Write What You Love: The Joys of Genre Hopping

Back in November of 2015, I blogged about The Horror of Women . It dealt with the difficulties women have getting published in the Horror Genre. Though I still struggle with the reality of that whole situation, I’d much rather write horror than what I was initially published in, erotica.

For centuries women have been viewed by the publishing world as inferior writers. For that reason they have used more masculine or gender neutral nom-de-plumes . What many people may not know is that some of their favorite female authors have also written in multiple genres.

Judy Bloom, known best for her “Fudge” series took a walk on the trampy side with her novel, “Wifey”. Anne Rice took a side trip from her witches and vampires to explore kink with the “Sleeping Beauty” trilogy.  Joyce Carol Oats wrote gothic horror, murder and crime fiction, romances, historic fiction, fantasy, realism and surrealistic novels. All these woman are successful writers who dared step outside of their comfort zones and explore beyond the old adage of “write what you know”. I’m more inclined to write what I enjoy writing and I’ve had several different loves.

As a young adult I dreamed of writing Children’s fiction and even took college level classes in Children’s Literature and Illustration to pursue that goal. Somewhere along the lines for reasons that are unclear to me, my first novel turned out to be in the Fantasy genre. Beyond what was require of me in high school and the reading of The Hobbit, fantasy’s not my thing. On an awkward dare from a friend, I began writing erotica. I never saw that one coming (pun intended). Five published novels later, I’d had enough.

Having always loved murder-mysteries, horror, and anything to do with the paranormal, that was my next genre pick. This, I feel, is where I truly belong. Witches, ghosts, and bogeymen, oh my! In 2013 I saw my first paranormal murder-mystery published and was on cloud nine until, about six months later, my publisher announced they were going out of business. Now what? I already had another novel done and in the editing process for these people. Heartbroken, but knowing this was where I wanted my writing to go, I carried on and finished the second book and began the whole query, query, query, submit, submit, submit, rejected, rejected, rejected process all over again.

Had I messed up? Should I go back into the closet and return to the erotica where I was still seeing decent sales and a monthly royalty deposit in my account? Don’t get me wrong, the erotica was fun to write and I learned a great deal about some aspects of the publishing business, but my heart and writer’s soul wasn’t into it. No. I just couldn’t do it. I’ve never felt so creative and productive and pleased with my writing since making the genre hop. With fans of the first murder-mystery contacting me at least once a month over when I’d have another book out, I realized it was time to change tactics … again. The traditional publishing Gods were not with me. I was letting everyone down. I had to do something drastic and decided to self-publish.

Because of that, I had the pleasure of being invited to five author events in 2016. I’m hoping to do at least that many for 2017. It’s rather difficult to peddle your erotic-wares in public knowing your mother’s pastor is likely to walk by and say hello or you’re going to see old friends and teachers and try to explain how you know about “those sorts of things”.  It’s called research, people. As I’ve said before, I like vampire and murder-mysteries, too, but that doesn’t mean I believe I’m a vampire or that I’m going to go out and murder someone. Sex may sell, but not in a small town family-friendly community center or a privately owned bookstore. It’s a lot easier when it’s a murder-mystery or something about haunted houses or Shadow People or urban legends.

With three paranormal novels now out and another on the way later in 2017, I may not be raking in the dough as much as I one day hope to, but I’m having a lot more fun and I’m getting much needed exposure. I’m mingling, setting up displays, doing book talks and signing and, though I write under my maiden name, I’m not really hiding behind a pen-name anymore. I’m being myself and sharing my love of the macabre.

I’d still love to put out a Children’s book, too. Maybe I will one of these days.

If you’re considering writing something different than what you’d normally do, do it! Don’t limit your imagination to a single genre. You have a slew of successful female (and male) writers who have already dared to be different. Georgette Heyer, who is better known for her romance novels, has also dabbled in detective fiction. Children’s book author Sonya Hartnett wrote a rather sexually graphic novel that created a bit of a stir. You’re in good company no matter where you decide to let your writing take you, just don’t be afraid to explore.

Taking that step could very well lead you exactly where you want to go. Start walking!

Alice Is Coming To Town

… and for a mere $725 I can get a front row ‘INSANITY PACKAGE’ for a once in a lifetime experience. Now, I like Alice Cooper just fine. In fact, funny story, one of the odd things future hubby (11 days to go) and I have in common is that we’ve both dressed up as Alice Cooper for Halloween. And we’d love to experience his brand of theatrical musical madness in the almost intimate theater (less than 4000 seats) he’ll be performing at next month less than an hour’s drive from our front door, but… $725?!

