The Phobia Phactor

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had Cynophobia, a fear of dogs. Where it stems from is anyone’s guess as I have never been attacked or bitten by a dog. We always had a dog when I was a kid and I wasn’t quite so afraid of them as I was other canines in the area. Always been a cat person instead. I don’t like being afraid of dogs. It’s a phobia I’ve been working on conquering for my whole life with some level of success – thanks to my husband and daughter and their dog-loving ways.

I also have Arachnophobia, a fear of spiders. The movie of the same name was torture to watch, but I forced my way through it. It’s the spindly legged ones that bother me the most. Oddly, if I HAD to pick an arachnid to hold, I’d take a Tarantula over a Daddy Longlegs (aka Harvestman and technically NOT a spider) any day. It’s all about the legs. Nope. Nope. Nope. Not gonna happen, kids! Snakes, on the other hand, no problem!

One of my more common phobias is Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, or more specifically in my case, the fear of public SINGING (Decantophobia). In high school I was in Drama Club which involved several cases of group singing (which was fine) and a couple minor speaking roles, not a problem. I also took an elective class called Public Speaking. As a writer I’ve done a couple talks on my work and always enjoy one-on-one chats with people who stop by to talk about my books. Singing solo in front of other people, on the other hand, terrifying!

My Decantophobia may stem from the numerous times my Nana required me to sing to her Church lady friends during their get-togethers on Sunday afternoons following services. I was all of six or seven when this madness began and INTENSELY shy. I’m still very quiet and shy around people I don’t know. But, without fail, if I were staying with Nana and Papa and it was Nana’s week to host the luncheon, I’d inevitably hear “Come and sing for us, Pammy. Oh, she has such a pretty voice.” I remember trying to hide at least once, but I was always found and pretty much forced to perform either “Over The Rainbow” or “Take Me Home, Country Roads” under the watchful eyes and ears of The Church Ladies.

With this deeply entrenched fear of public singing, I went and got myself hooked up with a musician about six years ago. I am more than happy to let him stand in the spotlight while I sit at the table in the crowd and enjoy his talent and skill. Unfortunately during one of our many Skype calls, he apparently heard me singing while I thought he was out of the room eating dinner. Once he moved in, I’ve never heard the end of “You need to sing more. You have a really nice voice. You should sing karaoke when we go.” Yadda-yadda-yadda. Like the whole spider thing, “No, no, no, and no. Did I mention, no?”

I’ve been considering this for a long time – over a year, at least. “Absolutely not” began to morph into “Only if I’m drunk enough,” to “Maybe, if you let me hide in the ladies room while I do it”, to “Maybe, if I can hide behind the stage,” to “Maybe, if I can just sit here at the booth.” to “Well, if I were to do it, I’d sing this.” to “I’m pretty sure I could sing that a whole lot better than she is.” You get the idea. And in no way, shape or form was I going to stand up there ALONE! Way too self-conscious for that. For months I’ve carried around one of the slips you have to fill out with the name of the artist and song you want to sing on it that you hand into the DJ before the singing starts. That, however, would require a solo. So, again, no.

That all changed while making chicken gravy and biscuits for dinner.

Jim came into the kitchen and said, “You want to go to karaoke tonight?” Aloud I said, “Sure.” In my head I heard, “And you’re going to be shocked at what I’m going to do when we get there.” Lest I chicken out, I didn’t mention this internal dialogue to the spouse. The closer the time came, the more nervous I got, but something kept pushing me to do this. You’ve done more difficult things. What’s three minutes of public singing? Pft. Nothing. Before I could change my mind, I went up and grabbed a slip of paper and the song book while Jim went and got us each a beer. By the time he returned, I’d filled out the song and sat at the table waiting. I slid the paper over to him. He read it … nodded, but obviously didn’t read the bottom line where instead of writing just ‘Jim’ I’d written, ‘Jim and Pam”. Needless to say, the look he gave me was one of utter surprise. “Really?” he said. “What brought this on?” All I could do was shrug.

