Movie Review – Christopher Robin (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Book Review – The Taking by Dean Koontz

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

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

H.P. Lovecraft meet H.G. Wells. From day one, page one, I did not want to put this book down, but work and sleep required it in stretches way too long. Told from Molly’s perspective, we are draw minute by minute into the weird and terrifying realm of an alien invasion. They arrive quietly, unseen and unheard, but with alarming efficiency and speed. By the time Molly and her husband and the other residents of Black Lake, California realize things aren’t right, it’s way too late – but, they still have to try. The main body of the story takes place over the course of just barely twenty-four hours and I felt as if I walked with Molly and Neil for every minute of it. Even better, I thought I had a pretty good idea how it was all going to end … I was wrong.

I was gripped. I was compelled. I was anxious and horrified. I was completely and utterly entertained. I loved every aching, ugly, terrified minute of those twenty-four hours. By far, the best Dean Koontz book I’ve read to date and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of his work.

Raven Rating: 5 out of 5 Caws.

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

I’m Writing As Fast As I Can.

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

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

The Witch’s Backbone: Part 1 – The Curse

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

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

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

Because, Spiders for Kindle.

 

 

 

HororTreeLogo  REDCAPEWIHM

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

Screenshot_2019-02-22 BLURB - YouTube

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

Bizarre eBook Review – Dark Hollow Road

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

TWB2_Cover_reduced

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

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

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

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

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

“Ask about the murder.”

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

The Crow Report – The Return

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know my last Crow Report was not a happy one. One of the local murder was found dead in the neighbor’s yards. (Details Here: When Death Comes Cawing). I was devastated by the death and even more so when the rest of the birds did not come back for weeks, then months.

I am happy to report that on New Year’s Eve, three of the five returned! The tears flowed again but this time they were filled of utter joy instead of heartbreak! They didn’t stay long, but there they were, sitting in the pine tree and strutting around in the yard. They’ve come and gone over the past few weeks, each time making a bit more noise and staying a little longer to enjoy the peanuts and cat food.

After a big storm that hit Saturday night and dumped a foot of snow in the area, tossing their food into the yard was rather pointless. The offerings immediately vanished. I decided to try something new. I had two wide planks of wood about a foot wide and 3-4 feet long just sitting around doing nothing by the kitchen porch. Using those, I made a small platform by laying them diagonally between the two railings. Not the biggest landing spot, but better than having to waddle and dig around in the snow, I figured.

It only took a few minutes for the Blue Jays to make good use to it, but Blue Jays are not Crows and without a doubt, I could probably stand out there and the Jays wouldn’t care in the least. The Crows – well, they aren’t so sure about the whole thing. None of them took advantage of the new configuration Sunday. Monday was a different story.

I saved a few pieces of raw bacon from our Sunday morning breakfast along with some boiled Cornish Game Hen giblets – necks, livers, gizzards, etc. That along with the normal peanuts and kibble made for quite the spread. Of course, the Jays came first, nabbing all the peanuts in no time. A Starling showed interest in the kibble, but didn’t linger. Then – quiet. Until about 3:30 when I heard the caw-caw-caw. I dared to peek out.

There they were, SEVEN of them, in the trees, eyeballing the platform.  One flew down to a nearby stump, tipping his head this way and that, taking in the situation. He fluttered over a bit closer on the ground, pushing snow with his tummy then flew up, did a quick survey and headed back to the tree post haste. Others flew in, doing the same. None of them seemed too keen on landing just yet. But, it was clear they knew there was food up there. Finally, one of them took the dare and landed, grabbed something and was gone just as fast.

There was a lot of crow debating after that. More fluttered in, but none landed. This all took place over the span of about half an hour. They all flew off shortly after. It was just starting to get dark so I’m sure they were headed for their roost for the night.

As I won’t be home today, I won’t be able to spy on them when they come by at the usual times. I will be able to see if anything is gone when I get back, though. And you better believe I’ll be checking the platform for tell-tale Crow footprints in the snow.

