My, my, my, my mom’s Smith-Corona!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

The Holidays Can Be Painful

We had much to be thankful for at Thanksgiving – living, for example – painful though it has been the past four months – is still living.

People often tell us how lucky we are. I agree. Then, my brain flips to what have could have been the worst outcome, not that we both could have been killed – but that only ONE of us had died. The very thought of it quickly sets me to crying. How could I go on without him? The devastation would be mind-boggling and I try not to go there, though sometimes I still do and am grateful for my physical pain. The mental pain of losing him would be greater than anything a few broken bones will ever bring me.

Jim is 8 weeks out from his shoulder surgery, his stitches are gone, and his sling is off. He’s still unable to sleep on his right side and isn’t supposed to be reaching that arm up over his head and does take the occasional Ibuprofen for pain. On the bright side, he’s able to play guitar again! Today he heads to his first Physical Therapy appointment.

I’m 2 weeks out from my clavicle surgery, the stitches were removed four days ago, but I’m still in the sling 95% of the time. I can’t sleep on either side yet and am still propped up with pillows when I do so. Good thing I’m okay with sleeping on my back. I was given a couple simple exercises but, for the most part, the elbow stays tucked to my side in an effort to not move things around too much. Pain pills are taken 2-3 times a day. It sucks. It always hurts even with medication. It’s frustrating and sometimes downright infuriating not being able to do for myself.

With a great deal of help from Jim, the tree is up and the house is decorated (at least inside – no outdoor lights this year). We got our first major snow storm Sunday-Monday. A foot of the horrible white stuff fell. Thankfully, the same young man who mows the lawn also does snow removal – not that I’m going anywhere without help.

As I’m still unable to drive, my son took me Christmas shopping yesterday. Didn’t get it all done, but certainly a majority of that is complete. Gift bags and boxes will replace much in the way of the actual wrapping of gifts.

Doing what I can on the writing front. Try to edit a few chapters every day. Progress is slow, but it’s still progress. I’m thankful for that, too.

Yup, the pain tells me I’m alive. I’m no fan, but it’s a constant reminder that we escaped a far greater tragedy and are meant to keep on going – in sickness and in health, for better and for worse.

The Holidays can be very painful. Mortality rates go up during this time of year. I hope you all are able to find the positives in a sea of negatives and that you can find something to be grateful for each and every day, no matter how small. It’s amazing how monumental just cracking an egg into a bowl can be!

Take care of each other and do what you need to do to take care of yourself – especially when that means asking for help. We all need help now and then. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for it.

Now with …

Research for my recently completed first draft of “The Inheritance” began in October 2018 as my husband and I headed out from Salado, TX to Terlingua, TX some 400+ miles west. He came up with the main character’s name – Liberty Hill – years earlier. After a couple false starts, a plot began to form. I’ve been a fan of Gothic Literature for a good many years and decided the isolated locations we visited in West Texas would be perfect for that genre. I took copious notes and lots of pictures. Some of the scenes in the book actually happened to my husband and I.

Once we were back home, I began to write. Over on Twitter (@pamelamorris65) I post updates on my progress, being as vague as possible so as not to give anything away, but still make it interesting. They are meant to be amusing\silly and I’ll often pick the most obscure of details to share. What follows are those updates. Enjoy.

Mar 3: 9am on a Sunday and I’ve already managed to add over 1200 words to my Texas Gothic Horror novel “The Inheritance” – now with the tall, dark, and handsome caretaker’s son – Miguel Alvirez. #amwriting #Texas #gothichorror

Mar 6: +1269 words. And so ends Act 1 of the current WiP – “The Inheritance” at nearly 30K — now with an Irish bar, members of The Widow Makers MC, and vomit. Good times! #amwriting #writerslife

Mar 16: +1055 words during this morning’s writing work on “The Inheritance”. Now with bikers, bikers, and oh, yeah, bikers. Not bad, not bad at all. #amwriting #Texas #GothicHorror

Mar. 20: Final scene of Chapt. 12 finished on my Texas Gothic Horror novel, “The Inheritance”. Now, with shiny gold buttons and a pocket watch. #amwriting #Texas #gothichorror

Mar. 25: +2674 words this weekend on my current WiP novel, “The Inheritance” – now with a link to Greenbrier Plantation, more poisonous & biting Texas critters, and an outhouse. #amwriting #Texas #GothicHorror

