My First & Last Political Post

A very wise man stated over 60 years ago, “As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.”

Sadly, these words seem to have fallen on a lot of deaf ears back then and likely will continue to do so today.

Messages of hatred that point blame on everyone and everything except those in your own backyard only accomplish one thing, the perpetuation of more hatred. But he said, but she said, but he called me a name first, but she started it. It feels like America has turned into a damn kindergarten playground, a nation where if one group or one person can’t get their own way all the time, they have to hurt and belittle the others. There is no compromise. It’s our way or no way. “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

But we as a nation do have common goals, common interests, common loves. We all want a better country for our children. We all want to be able to practice our own faith regardless of what that faith is (or no faith at all). We all want to have a health care system everyone can afford. We want to be able to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm. Everyone who wants a college education should be able to get one without going broke in the process.

Life, Liberty, & The Pursuit of Happiness applies to ALL People, all Americans – including the ones we don’t agree with. It also applies to the people who come here from other countries, likely your very own ancestors who sought those same simple dreams, and the People who were here long before the Europeans arrived. We are a nation of diversity and that diversity should be what makes us stronger, better, and more accepting of one another – not more hurtful, not more hateful, not more violent and childish. “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now.”

Let’s remove ourselves from the playground, not in the mindset of taking the ball home because no one will play by our rules, but because the game is over with. One team won, the other team lost but all the players still remain friends when the streetlights come on and it’s time to go home. We’re older now and it’s beyond time to grow-up and be the united nation we all want to be.

I do not consider myself a Christian nor do I believe the United States was founded as a Christian nation, but I do believe there is wisdom to be found in the Bible and the teachings attributed to Christ. 1st First Corinthians 13:4-8 is often quoted at weddings, but its principle applies just as well to a nation as it does a marriage regarding how we should be treating each other. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

Generally, political posts have no place on any of my social media platform, but I guess it’s time I made a rare exception to that rule. It wasn’t my intention to make this so long. In fact, it started out as a brief post on Facebook, but the more I wrote, the more important and more meaningful it started to become. This is where I stand. This is who I am. I’m an American who loves her country and who is tired to tears of all the in-fighting, bickering, and hatred that she sees being put out there by people who should be loving each other, who should be holding each other up, who should be united and strong together as a Nation. It shouldn’t be Us vs. Them, R vs. D, Black vs. White vs. Red vs. Yellow. It should just be US, the UNITED STATES. If we can’t make peace within our own borders, how can we expect to make it with the other countries of the world?

Apart from the Scripture verse, I have quoted but one man. He also said, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.” His name is Martin Luther King, Jr.

My final quote is attributed to Mother Theresa of Calcutta. You may be familiar with it.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God,
It was never between you and them anyway.

Are these goals something we can all agree on instead of allowing ourselves to continue to spiral into the destruction of hatred and darkness that has held this nation in its grip for far too long?

The Crow Report : Part 7 – On A Black Wing & A Whistled Prayer

You can’t imagine the shame I felt when I realized I’d not posted a Crow Report since December of 2019! I knew that needed to be fixed as quickly as possible. You can read my last report HERE. The Crow Report : Part 6.

As with so many other things, I’m going to blame my lack of a report on the arrival of Covid-19 in the months that fell on the heels of my last writing. I’m also going to blame (happily) Covid-19 for the progress that’s been made with my lovely black beauties!

Between mid-March and early September of 2020, I had the joy of working from home for the first time in my life! Oh, what a GLORIOUS summer it was despite the mayhem of masks and hand-sanitizer and half expecting the arrival of the first zombies and not being able to go out to eat for months or travel much of anywhere. After about six weeks of taking various work-related classes, bumbling my blind way through such things as learning something about Excel spread sheets, technical writing, and beginner HTML to name a few, I found a niche project to work on, Audio/Visual Transcription. It’s not for everyone, but I love it – more or less – and through it have learned more about home economics, modern architecture, 4-H, philosophy, Alex Haley, religious iconography, homosexuality in Ancient Greece and more, than I ever would have otherwise, or maybe ever wanted to. It’s been fascinating either way.

The work requires sitting at the computer listening to lectures and talks on the above-mentioned topics and documenting what’s being said by whom and when, sometimes with a few visual cues as to what’s going on should the audio be accompanied by video. Sitting inside as April turned into May and June and with the arrival of summer heat, simply was not going to happen. I took to my laptop as soon as I could and as often as I could outside to the back deck. Under the umbrella with my cup of morning coffee & breakfast, remaining out there throughout the afternoon where the coffee was replaced by iced tea or a soda and lunch was served, I’d work and listen and watch for the crows and the ravens all at the same time.

