Stepping Stones Across Hell’s Half Acre

Adventures / Just Plain Random Weirdness / Writing

It has only taken ten years since the release of my first published novel, but I finally reached a milestone I’ve been dreaming of for much longer than that decade. Last night I had my first book signing event! I got to talk about my progress as a writer, my novels, my inspirations for those novels, and answer questions from the audience. I got free food and even sold 80% of the books I took with me! All while feeling old and youthful at the same time.

As this was a private, local event, the gathering was only around 30 attendees, but among them were several folks from my much younger days! A former grade school teacher, a woman who remembered me from when I was in Headstart, the parents of two girls I went to high school with, and a former baby sitter. Even if they didn’t know me, a lot of them knew my parents! Ah, the world of being ‘a local girl’ as I was called. Yes, to these folks, this 50-year-old was just a girl. They were a fun bunch of ladies and gentlemen and I enjoyed hanging out with them for a few hours talking about books in general. Funny how I work in a large university library and almost never talk to any of my co-workers about what we’re reading. Maybe it just feels too work-related and who wants to talk about work-work? Blech! Not me! Unless it’s away from the office and really has nothing whatsoever to do with my job or most of the people that job pertains to. It’s weird.

I even managed to get a laugh out of them with my opening and the story about how I first realized maybe I wasn’t like the other in Mrs. Dodd’s 3rd grade class. It was in that moment that something deep inside me clicked and my writing dream was born.

So, really, last night was something like 40 years in the making and wishing and dreaming. These things take time and I’ll admit I’ve not always been very patient about it getting here. The writing gig has given me more lows than highs, but the highs are what keeps me going. This may seem like small potatoes to those who are further along in their journey than I am, and I know I’d be jumping the gun if I believed for a moment I’d made the big time with this single and simple event, but it’s one step closer.

A week or so again I posted a Facebook status of “Remind me again why I am doing all this.”  It becomes so frustrating and disappointing at times. You want something so badly and it’s so important to you and you pour so much of yourself into it that when things don’t happen how you hoped and dreamed or as fast as you want, you feel like a complete failure and like giving it all up. You question what’s the point in even trying. Why even bother? No one cares. No one appreciates. No one understands any of this, let alone you, and it seems it’s all for nothing.

Then, something like last night happens. I am forced to remember that day in 3rd grade and a little girl who was terrified she’d done her weekend homework assignment wrong. I am forced to look back at where I was ten years ago in this process. I have to remember how devastated I was when the publisher of my first murder-mystery went out of business and how utterly defeated I felt. All that work … and I’m sent back to Step One again.

But, once I really looked and understood, I knew I wasn’t at Step One at all. My path had merely been diverted by a very annoying and slippery rock that sent me on my ass into the icy cold stream. It took me two years to regroup and in those two years I focused on other projects. I built my resume one little article and a second murder-mystery at a time. I looked back and saw my stepping stones zig-zagging all over Hell’s half acre, but I’d traversed them. I may have slipped, stumbled, crumbled, cried, and cursed, but I mostly FOUGHT my way across those damned stones. I was not about to give up now. I’m too stubborn for that and seeing all the progress I’d made helped, too.

I’ve got at least two more events planned for this year and now that I have the first one under my belt, I’m looking forward to the others even more. Baby steps. This process is not going to happen overnight. The trick is not to let the down times and the imagined failures drag me into the muck of my own raging self-doubts. I will continue to fight for this dream because I don’t know any other way. It’s too much of who I am. I am blessed by being surrounded by those who believe in me when all I really want to do is chuck it all into a bonfire. Words of encouragement are not just words, they are vital to the process that keeps me going when I feel like I just don’t want to anymore.

All that from a simple two-hour event held in the middle of nowhere. Thank you all for your continued support, your kind words, and the opportunity to share and entertain you with my dream. You are each a hand held up out of that crazy stream of life that helps guide me from one stepping stone to the next and I am truly grateful beyond all measure.

