Don’t Tempt The Universe

I’ve never really told this story before. It’s a sad story because I was sad at the time it happened. In fact, I was more than just sad, I was heartbroken beyond words and desperately lonely. The dreams I’d had for my life had been shattered, ground into dust, and cast to the wind. They weren’t coming back. There was no putting them back together because they no longer existed. I’m not going to get into the details because they don’t really matter. What matters is how I felt and who I no longer was or would ever be. The Universe, the Divine, God, Goddess, whatever you want to call it\them, had delivered a punch to my gut the size and weight of a cannonball. I cried on a daily basis, multiple times a day.

On the outside, I smiled. I carried on. I went to work every day. I tended to my kids and my household. I did all the things a happily ever after kind of person does. Inside, however, was a dark and hollow void of broken promises and a life of deception. “The truth will set you free,” they say. For me, the truth was crushing and destructive. I hated the truth, but I hated living a lie just as much but felt I had no choice in the matter.

I tell you all this, so you’ll better understand the state of mind I was in when I decided to attend an annual Beltane celebration. I’d gone to it many times before, always alone, but that had never really bothered me much before. That year it was different. Being alone meant something more. Being alone hurt in every way possible. I went anyway. I hoped spending time outside with the small group of friends I’d cultivated over the years would pick me up, make me forget the pain, and relax. I was wrong.

It wasn’t so bad at first. There was laughter and music, smiles, hugs and dancing the May Pole. People came with their spouses and partners. Everywhere I looked, it seemed, people were in love and loving. They held hands. They kissed. They embraced. I sat alone.

In this state of loneliness, I stepped away and made the short walk to a stream that ran along the edge of the property. I found a large, flat rock to sit on. As the cold water flowed by, my tears began to flow with it. I don’t know how long I sat there feeling dreadful and sobbing, desperately wishing for what once had been while knowing it would never be. How could things get any worse? What had I done to deserve such misery? I considered going to my car and making the hour-long trip back home. I wasn’t having fun. What was I even doing here? Why had I come at all? Slowly, I pulled myself back together. I splashed cold water from the stream on my face and took deep breaths. I didn’t know what I was going to do, where I was going to go, if I was going to stay the night or not.

As I reached the main path through the land, I met up with one of the friends I’d made. I smiled. He smiled. And then he stopped and gave me a second look and said, “What’s wrong? Have you been crying?”

Of course, that opened the floodgates all over again.

“C’mon. Let’s go sit somewhere private and have a chat.”

I agreed and followed him into the woods. We sat on the ground. He put his arm around my shoulder as I leaned against him and cried. I couldn’t talk. I could barely think. All I could do was mourn everything I had lost in the past year, the life, the dreams, the future I had so joyously believed I was going to have. I don’t remember if I even told him any details of what was going on and the source of my sorrow, but eventually I was able to get out the words, “Rob, I don’t know how things can get any worse.”

He gave me a squeeze before pulling back a bit, enough to put each of his hands my shoulders. He looked me in the eyes and he said, “No, don’t say that.”

I didn’t understand. I don’t remember if I answered him or not.

Don’t even think that,” he continued. “Don’t tempt the Universe by asking how things can get worse. That’s only asking it to show you. Instead, think and say, things can only get better.”

I nodded, the concept slowly sinking in, the idea that thoughts become things and that I was manifesting my own misery. By asking how it could get worse, the Universe was just going to keep showing me exactly how that could happen. That was probably one of the greatest epiphanies I’ve ever had in my life, that moment, that realization. I didn’t know how they could get better, but something inside me knew they would.

“Things can only get better.” became my mantra. And Rob was right, they did. I don’t think he has any idea how much his words and friendship meant to me that day, or how much it still means to me.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took a long time, months, maybe even years in some areas, before I really began to see why things had happened the way they did. How that drastic change, a change that still causes a twinge of pain all these 20+ years later, led me down paths of growth and joy I’d never had experienced otherwise.

Of course, I wonder how life would be different now had none of that ever happened, but I don’t do it with a broken heart or a flood of tears anymore. I look back and remember where I was that day, sitting in the woods, sobbing beside a very, very wise man – and how far I’ve come from that, how things have only gotten better, with the exception of a few deep dips in the road because, you know, potholes happen, but I am mountains above where I was that late afternoon on Beltane. If that was the Mariana Trench, I’m well on my way up Mt. Everest now.

The lesson here is Don’t Tempt The Universe. Don’t toss out that challenge by asking it how things can get worse. It will pick up on those vibes and show you. Instead, look up and say, “Things can only get better” even if you maybe don’t quite believe it at the time let alone know how it could possibly happen, still say it. Manifest it. Find the little moments that pull you out of that deep, dark trench. Eventually, you’ll find yourself on drier, healthier, happier ground.

Things can, and will, get better.

The Dreaded Red Pen Edits

I’m in the midst of editing my third Paranormal Murder-Mystery and fifth novel set in Barnesville, the fictionalized version of my hometown. I’m in a red-pen frenzy. Poor thing, some of the pages look as if they’ve been bled all over, appropriate considering the cause of death in this one, I suppose. Two of my pre-readers have gotten back to me with ideas, questions, and/or corrections/typos they may have found. Bless them! The thing would be even more of a mess than it currently is without their input.

It took decades for me to be comfortable having other people read my writing work. My teachers saw my work, and my parents read some of my stories, but the older I got, the harder it was for me to share and ‘face the music’ that are corrections.

When my first husband started reading for me, it was a nightmare! Not because he ridiculed or made fun or told me how horrible I was, but because he dared find typos and misspellings and point them out to me. Oh! The! Horror! What the hell was he thinking telling me I’d made a mistake?! Has he any idea how much carbon paper costs? Remember carbon paper? No? Oh, well … ahem. That tells how old I am. In retrospect, my outrage was at MY mistakes, not him trying to help me improve the quality of the work. Fortunately, my new husband doesn’t have to endure me getting all ticked off when he finds errors in my work. I actually provide him with a red pen when I hand over a manuscript in the hopes that he’ll use it.

Trying to create a perfect manuscript with only the use of correction ribbon and Wite-Out, not to mention the prospect of having to type an ENTIRE page all over again, was not only a nightmare but nearly impossible. No matter how hard I tried, the perfect manuscript eluded me. It still does, of course.

I tend to write in incomplete sentences. Depending on the story and the feeling I’m trying to convey, sections can often look more like disjointed lines of poetry than cohesive prose. A sample from my short story In The Pines that I completed last year looks like this.


Stella rested her forehead on her drawn up knees, squeezed her eyes shut, felt the tears slip down her cheeks, and listened.

And listened.

And barely breathed.

And didn’t move,

– except for the shivers that trickled through her limbs, not even when she felt the tiny feet of beetles and centipedes and spiders tiptoe across her skin,

not when the heavy footfall and grunting breaths drew close, panting,

not when the smell of burnt hair and flesh creeped high into of her nose.

Do not move.

Do not even think about moving.

Something cold and damp wiggled over her ankle. Stella clenched her jaw and fists.


In my creative mind, there are reasons for this unusual, somewhat poetic format. To me, it sets a certain pace, forcing the reader to not just pause, but to stop. Don’t move. Don’t breathe. Wait. It’s all about the timing and how I am reading and hearing it in my writer’s mind. It’s a far cry from grammatically correct – but, neither is most poetry I’ve read.

An editor’s nightmare? Perhaps.

I’m not against most of the suggestions I’ve been asked to consider by editors or first readers. I’m told a good editor doesn’t want to impose their style over that of the writer. Their job is to make it better, but I’d argue that even the best editors, especially ones who deal in short stories and anthologies, maybe don’t know the individual voices of the writers they’re working with well enough.

Does seeing one painting by an artist truly show anyone the painter’s style? Does hearing one song completely portray the entire repertoire of a musician? Does a single recipe from a chef’s cookbook define all their dishes, or does one film prove or disprove the skills of its director? A single book, be it a novel or short story, certainly does not represent an author’s full voice or style. Even well-established authors that I have known, read, and loved since my teen years have put out, in my opinion, some real stinkers.

If you’re a budding author and hope to get your work out there for others to see, the first thing you need to know is, not everyone is going to like your story. Some folks are going to absolutely HATE IT!!! Others will be, “Meh,” and then there will be the ones who really enjoy what you’ve created. Don’t let the haters and the meh-ers drag you down. Don’t let the editor, whoever that may be – a professional or your neighbor who’s a retired high school English teacher – crush your creative spirit. Each and every one of the people who read the story, are helpers in fine tuning your creation – yep, even the haters. Haters gonna hate, don’t worry about them or let their opinions keep you up at night.

I have yet to find my ‘perfect editor’, the one who truly gets where I’m coming from. I don’t think such a person exists. I’ve only worked with a handful, and they each have their own style. Some have been so hands-off I’m still wondering how they could dare call themselves ‘professional’. Seriously, not one typo? Not one suggestion? Basically, they left it up to me to re-read my own work to double check it was all okay – as if I hadn’t already done that a myriad of times before sending it to them. Others, well, they wanted to correct or change every comma, every semicolon, every incomplete sentence and at times it felt like they were rewriting the entire story in their voice instead of mine.