The Insanity Package does sound pretty damn awesome, I’ll give you that.

FrankenAlice       HeadlessAlice

One front row ticket. VIP early entry into the venue. Exclusive after show Meet & Greet with Alice Cooper. Personal photograph with Alice Cooper. On stage tour prior to Alice’s performance – including a photo with the FrankenAlice and your head in Alice’s guillotine! Autographed Alice Cooper Certificate of Insanity. Official Alice Cooper set list. Specially designed Alice Cooper tour shirt. Alice Cooper tote bag. Collectible limited print, Alice Cooper for President tour poster. $50 merchandise voucher to the official Alice Cooper online store. A chance to be chosen to be on stage with Alice Cooper and toss balloons at the end of the show!

But…$725?!

I’d be happy with a couple of those Gold Circle ($75) tickets. First ten rows ain’t too shabby. Again, small venue. We’d be right up there.

Sadly, as with so many things we want to do in life, the timing is bad.

Almost-Hubby had this to say: “Let’s spend the $1450.00 for the two of us on a guitar and Amp and I’ll put on a top hat and play School’s Out.” Now, I’m not negating the musical abilities of my Old Man, but I fail to see where I’d get as much enjoyment out of this idea as he would.

SigningJim  <-NOT Alice Cooper.-> alice

Where’s the boa constrictor? Where’s the guillotine? Where’s the straight-jacket, the smoke, the baby dolls, bloody dismembered body parts and the gallows?! Really, Jim? You think I’m going to fall for this just so you can get a new guitar and amp? I love you, darling, but… no. Besides, my favorite Alice Cooper song is Welcome To My Nightmare, not School’s Out.

It’s pretty clear at this point neither one of us will be spending the night with Alice Cooper any time in the near future. Which, kinda sucks, but whatcha gonna do? That’s life. We all wish for a lot of things and as much as I wish this could be a thing, it  won’t be and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Though probably not as outlandish as an Alice Cooper show, our honeymoon is looking like it will be quite the experience, or as we like to call these sorts of things, An Adventure. I finally read the pamphlet that came with our cabin reservation confirmation letter last night to discover that the cabin we reserved on the St. Lawrence up in the Thousand Islands has no A/C, nor are you allowed to sneak in an A/C unit. A fan it is! I hope this hazy, hot, and humid heat wave we’ve been having this summer breaks by then. And though they have cable, they don’t have televisions in the cabins. WiFi is available, but the lady I spoke to wasn’t sure if it reached as far as the cabins. So, we’re resigned to maybe taking along a collection of bad B-movies and renting some porn to watch on the laptop. I think Alice Cooper would approve of those choices. We’re going to wing it most of the time because as much as I do like to plan, being spontaneous can be just as much, if not more, fun!

“If you confine it, you’re confining a whole thing. If you make it spontaneous, so that anything can happen, like we don’t want to confine or restrict anything. What we can do, whatever we can let happen, you just let it happen.” – Alice Cooper.

 

Lumbering On Morris Mountain

T-minus 3 weeks until wedding day. As I’ve been doing about every other weekend for the past few months, I loaded the car up yesterday afternoon with some items for said wedding day, in this case soft and adult beverages, and headed up to Morris Mountain where the nuptials and merriment will be taking places. It seemed a harmless enough mission, but boy, am I sore this morning.

As I pulled into view of the house, I saw my 73-year-old father over at the pavilion working on something. I decided I’d go say hello and see what he was up to before heading inside with the drinks and to visit with mom.

Though he complains a lot about having so much to do, I don’t think Dad’s really happy unless he has a project going on. This weekend he decided to tackle constructing and hanging some folding wooden shades for the pavilion. Keep in mind that when Dad builds a thing he BUILDS! a thing. It’s not going to fall apart. That thing is going to be there for a very long time. He built the house they live in over the course of about five years while also working full-time. It’s not a little house. It’s three stories (four if you count the full basement) with a huge cathedral ceiling and wrap-around front decks on two levels. So, no small task. He also built the pavilion in which he was working yesterday and the old and new outhouses nearby. I clearly remember him building the old one because I helped draw out and cut the crescent shape on the door. It’s what they used while constructing the house and it’s still there all these many moons later.