Book Review – Dark Tower Series by Stephen King

Book reviews / Horror / Reading / Science Fiction

Instead of going through and reviewing each of the books individually, I’m going to do a simplified, overall review of the series as a whole. You and I will both be glad I did.

I started reading “The Gunslinger” Book 1 of 7.5 in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series back in August 2015. As the pages went by, so did the months, until eventually I wrapped it all up last month by jumping slightly backwards to read what King places as Book 4.5, “The Wind Through The Keyhole”.

There’s so much here! King has truly created a world eerily familiar while at the same time completely different than our own. A future date is never specified for the time that the Gunslinger, Roland Deschaine, comes from, but it’s at least a few hundred years from now, if not a thousand or more. The world has changed, it’s ‘moved on’ as is worded in the books. Well-populated cities are few and far between. Machines and the electricity to run them are even more rare. We, you and me, or those closer to our timeline, are known only as The Old Ones. We are the faceless, nameless creators who pretty much screwed everything up at some point in the distant past.

Enter Roland, the Last Gunslinger, whose only mission in a long and troubled life is to reach the Dark Tower. He will do anything, go anywhere, kill anyone, in order to reach that destination. Roland is a highly trained killing machine and he does it all 19th century American Southwest cowboy-style, with a pair of ivory-handled revolvers that once belonged to his father. But, he can’t do it alone. He needs his posse, his ka-tet, to share in the adventure. And this is where the time travel comes in.

Through a series of free-standing, hovering doors scattered here and there along Roland’s route, he starts pulling people through into his own time. The first is heroin addict, Eddie Dean from 1987. Not to be confused with the Texas-born country and western singer of the same name. Next, comes Odetta\Detta Holmes aka Susannah Dean who is ripped from the year 1964. Again, try not to get her confused with the Civil Rights activist, singer and songwriter from the 1960s.  Last but not least we have eleven-year-old John “Jake” Chambers, who is rescued from an abandoned and seemingly possessed house in 1977 and brought into Roland’s ‘when’. The final member of the ka-tet is the billy-bumbler, Oy. A sort of long-necked dog that talks who very quickly wins over our hearts as Jake’s tried and true friend and loyal companion.

Obviously, if I spent somewhere around eight months reading this series, I must have enjoyed it. Very true. It contains a little bit of every genre out there; sci-fi, western, horror, fantasy, adventure, and yes, there’s even some romance going on. I really think it’s a must-read for any Stephen King fan. He does some pretty awesome writing here and yet…

For as much as I was impressed and for as much as I grew to love Roland and all the members of his ka-tet and their bond and adventures, I also found myself feeling disappointed with it. Some scenes felt like fillers and cop-outs. It was like King felt he needed to make this thing as thick and long-winded as possible so let’s add in this and that and the other thing and tie it all together in some obscure way that sort of makes sense. I questioned these scenes and their purpose in the grand scheme of it all; for example, the entire “Wizard of Oz” portion. Why? I honestly can’t recall for the life of me what this was all about. Why did we go there? Why did the dog need ruby slippers? And if King was going for some sort of how many other book references can he smash into this series theme, the shoes should have been silver as they are in the L. Frank Baum books. It all felt too contrived to me.

The other element I didn’t care for at all was the way King included himself in the end of the series, like some omnipotent God. I am King, the Great and Powerful. You are nothing without me.  If I die, you die. It seemed so self-glorifying and self-righteous and honestly, on some level, more filler to make this series much longer than it needed to be. Just get to the point already. Let’s get Roland and his ka-tet to the Dark Tower and let’s see what’s in there.

And once we finally do get there, all that time and build-up will be worth what Roland finds at the top, right? Um. Not so much. King should have spent less time blathering on about connecting this series to “The Wizard of Oz”, or “The Stand”, or “Salem’s Lot” and more time on this ending. It turned my whole perspective of the who, what, and why of Roland and his quest upside down.

Am I glad I read it despite what I felt was a horrible and disappointing ending? Yes, very much so. There’s a lot in the series to love and admire and at one point I found myself crying, yep. King wrung the tears out of me. For a writer to be able to get you so in love and involved with his fictional creations, you know he’s done an amazing job of drawing you into their lives and caring. Damn you, King!  Damn you, for being so awesome even if you disappointed me a bit at the end.

