traveling through Eastern Pennsylvania several years ago. It was the catalyst, but from there even I am forced to ask myself, “Where did this come from?”

However, the answer that intrigues me most would be, “An alternate reality.”

It’s said that belief can be a powerful thing. In Mathew 17:20 of the Bible, Jesus says: ‘He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale contains the same kinds of messages. “Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.” One of his most popular quotes is, “Change your thoughts and you change the world.” Today, Notes From The Universe are sent out daily from Mike Dooley author of Infinite Possibilities. “If you know what you want, if you’ve made up your mind, if you can see it, feel it and move towards it in some way every single day… it has to happen.” His most popular quote seems to be, “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.”

All this leads me to the next question. “Which way is the creation process actually flowing?” My characters and the worlds they live in become very real in my mind during the process of storytelling. I can see them and their surroundings. I can hear their voices. I’ve often said they are the ones who pester me into writing. They won’t be quiet until I write down what they are telling or showing me. Are they already in existence waiting to get their stories out or am I creating their stories and in some metaphysical way, bringing them into a type of reality by the act of believing in them and their worlds?

If you’ve talked to any number of authors, they will likely all tell you at one time or another the characters took over. They did things and said things that the author never dreamed of. Stephen King tells the story of a very minor character, a waitress, who, over the course of the novel, became a major player. It was completely unplanned. Apparently she had a lot more to say than he’d initially thought. Who is actually telling the story here?

Last week I found an article at Myths of the Mirror called Why Books Are Living Things. It raises some intriguing ideas and I strongly encourage you to read it. In it the author states, “I believe, on an energetic level, that books are more than paper and ink or digital symbols. On some level, our creations are new entities with the ability to enter into relationship with others on a personal and emotional level, just as we do.” She also raises the questions, “What if, when we create worlds and characters, we create something that exists? How do we know that the myths we fashion in our heads don’t coalesce into something real and measurable? Simply because we lack the brain capacity and technology to perceive and quantify, doesn’t mean something can’t be.”

To this I add and ask, “How do we know we aren’t tapping into an already existing plane of reality, an alternate universe full of people with stories to tell? And for whatever reasons, they have chosen us to tell their tales.” I honestly don’t feel like I am the creator. I feel like a parapsychologist roaming the halls of some great haunted mansion, listening for the voices of those who came before me, asking them, “Who are you? What is your name? Why are you here?” And the answers come in the form of my stories. Is it their belief in me as a storyteller or my belief in them as actual entities that gets the job done?

Maybe it’s a combination of both. Maybe it’s not any of it. Maybe I’m completely nuts. Perhaps Edgar Allen Poe had it right when he asked, “Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?” Chances are no one will ever know what the real answers are. Either way, it’s certainly an interesting path to explore.

 

The First Ladies of Gothic Literature

I had no idea that February was Women In Horror Month when I first started researching the following article back in September 2016. I was hoping to use it for a blog post in October, but life being what it is, just never found the time to wrap it up. Therefore, instead of holding off on it, I thought it was quite topical for February instead!

As a female horror writer and a long time reader of 19th century literature, mostly along the lines of Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, and Edgar Allen Poe, I recently decided it was time to learn more about those ladies who have come before me in the genre. The best place to start was at the beginning, or as near to the beginning as I could find out there. That search led me back to 1778.

Before Anne Rice’s vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac told us all about Lestat in that famous Interview With A Vampire; before Daphne du Maurier introduced us to the cruel and promiscuous Rebecca; and even before the creation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in 1816, there was Clara Reeve and Ann Radcliffe. Reeve’s novel The Old English Baron was published in 1778. Radcliffe followed suit in 1794 with The Mysteries of Udolpho.

What passed for horror then is a far cry from what we know today, but the basic elements remain the same. 18th and 19th Century horror was more of the emotional variety. It was a mental state of being linked to unfortunate and seemingly inescapable circumstances. A sense of claustrophobia was key to these novels, be that in a physical sense as in bodily imprisonment or in a mental sense with feelings of madness and mental illness. Today’s version puts the characters in some sort of insane kidnapper’s isolated torture chamber or house of madness trying to escape as one by one as they are bumped off in the bloodiest, most gruesome ways possible. Not quite so with the works of Cleeve and Radcliffe.

Classic Gothic literature is considered to have started in 1764 with the writing of The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. Within it contains elements of realistic fiction and romance with overtones of the paranormal. The setting included the now almost cliché isolated castle with secret passages, trap doors, clanging chains, and pictures with eyes that shifted and watched passers-by and set a standard for many, many future Gothic novels. The term Gothic stems from the setting, specifically Gothic-style Architecture that was popular during the high and late medieval period, roughly from the 12th-16th centuries. The most common use for this type of architecture was churches and castles, though hundreds of stately homes and colleges also employed the style.