Mar. 31: A mere +2244 accomplished on current WiP during the week (Mon-Fri). Nothing yesterday. Maybe today will prove productive. At least now we have a flirtatious farm hand, an old family album, and obituaries to work with. #amwriting #Texas #GothicHorror

Apr. 10: Sneaking up on the 50K word-count mark for my Texas Gothic Horror novel “The Inheritance” – now with a hysterical Mexican housekeeper, booming shotgun blasts, and ROMANCE! #amwriting #Texas #gothic #horror

May 17: So hey – writing work accomplished at Goodyear while I waited for my ‘tars’ to be changed! Now with flags in the desert, people that were possibly burned and/or buried alive, and a farmer’s market. #amwriting #TexasGothic #horror

May 26: Over the past two days I’ve managed to scrape together 1659 for my #Texas #Gothic #Horror novel “The Inheritance”. I wish it were more, but progress is progress. Now with a western wear shop, cemetery notes, & five drops of rain on an old pick-up truck. #amwriting

June 4: Sun-Mon word count for my #Texas #Gothic #Horror ‘The Inheritance’ +1632. Most of it achieved on Sunday. Now with a taxidermy antelope head, an angry Texas cowboy, & a Horny Toad Harley-Davidson t-shirt.

June 19: +674 words later, Chapt. 25 of my WIP “The Inheritance” wraps out. Now with El Paso TX, White Sands NM, & an Apache arrowhead. On to the next… #amwriting #Texas #gothic #horror

June 27: +738 words on my #Texas #Gothic #Horror novel “The Inheritance” Chapt. 27 done. Now with Perro Loco, a pillow case, and shaky, dark camera work on a cheap cellphone. #amwriting

July 6: Writing finally happened. +1177 words added to my #Texas #Gothic #Horror novel “The Inheritance”. Now with a small haboob, funny biker nicknames, and a BIG BOOM – possibly a cannon, but maybe just thunder. Chapt. 29 done. #amwriting On to the next.

Aug. 15: Yesterday was pretty productive on the writing front. +2342 added my #Texas #gothic #horror novel “The Inheritance” now with a biker threatening to kick another biker’s ass, permits to carry concealed, and about 20 ATF officers. Total word count: 93,180.

Aug. 24: 2 days + 3420 words = 99,740. Now with bikers in a Cadillac, a West Texas ghost town & cemetery, an attempt to enjoy some beers, and a yapping Chihuahua. #amwriting #WritingCommnunity #WIP

Sept. 16: It took almost two weeks, but finally +2711 words added to the WIP and was able to finish Chapt. 41 – now with fresh chicken eggs, freshly unearthed human skulls, and fresh from the oven pizza! #FeelingFresh #amwriting

Sept. 20: +2299 words added to my WIP, The Inheritance. Now with an oily darkness that tastes and smells of death, an eye-shaped tunnel, and a nearly impenetrable cold fog. #amwriting #Texas #gothic #horror

Sept . 26: I am happy to report that the First Draft of my Texas Gothic Horror novel, “The Inheritance” is now DONE at 114k words.

As I begin the editing process, some of these ‘Now With…” events may vanish, but I thought this would be a fun way to show you all a bit of my writing process and demonstrate how long it takes me to write a first draft. “The Inheritance” will be available in early 2020.

Summer’s End

Summer turns to Fall in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  Yesterday we did some spiedies and fresh garden squash on the grill. What the hell are ‘spiedies’? I hear the non-locals reading this say. It’s our regional culinary claim to fame. Tip: If someone is trying to pass this delight off served on a roll with toppings like lettuce and/or cheese, it ain’t a spiedie.  A slice of Italian bread, maybe a touch of butter, meat. That’s it! Don’t mess with it! Today, Jim fired up the smoker and tossed a big ole slab of pork ribs on the grate. Six hours later – meat candy! Add some macaroni salad, beans, and watermelon and that says Summer!

The Harley roared to life this afternoon, too. It didn’t leave the garage, but still … it’s the first time I’ve heard it since we wrecked in mid-July. I have to say, it made me tear up a little bit, that sound, the feel, the smell. She, like us, has taken a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’. If there were any doubts in my mind about getting back on once the old girl is fixed, hearing that rumble shoved them all away.

A shame Summer is over with so fast, but you can’t stop the march of time and despite not accomplishing all that we had planned, there were some positives!