Once a day, usually around 9-10 in the morning, I’d toss the peanuts into the side lawn, whistle, and wait. It never took long for the crows to arrive. I didn’t go inside. They’d have to get used to the fact I was going to be there, even if out of sight around the back of the house. It took time, but they got used to the idea of it though they’d still fly to the safety of the trees should I dare rise and peek around the corner of the house. Silly birds.

They and the ravens seem to have gotten their territories and living arrangements worked out this past year. I never saw or heard any more aerial warfare as I had the previous summer. The ravens are still heard far more than they are seen, but one or two (I’ve spotted as many as six at once) do occasionally fly over the house casual as you please.

By summer’s end, the crows had gotten into the habit of sending their scout ahead at around eight or nine in the morning to caw for breakfast from the maple tree just outside my front door or the pine tree within sight of the back porch where I would sit should the day be warm enough by then to enjoy. Despite that, still, they retreated high into the treetops when I appear.

Fall arrived. The same pattern continued. I returned to work on-site three days a week and worried that my birdies would miss me and stop coming every morning to call me out to breakfast. There’d be no lady with disheveled hair in her bathrobe and slippers to whistle in greeting and wish them a, “Good morning, birdies!” I feared they’d give up and abandon me.

But, when I was home on Thursdays and Fridays, Scout would continue to show up, earlier or later, let me know he (or she) was there with a, “Caw, caw, caw” and sit in the tree until I poked my head out, whistled, wished her a, “Good morning, birdie,” and announced breakfast was coming up and that I’d be right back. Scout would wait. Scout would watch me toss out the treats for the day. Scout would call to its Murder partners and watch me go back inside. Sometimes mere minutes would pass before the other five would arrive. Sometimes, Scout would fly off and return hours later with the rest, but they did always come back.

When winter comes, they roost somewhere else for the night. I suspect in Ithaca with their other family members and friends, and there is a very narrow window of time that they are around. Days would go by without a note or sighting. I hated not seeing or hearing them, not knowing when they’d be back or for how long. Would they even stop to visit me? They don’t know the days of the week after all. Monday means as much to them as Friday or Saturday. And, of course, by now I could no longer work outside so they could spot me easily and my car would remain hidden in the garage. How would they know I was home, waiting and hoping?

On December 29th, which just happened to be my 55th birthday (and the day of the full moon) and I was home on Winter Break from work, they came. They not only caw-caw-cawed for my attention, they ALL waited in the tree together as I threw out the peanuts and the leftover chicken bones and whatever else I’d been saving up for them. And, as if that were not enough – they let me watch them from inside the kitchen, behind the closed doors and windows and… I was able to video them happily walking and flying and nibbling away on my offerings. NEVER have I been able to do that before. The mere sight of my camera aimed in their direction at this close proximity (ten – fifteen feet) would send them into a cacophony of fright and flight. Not that day. It was, after all, my birthday and I like to believe they knew that and that this was their birthday present to me. Later, I’d take my footage, edit it down to under 15 minutes, and share it on my YouTube channel. You can find it here. A Birthday Murder. It may be a bit long for some, but crow lovers will be amused.

Each day, each fleeting encounter since then seems to finally be paying off. This very morning, in fact, I heard Scout’s caw and replied. He was about halfway up the Maple tree. I went onto the front porch and looked up, “Good morning, birdie,” I said. He not only remained where he was but after I did a much gentler version of my calling whistle, he flew down closer! Shock and awe! Not wanting to press my luck, I went back in to fetch the vittles, keeping to the idea of offering them in the front yard instead of the usual side yard location.

Less than an hour later… there they were. Skittish about the new spot, but there all the same, offering me the continued hope on a black wing and a whistled prayer that one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, my wish will come true and they’ll know me and trust me as much as I want them to. I even managed to get a picture through the window.

Top Five Read of 2020

As usual, I’m behind in posting a list of my top reads for the past year. I read 17. That’s not a lot compared to what some people I know read, dozens, if not hundreds! Don’t know how they do it, frankly. Maybe they are reading books a lot shorter than the ones I gravitate towards. Either way, we’re all reading and that’s what counts! Because I read so few, I’m only going to do a Top 5 with a couple of honorable mentions. The list included two very different short story collections, one non-fiction, a children’s chapter book, 2 murder-mysteries, a YA novel, an old classic, something I can’t quite classify – fantasy-ish, I guess, and the rest, just good old modern Horror.

#5: By The Pricking of my Thumbs by Agatha Christie

This book sat on my parents’ bookshelf for as long as I can remember. When they sold their house and were getting rid of things, I snatched it up… and it sat on my bookshelf for another 25 years before I finally put it in the official TBR pile. Of course, it was awesome! Why didn’t I read this sooner? Every time I read a Christie book, I am reminded why she’s so beloved. The writing comes across as effortless. The characters are charming and witty. You can never go wrong with an Agatha Christie title!