It’s not your typical King story. It’s not pure horror by any stretch of the imagination. Non-King fans will like this just as much as those who have been with him since the beginning.

I’d love to this is 5 Ravens, but… that ending.

4 out of 5 Ravens.

The EW! Factor & Writing That Scares You.

Horror / Writer's Life

What I’ve been writing lately does indeed scare me a little bit. One might think I have a lot of unsettled and disturbing issues I should probably talk to a professional about. I assure you, that is not the case. It’s what the Muse has been bringing me and nothing more, says the woman who sees and hears fictional people and places in her head on a daily basis.

We’ve been designing publicity cards and the like over the past couple weeks. Finally got the last batch sent off to be printed this morning. I’m pretty sure I’m spending more on promotion than I’m actually making in book sales right now. In the long run, I’m hoping it will be a small price to pay and that in time it will all have been worth it. It takes money to make money, so the saying goes.

I’m very excited about all the events I’ll be promoting my books at this year. Next week I’m doing a talk for a local book club dinner. In July I’ll be appearing with other local authors at the Blueberry and Books Festival in Berkshire, NY. I’m hoping to make a guest appearance on a weekly podcast put out by a group of paranormal investigators in the area in September. In October I’m the guest author for Owego, NY’s First Friday Artwalk at Riverow Bookshop. This event will also premier my newest title NO REST FOR THE WICKED. All that AND organizing a wedding that’s taking place in August!

NO REST FOR THE WICKED is a classic ghost story partially told by the ghosts! If you’ve read my previous book THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF, you’ve already met one character who appears in the new book, albeit a much younger version. When a group of ghost hunters and the new owners of the house try to find out what’s going on and why the house is haunted, they run into some rather nasty difficulties. Like the tagline says, “Every ghost has a story. Not all of them want it told.”  In some cases, you may not really want to know what went on either, but that’s all part of the gruesome charm of the thing, The EW! Factor, as I call it.

My current work-in-progress, DARK HOLLOW ROAD is probably the most unusual thing I’ve written and also contains a healthy dose of The EW! Factor. In a nutshell, the story has two parts. Part one, represented by the odd numbered chapters, is told in first person and introduces us to Mary Alice Brown. She begins her story when she is eight years old in 1948. The family lives a poor and isolated life in rural Pennsylvania. Her mother dies after giving birth to a stillborn child that would have been Mary’s fourth sibling. After these death’s Mary’s father falls into a bottomless, mean, and violent depression which he freely takes out on his children. As the oldest, Mary is forced to take on all her deceased mother’s duties. All of them.

Part two, the even numbered chapters, deals with the present. Told in third person, we meet Renee Evenson, her partner Samantha Whalen, and Renee’s six-year-old son Brandon, six months after they’ve moved into a small house within sight of the now abandoned Brown house on Dark Hollow Road. A strange, skinny, funny-smelling lady appears one morning asking to borrow some sugar to fill the canning jar she’s brought with her. Brandon takes the jar and goes to talk to his mother, but when they return the woman is gone, along with Brandon’s coloring book. Brandon quickly dubs this woman The Sugar Lady.

With each chapter the lives of these two very different families begins to twist together until the dark, madness of Mary Brown’s current existence takes control over the once innocent life of Brandon Evenson.

And that is all I’m willing to reveal about that little gem.

So, yeah. I’m busy and often wishing I had more time to just write instead of having to squeeze it in here and there between everything else. It will get done eventually. Besides, I really don’t like to rush my Muse. She’s been very kind to me these past few years. I don’t want to nudge and prod at her too much for fear she’ll decide a vacation is suddenly in order and leave me.  (Read “writer’s block”).

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little update and that you’ll visit again. Also, don’t forget to come see  and LIKE me on Facebook.

