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

Movie Review – Christopher Robin (2018)

In which some folks may be surprised to find out that there is a much softer, child-like side to this particular Horror writer. I’m not all dark spooky houses and blood curdling screams.

I’ve been desperately in love with Winnie The Pooh my entire life. On our first trip to Disney World (that’s the one in Florida) in 1972 I acquired my first stuffed Pooh Bear. I still have that bear. His fur’s not as thick and fluffy as it once was. One ear is longer than the other. His shirt is a bit grimy. And the top of his head is infused with more of my tears than I care to admit. He was and still is much loved.

As with Christopher Robin, Pooh was my friend, companion and confidant when I felt no one else was even up into my teenage years. I still have my original set of Winnie The Pooh paperback books, my bedroom curtains, and will sit and watch the original cartoons at the drop of a hat when I can. When my son was born, his bedroom was decked out in all things Pooh Bear.

When I saw the trailer for Christopher Robin I knew I just HAD to see it. I mean, it’s POOH BEAR for crying out loud. Finally, thanks to Netflix, I was able to watch it earlier this week. I was in tears before the darn opening scene was over with!

Christopher Robin is all grown up. He’s a busy, busy man with not a lot of time for his wife and daughter. Work is sucking all the life and fun out of him and he’s under huge pressure to make drastic cuts to the department he’s in charge of – 20% by the end of the week.

Then, along comes Winnie The Pooh – in all his walking, talking, rumbling in his tumbly flesh, so to speak. He appears on a park bench where Christopher Robin finds him and immediately freaks out. What follows is Christopher returning Pooh to the Hundred Acre Woods only to end up staying there much longer than planned. The plot is super, super simple and because of that, I was rather disappointed. Even the Disney cartoons from the late 1960s had more interesting plots than this movie. I got the impression that each of Christopher’s co-workers was based around a resident of the Hundred Acre Woods – but this was never explored. Would have loved to have seen this happen.

The animation was amazing and really blew me away, but even with that, the story just didn’t carry me as far into the world of Pooh as I wanted to go. It was dumbed down and simplified way too much and didn’t seem to take into consideration that long time Pooh Bear fans like myself would want to see it or journey back to our childhoods as Christopher Robin was able to do.

Be all that as it may, I enjoyed it for what it was even as I wished there was more to it. I’m glad I didn’t pay theatre ticket prices to see it, though. It’s a cute movie with a good message even if the plot was not in the least bit deep.

A bear of very little brain or not – Winnie The Pooh’s child-like wisdom is probably one of the best things going on out there in the world and for that, I’ll always love him.

In honor of Pooh, I’m skipping my traditional Raven Rating system on favor of Honey Pots and giving this a 2 out of 5. It’s a nice little smackeral, but not nearly as satisfying as this particular chubby little bear had hoped for.

 

Book Review – The Taking by Dean Koontz

As much as I love to read, sometimes it’s a real struggle. The inability to connect to characters is all too often a big problem. Maybe the plot just doesn’t feel logical or the ending is abrupt and unsatisfying. Or, I try a genre I don’t normally read and realize why. Happily – The Taking is no such book. Happily – The Taking blew me away!

Molly and Neil Sloan wake shortly after midnight to the sound of heavy rain. They quickly realize, along with the rest of the world, that this is no ordinary storm. It glows and glistens in unearthly ways and falls from a purple-tainted sky. Like it or not, the Sloans can’t stay in their home. They must venture out into an alien-infused landscape to find out who – or what – is taking over planet Earth and if salvation is possible.

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. They arrive quietly, unseen and unheard, but with alarming efficiency and speed. By the time Molly and her husband and the other residents of Black Lake, California realize things aren’t right, it’s way too late – but, they still have to try. The main body of the story takes place over the course of just barely twenty-four hours and I felt as if I walked with Molly and Neil for every minute of it. Even better, I thought I had a pretty good idea how it was all going to end … I was wrong.

I was gripped. I was compelled. 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 to date and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of his work.

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!

I’m Writing As Fast As I Can.

It’s been a pretty busy first two months of 2019.

front_cover_smallStories are getting finished, polished, and presented to the world. The big news is that at long last, “The Murder” – Part 2 of The Witch’s Backbone – is set for release March 5th. Part 1 – The Curse ended on a bit of a cliff hanger with the kids hurdling down a steep hill in a bike race and … well, I really shouldn’t say too much about that, but if you’ve read Part 1, you’re sure to be in for even more surprises in Part 2. It picks up exactly where The Curse ends.

The Witch’s Backbone: Part 1 – The Curse

TWB_Barnesville_FrontFor those who haven’t had a chance to read Part 1, starting today and running for one week only, you’ll be able to grab the Kindle edition of The Witch’s Backbone Part 1: The Curse for a mere 99 cents! So… gather up your pennies and scramble over to Amazon before time runs out! I’ve never made it so important to readers that they read a set of books in order. I’ve always preferred stand alone novels, but … this is that rare exception. All are or will be available in both eBook format for Kindle and paperback editions on March 5th.