I spent the next twenty minutes forcing myself to think of other things, nervously looking out the window, trying not to guzzle down the bottle of liquid courage set before me, swallowing down those feeling of pure terror, and taking big calming breaths. I could do this. I would do this, damn it. With my heart in my throat and my hands shaking, I joined Jim after his solo performance and took up a mic of my own. “Just be calm!” If you start freaking out it’s only going to make it worse. Just do it.

Three minutes and one Dr. Hook song later (Sylvia’s Mother), it was over with. I made it. I hadn’t passed out, thrown up, or burst out sobbing with embarrassment even though I messed up a bit. Pretty sure my face was beet red by the time I scurried back to the booth, but … done.

The point of this long-winded phobia-facing rant is this. I’m a Horror writer. I’ve written about some pretty dark and disturbing situations. I love scary movies and books. I love cemeteries and haunted places. I’m fascinated by the darker side of life and for some reason a lot of people think that makes me immune to fear. Everyone has fears. EVERYONE! If someone tells you they aren’t afraid of anything, they are full of shit.

At 50+ years old, I am still learning and exploring who I am. I want to grow and do things I’ve never done before it’s too late. Accomplishing that and being all I can be and having no regrets means pouring some water on those flaming fears that hold me back. I want to like dogs. I want to be brave enough to hold a tarantula. I want to be confident in front of strangers. And, apparently some place in me wanted/wants (?) to sing in public. Who knew?!

Our perspectives of our fears are always a lot more extreme that the actual result of stepping up to the mic and facing them. I encourage everyone reading this to work towards conquering those fears you have one tiny step at a time. And you people out there who mock people who have phobias like mine, KNOCK IT OFF! Have some sympathy and stop laughing. You aren’t helping. You’d not put a bottle of whisky in front of an alcoholic trying to better themselves or a full needle of heroin in front of an addict trying to stay clean, would you? If so, don’t even bother speaking to me. I have no use for people like that.

Just like overcoming an addiction, the decision to face and try to defeat a phobia must come from the one who suffers from it. They have to want it, but it’s nice to know there are people out there who believe in you and will stand by your side (sometimes literally as when I took that microphone in hand last week) when you’re ready. Be encouraging, but don’t push. For me, being pushed into something is possibly what started this whole case of Decantophobia.

I became a little bit braver that night than I was the one before it. The relief and the sense of personal accomplishment for facing a fear I’ve had since childhood was amazing. That isn’t to say the fear is gone, not by a long shot. But, a bit of the edge has been trimmed. It’s a start … and who knows where it will go from here?

Speaking of phobias – check out my short story Because, Spiders over on Amazon!

Now with …

Research for my recently completed first draft of “The Inheritance” began in October 2018 as my husband and I headed out from Salado, TX to Terlingua, TX some 400+ miles west. He came up with the main character’s name – Liberty Hill – years earlier. After a couple false starts, a plot began to form. I’ve been a fan of Gothic Literature for a good many years and decided the isolated locations we visited in West Texas would be perfect for that genre. I took copious notes and lots of pictures. Some of the scenes in the book actually happened to my husband and I.

Once we were back home, I began to write. Over on Twitter (@pamelamorris65) I post updates on my progress, being as vague as possible so as not to give anything away, but still make it interesting. They are meant to be amusing\silly and I’ll often pick the most obscure of details to share. What follows are those updates. Enjoy.

Mar 3: 9am on a Sunday and I’ve already managed to add over 1200 words to my Texas Gothic Horror novel “The Inheritance” – now with the tall, dark, and handsome caretaker’s son – Miguel Alvirez. #amwriting #Texas #gothichorror

Mar 6: +1269 words. And so ends Act 1 of the current WiP – “The Inheritance” at nearly 30K — now with an Irish bar, members of The Widow Makers MC, and vomit. Good times! #amwriting #writerslife

Mar 16: +1055 words during this morning’s writing work on “The Inheritance”. Now with bikers, bikers, and oh, yeah, bikers. Not bad, not bad at all. #amwriting #Texas #GothicHorror

Mar. 20: Final scene of Chapt. 12 finished on my Texas Gothic Horror novel, “The Inheritance”. Now, with shiny gold buttons and a pocket watch. #amwriting #Texas #gothichorror

Mar. 25: +2674 words this weekend on my current WiP novel, “The Inheritance” – now with a link to Greenbrier Plantation, more poisonous & biting Texas critters, and an outhouse. #amwriting #Texas #GothicHorror