My Top 10 Favorite Vampire Movies

Horror, of any kind, is subjective. My goal here is not to tell you what THE best vampires movies are, but to tell you my personal favorites. I can’t even claim that the ones listed are going to be in any sort of order, but they have all left a strong enough impression on me over the years to never forget them.

My first vampire love was and always will be Christopher Lee’s Dracula via Hammer Films.  Of all the Dracula films Hammer put out starring Mr. Lee my favorite is:

#1 DRACULA AD 1972 starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Stephanie Beacham


Synopsis: Dracula is resurrected ONE MORE TIME through the wonderful world of the Black Arts amongst the ruins of a church somewhere in London by one of his disciples who convinces a band of hippy chums to help him out. Turns out one of those crazy kids (a buxom, young miss, of course) is a Van Helsing. Dracula picks up on this fast and plots his revenge.

Many will quirk an eyebrow at this one, but my only excuse is that it has hippies, British hippies and I thought the guy who played Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) was smoking hot at the time. I was obsessed by the British and by hippies and yes, by Dracula. It’s like it was made just for me! Keep in mind, kids, I was in my tweens and early teens when I was watching all these for the first time. Lee actually does a fair amount of talking in this one, too. Lots of tall, dark, and gruesome going on here!

#2 DRACULA (1979) starring Frank Langella

Synopsis: Very, very closely based on the Hamilton Deane stage play script, which first starred Raymond Huntly as the count and later, in 1931 it hit the big screen staring the more well-known Bela Lugosi.

Again, yeah, I was fourteen when this bit of wonderfulness came out. Frank just swept this love-struck vampire fan girl away. *sigh* What can I say? Apart from that I loved the whole atmosphere that was created for this film. It was dark. It was sexy. It had scary parts. It was all I could have dreamed of a Dracula movie could be and the ending is slightly different than all the other versions I knew of. It gave me some sort of hope that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t really the end for my beloved Dracula.

#3 LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979) starring George Hamilton, Susan Saint James, and Richard Benjamin

Synopsis: The poor count is forced to move out of his Transylvanian castle and decides to move to New York City. He quickly starts looking for a new bride. Hilarity ensues.

Yes, this is a comedy and as far as I’m concerned the best Dracula comedy out there. George Hamilton’s sexy and serious count is completely lost in the Big Apple and his assistant isn’t really a lot of help. Better yet, the modern version of Van Helsing is Jewish. A lot of great and memorable one-liners!

Now that we have Prince Vlad Tepes out of the way, let’s move on to a young boy by the name of Martin. Okay, maybe he’s not so young after all.

#4 MARTIN (1977) starring John Amples, Lincoln Maazel, and Christine Forrest


Synopsis: Martin, who appears to be “not even twenty”, but claims he’s really 84, goes to live with his relatives in a small town just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His cousin is disgusted by the boy and only endures housing him out of family obligation. The cousin’s granddaughter feels sorry for him and doesn’t understand why the old man is so disgruntled. Martin doesn’t have fangs so he’s forced to employ other methods of bloodletting.

Directed by George Romero, I find this movie a visual delight! Romero does for vampires what he does for all his films, they are intense.  Filmed mostly in color with black and white flashbacks, the film has a certain gritty, rough texture to it. Best of all, it was like nothing I’d ever seen before in the vampire film genre and that ending! Holy Shit! I never saw that coming at all! Everything seems to be humming along nicely then BAM! I was like, “What the what? No way!” It’s been said that this movie little-known movie is one of Romero’s personal favorites, too.

#5 SALEM’S LOT (1979 – TV mini-series) starring David Soul, James Mason, and Lance Kerwin.

Synopsis: Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Salem’s Lot becomes home to a nasty vampire who very strongly resembles the original tall, bald, pale, and rat-toothed Nosferatu and it’s up to his minion to bring him food. When a young boy and a writer both come to the realization what’s going on, they team up with the local priest to rid their town of the evil vampire and his disciple.