I read some awesome books! Andy Davidson’s novel In The Valley of the Sun takes top billing! As a long-time fan of vampire fiction, this book simply blew me away! It’s going to take something phenomenal to bump it from my #1 spot of the year – including Stephen King’s The Outsider that I finished up a couple weeks back. Sorry, Steve! You’re good, but Andy’s got you beat this year. I also laid my eyeballs on some Sci-Fiction I really enjoyed with Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds by Peter Adam Salomon and top honorable mention to W. Sheridan Bradford’s debut novel, the literary Horror title All Hallows. I’ll be finishing Hunter Shea’s latest release Ghost Mine this week, too. Thank God for great summer reads to push aside the aches, pains and boredom of the past three months or so.

We were able to get No Rest For The Wicked re-released after a brief hiatus. That felt good. I really hated having the book down and unavailable even if it was only for a couple of months. I expect to finish the first draft of my Texas Gothic Horror – The Inheritance by the end of this week. YAY!

I also did some paintings. Just as our trip last November to Terlingua, TX to be part of their Day of the Dead celebration was an inspiration for writing The Inheritance, it also inspired some art work in the form of four 8X10 paintings, El Cuervo, El Gato, El Lobo, and El Lagardo – The Crow, The Cat, The Wolf, and The Lizard. I’ve already done some prints for the first two, but haven’t managed to get the second two that far. Still – it’s been nice to have a paint brush in my hand again – and I don’t mean painting the house. That’s another story all together that I really don’t want to talk about.

Several things loom large for the Fall season, like book signing events! First one is coming up October 4th and 5th in Oneonta NY at the Horror-SciFi Festival. It will be my first convention. I’m super excited as well as a bit nervous. Maybe a bit more now that I won’t physically be up to speed. I still have a broken collar bone and a lot of pain so, it’s going to be a huge challenge. The second signing will happen a month later on November 1st in Owego NY at Riverow Bookshop as part of the village’s First Friday event. A lot closer to home and a lot less stressful. Those are the positives.

The negatives will see Jim getting surgery for his separated right shoulder on October 11. I’ll be taking a week off work to take care of him as best I can. Six weeks later, I go under the knife to get my collar bone put back together by way of pins and screws. It’s going to be a very rough fall and into the holidays for us. Sorry, family – Mom won’t be making Thanksgiving Dinner this year! Hopefully, this will be the beginning of the end of all this pain and suffering. Recovery, recovery, and more recovery.

New short story ideas have popped up here and there. I might go back to writing a Barnesville Chronicle I got overwhelmed with last year or work on re-writes for another title while I’m out (again) from the day job. Plenty of things to do that aren’t all that pressing in my mind right now, but will keep me from going too stir-crazy – I hope.

What I Didn’t Want To Do On My Summer Vacation

Greetings, All –

It’s been far too long since I made a blog posting, almost a month! Yikes! I have a really, really good reason, though.

On July 13th my husband and I took part in the 11th Annual Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway of Valor Tribute Ride – phew, that’s a mouthful!  Anyway, it’s a 100 mile motorcycle ride that runs the length of Route 38 from Owego NY – Hannibal NY.  We had a great ride up. This was our first time and I was so surprised at how many spectators there were along the route, town after town. There were families sitting in lawn chairs, people waving American flags, and color guard units stationed at attention as hundreds of motorcycle road through. At the end of the ride was food, music, beer, and a few vendors. The weather had been perfect all the way and promised to be fine for the ride home.

A stop in Groton for food, drinks, and a good leg stretch.

At around 4:00, we decided to head back home.  At around 4:30 – all that came to a crashing halt, literally. I heard my husband shout, “Shit! A stop sign!” and felt the bike shift and heard the squeal of brakes. Next thing I knew, I’m apparently in the middle of the road on my back. I hear someone say something about calling 911. Sirens follow. A woman’s voice says, “I’m an EMT.”  I asked about my husband; is he okay? I’m told he is and that he’s in an ambulance behind us.

Instead of that day’s journey ending back home in our own garage, it ends with us at Upstate Medical in Syracuse. Broken bones, dislocated joints, a concussion, lots and lots of pretty bad road rash which, even after almost 2 months, we can still see traces of. We stayed with my parents for a week after my discharge on July 17th. I’ve yet to return to work. That happens next week. So much for all those summer plans.

Welcome To Upstate Medical’s Trauma Ward.

