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.

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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.

NEWS ON OTHERS:

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.

PODCASTS I’M LISTENING TO:

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.

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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.

Vacation, Worms, Fairy Tales & Just A Little KISS

When last we met (back in July – six months ago), I was babbling about My UFO Encounter that happened over thirty years ago! Why, oh, why can’t I hunker down and get out a monthly blog post? Maybe because I’ve never been a good one at ‘on-demand’ writing.

August saw Jim and I finally making that long-awaited trip to Boston, Massachusetts and surrounding locations as part of our 5th Wedding Anniversary vacation. This excursion was supposed to happen in 2019. Alas, one motorcycle wreck, surgeries, and that lovely pandemic we’ve all grown to know and hate, put the brakes on that for a while. Then along came Hurricane Henri who was barreling in on the east coast on the same day we’d planned to start the 6-hour drive. We postponed an additional day but were determined to make this trip happen. We’d waited long enough and now, fully-vaxxed, we hit the road! Through wind and rain and ungodly heat & humidity, we arrived and made the best of it. Jim was able to see the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor and Battleship Cove in Fall River. I was thrilled to visit Danvers & the homestead of Rebecca Towne Nurse, my 7x great aunt who was one of the 19 executed under charges of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials followed by the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River a couple days later. There were bonus side trips to Concord and Walden Pond, a nice dinner out with my sister, and even a down day where we went to the movies and did as little travel as possible.

September brought the release of my third Children’s book, Bill, The Worm Who Loved Halloween and my mom’s 78th birthday!

As in previous recent years when October rolled around, my heart wasn’t much into Halloween as it always used to be. It’s just not the same without all the family & friends I used to have to set up an entire yard and porch display for my favorite holiday. Although 2020, oddly enough, gave me renewed hope, with more trick-or-treaters than I’d seen here in years – it wasn’t until the last minute that I put up a few decorations this year, donned a costume, and skulked around on the front porch for what may be the final time at this house. We were out of candy in an hour! I was stunned and totally unprepared for so many visitors.

Along with our Boston vacation, the replacing of our garage doors had also been delayed for two years but at long last – the new doors arrived in November and what a huge difference they make in the curb appeal of the house! Thanksgiving was celebrated here at our place with the usual guests – my parents, kids, and Jim and I. Mind you, nearly two weeks prior both my parents tested positive for Covid and were barely out of quarantine when feasting day arrived. My brother had the sense to avoid the gathering. The County Health Department gave them the ALL CLEAR without retesting to make sure they were actually negative. We’ll never know for sure if it was from them or another source but a week later my daughter tested positive and was sicker than a dog for almost a week. Her dad, whom she’d seen the Sunday after Thanksgiving, ended up in the hospital for a week shortly after with Covid. Jim, myself, and my son all remained healthy with negative test results. Both my daughter and her dad have since recovered from the worst of it and are on the mend. And, believe it or not, Children’s book #4, Bill The Worm Gets A Pet, hit the Amazon store in time for Christmas orders.

Mixed in with all this, I’ve been working on a collection of short stories based off those stories we all grew up with, fairy tales. I’d written my first twisted fairy tale in 2005 called Good Spider, Bad Spider – and was really happy with how it turned out. I’d wanted to write one ever since discovering the works of Tanith Lee and her book Red As Blood while I was still in high school. With the successful writing of Good Spider, Bad Spider, I slowly began adding more fairy tale-inspired short stories all while working on novels! You can read one of them for free over on my website – Cinnamon & Cyanide. Shortly before Christmas I got the idea for the last one and have put a pretty good dent in it with high hopes of completing the first draft within the next week or two. I fully expect to release the six-story collection, Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales, in 2022 along with, yep, another Bill The Worm book! You can find the entire collection at Bill The Worm’s Brand New Website!

Christmas Eve was special. For the first time in many, many years both kids were here with Jim and I to spend a few hours together gobbling down nachos and watching The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. I may have teared up a little bit during a private moment because it felt so nice to have them here again like that. Gift giving was minimal this year and everyone seemed just fine with that. I know I sure was. I honestly don’t want stuff. I don’t need stuff – well, other than books, of course, which I got two of for my birthday along with a nice Mexican dinner out! We ended 2021 with a trip to the movie theater to see Nightmare Alley. Can’t say it was anything that either of us expected and it wasn’t a terrible movie at all, but yeah. I was expecting Horror or even a Thriller. I’m not sure what it’s classified as but we had fun getting out of the house for a few hours and coming home to a coffee table full of a variety of cheese, meats, crackers, and pickled veggies. We didn’t make it until midnight.