Mar. 31: A mere +2244 accomplished on current WiP during the week (Mon-Fri). Nothing yesterday. Maybe today will prove productive. At least now we have a flirtatious farm hand, an old family album, and obituaries to work with. #amwriting #Texas #GothicHorror

Apr. 10: Sneaking up on the 50K word-count mark for my Texas Gothic Horror novel “The Inheritance” – now with a hysterical Mexican housekeeper, booming shotgun blasts, and ROMANCE! #amwriting #Texas #gothic #horror

May 17: So hey – writing work accomplished at Goodyear while I waited for my ‘tars’ to be changed! Now with flags in the desert, people that were possibly burned and/or buried alive, and a farmer’s market. #amwriting #TexasGothic #horror

May 26: Over the past two days I’ve managed to scrape together 1659 for my #Texas #Gothic #Horror novel “The Inheritance”. I wish it were more, but progress is progress. Now with a western wear shop, cemetery notes, & five drops of rain on an old pick-up truck. #amwriting

June 4: Sun-Mon word count for my #Texas #Gothic #Horror ‘The Inheritance’ +1632. Most of it achieved on Sunday. Now with a taxidermy antelope head, an angry Texas cowboy, & a Horny Toad Harley-Davidson t-shirt.

June 19: +674 words later, Chapt. 25 of my WIP “The Inheritance” wraps out. Now with El Paso TX, White Sands NM, & an Apache arrowhead. On to the next… #amwriting #Texas #gothic #horror

June 27: +738 words on my #Texas #Gothic #Horror novel “The Inheritance” Chapt. 27 done. Now with Perro Loco, a pillow case, and shaky, dark camera work on a cheap cellphone. #amwriting

July 6: Writing finally happened. +1177 words added to my #Texas #Gothic #Horror novel “The Inheritance”. Now with a small haboob, funny biker nicknames, and a BIG BOOM – possibly a cannon, but maybe just thunder. Chapt. 29 done. #amwriting On to the next.

Aug. 15: Yesterday was pretty productive on the writing front. +2342 added my #Texas #gothic #horror novel “The Inheritance” now with a biker threatening to kick another biker’s ass, permits to carry concealed, and about 20 ATF officers. Total word count: 93,180.

Aug. 24: 2 days + 3420 words = 99,740. Now with bikers in a Cadillac, a West Texas ghost town & cemetery, an attempt to enjoy some beers, and a yapping Chihuahua. #amwriting #WritingCommnunity #WIP

Sept. 16: It took almost two weeks, but finally +2711 words added to the WIP and was able to finish Chapt. 41 – now with fresh chicken eggs, freshly unearthed human skulls, and fresh from the oven pizza! #FeelingFresh #amwriting

Sept. 20: +2299 words added to my WIP, The Inheritance. Now with an oily darkness that tastes and smells of death, an eye-shaped tunnel, and a nearly impenetrable cold fog. #amwriting #Texas #gothic #horror

Sept . 26: I am happy to report that the First Draft of my Texas Gothic Horror novel, “The Inheritance” is now DONE at 114k words.

As I begin the editing process, some of these ‘Now With…” events may vanish, but I thought this would be a fun way to show you all a bit of my writing process and demonstrate how long it takes me to write a first draft. “The Inheritance” will be available in early 2020.

Summer’s End

Summer turns to Fall in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  Yesterday we did some spiedies and fresh garden squash on the grill. What the hell are ‘spiedies’? I hear the non-locals reading this say. It’s our regional culinary claim to fame. Tip: If someone is trying to pass this delight off served on a roll with toppings like lettuce and/or cheese, it ain’t a spiedie.  A slice of Italian bread, maybe a touch of butter, meat. That’s it! Don’t mess with it! Today, Jim fired up the smoker and tossed a big ole slab of pork ribs on the grate. Six hours later – meat candy! Add some macaroni salad, beans, and watermelon and that says Summer!

The Harley roared to life this afternoon, too. It didn’t leave the garage, but still … it’s the first time I’ve heard it since we wrecked in mid-July. I have to say, it made me tear up a little bit, that sound, the feel, the smell. She, like us, has taken a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’. If there were any doubts in my mind about getting back on once the old girl is fixed, hearing that rumble shoved them all away.

