Author Interview – A Very Haunted Plantation

Happy Halloween, Everyone!

As promised, I have something special to share with you all today, a couple of somethings actually.

First off, I bit the bullet and No Rest For The Wicked will soon be available as an eBook through Amazon. I make no promises about the precision of the formatting. If it’s a mess, I apologize. I was having a heck of a time doing it. Some of it looked as if it had been done before, other parts, well… I beg your forgiveness. Self-publishing has its drawbacks and this is one of them. UGH! I’m a writer not a formatter!

And now the BiG NeWs!

I’ve been reading, loving, and reviewing the works of Horror author Hunter Shea for a couple of years now. So, imagine my surprise when Mr. Shea contacted me and asked if I’d send him one of my books. I was both delighted and terrified at the notion. As the first Hunter Shea novel I ever read was his haunted tale Island of the Forbidden, it seemed appropriate I respond with a ghost story of my own.

This resulted in the following interview with Hunter not too long ago.

A Very Haunted Plantation – Interview With Author Pamela Morris

I can’t thank Hunter enough for showing interest in my work and inspiring me to keep doing what I love so much to do – writing horror that keeps people up into the wee hours reading and sleeping with a light on after.

Have a happy and safe Halloween night, everyone!


Their Stories Carved In Stone

“What did you do over summer vacation?”

Other kids in my middle school class likely answered that question with such things as going on a family vacation to Florida, maybe 4-H Camp or just hanging out with friends around a swimming pool. I spent most of one particular summer in the Berkshire Evergreen Cemetery, voluntarily documenting and mapping the headstones.

I’ve always been fascinated by cemeteries and never found them creepy to walk in, day or night. To me they are places to get away from it all, to relax, to think, to reflect on all my dreams for life. Being surrounded by death like that makes you appreciate living.  Thanks to the Internet I’ve discovered I’m not so alone in these feelings, but as a kid very few of my friends could understand my fascination and fewer still would join me in my various cemetery adventures.

One youthful journey that I made with my father reigns over them all. We were visiting family graves in Speedsville at the time. I must have been eleven or twelve years old. While Dad tended to watering flowers and plants that had been brought earlier that year, I wandered around and read the tombstones. One stone quickly got my overly active imagination going. It was one of the earlier stones in the graveyard and at the top was carved a hand with a finger pointing downward. From the finger dangled three chain links, one of them broken. I was instantly convinced that finger pointing down could only mean one thing, this poor sinner was bound for Hell.  When I showed Dad the stone, he didn’t know what it could possibly mean either. The mystery would remain with me for almost thirty more years.


I started taking pictures in cemeteries in my early twenties. Whole weekends would be devoted to cemetery hunting and grave walking.  I occasionally found others to join me, but most of the time this was a solitary practice, just me and my camera. My images eventually started to focus on the intricate carvings on the headstones: the different types of flowers, trees, animals, birds and a variety of archaic symbols, including many, many headstones with hands in various poses on them. I remembered the stone I’d seen with my father all those years ago and knew there had to be a reason and meaning behind all these things.

My serious research soon began.

In North America the earliest markers erected were generally unrefined and simple. The inscriptions, if indeed they bore an inscription at all originally, have in many instances eroded away or crumbled off. These stones are generally from what is called the Federalist Period, 1789-1850, and sometimes offer us little information. But even the crudest markers can tell us a great deal about the history of the region during this time.

One of the most popular symbols displayed prior to 1850 is the funerary urn. These appear with great regularity on 19th century gravestones in all settled areas of the United States and Canada. The urn was a well-understood symbol of death and the mortality of the body.  Quite often the urn was accompanied by the Tree of Life (not to be confused with the Weeping Willow symbol that will be explained later). This provided a sacred message for the living; although the individual had perished, their remains would provide the seed for new life. When this same tree appears to be growing out of the urn it expresses the Western religious understanding of the hope of everlasting life.


Early American example of funeral urn with Tree of Life sprouting from the top. Athens, PA.