I try to be flexible and open to all their constructive suggestions and criticisms – those that could be bothered to give any – in the hopes of making my work more palatable to the masses. I don’t want to be that nightmare author who refuses to accept any input at all, especially if I’m getting paid for that piece of work.

I also don’t want to be an author whose work is full of typos and misspellings! That’s a HUGE turn off no matter how understanding I am of the process of seeking perfection. That’s also why I always give an author a second chance, sometimes even a third. If I don’t care for the first of their works I’ve read, maybe I’ll like the next. Nor do I expect everyone to like or understand some of my rather unconventional formatting choices.

But some folks do.

And that’s cool –

editing nightmare or not.


What I’ve Been Reading This Month:

From Twisted Roots by S.H. Cooper – short story collection

Malevolent Nevers by Tom Rimer

Movies I’ve Enjoyed This Month:

Willow Creek (2013)

Witch Hunt (2021)

Finding Your Creative Magic

I don’t know how I came to own my first diary, but however that happened, it changed my world.

Part of my day job involves doing transcription work for the recorded lectures and various talks given at Cornell University since the late 1950s through the 1990s. There are nearly eight thousand of these recordings. In the past three years, we’ve managed to get through a couple hundred. Some I struggle with. Others are so enjoyable it doesn’t feel like work at all. They’re all educational, which is wonderful. And on a few rare occasions, I’ve been blessed with not just learning about the speaker and their work, but I’ve learned things about myself. I’ve even sat at my desk crying because suddenly something about who I am makes so much sense and I don’t feel so alone in the way I think and the things I do and believe.

This is the portion of a transcription project that got my tears flowing.

“My mom, noticing that I would not speak, gave me a diary when I was about 12 or 13 years old, one of those cheap, you know, white plastic diaries that say, “My One Year Diary,” on it. And she said to me, “Gloria, I know there are probably things in your home that trouble you. And they’re probably things at school that trouble you and since you can’t seem to talk about them, why don’t you write about them in here.” And it was from that moment that I began to connect in my mind, the un-verbal, the nonverbal chaos within me, with the ability to put down words. What I could not say, I begin to say with words, I began to say on the written page, and to this day I do not differentiate between that little cheap diary I started to keep when I was 12 years old and the last novel that I completed. All of it, to me, is a way of trying to make sense out of the senseless. It’s a way of letting my voice be heard. Because even to this day, I cannot talk about those things which indeed matter the most, which hurt the most. And I will normally write them out, you know? Woe be tied to my enemies because it’s all written down.” – Gloria Naylor

The Evolution of a Writer’s Voice; Gloria Naylor reads and reflects on her own work.

Cornell University Lecture Tape Series, recorded Nov. 21, 1988

Yes, indeed, nearly everything of significance that has happened in my life since that first diary began in January 1977 when I was 11 years old is written down. Being able to write when I was unable to talk has, without a doubt in my mind, literally saved my life more times than I can say. Some people swear by therapy, talking to someone, but that has never worked for me. When your throat literally tightens at the very idea of speaking about those things that matter most to you, writing has gotten those things out. It’s unclogged, unwound, relaxed, soothed, comforted, and released those pent-up thoughts. I would rather write a ten-page letter that may take over an hour to create, than speak for ten minutes about certain subjects. I am not a talker. I am a writer.

That isn’t to say I can’t speak. Those who know me know very well otherwise, but it takes a long time for me to be comfortable enough to share who I am deep inside and some things I never share other than in my diary. I still keep one to this day. Small talk annoys me. I’d rather listen. I’d rather learn before I speak. I’d rather get to know someone else before revealing myself. But never, ever have I revealed everything to anyone. But, that’s okay. It comes out in bits and pieces in my art be that writing stories or poetry, drawing, painting, or even in the songs I love to listen to.

Introvert? Definitely. ADHD? Quite possibly. Family genetics? Ever more likely. Whatever the reason, which frankly I don’t feel really matters, I am grateful for it as it’s made me the writer I am today.

As mentioned in my January Blog, Dracula, The Wild West, & Me several of my ancestors on my mother’s side are known for their love of writing and storytelling. My great-great-great grandmother, Eudora Boughton Legg and her daughter Velma Legg Meddaugh both kept diaries that still exist to this day. My great uncle, Frank Legg Meddaugh was the author of at least one short story that I know of. Joe Bing was written in 1959 for his fourteen grandchildren. It would later be published by his daughter, Catherine M. Deming and illustrated by Mary M. Pond, one of his granddaughters, in 1976. Catherine was an author and researcher extraordinaire in her own right as she who would compile the family history book Grandma’s & Grandpa’s of Yesteryear, an ancestry of the Meddaugh-Deming Family in 1982, long before Ancestry dot com came along!

All that being said, My Journey West, The 1871 travel diary of Eudora Boughton Legg is now available to the public over on Amazon for all of $5 + shipping! It’s no family genealogy tome, but it does add a small chapter to the story of who I am, and where part of my writing voice came from.

I finished reading Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert recently. Incredible book. I first heard of it while watching Ear Biscuits, a podcast put out by Rhett & Link of Good Mythical Morning fame. It was Rhett’s Rec of the week and as it sounded interesting so I added it to my Amazon Wish List and happily received it in December as a gift. It’s all about being creative without holding up any expectations of what you are going to do or be with that creativity other than it making you a more joyful, fulfilled person! It’s a lesson I’ve slowly been learning when it comes to my writing. Monthly royalties have paid a few bills here and there, or given us a nice dinner out, usually they’ll only cover a cup of fancy coffee! Big Magic assures me that what I’ve slowly been learning on my own with this Creative Writing Gig, is okay. As long as I’m having fun and enjoying the stories and the challenges that come with writing novels, that’s a perfectly good, wonderful, and joyous way to live my life.

I want to share this brief quote from Big Magic.

“Your own reasons to create are reason enough. Merely by pursuing what you love, you may inadvertently end up helping us plenty. (“There is no love which does not become help,” taught the theologian Paul Tillich). Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert : Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (September 27, 2016)

That isn’t to say I still don’t hope to hit it big one day, but it’s okay if I don’t, too. If nothing else, maybe somewhere down the family line I’ll be known as the great-great grandmother or great aunt who kept a string of diaries covering 70+ years and wrote Horror novels for fun. – And that, my friends, is a very awesome legacy indeed.

Finding freedom in your creativity doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult, but it can be. The secret is to drop ALL pretenses of fame and fortune, the notion that your painting, your song, your book, your sculpture, your movie, your creation is going to change the world and make you a millionaire. You need to create for YOU and YOU ALONE. Pour your heart and soul into that creation without regard to what anyone else thinks. Fill it with all your secrets, loves, hates, desires, fears, tears, and longings. Make it a physical manifestation of whatever you are going through at the time.

Years ago, when I first got interested in magic and all things witchy, one of the first lessons I learned was that the more emotion you can put into a spell, the better. That’s what charges and sends out the manifestation you are conjuring for the Powers That Be to then act upon. That’s where the Big Magic is. That’s the kind of power and passion you should be putting into your creations, your art – not worrying about what others will think or how much money you’ll make from it. The best part of all this is you never HAVE to tell a single person a darn thing about what inspired you. It can be your secret diary forever and ever and it’s none of anyone’s business.

What I’ve Been Reading:

To The Devil, A Cryptid by Hunter Shea

From Twisted Roots by S.H. Cooper

Dracula, The Wild West, & Me

I’ve been flirting with Dracula for a very long time. I was 11-12 years old when I read it the first time. It’s been in public domain since before I was born, but I am only now taking full advantage of that. I’ve read it no fewer than 9 times and yet when I opened it again for research purposes in November of 2023, I discovered something I never grasped in all those times before! I took the realization as a sign that I was starting down the right path. I will give but one hint in regard to the sign, “Hillingham”, for it is there in Gravesend, England, at the home of Lord Arthur Holmwood Godalming that my personal writing journey into the land of undead begins.

No, Dracula will NOT be making an appearance, nor will Lucy, Mina, Johnathan, or Renfield be in the tale I am contriving. There will be other names, some familiar, most new, but all inspired by the one, the only, King of Vampires, Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I don’t remember a time when I was not interested in the Victorian period, mostly as experienced in England. In fact, the notion that that same time-period existed in the United States seemed (maybe still seems) a bit strange, except we call it The Wild West. Victorian England covers the reign of Queen Victoria, 1837 to 1901, while the Old West period in America ranges from around 1803, the time of the Louisiana Purchase, until 1910 or so. A longer period of time than the Victorian but enough substantial overlap to consider them almost one in the same.

But, oh how very different are the images conjured up in our minds when we think of the Victorian Era England verses the American Wild West! The Wild West conjures up images of Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the O.K. Coral. What even would we define as “Wild West” literature? Dime novels that portrayed life in the frontier pitting ‘savage’ Natives and bandit gunfighters against ranchers, lawmen, and infamous ‘Hanging Judges’ from which the modern Western novel sprang? What about Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, and Louisa May Alcott?  And indeed, I love them all – some more than others, but still, you get the idea.