#4: Good Boy by Thomas R. Clark

A novella and the shortest thing I read all year. Good Boy is the story of a zombie apocalypse told through the eyes of a little dog and his small pack of dog friends … and one bad ass cat. What a great concept! Loved it all the way through. Engaging with an endless supply of tension mixed with tenderness. I laughed. I cringed. I cried, damn it! I know there’s a sequel out there. Hopefully I’ll get my hands on it sooner rather than later.

BUY GOOD BOY HERE.

#3: Black Goat Motorcycle Club by Jason Murphy

This was just out and out fun! Loved that I wasn’t sure what kind of creatures the bikers were for a good stretch of the book and when I did find out, it was fantastic. Non-stop biker action, a lot of gore, a lot of violence – not what I’m usually into – but the author made me care so much about the lives of the humans involved, that I had to keep reading through all that carnage. If that’s what your into, you’ll probably like it even more than I did.

BUY BLACK GOAT MOTORCYCLE CLUB HERE.

#2: Hell House by Richard Matheson

This was something I’d read back in my high school days and loved. But, sometimes we read things in our youth and they’re a lot better the first time. When you go back and re-read it as an adult, you’re disappointed. This was not the case here. It was just as great as I remembered it being and by god the movie they made based on it follows the dialogue almost word for word in many instances. This book should be read by every haunted house fan out there. Loved, loved, loved it. I may just read it again!

#1: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I only started reading this because I signed up for an English Literature class that featured Horror and this was the first book we were required to read. I probably would never have picked it up otherwise and yet… look. It became my number one read of 2020! Whoda thunk it? There’s a reason this is a classic, folks. If you’re a fan of the movies, forget about them! They are practically two different stories! The creature isn’t some dumb brute and, in my opinion, isn’t the real monster here at all.

Honorable Mentions:

Wrath and Ruin by C.W. Briar & Shadows in the Witching Glass by Thomas S. Gunther

Two very different writers with very different story subject matter to share. Briar leans very much into dark fantasy and sci-fi while Gunther approaches with a much more twisted psychological horror angle. Both are very good, and I enjoyed the majority of the stories each presented in their collections. You can read my full reviews for both of these at the links below. Honestly, can’t pick one over the other due to the vast differences between the genre choice, but if forced into it, I’d have to go with Gunther’s work merely for the fact I prefer Horror over Fantasy-SciFi in general.

Wrath and Ruin by C.W. Briar: FULL REVIEW

Shadows in the Witching Glass by Thomas S. Gunther: FULL REVIEW

And A Little Worm Shall Lead Them

It’s taken forty-five years, but it’s finally here, the big news I’ve been waiting to share, the secret that’s taken decades to accomplish and reveal.

In May 1975, at the tender age of nine, either before or after a visit to the orthodontist, I crawled under a countertop in a library at Cornell University with some pieces of folded paper, a few colored pens, and a story to tell. As my mother worked at her job as a keypunch operator, I began to write and draw. When the workday was over and it was time to head home, I had finished my masterpiece. It was a simple tale with simple illustrations, but it meant the world to me and would, as the years went by, become an inspiration.  

As I grew up, other stories came along. They were longer and more intricate. My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Dodd, once gave us a weekend assignment to write a story, any story about anything, at least three pages long. I was thrilled. Oh, how I wish I still had that story. I’ve no idea what it was even about but when I handed in ten pages instead of three, the teacher looked quite surprised. “I just couldn’t stop,” I remember telling her apologetically. “The characters just took over.” I felt bad it was so long, afraid I’d done too much and not kept to the three-page rule. Mrs. Dodd assured me it was fine. The assignment needed to be AT LEAST 3-pages long so ten was perfectly alright.

I continued to write my own short stories, usually about vampires or witches or ghosts. Seldom were any of them shared unless it was for a school assignment. I took a correspondence course in Children’s Literature as well as a college class in Illustration, thinking one day I’d write Children’s books. That was the ORIGINAL plan anyway. I got a little sidetracked, obviously.

I’d go on to write those novels I’d dreamed of writing, and some I’d never imagined! And yet, there remained that one story, the one that had remained forever in my heart and soul, the one I’d written for and given to my dad that day in May 1975. At some point over the years, I found out that my dad had saved that little handwritten and hand drawn booklet all this time. He returned it to me along with several notebooks filled with those simple stories I’d written back in my school days. They made me laugh and cry all at the same time. They were so wonderfully terrible! In 2015 I decided to revise that 1975 story, fill it in a little more and to rework the illustrations, but remain as true as possible to the original. Working full time along with adult life in general provided plenty of distractions and delays. A fortieth anniversary version would be gifted to my dad! Great plans… that time and again got put aside, slightly forgotten, deemed not as important as the next Horror novel. I’d get to it eventually.