On the bright side, we’re alive! We’re banged up. We’re still in pain. There’s a least one surgery to be had before the year’s it out, but WE ARE ALIVE. And we will ride again… but likely not this year. The bike can be fixed but its repair is low the list of things to pay for right now.

For almost a week, sitting at a computer wasn’t even possible. Eventually, I was able to sit up and  check my emails, Facebook, and Twitter, but only for short periods, an hour, maybe two, tops. Most of the time was spent sleeping, watching TV, waiting for the magic hour to take more pain pills, figuring out how the hell to take a shower with only one good arm while the other side of my body throbbed and shrieked in pain, and stopping everything when the room started to tip and spin from the concussion.

It still took at least another couple of weeks before I could sit at the computer long enough to even consider writing fiction. My brain wasn’t ready, quite honestly. I’d had a blog post written up for awhile and then seemed the perfect time to post it. Vanishing for who knows how long didn’t seem like a good idea. Eventually, however, fiction writing started to happen. Ideas came trickling in. My first try was only a couple hundred words, but it was progress. Progress beget progress and now I see light at the end of the tunnel. Another first draft is almost done.

On one hand, I want to get back to work, the day-job. I miss having people to talk to and interact with throughout the day. Plus, I’m running out of medical leave to supplement disability leave so I can draw a full paycheck! I hope I am able to do my job when I get there. Parts will be pretty difficult and I’m going to have to find alternative methods for sure.

On the other hand, I’ve liked having all this time to write and do other things. The only problem with that is there’s still so much pain and limited mobility in my left arm and shoulder. It’s hard to have fun when your body keeps saying, “Oh no you don’t!”

So – what other than writing have I been up to these past almost eight weeks now?

 I got the rights back to “No Rest For The Wicked” a couple weeks before the accident and we were able to get a new cover designed and the whole things reformatted recently. You can find links to this beauty below.

I’ve been reading Stephen King’s “The Outsider” which is totally awesome! Murder-mystery meets Horror. Right up my alley.

We also celebrated our 3rd Wedding Anniversary on August 27th with dinner out to Texas Roadhouse.

Our Wedding Day – August 27, 2019

Last but not least, I was recently interviewed by Sue Rovens of Plump Toad Press. https://suerovens.com/meet-greet-author-q-as/

There you have it, a rather unconventional version of What I Did On My Summer Vacation. Let’s hope and pray next year’s plans are a whole lot LESS painful and a whole lot MORE enjoyable.

How was your summer?

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?

I’m Gonna Ride On, Ride On, Ride On…

As I was driving home tonight, glancing in the rear view mirror every now and then as one does – I had a bit of an epiphany. We don’t drive down the highway looking in the rear view mirror all the time. There’s a reason for that. It’s not in the least bit safe. We can see where we’re going briefly, but doing it all the time won’t work. Our main focus needs to be on the vehicles on either side as well as what’s ahead.

That’s how we should also be living life. Yes, check out what’s back there, in the past, every now and then. Remember what you saw, what you did, what you may have learned going through all that, but don’t make it your main focus. What was, was. It’s all behind you.

Pay attention to what’s going on around you in the moment, the present, just like you would the cars around you in traffic. Work with that, do what you need to do in the now to make it through one block, one mile at a time.

Look ahead. Pay attention to what’s coming up and how you can get there in the most efficient, safest way possible. Adjust your speed and prepare to change your route – detours happen – but that’s all they are. If you are truly intent on getting to your destination, a detour is only a temporary slowing down of the traffic, annoying, but in the grand scheme of the journey, a minor incident. It’s not the end of the journey. Work with it – do what you have to do, but there’s no reason to pull over and stop because of one setback.

Life is full of detours. Sometimes traffic barely moves at all and we feel like we’re going nowhere fast. It’s maddening.  We have to adjust and change our plans. Sometimes it takes a lot longer to get there than we hoped, but as long as we look ahead, focus on the destination not the rear view mirror, we’ll get there. We’ll find our way eventually. No one has been stuck in traffic so long that they’ve died – well, not that I know of anyway. Eventually, things get moving again and we can get on our way.

I’ve been a published author since 2006. I’m still not doing it fulltime. I’m still not even close to making a living at it, but I’m still behind the wheel and on the road. Sometimes it feels like I’m getting nowhere and I wonder why I ever even started up the car to begin with. There are times I feel like shutting off the engine and chucking the keys into a fast-moving river.