ClaraReeveClara Reeve was born in 1729 to Reverend William Reeve, M.A., rector of Freston and of Kreson in Suffolk, England and his wife, whose family were jewelers to King George I. Clara did not begin to write seriously until after the death of her father. Originally titled The Champion of Virtue, a Gothic Story, The Old English Baron was written in direct response, and perhaps even as a form of literary rivalry to Walpole’s 1764 novel. Very little is known about Clara’s personal life.

Ann_RadcliffeAnn (Ward) Radcliffe was born in London in 1764 to William and Ann (Oates) Ward. At twenty-three she married William Radcliffe who was a journalist and Oxford University graduate. As he often worked late and the couple was without children, Ann took up writing to help pass the many hours she spent alone. As with Reeve, Radcliffe left behind scant information about her private life outside her accomplishments as an author.

More times than not, the main character is a seemingly hapless and helpless woman destined for a life of misery should things continue as they are. More times than not she is also an orphan. This loss of parents or any sort of close, positive and loving family member to protect and guide her is only the beginning of her troublesome fate. Emotions are the biggest foe as well as the greatest ally to the Gothic Horror heroine. Time and time again she will be brought down, dragged through the emotional mud, her mind and spirit and sometimes her body taken to the very brink of doom and despair. She is ruled over by an iron fist in the form of an older man or woman who wants to control everything she says and does for their own personal gain. Usually, that gain is monetary and comes with an increased level of status. These guardians are actually more like cruel, heartless prison guards. This is where the monsters we’ve come to associate with horror novels and movies today were spawned.

Straberry-Hill-Walpoles1798

As powerful and omnipotent as these very human monsters appear to be, they have their weaknesses and their secrets. Finding that weakness and unravelling the secrets is the only way the damsel in distress is going to be set free. Most assuredly there is a knight in shining armor out there, because romance is what makes a Gothic Horror, Gothic and not just Horror, but she can’t rely on him to rescue her. And this where those emotions that have so far worked against her, become her greatest weapon.  She cannot hope to overpower them physically, but at some point in her upbringing, before she was orphaned and life went to hell in a handbasket, someone taught her some powerful psychological and emotional lessons. She may be poor and she may be destitute, but she’s far from stupid. She must use her wits and beat her captors at their own game. How she does that is what drives the plot forward.

Have you noticed that not once have I mentioned anything supernatural actually going on?

The earliest Gothic novels contained very little in the way of the paranormal. And even if there was a ghost, strict limits were often placed on its behavior. The ghost of Lord Lovel in The Old English Baron for instance, is a silent apparition. He is detectable only by sight, never heard or sensed in any other way and is never brought forward into daylight so we can have a really good look at him. There is no confirmed ghost at all in The Mysteries of Udolpho, but we do catch sight of what may be a corpse wearing a black veil.

For obvious reasons, these sorts of novels were tremendously popular with female readers and were very often targeted towards that audience by first appearing as serials in the leading women’s magazines of the day. Within the confines of the story they could see themselves portrayed as the ‘weaker sex’ and taken advantage of by men, and sometimes other women, of wealth and power.  And yet, despite the hardship, there was always hope that the main character would triumph because of her quick thinking. She may be physically weaker, but to see another woman win because of her smarts must have been a wonderful ego boost and given feelings of empowerment to the women reading. If the poor and pitiful Emily of The Mysteries of Udolpho can survive all that she was put through, surely, I, the reader, can overcome my troubles. Feminism was taking root even back then.

From Reeve to Radcliffe, Shelley to du Maurier, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters up to our current female women in horror, Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice, Anne Rivers Siddons, Caitlín R. Kiernan and even myself, we have all strived to present horror in a way that not only frightens but may also empower our readers. Without consciously trying to target a female audience with my own work, I’ve noticed that the majority of my main characters are very strong-minded women. They face the most bizarre of situations and yet they keep fighting for what is right. They discover their inner strengths as they battle the real or imagined paranormal madness that surrounds them. In that way, I feel I am giving a very respectful nod of recognition to the female horror writers who have come before me and am proud of what I have been able to offer the genre in the past and what I hope to present to it in the future.

If you liked this post, you might find my The Horror of Women blog post of interest, too.

Movie Review – Split (2017)

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley.

We’re told that Kevin Crumb has 23 personalities. Via four (maybe five) of his other personalities, two of which seem to have schemed together to kidnap three teenage girls, we’re told that the bad ass 24th personality, known as The Beast, is on his way. Kevin’s therapist, Dr. Karen Fletcher, starts getting emergency emails from the others pleading for help, but is then misled by the personality that shows up for the session the next day. Something’s not right and she knows it, but can’t quite put her finger on what’s going on.