Speaking of “Wild West” literature, how does the year 1871 grab you? I mentioned in my last blog post something my grandmother gave me decades ago, the typed version of her grandmother’s travel journal titled My Journey West. I have no idea where my grandmother got it from, nor who typed it, but I’ve always thought it was a very cool piece of family history and I’ve always wanted to make it something more than it was. I have no crazy notion that it’s going to be a big seller. It’s pretty niche family genealogy stuff, but hey, who knows? So, if you have an interest in Tioga County NY or Plainfield Iowa history, check out Eudora Boughton Legg’s 1871 travel journal, My Journey West through Amazon in early February.

I love diaries and\or journals and have kept one of my own since 1977. My great-great-grandmother, daughter of the above-mentioned Eudora Legg, was also a great one to keep a diary. Many of them have found a home in our local county historical society. They end a mere ten days before her death and I think it’s damn cool she and I share a December 29th birthday, give or take 109 years.  Maybe my love of diaries also adds to the love I have for Dracula. It’s one heck of an epistolary and ‘Dear Diary’ genre novel. And it’s because of that attraction that my novel too, will be written in the same style, a combination of letters, diary entries, and news clippings. Or, at least, that’s the plan. So far, so good – the flirtation continues.

What I’ve been reading:

Dracula (again) by Bram Stoker

Kill Me, Elmo, The Holiday Depression Fun Book by Jim Mullen

Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Trying To Finish What I’ve Started

I haven’t posted much about what I’m working on lately but rest assured, I’m working on things – just not finishing much! With the new year upon us, it’s the perfect time to fill you in on what may, or may not, be released into the wild and unknown we call 2023.

Mainly, I’m trying to focus on the next Barnesville Mystery. I haven’t released a new Barnesville book since The Witch’s Backbone set back 2019! Made progress on Death At The Devil’s Elbow over the past week. My hometown family and friends will know exactly where The Devil’s Elbow is in the real world. Over the past week, I’ve added 10K words to that piece so I’m pretty happy with that. For those that don’t know how that translates in the novel world, the Barnesville titles run about 100K. I’m at 70K now, so … getting there! With this title, I’ve gone back to the original premise of the Barnesville books; murder, mystery, and the paranormal, all within the realm of a small-town cozy. Lordy, I’ve not written a murder-mystery since That’s What Shadows Are Made Of in 2015! Like “Murder She Wrote” but with magic and witches and ghosts and any number of supernatural creatures. With ANY luck at all, it MAY be ready by the next Blueberry & Books Festival in July! I make no promises with that, but it’s not outside the realm of possibilities.

My second project, is another collection of twisted fairy tales. Got some great reviews for the first one, Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales, and it’s inspired a few more. I’ve finished writing three of them, with four more in various stages of progress. Last night I came up with something along the lines of Cosmic Horror (think HP Lovecraft). I’ve never written in that Horror sub-genre before, so we’ll see how it goes. These short stories are a lot fun, and with them I’m working to expand my comfort levels with other genres beyond Horror. If you’ve read Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales you’ll know there was some Fantasy and Sci-Fi in there, too. It’s possible this will come out in 2023, but as the novel is my priority and I work on short stories only here and there, it may not be ready until 2024.

Last, but far from least, my next Children’s book, Wacky Jackie. I’d hoped for a December release but ran into some issues and had to do some creative reformatting. Like the next Barnesville Mystery, this has been a long time coming, but soon, my friends, soon! Wacky Jackie is about this wonderful woman who truly dances to her own beat. She thrives on being her best, most unique self with a life motto of, “Dare To Be Different.” Updates on Wacky Jackie will take place on my Friends of Bill The Worm page on Facebook, so be sure and head over there, like, and follow if you’re interested in all of that. As for Bill The Worm, himself. Will there be more books staring this wondrous worm? Short answer, “Of course, but probably not this year.” I have several ideas for new Bill The Worm releases, including an activity book, but this all takes time and a whole of drawing! Perhaps 2024 will be another big year for Bill The Worm. Though, he IS a friend of Wacky Jackie so maybe you’ll see him somewhere sooner than you think.

What I’ve Been Reading:

On our last trip to Texas in late November, Jim and I discovered the joy of Audiobooks. It’s not really reading as far as I’m concerned, but still book-related. We got through Scott Westerfeld’s “The Uglies”, Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, and are well into Jonathan Maybury’s second Pine Deep book, “Dead Man’s Song”.  As far as real reading, I’m dreadfully slow. I’m just over halfway through “Heart Beast” by Tanith Lee that I picked up at a used bookstore back in late October. I have nine more books on my To Be Read Pile and with any luck at all, maybe I can get through them this year.

What I’ve Been Watching:

We recently got around to watching “Wednesday” on Netflix. I’m hoping for a second season. And, believe it or not, I finally watched “Thelma & Louise” for the first time! Not Horror, but dang, an amazing movie that I’m so glad I finally took the time to watch.  Of course, with this being New Years and all that, I turned to SyFy and watched as much of The Twilight Zone marathon as I could. I’m always amazed at how I can still see episodes I never remember seeing before. I’ve been watching this show since I was little and every year since SyFy started doing the marathon 28 years ago! I was even able to catch one of the new episodes hosted by Jordan Peele in 2019. So, that was cool.

In conclusion – 2023 looks promising and I remain hopeful to get something new out there. Thanks to everyone who has stuck around with me all these years. Hang in there a little while longer and I’ll deliver what I can as soon as I can. Happy New Year. May 2023 bless you with new opportunities, prosperity, happiness, creativity, and at least one dream coming true.

The Cold Is Coming. The Cold Is Here


Winter’s here and he’s coming in with a Siberian blast of air ‘so cold the dogs are sticking to the sidewalks‘ this weekend.

Every year I plan on doing more with this blog. Every year I seem to start off strong. Every year I stray from the goal and wander off into some other realm. Maybe 2023 will be the year I get my crap back together and can focus on reaching out more. I’m not going to dwell too much on what 2022 brought – or didn’t bring – but I will say I am very proud and happy that it was the year I was able to FINALLY gather together my collection of short stories and make them available for all the world to read. Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales was my first foray into the realm of twisted fairy tales but it will not be my last. I’m already working on more. I also saw one of my short stories selected and published in the anthology Old Scratch: Demon Tales & Devil Hells put out by Crimson Pinnacle Press. I’m proud of that, too.

But, that’s NOT what I’m here to talk about today. No. Today, I’m going to share a story about a certain cold and stormy Christmas Eve night and what awaited three young brothers when they dared step out into The Cold.


© 2019 – Pamela Morris  

Wind howled outside the window, rattling the panes and whipping the snow into little tornadoes down by the barn. It was Christmas Eve. There was talk on TV that Santa might not be able to get through.

Myles remained hopeful. Santa was magical. He could do anything. He’d not let subzero temperatures and gale force winds get in his way. Besides, something had awoken Myles only moments ago and even as he lie there, tucked beside his younger brother with whom he shared a bed, he could hear movement outside. Over the gusting wind, there was a tapping sound.

Myles inched his way out from under the heavy blankets. The hardwood floor pressed frigid against his bare feet. He tip-toed passed his brother Ryan, sleeping soundly in his own bed, crept to the frosty window, and pulled back the curtains. He couldn’t see anything, but the tapping was louder. It mixed with the sounds of something digging in the snow. He’d seen plenty of deer do that in the winter looking for food.

Myles unlocked the window latch and strained against the frozen pane. It wasn’t going to budge, not a bit. He needed something to pry it with, remembered the screwdriver Ryan had been using earlier that day, and nabbed it from his brother’s beside table.

The window only needed to open a little bit, just so he could peek out and see what was making that noise. He jammed the flat end of the tool into the crack, hit it twice with the heel of his hand and levered it down. The ice on the other side protested briefly before it yielded with the hard crack of something frozen snapping apart. The raw metallic breath of winter bit into his face and stung his lungs.

A shadow fluttered on the other side of the opaque glass followed by the strange, soft shuffling creak of what Myles thought must be Santa’s boots in the frigid snow.

“Close the window, stupid!” Ryan snarled from across the room.

Myles jumped!

“Yeah, shut it!” six-year-old Kyle whined from under a heap of blankets. “You want me to get moan-yah?” Kyle already had the sniffles.

“But, Santa …”

“Screw Santa,” Ryan, who was ten, the eldest and therefore wisest of the brothers, snapped. “Close it before we freeze to death.”

It was highly unlikely the three of them would do that. Gramps kept the wood stove stoked high and hot. If they left their bedroom door open the room stayed toasty warm. It was only because of Christmas Eve that the door had been shut tonight, creating the chill. As soon as Santa was done out there, the door would be open. That’s what Grammy had told them.

They’d been living with their grandparents for almost a year. It had been touch and go for about a week while Child Protective Services sorted out who was best able to take care of them after the plane crash. They all missed their mom and dad, but at least they had Gramps and Grammy and that, as Grammy liked to say, was a blessing.

Gramps coughed and hacked from the other room. It was a small, single-story house with two bedrooms, one bath, and an open concept kitchen, dining, and living room. Their father, an only child, had been raised in this house. His old bedroom was now theirs.

“You should see the doctor about that cough,” Grammy’s muffled voice stated from the other side of the door.

“Bah. It’s just a damn cold,” Gramps grumbled. His chair squawked as he kicked up the footrest. “Doctors’ll kill ya. Cain’t help me no better than this here cup of warm brandy will.”

