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.

 

Resolving Into The New Year

The sun is slowly starting to brighten the sky on this cold, January morning. It’s a character-building 10F here in the my part of the Finger Lakes. I’ve downed half of my first cup of coffee, checked and replied to some emails, and tossed a load of laundry into the dryer.

It’s been a pretty busy week for writing. Not everything I did had to do with making progress on The Witch’s Backbone, but there’s some of that, too. My one and only New Year’s Resolution was to make more of an effort to reach out and get to know more authors. I don’t know many in-person so I decided to start with the long list of them I am connected to on Twitter. It started out by simply paying more attention to their Tweets instead of trying to be clever with my own. I started to ‘love’ more, to ‘comment’ more, and to ‘retweet’ more. I follow a good number of writers who blog, too. Again, time for me read more of their posts and learn about who they are and what they are about. And, of course, to comment if I enjoyed their posts. Both efforts have proven to be quite a nice experience and something worth continuing to do.

It wasn’t enough to just read and like and love and retweet and comment though. It was decided to do some interviews. Again, I turned to Twitter for ideas and names. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with this endeavor and figured one interview per month would be good. That, combined with any book and movie reviews I will get out, along with my random ramblings about events and working on my own writing should keep this blog pretty active for the year. I selected the authors (most of them of the Horror variety)  who most often interact with me on Twitter and sent them private messages. The response was swift and entirely positive. The calendar filled up in less than 24 hours! Not only that, I’ve already got back filled out interview questions for those who will be featured this and next month. If you’re a published or soon-to-be published author and I didn’t approach you, don’t feel bad. The list I had was long and I just couldn’t get everyone in. I didn’t expect everyone I asked to give me such a quick and positive response, but then, we’re writers and we do love to talk about our work, don’t we?

On top of this, I’m going to be a featured blogger next month for another writer and I’m waiting on a list of ’20 Questions’ to appear in my inbox for me to answer from a second author.

As if all this weren’t enough, the website is getting a complete makeover. As much as I liked the old version, I felt it was time to make a change. I sent my ideas to my web guy (aka The Husband) and off we went. He’s been working diligently all week on it and it’s shaping up very, very nicely. It still needs a bit more, but it shouldn’t be long until it’s all said and done and he can get back to being a Computer Gamer instead of a Graphics & Web Designer. I’ve no doubt he’ll be a happy man when I can stop saying, “Honey… can you change something else on there for me?”

This first week of the New Year has been pretty darn busy now that I look back, but it hasn’t for a moment felt like work. I like that.

And now, with a second cup of coffee fresh and hot by my side and the crows fed, I think it’s time to look at what I wrote yesterday on TWB, do some quick fixes as needed, and see what today holds for my five youngsters stuck in the woods at night with something not quite human.

Write on!

 

Book Giveaway – FINAL COUNTDOWN!

There are only 10 days left of the book giveaway going on over at Goodreads!

People have this to say about No Rest For The Wicked

Hunter Shea (author of Island of the Damned & The Jersey Devil) – “If you’re looking for a chilling ghost story filled with mystery and escalating tension, look no further. No Rest for the Wicked is the real deal – an expansive, unfolding riddle between the living and the dead. It’s a true haunted house tale with a delightful twist.”

J. Williams – “It’s hard to scare me, but all three books I’ve read by this Author have managed to give me nightmares.”

S. Cobb – “I couldn’t read it at night….It picks you up from the very beginning and you don’t want to put it down until the end.”

Click Here To Enter: NO REST FOR THE WICKED GIVEAWAY!

 

 

Creating An Urban Legend

With Dark Hollow Road out of my hair for the next couple of months, I’ve been working on The Witch’s Backbone. Thanks to NaNoWriMo last month, I was able to buckle down and decide on the opening scene and yesterday wrapped up Chapter 10. Many of you will be happy to hear that we’ve moved back to Barnesville and surrounding areas for this one. The big difference is, we’ve taken a step back in time to the summer of 1980, where Nell’s knowledge of the macabre, magic, and witchcraft probably isn’t going to be of much use.

I’ve always had an interest in old legends and folklore, especially ones that relate to a specific location or things like Bloody Mary, where you stand in front of a mirror and say her name three times to summon the spirit of Mary Worth, a woman who is reputed to have been hung for witchcraft. What happens after that, I’ve no idea. We tried it as kids. Nothing happened. There’s one about a phantom hitchhiker who vanishes from the back seat of the car of anyone who dares pick her up. Usually she’s found walking some lonely stretch of highway in the rain. Where I come from, she’s wandering around Devil’s Elbow.