A shame Summer is over with so fast, but you can’t stop the march of time and despite not accomplishing all that we had planned, there were some positives!

I read some awesome books! Andy Davidson’s novel In The Valley of the Sun takes top billing! As a long-time fan of vampire fiction, this book simply blew me away! It’s going to take something phenomenal to bump it from my #1 spot of the year – including Stephen King’s The Outsider that I finished up a couple weeks back. Sorry, Steve! You’re good, but Andy’s got you beat this year. I also laid my eyeballs on some Sci-Fiction I really enjoyed with Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds by Peter Adam Salomon and top honorable mention to W. Sheridan Bradford’s debut novel, the literary Horror title All Hallows. I’ll be finishing Hunter Shea’s latest release Ghost Mine this week, too. Thank God for great summer reads to push aside the aches, pains and boredom of the past three months or so.

We were able to get No Rest For The Wicked re-released after a brief hiatus. That felt good. I really hated having the book down and unavailable even if it was only for a couple of months. I expect to finish the first draft of my Texas Gothic Horror – The Inheritance by the end of this week. YAY!

I also did some paintings. Just as our trip last November to Terlingua, TX to be part of their Day of the Dead celebration was an inspiration for writing The Inheritance, it also inspired some art work in the form of four 8X10 paintings, El Cuervo, El Gato, El Lobo, and El Lagardo – The Crow, The Cat, The Wolf, and The Lizard. I’ve already done some prints for the first two, but haven’t managed to get the second two that far. Still – it’s been nice to have a paint brush in my hand again – and I don’t mean painting the house. That’s another story all together that I really don’t want to talk about.

Several things loom large for the Fall season, like book signing events! First one is coming up October 4th and 5th in Oneonta NY at the Horror-SciFi Festival. It will be my first convention. I’m super excited as well as a bit nervous. Maybe a bit more now that I won’t physically be up to speed. I still have a broken collar bone and a lot of pain so, it’s going to be a huge challenge. The second signing will happen a month later on November 1st in Owego NY at Riverow Bookshop as part of the village’s First Friday event. A lot closer to home and a lot less stressful. Those are the positives.

The negatives will see Jim getting surgery for his separated right shoulder on October 11. I’ll be taking a week off work to take care of him as best I can. Six weeks later, I go under the knife to get my collar bone put back together by way of pins and screws. It’s going to be a very rough fall and into the holidays for us. Sorry, family – Mom won’t be making Thanksgiving Dinner this year! Hopefully, this will be the beginning of the end of all this pain and suffering. Recovery, recovery, and more recovery.

New short story ideas have popped up here and there. I might go back to writing a Barnesville Chronicle I got overwhelmed with last year or work on re-writes for another title while I’m out (again) from the day job. Plenty of things to do that aren’t all that pressing in my mind right now, but will keep me from going too stir-crazy – I hope.

What I Didn’t Want To Do On My Summer Vacation

Greetings, All –

It’s been far too long since I made a blog posting, almost a month! Yikes! I have a really, really good reason, though.

On July 13th my husband and I took part in the 11th Annual Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway of Valor Tribute Ride – phew, that’s a mouthful!  Anyway, it’s a 100 mile motorcycle ride that runs the length of Route 38 from Owego NY – Hannibal NY.  We had a great ride up. This was our first time and I was so surprised at how many spectators there were along the route, town after town. There were families sitting in lawn chairs, people waving American flags, and color guard units stationed at attention as hundreds of motorcycle road through. At the end of the ride was food, music, beer, and a few vendors. The weather had been perfect all the way and promised to be fine for the ride home.

A stop in Groton for food, drinks, and a good leg stretch.

At around 4:00, we decided to head back home.  At around 4:30 – all that came to a crashing halt, literally. I heard my husband shout, “Shit! A stop sign!” and felt the bike shift and heard the squeal of brakes. Next thing I knew, I’m apparently in the middle of the road on my back. I hear someone say something about calling 911. Sirens follow. A woman’s voice says, “I’m an EMT.”  I asked about my husband; is he okay? I’m told he is and that he’s in an ambulance behind us.