With a reluctant sigh, Myles squinted against the cold wind blowing through the three-inch gap at the bottom of the window. All he could make out was the side of the big Maple tree being pelted with snow. The white fence by the road was already half-buried.

The noises had stopped. Maybe it hadn’t been Santa at all. He’d not come with Gramps and Grammy still awake. Myles pushed the window back down, returned the latch to its locked position, and pulled the curtains shut.

Shivering, he crawled back under the blankets. He’d just have to wait it out and hope for the best. Santa wouldn’t let him down. Santa knew how hard it was for him and his brothers not to fight. Surely, he’d forgive them for anything bad they’d done under the circumstances.

Myles closed his eyes, relaxing as the warmth of his and his brother’s body heat mingled to push away the cold.

Outside, the wind continued to whistle and moan around the corners of the house, garage, and barn. Something flapped in the wintery darkness beyond the window; probably just a blue tarp that had come loose; Myles couldn’t help but imagine something else.

Flying reindeer don’t have wings, though, do they? No. It was just a tarp. Myles resisted the urge to get back out of bed. He wanted to see what was going on out there. At the very least he wanted to open the bedroom door just a little bit to let some heat in. But he mustn’t. The longer he was awake, the longer it would take for Santa to get here, and the longer the bedroom door would stay closed. It was best to tough it out.

Myles pulled the blankets up and over his head.


“Myles! Wake up!” Someone was nudging his shoulder and whispering in his ear. “Myles.” Kyle.

“What?” Myles mumbled back.

“I gotta pee.”

He rolled away, curling deeper into the warm pocket between the sheets. “Get up and go then.”

“Come with me.”

“What for?”

“It’s too scary alone. Something’s out there.”

Myles opened his eyes, suddenly very awake. He swallowed, listened over the too loud throbbing of his own heartbeat.

There it was, the same tapping and scraping and shifting of something just outside the outer bedroom wall, only now it was closer. It wasn’t on the other side at all. It was in it.

“Hear it?” Kyle’s voice trembled.

Myles nodded, “Uh-huh. Probably just a mouse.”

“It sounds a lot bigger than a mouse,” Kyle said.

Myles agreed but didn’t admit it.

“Come with me,” Kyle repeated. “I gotta pee bad.”

Better to take him than have him pee the bed. “All right. Let’s go.”

Pushing back the blankets, he quickly realized he could see his breath and that their bedroom door remained closed. Myles swung his attention towards the window thinking maybe it hadn’t latched shut. The curtains hung motionless and tightly drawn. The pane and sash were pressed together. The lock was securely in place.

Kyle squirmed in place, holding one hand against his crotch as he waited by the door. “Myles, c’mon.”

Shuddering with the chill of the room and a fear he’d never confess to in the moment, Myles pulled the door open.

Warmth trickled in. As Kyle scampered down the short hallway to the bathroom, Myles stood in the soft glow of twinkling white Christmas tree lights. Wrapped gifts had appeared under the tree he, his brothers, and Gramps had searched for, cut down, and dragged home a week before. Grammy had been waiting with foamy mugs of hot chocolate and a box full of decorations on their return. By nightfall, the tree had been decorated and the chill of pulling it through knee-deep snow had faded into forgetfulness.

The tips of icy teeth nibbled at Myles’ fingers and toes. The room was considerably warmer than theirs, but not as warm as it should be. A draft whispered around his bare ankles.

Myles peeked into his grandparents’ bedroom, his eyes adjusting to the dim light until he could see their bed. It was empty. He crossed the threshold, “Gramps? Grammy?” while trembling fingers searched for the light switch, switched it on.

Grammy’s wide eyes and silently screaming mouth gaped back at him from her rocking chair – both frozen open in an expression of pure terror. Blankets had been wrapped around her body and over her head. The toes of her slippers stuck out from the bottom. Her face, lips rigid and touched with the blue-gray hue of death; her eyes, cast over like frosted windows, stared blankly at the opposite wall.

Myles stumbled back into the hallway, unable to breathe.

Something knocked outside the window, scratching at the thick frost on the glass so hard Myles could clearly see the shuddering gashes it left behind. A deep and forlorn howl rose, taking with it the hairs on the back of his neck and up his arms.

Myles retreated until his back hit the wall behind him, limbs trembling for greater reasons than the chill wind that swept around him.

The toilet flushed down the hall.

Kyle emerged, yawning and rubbing an eye with the knuckles of one fist.

He stopped dead when he saw Myles. “What’s the matter?” Kyle peeked into the bedroom and let out a shriek.

Outside, something let out a scream of its own and wrapped itself around the house, rattling all the old windows at the same time. Myles wanted to believe it was the wind.

From the direction of the kitchen something heavy crashed, releasing an icy blast of air that rushed across the room. Sparkles of snow danced across the worn linoleum floor and flipped the pages of the wall calendar hanging next to the refrigerator.

“What happened to Grammy? Where’s Gramps?” Kyle, who now clung to his older brother’s side, was on the verge of bawling. Myles wasn’t far behind.

“I don’t know,” he stammered.

Ryan emerged from their bedroom visibly annoyed. “What’s …” he blinked, rubbing at one eye with his fingertips. “What’s going on?”

Kyle pointed towards the open doorway that led into his grandparent’s bedroom.

Ryan strode over and stopped at the threshold, going no further than the others had. He didn’t move for what felt like forever. “Grammy?” he whispered. “Where’s Gramps?” Ryan finally added.

“Don’t know,” Myles gulped in reply.

Ryan found the nerve to reach out and close the bedroom door before turning away from the nightmare image of their grandmother.

Another gust of winter exhaled through the house, rustling the papers on the kitchen table and rocking the wall calendar. Ryan hurried in that direction. Myles, with his clinging baby brother in tow, followed.

The kitchen door hung wide open. Beyond, something had pushed its way through the deepening snow. It had to have been Gramps.

Ryan must have shared the assumption. He stood at the doorway, bracing himself against the frame. “GRAMPS!” he shouted against the blustering wind.

The wind roared back, reached in with icicle claws and cut them to the bone with cold.

“GRAMPS! ARE YOU OUT THERE?!” Ryan yelled against the assault, his face wet with melting snow spray.

Gramps didn’t answer. If he did, they couldn’t hear him.

With all the strength he could muster from his thin, ten-year-old arms, Ryan forced the door shut and made sure it was latched. Something in the treetops cried out in protest.

“What do we do?” Myles asked.

“First, we need to put more wood in the stove. You two do that and I’ll call 9-1-1.”

Myles nodded but didn’t move. “What about Grammy?”

Ryan bit his lip. “I don’t think we can do anything about Grammy,” his voice squeaked.

“Something scared her,” Kyle shivered, not yet willing to surrender his hold on Myles. Myles was perfectly okay with that. “And something got Gramps.”

“Nothing got Gramps,” Ryan snapped. “He’s – he’s probably just out in the garage, trying to get the car started or something, to get Grammy to the hospital.”

“Why didn’t he answer you?” Kyle trembled.

“Cuz he didn’t hear me is all, now go put more wood in the stove,” he ordered.

Gramps had shown all the boys how to tend to the woodstove, how to adjust the bottom and top vents so it would burn just right, low and slow and steady all night long. Now, as Myles stood there looking at it, he saw both were open a lot more than they should have been. It was as if Gramps had been about to load the old cast-iron piece up for the night. There was a thick bed of coals on the bottom, but even they wouldn’t last much longer without more fuel. He and Kyle set to work, doing what they’d been taught until Ryan padded back to them looking somber.

“Phone’s dead,” he said. “Can’t call anyone.”

“If Gramps is in the garage, he’ll be back in soon,” Myles tried to sound sure of that.

“Yeah,” Ryan agreed. “He’ll be back in soon, I think.”

The two older boys made eye contact, each seeing the fear and doubt in the other’s gaze.

“Yeah,” Myles said as he swallowed down the hard lump in his throat.

As they waited for their grandfather’s return, the boys put on socks, slippers and robes and huddled around the growing warmth of the woodstove. Thirty minutes ticked by, then an hour.

“He should be back by now,” Myles whispered, no longer cold but still shivering deep inside.

“Something got him,” Kyle whimpered. “Something got him just like it got Grammy.”

“Nothing got him,” Ryan’s voice squeaked.

Myles swallowed hard. “We should check,” he said. “He could have fallen on the ice or something.”

Myles saw horror in his older brother’s eyes. “Yeah,” Ryan admitted slowly. “Maybe we should at least check. Just to make sure. But I’m sure he’s fine. He just can’t get the car started ‘cuz it’s so cold.”

They got dressed as if heading out for a fun-filled day of sledding and snowballs fights, but the grim, black and white starkness of the landscape beyond was anything but playful.

The wind screamed in their faces as they trudged out. Ryan was first and carried a flashlight; Kyle followed close behind. Myles made sure to close the door behind them. They marched with their heads down, pushing their way through the blowing depths of snow.

The path Gramps had made was already drifting in. Had they waited another hour, there would have been no sign of it. The brothers plodded along, bent forward against the cold and wind. The dim light offered by the jittering flashlight was of little help, but they knew the way. Though it felt like miles, the garage wasn’t far, barely thirty feet from the kitchen door.