Then 2020 and Covid-19 happened. I started working from home full time. With no morning or evening commute, I had a couple more hours a day to work on my own things. It was a glorious summer to work outside on my back deck. I began in earnest to try and finish what I’d started to do in 2015. I rewrote and drew inspiration from the original illustrations done by a nine-year-old me tucked under a counter in her mother’s workplace, but I needed to be able to get these images digitized and had no scanner at home to do so. Maybe a drug store or office supply store would have what I needed. Would the new drawings even look good after they were scanned?

In September, after six months of working from home, I was able to return to campus 3-days a week, what has become the new normal — and a high-quality scanner at my office fingertips. I sent the scanned imaged to myself from work. Once home, they were reformatted and tweaked as quickly as I could. This project needed to be done in time for Christmas, a gift for my dad, a gift he and I had talked about on and off over the years since the day I’d first given it to him. “Someday, maybe, it can be a real book that everyone can read.”

It turned out the hardest part of the whole thing has been keeping it a secret from my parents! No mention could be made on my Facebook pages. No mention of it on my website or in my blog. No talking or telling anyone who might see my parents and accidentally slip on and spill the beans. No sending it to that same local library I spent so many hours in in my youth, no putting any copies in the local bookstore that carries my novels – lest someone who knows me should stumble upon it before I had a chance to give it to my dad. No Christmas sales to be made. A lost opportunity – but it would be worth it!

Christmas Day. Forty-five years of waiting was only moments away! Dad opened present after present and chatted in ignorant bliss. Finally, he picked up flat and slender gift. Mom shouted, “YES! I knew there was a reason I put off buying this one,” as I’d gifted her a copy of my latest novel, “The Inheritance”. Dad paused, looked at the book she’d received, then looked back at the gift he had in hand. I’d put no To – From tag on it. “This mine?”

“Yes… that’s…” I said, forcing myself to not get all weepy, “that’s the big secret you may have heard about…” “Oh,” Dad opened it, saw the back of the book first and said, “Oh, Bill the Worm, yeah… I remember him…” (Or words to that effect.) Mom saw what it was, eyebrows arching as she added, “Oh, wow! When did that get published?” As Dad re-read the story, I explained how I’d only sold about ten copies as I’d been keeping it pretty-hush hush until Dad could get his copy.

Bill The Man meets Bill The Worm all over again!

So, there you have it. The secret it out… the story of Bill, The Worm Who Ran Away is now an honest to goodness published children’s book available to one and all. I’m super excited about this new writing adventure! I’m not going to stop writing Horror, but I did need to take a break from it amidst the madness of 2020. Bill the Worm kept me writing (and drawing) and created a bright spot in a sometimes dark and frustrating world.

I hope you all will find a place for Bill The Worm into your lives and bid him welcome. He’s a hearty little dude and he’s got some fun adventures ahead of him. Stay tuned for more Bill The Worm announcements and updates in 2021.

You can purchase BILL, The Worm Who Ran Away here!

I’m Not Who I Think I Am, Or Am I?

I won’t lie, I’ve had plenty of time to write a blog post over the past few months. I simply haven’t felt like it especially in the year that saw zero book signing events and abysmal sales in general. I prefer to write happy, positive, up-beat posts. Nobody, self included, wants to hear a disgruntled writer blathering about how pointless it all is and questioning why I even bother trying to make a name for myself in the endless sea of other Horror writers. The pool is deep and wide. There are far better writers out there than I.

And there’s a name for it, Imposter Syndrome.

I think it’s an affliction most creative people experience from time to time. I’ve seen writer after writer, even super famous ones you’ve probably heard of, remarking how unworthy they feel about their work and questioning if anyone will even like what they’ve spent so much time working on. For those famous folks, at least they have a hefty bank account created by royalty checks that speaks up and tells them they are good enough.

The vast majority of writers out there don’t have that affirmation. We get excited about a single sale! We latch on to any new review that crops up and read every single one. When someone shares or retweets something we’ve posted, it’s a tiny zap of hope. If Stephen King is Amazon, I’m a weekend yard sale and I’m an imposter.

Imposter Syndrome Hard At Work

Wikipedia defines Imposter Syndrome as, “…a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

In the past, I’ve compared Imposter Syndrome to the feeling one might get after spending all week preparing for a big party. You go out and do all the work. You gather the decorations. You select what you feel is the finest dinnerware. The menu is perfected, each recipe and ingredient scrutinized and analyzed. It just has to be perfect. This party is important! It could make or break you. That night, after you’ve spent the day cooking and cleaning, grooming yourself and your home impeccably, the guests arrive. They appear to enjoy the food, the company, the atmosphere. You’ve pulled it off. But, when the party is over and the guests leave, not a single one says, “Thank you.” Nobody shakes your hand. There are no compliments on the food, the table settings, the hours you spent toiling over a filthy toilet so it would be spotless for your guests. Nobody says, “Goodbye” let alone, “Good job.”