As a kid I helped dad out with his projects as often as I could. I really enjoyed learning how to use a T-square, a plumb-bob, a line level, a hammer, skill saw, and any other tools needed for construction. I pounded a whole lot of nails into subflooring when he added on to our house around 1975. I learned about building a cinderblock wall and how to lay a brick sidewalk. One weekend I helped him put up the new stovepipe for the coal stove while standing on the metal roof of the house. I was 16.

Last year, he installed a deck floor on the pavilion to replace the old crushed stone one and started work on the new outhouse. This year, he finished the outhouse which puts the bathroom in my house nearly to shame! He’s also working on building a trellis for the wedding and, now, these folding blinds.

So, I head over to see how it’s going. He’s having a hard time of it. The wood is heavy and awkward and he can’t balance things or line things up like he wants alone so I ask ever so casually, “Need some help?” I am immediately put to work holding up this, moving that, lifting this into place, lining up this other thing, and climbing up and down on the picnic table numerous times so I could reach and balance pieces in place. The project was not cooperating and really is a three man job, not one 73-year-old-man and one fifty-year-old female desk jockey wearing cotton capris and sandals work.

While dad went to look for another piece of rope in the cellar to help with hoisting and holding things into place, I popped upstairs to visit with Mom ever so briefly. But, my respite was brief and  doing as promised, I went back out to help once I saw Dad back at it, new length of rope in hand. Mom decided she’d come out and help, too.

Finally, three hours after I pulled innocently into the driveway, we got the first shade satisfactorily into place and called it a night. No, it was not the afternoon I had envisioned at all.

Despite having a very sore right shoulder from standing on a picnic table balancing two wood panels in place so Dad could get the hinges screwed in and my legs and arms aching a bit more than usual, I actually enjoyed the work.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to help my dad build anything. He can still work circle around me and I think it’s time to pass the torch to the next generation. Therefore, this coming week, my 25-year-old son and a friend of his are going to go help Grampa Morris finish up this particular project.

Photo credit: www.gettyimages.co.uk

My Slightly Fictional Childhood

Life certainly throws some strange punches.

For the past thirty years I was fairly sure I’d grown up in the 1970-80s real-life version of Mayberry, USA. It was a quiet, idyllic, free-range childhood. Summers were spent walking the creek beds catching crayfish and stuffing them into a Pringle’s can only to free them further upstream. It was the thrill of swimming in Snapping Turtle Infested waters, camping in backyards, and riding our bikes down the steepest, most twisted road in town. It was racing to the R\R tracks with a shiny penny in hand when we heard that train a’coming, followed by the frantic hunt to find whose got squished the flattest. It was all the town kids gathering together after dark, unsupervised, setting our own rules and boundaries for a game of Hide-n-Seek or *Commander Tag.

I say I was fairly sure I’d grown up like this, but after attending Saturday’s ‘Blueberry & Books Festival’ in my hometown and visiting one of the haunts I frequented back in the day, I’m starting to wonder what was actually real and what is imagined.

The setting for my first murder-mystery, “Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon”, is the fictional version of my hometown, Berkshire, NY. Nell Miller, the town librarian and a main character, lives in a small, two-story apartment  attached to the library. She also runs the town’s history museum that is upstairs from the library. Unlike most kids, I spent a large portion of my Friday nights at the library hanging out with Mrs. Leonard the librarian. I was there a lot! I went up to the museum a fair amount of times, too. The library was a safe haven. Ah, I remember it all so clearly.

Or not.

When writing “…Scarecrow Moon” I closed my eyes and brought to mind every nook and cranny I could remember of the library. The little apartment that always fascinated me, the front entry,  the small section of Children’s books front and center as you walked in, the larger section to the left where I did all my browsing, and the research area with its wall of card catalog shelving all sprang to life in my mind’s eye.

Apparently, my mind’s eyes need glasses.

One day as I was driving by on my way to my mom and dad’s, I looked fondly towards the library and realized, “Hey, there’s only one level to the little side apartment section.” How, odd. No matter. It’s fiction, but I could have sworn there was an upstairs to that.

BerkshireFreeLibrary

The real life Berkshire Free Library.