But then, I take a glance in the rear view mirror and realize how far I’ve come in the past dozen years. I look around me at the wonderful friends and mentors I’ve made in the writing business. I’ve grown. I’ve hit a couple of detours and a pot hole or two, but I keep on going. The road still stretches out in front of me and my journey isn’t even close to being over with yet.

No matter what your dream is, just keep your eyes focused on that road ahead. You’ve already made it through some traffic jams and detours. They are done and over with and there’s no sense in dwelling on them anymore. You’ll get through any of the others that are headed your way, too, I guarantee.

Write on! Or in this case, Ride on!

Review – Amazon’s KDP Help Desk

Let’s face it, we like to joke and yes, mostly complain, about all the many customer service jobs that have gone overseas, mainly to India. They aren’t helpful. We can’t understand their accents. All they do is repeat verbatim what we’ve already read on the initial Help Screen of whatever company we are dealing with. This leaves us angry and frustrated and vowing never to do business with those people ever again!

This review is no such thing!

A couple months ago I decided to move a couple of my paperbacks from CreateSpace to Kindle Direct Publishing. There’s been rumor that CreateSpace is on the way out and, though nothing firm has yet to be released, it may not be a terrible idea to make the switch sooner rather than later. It’s all the same company, Amazon, and the directions appeared easy enough, so off I went.

The first title made the transition with no problems whatsoever. I waited a couple days to make sure all was well before setting out to move the second title. That’s when a roadblock smacked me in the face. I got the error message that the ISBN-13 number I was trying to use was already assigned to by another title. What the what? I looked back through everything and couldn’t see where this was happening. Desperate, I sent a message to KDP’s Help and crossed my fingers.

Archana got back to me a couple days later. He (or she) told me I needed to remove the ISBN-13 from a previously created version of the book in question. After that was done, I should be able to delete that version and move on with putting the ISBN to the new one. Off I went, following directions, finding the error and happily deleting, then waiting the needed 72 hours before trying again.

And … it didn’t work.

The same error message was still there. I wrote back to KDP to let them know it still wasn’t working.

Someone named Karthikeyan replied to my message and said she (or he) would look further into the matter and get back to me and could I send screen shots of what I was seeing so they could be passed on to the IT guys. I did, crossed my fingers, and waited.

A couple days passed when I heard back from the next person to handle my difficult case, Nithinesh. Nithinesh let me know their tech support people had restored three other versions of the title that I’d apparently created in error and that they also needed deleting. This in mind, I logged into KDP yet again, found the titles and deleted those as well. After another 72 hours, I tried to move the new version and lo … it still didn’t work. Ugh!

I’d pretty much given up on this whole process. I then heard back from Nithinesh who asked if I’d had any luck. I told him (or her) that I had not. It still refused to accept the ISBN-13. He said he’d have a look at it and get back to me. I waited. A couple days later, Nithinesh let me know that it looked like I’d only deleted the errant titles but had NOT removed the ISBN-13s first. Okay, my error in misreading the directions. She (or he) said they’d ask the IT Team to restore the old ones again (if possible) and that this time, to be sure I deleted the ISBNs before going all delete crazy. (My wording there.)

On Tuesday, word arrived from my fourth KDP Helpful Assistant, Siyam. Siyam informed me that they had restored the other versions again and reposted my directions. He (or she) also said to not delete the others entirely until AFTER I’d been able to convert (or not) the ISBN-13 to the latest paperback version. Good thinking there, Siyam!

I’ve gone in and deleted the ISBN-13s from the three older version. ((What puzzles me is why was I allowed to create these three others version at all? Shouldn’t I have gotten an error message when foolishly attempting to create this thing a second time? Let alone a third!))  This morning I took the next step and entered the ISBN-13 for the version I want used. And LO!!!! IT WORKED! The process when through smooth as buttah!

I am SO grateful to Siyam, Nithinesh, Karthikeyan, Archana, and all the KDP IT people who helped get me through this issue. Super, super happy and yes, very surprised that this story has a happy ending. Thanks KDP Help Desk … you’ve gotten a great big gold star from me!

FIVE STAR RAVEN RATING!

A Summer of Shenanigans

It’s been ages since I’ve posted a personal update. I’ve been busy. That’s a good thing. Even though that busy-ness caused some stress, it was a good kind of stress, a stress born of progress and meeting deadlines.