You haven’t succeeded at all. You’re an imposter. You’re fake. You have nothing to show for this event you’ve poured so much fervor and dedication into other than a big mess to clean up.

Imposter Syndrome asks why did you even bother? What was the point? Might as well give up. All the hard work isn’t worth the reward. What a fricken loser you are! Stop wasting your time. Stop creating. Stop being a fraud. Imposter Syndrome is serious. Its claws are sharp and painful and for some so debilitating that they never pick up the creative pen again. But, I’m stubborn (or completely delusional – or both). Yeah, sales suck and new reviews barely exist but I have stories to tell, damn it! Something needed to change – even if just a little bit.

After the release of my last most recent novel, “The Inheritance”, back in September, I decided to take a step away from the Horror for a while. There are more Horror books to come, don’t worry. But with 2020 being what is has been and what Covid-19 will continue to be in the unforeseeable future, the need to work on something more light-hearted and fun rose to the surface. A very old project, one near and dear to my heart and soul, needed to be done. Its creation has brought with it a breath of much needed fresh air. 2021 will bring something drastically different than what you’ve come to expect from me, even as I continue to work on murders and mysteries, ghosts and witches, maybe even an alien or two in the background.

In my next post, before the end of this month – promise, I’ll reveal the new genre I’ve been tackling the past six months and will continue to work with for as long as it continues to bring me joy. And, maybe by this time next year, I won’t feel like such an imposter do much of the time.

Book Review – Whispers From The Depths by C.W. Briar

Admittedly, I was skeptical at first. I always am when I start reading a genre that isn’t my usual fare. But, given a little time my skepticism began to wane and Whispers From The Depths became one of those books I had to get back to reading any chance I got.

Tosna, Betka, and Asi are Whisperers. They speak to and control the waters of their land, but enslavement by an invading force have made the three young women prisoners. Their powers can be used for something as minor as stirring a cup of tea to calming a raging storm at sea. They can be used for good, or for evil – but using them for evil will only bring enormous suffering to the Whisperer itself. This keeps them in check, a fact their captors use to every advantage.

When Betka is given the chance to find, and she hopes, to rescue her sister Tosna who was taken away when they were children, she finds herself aboard a ship with fellow Whisperer, Asi. All too soon things start to go horribly wrong. The water spirit seems both enraged and absent at the same time. They cannot hear it. They cannot control it. At their final destination, the castle were Betka’s sister was taken, they find death and destruction everywhere.

This started a bit slow for me, while Briar mapped out the backstory and led me through a series of odd place names and events that I couldn’t seem to link to each other. I had a hard time keeping the character names straight, who was good, who was bad, who was somewhere in the middle. But this was really the only distracting flaw. Briar’s writing is both complex and simple at the same time, descriptive without being overly so, moving the plot forward at a pace that started somewhat plodding and confusing, but ramped up page by page until I wasn’t able to read as quickly as I wanted to.

Well written, well edited, and well worth the time for any Fantasy reader.

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!

The Proof Is In The Guest Room Closet

We’re into week what now? 16? 17? I have it written down somewhere. Time is both crawling and flying in the same moment. I may be returning to work in the office this month, or I may not. My boss hasn’t gone back yet. I imagine she’ll go in for a week to assess the situation before calling me in. I think it will be another couple of weeks at the very least. I’ll get a week’s notice at any rate.

I’m still doing that Audiovisual Transcript Remediation as reported back in April. I think I’m on my twentieth video now. Something like that. What a wide range of topics I’ve been doing. The creation of 4-H, Child Development, Home Economics, a Haiku poetry reading, philosophers discussing Kant, Heidegger, and Aristotle, film makers talking about their films, authors reading one of their short stories, retirement migration in the US, the creation of Land Grant universities, the vision that one of the creators of Cornell had, and many more. Like the number of weeks that have passed, it’s all written down.

I like to keep track of things, I guess. I’ve kept a journal in the normal sense of the word since 1977. I’ve kept and abandoned numerous dream journals over the decades, too. Somewhere there’s a record of a whole bunch of Ouija board sessions documented that go back as far as the mid-1980s. Haven’t touched one of those bad boys in at least ten years. Not out of fear or anything like that, just have kind of lost interest in it, I guess.

When I’m not learning about some obscure topic through a Cornell video or working my way through the online class I’m taking via EdX and Georgetown University (Sign Language Science: Emergence & Evolution of Sign Language – Part 1), or trying to do my own writing, or trying to come up with catchy song lyrics for The Hubby’s tunes, I’ve been sorting out things in the guest bedroom. God, but I have a lot of crap!