The urn and Tree of Life made perfect sense to me, but when I saw my first tree-stump-shaped grave marker, I was baffled. Why would anyone have a headstone shaped like a tree stump?


Woodmen of the World grave marker.

I discovered there was a fraternal organization called Woodmen of the World and to have the graves easily identifiable by their brothers, the headstone would be carved into the shape of a tree stump. One tree symbol led to another. The Weeping Willow mentioned earlier was a common symbol found in Great Britain during the neoclassical period (1660-1740) and was intended solely to represent perpetual mourning and grief. You will find countless depictions of the willow on grave markers from the nineteenth-century in our area as well. Oak leaves and acorns on tombs stood for power and longevity. Laurel branches often mark the graves of those who have served their countries with great distinction.


Roses in full bloom symbolizing a full life. – Candor, NY

Then came the flowers: roses, poppies, lilies, and sunflowers just to name a few. Not only did each flower have a meaning, but the flowers arrangement and stage of life could tell the informed observer about the person whose remains lay beneath. This is most visible in the rose. A rose bud will most likely mark the grave of a child or young, unmarried woman, while roses in full bloom are carved on the stones of those who have led long, productive lives. A wreath of roses, or wreaths of any kind, speaks of eternity. Anything round, such as wreaths and orbs, have long been symbolic of things that are meant to last forever, just as the familiar circle, or band, of gold many of us wear for a wedding band does.

In hot pursuit came the animals one finds carved on graves. The two most popular are the lamb and the dove. A lamb will mark almost exclusively the grave of an infant or a very young child. Doves can be found in various postures from sitting upright, to flying upward or downward to lying flat on their back, feet curled up in the typical image of a dead bird. As with flowers, each of the dove’s positions has a different meaning. Sitting upright means the soul of the deceased is believed to be at rest. The bird flying upward represents the soul’s transcendence into Heaven, downward it symbolizes the spirit of Christ coming down to take the soul. If the bird is flat on its back, chances are the life of the deceased was suddenly cut short.


Holy Spirit descending in the form of a Dove and a wreath of flowers all in full bloom. – Berkshire,NY

The Masons, along with countless other fraternal and sorority organizations, use a variety of symbols to identify the final resting places of their members. Masons view the beehive as a symbol of industry. A beehive may also mark the grave of a Mormon. If you find a stone carved with an eagle and the number thirty-two, this marks the grave of a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason. The most common of all Masonic symbols are the compass with the square along with the obelisk-shaped headstone itself. The Ancient Order of Odd Fellows often uses a three-linked chain where one of the links is snapped open, symbolizing the severance of the dead from the living.

Wait. What? A three-linked chain with one link broken? Where had I seen that before? The Speedsville cemetery with my dad, of course!  Did that mean the deceased really wasn’t bound for Hell as I’d first imagined? I searched further and found a reference to hands, and more importantly, hands with fingers pointing in various directions. I was about to have my answer.

You’ll find a lot of hands on graves. Some hands are clearly folded in prayer. Other times, the hand of one person may be seen holding the hand of another. In the case of two different hands behind held together, look very carefully. A hand that reaches down and may appear a bit larger than the one below symbolizes the Hand of God fetching up the soul of the deceased. Sometimes the cuff of a man’s shirt or a lady’s blouse has been added and this could represent the hands of a husband and wife held together for all eternity. Hands with the fingers pointing upward are meant to guide the soul in the direction of heaven. Finally, the hand with a finger pointing downward means that those on Earth have been called to witness the mortality of humanity, that the deceased has been chosen by God. My dearly departed friend in Speedsville wasn’t Hell bound after all. He was merely a member of the Ancient Order of Odd Fellows whose family had left behind a symbolic reminder of the mortality of us all. That wasn’t even close to the sinister imaginings I’d harbored all those years.

As you can see, a vast number of iconographic symbols and themes grace the headstones of cemeteries. Only a very few have been mentioned here. Gravestones are, in many aspects, works of art. Some are masterpieces, while others are representative of the crude and harsh pioneer environment our own ancestors endured.