Yesterday, after a thirty year absence, I was able to visit the library once again while the crowd was at a lull and one of the library workers offered to sit at my author table to keep an eye on my things. I walked in, the thrill, the nostalgia, the sheer wonder of… where the hell am I? Is this even the same place?  Yes, yes, there’s the familiar front door and the desk it right where Mrs. Leonard always had hers. And over here to the left are the larger stacks. Okay, well, those shelves are metal now instead of the wonderful, dark wood ones I recall, but that’s progress. In front of me is, not the Children’s Book section at all. The Children’s section had been expanded back into another room I never even knew existed. The research area with the big table and card catalogue was now full of more shelves and books and… No, say it ain’t so! The little apartment is gone! GONE! I wandered in slowly, and slightly horrified, at what should have been Nell Miller’s living quarters. It was about a quarter of the size I thought I remembered and so, yeah, where are the stairs that go up to her bedroom and bathroom? That’s right. No upstairs. This is reality. *sigh*

But, the museum, surely, SURELY that’s the same, right? Wrong.

The stairs were in the same spot. That was a good sign. I headed up, smiling, my hope renewed. I swear to God the place has shrunk. What’s up with that phenomenon? They say it’s because you were so much smaller\younger, but I’m the same height I was back then. It’s not like I was five years old the last time I was there. Anyway…

That big room where the Scarecrow stands guard at the top of the stairs in the book? Nope, not there. How about those two big rooms laid out side by side, one at the front and one at the back and all those display cases and the door that connects them on the far end so you can walk through and loop around? Nope, sorry, kids. That ain’t so. Well, damn, my brain has been lying to me. And if it lied to me about this place, what else do I have wrong? What other parts of my Berkshire-berry USA childhood are fictional?

DSCF2858

One of the museum rooms upstairs in the library.

Did we really walk the creek and put crayfish into Pringle’s cans? Did we really swim with Snapping Turtles? Those trips to the pond in the middle of a farmer’s field to go ice-skating, those really happened right? What about the time our toboggan of five went barreling over the cliff and into the freezing water of the creek below? I know thirty town kids plus played Tag and Hide-n-Seek on those long, hot summer nights, but could I produce any witnesses to this? What about the rotten apple fights we had in Slate’s back yard!?

My mind reels. What I thought was reality, maybe wasn’t! If it wasn’t, then where was I and who was I actually with all those times? Aliens? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s all a Barnesville conspiracy. Maybe what I wrote about isn’t fiction at all. Maybe that’s the reality, not this here and now place that’s messing with my old, forgetful brain. Could innocent Mrs. Leonard have put something in my cup of Kool-Aid during Summer Movies in the library basement? I mean, after all, Nell Miller’s grandmother was good friends with the librarian from Nell’s childhood, and Nell’s grandmother was some sort of witch, so it only stands to reason … .

I guess my fiction is a lot more fictional than I thought it was!
Life … strange punches.

*Commander Tag. I probably have the name of this game wrong, too! This was played on the baseball field located in the center of town. The Commander was chosen and would stand on the pitcher’s mound. Everyone else gathered around. He or She would then cover their eyes and count  just as one would do in Hide-N-Seek and also like H-n-S, the rest of us would scatter in all directions. Hiding, however was optional. The Commander was not permitted to step beyond the baselines, instead, the players would slowly start to inch their way in an effort to reach the pitcher’s mound without being tagged. If you did so, you were Free and would head over to the bleachers to wait out the rest of the game. If you were tagged by The Commander, you became one of the Soldiers and you joined his forces to tag other players as they came in. The longer a Player waited to make his move, the harder it was to reach the pitcher’s mound. Good times!

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Ah, that first English assignment when returning to school after the summer off. How I always looked forward to that moment. Yes, I was a strange child, but I think that was established some time ago and I have since grown up to be a bit left-of-center adult. Now that school is out for the kiddies, my mind drifts back to those care-free days and those two months of pretty much doing as I pleased. Oh, to be that kid again.

When I realized that the “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” writing assignment was pretty much an annual event for English teachers, I began to consider what odd thing I could do to make my assignment stand out from the rest of the Muggle Crowd. (Of course, we didn’t have Muggles back then as these were the pre-Harry Potter days, but you get the idea.) God forbid I should do something entirely normal. I can’t remember all of those summers, but there is one that sticks out in my mind the most. I spent at least three weeks of one particular summer vacation in the nearby cemetery. Well, not full time there, but during the days. I probably would have spent the nights, but I’m sure my parents (as well as the authorities) would have frowned on such a thing.