Tomorrow it’s back to the day job after ten days off. Not looking forward to that at all. When am I going to have time to work on Part 2 of My KISS Kollection video series? Oh, yeah – here’s a link to Part 1. Fun stuff if you’re into KISS.

With that, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year full of accomplishments and dreams come true. Be well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My UFO Encounter

I’ve believed in a lot of very different things in my lifetime. Some I still believe in, others, not so much. Some of these beliefs would be considered pretty normal, like, you know, believing in God and angels, astrology (that’s normal right?), that the earth is round like a ball, that gravity works, the evolution of animals – including us humans. Other things could be described as weird by your run of the mill ‘man in the street’, New-age things, crystals, ghosts, Ouija boards and Tarot cards, and, of course, aliens and their celestial vehicles, UFOs.

With the recent release of a US Government document pertaining to UFO\UAP and said government’s inability to identify the unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP) in many cases, I thought it was time I release my own official document about the matter and my personal (and shared) experience with what I believe was an extraterrestrial craft.

There was a report in the Binghamton Press back in July 1964 about several UFO sightings in Tioga County, NY, of which my hometown of Berkshire is part of. This vehicle, as reported was, “very bright” and of a pointed nature. It was also described as “quite large” and was seen flying at tree-top level. Those reporting the incident said no sound came from the object, which gave off a blueish-type light. The main witness to the event was an off-duty village police officer. Later, the two officers who had been called in to report the incident also saw, “two objects moving across the sky in an irregular pattern. The deputies stated that these objects did not appear to be any known aircraft.” The craft seen by the off-duty officer sure does sound a lot like the one my friends and I witnessed 25 or so years later – at least its ‘pointed nature’ and ‘no sound’ aspects. There was another much more famous sighting in 1964 that described the craft as egg-shaped. An account of this can be easily found here: 1964 UFO Landing – Gary Wilcox.

Going even further back to 1934, there was another Tioga County incident in which a 6-year-old by the name of Edith saw what she thought at first was a Greyhound bus parked in a cow pasture just outside of Owego, NY near Lounsberry. Her parents and she were returning home on Thanksgiving night of that year after spending the day with her grandparents. Edith’s father pulled the car over at the child’s excitement and both he and Edith got out of the car and saw a, “long, grey and round on the ends but she remembers that the windows weren’t like a regular bus. These windows were darkened and bulbous; she could even see some shadowy forms moving around inside.” Shortly after, an 85-year-old Edith recounted, the object suddenly rose up, hovered briefly over the pasture and, as she put it, “It just melted away.”

It wasn’t until very recently that I had a specific date to go with my personal encounter. For decades I couldn’t remember what year, let alone the specific date, this took place. One would think that in all the decades I’ve been keeping a journal, since 1977, I’d have written this event down, but searching through book after book has revealed nothing, no mention, not a word about it. I knew it was between 1988 and 1994 because I wasn’t living with my parents, I’d moved out in the summer of 1988, nor had I moved to my current home which happened in February 1995. However, thanks to a Facebook message I put out, a swarm of other witnesses stepped forward, publicly and in private DMs to let me know they too had seen this same craft that same night, Saturday, 13 May 1989. One childhood friend even had a newspaper clipping from our local paper, The Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, which was feeble at best when describing what so many of us in my hometown and nearby towns actually saw that night.

It was a warm, Spring night when we saw it. Nobody was wearing a coat or even a light jacket and I remember the leaves on the trees being full and green. It was a cloudy, overcast night, too, as I recall it. Myself, boyfriend, and best friend had been at my parent’s house in Berkshire, NY, a small town about halfway between Ithaca, located at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake and Binghamton, NY. Whatever business or social gathering we’d been taking part in together, most likely wedding plans, we three were walking to our cars, shouting our good nights to my parents who stood on the front porch and saying our goodbyes to my childhood friend, when someone happened to cast their eyes towards the southeastern sky, towards Binghamton, and said, “What’s that?”