Folklore takes me back to the dark old days where fairy tales are born and stories of vampire, werewolves, and witches capturing children with houses made of candy to entice them in for a sweet snack. Things like the Scottish Kelpie that normally looks like a sort of water horse, but has the ability to shape shift to fool its victims, are pretty cool. There’s Black Shuck, a ghost dog, who roams the wilds of England and the Strigoi that you might know better as a vampire. And who doesn’t love to hear the eerie and lonesome scream of the Banshee at night? Ah, what beautiful music she makes!

I toyed with the Shadow Man (or the Hat Man, as he’s also called), in my murder-mystery, That’s What Shadows Are Made Of. While doing research on that, I chanced on The Night Hag or simple just The Hag and something called Old Hag Syndrome. The name of the phenomenon comes from the superstitious belief that a witch – or an old hag – sits on the chest of the victims, rendering them immobile. Old Hag Syndrome is often used as a way to explain a medical condition called Sleep Paralysis, which is reported to also happen when The Hat Man is paying a visit.

This poem also came to mind. I can’t say who wrote it, but judging by the wording, it seems pretty old.

If at night ye dare t’roam,
along the twisted, witch’s backbone,
avert thy gaze, meet not her eye,
or cursed thy life and soon t’die.

Thee won’t find her flying o’er the trees,
but lurking amongst the molded leaves,
and crawling in the stony crags,
in the stagnant filth, this loathsome Hag.

She’ll seek you out forever after,
making thy death her cruelest laughter
as sits she upon thy sleeping chest,
to draw from thee thy final breath.

Avoid the dangerous paths she treads.
Stay safe and sound within thy bed,
for ‘tis always best to neither walk nor ride,
along the witch’s backbone at night.

I liked the whole idea of The Hag and having had some firsthand experience with Sleep Paralysis as a teenager, thus knowing the amount of terror it can generate, decided I needed to put my spin on that piece of ancient folklore in the form of a small town urban legend. Thus was born The Witch’s Backbone.

Every kid in the area knows the rhyme associated with the witch and when twelve-year-old Tara Fielding finds herself staring back into the eyes of what she believes to be that loathsome hag, she freaks out. She and her friends decide the only way to know if the legend is true or not, (and to learn if Tara is about to meet an early death) is to spend the night camping near where she claims to have made eye contact with the creature. It’s an area in the woods, halfway between the county dump and the rocky ravine the witch is reported to haunt known as The Witch’s Backbone.

Good times, my friends, freaky good times!

Write On!

That Boy Needs To Build Some Character!

Not so long ago a friend asked how I go about creating characters. Her son is an aspiring writer and she’s noticed he puts a little bit of himself into at least one character in everything he writes. It’s not always a main character, but he’s in there. I told her I do the same thing.

In a sense, my stories are my children and as such, the characters are natural extensions of myself.  Why wouldn’t I put part of who I am into everything? With some characters it’s very obvious. For others, it may not be detectable to anyone but me. There are, of course, the characters that do not resemble me in the slightest but may be based on family and friends or no one at all. None of them are exactly like the real people. A look is borrowed from one, an attitude from another, a fear, a past, or a quirk may come from yet a third.  I don’t go into a book knowing everything there is to know about my characters any more than you would know everything there is to know about someone you meet on the street. Who they are unfolds page by page, moment by moment. But how, exactly, is a character, especially a totally fictional one, created? To be honest, I don’t have a real cut and dry answer for that, but I can give you an idea of the process that I go through.

You’ve Got The Look

First impressions are often based on physical appearance. Even without speaking to a person or knowing anything about them, you can see them. You can see the way they dress and move. There’s always body language to consider. You can hear their voice. You can smell the scents that waft around them, for good or bad. You may, if you get close enough, even be able to taste that individual. It’s no different when creating a fictional character. Sometimes looks mean absolutely nothing holding true that old saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when writing you need to consider how a person comes across in these ways and the impression you want to give to your readers.

What’s Your Story?