M. Night Shyamalan usually does not disappoint, but this time I’m on the fence with just how much I liked or didn’t like this movie. The pacing as wonderful. The tension grew at just the right pace and James McAvoy did a pretty good job of portraying the personalities we meet. What disappointed me was the fact that those six personalities are the only ones we ever see. In fact, we never even meet the original Kevin until the very end. Why bother having the other 18 if we’re never going to be introduced to them? I felt ripped off.

The ending was somewhat confusing. I get that it is a reference to another Shyamalan film, but I don’t understand the connection. Maybe I’m not supposed to? Maybe I have to wait for a third movie to explain to me the link between these others? Either way, it wasn’t satisfying and I left the theater feeling a little let down with the whole thing.

Had this been something I’d watched on Netflix or Amazon Prime for a much less expensive price tag, maybe I’d have enjoyed it more.

3 out of 5 Ravens

 

Author Interview – Jon Frankel

As part of my New Year’s Resolution to reach out to more of my fellow authors and stop being such a hermit, I will be presenting you with a monthly author interview. The majority are of the horror genre, but I’ll slip in at least one YA and one Sci-Fi author just to mix it up a little bit.

For the month of February, I bring you an interview with Science Fiction-Noir author and poet, Jon Frankel. I’ve known Jon for a number of years, but never made the time to get to know more about him as a writer until now. So, without any further delay, let’s get to it!

Pamela: Tell me a little bit about how you became interested in writing. Have you known since an early age or is this something new you’ve recently started to get involved in?

JonFrankelJon: I guess for as long as I can remember I’ve been a writer. I didn’t think of myself as a writer until my senior year of high school, when my poetry teacher, John Perlman, said I was a poet. But long before that I was writing stories and poems and planning novels that I never wrote. I collaborated on comic books, co-authored a play, stuff like that. I started as a poet, but was also writing short stories that I hoped to turn into novels. When I was 28 I decided to write an experimental literary novel based on a story and utterly failed. I was reading Charles Willeford’s Pick Up, a hard boiled noir novel of the early 60s, and realized I could write one of those. I turned to another short story and banged out a 140 page near future noir. That became Specimen Tank, my first novel, after years of revision.

Pamela: I know you work in a library so you must be a fan of the reading as well as writing. Do you read the same sorts of things that you write about and who are some of your favorite authors?

Jon: My reading and writing are intimately related of course, but I read much different stuff than I write. I love nothing more than novels of the late 19th and early 20th century, especially from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I really read pretty indiscriminately though, lots of non-fiction, history and philosophy, and novels of all types and all periods, as well as poetry of course. A list of my favorite authors would be so long! Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, Ralph Ellison, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Bohumil Hrabal, Jaroslav Hasek, Robert Musil, Charles Willeford, Elizabeth Hand, Raymond Chandler, Edmund Spenser, William Blake, William Shakespeare, China Mieville, Philip K. Dick, Marianne Hauser, DH Lawrence, Thomas Mann, Joseph Roth, Anna Kavan…..

Pamela: Like you, for a while I wrote under a pen-name. Why did you choose to use a pen-name in your earlier works and what made you decide to start using your real name instead?

Jon: My first book was a really violent, nihilistic near future noir. I guess I was embarrassed my family would see that all my talk about being a poet and writer had resulted in that. Sort of like if you were studying to compose symphonies and joined a thrash metal band. It was so long between the publication of my first book and my next (20 years!) that I had in the interim established a tiny, but searchable, online presence as Jon Frankel. It was a tough decision to retire Buzz Callaway, especially since GAHA: Babes of the Abyss, is a really violent, nihilistic far future noir. With literary stuff.

Pamela: Tell me a little bit more about your poetry. What inspires you and do your poems share a common theme or are they pretty much all over the place genre-wise depending your mood and the inspiration?

Jon: I think I’ve written the same poem over and over in some ways, but my methods have evolved a lot over the years. I used to write highly improvisational, stream of consciousness poems with strong rhythms and a lot of assonance, but no regular meter or rhyme. I read deeply and wide in the poetic tradition, and always have, but my work was very much New York School if not Beat. Language poetry and the various experimental, avant-garde schools of the 60s-the present really left me cold. I’m a romantic, if not a Romantic, at heart. A number of years ago, as I ran out of gas as a poet, I started to wonder why I didn’t write in meter and rhyme. Slowly I began to experiment with that (and I’m really not great at regular meter, rhyme I can manage) and found I was getting inspired to write, using methods opposite to those I was accustomed to. This essentially meant I could re-explore everything. Which is really exciting. I’m 56, and feel like I have a new sports car, the formal poem. I love to write short, cryptic, intricate rhymed pieces. I think my most basic concern is alchemical, sublimation and metamorphosis, and my methods are playful. The biggest pitfall for me is pompous, pretentious, glaring big statements. But I really hate timidity in poetry. No one reads it, so why not go for the big kahuna?