Instead of that day’s journey ending back home in our own garage, it ends with us at Upstate Medical in Syracuse. Broken bones, dislocated joints, a concussion, lots and lots of pretty bad road rash which, even after almost 2 months, we can still see traces of. We stayed with my parents for a week after my discharge on July 17th. I’ve yet to return to work. That happens next week. So much for all those summer plans.

Welcome To Upstate Medical’s Trauma Ward.

On the bright side, we’re alive! We’re banged up. We’re still in pain. There’s a least one surgery to be had before the year’s it out, but WE ARE ALIVE. And we will ride again… but likely not this year. The bike can be fixed but its repair is low the list of things to pay for right now.

For almost a week, sitting at a computer wasn’t even possible. Eventually, I was able to sit up and  check my emails, Facebook, and Twitter, but only for short periods, an hour, maybe two, tops. Most of the time was spent sleeping, watching TV, waiting for the magic hour to take more pain pills, figuring out how the hell to take a shower with only one good arm while the other side of my body throbbed and shrieked in pain, and stopping everything when the room started to tip and spin from the concussion.

It still took at least another couple of weeks before I could sit at the computer long enough to even consider writing fiction. My brain wasn’t ready, quite honestly. I’d had a blog post written up for awhile and then seemed the perfect time to post it. Vanishing for who knows how long didn’t seem like a good idea. Eventually, however, fiction writing started to happen. Ideas came trickling in. My first try was only a couple hundred words, but it was progress. Progress beget progress and now I see light at the end of the tunnel. Another first draft is almost done.

On one hand, I want to get back to work, the day-job. I miss having people to talk to and interact with throughout the day. Plus, I’m running out of medical leave to supplement disability leave so I can draw a full paycheck! I hope I am able to do my job when I get there. Parts will be pretty difficult and I’m going to have to find alternative methods for sure.

On the other hand, I’ve liked having all this time to write and do other things. The only problem with that is there’s still so much pain and limited mobility in my left arm and shoulder. It’s hard to have fun when your body keeps saying, “Oh no you don’t!”

So – what other than writing have I been up to these past almost eight weeks now?

 I got the rights back to “No Rest For The Wicked” a couple weeks before the accident and we were able to get a new cover designed and the whole things reformatted recently. You can find links to this beauty below.

I’ve been reading Stephen King’s “The Outsider” which is totally awesome! Murder-mystery meets Horror. Right up my alley.

We also celebrated our 3rd Wedding Anniversary on August 27th with dinner out to Texas Roadhouse.

Our Wedding Day – August 27, 2019

Last but not least, I was recently interviewed by Sue Rovens of Plump Toad Press. https://suerovens.com/meet-greet-author-q-as/

There you have it, a rather unconventional version of What I Did On My Summer Vacation. Let’s hope and pray next year’s plans are a whole lot LESS painful and a whole lot MORE enjoyable.

How was your summer?

What’s Your Back-up Plan?

Before the creation of thumb drives and ‘clouds’, we had 5.25” and 3.5” floppy discs. The 5.25” were actually quite thin and, well, floppy. Hence the name, I suppose. The 3.5” had a much more rigid outer casing which made them much less likely to become damaged. I mainly used the 3.5” for storing and saving my writing works. I could save a lot of data on one of those bad boys. I still have a few kicking around my writing space.

Back in the day, I used to carry a large plastic folder that held the printed version of whatever I was working on at the time. I’d write, do a quick proofread, then print it out and add it to the folder as I progressed. I’d also save it on the carefully labeled floppy disc. There were times I’d fall behind on having an up-to-date printed version as I didn’t have my own printer at home. I’d bring the disc in to work and have it printed in the library’s printing center for about 2 cents a page. The 3.5” floppy traveled safely in a pocket on the inside of the plastic folder. This was my back-up plan and it worked great.

Until one fateful night …

As I got on the bus that night to head home from work and settled into my seat, panic and dread suddenly washed over me. My folder was not in my book bag. SHIT! I looked out the bus window just in time to see my beloved work in progress, printed version and the saved floppy disc version, dwindling away, left behind in the bus shelter on the bench. There was no stopping the bus.

