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!

Author Appearance & Book Signing

Witches, Shadow People, and Ghosts, oh my! Just in time for Halloween!

On Friday, October 7th, I’ll be at Riverow Books for the final 2016 First Friday Artwalk event in Owego, NY from 6-8pm. I’ll have hot of the press copies of my latest horror release, No Rest For The Wicked along with copies of my murder-mystery titles, Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon and That’s What Shadows Are Made Of.

We’ll be signing, selling, and chatting it up for two hours and we may or may not have cookies.

Hope to see you there!

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.

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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?

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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 Scares You? Reading, Writing, & Watching Horror

As some of you may know, I’ve been reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series almost exclusively since last August. I’m over halfway through the final book of seven. Yesterday, the damn thing had me crying into my Ramen noodles at lunch time. Seriously, tears fell into my bowl of Ramen. I mentioned this to one of my fellow car poolers, Jean, who has also read the series and she smiled and nodded. As I’m still not done with the series, I’m going to hold off on a lengthy review just a little while longer, but at the mention of Stephen King the other car pool lady, Irene, piped up about King being scary. We explained that these particular King novels aren’t really all that scary. They are more adventure-scifi-western-weird creature-fantasy-love story type things. Irene then asked if King, in general, scared me. After a moment’s pause I said, “No, not particularly. I’m pretty hard core.”

There has only been ONE book that ever truly scared me to the point I had to stop reading it at night before bedtime. That book was The Owlsfane Horror by Duffy Stein. I’ve been reading all sorts or mysteries and thrillers and horror for as long as I can remember, so it’s not like reading a ghost story novel was anything new to me while I was in high school. I still have that very same book sitting on my bookshelf. I really should read it again after all these years to see if it’s as frightening as it was 30+ years ago. The only other book that has left a long-lasting creepy impression on me was Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I’d read the book before I saw the movie and, well, damn. The original adaption, The Haunting made in 1963, is just downright insane and ranks as my #1 favorite horror movie of all time. Seriously, don’t bother with the 1999 remake. It blows. It blows hard and in a very bad way.

All this got me to thinking about why I read, write, and enjoy horror, thrillers, and mysteries so much. Obviously it’s not as cut and dry as liking to be frightened because if there are only two novels that have done that, why do I keep reading it if it doesn’t truly scare me? It’s not for the gore because I’m not a fan of slasher stuff at all. It’s much more subtle than that. It’s the build-up of events, the leading me into a darker and darker place as far as the human psyche goes. Scary things can happen in broad daylight just as well as in a dark, hidden back alley. Show me what is normal and then twist it around and show me what happens when things start going horribly wrong. And, as if we humans aren’t cruel enough to each other, add some element of the paranormal in there to drag me even deeper. When I finish a chapter, make me lean back and think, “Damn, now what are they going to do? How are they going to get out of this mess? What exactly is going on here?” Those are the questions that make me want to keep reading! And because those are MY questions, they are also the ones I try and leave my readers with as I wrap up each chapter.

As I work my way through the first draft of DARK HOLLOW ROAD, I’m finding and exploring some very dark elements of what it means to be human. This is why I call it Taboo Horror. When people are raised under terrible, abusive circumstances, to what lengths will they go to survive? What happens when everything they have done to try and keep their sanity intact is taken away? What if people, completely oblivious and innocent, find themselves in the cross hairs of that sanity no longer kept in check?  My kind of Horror happens, that’s what.

I ask myself a lot what scares me. If it scares me, surely it will scare someone else, right? I can’t be alone in my fears so that’s what I try to write about. SECRETS OF THE SCARECROW MOON takes on scarecrows. Yeah, I’m not a fan of those at all. THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF deals with a paranormal entity that has freaked me out, not to mention fascinated me, for decades, Shadow People or The Hat Man. This fall will see the release of NO REST FOR THE WICKED which explores my love of the classic haunted house and the story behind what generated the hauntings to begin with. You’ll get a look inside the minds of the ghosts themselves as some try and tell their stories while others work like hell not to be ratted out. With DARK HOLLOW ROAD I am trying to take that concept a little bit further and a little bit darker.

I’d love to know what scares you. What draws you to read horror or watch horror movies? If you’re a horror writer, what attracts you to the process?  Do you actually enjoy being scared or is it something else?

Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon – Coming Soon!

Things are chugging along nicely with the upcoming release of Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon, a rewrite to my first paranormal murder-mystery formerly known as Blood of the Scarecrow. Even if you’ve read the original, you’ll still enjoy the rewrite! I’ve added several new scenes, new information about some of the characters including a link to the novel I’m currently still writing, Dark Hollow Road, and you’ll find out what happens to the scarecrow that wins the competition. Fun stuff!

For those not familiar with Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon, here’s the blurb!

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 Wakely, 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 and laced with blood, witchcraft, and at least one scarecrow that refuses to stay where it should.

We’re hoping for a late March release date! Stay Tuned!

Photo Credit: http://elvisegp.deviantart.com/art/The-scarecrow-304692467

 

The Attractiveness of the Well-Read Man

There are a lot of lists out there suggesting what books a Well-Read Man should read. I didn’t agree with any of them. Mind, they are good books, fine books, classics even, but in many ways, limiting. Even when that list included 100 books, how could that possibly cover the entire gamut of what’s out there to read? I’d like for my man to enjoy reading the same things I do, but that hasn’t happened entirely. My man is into science fiction, David Weber to be more specific. I lean in the direction of Stephen King. I dare say neither of us has read even half of the books on those Must Read lists, and yet I consider us both well-read individuals.