Pamela: I know you just had a new release back in September 2016. Tell us a little bit about “The Man Who Can’t Die”.  Can you give me the quick, elevator pitch for it?

MANcover Jon: The elevator pitch has always defeated me! Maybe if we were riding to the top of Sears Tower or something, with a stop for a second elevator of the 50th floor. MAN is a really complicated story, about a scientist who invents a drug that cures unhappiness, but kills 10% of everyone who takes it, and a man who wants more than anything to die, but can’t. It takes place 180 years in the future, and the world has been utterly transformed by global warming, and America is a corporate dictatorship. The characters are searching for freedom, but lack the vocabulary and concepts to articulate it. It has beautiful cars, fast women, ray guns, hovercraft and a sexual paradise. It’s a bulging valise of noir and sci fi romance. Sex, drugs and rock and roll as they say.

Pamela: Where can people find out more about you and keep up-to-date your writing?

Jon: I have a website, lastbender.com. My publisher, Whiskey Tit Press, also has a website. I’m on Facebook, too. My poetry is on lastbender.com, as well as essays, reviews and articles about cooking and food. One thing everyone notices in my fiction is the abundance of food, cooking and restaurants. On my website, the most searched thing I’ve written is on how to roast a wild boar ham!

Thank you, Jon. It was great getting to know more about you and your work as a novelist and poet.

Folks, if you want to learn even more about Jon, check out these websites.

Jon Frankel’s WEBSITE
Jon’s Publisher Whiskey Tit Press

eBook SALE!! Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon

For the next two days, my paranormal murder-mystery “Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon” is only $1.99 on Kindle!

A mysterious death sends one investigator deep into her hometown’s dark and bloody past.

 It’s a past the local coven of witches would rather keep buried. Can justice be served or will the witches succeed in keeping their centuries-old secrets intact?

 Review: “Her descriptions of people, places, emotions and events ride that elusive line between too sparse and too verbose. Furthermore, Pam has an extraordinary ability to tell a story…” Dr. S.C. Meyers

GET YOURS HERE!

 

Book Review – Maledicus by Charles F. French

Roosevelt, Sam, and Jeremy are retired men living in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania. Each has suffered the tragic and overwhelming loss of a loved one. Together they have formed The Investigative Paranormal Society. The group is called to investigate the home of a local school teacher whose young niece is being frightened by a something in the house. Little do they know this no ordinary haunting, but one powered by a pure, unapologetic evil straight from the depth of Hell known as Maledicus.

I really like the author’s idea of using men of retirement age as his investigative team. I envisioned old wise men, the voices of reason and wisdom, and it seemed they would be a welcome change from the ghost taunting, over-dramatic, everything-bad-is-demonic, youngsters we see on all those ghost hunting shows.

What I got was a rather dry and somewhat academic-tainted story being told to me without a whole lot of emotion. The chapters devoted to the creation and back story of the title character were pretty interesting, but I found it next to impossible to envision or invest anything into what was going on with any of the other characters.

The dialogue doesn’t feel natural. Unnecessary exposition told me things I didn’t need to know nor did I care about it or I was told the same thing numerous times. On meeting the school teacher and her niece, I wanted to see and feel their bond, not just be told about it. Show them doing things together, don’t simply tell me about it and expect me to care. When the aunt is approached by her niece and told that a ‘bad man’ is frightening her, we aren’t shown how. Show me the child’s terror. The ghost hunters don’t even interview the little girl before investigating. Considering the stories we are told about Maledicus and his methods of torturing people while living, he wasn’t very creative in his semi-demon form. He gives the child a mysterious illness. That’s it? C’mon, Mal! You can do better than that!

Point Of View would change and jump around at very odd times. Quite often a section would begin with Character A’s POV, then jump for a paragraph to Character B’s POV, then back to Character A again.

I like a horror story that plunges me into the darkness, despair, terror and HORROR that the character’s experience. Take me down with them and scare me. Make me want to read the next chapter and stay up late doing so to see how they get out of it … if they do! This book did none of that.

Additionally, the font size used was too small and along with numerous typos, did not make for as an enjoyable read as I’d hoped.

TWO out of FIVE Ravens