Back then I took a regular commuter bus that only made two trips per day. Once in the morning to drop riders off at work and once in the evening to pick us all back up and take us home. (Oh, the joys of rural American living where public transit is almost non-existent.)  Needless to say, I was nearly in hysterics! My book! My precious book!! There was nothing I could do but pray to every infinite power of the universe to somehow keep all that hard work safe until I could return the next day. Sleep wasn’t easy that night.

In the morning, the plastic folder and all it contained was gone from the bus stop bench. Someone had found it. Buy who? And what did they do with it? How would I ever find them if they had it? My name wasn’t anywhere on the folder or the floppy disc. I could only think of one thing to do – send out a message via the library’s list-serve and hope … hope against all hope, that someone out there had seen it and taken it somewhere safe.

This all made me give serious thought to my methods of backing up my work. The idea of writing almost an entire book all over again from scratch was mind-numbing. I could never get it all back. Since then, I’ve added more layers to saving my work. I still print as I go and I still save it on a jump drive, in fact I double save it – meaning there are two copies of the work on the same jump drive in case one of the versions becomes corrupted. (Yup – I’ve almost lost a ton of work for that reason, too).  I also email the most current version of the file to myself at least once a week. I keep another final draft in a file on my home computer. The printed version and the jump drive are almost never kept in the same place and of course, and both are marked with my name and contact information just in case.  The emailed version is stored somewhere within that mysterious mega-file cabinet in the sky. 

This new method has worked very well over the years. I’ve never experienced that same level of utter panic and horror as I did that night on the commuter bus. Back-up, back-up, back-up! By the time all is said and done, I have five copies of the piece to go to should things go awry.

As to the fate of that plastic folder and 3.5” floppy disc left at the bus stop – both were recovered. They were found by a student who happened to work in one of the nearby libraries who took it to the main desk. Another person who worked at that desk was the daughter of a woman who worked in the same library I do. My cry for help to the campus-wide library list-serve was heard. I had my precious novel back in my arms on my way home the very next day.

What’s your back-up plan?

Seeking The Symbolic

Years ago a friend of mine who spent some college time as a film student, told a story about a final short film project he done as part of a class. At the end of the viewing, discussion, critiques and questions took place. A certain blue chair was used repeatedly in various scenes. This chair became the focus of the use of symbolism and how its color clearly represented the mood of whichever character happened to use it in various ways and scenes throughout. The class was impressed by my friend’s genius! This all helped his grade on the project.

My friend then laughed, as he was telling this story, because, the chair had no symbolic meaning whatsoever in the film. It was just a blue chair that they happened to have on hand. They used it a lot because they were short on chairs. That was it. He did nothing to correct the impressions that his fellow film students discussed. Why would he? It was working to improve his grade. He would merely smile and nod as if in agreement with them.

I first observed this same phenomenon in high school English classes. The symbolic intentions of the authors were shoved down our throats by various teachers over the years. What did Hawthorne really mean when he described the enclosed garden behind the House of the Seven Gables? What items were symbolic in The Great Gatsby? Ad nauseam. Even then, I was puzzled about this kind of analysis of literature. As a blossoming writer myself, I questioned the conclusions draw by my instructors. What if the garden was just a suitable setting for the characters to interact in? What if Dr. Eckleburg’s spectacle sign was just the most genius way for an optometrist to promote his shop that the author could think if?

There’s a review for my book “Dark Hollow Road” out there written by someone who had recently completed his PhD degree in Sociology. He put a lot of thought behind the events of the book and by a lot I mean, way too many. The book isn’t a study of human sociology, seriously, it’s not. He wanted more symbolism while at the same time seemed to put down the symbolism he imagined to be there. There wasn’t any. I know – I wrote the thing. I don’t do symbolism.

That isn’t to say I haven’t tried! In the late 90’s I wrote my first novel. It’s a fantasy piece with trolls and fairies and shape shifters and the like. No symbolism. However, I did try to write a sequel to that first novel and decided I was going to give this symbolic things a shot. Very quickly the story became bogged down with my efforts to keep things straight. What’s that supposed to mean again? How can I make the color of the flowers in the pot on the window sill in the kitchen represent Lady Greyson’s lost childhood? It was ridiculous and resulted in my giving up on the project entirely.