The craft was massive, at least as wide as a football field is long, and moving very slowly towards us from above. I’m no good at measuring distances visually, but it was flying low, much lower than any of the more familiar planes I’d ever seen go by. The craft flew directly over our heads at a steady pace in a perfectly straight line. Its triangular shape blocked out the dark clouds high above. A singular light glowed at the underside pointed tip of the vehicle. More lights could be seen along each branch of the V-shaped vessel. Nothing but darkness appeared along the narrow sides. I don’t remember the lights having a color to them, just white. Others have said the front light was red. It was silent. There was no humming sound or buzz, no low-rumbling, no pulsing whir, nothing. Absolutely nothing. Perhaps that was the creepiest part of it all, this lack of sound. We stood there, utterly stunned at what we were all seeing.

Whatever this craft was, it was in no hurry. It passed overhead, continuing in its slow, steady, silent pace towards the northwest, maintaining its same elevation and speed the entire time. We stood and watched as long as we could, five to ten minutes. I’m not sure if the lights went out or if it simply got too far away for us to see them anymore, but eventually it was gone. Once it was out of sight, we all just looked at each other, verifying what we’d witnessed. My parents must have seen it too, but to be honest, I don’t remember them coming down off the porch and into the driveway with us to witness it. Furthermore, neither of them has ever mentioned the event in later years. My friend would later report that when she got home, which was less than a mile’s walk from my parents’ house, that her sister, who lived next door to her, reported to have also seen the craft.

In the days that followed there was a very brief TV news report of the event and the above article in the local paper appeared. That was the last I ever heard any ‘official’ reports on it. Years later people who hadn’t actually been witnesses told me that they’d read it was just some Japanese paper lanterns set aloft, or some said, helicopters flying in formation, to which I call, “Bullshit.” Japanese lanterns don’t fly in formation and helicopters aren’t silent. What we saw was a craft, of this world or another, I don’t know, but still a huge, silent, solid, airship – perhaps even an updated version, the latest model – if you will – of the one spotted all those years prior in 1964 in the same area. If anyone out there reading this also saw this same unknown vehicle flying in the skies between Binghamton and Ithaca, New York in May of 1989, post your story in the comments below, or contact me in a PM if you’d rather not go public with your experience. I’d love to hear about your encounter.

Horror WIP Update!

I’ve not posted about my Horror WIP (Work-In-Progress) in quite some time, mainly because nothing has been happening – in fact, just the opposite.

Let’s start with the premise of what will be Barnesville Chronicle book #5 (I hope). With it, I will be returning to the Murder-Mystery\Horror blend which in and of itself takes a lot longer to write than just straight up Horror. I have to pre-plan a lot. Not only do I have to know who the killer is, their motive, and how the murder was committed; I have to know who all the other suspects are, their motives, alibis, and the secrets they are trying to keep hidden. Plus, add in that Horror element and figure out where our beloved small town librarian and witches coven high priestess, Nell Miller, fits into the plot.

This time around a murder takes place in an abandoned stripper club on a hill just west of Owen known locally as The Devil’s Elbow, a name and place that will ring a bell with those of you who are familiar with the real-life setting that all things Barnesville is based on. Due to the nature of the murder scene, Nell is called in to add her occult-educated expertise to what and who might have committed such a heinous crime. 

Though progress was slow, the story was going along reasonably well. I started it just before Covid-19 appeared and gradually found myself having a hard time focusing on it. My brain didn’t want to deal with Horror, there was enough of that going on in the real world. But, I still needed to create and escape all that. I turned my focus on my first Children’s book, “Bill, The Worm Who Ran Away” instead. It was a godsend! It was released in November 2020. I still wasn’t feeling up to immersing myself back into Horror and had already started a second Bill The Worm book. I did work on the Devil’s Elbow book here and there, but my main focus was keeping things positive and drawing pictures of a happy-go-lucky worm and his friends was a lot more appealing.

Without the focus I needed, the Devil’s Elbow book suffered greatly. Over a year into it and I’d barely gotten 30,000 words done – a mere 15 chapters. There were too many characters, too many perspectives, too much this and that. The plot was going too slow, sometimes it felt like it was going nowhere at all. Scenes felt meaningless. I pushed on knowing I could always go back and fix the mess some of it was once I at least had a first draft done. And then…. Disaster.