Creating characters involves creating stories within your story. For my novel “No Rest For The Wicked”, I use the tagline, “Every ghost has a story. Not all of them want it told.” This may be true for ghosts, but when it comes to creating your characters, you better know their history if you want to give them any depth at all.  Why do they act like they do? Why does he walk with a limp? Why is that fifty-year-old man still afraid of the dark? What happened to this person before you came along to make them say and do the things they are saying and doing now? You can find Character Sheets online to help you sort all this out. These will ask you questions about your character that you may never have considered. I’ve only filled out a few of these that, in the end, I never referred back to once I got into the story. Some people swear by them and their use really can’t hurt. I tend to work a lot more organically.  Don’t think of your characters as just characters. Think of them as people. Listen to them. They’ll tell you everything you need to know… eventually.

Becoming An Environmentalist

The setting of the story plays a huge part in what sorts of people are going to populate your world. And those people will play a role in who your specific characters are.  Past, Present, or Future? Rural or Urban? Poverty, wealth, or somewhere in between? A loving home or one full of violence and pain?  Are they messy or a neat freak? What is your characters relationship to the other members of the family, their neighbors, and where do they fit in to the community as a whole? Are they native to the area or a newcomer? Does your character even like where he or she lives? If not, maybe that’s part of their problem and their motivation. Use those things to find out more and propel your plot forward. I do a fair amount of research on the settings in my books. I want my readers to BE THERE! I want them to see where all this is going on as vividly as I can.

Lastly, Show Don’t Tell

I’m told there are no rules when writing, but I firmly believe that “Show, Don’t Tell” is a rule and it’s something EVERY writer of fiction needs to understand and do. Years ago my daughter had to write something for English class and she came to me for help. Her story started out something like, “Ethan Havoc walked down the road. It was raining. He had headphones on listening to his favorite band. He sang every word of the song out loud not caring who heard him.” This is an example of TELLING the reader what’s happening. It doesn’t show me much. I asked her a few questions about Ethan, his appearance, posture, how he’s walking (body language).  Then I asked about the rain (environment). Is it raining hard or just misting?  Does he have an umbrella? Next, we moved on to what kind of music Ethan is listening to. It could be anything from Anthrax to Beethoven. We can’t tell from what is given and knowing a character’s choice of ‘favorite band’ is going help us understand him better (backstory). After our talk, she came up with this, “Aiden Havoc scuffed his feet as he walked home. Water dripped off the ends of his hair and soaked the back of his hoodie. School had just let out for the day and his headphones blared loud shreds of The Misfits in his ears. He sang every word of the song out loud not caring who heard him or saw him shake his greasy black hair to the music.”  Ah, ha! We know Ethan and his surroundings a WHOLE lot better now, don’t we?

So, there you have it, my take on character creation. There’s a lot more to it than this, but that’s something that I can’t explain in words without sounding certifiably insane. As the story moves along, the characters reveal more through their thoughts and actions based on whatever it is they are facing in their environment. It’s not always something I consciously decide. It just happens. And that’s when the real magic of writing takes place. I hope this has answered some questions for readers and if you’re a writer, I hope it helps you become a better one!

Write On!

NaNoWriMo – The End

As I mentioned a little bit ago, I’ve had a NaNoWriMo account for three years, but this was the first year I actually used it. Seeing as all the blog rage today seems to be to announce if those participants won or lost the race, I figured I may as well jump in with my two cents worth.

I didn’t make the 50K word count in the allotted time. I didn’t even make 25K, but I don’t consider that a loss. I had started work on “The Witch’s Backbone” last spring (or maybe even before that) and wasn’t making much progress. I had three opening scenes along with a good deal of content, but other writing things (One book talk for a local book club and three signings – plus finishing up writing the first draft and the first round of edits for “Dark Hollow Road”) took priority as well as the whole business of planning a wedding slated to take place at the end of August. I told myself I’d get to TWB after the honeymoon, right after finishing the second round of edits for DHR after letting it sit for a month which is standard procedure for me.

My final 2016 signing was in October and it was then I finally took a breath and started looking at TWB again. Where was I going to go with this thing when I couldn’t even decide on a beginning?! NaNoWriMo to the rescue!

No, I didn’t make the win, but I made progress. I decided my original opening was perfectly fine. I also ended up deleting almost everything I’d written before. Previous characters were either wiped out completely or they had their names and genders changed. The urban legend behind it all solidified. One of the local small town papers provided fodder for weird happenings that I could bend and twist into my own versions of history for my fictional small towns. My mother mentioned a story her mother had told her long ago about a murder that was covered up that I may end up using, too. It all started to gel together and though I didn’t make the 50K mark, I have a destination I’m writing towards and that’s really all I wanted to get out of it.