I’ve never had a fear of cemeteries like so many people do. No idea why. They just aren’t in the least bit scary to me day or night. I’ve always enjoyed wandering among headstones taking pictures and enjoying the peace and restful quiet they offer. On this particular summer, however, I was on a mission.

At least three days a week for nearly a month, I’d load up my Army green backpack with lunch, my little transistor radio, lined paper, graph paper, a supply of pencils and a sharpener, a pen, and my camera in the morning. I’d toss it over my back and hop onto my bike for the mile and a half ride to Berkshire Evergreen Cemetery. Once there, I’d set to work.

I worked my way north to south, west to east, getting deeper and deeper into the cemetery. One by one my graph paper filled with tiny black squares, each marked with its own unique number. Each one set in a sub-divided section of the grounds created by the various roadways throughout. On my lined paper I started with Section 1. Grave #1. And wrote down everything on the headstone associated with that space. My goal was to document and map every headstone in the place. That, to me, was summertime fun!

I couldn’t have been happier or prouder of my time spent there. This was a huge undertaking even for an adult and here I was probably about 12-13 years old doing it all on my own for the mere amusement of the thing. I did eventually complete the project and boy did I have something unusual to write about come September and the inevitable English essay.

Unfortunately, this tale does not have the ending I wish it did. For years I kept that project alive. I’d add black squares and information as new graves were created. But… now, almost forty years later, I have NO idea whatsoever what happened to the folder I had it all in. That really could have been a useful tool for future genealogists! I can’t imagine throwing it out. I can’t imagine either of my parents throwing it out had they come across it over the years. I mean, sheesh, my dad once presented me with a small composition notebook he’d found from my elementary school days full of little stories I’d written as writing assignments!

The years have gone by and I no longer have to write “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essays for English class, but I kind of wish I did. Vacations don’t last for two months anymore and they usually don’t take place in the summer. I’m old and try to escape the New York winters for a couple weeks now.

That isn’t to say that I still don’t enjoy spending some of my summer days wandering through nearby cemeteries taking pictures and enjoying the peace and quiet that being surrounded by the dead brings me. Old habits die hard and I’d rather this one not pass away until I do.

So.. what are your plans for summer vacation?

Featured Image: Berkshire Evergreen Cemetery, Berkshire, NY. Courtesy of the author.

The Bitter, Dry Pill of Failure

Failure. It’s a bitter, dry pill to swallow. It can wedge itself in the back of your throat. It can make you gag. You may even throw up. Failure is never pleasant and it’s not what we strive for. No one sets out to fail. Failure never fails to show up despite our best efforts to avoid it.

My first published novel, Virgin of Greenbrier, was released in 2006. It wasn’t the genre I’d ever imagined myself being published in, erotica-romance, but I was still over the moon at this taste of success. More books along the same line followed. Happy as I was, I wasn’t really happy with putting out these types of books. Bound To Be Bitten, my personal response to the whole nonsense of lovey-dovey, sparkling vampires, was published in 2010. As with the novels before it, it was erotica and it would be the last novel of that genre I would write. I had struggled horribly trying to make it what the publisher wanted. I wanted to write thrillers, horror, and murder-mysteries so I turned my pen to doing just that.

Blood of the Scarecrow  was the result. The joy I’d always found in writing had returned. It was published in 2013 by a new and small indie publishing house. By 2014 they decided to close their doors and returned all rights to me. So much for any success with that. Chalk another one to failure. I was devastated and heart broken. Had I just wasted ten years of my life going through all these steps? What was the point? I was back to zero! Why was I even bothering to work on a second murder-mystery? Beyond my Beta Readers and some close family and friends, who would ever read it? Why did I care?

What did all these other writers have that I lacked? I’d read some of their stuff and thought a lot of it sucked. I’m no Stephen King or Anne Rice and I don’t live under the delusion that I’ll ever be as good as them, but damn it, I’m not horrible either, am I? Am I?

My friends and family say no, but let’s be honest here, they are partial. They want me to succeed. They want me to feel good about that which they all know is my passion. They don’t want to hurt my feelings, see me sad, or be part of the reason I give it all up. They don’t want to pulverize my dreams so they say they like what I’ve done, even if they don’t. With their help, maybe I’ve brainwashed myself into thinking what I write is halfway decent. I try and tell myself that all I need is the Right Person to read something and give me a good review, someone who has no emotional stake in my happiness or misery, A Person Who Matters. Here I am ten years and eight novels into this writing gig and I still don’t see myself as a success.