NRFTW_HBB_coverHellBound Books and I were able to get the new edition of No Rest For The Wicked out in time for my signing event in July. This was my second time taking part in Berkshire’s Blueberries & Books Festival. What a pleasure it was to have twice as many titles this year, too. I really enjoy this event. Not only do I get to talk about my own work, but I get to talk with other writers about their work. This year I was seated next to a lady who wrote a children’s book about NOT being afraid of the dark. We had fun with that all day, telling people I was trying to scare people while she was trying to get folks over their fears. I got a lot of repeat customers from last year, too. That’s always a good sign. I made my podcast debut over at The Unofficial Panic Room Radio Show to help promote NRFTW, as well.

AngryAircraftIn August we took some vacation time. Our first wedding anniversary was on the 27th (and people said it wouldn’t last). Actually, no one said that, but … anyway. We managed to find our way to the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, NY. Planes, trains, motorcycles, and automobiles, plus some really cool items from fictional space travel to be seen (Star Trek, Lost In Space, etc.) Stopped for lunch in Hammondsport proper and went down to the lake front for a while, too. Very relaxing.

serlinggraveEven though we got slightly off track on our way to the museum that delayed us an hour, it was still early enough in the day to head over to Interlaken to see if we could find the grave of one of my writing idols, Rod Serling. We did. It was a lot more emotional than I ever imagined. We ended the day stopping for ice cream. Vacation also included putting some flashing on the front porch, but mostly just relaxing around the homestead, sleeping in, and having time together.

signingThroughout August and September we worked on getting The Witch’s Backbone 1: The Curse ready for release along with some minor updates on the covers for the other two Barnesville Chronicles, Secrets of The Scarecrow Moon and That’s What Shadows Are Made Of. And this is where the majority of my stress was generated. I desperately wanted TWB1-TC to be ready for my signing event on October 6th  for Owego’s First Friday Art Walk. The covers were just not turning out over and over again. Time was running very short, but it did happen and I had copies in hand barely in time. *phew* The turnout at Riverow Bookshop was pretty good, too. Also in October, there was an attempt at another podcast appearance, this time over at Experiences Within The Light, but my phone died all of 15 minutes into our chat. We’re going to reschedule as soon as possible!

Layered in with that was a request for me to write a foreword for another writer (I said yes), being asked to write a blog for another author’s website (I said yes), and being asked if I’d be interested in writing movie and/or book reviews for another site (I said yes). Plus, I still wanted keep posting on my own website once a week and had interviews to send out, process, and post. Yes, indeed, stress that was pretty much of my own creation, but if I want to kick this writing gig into gear, I have to get out there and get my name and work known as much as I can. More details on all that once they come into fruition. They are all works-in-progress at the moment.

TWB_Barnesville_FrontIn the past couple of days, fellow writer and friend Thomas S. Gunther put me in the spotlight. I had no idea what he was up to when he messaged me and asked for some biographical info. I sure didn’t expect what he posted. Wow. It certainly made my day with his feature Writers In Review post. Today, Becky Narron of Roadie Notes posted an interview I did for her late last week.

Amongst it all, I still try to get on with the writing of The Witch’s Backbone 2: The Murder. I’ve signed up to do NaNoWriMo again starting November 1st and am hoping it will push me a bit harder to get more of it done. I’ve already jumped the 37K word count on it, but I can use all the help I can get to get it done in a timely manner. I’m hoping for around 100K words on it.

Even though we’re not yet into November, I’m already starting to reach out to some fellow authors to get them on my list of interviewees for 2018. The long-awaited release of Dark Hollow Road is coming in 2018, too. It’s a psychological horror that made even me question where the material was arising from in my psyche. If you like your horror more on the taboo side, where the monster is all-together human, you’re going to love this one. We’re going to explore a seemingly-empty old house in the Pennsylvania countryside and learn all about the last person who lived there. It may just change your mind about urban spelunking. I know it did mine! Keep an eye out for future announcements on this one.

And there you have it, all the updating that’s fit to print. Like I said, I’ve been busy. The stress may not have been enjoyable at the time, but it’s worth it once I have an end result I can be proud of enough to share with others.

Be well, all, and thanks for reading!

The Horrors That Grew Me – Rod Serling

It was late summer as my husband and I traipsed around in a small, quiet, and isolated cemetery in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York. We’d come to visit a grave, which was quite a normal thing to do in a cemetery. I’d only ever seen pictures of the headstone. I had never met the man buried there, but his influences on the mind of the young girl I once was and the woman I’d grow up to become, are immeasurable.