I dove into the closet last weekend with much fear and trepidation because, ya know… spiders, that and boxes, boxes, boxes of things I’ve not looked at in more years than I can remember. I’ve not even touched the boxes on the upper shelves, but I did dare to drag out one that was on the floor Sunday afternoon. I had no idea what was in it, but dang, it was heavy. I found a clear spot on the bed and pulled off the lid and was greeted by a series of mismatched notebook spines; old spiral bindings, comb-bindings, spines that were nothing more than the edges of the pages in between thin, cardboard covers. I knew immediately it was all mine but what, exactly, was it?

I pulled out one of them. The cover was labeled, “Misc.”. Boy, that narrowed it down! First, a hand-written essays from high school; Nazi Germany, then Concentration Camps, then a biography on comedian Steve Martin, a report on witchcraft in Salem followed, and a speech outline on the general topic of witchcraft, an outline for a paper on ‘The Vampire’, a random dream, and a plot summary for a short story I must have wanted to write at some point, then… pay dirt, my friends! PAY DIRT!

I started to grin, rather foolishly I’m sure. “Ah-ha!” my brain chuckled. “Told you so and here’s the proof!” Last time I blogged, I mentioned my mom’s old Smith-Corona typewriter and the meticulous hours I spent at it doing then for fun what I’m doing now for pay, the aforementioned A/V transcription.

Before me, in all its Smith-Corona glory was my first A/V transcription; “The Cemetery” From: “The Night Gallery” 1969. The entire thing, character names and descriptions, Serling’s introduction, and then seven pages of the entire dialogue and short scene descriptors. I was downright giddy! Next was “The Legend of Hell House” 1973, (18 pages), Dracula 1972 (29 pages), and 16 pages worth of the parts in “The Exorcist” when the demon is talking. Is it just me or does someone else detect a theme here? And this was all in just ONE of the nearly dozen notebooks I’d just unearthed.

My earliest A/V transcription. “The Cemetery”
from Rod Serling’s series “The Night Gallery”

The others held story after story after story. Most of these seem to have been written (rather poorly) when I was around sixteen. Dreams and more dreams could be found in another notebook, and there was even a hard copy of the first novel I ever wrote, a fantasy tale called “The Pride”. Yeah, I guess I like to write things to keep track of them, don’t I? I’m not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse.

All these notebooks will be added to my file cabinet that’s already got a ton of family genealogy documents in it, various research articles, the handful of children’s stories I’ve written, poetry, and the like. Maybe some day I’ll have the time to give these all a more complete read and knowing me, typing up everything that’s still handwritten.

Though, God knows why, I’d still not be able to part with the originals!

Book Review – Hell House by Richard Matheson

Ah… Hell House. The book and the movie (released as The Legend of Hell House in 1973) have been favorites of mine since I was a teenager. I was attracted to the movie first as it stars my favorite actors of all time, Roddy McDowall. The film simply blew me away and I have remained in awe of it ever since.

The premise, like so many other haunted house stories, follows a group of researchers who are out to prove or disprove the survival of spirit after death. Known as the “Mt. Everest of haunted houses”, Hell House has killed before. At least one of the newly arriving members believes it can, and will, kill again. He is physical medium. Benjamin Fischer. He was the sole survivor of a previous attempt to exorcise the house 30 years before. Florence Tanner is a Spiritualist and psychic medium who in convinced she will be able to find and release the tormented and trapped spirits of the place regardless of how demented, evil, and sexually perverted they are. Dr. Lionel Barrett, assisted by his wife, Edith, is the scientist and skeptic. He’s created a machine that he believes will remove the energy and spirits of the house once and for all. Not so fast there, Dr. Barrett.

Shortly after seeing the movie, I read the book and was amazed because of how closely the film follows the book. It’s not exact, but the dialogue is almost word for word from book to movie. I haven’t read it in almost 40 years. I don’t tend to re-read books. I’m SO happy I gave Hell House another read.

For some, the pacing will be a bit too slow and maybe the imaginary somewhat weak with not enough blood and violence, though there’s a fair amount of sexual shenanigans going on between the ghostly sheets. For me, the balance is perfect. I’m more into suspense and mysteries. Give me a puzzle to solve. Guide me along as if I’m one of the visitors to Hell House. Show me the evidence and see if I can figure out what, if any, answer there is.

Highly recommend reading the book first…. and now I really need to go and watch the movie again … for like the 100th time!

THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1972) MOVIE TRAILER

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!

My, my, my, my mom’s Smith-Corona!

What a long, strange three months it’s been.