While taking some time to save my work in more than one place, I accidentally did a complete overwrite instead of just a mere save. Normally, that wouldn’t have been a problem, except I overwrote\saved a version of the manuscript that was a month old instead of the newest one I’d just been working on. Had I known in the moment what I’d done and how to undo it, it likely could have been rescued, but by the time I realized my error, it was too late. I lost a month-plus of work, five chapters, 1/3 of what had taken me over a year to complete. Devastated is putting it mildly. I’ve not opened the file since. That was almost three months ago. I’ve been working on another Bill the Worm book instead – unable to bring myself to get back into the Horror.

But, over the past week – my brain has been nudging me again. It’s been reworking some of the errors I’d made on that first go. It’s improving what I’d previously screwed up, removing characters, changing scenes and doing all around good things to make the story better. My interest in writing all these new and improved ideas down is growing and I’m hopeful that I’ll be diving back into the dark and gory underbelly of the quaint and quiet surface that makes up another Barnesville Chronicle.

Too Much Stuff, & Then Some

As the time draws near for another chapter of my life to begin, I’ve been doing a lot of sorting through my things. When you’ve lived in the same place and raised two kids in a house the size of mine since 1995, you accumulate a lot of stuff. A lot! When my then-husband and our two kids moved in, we were coming from a single-wide trailer. The rooms in the new house literally echoed with emptiness. Four big bedrooms, a huge living room, dining room, den, kitchen, and bathroom, plus an additional large backroom and a two-car garage holds way more than is really needed and having so much space kind of discourages you from getting rid of a lot of things you probably should.

I read an article last week written by a woman whose son, daughter-in-law, and new baby grand-daughter just moved into a new bigger house. The author had grand ideas of passing on some family heirlooms to her son and his wife. She dove into her attic space and closets, pulled out hidden valuables, and had high hopes of handing down some treasured memories to the next generation. Turns out, the next generation didn’t want much of any of it and certainly not the things she valued the most.

My current husband and I are planning on downsizing very soon. From this big old 1886 home of nearly 3000 square feet to a modern apartment with half the space. Insert panic mode here. Like the author mentioned above, I too have been digging into all the storage spaces, room by room, closet by closet, box by box. Some of the boxes haven’t been opened in at least ten years, some twice that. I’m finding things I’d forgotten even existed. Doing so has brought an important question to mind time after time – why am I keeping this? Do I really need it? If I’d forgotten it existed in the first place, why should I keep it now? Should I keep it for one of my kids?

So far, neither one seems too interested (if at all interested) in the items I personally value. They barely remember their great grandmothers from whom I got most of the larger pieces that mean so much to me. Nobody cares about my international collection of thimbles or the old dolls I grew up playing with on the farm and why should they? Boxes of toys from their childhood? Most of the time they just shrug and say, “Nah.” Neither has children of their own and I’m sure if/when they do, they’ll want new toys and bedding and the like – not their own old hand-me-downs. Do I really need to keep that large plastic storage bin full of Winnie-the-Pooh crib bedding and room decorations? Probably not. But that’s one of the things I’m struggling to part with. My original Winnie the Pooh I got in 1972 at Disneyland? Of course, I’m keeping that! Silly old bear! But the rest? Really? I mean, I could use that bin for something else a whole lot more important like, say – all that KISS memorabilia I have from the late 70s – early 80s; albums, 45s, dolls, concert shirts and programs, Pez dispensers, a Tyvek jacket, belt buckles, necklaces, photo albums, etc. etc. You get the idea.

My desire to downsize started long before the need to really do so. It began with my books, specifically the collection of over 200 vampire novels I once had. I’d read them all, some of them more than once, and crammed them all in a bookcase. I loved those vampire books! Then, for whatever reasons, I didn’t read so many vampire novels anymore. That does not reflect on my love of all things vampire – just found other topics to read, I guess. The books sat and sat, collecting dust and cobwebs year after year. Until one day I made the decision. All but a select few would go – my first (but far from only) copy of Dracula by Bram Stoker would remain, for example. Although I’d part with nearly all the novels over the course of a few weeks, I kept all my research and non-fiction titles. Now, I very seldom keep the books I read, unless they are particularly amazing or are signed by the author – or both. Instead, I donate them to a library or pass them on to someone else. The book collection continues to grow, sans that fevered pitch it once did. Quality over quantity and I’m very happy with that.