“Shit,” Myles heard Ryan cuss over the roar of the wind as he came to a sudden halt.

Eyes stinging with tears brought on by the cold, Myles dared look up.

The garage door was open. Lights were on inside. Gramps’ car sat in its place surrounded by pegboard walls full of neatly-placed tools. As for Gramps, he lay in the driveway flat on his back; eyes closed, the snow shovel not far away. Snow had accumulated on his exposed face.

“Gramps!” the boys shouted in near perfect unison, their pace doubling until they reached the old man and fell to their knees by his side. “Gramps? You okay? Gramps! Wake up, wake up!”

Kyle picked up the pipe that had fallen from between their grandfather’s frozen lips, clutching it tight his small mitten-covered hands. “Gramps?” shuddered from between his chattering teeth.

A sudden gust of wind roared around the corner of the garage like the wintery exhale of a snow dragon, creating a short but powerful squall that made it impossible to see beyond their tiny circle of bodies. The boys crouched into their fallen guardian’s sprawled form.

A heavy, throaty growl erupted from the other side of the house. Whatever it was, it was in the backyard. The sound intensified, moaning out a terrifying, guttural wail that ended with the unmistakable noise of very large, very sharp, gnashing teeth.

“It’s coming,” Myles, eyes wide and staring at the wavering movements he could just see above the house’s roofline, moving right to left.

The ground shook.

“We should get him into the garage,” Ryan shouted over the chaotic sounds of creaking limbs and winter’s snarling breath. His face had gone as white as the storm around them. “Myles, grab his other arm! Kyle, get his feet!”

They sprang into action, pivoting their grandfather’s body, dragging it inch by agonizingly slow inch, cleared the open door, leaned him against the vehicles back fender. Ryan yanked the door down, letting it slam shut with a weighted, reassuring thud. Gramps’ head flopped lifelessly to the side.

Safe. Out of the snow. Out of the wind. Out of sight of whatever was out there stalking them.

“Gramps!” Kyle practically sat on the old man’s lap, shaking his shoulders. “Grampy! Grampa! C’mon, get up. Wake up!”

“He’s dead,” Ryan’s tone came out hollow.

“Don’t say that. He’s not!” their baby brother retorted. “He’s not dead!” Tears burned lines down the boy’s already rosy cheeks.

Myles pushed his own urge to cry aside. “What do we do? We should turn off the lights.” He looked towards the row of windows along the top of the garage door. From inside, all he could see was the blackness of night and whirling, whipping pellets of sleet. “That thing’s out there,” he added.

“What thing?” Ryan looked up from his attempts to calm his littlest brother.

“The thing I heard,” Myles explained. “It woke me up. I heard it walking around and digging in the snow. Something made a shadow on the bedroom window, too. I thought it was Santa and the reindeer,” he managed a dry swallow, “but I don’t think that’s what it was. You heard it, too, just now. It’s out there, behind the house.”

Kyle started to wail all over again. “It’s gonna kill us next!” he sobbed. “Don’t let it kill us, Ryan.”

Ryan held Kyle closer and tighter as his eyes smoldered at Myles, “You just shut up! Nothing’s out there. Nothing’s coming to kill us.” But Myles saw the fear and worry etched into his big brother’s eyes. “You’re scaring Kyle so just shut the hell up right now.”

Myles pressed his lips together and glared back.

Kyle’s sobs rose and fell, his whole body shaking.

“We should go back to the house,” Myles suggested. “It’s cold out here and …”

“What about Gramps?!” Kyle sniffed his stuffed-up noise.

“Ain’t nothing we can do for Gramps now,” Ryan said as tenderly as possible. “C’mon. Myles is right. We need to get back to the house. At least it’s warm in there and I’ll make some hot chocolate. Grammy showed me how.”

Above their heads, the roof groaned and shuddered. Something big and sharp dragged and thumped at the thin asphalt shingles.

Myles stared at the stark, open rafters where Gramps stored long pieces of wood, two by fours, and the like. “It’s up there,” his whispered voice breathed out a plume of white mist. Fingernails, he thought, the same ones that had scratched at their bedroom window and left jittery trails in the frost outside.

“We have to get to the house,” Ryan insisted. “It’ll be faster this time. We made a better path.”

“It’s big,” Myles went on. “I saw it moving over the roof of the house.” He couldn’t stop looking up.

Kyle whimpered. “I don’t like it out here.”

“We’re going back to the house,” Ryan assured him. “We’re going to make a run for it.”

Myles pulled his attention from the roof, “We need weapons.” His gaze darted around the garage. Gramps’ sharp and well-used axe rested to the left of the side door. Myles raced over and hauled the axe into his hands. It was heavy, too heavy for him to wield effectively. He twisted his lips in thought. “You see the kindling axe anywhere?” he asked.

His brothers had risen to their feet beside the slumped body of their white-whiskered grandfather. Thank God his eyes were closed.

Kyle pointed towards the wheelbarrow.

On top of a mound of kindling, Gramps’ smaller axe winked. Myles thrust the handle of the larger axe towards his big brother, “You take this one. I’ll get the other,” Myles snatched the second weapon and took a few practice swings. “Perfect.”

The walls of the garage trembled and moaned followed by the sharp scritch-scratch-scritch of whatever was on the roof and the raging groan of another blast of cold air racing around the corners of the structure.

“What if it gets us?” Kyle shook along with the rattling of the garage windows.

“It won’t get us,” Ryan’s back grew straighter, making him a couple inches taller and stronger-looking. “We’ll be back to the kitchen door before it even sees us.”

“Then what?”

“Then we wait. Someone will come. We got lots of food and plenty of wood for the fire. It’ll be fine.”

Myles gave a nod and said, “Yeah, it’ll be fine,” but didn’t quite believe it. “Ready?”

His brothers nodded. “Myles you go first,” Ryan offered. “Kyle in the middle and I’ll protect our backs with the big axe.”

Myles wasn’t so sure about being the first to expose himself to the dangers that awaited beyond the door. But, on the bright side, he’d be the first one in the house. He nodded in agreement. “Let’s do this.”

“Don’t look around and don’t do nothing but run straight to the house. Got it?”  Kyle nodded. Myles nodded. Ryan exhaled slowly. “Open it.”

They ran.

Snow flew up from under their heels.

Hearts raced rabbit-fast in their chests.

Lungs inhaled air so frigid it burned.

Fingers squeezed axe handles and Gramps’ rescued pipe.

The wind pushed against them, throwing pellets of ice into their faces, like hundreds of tiny needles, slapping their cheeks with frozen razors and breathing blasts of the Arctic down the backs of their necks. A yowling scream filled the darkness around them.

The pace quickened.

Myles wanted to look back, to see just what lurked on top of the garage roof, but he didn’t dare. It would slow them down.

He grabbed the doorknob, twisted, pulled.

It didn’t budge.


He turned it again and again, yanking desperately to be let in.

“Open the door!” Ryan shoved him aside.

“Open it,” Kyle cried. “Open it, open it!”

“I’m trying,” Ryan bellowed. “It’s stuck. It’s …”

Not stuck. Locked. Locked!

Ryan’s eyes were on fire when he turned back around and growled at his brother. “You locked the damn door, you moron!”

“I didn’t,” Myles stammered. “I didn’t. Not on purpose, I didn’t!”

“We’re locked out!”

Across the road, from the direction of the barn, the same flapping sound Myles had heard earlier rose. Crunching and metallic and leathery at the same time and loud, so very loud. Louder and closer and too dark to see what it was; Myles didn’t want to see. He shoved at his big brother who looked about ready to throat punch him. “It wasn’t on purpose. Go back!” he shouted in Ryan’s face. “Go back to the garage.”

Ryan grabbed Kyle by the arm and yanked him off the porch and back into the thickening snow. “Run,” Myles heard him say over the roaring wind.

Myles raced after them and dared a glance at the garage roof.

He felt his bladder release.

It was up there. It was big and dark. Its thick body covered the entire backside of the roof, crouching. He couldn’t make out any legs, but it had a long neck and was covered in spines with a rack of antlers so massive Myles couldn’t even begin to count all the points. One arm seemed to be reaching out towards him, the tips of its myriad of fingernails shifting with menace.

Then he was tumbling into the garage again, falling against the car, the side door slamming behind him.

“I saw it,” he panted. “I saw it. It’s on the roof.”

“Get in the car,” Ryan commanded.

They all piled into the front seat, huddling and shivering together.

Kyle was crying again. “I’m cold,” he breathed through his mouth, whining.

“Start the door,” Myles said. “We can start the car to get warm.”

“Good idea,” Ryan agreed. “Keys?”

“In the ignition,” Myles noted. “Gramps must have been gonna shovel the drive then warm up the car before going back to get Grammy.”

Ryan reached down to twist the key as they’d seen their grandfather do a million times. Nothing happened. The key turned but the car didn’t start. The engine let out a weak grunt. The gas indicator pointed to E. Ryan tried again, turning the key backwards then forwards. It tried to turn over but only gasped, sputtered, and gave up.

Outside, winter’s demon screamed and thrashed and tore at the shingles, determined to be let in.

The boys shrank down in the front seat.

A sudden and heavy avalanche of snow covered the windshield. Wood cracked and splintered. Nails shrieked as they were pulled out of place.