Every grave marker has a symbolic message all its own to share, a voice waiting to be heard. These stones have stories to tell, but it takes a willing and observant person to sit down and read that message and understand the story left so lovingly behind by the family who placed it there.

What did you do over your summer?

I walked through and took pictures of what I believe to be some of the most beautiful and fascinating stone sculpture gardens ever created by man and read the stories carved in the stones of our local cemeteries.

This article first appeared 6 Oct. 2010 in the Tioga County Courier, Owego, NY.

All photos courtesy of the author.


Movie Review – Shock Treatment (1964)

Directed by Denis Sanders.  Starring Stuart Witman, Roddy McDowall, Lauren Bacall, & Carol Lynley

Gardener Martin Ashley (Roddy McDowall) is sentenced to 90 days of evaluation in a mental hospital after killing his wealthy employer Amelia Townsend with a pair of garden shears. To prove Martin’s sanity so he can be sentenced to murder, and to try and find $1 million that went missing after the murder, the prosecuting lawyer hires stage actor Dale Nelson (Stuart Witman) to infiltrate the facility to try and learn the truth by making friends with Martin. Unfortunately for Mr. Nelson, his doctor, Dr. Edwina Beighley (Lauren Bacall) has no qualms using experimental treatments on any available human guinea pig she can get her hands on to further her research.

Obviously this is a very low security asylum where patients can roam the halls, ask for random sleeping pills, and wander about unsupervised outside during dances with nary a guard in sight. Be that as it may, this movie has some amazing acting and more than one plot twist I never saw coming in the least.  Though Roddy McDowall’s role is certainly up to his usual par and is the catalyst for the film, Stuart Witman is really the star of the show here. His sane side is more than believable which makes the time he spends in the hospital acting like one of the inmates all the more disturbing to watch. You really start to wonder if he’s going to make it out at all, sane or otherwise. Lauren Bacall did a great job of portraying the cold-hearted, research-driven doctor who would have made Dr. Josef Mengela proud.

4 out of 5 Ravens

Write What You Love: The Joys of Genre Hopping

Adventures / Murder-Mystery / Reading / Writing

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!

Playing Favorites

Barnesville Chronicles / Book Promo / Writer's Life

Over the past year, I’ve been asked the same question a number of times by people at my book signings. They are trying to decide which book to buy and almost always have asked, “Which one is your favorite?” As the saying goes, that’s like asking me who my favorite child is.

I don’t have a favorite. Honestly, I don’t. Each book is different. Like my children, each book has its own personality, its own reason for being, its own unique and special qualities that make it who and what it is and which makes me love it in a one-of-a-kind way.

I love Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon because it was the first book I ever wrote that invoked my love of a good, old-fashioned murder-mystery with the paranormal. It also let me delve into some early American history, both factual and fictionalized, and create some answers to some pretty weird happenings from my own childhood.

I love That’s What Shadows Are Made Of because it’s more complex than the first murder-mystery and I was able to get a little more involved with the who-done-it aspect of the genre. It also let me develop some characters from “…Scarecrow Moon” a little bit more. Though the books are stand alone stories, it was nice to have another go at looking into the lives and personalities of a couple of my favorite characters from the first book.

I love No Rest For The Wicked simply because it’s a very traditional type of ghost story, but I believe by giving my ghosts a strong narrative voice instead of only seeing the hauntings from the perspective of the living, I was able to create something quite unique. It’s not often you get to peak behind the scenes with the spirits and tune in to what they are thinking, why they are doing what they’re doing, and how they feel about each other, if anything at all.

I am currently deeply in love with the as-yet-to-be-released, Dark Hollow Road which deals with something that has fascinated me from a very early age, the stories behind abandoned houses. Around here, I drive by these kinds of places every single day. Why is that old place empty? What happened to the last people who lived there? Why doesn’t anyone tear it down or fix it up? Of course, being a horror writer, my mind automatically goes to the most horrific and ghastly events imaginable. I also love the characters and consider this the weirdest book I’ve ever written.