I’d hoped there would be some sort of map directing us to the grave. There wasn’t. Frustrated, I feared we’d come all this way for nothing. Although it wasn’t a big place, it was big enough to be intimidating at the thought of finding such an unimpressive headstone. We walked in different directions. Maybe ten minutes later, my husband’s voice beckoned. “Sweetheart? I think I found it.” My heart leaped as I surrendered my futile search and headed in his direction instead.

On Christmas Day 1924, in Syracuse, New York, Rodman E. Serling was born to Samuel and Esther Serling. When Rod was two, the family moved to Binghamton, New York where he would spend the remainder of his youth and graduate from high school in 1943. Binghamton is a mere 40 miles from the small town I grew up in and I’m currently only a dozen or so more miles further away. By the time I came into being, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone had been cancelled for over a year. Lucky for me, re-runs of the program were very popular during my early, impressionable years and I ate them up like nobody’s business. I couldn’t then, and I still can’t, get enough of The Twilight Zone. If it’s New Year’s Eve\Day, you can be certain The Twilight Zone marathon is playing on my television.

I feel very at home with Rod Serling’s work and in his world. I can’t help but wonder if it’s because we grew up so very close to each other, in the same REAL world – give or take a few decades. It’s entirely possible he passed through my small hometown and knew the same streets, sights, and sounds of towns near me. Maybe his mother took him shopping at J.J. Newberry’s in Owego. It’s possible he enjoyed a beer or two at The John Barleycorn. It’s been there long enough. He most certainly knew the mighty Susquehanna River and the C.F.J. Carousel in Johnson City, and I dare even say he rode on it as a child, just as I did. Rod Serling feels almost like kin, even if it’s some distant, never-met cousin.

NightGallery

But it wasn’t just The Twilight Zone that captured my imagination, but his other series The Night Gallery whose pilot episode stared my all-time favorite actor, Roddy McDowall. (Serling was also a contributor to some of the Planet of the Apes screenplays, btw.) The first episode aired in 1969 and whole thing would be cancelled in 1973. The Night Gallery leaned more towards horror and suspense than TZ had, something I quickly picked up on as a budding writer and student of the macabre. Each episode took place in a fictional museum gallery, of which Mr. Serling was the curator. He would present to us, usually three, sometimes only two, paintings. The painting depicted a scene that was sometimes horrifying, sometimes seemingly quite innocent. Behind every image was a dark tale to be told. The first episode of the first season was called The Cemetery.

DSCF3482 - Copy

I made quick work of finding my husband and approaching the grave he stood in front of. That was it, alright. Small, unassuming, level with the ground, and covered with offerings of pebbles, coins, pens, and a little green Army guy that had toppled off the back edge. I put the soldier back into place. Several of the stones had been painted on. “Best in Show RIP” one was marked. Another said, “Time At Last”. A third simply stated “Willoughby” after an episode of The Twilight Zone titled “A Stop At Willoughby”. It was this episode that Serling freely admitted to being his favorite of the first season. I looked down at the stone and said, with laughter on my lips, “Willoughby! Next stop, Willoughby!” Seeing the somewhat blank look in my husband’s face, I added, “You have no idea what that means, do you?” He admitted he didn’t.

A soft breath escaped me followed by a moment of silence as I looked back down at the grave, then the unexpected happened, the tears came. I was suddenly very sad and heartbroken, mourning a man I’d never met and only knew by his work I’d seen on television. I realized then how much I have always idolized Rod Serling and how hard I’d strived since day one of knowing that being a writer is what I wanted to be, to being even just a little, teensy-weensy bit, no matter how pale a shadow that may be, like him and his work.

DSCF3487 - CopyI pulled myself together as quickly as I could, wiped my tears, took some pictures and had my picture taken at the grave. The power of that visit has clung to me ever since, the emotions bubbling to the surface as the most unexpected times, and the gratitude I feel for all that Rod Serling brought into my world, felt through and through. On June 28th 1975, after two heart attacks and undergoing open heart surgery, Rodman E. Serling’s life succumbed to a third, fatal heart attack. He was fifty years old. Only a year younger than I am now. His funeral took place on July 2nd, followed by a memorial service at Cornell’s Sage Chapel on July 7th.

When we left that cemetery, I left a little piece of myself behind and took with me a much greater appreciation for the quiet, privacy in which one of my idols rests. I hope he’s found his way to Willoughby. RIP Mr. Serling, Rest In Peace.