The last thing Myles remembered seeing was an arm as big around as a bedpost reaching towards them; its fingers, way more than ten, stretched forwards, shattered the windshield, and clawed against his face.

Myles’ scream joined those of his brothers.


Bright, colorful lights pulsed across the garage’s back wall, making the tools twinkle with what might have been Christmas cheer under different circumstances.

“Hello? Boys? Mr. Phillips?” Officer Graham eased his way into the garage. This didn’t look good. The hard knot in his stomach grew even tighter when he saw the body of Albert Phillips propped up next to the car. There was no point in taking a pulse. The old man’s a ghastly blue-gray skin told him all he needed to know.

Officer Graham stepped over the man’s extended legs with a shudder. The massive tree had sliced through the garage roof with ease, crushing the car beneath it as if the vehicle were made of aluminum foil. “Fuck,” he groaned. He didn’t want to look inside, but he had to.

The officer barely made it out of the garage before his Christmas dinner hurled up and out of his throat.


“Mr. and Mrs. Phillips both had heart attacks,” the coroner would report several days later. “He must have been trying to get her to a hospital but shoveling all that snow got the better of him.”

“Christ,” Officer Graham twisted his gloves in his fists. “What about the kids?”

“Well, it wasn’t the tree that killed the boys, at least not entirely,” the doctor said. “They couldn’t get out of the car once the tree fell on it. Poor kids. They must have been terrified.”

“Why do you suppose they were out there at all?” his assistant asked. “It doesn’t make sense the old man would have them out there in the car like that. And why not just call for help?”

“Phone lines may have already been down by then,” the police officer replied.

The medical examiner shook his head and shrugged. “We’ll probably never know, but it was definitely hypothermia that did them in, simple as that.”

“It was damn cold that night,” Graham shivered, remembering the icy bite of the wind.

The medical man frowned. “Damn cold.”





Ten Classic Foods Born In Texas

We haven’t been to my husband’s home state of Texas since 2018, which if far too long to have been away. People fly off moving motorcycles, pandemics strike, and other bits of life just gets in the way of travel sometimes. Happily, we’ll be heading out to the Great American Southwest in less than a week and we’ll be able to enjoy some of the things Texas is famous for once again.

Texas is known for a lot of things, like The Alamo and Big Bend National Park; the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Space Center, Luckenbach, and Austin City Limits; or maybe you’re more The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, From Dusk To Dawn, and The Town That Dreaded Sundown type like I am. But when you think of food, Texas probably isn’t the first place your mind goes beyond a bowl of chili or some mighty fine Tex-Mex.

Well, my friends, it’s time we fixed that. After a bit of research into the matter, I’ve come up with Ten Texas Foods, that are big on flavor and most of which you’ve probably heard of, if not eaten, without even knowing it was born in the Lone Star State. So, have a seat at the table, tuck your napkin under your chin, and grab a plate (cutlery optional), and let’s see what Texas has to offer.

Ten Classic Foods Born In Texas

Chili Con Carne : Called a ‘stew’ but bearing the ingredients and general description of what is now known as chili con carne, this dish entered the Texas food lexicon as early as 1828 and is believed to have been first created in San Antonio. The first modern-day chili cook-off was held in October of 1952 at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. Until just recently it was pretty much given as gospel that the first chili cook-off was held at Terlingua, Texas in 1967. Having been to Terlingua while this event is going on, believe you me, the event is crazy popular, first chili cook-off location or not – and don’t forget to stay for the Dia de los Muertos celebration while your there, too.

Sausage Kolaches (that are actually Klobasneks): Kolaches arrived in Texas along with the tens of thousands of Czech immigrants (who came mostly from the Moravia district) and entered the state through the Port of Galveston in the 1850s through early 1900s. Over time, the traditional flat, fruit topped pastry better known by most as a danish, transformed into what Texans still call a kolache though in fact, it’s actually a sausage klobasneks that resemble pigs-in-a-blanket. I make these regularly for my husband’s lunch using Pilsbury buttermilk biscuit dough as opposed to the traditional bread-style dough, but I’ve not gotten any complaints.

Chicken Fried Steak : Many sources attribute this dish’s development to German and Austrian immigrants to Texas in the late 19th century or as late as 1911. Lamesa, TX claims to be the birthplace of chicken fried steak and hosts an annual celebration accordingly.

Frito Pie : This dish has two possible origins. The earlier story claims it was created by Daisy Dollin of San Antonio in the 1930s. Sante Fe, NM claims the creation was first made there in the 1960s. Either way, Fritos were invented in Texas by Doolin’s son, Charles, and the dish was made popular at Texas high school stadium concession stands. I have to admit, the first time my husband mentioned this dish to me, I was very confused. As a Yankee, a pie to me is, well, in a pie dish with a crust, filled with fruit, and baked in an oven. This ain’t that but it sure is tasty!

King Ranch Casserole: Origins are unclear, but the dish is named after the King Ranch in Kingsville, TX – reported to be the largest ranch in the world.  The most likely recipe for this Texas staple is a housewife from nearby Robstown, TX who entered the dish in a Campbell’s Recipe Cook-off popular during the 1950s. I have a hand-written recipe given to me by my mother-in-law that I’ve yet to make myself, but it’s darn good and I’m hoping she’ll make it for dinner while we’re visiting in the next couple of weeks.

Fajitas : Originated by Spanish ranch hands working in south and west Texas. In 1969 in Boerne, TX a man wished to enter a food festival and sell tacos. However, the rules stated no two stalls could sell the same food item, so he came up with the term ‘fajita’ to describe his dish made with skirt steak. By the early 1970s the dish was very popular in San Antonio, Houston, and Austin.

Pecan Pie : Declared the official dessert of Texas in 2013, pecan pie is by no means exclusive to Texas, however, the official state tree is the Pecan as well as the state’s official nut. Traditionally, Karo brand corn syrup is the sweetener used for this recipe. The earliest known written recipe dates back to 1886.

Dr. Pepper : This cola was born and raised in Waco, Texas in 1885. Charles Alderton, a pharmacist, invented the carbonated soft drink at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store at the soda fountain. In 1891 the Artesian Mfg. & Bottle Company became the Dr Pepper Company and in 1904 the beverage was introduced to 20 million people at the World’s Fair Expo in St. Louis. As a life-long fan of Dr. Pepper – it’s the only cola I like – I had to see the original Dr. Pepper plant during my first trip to Texas in 2013. I even enjoy it served hot as was suggested during our tour.

Corn Dogs : You can thank those German immigrants of the 1920s for this tasty Texas treat. It first appeared at the 1938 Texas State Fair where the German vendors rolled sausages in cornbread batter and deep fried it. To make it easy to eat, they put it all on a stick and called it a “Corny Dog”.

Ruby Red Grapefruit : Originally discovered in South Texas as a mutation of a white grapefruit imported from Barbados where it had accidentally been cross bred oranges with shaddock or pomelo’s from Asia. Dr. Richard Hensz of Texas A&M would then isolate the sweeter, redder strain which is what we know today as the Ruby Red. The first grapefruit patent ever was granted to the Ruby Red in 1929.

So, there you have it, Ten Classic Foods Born In Texas and some of my favorites to boot! I hope you’ve enjoyed this little culinary trip around the Lone Star State. Main dishes, snacks, desserts, and beverages! The next time you enjoy that sizzling skillet of fajitas or a yummy corn dog, and wash it all down with a icy cold Dr. Pepper – you can thank Texas!

Their Stories Carved In Stone

Going on a vacation as an adult is a lot different than going on one as a kid. My family went on a lot of them. Florida, mostly, but also Niagara Falls. My first time on an airplane was to visit my grandfather in Illinois and the infamous lakeside guest house that became surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of frogs each and every night. One of my most memorable summer vacations, however, had nothing to do with staying in hotels or enjoying amusement parks, but it did involve going to one of my favorite places – the local cemetery. Their Stories Carved In Stone first appeared in the Tioga County Courier, Owego, NY – Oct. 6, 2010.

Their Stories Carved In Stone

“What did you do over summer vacation?”

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

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

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

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

My serious research soon began.

In North America the earliest markers erected were generally unrefined and simple. The inscriptions, if indeed they bore an inscription at all originally, have in many instances eroded away or crumbled off. These stones are generally from what is called the Federalist Period, 1789-1850, and sometimes offer us little information. But even the crudest markers can tell us a great deal about the history of the region during this time. One of the most popular symbols displayed prior to 1850 is the funerary urn. These appear with great regularity on 19th century gravestones in all settled areas of the United States and Canada. The urn was a well-understood symbol of death and the mortality of the body. Quite often the urn was accompanied by the Tree of Life (not to be confused with the Weeping Willow symbol that will be explained later). This provided a sacred message for the living; although the individual had perished, their remains would provide the seed for new life. When this same tree appears to be growing out of the urn it expresses the Western religious understanding of the hope of everlasting life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did you do over your summer?

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


Vacations, those all too brief outings and breaks we take to escape the hum drum, work-a-day life. I’m taking a spring vacation this year. It started Friday. With the weather still being cold and wet, it’s unlikely to include any cemetery visits, but you never know. We do plan on getting away from the house for a couple of days which will be nice. Maybe I’ll even finish a writing project this week.