The Witch’s Backbone: Part 2 – The Murder – eBook preorders

BecauseSpiders_CoverAlso brand new out there is my first ever short story in eBook! “Because, Spiders” is a quick 30-page read about a little girl who shares my dreaded fear of spiders. And, it’s a mere .99! There will be paperbacks available as well so never fear those who aren’t into eBooks. (I’m not and I always appreciate the author who knows not everyone does that eBook thing.) Depending on cover art and how the paperback proof looks the first go round will determine when it’s available.

Because, Spiders for Kindle.

 

 

 

HororTreeLogo  REDCAPEWIHM

Also in February I’ve done a few little things for WiHM (Women In Horror Month). First, I wrote a guest post for The Horror Tree about one of my favorite subjects, the origins of Gothic Horror and the women who created it called “Digging Up My Writing Roots”.  I landed a spot on Red Cape Publishing’s list this year that features 27 other Women In Horror writers. Go check out that list! Looks like a lot of great reads to be had there. https://redcapepublishing.com/blog/

Screenshot_2019-02-22 BLURB - YouTube

Last weekend I was interviewed by Ben Walker for his YouTube channel BLURB. Ben does a lot of Bizarre Book Reviews and apparently some Bizarre Author Interviews. Yes, I just called myself bizarre – and quite proudly so! And, judging by what I’ve watched of Ben’s show – he’s not exactly normal, either. I’m sure he’d take that as a compliment. Don’t have an exact date on when it will be released other than in March, but I’ll be sure to post more when it’s finalized. I have to add that there’s a huge confession on my part that takes place during the interview. I can’t believe I put that part of myself out there for the whole world to know. God, help me. Ben also posted a book review for my psychological horror novel, Dark Hollow Road that you can find here.

Bizarre eBook Review – Dark Hollow Road

Of course, in between all of this, I’m writing – or trying to. For years I’ve had a couple of characters, Texas-born-and-raised twins, Choice and Liberty Hill, slogging around in my head just itching to be brought to life. It’s called “The Inheritance” and is being written with traditional Gothic Horror tropes in mind, but with a modern west Texas twist. Along with creepy twins, you’ll find have some totally pissed off Apache spirits, a hint of badass biker mayhem, an isolated Texas ranch, and the chance to inherit $33 million. What could possibly go wrong?

Well – I think that’s MORE than enough news for this month.

 

Part 2 – The Murder! The Newest Barnesville Chronicle Cover Release!

It feels like forever since I’ve had the joy of releasing a new title, though it’s only been a year. Maybe because this one has been finished for such a long time, but I had to hold off on getting it out there due to other things going on. Despite those plans not working out as I’d hope and prayed, it put the project back at the top of my to-do list. Thankfully, all the waiting and work is almost over.

Part two of The Witch’s Backbone will be out and about in the world in 6-8 weeks barring any more unforeseen delays. I’ve chose my grandmother’s March birthday for it – though I’m going to have to guess the majority of you have no idea when that is.

And so, without any further delay – I’d like to present you with the official cover release for the fourth title in the Barnesville Chronicle series The Witch’s Backbone, Part 2 – The Murder.

TWB2_Cover_reduced

 If the curse is real, how do they stop it from killing them all?

“One, two, three, four and five, not much longer to be alive.”

The free-wheeling days of the summer of 1980 are over. September has inched into October and chilly autumn winds blow through the village of Meyer’s Knob. Four friends sit atop the highest hill they know of. What should be a joyful occasion is one of mourning and sadness, instead. If only they’d known the curse was true, they’d not be standing here sending their friend postmortem birthday wishes.

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”

The curse and the witch that goes with it are both real, and by the end of this particular day, they are going to come to realize their nightmare is nowhere near over. While the friends struggle to overcome their grief, they search for ways to unbind themselves from the horror that seems inescapable. They call on their local priest and they delve deeper into the world of witchcraft  – desperate and terrified.

“Ask about the murder.”

Cryptic whispers and messages from beyond the grave seem to be pointing them in a certain direction, but they don’t understand what the dead are asking them to do. Only one man knows the answer, the key that will end it once and for all, but his fear keeps him from revealing the secret to anyone, let alone a group of budding teenagers. He tried once and failed. Will the horrible knowledge passed down to him through his ancestors really work? Or is there truly only one way to end the witch’s curse, to let it play out and watch one child after another die?

If you haven’t read Part 1 – The Curse yet, you’ll want to do that before diving into this one to get up to speed on the mess the kids of Meyer’s Knob have gotten themselves into. Here’s a handy link to help you do just that.

The Witch’s Backbone Part 1 : The Curse – myBook.to/WitchsBackbone1_Curse_Morris