I’ve stopped collecting dolls, teapots, teacups and saucers, teddy bears, too. What I have is enough – more than enough – thank you. Going to antique and thrift stores has lost a lot of its charm for the time being. I still love to go, but I am constantly reminding myself while in those places that my goal is to get rid of things – not bring more into the house. (Unless it’s crow and/or raven related then all bets are off … ahem.)

And for as difficult as it is at times, at the end of the day when I look at the three piles I have created: keep, donate, or throw-away, I feel good about my progress. As the saying goes, the best things in life aren’t things. I don’t need all those broken things, the forgotten things, those things that should have seen the inside of a trash bag years ago. Those items don’t make me who I am and though I have enjoyed finding things and remembering moments I had long ago forgotten – I can’t and I won’t keep everything.

I can only hold on to the items that have meant the very most to me and hope that one day when it’s time for my kids to sort through all that I’ve saved, that they’ll find something meaningful to treasure out of it all. That at least some of items I have loved will continue to be loved, that they will make someone smile or, yes, maybe even cry a little too, as the memories long forgotten bubble back to the surface anew. For even as I downsize my physical holdings, my life becomes fuller and richer with memories of what was, acknowledging what’s important in the here and now, and looking forward to what I hope will be.

The Devil, A Worm, & A Crow

As I begin to write this, the rising sun is shining directly in my eyes, but I refuse to cross the room and move the drapes slightly to the left. Why? Because I live in the Northeast United States and haven’t seen much sunshine since November. It seems a sacrilege to close the drapes and block out what I miss so much. It’s March now and I can hear birds chirping this morning instead of cold winds whipping around the corner of the house making the evergreen shrub thrash against the old clapboard siding. The Weather People say it’s supposed to get up to 60F later this week. That should wipe out all but the most stubborn of snow piles, at least until next November rolls around anyway.

The end of February found me going under the knife again – hopefully for the last time ever – to have the hardware taken out of my left clavicle that was put in there back in November of 2019. I’m nine days post-op and ready to get these damned stitches out on March 10th. Despite the discomfort, I can honestly say, it hurts a whole lot less now than it did on the 26th when I went in! And no, the motorcycle still isn’t fixed or fit to drive. Poor thing.

I made some good progress on the next Barnesville Chronicle last month. Death at the Devil’s Elbow is set in Owen and will see the return of everyone’s favorite witchy librarian, Nell Miller and her favorite niece, Angela Jennings Bishop. This time around Nell and Angie are helping investigate the local haunted hot-spot, the Devil’s Elbow, where a grisly and ritualistic murder has taken place. The isolated hilltop location has been home to a variety of failed businesses, the last of which was a stripper club called Naked Truths. Being as the settings for the Barnesville books are all taken directly from the small town and villages around where I grew up, a mere thirty-five miles from where I now sit, this may be the last Barnesville Chronicle written so close to the real-life scene of the crime. The times they are a’changin’ soon – but we’ll talk about that in a later post.

I managed to read two books by female authors in February for Women in Horror Fiction Month, Horror, She Wrote and The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek. You can check out my reviews over on Goodreads. I also wiggled my way into an interview at Rebbie Reviews for those keen on possibly learning more about me than you already do.

Celebrating Women In Horror – Interview with Pamela Morris

My March reading has kicked off with House of Skin by Jonathan Janz. So far, so good. This will be followed by Hunter Shea’s Slash.

March also means spring, though some of our worse snowstorms have been known to strike in March, I’m going to say it’s not going to happen this year and hope for the best. My dad, my grandmother (you know – the one who selected and bought me a Ouija board for my 13th birthday in addition to the vampire books I had initially picked out), and my daughter were all born in March. It’s a good month. Adding to the good things March has going for it, my second Children’s Book, Bill The Worm Meets Carl Crow, was released last week on March 1st.

Bill The Worm Meets Carl Crow : Trailer

I’ve already finished the illustrations for the next Bill the Worm book that comes out in late September of this year. Of course, me being me, I just had to have Bill love Halloween! Bill the Worm has an important decision to make about all that! I’ve also started writing the story for the fourth Bill the Worm book. Once the weather is warmer, I’ll be more in the mood for writing and creating.

Bill the Worm and The Devil are both nudging me in the Writing Wribs equally as hard these days. Should be an interesting battle over the summer! LOL.

A brief blog post to be sure, but it’s better than nothing!

In the meantime, I hope you all are doing well out there, staying safe, staying healthy, and hopefully looking forward to a much more normal year ahead.

My First & Last Political Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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