I’m doing what I can when it comes to working from home. I still work a full-time job so let’s get that right out of the way. No, I’m not really enjoying all this free time to write. In fact, I’ve written next to nothing new in well over a month. Working From Home (WFH) wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be, at least not at first, but we’ll get to that later.

I’ve been editing and re-writing both the current WIP – “The Inheritance” and a decade old novel titled, “Bound To Be Bitten” – it was my retaliation piece when all that Twilight sparkling was going on. Originally BTBB was an erotica novel, but I was never really happy with it as such. When a chance came to get the rights back, I took it and have been pretty much sitting on it ever since. Last summer when I wasn’t feeling much like writing, I decided maybe I could at least work on that a bit. After my surgery in November, I lost interest once more – mainly due to pain issues and not being able to comprehend anything but pain.  

When writing wanted to happen again, I decided “The Inheritance” was more important. My Beta Readers had reported in and after taking their feedback into consideration, changed a few things then shot it off to a proofreader. In mid-March, he got it back to me. More rewrites and corrections and even as I am formatting it, I’m finding little errors he and I both missed earlier. It’s a never-ending process!

And now with Covid-19 running amok, I can’t get to the local artist to see the painting he did for the cover. *sigh* I’ve never had so many delays with a writing project before. I can set up a temporary cover for a proof if I want to but that would waste money really. Proofs aren’t free, so it’s best to order as few as possible when the time comes. I’d like to think this will be out by my first book signing event in July —- if that even happens at all.

Last weekend we made our first BIG shopping trip in almost three weeks. It was expensive, but we’re good to go for a while now and shouldn’t have to venture out for much of anything for another week – at least – I hope. Both my kids and husband have ‘essential jobs’ out there. I won’t lie. It scares me. My daughter is a cashier, my son is an auto mechanic, and my husband works at a big DIY store. He had his 2nd shoulder surgery last month (after technically dying on the table during the first attempt for reason still unknown – nope, no stress there!) and all went well. He’s been home recovering from that for the past three weeks, but returns to work on April 15th. Mixed feelings about that.

I fear for them all, that dreaded call or text … “Hey, Mom…” or “I’m not feeling so good …” conversation, or even myself realizing I’m not feeling right. That’s what keeps me awake at night. That’s what makes me find a quiet place away every now and then to cry and get the anxiety out of my system even if for only a few days. Everything is so frightening, frustrating, and uncertain.

Uncertainty – yeah, that’s the name of the game lately, isn’t it? My first week of WFH went well. Being as I can’t technically do my office job from home and the University wasn’t keen on me taking a trunk full of books home that Friday afternoon – I was told to take advantage of a massive number of online classes available to me. I want to keep in work-related at least so spent my first two weeks trying to fathom the depths of Excel along with a couple of writing classes, one work-related, the other not so much. Excel and I aren’t friends. Let’s make that perfectly clear. I can make the simplest of spreadsheets now, but that’s about it.

Then came the big BOX meeting Thursday morning. There were only 6-8 people in the group, but over half had no idea what BOX was or is, let alone how to use it. I felt lost, confused, frustrated, and emotionally overwhelmed — I’m supposed to use this tool for future work when I can’t even tell which end is up? Seriously?

I had a mini-meltdown later that afternoon wondering how in the world am I ever going to do this? What work are they going to send and expect me to do when I can barely open the program to get to the work? Friday, I could barely force myself to open work email. More bewilderment as I saw several messages added to a BOX folder\file Boss Man had set up and now, not just 6-8 people, but around 70 are involved?! I pushed through the hour of my daily Excel Tips & Tricks, finished up the yawn-inducing “Technical Writing: Reports” course.

This week, much to my surprise and delight – I started doing something I began training for when I was about 12 – Audiovisual Transcript Remediation. Who would have thought when I was recording movies on my little cassette tape deck and playing them back while sitting at my mom’s Smith-Corona electric typewriter, copying over the dialogue, that such a strange method of self-entertainment would come in handy over 40 years later during a Coronavirus Pandemic?! Really enjoying the work and wow, am I learning a lot of the history and world of Human Ecology as it pertains to Cornell University!

Each day ends feeling grateful I, we, made it through another one still feeling healthy. Each day begins feeling grateful I felt well through the night to sleep. But then the doubts and fears start creeping in all too fast all over again. Do I not feel well because I’m stressed out (probably) or because during one of my/our few and far-between outings, somewhere it found me? How are my kids doing? My parents? My friends? It’s beyond surreal, like we’re all living in an episode of “The Twilight Zone”.