One of the few Stephen King novel adaptions that’s actually pretty darn good and follows the book, more rather than less. Creepy atmosphere and dang, when Danny Glick come’s-a-scratchin’ at your second story bedroom window, you know something’s not right! I was wallowing in the glory that was, and still is to some extent, Stephen King back in the late 1970s. How could I not love this one?

Let’s leave the 70’s behind and head into the 1980’s.

#6 THE HUNGER (1983) starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, and Susan Sarandon.


Synopsis: A pair of classy and rich vampires stalk the Goth and punk bars of the city looking not just for blood, but for sexual partners for themselves and each other. John (Bowie) begins to realize that even though Miriam (Deneuve) promised it would be forever, he’s starting to age and rather rapidly. He seeks help from a gerontologist (Sarandon) who falls under Miriam’s spell to become her newest partner.

Another vampire movie that offered me something different! As with Martin, these vampires don’t have fangs, but employ tiny daggers they wear as necklaces. This was probably the first movie I ever watched that had lesbian love scenes in it, too. That’s quite something when you’re seventeen! Plus, the musical score is amazing, from classical to punk with the unforgettable “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” performed by Bauhaus in the movie’s opening scene. AWESOME!

#7 FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) starring Roddy McDowall, Chris Sarandon, and William Ragsdale

Synopsis: The empty house next door to teenager Charley Brewster become home to a vampire. The vampire, Jerry Dandrage (Sarandon), sets sights first on Charley’s mother then on his girlfriend. Charley will have none of that, but first he has to convince his best friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) and a local horror-movie host, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) that vampires are real and that he needs their help.

Anyone who knows me at all, know how much I love me that Roddy McDowall. That was the main reason I wanted to see this movie at all. Jerry Dandrage wasn’t so bad to look at either, mind you. The most memorable scene for me is when the vampire is honing in on and seducing Charley’s now sexually charged, and scantily clad, girlfriend to a song called “Come To Me”.  Can’t tell you how much I wished I was her for that scene.

#8 THE LOST BOYS (1987) starring Jason Patric, Corey Haim, and Kiefer Sutherland

Synopsis: A single mother and her two sons move to a small coastal town in California. A group of loud, young bikers terrorizes the town where mysterious murders keep taking place. The younger son meets up with two local boys who claim to be vampire hunters. They quickly convince him that the leader of the vampire pack is after his mom.

Vampires and motorcycles, you say? Count me in! When this came out I was tooling around on my own motorcycle and may have developed an attraction for ‘bad boys’ and leather. This movie has some great scenes while they are enjoying Chinese take-out and a bottle of ‘wine’ in the lair of the Lost Boys and the Frog Brother (vampire hunters) provide great comic relief. I laughed and I lusted. A good time was had by all, well, until the end where things get seriously nasty and bloody.

#9 DAYBREAKERS (2009) starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Defoe, and Isabel Lucas


Synopsis: The year is 2019 and vampires have taken over the world. There’s one slight problem. With everyone wanting to live forever, being a vampire has become the norm and the supply of human blood is dwindling fast. And as we know, a hungry vampire is an even meaner and nastier vampire. While trying to find a solution to the whole blood supply problem, a scientist (also a vampire) happens to meet one of his own kind who seems to have come up with the answer; revert back to a human! But is he a rare oddity or does he somehow hold the cure and salvation of the whole human race in his veins.

#10 LET ME IN (2010) American remake starring Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz Synopsis: A lonely, sad, and bullied twelve-year-old boy, befriends the girl who’s moved in next door with her father. One slight problem, she’s a vampire and it’s up to dear old dad to find her what she needs.

Ah, young love. How can you beat it? I saw this movie recently for the first time. I was greatly impressed and as with most of the other movies I’ve listed here, it offered me a slightly different take on the vampire story. The boy who played Owen was amazing. During one scene where he’s talking to his father on the phone, I was nearly in tears. You can find my full length review of this movie HERE.

And that wraps up my Favorite Top Ten Vampire Movies! Feel free to disagree. Even if you do, I hope you’ve enjoyed the list. Maybe you’ve discovered a couple movies you never heard of before and if you have, I hope you check them out!