Beyond the 50K words goal, NaNoWriMo is also meant to get aspiring authors into the habit of writing on a daily basis. In November I realized that I DO write every day or at the very least, I work on something writer-related. I may not be working on a novel, but I find myself working on research notes, blog ideas, or even doing some Beta Reading for someone else. It’s all related. I’ve been trying hard to read and comment on the blogs of other writers more this year, too, giving them encouragement and praise as I can, because that kind of thing is important to me as well. Lack of feedback is killer.

And there you have it, my NaNoWriMo update and with it I managed to write over five-hundred words today.

Write on!

 

A Turtle In A Field Of NaNo Hares

Apparently I created a NaNoWriMo account three years ago. I have no memory of creating it, but when I decided to join this year, I discovered one already existed. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month. The premise is that for the month of November you write 1667 words per day to reach a goal of 50,000 by the end of the month. This is supposed to be either a complete novel (I’d call that a novella, but anyway…) or a very good start on a longer work to be completed later.

As I was having such a hard time getting into gear with “The Witch’s Backbone” I decided to give NaNoWriMo a shot. It couldn’t make matters worse and from what I’d read it’s supposed to be all inspirational and you can find writing buddies to motivate you and join all kinds of chat forums to compare notes and talk about your book. So far, I’ve not been overly inspired by any of the automated messages I’ve been sent, I don’t have a single writing buddy, and I figured I had better things to do (um, like actual WRITING) than chit-chatting with others about the books we’re working on.

First off, I don’t have the time to write 1667 words a day. Sorry. I work a full time job and I sit at a computer from 7:30am – 4:00pm. Very often the LAST thing I am interested I doing when I get home at the end of the day is to sit down at my home computer for any reason. I’m tired. My mental focus isn’t always entirely intact. It’s certainly not going to be all that sharp to write anything I’d be proud of and frankly, I’d rather write something half way decent than crap just so I can say I made my daily word count. When it comes to my writing, that’s simply not how I operate. I’m a turtle not a hare. I’ll take my time and do quality over quantity.

That being said, you guessed it, with only ten days left I’ve not even reached 25,000 words towards this alleged ‘win’. I haven’t reached 20,000 either. I’m averaging 878 words per day. I guess that’s something interesting to know.

Will I do NaNoWriMo again next year? I don’t know. A lot depends on where I am with what is already out there and what stage other projects are at. I’m trying to stay positive, but lately it’s just not been going as well as I’d hoped. Sales are abysmal. What I have sold isn’t bringing in the amount of reviews needed to get anyone’s attention. Queries are answered with silence. Places I’ve been encouraged to submit to aren’t taking submissions. It all has a way of dragging a hopeful author down. All I have are a few little straws to hang onto and my hands are getting tired.

I’ve been told, “You’re doing all the right things.” and “Just keep writing great stories and putting them out there.” Considering the source of that advice and encouragement, that’s nothing to ignore or brush aside, but after so many other dead ends, I still feel very discouraged and lost. I’m doing my best and for the past five years, my best just hasn’t been good enough.

But, I hate to end a post on a negative note so …

On the positive side of this NaNoWriMo business, I have made progress on the novel! There are things I know about what’s going to happen that I never even imagined when all this started, some rather shocking things! Things I really DON’T want to have happen, but know they must to move the plot along in the way it needs to go. When I was reading Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” a friend of mine who’d read it before would ask me every day, “Did the cat die yet?” The death of the cat in that book is pivotal to the novel. After the cat dies, all hell breaks loose! It’s that sort of little kick in the pants event that I really wasn’t expecting to have to deal with, but boy, will it get the point across! I look forward to it with a strange mixture of dread and delight.

I’d be interested to hear from others who have used NaNoWriMo and what your experiences were with it. Good, Bad, Indifferent?

Upcoming Book Giveaway!

Another book giveaway is about to start.

Last time it was That’s What Shadows Are Made Of. This time around we’ll be giving away three signed copies of No Rest For The Wicked.

Starting on Black Friday (Nov. 25) and running through until Christmas Eve, the fine folks over at Goodreads will be offering up a chance for you to win a copy! Names will be drawn by them! You need to be a member of Goodreads to enter. So if you already are, awesome! All you have to do is log in sometime between Nov. 25-Dec. 24, visit my author page there and click the button to enter. If you’re not a member, SIGN UP soon! It’s super easy and they don’t spam you. Been there a few years myself and have never had a problem with unwanted emails!

Click the pretty blue link below to get yourself started!

NO REST FOR THE WICKED – BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST!