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.

Is Philip’s Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

While looking for something to plug into my ears while I work, I came across some Philip Glass music. From my understanding, Glass is what is called a minimalist musician. Some of his stuff I honestly just don’t get, but then there is the album Koyaanisqatsi, which means “life out of balance” in Hopi.

A once good friend from up Albany way whom I’ve not been in contact with for, God, 10+ years and on whom I partially blame for helping me to discover my apparently  not-so-shabby ability to write erotica stories, introduced Glass to me. It’s different, it’s very, very different.

It turns out that Koyaanisquatsi is actually a movie soundtrack. I had no idea that was the case until this morning, so poked around beyond that to see what other weirdness Glass was up to. I was not disappointed. Another piece called Einstein on the Beach is almost fifteen minutes of seemingly random counting, spoken word, and single long held notes played on an electric keyboard. The Hours isn’t so bad and the music for The Kiss is alright even if the video is more than a little bizarre. Is that cotton candy she’s wearing?

As much as I like “Koyaanisquatsi” in small doses and listening to music beyond the top twenty soft rock, country, and/or pop tunes that are played on the radio – today I think I made the wiser choice and settled on my favorite stand-by of taking in some even earlier memories from back when I was just a kid; good old episodes of CBS Radio Mystery Theater instead.

I’m feeling pretty balanced lately and I’m afraid that listening to too much Philip Glass might throw that all out of whack. Besides, I really don’t need to be any wackier.

 

Of Ravens, Poe, & Dickens

I found out something very cool this morning, but we’ll get back to that in a minute.

I don’t have much interest in any other birds, but my fascination with crows and ravens goes back decades. I don’t know when it started or why. It’s just one of those things that has always been a part of me. I can sit and watch them for hours. I love the sounds they make. I hesitate to call those sounds songs, but when they get to talking amongst themselves it’s a very cool listen. I’ve learned the difference between the two and it always annoys me to no end when they are featured in scary books and movies as nocturnal creatures. They aren’t. In fact, Corvids are one of the first birds to head to their roosts at night. Don’t even get me started on the ignorant idiots who go on crow hunts believing these birds are attacking and killing their farm animals. What a crock of bird shit! Crows and ravens ARE NOT raptors, people! They aren’t birds of prey. They don’t attack lambs, or chickens, or new born calves for Pete’s sake. Do some research!!! But, I digress.

As part of my final for a public speaking class I took in high school, I read Poe’s The Raven, as you would expect. I’ve featured the crow and raven in my first published paranormal murder-mystery, Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon (formerly known as Blood of the Scarecrow) and though the birds DO appear at night, it’s for very abnormal reasons. I’m told one of my uncles had a pet crow, of a sort. It wasn’t caged or anything, but apparently he’d rescued it at a young age and for quite some time it hung out with the family and would allow them to hand feed it. I really need to get a raven tattoo!

As a fan of horror, I am also a fan of Edgar Allen Poe. When I did the whole U.S. Civil War reenacting thing I had several small books I would sit and read appropriate to the time period. A selection of Poe’s short stories was the most popular one for me to pick up. I’ve yet to get to Baltimore to check things out, but it’s on my Bucket List.

I’ve read a fair amount of Dickens, too. Although, truth be told, Wilkie Collins is by far my favorite Victorian-era novelist. If you haven’t read anything by Collins, I strongly suggest you do. Not only were Collins and Dickens each others contemporaries, they were also friends and worked on several theatrical pieces together. We can’t forget about good old Bram Stoker either, can we? And the first novel of that period I ever read, Dracula, at a mere ten-eleven years of age. I’ve read that bad boy a good ten times and am way overdue for another go through. They wrote differently back then. It’s a style I greatly admire.

So, what does all this have to do with what I found out this morning? It seems that Charles Dickens acquired a pet raven in the name of research (yeah, we authors go to interesting length in the name of research). This bird in turn inspired Edgar Allen Poe to write The Raven. I thought it was cool anyway and worthy of sharing. Check out History Buff’s article HERE to learn the whole story!

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go get more caw-fee.

Of Books, Fires, & Teeth

Adventures / Just Plain Random Weirdness

It’s been a crazy, busy, week here in my little world. The Good, the Bad, and the Maybe-Not-Quite-So-Attractive.

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The Good, of course, is the recent release of my second paranormal murder mystery. The handful of people who have read it said they enjoyed it. Of course, that includes my mom and fiancée so they may be a bit partial. Still, they are being encouraging, positive support for this crazy, lifelong dream of mine. I’ll take it. I need all the ego-boosting I can get. It’s not that I think bad of myself, but as any writer who is struggling to find their way can tell you, we all tend to think at one time or another that maybe we’re just not good enough, that our stories don’t matter, and question why we keep plodding along with this self-torture. We do it because we can’t not do it. As I posted on Facebook recently, “Writing to me is a lot like breathing. I can stop any time I want, but doing so would prove fatal.”

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The Bad happened last night at around 7:30. Sitting here at the computer, I thought I heard sirens going off. It seemed far away. On clear nights when the wind blows just right we can hear them from the neighboring town three miles away. I didn’t think much about it, until I glanced up and looked towards the window our Christmas tree stands in. I saw flashing lights and a line of fire trucks head up the road. Still not too concerned, I went to the front door and said to Jim, “Here comes a fire truck parade.” Except, after a few more seconds, the parade had not gone by. I stepped out onto the front porch, looked and lo and behold, the neighbors house was on fire! Luckily, our lot sizes in this part of town are pretty big. It’s a good hundred feet or more from my house to the neighbors. It looked like it could have been a chimney fire, which seems on since we’ve been having such an unseasonably warm winter this year. The one guy who was home got out safely along with their two dogs. The house, however, did not fare so well.

It’s an old place; roughly the same age as mine, built circa 1886, built by the Seeley Family for workers of the mill as well as some of the family members. There are about seven of these homes, all looking very much alike if you pause to study them. When my ex and I moved here in 1995, some great people lived in the house next door. Bob and June were older, in their early-mid 70s, and very friendly without being intrusive. Bob rounded up our dog more than once when she broke free of her outside chain and often shared the stories he knew about our place. He’d lived next door since about 1929 and was fastidious about his lawn. June would often bring over goodies from her small tomato garden and leave them on my porch, or cookies and other baked goods. Good people. Sadly, they both passed away in around 2009. The place was never the same since. I’ll just leave it at that.

I feel bad for the two young men who lived there when all this happened. The family has been rife with tragedy for the past five years. They moved into that place after their previous home caught fire and they just lost one of their brothers a few years back on New Year’s Eve due to a car accident.

As for the Maybe-Not-Quite-So-Attractive, it’s time for Jim to head to the dentist! He’s been having a lot of trouble with his teeth for years now and finally was able to take it no more. We found a place nearby that will take his insurance so we’re off today to get matters taken care of at long last. Can anyone say, “Christmas Dinner Ala Blender”? Yeah, he’s not going to be his usual attractive self for about eight weeks, but I can deal with that and it’s a lot better than seeing him in pain and suffering. I’m glad it’s finally going to get taken care of and he’ll have a beautiful smile for those wedding pictures in August!

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And that has been my week so far! And it’s only Wednesday!

The Shadows Are Revealed

In 2013 my first paranormal mystery, “Blood of the Scarecrow”, was released. Due to circumstances beyond my control, it went out of print a mere six months later. Since then, I have been working on not just finding a new publisher for “…Scarecrow”, but writing and completing two other novels.

Although it’s a stand alone novel, the first of those, “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” also continues a subplot, introduces new characters, keeps a lot of the old ones, and of course, brings us face to face with more dark, murderous, and paranormal nastiness. I like to call it “…Scarecrow”‘s companion book for want of better terminology.

With that, I am pleased to announce that “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” is now AVAILABLE! through Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon Europe, as well as the Create Space eStore. Due to some formatting snags, it’s not yet available on Kindle, but hopefully those are soon remedied. MAY even be remedied as I type this.

BUY “THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF” HERE!

Additionally, that which WAS “Blood Of The Scarecrow” is undergoing edits, rewrites, new content, cover changes, and will be re-released within the next six months under the new title of “Secrets Of The Scarecrow Moon”

Thank you all for your patience and continued support in my efforts to write and share my stories with you.