Those are the best answers I can give to the question of which of my books is my favorite. The only other option I can offer is to tell you to go to my website and check things out, read the reviews and the free samples offered on Amazon, and watch the book trailers that are posted. Decide for yourself which book most interests you and go from there. If you like that one, try another, and another.


I’ve Got This Covered

Childhood fantasies / Writer's Life

I truly believe in the power of positive thinking and that visualization, in regards to your life and your dreams, works to make those things go in the direction you want them to. I have done it many times with many aspects of my life.

As a child dreaming of becoming a writer, I would draw and attach covers to my little story books. I’d make them as much like real life books as a ten-year-old could. Thanks to the foresight of my father, I still have a couple of those in my archives.

dscf3129 dscf3130

My first novel, The Pride, was not only given a cover, but I did some drawings of the characters, too.


Grolick and Rhyvek from “The Pride”

Apart from a handful of people reading it, it’s never seen the light of any sort of publishing world. I sent it out to a dozen or so places, but all rejected it. One place suggested I re-write it as a screenplay, which I rejected because, frankly, I didn’t have a clue then, nor do I have one now, how to do that nor did I have any interest doing that. It was tucked away and lost in the fast-moving madness of technology for many years until this past summer.

When the erotica titles came into being they too were given my version of a cover. I kept them pretty tame. The publisher had other ideas that I wasn’t always pleased with, but, who was I to quibble? I was grateful to have any say at all in how the cover looked given what I have since learned about how the publishing business works. The covers finally decided on didn’t matter so much as the ones I used to visualize and project my dreams on.

You need to see the end product as clearly as you can. Hold it in your hands. Flip the pages and read the front matter as if it’s not just your personal prototype, but a real published work. These facsimiles made it real in my head and eventually they would become real to everyone else.

I’ve done the same with every horror novel I’ve written, too. I have the vision of a cover in my head, create it in the most basic form, and attached it to the 2nd draft prototype I give to my Beta Reader(s). It’s my mental way of saying the work is done, even though it’s really not. I’ll be reading through that thing at least 2-3 more times. Even though I self-publish, the prototype cover seldom is the same as what we finally decide on putting out there.

dscf3126        shadows_cover

Inadvertently my graphics guy (aka The Husband) usually creates an image I like just as much, if not more, and we work on it until we come up with something we’re both happy with – most of the time. The exception is No Rest For The Wicked. The vision I had for that cover was just too strong for me to let go of or allow him to fiddle with too much. Though not identical to the prototype cover. They both feature the same picture of the same house.

Earlier this week I worked up a cover for Dark Hollow Road.


As I was returning from the printer with it attached to its 140,000+ word tome, I felt a great sense of closure. Once that cover is in place, a switch flips in my head that says it’s okay to stop thinking about this one for a while. It’s a bit like hitting the snooze alarm at 5:30 in the morning, a very long snooze alarm. For the next 3-6 months, the details of Dark Hollow Road will slowly fade from my mind. As they fade, other characters and their stories will start to come into focus.

In the meantime, I feel like I’m in some sort of Twilight Zone Limbo. Though the next book is in my brain somewhere, it’s being very elusive and what a weird feeling it is to not be actively working on a new manuscript.

C’mon, Nell! Get your act together and help me make sense of The Witch’s Backbone. (hint-hint)

Author Appearance & Book Signing

What would October be without a good, old-fashioned haunting?

Welcome to Greenbrier Plantation where every ghost has a story, but not all of them want it told. I’ll be at RIVEROW BOOKSHOP in Owego, NY TONIGHT from 6-8pm with my newest horror novel No Rest For The Wicked, along with my other two tales of the paranormal, Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon and That’s What Shadows Are Made Of, for purchase and signing.

I hope you’ll stop by and join me for a spell and a cookie.