I gave up submitting queries to traditional publishers and agents. The rejections became unbearable. The idea of vanity publishing made me cringe. It was something I swore up and down I’d never do. Only the lowest of the low and most pathetic would ever do that. What sort of sad-sack failure would stoop to something so abominable? Not me! No, never me!

Yes, me. Failure after failure got the better of me. Well, failure and those same friends and family and co-workers who continually asked, “When’s the next book coming out?” After doing my research, I decided on CreateSpace through Amazon. Had I made the right decision? They offered their self-publishing for free which was exactly what I could afford. I turned to friends with editing experience for help and happen to have a fiancé who’s a kick-ass graphic designer and website creator.

Thank God we work together so well. Over a period of about six months we were able to create the final manuscript of That’s What Shadows Are Made Of and unleashed it on the world in December 2015. We were also able to re-release the first book under the new title of  Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon. I’m proud of all that. Both have really awesome cover art and we got a website up to help with getting what was unknown, known. Well, semi-known-ish. It’s still an uphill battle. After ten years I finally have my first book talk and signing this spring, may have another this summer, and will be making a real live bookstore appearance in the fall with yet another new title release. Even with all that, I still don’t where this is going.

However, instead of letting all those failures, doubts, and rejection weigh me down and shove me into a gutter of hopeless despair, I’m trying to build on the little successes I’ve had. They seem minuscule at times. I still question if they are worth it when I don’t see the sales I’d hope for. I still get frustrated. I still doubt. I still cry. At the same time, I can look back over those ten years with a sense of accomplishment. I may never make the big time, but at the very least I can leave behind me something in my life to be proud of.

We all have dreams. We all have passions. The majority of people in the world will never have those dreams realized. They will die never feeling they’ve done their best to fulfill that passion. Some won’t even try or will simply give up when the going gets a little too rough. The pot hole will turn into a river they can’t cross and they’ll turn around and go back. They will forever wonder, what if? What if, instead of turning around, I’d found another way across that river? What if I hadn’t been so hasty and impatient with the situation? What if I’d just waited for the water to go back down? Maybe the path would have been opened up again.

We may know where we want to go, but we really don’t know how we’re going to get there, none of us. We can take the GPS and print out MapQuest directions. We can plan for alternate routes and we can make reservations, but for the most part we’re all just bumbling our way along hoping for the best, swerving to miss the pot holes, taking detours, and getting annoyed and pissed off when obstacles get in our way. That’s part of the journey. Sometimes the journey sucks but even then, as long as we’re moving forward, that’s a positive sign. We have to hold on to that little bit. Sometimes a truck full of live turkeys crashes a hundred of miles away and all you can do is keep in your lane and inch along with the rest of traffic. True story.

Failure. It’s a bitter, dry pill to swallow. You can let it choke you or you can crush it up, swallow it down, and move on. Take the alternate route. Find a new way to reach that dream destination even if it means doing what you said you’d never do, (self-publishing in my case) because even if you find yourself up shit creek without a paddle, you’re still moving and those muddy waters are taking you somewhere. Who knows, it may even be to a shortcut you never imagined existed!

Good Luck & Keep Your Dreams Alive!

Take Time To Enjoy Your Time

Death stalked me and my family this year. In most cases those that passed were people we’d not seen in a good many years. I guess that sort of softened the blows that were dealt. The family dog of 15 years went peacefully in her sleep in April. That was, and still is, tough for us. My dad’s brother passed at the end of August from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. In September two dear people from the Wild West group I was once in were killed in a motorcycle accident. Come November, a cousin’s husband died of Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 31. A couple weeks later a cousin was killed in car accident. He was 41. The week after that, another uncle died. I was really hoping that we’d make it through the rest of the year without seeing any more deaths in the family, but this morning I found out yet one more cousin had died at age 51. On top of that I saw the death of English author, Tanith Lee, who was a HUGE inspiration to me on many levels. Christopher Lee died at age 93 this year. Oh, the many hours I watched and pined over that man as Dracula.

This isn’t the most cheerful way to start out an end of year blog post, is it? No, but maybe it will help put things into perspective. We can’t stop death, at least not permanently. It’s going to happen to us all. In the meantime, it’s important we do as much living as we can. I did a lot of living in 2015, a whole lot!

In January I got my long-awaited second tattoo; a very pretty rainbow monarch with my kids’ names around it, done by my daughter, on my right calf.