Over the past month, a lot of time has been spent on book covers. All the Barnesville books have been rebranded. No progress to speak of has been made on what will be the fifth Barnesville Mystery. It’s not abandoned by any means, and I hope some of you are looking forward to “Death at the Devil’s Elbow”, another Murder-mystery featuring Nell, Beth, Angie, and crows whenever it is I get my writing butt in gear and finish it. I did make some nifty new trailers for “Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon” and “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of“, though, so, that’s something new to see.

We’ve finished updating the covers for “No Rest For The Wicked” and “Dark Hollow Road”, too. Next will be “The Inheritance” which I am currently doing another quick edit on. With any luck at all, the week of vacation that lies ahead won’t be all about home improvement projects, but will also see this writing project nearing completion, too. While I’m on the subject of “No Rest For The Wicked”, check out this slick new Book Trailer.

Once that’s done, I’ll put more effort into the collection of fairy tales I’ve been working on since 2005. No, that’s not a typo! I wrote my first twisted fairy tale in 2005 and I finally have enough to put into a book. “Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales” is close to becoming a thing at long last.

Bill The Worm’s latest “Bill The Worm Counts To Ten“, is selling reasonably well. I’ve been considering putting together a coloring and activity book. But haven’t taken any steps at this time to actually do so. He’s recently found homes in a couple of local libraries, too. I’ve also been puttering away on a non-Bill the Worm Children’s book. Top secret for right now, because I’m so darn slow and don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up too high until it’s something more concrete.


My friend Jay Bower has a new trilogy out, Dead Blood. I haven’t gotten to read it yet, but have book one on the TBR pile. Vampires and zombies, y’all! My one regret is that I didn’t come up with this amazing idea first!

Another local author and friend, C.W. Briar recently released a collection of short stories titled, “Sticks and Stones: Tales of Childhood Horror”.  I’m eager to take a little trip back into childhood with that one – or am I?

Not long ago, I began a journey down the long and dusty trail of the Splatter Western genre by reading “The Magpie Coffin” by Wile E. Young. Splatter Western is pretty much self-explanatory. Lots of blood and guts and weirdness combined with those old Westerns your grandpa used to read. I bought the first three in the series put out by Death’s Head Press and now that “The Magpie Coffin” is behind me – hopefully way, way behind me, I’m eager to get into “Hunger on the Chisholm Trail” by E. Emmembach.


Bleeding Page Podcast featuring Chad Lutzke and Jason Brant, released three more Horror author interviews over the past month, Kealan Patrick Burke, Michealbrent Collings, and Zach Bohannon.

Monster Men with Jack Campisi and Hunter Shea did a great show on Janine Pipe’s recent book release, “Sausages : The Making of Dog Soldiers”.

Mr. Ballen started creeping me out this past week with his story telling podcast based on real life experiences and events.



Board Games; Gateway to the Paranormal

Like most kids growing up before the days of cell phones and Netflix and decent home video game consoles – I played a lot of board games with my family and friends. In fact, one neighbor and I probably played board games more than we played outside. It was our jam and I loved spending that hour or two at her house a couple nights a week competing at Boggle or whatever it was she chose that night. It was always fun spending time with her no matter what antics we got up to. I miss those days immensely.

At my house, we had dozens of board games to choose from. Monopoly was always big, as was Don’t Break The Ice and Operation. My brother and I played a ton of Battleship. There were also the more complicated ones that required careful setup and pre-planning, things like Mouse Trap, for instance. For Ice Cube you had to plan the night before because your playing piece was an actual piece of ice! Although Clue probably remains my favorite board game of all time, my favorite build-it-before-you-can play-it game was always Which Witch. Perhaps a theme was beginning to form.

In 1979 a new board game would enter my life compliments of my maternal grandmother, who not only bought me the game but taught me how to play it. It would open a whole new world and start me down a path I was already beginning to have a keen interest in. It’s a game that most would argue, myself included, isn’t a game at all and it’s not something you play in the normal way.

It was my 14th birthday, and I was in Florida staying with my grandparents over the winter break from school. Grandma decided to take me shopping for a birthday present and as we walked into the department store, she told me to go and pick out whatever I wanted. Always an avid reader, I headed over to the book section hoping they would have something good. I don’t remember exactly what I chose, but I do remember locating my grandmother with my hands full of horror books. She scowled and shook her head. “Oh, you don’t want those,” she said disapprovingly. My heart sank. She’d said anything I wanted. This is what I wanted. “Let me show you what you want.”

Disheartened, I sighed and followed her to the toy section then to the board games (internal groan). Grandma selected a game and handed it to me. “This is what you want.” It was William Fuld’s Mystifying Oracle, a Ouija Board. She smiled and winked. “You can get the books, too.”

After dinner that night, Grandma got the board out of its box. “Let me show you how this works,” she told me. We placed it on a footstool in the living room. I sat on the floor while Grandma perched on the edge of the sofa. Grampa, mind you, had no comments on any of this, at least not verbal ones I can remember. He did shake his head and roll his eyes at least once, though. It was clear where he stood on the matter.

And so began my first lesson on the ways of the Ouija. I can’t tell you details, what was asked or even if we had any success in the matter. What I can say is that to the best of my memory, those few days in Florida were the only times I ever used the Ouija with her. I regret this beyond words!

Why weren’t there more sessions? Why didn’t I take my board to her during the summer months when they lived right next door and ask her to use it with me? Why didn’t I ask her more about her motives for getting me a Ouija board in the first place? There are so many questions and so few answers about who Grandma was and what she believed.

Grandma was a kindly, Christian woman who read romance novels, canned her own vegetables, and crotched. She was short and round, loved to laugh, and wasn’t afraid to have a cold beer or two or three now and then. She certainly was not someone interested in vampires and witches and all the spooky things I was – except for the ghosts.

I know she believed in ghosts as she told me a couple of firsthand experiences she’d had. I also know she visited the Spiritualist camp located in Freeville, New York which is less than twenty miles from where I grew up and only thirty miles from where I live now. I remember going there with her at least once during the day and seeing all the guest cabins and the church. The camp, or at least the church, still exists today and is now known as the Temple of Truth Church. My mother also remembers visiting the camp when she was younger. Back then I never put together that Spiritualism is a form of Christianity. It would take a very long time before I came to understand that.

As for that Ouija board, I’m sure you’ve heard the Horror stories out there, but those tales are not like mine at all. It got a lot of use among myself and many, many friends; Sherry, DeeDee, Diana, Candy, and others and I would all use it. I’d go on to use it with my first husband on nearly a weekly basis for many, many years. I even used it alone on numerous occasions. None of us ever became possessed by anything evil (or good, for that matter). The planchette never went crazy or flew across the room stabbing itself into the opposite wall. No demons were raised. No portals to Hell, fiery or otherwise, were ever opened. At least not that I am aware of.

It was a tool and apparently my grandmother taught me well enough during those first few sessions to respect it like any other tool. Use it wisely, use it carefully, and nobody will get hurt. Using the Ouija took me down some pretty strange paths populated with spirit guides, non-human entities, and random folks who just wanted to have a word or two with us. Going into details beyond that would be far too long and complex to get into here nor do I want to.

I still have that Ouija board. It’s tucked in with all my other board games and, sadly, hasn’t been used in close to twenty years. I should get it out again one of these days. Maybe for Grandma’s birthday this month. I’ve never tried to contact her on it. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could reach her on her birthday with the very same board she bought me on mine all those years ago?

As most writers do, I have incorporated a lot of myself, events, and people of my past into my work. As a Horror writer, this has made for some interesting fictionalizations of things that really happened to me or to people I know well. The greatest amount of this practice can be seen in The Barnesville Chronicles. So far, this series contains three distinct stories told through four books.

Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon, originally titled Blood of the Scarecrow and published in 2013 by My Green Publisher, was re-released by Ardent Creations in 2016. In this Murder-mystery with strong Horror overtones, we are confronted immediately by a ghastly death. The body of a local elderly man is found crushed beneath a headstone in the town cemetery. Though the kids of the town tended to fear the deceased due to his eccentric ways, he had no known enemies, certainly nobody wanted him dead, and therefore, law enforcement deems it accidental. However, upon closer examination, a clerk, Angela Jennings, who works for the lead investigator and who grew up in Barnesville, where the man also lived and died, begins to suspect something is amiss.

The character of Angie was vaguely based on the daughter of a friend of mine when I was growing up and with whom I used the Ouija board many, many times. Angie’s name is a combination of my Ouija board-gifting grandmother and my friend’s daughter, name wise as well as some of her interests. Angie also plays a major role in That’s What Shadows Are Made Of, the following title.

Although, to date, none of my characters have dragged out a Ouija board and tried their hand at communicating with the dead through it, rumor has it that something of that sort may be happening in the next Barnesville Chronicle, Death at the Devil’s Elbow which has been in progress for far too long, another murder-mystery infused with a heaping helping of the paranormal, Horror, and a real, allegedly haunted location called, that’s right, The Devil’s Elbow, that I grew up hearing stories about all my life! Ah, the weirdness of my childhood.