The End Is Nigh.

The end is nigh.

In less than 18 hours, 2018 will be over. Thanks be to God.

Looking back on what has been for the past 364 days, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed in what I’ve been able to accomplish. Maybe I ask too much of myself. What I consider my best novel to-date, “Dark Hollow Road”, came out this past spring. Yes, I know to complete a novel is considered a huge accomplishment and I’m not saying that it isn’t. I’m super proud of that book, yet I’m still disappointed. Sales have been horrible for all my titles this year – absolutely abysmal – and I think that’s where my mood truly lies. Not in “Dark Hollow Road” specifically, but the overall feeling of not being good enough, yet again. So few sales, even fewer reviews. Artists can be so self deprecating, so full of doubts and insecurities that we often don’t recognize the greatness of what we’ve accomplished. Instead, we look at how we’ve failed. Case in point …

In 2018, I completed Part 2 of The Witch’s Backbone and had all intentions of getting it out there in the fall. Instead, I submitted it with a great deal of encouragement by a fellow writer to a publisher on the threadbare hopes that it, along with Part 1, would be good enough. It wasn’t. Fail.

In 2018, I started to write another book in the Barnesville Chronicles – “312 Seymour Drive”. Twenty chapters or so in, I lost all control of the thing as it spiraled into something I couldn’t give a direction to. My focus was lost. The story is rambling with too much going on and I’ve still no idea how or where to pull it back so I can get on with it.  Fail.

In 2018, after the disaster of 312 Seymour Drive, I decided to finally get my shit together and work on that collection of short stories and poems I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. I had some new short stories floating around. There was one I wrote some 20+ years ago I really wanted to give a spit-shine to. I was super excited about the whole project and was thinking how great it would be to have a little something out before Christmas. Nope, didn’t happen. Oh, it’s done – more or less – I do need to go through a printed copy and edit and was never able to get a cover concept that I really liked, so… there it sits. Fail.

In 2018, one of ‘my’ sweet crows mysteriously died in the neighbor’s yard. We’ve had no real neighbors on that side for about three years due to a house fire. It’s being renovated very, very slowly, so it was nothing anyone did over there. Will never know what happened, but the end result is that the small murder of 5-6 birds that used to come around daily for peanuts and crow chow, has vanished – POOF! – I’ve not seen them since. It’s been three months. I’m told this is typical behavior and to be patient and all sorts of advice from other corvid enthusiasts. So, three years of work and yup – feels like another fail to me.

In 2018, we made an epic journey way out to southwest Texas to be part of the Day of the Dead celebration in Terlingua Ghost Town. I needed to go there as part of my research for yet another book idea. I was inspired beyond my wildest dreams. I took tons of pictures and wrote page after page of notes. I was all gung-ho for weeks after we got back and then … it all came to a screeching halt when a Christmas-themed short story hit me. Which, by the way, I’ve not finished yet, either. Double fail.

In 2018, I did manage to get out ten author interviews and write up some book reviews. I was even interviewed once myself. I watched a few movies, but not as many as I would have liked. I read a lot, too. Recently, I picked up a paintbrush again – something I’ve not done in a good ten years – and completed two small paintings. That’s something, I suppose. I’ve been dubbed ‘Queen of Horror Cults’ by none other than, Monster Man & Final Guy, Horror author Hunter Shea.  Pretty sure nobody else out there can say that. I’ve also managed to keep not just one, but two, succulent gardens not just merely alive, but thriving. That’s pretty mind-blowing if you know my history with houseplants. It’s not good, people. It’s not good at all.

Needless to say, the cons far outweigh the pros when it comes to 2018. I wish I could look back at it all and somehow view it in a more positive light. If I could see it as laying groundwork for the potential greatness of 2019 instead of merely a series of failures, that sure would help.

I know this isn’t the usual upbeat end of year review most people write, but I’m just being honest here. I’d love to end of a happy note, but to quote Eeyore, “We can’t all and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”

The end if nigh.

In less than 18 hours, 2018 will be over. Thanks be to God.

P.S. – After I finished writing this, I went out to the kitchen in search of my missing, now cold, cup of coffee. While I waited the minute it took to heat it back up in the microwave, I went to the window over the sink – and almost immediately found myself in tears. Guess who was out there noshing on the peanuts, crow chow, and bits of leftover Cornish game hen I’d tossed out before I sat down to write? Three of my beloved crows. Yes, I’m taking this as a sign that 2019 will be so much better! 😀

 

Top Ten Reads Of 2018

Top 10 Reads of 2018

Managed to squeeze in nearly 30 books for the 2018 reading season. Now, as the year comes to a close, it’s time to whittle those down to my Top 10. It wasn’t easy. I read a lot of great books, some mediocre ones, and frankly, some crap. We’re going to skip the crap and get right to the good stuff.

Threading_PalmatierNumber 10:
Threading the Needle by Joshua Palmatier –

“Second book in Joshua Palmatier’s epic fantasy trilogy, set in a sprawling city of light and magic fueled by a ley line network.”

These are thick, serious, epic Fantasy tomes, kids, with a somewhat Sci-Fi feel to them – neither of which is really my favored genre. However, Palmatier has a knack for drawing me in and making me forget that. Being such hearty books, Book 2 comes in at 487 pages, there are also a lot of characters which I sometimes had a hard time keeping track of. Josh does get a bit rambling in this series, which is why it didn’t make it higher on the list, but still a compelling series of story lines and characters to move those plots along just fine. Those who are into Fantasy will certainly enjoy this and the other two books – (I’m currently reading Book 3) – along with Palmatier’s other titles and trilogies.

WarTruth_NugentNumber 9:
The War For Truth by Jason J. Nugent –

“The situation grows dire. Queen Anastasia orders the destruction of the Forgotten and turns her attention to the colonies. They must be forced into submission. Her reign depends on it.”

The final book in Jason’s YA The Forgotten Chronicles series wraps up the storyline perfectly. Again, another author who has really helped me to appreciate the Sci-Fi genre in ways I never imagined possible. Though there’s future tech, Jason keeps it simple enough so I don’t get lost in the jargon, and focuses on the characters, their relationships, and their trials and tribulations – as any good book should. This is a YA series, so it may not be for more hardcore readers of the genre, but for me, a novice, I truly enjoyed the ride Nugent took me on with these books.

SkyWoman_JDMoyerNumber 8:
The Sky Woman by J.D. Moyer –

“Car-En, a ringstation anthropologist on her first Earth field assignment, observes a Viking-like village in the Harz mountains. As Car-En secretly observes the Happdal villagers, she begins to see them as more than research subjects (especially Esper, a handsome bowhunter).”

This will round up my 2018 foray into the Sci-Fi genre.
Another great, character driven read mingled with a touch of fantasy. I loved that there was a well-rounded, strong, female lead in this. She really carried the story through. I do have to admit that when it came to the more technological aspects of the book, I did a touch more skimming than I normally do, but I wanted to get back to what was happening on Future Earth! Very well written and the most enjoyable Sci-Fi book I read all year.

SevenMasterpiecesNumber 7:
Seven Masterpieces of Gothic Horror : Clara Reeve, Matthew Lewis, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shelley, Horace Walpole, and Sheridan Le Fanu. –

As a Horror writer, I think it’s important to know from where my preferred genre arose. I’ve been a fan of Poe, Stoker, and Collins for years, but hadn’t gone to the very beginning.  Horace Walpole and Clara Reeve are considered the creators of Gothic Horror, publishing within twenty years of each other, Walpole in 1764 with The Castle of Otranto in 1764 and Reeve in 1778 with The Old English Baron (both included in this anthology). Some of the stories I was less than impressed with, while others really kept me engaged all the way through. I’d consider this essential reading for any fan of Gothic Horror.

mouthdark_waggonerNumber 6:
The Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner –

“Jayce’s 20-year-old daughter, Emory, is missing, lost in a dark, dangerous realm called Shadow that exists alongside our own reality. An enigmatic woman named Nicola guides Jayce through this bizarre world, and together, they search for Emory, facing deadly dog-eaters, crazed killers, homicidal sex toys, and – worst of all – a monstrous being known as the Harvest Man.“

A desperate father’s search for his missing daughter takes him into a bizarre underworld that isn’t too far removed from our own. I loved this book. It’s dark, suspenseful and fast-paced, unique and delightfully original. This one was of those books I went to bed thinking about and woke up eager to dive back into.

Shoel_BrantNumber 5:
Sheol (West of Hell #3) by Jason Brant –

“After escaping the decimated town of Gehenna and the mighty Tartarus River, Karen finds herself trapped in a prison in the city of Sheol. Knowing that an army of the dead is marching across the desert behind her, Karen must find a way to escape the sadistic Evans, and rally the citizens of Sheol for one last stand against an enemy of biblical proportions.”

It’s the Wild West with all the usual dangers plus zombies. LOTS of zombies. I guess this was the year of trilogies for me as this is the final book in Jason’s West of Hell series. Very quick and enjoyable reads – along with a bit of humor tossed in to help lighten the flesh-eating mood. Looking forward to getting into another Brant series next year.

MailOrder_SheaNumber 4:
Mail Order Massacres by Hunter Shea –

“Sea monkeys. 3-D specs. Hypno-coins. Ant farms. Kryptonite rocks. Miniature submarines made from cardboard. All available for a buck or less from the back page of comic books. And we blew our weekly allowance on these rip-offs, only to be disappointed when they turned out to be total crap.”

These three short stories were a riot! Hunter is an ace at injecting humor into the most dreadful and horrific of scenarios. People of a certain age, who grew up reading comic books and longing for those novelty items advertised at the end, will find these especially fun. This book was my husband’s first foray into the demented world of Shea. Hunter twists those innocent days into living nightmares while laughing all the way to the often deadly end.

SecondChild_SaulNumber 3:
Second Child by John Saul –

“This lush, secluded Maine seaside resort is the summer playground of the super rich, but one hundred years ago, something disturbed their play. Horror came to this village. And though no one knows it yet, the horror has never left.”

I read quite a few John Saul books back in my teenage years and this is my second revisit to his writing this year. Though a bit disappointed in the first book, Second Child was a super compelling read. It’s really a YA book and not overly scary, but the weird behaviors of the characters and their circumstances kept my attention like few other books have done in 2018. Once I started, I just had to keep going. I had to know what was going on and how it would all end.

Sharkwater_MeyerNumber 2:
Sharkwater Beach by Tim Meyer –

“Beneath the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the biggest predator on the planet hunts, craving the flesh and blood of every creature it can sink its teeth into.”

You may think you’re reading a book about killer sharks, you may be right – but you’re also very wrong. These are no ordinary ginormous, human-chomping creatures of the deep. Great, gory, sometimes humorous adventure awaits you if you decide to dive into this one. I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to give the twist away but you’re in for a big surprise when you get to it.

creature-coverNumber 1:
Creature by Hunter Shea –

“The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal. But they are not alone.”

Hunter has quickly risen to become one of my favorite modern-day Horror authors. I can’t say enough good things about his work. He tackles ghosts and demons along with a myriad of crytids that want nothing more than to rip out the throats of those who dare seek them out and hunt them down. “Creature” – though written with the same enthusiasm and excellence as Shea’s other books – is different.  The story and characters brought me to tears at the end, literally. The usual Shea humor is held in check. This is serious and I was reeling when I got to the final pages while simultaneously reaching for a box of tissues. AMAZING book. I can’t recommend it and the author enough. READ IT! You’ll have zero regrets.

That wraps it up for this year. I’m already over 150 pages into another Joshua Palmatier novel and I see Jason Brant in the TBR pile for 2019 from here.

Hope you all have a wonderful Holiday season and that the new year fills your life with more good books than bad. Keep it Horror-able, folks!

Planning Adventures.

As I write this Sunday afternoon in December, the SUN IS SHINING! It’s something we haven’t seen much of  in the past few weeks so after this little blurb, I plan on going outside for a bit to enjoy it while it’s there. It’s freakin’ cold for too long and the days are so short this time of year, every drop of sunlight counts to get me through the darkness.

Some of you may be aware of the plans my husband and I have of moving out to Texas after I reach 55. That’s a lot closer than I care to admit. I’d be a liar if I said I’m not scared at the idea at all. Frankly, I’m pretty terrified! I’ve never lived more than thirty miles from the small town I grew up in. My family has been in this area since the late 1700s. My roots are very, very deep in this little pocket of the world and the fear of becoming homesick runs pretty high.  BUT … it’s one of those things in life my Heart tells me I want to experience. I have to try! I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I don’t.

JohnsonCityTX

LBJ Ranch in Johnson City, TX

My first trip was in January 2013 when I bought a one-way ticket to Austin! We did all the tourist things! Visiting the capital building, checking out Luckenbach, Waco, The Dr. Pepper Museum, the Texas Ranger Museum, and me just being amazed it’s not all desert! This was also the year that marked my not-yet-husband moving to New York so we could be together.

SaladoCreekHouse

Salado Creek House, Salado, TX

We went twice in 2014. Once in July then again in October. These were not the happiest of times as my husband’s father was very ill and we were going to see him while we still could. The second trip was actually for the funeral. Despite that, we did our best to keep the trip positive and went out exploring, finding this little gem of an abandoned house by the creek one afternoon.

WSMR

Down there is where my life story began, White Sands, NM

A third trip in 2015 included Oklahoma and New Mexico. This was the dream trip of a lifetime. My dad was in the Army and stationed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico when I was born, but the family moved back east when I was only six months old. Growing up I always talked about going back. I wanted more than just pictures of the place and myself as an infant. I wanted my own memories. In some strange way, I have always thought of the place as being home just as much as where I’ve spent the majority of my life living. Meeting a man who spent all his high school years and then some living there, too, was not a coincidence. So, off we went!

BigBend

In Big Bend National Park

There was a wedding to fund in 2016 which postponed another trip until just this past October-November. Each time I grow to love the landscape more and more. The more wild and desolate and desert-y it is, the more I seem to like it. I’m totally in love with the west Texas desert and were I a rich woman, you’d bet I’d have a home out there. Full time living, maybe not, but a couple months out of the year, you bet!

Terlingua

Terlingua, Texas

What is it about this place that inspires the artist in me so much? Story ideas come to me constantly. I want to set up an art studio and paint! I want to take up basket weaving and try my hand at making pottery. The colors are so vibrant that if I didn’t think it would drive everyone else in the house mad, it would all be bursting at the seams here. It’s already infiltrating my New York home, but I want more!!

And then … The Fear comes rolling in, the thoughts of swapping out the home I’ve always known for the one I dream of.  I don’t know where this journey is taking me, but I know I can’t back away from it. It’s there. It’s nagged me for over fifty years. The adventure is waiting. I need to take it and see what happens despite the terror that wells up inside me every time I think about it. Facing fears in the past has always led me down some pretty awesome paths and once in motion, things were NEVER has scary as I imagined them to be.

And so, as the furnace kicks on to keep away the cold and the sun is still shining, I’m thinking of the warmth and the future and facing another of life’s fears with the promise of dreams coming true. They certainly won’t if I don’t give them a shot, will they? Here’s to the fast-approaching new year and each day that pulls me ever closer to another of my life’s greatest adventures!

Be well, all – or should I say y’all to get myself into the habit?

Author Interview – Brian Rathbone

Twitter’s been a great venue for me to find fellow writers and share our unique senses of humor. One of the funniest I’ve come across is Fantasy author, Brian Rathbone. His quick one-liners always crack me up and made me very curious about the man lurking behind all those dragon jokes. And so, without further delay, here’s what I was able to find out. 

Hi, everybody! I’m Brian and I’m weird but it’s okay. I promise.

Some writers come to writing later in life, almost accidentally, while others have been honing their skills from a very young age. How did your journey as a writer begin? What were some of your favorite books as a child and can you tell me a bit more about your children’s book, “The Silliest Dragon”?

As a kid, I hated reading. It was a forced act lumped in my mind with homework and making my bed—things to avoid at all cost! Then I read a Wrinkle in Time. It was unlike anything else I had read, and I was able to get lost in it. My tastes soon shifted to fantasy and series like Dragonlance, The Belgariad, Incarnations of Immortality, and other requisite fantasy reading of the 1980’s and 1990’s. I knew from that point that I would someday write my own stories, it was something I told my wife of 25 years on our first date, but it took some time and a couple false starts before the magic could happen.

May, 2005, in the Atlanta Airport, I inherently knew my time with my current employer would soon end. I flipped open my laptop and started writing a story I’d been thinking about for 15 years. It took another five years to have any success, and more than a decade to produce the twelve books that currently make up the World of Godsland fantasy series.

SILLY_cover-gpThe Silliest Dragon was also the result of workplace drama. After a meeting that left me so angry I could barely contain myself, I drove home and somehow managed to channel my rage and disgust into a message of hope, laughter, silliness, and love (I really have no idea how or why that works.) My friend Matt Ostrom is the one who really brought The Silliest Dragon to life in two dimensions, three dimensions, and even augmented reality. The 3D printed Silliest Dragon is the first of my characters I can hold in my hand. How cool is that? And the Silliest Dragon AR app lets The Silliest Dragon come to life whenever the camera is aimed at a print copy of the Silliest Dragon.

The little purple guy has become very popular in the India as well as the US, and now he has two more books coming out.

The Silliest Dragon Goes to School
The Silliest Dragon Goes to the Zoo

Speaking of dragons – you Tweet about them a lot! Clearly they are your favorite mythical beast. But, what about unicorns? I hear you spend a great deal of time thinking about them, too. Where do they stand in the Brian Rathbone Universe?

Unicorns are a dangerous subject. Very pointy… In all honesty, I find dragons easier to write in a credible way, although my horse training experience would seem more relevant there than with dragons, but that’s not how it has worked out. I may find a way to work the magical creatures into my fiction at some point, but mixing them with dragons just seems like a vet bill waiting to happen.

My tweets, while inspired by my fiction, have a flavor and personality all their own. When throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, unicorn jokes almost always stick. This is why so many of them end up as short-order cooks in little “hole-in-the-wall” places. It’s just physics.

Setting a mood for a story is one of the most important parts of writing, but what about setting the mood for yourself as you sit down to write? Do you have a special time and place, or maybe some music you like to put on to get your creative juices flowing for a good session?

My process is to walk and work on the scene in my mind until it plays smoothly, taking hand-written notes along the way. I will often listen to classic and progressive rock to set the mood. The Wind Blew Them All Away by Transatlantic is a particular favorite. When scene plays like a movie in my mind, I sit down and try to get the scene to go from my brain, through my fingers, and into keyboard. That never works. I muddle through anyway leaving a trail of typos and errant tildes just for flavor. I then go back through my hand-written notes and make sure I didn’t miss any gems. Repeat this process four to five times per writing day, and I can complete a rough draft in three weeks. I then bask in the glory of being a writer for a week or two before knocking myself back down a few pegs during the editing process.