I’m not saying the use of symbols doesn’t happen in literature. It most certainly does. What I am saying is that not all authors use it, including me. What you see is what you get. I can’t be bothered coming up with all that. It’s hard enough to write a book without them; why make it more difficult for myself?I guess I’ve always felt symbolism should be more obvious than people trying to guess what the author meant. Unless a writer specifically explains later on these hidden meanings, as far as I’m concerned, there aren’t any. And how many times have we heard the phrase, “Never assume. It makes an Ass of U and Me.”

When it comes to authors (or anyone of a creative mind) and symbolism, remember a garden can be just a garden, glasses may just be an ingenious sales gimmick, and a blue chair could have been handiest chair available at the time.

Book Review – All Hallows by W. Sheridan Bradford

Defined as ‘literary horror’ by the author, “All Hallows” may be a bit off-putting to some readers. However, for those who like their horror richer and deeper than the usual blood and guts slasher quick reads out there, this novel may be exactly what you’re looking for.

All Hallows follows the old (nay – ancient) and somewhat cantankerous old witch, Maren Glover along as she tries to make her way home on Halloween Night. There is some pre-amble to this stroll through town, which may seem somewhat out of place, until you get further into the book then it all falls into place and makes sense. She encounters other creatures of the night, other witches, an eleven-foot-tall werewolf (But don’t call her that, that only makes her angrier and do you really to make an eleven-foot-tall werewolf even more pissed off at you? No, no you do not.), and a vampire just to name a few. All of them are sorely tempted by a high bounty placed on Maren’s head. But, Maren, old and road-weary as she is, keeps her handy-dandy bowling bag of tricks always on hand and she isn’t about to go quietly or easily into that sweet night. And, oh, does she love her sweets! Maren is a wonderful character. I couldn’t get enough of her absent-minded, somewhat disorganized old lady ramblings throughout the book. All the characters in this book are described with a flourish that keeps them each memorable and unique.

My only complaint about the book is that I think the author went a little overboard with the lengthy wording and word choices in the first half. In a couple of instances, there were sentences that covered almost an entire page.  Yes, a single sentence drawn out with enough commas and semi-colons to drive my high school English teach mad. This is typical of the old Gothic Horror novels that I so love, so it wasn’t terribly off-putting to me in that regard. This, along with wishing I had a thesaurus on hand, made the first half of the book a bit of a struggle. That being said, once I reached the halfway mark, everything changed! The narrative quickened. The sentences and paragraphs shortened. The dialogue and characters blossomed and were a delight. They drove all the action forward at a wonderful pace. It became a book I couldn’t wait to have time to sit down and get back into. Had the first half been written like the second half, I would have easily given it a higher rank without a second thought. It was all worth it in the end and I’m hoping Mr. Bradford puts out more work soon – very soon. Please!

BUY IT HERE: ALL HALLOWS by W. Sheridan Bradford

Raven Rating: 4 out of 5 Caws.

The Raven Scale:
1 Raven: Yuck! Don’t eat that.
2 Ravens: Bread crumbs, but it’ll keep us alive.
3 Ravens: Oh, hey! Peanuts, popcorn and cat kibble!
4 Ravens: Lunch time pizza place dumpster. Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit, Fellas! Fresh Road Kill!

So, Ya Wanna Be In A Book, Do Ya?

I’ve had quite a few people ask me to put them in one of my books. It’s funny and I wish characters came to me that easily. I can only answer that if a story calls for someone like them, I’ll put them in, but I can make no promises.

One of these requests comes from a woman who works in the café where I work. She’s quite a character herself and I’d love to work her in at some point – even if just for a one-scene cameo. Another person is my uncle. He’s got some wild stories from his youth to tell and thinks I should put them into one of my books. Other friends and family have made it onto the pages in various ways without even asking and probably at least one would rather I hadn’t.