My first Horror-related release since The Inheritance back in 2020 is making some headway. Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales is being put through its paces with a proofreader and if everything runs smoothly, I’m hoping to have that out to you all this fall. It’s a collection of seven twisted fairy tales, 200 pages long, that I’ve been writing since 2005. I’m not a big writer of short stories and usually only write them as they come to me, and certainly not all of them are fairy tale-based. But, after all this time, I’ve finally managed to finish the final two last year and am looking forward to sharing them with you all soon. Stay tuned for a cover reveal soon and then a release date around late August or early September.

And finally, I am happy to announce that my next Children’s book, Bill The Worm Counts To Ten is scheduled for release March 21.

Here’s a link to the trailer to whet your appetite.


Speaking of Ouija boards and seances and the like, you might enjoy The Big Seance Podcast featuring Patrick Keller. New episodes are put up roughly twice a month and feature all manner of paranormal discourse, news, and interviews. Give it a listen. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest.

Another very fun podcast I’ve recently found is Witches, Magic, Murder, & Mystery. I started listening to it on Spotify but have since found it on YouTube. Kara and Meagan are big fans of True Crime and are a riot to listen to. They never fail to make me laugh while telling me one creepy, weird, demented story after another.

If you’d rather read, I’d like to suggest The Apparitionists by Peter Manseau. It’s non-fiction and discusses the history of Spirit Photography as seen through the lens of probably the most famous (or maybe infamous would be a better term in this case) of them all, William Mumler.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll chat with you again next month about a topic my dad got me interested in – tombstone iconography! Until then – stay safe, stay healthy, & stay spooky!

Playing The Numbers; Or Are They Playing Me?

No, I haven’t taken up gambling or blowing all my hard-earned money on lottery tickets. But I have been seeing a lot of number sequences. 222, 333, 555. I keep seeing these kinds of numbers, mostly on digital clocks, and not just now and then. Over the past three or four months, since around October 2021, this has been happening on a daily basis, several times a day. Being the kind of person I am, I wondered, “What does it mean?”

I don’t believe in coincidence, so when odd things like this happen and I actually notice, I tend to look for some kind of reason for it, especially when it happens so frequently. And being as I’m interested in numerology – despite sucking at math – my first thoughts went in that direction. In all the years I’ve read about and studied these sorts of things, I’d never come across this particular topic. Was it even a thing? Of course, the Interwebz has plenty of ideas on the concept, both magically and scientifically.

Let’s start with the much more fun magical-spiritual aspects of the phenomenon. I couldn’t find any one term used for the it but the concept of ‘spiritual synchronicity’ came up a lot as did “angel numbers” and “master numbers”. I’m going to call it ‘Numeric Synchronicity’ just for ease of reference.

Once I learned it indeed IS a thing, I selected the three numbers I was seeing the most, 222, 333, and 555 before I went any deeper. I didn’t want to be influenced by what I might find when picking the number that might have the most significance to anything going on in my life. I’m still wary of all of it, mind you. These interpretations, like horoscopes, are often written in such a way as to apply to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Everyone can relate. It all has meaning to something in your life if you read in the right way. I was seeing 555 most frequently followed by 333 and 222 the least. And as any numerologist worth their salt will be quick to point out, 333 + 222 = 555. So, off I went, in quest of the meaning, or at the very least, to have a bit of fun on this little numeric adventure.

555 could not have struck home any harder. From the Law of Attraction website: “If you are seeing 555 everywhere, then there is momentum to move in a new direction. Make sure you are looking for new opportunities at this time and are ready to seize them when they come your way. Do not be afraid of change. Do not try to fight it. It is YOUR time. It is time to move forward with new experiences.” Okay, well, that’s pretty spot on, but what do OTHER ‘authorities’ on the matter say. I tried a different website for a meaning. I went to Times of India next. “You’re looking forward to the next phase or chapter of your life. It simply means that change is inevitable and that embracing it will only make things easier and more adventurous. Do not hold yourself back and welcome every new opportunity that passes your way.” And being as I was taught to cross reference at least three different sources, I found myself over at a place called AstroStyle and was told this. The headline for 5:55 reads, “Change is afoot,” followed by, “Change is in the air when you see 5:55. Like a fast moving current or a gentle breeze, there is momentum to move in a new direction. There was more, but you get the theme here.

Alrighty then! Embrace that change that’s on the brink of occurring. I get it. I’m working on it. It’s not easy. It won’t be easy but I’m looking forward to it despite my fears and worries and doubts. But these aren’t exactly the most scientific of articles. Granted, Numerology itself isn’t considered scientific by a lot of people. So, if you’re more of the scientific mind and find all this Numeric Synchronicity just a bunch of foolish hokum, the phenomenon could also be The Reticular Activating System or RAS.

From the Science Direct website, we get this definition, “The reticular activating system (RAS) is a network of neurons located in the brain stem that project anteriorly to the hypothalamus to mediate behavior, as well as both posteriorly to the thalamus and directly to the cortex for activation of awake, desynchronized cortical EEG patterns.” Well, that’s a headscratcher, isn’t it? What? Moving on I looked for something a bit less scientifically worded. Study dot com had this to say, “The RAS has a very important role: it’s the gatekeeper of information that is let into the conscious mind. This little bit of brain matter is responsible for filtering the massive amounts of information your sensory organs are constantly throwing at it and selecting the ones that are most important for your conscious mind to pay attention to.” Hm. Interesting, interesting. That makes a bit more sense. So, is my brain’s RAS trying to draw my attention to 555 or away from it? I still wasn’t sure. I moved on to randomly selected website number three, The Movement Paradigm in hopes of more data. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for but it certainly proved interesting. The article on RAS there started out with, “Do you want to unlock the power of extreme focus and be able to use your mental energy to do whatever you want? Well, let’s start by waking up the reticular activating system of your brain.” It then gave this example that I think most of us can relate to in some way. “Have you ever decided to buy a car, or if you’ve bought a car and you’ve picked a certain color and now you see that everywhere? When I decided that I wanted a Jeep, I began to see Jeeps everywhere. My Reticular Activating System has brought to my attention, to my consciousness, that all these Jeeps were around all along, but now, I am noticing them. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a bundle of neurons located inside of the Reticular Formation, which is in the brain stem. This is the most primitive part of our brain. The Reticular Formation is responsible for cardiovascular function, pain perception, sleep cycle, consciousness, and habituation, which is directly linked to the Reticular Activating System.”

The article goes on to give tips on what is basically a much more belief-based practice than anything to do with scientific reasoning and one I am well familiar with; visualize and make manifest the things you want in life through meditation and be aware of and focus your consciousness on those things. If you want Car X, then focus, visualize, and manifest Car X in your brain, make it real in your RAS and it will become real in the physical world. Or as I know it as, “Thoughts become things.”

Through all this research, the question still remains, what, if anything, does it mean? Whether it’s merely neurons located in my brain stem projecting anteriorly to the hypothalamus or the pseudoscientific belief in a mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events, I don’t think it really matters. What matters is that both these concepts give me some level of comfort and confidence in the future and those major life changes I have ahead of me. Each time I see a 222 or a 333 or a 555, the feeling that I’m doing the right thing and on the right path fills me with a sense of calm, that little boost of confidence I need.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences on this phenomenon in the comments.

Speaking of changes, I haven’t put out a substantial Horror release since September 2020 when my last novel, The Inheritance: A Texas Gothic Horror, came out. This is about to change. Sales and reviews for The Inheritance have been slow, but I hope as we have now gotten settled into 2022, you’ll see fit to check it out and read about the adventures of twins Choice and Liberty Hill as they set out into the West Texas desert to try and inherit the family estate and $33 million. Of course, nothing is that easy. They’ve got several rather unpleasant obstacles to deal with, least of which involves a band of outlaw Texas bikers known as The Widow Makers.

2021 wasn’t completely devoid of Horror output from me. I was blessed to be included in an anthology put out by Crimson Pinnacle Press titled Twisted Legends: An Urban Legend Anthology. The anthology contains other notable authors such as Jason Myers, RJ Roles, Ruthann Jagge, and Thomas R. Clark.

In 2005 I wrote my first twisted fairytale, a little something called Good Spider, Bad Spider. In early January 2022, I finished my seventh and am planning on releasing the short story collection, Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales at some point this year. Horror has returned, but I’ve also added a bit of sci-fi, a dribble of fantasy, and a dab of futuristic dystopia to the menu. Fun stuff. You can read one of the included stories, Cinnamon & Cyanide, right here on my website for FREE!

The return of writing Horror does not by any means mean that The Many Adventures of Bill The Worm will be going to the wayside. Bill The Worm is here to stay. He’s a busy, busy worm and a new release, Bill The Worm Counts To Ten, will be happening this Spring! Bill is already trying to decide which of his many adventures he’s going to share with me next. Additionally, he has a brand-new website to pass the word on to his friends about when these stories are ready to be shared! Be sure and visit Bill The Worm’s website to stay up-to-date along with liking and following his Facebook page, Friends of Bill The Worm.

Last but not least, if you’re old like me or love that classic rock, I put up Part 2 of My Kiss Kollection video series over on YouTube yesterday. Check it out.

This wraps things up this month! I hope you all are having a good year so far and staying safe and healthy in a world that sometimes feels like Hell in a hand basket! We’ll get through this wiser and hopefully with a lot more gratitude for all that we have.