I’m a planner. It may have seemed way too early to some people, but in February I made hotel reservations for our planned trip the first week of September to White Sands and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

March & April brought the urge to purge my life of those material things that no longer bring me joy. I went through three closets, a big dresser, and got rid of more books than I ever dreamed I’d be able to part with.

May saw Jim and I taking our first, and thus far only, group ride together down in the Athens-Wysox area of Pennsylvania with our friend Amy and a friend I went to school with, Kathy, her husband Tim, and about 200+ other bad-ass looking bikers to raise money for breast cancer awareness. The first draft of “No Rest For The Wicked” was completed and the long, yet to be finished series of edits, began.

Along came June and a Father’s Day breakfast spent with my dad on Hiawatha Island. He passed on some words of wisdom that I’d forgotten about until now. He said, “Take time to enjoy your time.” It’s not about things or money; it’s about the moment, the time spent with others, and enjoying whatever it is in life that brings you joy. Words to live by indeed; take time to enjoy your time

July saw the United States pass the Marriage Equality Act giving same-sex couples the right to marry. I really don’t want to start a political or religious debate here about that, but I do need to express that I truly believe that Love is Love. If the Bible is right and we are all created in God’s image, male and female, then it stands to reason that we all have male and female aspects within in us. Some people lean more strongly in one direction or another and there’s nothing wrong with that. Those that are expressing so much hatred, clearly see the teaching of Christ very differently than I do. Christ did not teach hatred. Stop doing things in His name that are so hateful. I do not profess to be a Christian any more than I am Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or any other of the plethora of religions out there. I don’t believe any of them hold the Be-all, End-all answers to anything. What I do believe in is Love and the power of Love in all its forms. I think it’s wrong to tell one group of people that they their love is wrong or an abomination. “There is no greater power in all the world than that of Love.”

In early August I got a call from a member of the Berkshire Reading Club asking if I’d like to be the guest speaker for their annual dinner in May 2016. My brain balked at first, but I’m glad I told my brain to be quiet and accepted it. It made getting something new published more urgent. It spurred me to swallow some of my pride and move in a direction I have forever before resisted going in.

September found Jim and I out west once more. I was finally able to make my own memories of White Sands and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Once we got home, the adventure still wasn’t over for it was then that Jim proposed and I said yes and I finally got to wear the ring we’d picked out together in Mesilla. If for no other reason, that little ‘village” will forever hold a special place in my heart.

October meant writing, submitting, and being rejected by one publisher after another. I lost track how many queries I sent out. Despite the continued disappointments, I kept on writing new things. By then “No Rest For The Wicked” was out with my proofreader and I was deep into work on “Dark Hollow Road’. This month also saw Jim hitting his first New York State deer.

Along came November and the decision to not only self-publish “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of”, but to do a re-write and re-release of “Blood Of The Scarecrow”, too. We’ve worked hard, Jim and I. I re-read and edited both books again and again. Jim worked on the cover art and set to work re-creating my website. Proofs were obtained. More corrections followed. Apart from the updates to “…Scarecrow” and it being re-titled to “Secrets Of The Scarecrow Moon”, no new writing really took place.

On December 11th, the new book finally made its debut into the big bad world. Granted, the timing of the release may not have been a priority or at all well thought out. Folks were already in the midst of their Christmas shopping and delivery before Christmas was slim unless people ordered almost as soon as the word was out. The important part was to get something we could both be proud of out there.

In conclusion, 2015 has been insane and mostly wonderful! Apart from the numerous deaths, everything has been taking a slow and steady upward trend. Far too many times in the past I’ve looked back at the year that was and felt dismayed, disappointed, and frustrated. This has not been the case in the past few years. There’s clear progress now even if not in the way I thought or hoped it would be in some cases.

2016 promises to be just as interesting and, I hope, even more good and productive things come our way.

New goals are already setting themselves up, not the least of which is a wedding in August.

To read and comment more of the blogs I am subscribed to and improve on my own blogging habits.

To see another new novel unleashed on the world.

To be able to meet some friends I thus far only know via Facebook and Second Life.

Travel always ranks pretty high on my list of things to do. I love seeing new places and doing new things.

We can’t always avoid the negative, like death, but we can control how we deal with it and so my biggest goal of 2016 is to follow my dad’s advice and take time to enjoy my time, wherever, however, and with whomever I get to spend it with.