Despite all the memes that keep screaming at authors to be writing during every waking moment, all occupations require some downtime. When you’re not writing, what activities allow you to relax and regroup?

I’m weird. Have I mentioned that? I haven’t written fiction in three years. When I write, I tend to binge write. I fight and scrape to find dedicated blocks of time where I can concentrate and write more cohesive novels. In some ways, writing fiction is how I regroup from the other things I do, and vice versa. Professionally, I am a technology generalist, programmer, inventor, tinkerer, and computer networking jack-of-all-trades. I’ve written software that manages the manufacturing of sofas, fruit salads, and car mirrors. Sometimes I get them mixed up. If your sofa tastes funny, don’t blame me, it’s closer than it appears.

I also write technical non-fiction, mostly for state and federal agencies regarding the mapping and expansion of broadband internet access in underserved areas. Telling dragon jokes on Twitter is like a vacation from it all, and I don’t get to spend nearly as much time interacting these days as I would like.

When I’m not doing those things, I really enjoy online auto racing—the more realistic the better. I’ve been known to take a car with dragons painted on it to victory lane. You should see the burnouts!

Godsland-Bundle-webI know there must be several works in progress going on. Can you tell me what’s up next for you and about any recent releases? Where can people learn more about your work?

I’m so excited to begin the fourth trilogy in the main Godsland story line. This trilogy will complete the primary story line. I also have a sequel to Dragon Airways to write, and I have an idea I’ve been honing for a couple years now for a stand-alone fantasy novel that is more suitable for traditional publication. While I haven’t written any fiction for years, I have continued to hone the characters and stories in my mind. It’s always fun when I get to brain dump a nearly completed novel.

Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share a bit of yourself with my readers and me.

Thanks to you and your readers for playing along.

Brian is stalkable on Twitter as Fantasy Author @BrianRathbone. You can find Brian’s work on his website www.brianrathbone.com or visit his Google Play Store.

Book Review – “Creature” by Hunter Shea (2018) Flame Tree Press

I started reading Shea’s work several years ago and have been Hooked On Hunter ever since. From ghost stories to crazy, blood-thirsty cryptids, he packs it all into a fast-paced read that I don’t seem able to get enough of. But, I’d hear that if you’re a fan of Shea’s monster books, you’re in for something very different with “Creature” – and you won’t be disappointed.

Andrew Woodson rents an idyllic lakeside cabin in the woods of Maine as a place for his chronically ill wife Kate and he to get away from all the doctors, hospitals and medical procedures – if only for a few months. But, it doesn’t take long before they realize there’s something in the woods beyond happily twittering birds and a chattering squirrels. There’s something big out there, really big and really, really pissed off.  At first they think maybe it’s just a moose or a bear and briefly convince themselves it’s a deer. But, can any of those creatures throw huge rocks onto the roof or slam so hard into the walls of their vacation home as to knock items off shelves? When Kate’s brother and sister-in-law arrive for a visit, things only get worse.

As mentioned, this isn’t your ordinary Hunter Shea novel. Oh, there’s monster mayhem, but what that monster is and why it’s gone completely insane remains a mystery until the agonizing end. There’s a lot of pain in this book, physically and emotionally. It’s a story of fighting for your life, be it against a possibly terminal illness or a mysterious monster stalking you and your family. How do you fight back against something you can’t see, or when you don’t even know what that something is?

I was warned, but didn’t believe, that I’d be crying at the end of this one. I was.

5 out of 5 Ravens

The Raven Scale
1 Raven: Ew. Yuck. Don’t Eat That.
2 Ravens: Bread Crumbs, A Bit Dry & Flavorless, But It’ll Keep Us Alive.
3 Ravens: Peanuts, Popcorn, And Cat Kibble! Nom-nom.
4 Ravens: Pizza Place Dumpster After Lunch! Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit! Fresh Road Kill, Dudes!