I keep seeing all the positive messages of “We’ll get through this!” I believe the world will, certainly. I try to keep that attitude at the top of my mind. I hope you all can manage to do that, too. I’m going to keep writing, keep creating, keep working and learning on whatever it is Work assigns me. I’m not a big one on prayer … but if you are … keep doing it. Light a candle. Recite a chant. Burn some sage. Bang some sticks together, paint your body blue and dance clockwise around a tree naked … Whatever it is that you do, keep doing it. It sure as heck can’t hurt.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Top 10 Reads of 2019

10. The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

War and global destruction has once more befallen Earth and we find ourselves in the desert dictatorship community of St. Louis, Missouri. It ain’t pretty when the book starts. It’s even uglier at the end – but in a good way, I suppose you could say. Meanwhile, a dozen residents of St. Louis, led by a mute stranger who has recently escaped the death penalty, decide to make a run for it and take their chances beyond the wall of “The Sanctuary”. Cross country adventure ensues. This, along with the status of St. Louis after their departure, is our plot.

9. Ghost Mine by Hunter Shea

Ghost Mine takes us out to Hecla, Wyoming where mysterious shenanigans are taking place. President Teddy Roosevelt wants this place checked out and hires two of his former Rough Riders for the task.

As with all of Hunter’s work, it doesn’t take long for our adventurers to be flung into the fray and fighting for their lives against the strange and powerful entities that populate the book.

8. The Gordon Place by Isaac Thorne

Lee Gordon just wants to live his life, unfortunately, he wants to do it at the expense of his son having a life, too.

The beginning was a little slow for me, but once things started happening it was an enjoyable read that kept me turning pages. The dog was pretty creepy and all the main characters were well-rounded, believable, and relatable. That’s really important to me when it comes to enjoying a book – even though Lee was about as repugnant a person as can be – you knew where he stood and what he stood for. Not overly scary and the gore factor is pretty low. I’m not into gore so that was fine by me. But, there was enough going on outside of that to keep me interested. I wasn’t expecting that ending at all, either.

7. All Hallows by W. Sheridan Bradford

All Hallows follows the old and cantankerous witch, Maren Glover as she tries to make her way home on Halloween Night. 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.

The first half is slow, but then the narrative quickens. 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.

6. Devoured by Jason Brant

Are they zombies? Are they vampires? Are they lab experiments pumped up on Incredible Hulk steroids that never run out of anger? I’ve no idea at this stage and frankly, it doesn’t matter.

What really matters is getting the hell out of their way and praying to God they never find you. Just ask Lance and Cass, strangers who have found each other while running for their lives and themselves in the middle of the mayhem, doing everything in their power to survive in the madness that has become Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Fast-paced, gory, and yes, even mildly funny.

5. The Taking by Dean Koontz

H.P. Lovecraft meet H.G. Wells. From day one, page one, I did not want to put this book down, but work and sleep required it in stretches way too long. Told from Molly’s perspective, we are draw minute by minute into the weird and terrifying realm of an alien invasion.

I was anxious and horrified. I was completely and utterly entertained. I loved every aching, ugly, terrified minute of those twenty-four hours. By far, the best Dean Koontz book I’ve read.

4. Reaping The Aurora by Jason Palmatier

The final book in the Erenthall series is chock full of battles both large and small, concluding with a war that could be the last this Fantasy world ever sees. The very fabric of reality sits in the balance and it’s up to Kara, her friends, and war-weary allies to try and fix it. Time is running out. Complete annihilation could happen at any time – it’s this premise that pushes Reaping The Aurora towards its monumental conclusion.

I really enjoyed this trilogy and am looking forward to exploring even more of his work.

3. Those Who Came Before by J.H. Moncrieff

Not I expected and it kept me engaged all the way through. The creature in question isn’t one that’s written about in fiction all that often and it was nice to have something different. The characters were engaging and realistic. The backstory was really interesting and fed into the current events going on perfectly. Writing style was easy to read, no filler or fluff. Moncrieff jumped right into the story and didn’t dilly-dally around with anything.

2. Eight Minutes, Thirty-two Seconds by Peter Adam Salomon

The Apocalypse is here. Two people have survived.

They have no idea what happened, how they ended up in this vast network of corridors and rooms. They don’t even know their own names. They simply go by L. and M. What they do know is that they can access the former lives and memories of six other people, people from the world that was, but only for eight minutes and thirty-two seconds at a time and they have to die in order to do that.

Where is everyone? Why are they the only two left? And why are there so many rooms and locked doors and so many supplies as if the place were meant to house thousands?

Read this 200 page novella in two days! BAM! Read every spare minute I could find. If you’re into books about the Apocalypse, you’re going to love “Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds”.

1. In The Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson

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. The word vampire is never used and the effects of becoming one of the undead doesn’t adhere to the traditional.

Set in West Texas, we follow the wretched and lost life of Travis Stillwell, a deeply disturbed and traumatized Vietnam Vet. 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.