But being well-read isn’t entirely based on the books a person has read. When I think of a well-read man I think more along the lines of his life experiences; his willingness to explore and try new things. The well-read man of my dreams can be found learning about HTML, CSS, and Javascript or driving the back roads with his camera looking for the perfect old barn to photograph and when we get home, he fires up the computer and plays Fallout for a couple hours or plops down in front of the television to watch some college football. He’s a man who wants to learn new things. He has a sense of adventure and wants to share those adventures and explorations with me. The sharing part is vital. I find that very attractive. Well-read, for me, is synonymous with well-rounded; complex, deep, and multi-dimensional. I consider my father a well-read man though he freely admits he’s probably not read more than a dozen novels in his entire life. He’s a newspaper and magazine type guy.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Let my well-read man have a variety of interests. Let him read all the science fiction he can find, but let him also be willing to pick up a murder-mystery or a romance or a western and enjoy it just as much, too, or at least try to. My well-read man can wear jeans and a t-shirt, smell of motorcycle grease, and guzzle down a six pack one day and the next he’s just as attractive and comfortable donning a suit and tie, combing some Bay Rum oil through his beard, and taking us out to a romantic dinner.

Being well-read, like being well-educated, isn’t all about the books we’ve studied and enjoyed. I’ve worked a good many years with some highly educated people. They know their field of study inside and out. They’ve worked hard to get where they are in life and I’m not putting them or that hard work down, but all that book learning doesn’t always make them attractive to be around. All too many times what they’ve gained in education, they’ve lost in common sense, and a person without common sense is not at all attractive in my book.

As an author and an avid reader, I value the written word. Reading increases your vocabulary, improves your spelling, ignites the imagination, improves your memory, and allows one to explore the worlds we may not be able to visit in person.

Reading, like everything, is subjective and highly personal. A fussy eater limits themselves to a very narrow pallet of flavors. An artist who paints only in black and white, narrows their creative powers. A person who listens to only one type of music denies themselves a world of new sounds and rhythms. Locking yourself into a room with only one window that permits a singular view day in and day out, narrows what you know of everything beyond that window. Though we all have our preferred genre when it comes to books, mixing that up is just as important as trying new foods, listening to new music, or walking out that door to explore a brave new world beyond the mailbox.

This attractiveness isn’t limited to just men. Being well-read applies to all of us. Does a man want a partner who is only interested in one thing? Maybe some do. If all he wants is for you to be a good cook, keep a clean house, and be great in the sack, is that the type of guy you want to be around? To each their own, I suppose. That’s not what I’m into. I want a partner and friends I can discuss a myriad of topics with. That reminds me of an old boyfriend I had back in my early 20s. He was really good looking and he could tell you just about anything you ever wanted to know about the local fish population or the trees that grew in our area. And that’s where it ended. Yep, fish and trees. Not that I have anything against fish and trees, mind you, but I need more, want more, deserve more. The relationship lasted about six months.

I expect more from my partner and I want to be more for them as well as for myself. I don’t want to ‘complete’ anyone. No person, relationship, or religion should complete you. They can enhance what is already there, but the completion of the self comes from within, not from anything beyond that. Nor do I want to feel complete only because I am with someone. Come to me whole. Come to me well-read, well-rounded, and multifaceted. For me, that is where the attractiveness of a well-read man lies… that and he really must be a lover of books and reading.

Catching Up With The King

One of the greatest requirements of being a writer is also to be a reader. I’ve always been a huge reader. My earliest hard-core reading memories involved Nancy Drew Mysteries. I was ravenous for books by Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Wilkie Collins, Dickens, Peter Straub, Ellery Queen, Ray Bradbury, and then there was the King; The King of Horror, Stephen King.

In middle and high school I devoured one Stephen King book after another. Every year for Christmas or my birthday I’d be gifted the latest King novel. My god, how that man took me away into his worlds of bizarre and divine darkness. Very few understood my passion for King. “Don’t those things give you nightmares?” was a common opening line when someone found me curled up somewhere with my nose buried in the likes of “Pet Semetery” or “The Stand”. Never, ever, did reading King give me nightmares. His words were fuel to my writer’s soul. I wanted to be the next Stephen King. Hell, if I could write even half as good as him, I’d be one happy camper.

Then something odd happened. Once I was out of high school and trying to make my way in the world, I read less and less, King included. Maybe it was because I was now a working stiff. Maybe I was too busy being a wife and mother. Dr. Seuss and Winnie The Pooh took over and before I knew it a good twenty years had passed. The new and wonderful worlds of Stephen King became lost to me. Where had I left off?

Late in 2013 and into 2015 I started to play catch-up with King. I met Gerald and witnessed his horrific game. “Delores Claiborne” stepped in to say hello. I entered “Black House” and learned “Lisey’s Story”.

Reading became a passion again. I needed to read as much as I had always needed to write. Every book, King or not, became inspiration. Between bouts of visiting the King-dom there was Tanith Lee, Hunter Shea, and Scott Westerfeld to fill the gaps, but King was always the goal.

In August 2015 I started King’s Dark Tower Series. I remember knowing when the first book came out back in the 1970s. I’m not sure why I never picked a single one of them up! Now, I’ve worked my way through the first four books of the seven part series, having only just started the 5th last week, “Wolves of the Calla” and even picked up a copy of “The Wind Through The Keyhole” yesterday. It seems to be some sort of side book to the original seven books. It’s a good start, I’ll grant you, but even with having read four Dark Towers and “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” in 2015 alone, I’m still not even half way through King’s bibliography that I lost in the world of my own life.

Time to read, time to write, time to live my everyday life; Time to raise my children and enjoy the company of friends, time to be with family as often as I can.

I may never catch up with the King. It’s taken me fifty years to get as far as I have. I doubt I have another fifty in me to complete the task, but I’m going to try my damnedest.