The habit of drawing characters from people I know pretty much dominates my writing, most of the time they are fictionalized to the point that even the person being taken from won’t recognize themselves. In other cases, the characters come to me from some other unknown and mysterious realm of which I haven’t a clue about. The two best examples of that are Lee Yagar and Mary Alice Brown from my psychological horror novel “Dark Hollow Road”. Lee came to me first. One night I was sitting alone by a campfire in my backyard and he told me his name and that he knew what had happened at the house on Dark Hollow Road. He also made it clear that getting that information out of him wasn’t going to be easy. Weird, I know – but that’s what it’s like to be in my head sometimes, the voices – the visions.

All that being said, there’s still a chance you can be in your friend’s book. Is there any way you can help move that dream along? Yes, there are a few methods you can try.

Probably the easiest, and least attractive way is to be an asshole and piss your writer friend off. I write Horror and dabble in the Murder-Mystery genre so if you want to be snuffed out in a gory and unpleasant way, that may just be the ticket to admission. You’ve made an impression and if I detest you enough, I’ll find a way to kill you in the most grisly way possible. Best of all, it’s completely legal. Nobody has to go to jail and nobody has really died – but I feel a whole lot better about things. As a bonus, despite you being a total waste of air in the real world, your most horrible traits have been exposed and you have been made immortal. Don’t you feel special now?

Another, much nicer way, is for me to love you deeply – as a friend, as a family member, as someone I hold near and dear to my heart. I’ll treat you a lot better then. Be a positive inspiration just by being yourself. I love that. I may still have to kill you, of course, but at least the readers will be crying over your death instead of shouting about how you got what you deserved – you jerk.

It’s not just dearly loved friends that find their way into my stories, but common people I remember from my childhood. My memories of tons of those from my hometown and surrounding communities populate my Barnesville Chronicles. Sometimes it feels like I’m cheating so bad when I use them. Small towns are full of quirky characters just begging to be written about.

Lastly, be original. Stand out as someone who I will see and make a mental note of – either by way of your voice, the way you dress, some sort of wild hair-do, something I will remember when I walk out of whatever space we may be sharing when I notice it. I’m really into people watching. It helps to be memorable and unique. This brings us back to that café lady. I’ve no doubt she’ll show up in a book at some point, but I don’t know when or where. Next time a café scene is required, I suppose, as I only know her within that realm. She’s funny and unique and has a certain boisterous loudness about her that may prove quite useful in the future. Notes have been taken.

Book Review – In The Valley Of The Sun by Andy Davidson

At the age of ten, I read my first vampire novel, Dracula by Bram Stoker. Over the past forty years literally hundreds of other vampire novels and short stories have crossed my path. Most of them have been quite forgettable. Andy Davidson’s In The Valley Of The Sun is not one of them.

First, it’s original. That’s really hard to find in the world of vampire novels. The word vampire is never used and the effects of becoming one of the undead don’t adhere 100% to the traditional. Better yet, these particular creatures of the night do not ‘sparkle’. (THANK, GOD!) If you want goody-goody vampires this book is NOT for you.

Set in West Texas (not to be confused with West, Texas – which is located in Central Texas), we follow the wretched and lost life of Travis Stillwell, a deeply disturbed and traumatized Vietnam Vet who travel the roads in search of something he’s lost – what that is, he’s not sure. Even before he meets up with Rue, he’s not a particularly pleasant fellow. After they meet, well – it goes from ugly to absolutely monstrous.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book of this length (almost 400 pages) in less than 10 days and that’s always a good thing. Loved this book to pieces and would recommend it as a MUST READ to anyone who loves the vampire genre as much as I do.

Raven Rating: 5 out of 5 Caws.

The Raven Scale:
1 Raven: Yuck! Don’t eat that.
2 Ravens: Bread crumbs, but it’ll keep us alive.
3 Ravens: Oh, hey! Peanuts, popcorn and cat kibble!
4 Ravens: Lunch time pizza place dumpster. Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit, Fellas! Fresh Road Kill!

It’s Springtime In Barnesville!

… and that can only mean one thing, it’s time to start building for the Scarecrow Festival.
Unfortunately, the melting snow has put a damper on the festivities by exposing the decomposing remains of one of their citizens. It could have been an accident or it could be murder.
One young investigator believes it was the latter and is soon caught up in Barnesville’s greatest, bloodiest secret.

Watch The Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wJxP…

Buy The Book:
mybook.to/scarecrowmoon_morris