Why I Love Horror

How can you watch that stuff? Don’t those books give you nightmares? I’ve been hearing these questions for as long as I can remember. That’s what happens when you’re a horror fan. I recently put up a link on my Facebook page directing people to Lyndon Johnson’s blog where he explains why he loves horror. It’s a great answer to a question millions of us have posed to us as Horror fans.

Looking back, I’m going to have to guess that this horror madness all started with Nancy Drew. No, the series isn’t known as one of horror, but it’s certainly chock full of spooky settings, mysteries, and possible paranormal activities. A lot like Scooby-Do without the hippie van.

Following Saturday morning cartoons, we were treated to a show called “Monster Movie Matinee” broadcast out of Syracuse, NY. They featured all manner of horror movies, mainly creature features like Godzilla or Creature from the Black Lagoon.

As I entered my teens, my reading and movie choices got a little bit darker. By high school I was reading Stephen King, Anne Rice, along with the truly bizarre world of Tanith Lee, and ANY vampire novel I could get my hands on. I graduated to watching Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Kolchek: That Night Stalker, and Night Gallery along with the late night horror movies brought to me courtesy of “EIVOM” that tended to favor Hammer Films or such fantastic movies as The Other, The Legend of Hell House, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, or my all-time favorite horror movie, The Haunting of Hill House.  The arrival of cable TV to our little town in the early 1980s was mind-blowing! Horror movies I wasn’t old enough to see in the theater were brought to me through HBO or Cinemax, not to mention the craze that was sweeping the nation … Blockbuster movie rentals!

But, all this doesn’t really answer the question of WHY I love horror so much. Why horror instead of Science Fiction or Romance, for example?

Romance novels were in a word, yawn. My grandmother read them by the hundreds. She’d come home from work every now and then with a big box full of Harlequins. Sometimes there’d be a few Westerns in there that she’d give to my grandfather. I did read a few of the Harlequins, but very quickly I realized they all followed a very set plot. Oh, there was some variations, but not much and they became SO predictable I lost interest after only a handful.

And maybe that’s part of answer, in a way, predictability.

Every now and then, in that big old box of books, there’d be a horror novel. I still have two of those books from those days, The Owlsfane Horror by Duffy Stein which was the first (and I think only) book that ever scared me so much I had to stop reading it at night. The other is Edmond Hamilton’s sci-fi novel, City At World’s End. Both made lasting impressions, but I definitely enjoyed the fear created by Owlsfane more. Why?

Apart from the Planet of the Apes series, I’ve never been able to really get into the Sci-Fi scene. Though, I do love aliens and anything to do with UFOs (as long as they’re real-life accounts) and was a huge fan of Logan’s Run, they never thrilled or chilled me like the scary movies did.  They didn’t make me wonder what was going on. Was it something real that would be explained away at the end, like the Nancy Drew books and Scooby-Do cartoons? Or would it be something paranormal like a haunting?

Outer space, the future, or beings from another world confuse me. Even though I’m fascinated by UFOs, have SEEN a UFO, and accept the probability of there being others out there, I can’t relate to it on a personal level. My smart phone all too often bewilders me so how can I even begin to try and comprehend or visualize something that describes technology of the future? It’s interesting, but not enthralling.

Horror enthralls me. It captures my known senses of fear, apprehension, and profound curiosity. It ignites in my imagination the questions of what may or may not be dwelling beside me at any given moment in any given place. Are the spirits of the dead beside me? Can we really talk to them? Photograph them? Do some people possess supernatural powers and the abilities to manipulate their surroundings? What other beings, considered paranormal, exist right here on this very earth we call home and why can’t we all see them?

Horror piques my curiosity. It makes me wonder. It inspires me to delve deeper into the history of unexplained events that have been happening on Earth for hundreds of years. It gives me goosebumps and it makes me feel alive. It’s not predictable, it doesn’t make me yawn, and because of personal experiences, I can totally related to it.

That’s why I love Horror.

To find out why Lyndon Johnson loves horror  CLICK HERE

I’ve Got This Covered

I truly believe in the power of positive thinking and that visualization, in regards to your life and your dreams, works to make those things go in the direction you want them to. I have done it many times with many aspects of my life.

As a child dreaming of becoming a writer, I would draw and attach covers to my little story books. I’d make them as much like real life books as a ten-year-old could. Thanks to the foresight of my father, I still have a couple of those in my archives.

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My first novel, The Pride, was not only given a cover, but I did some drawings of the characters, too.


Grolick and Rhyvek from “The Pride”

Apart from a handful of people reading it, it’s never seen the light of any sort of publishing world. I sent it out to a dozen or so places, but all rejected it. One place suggested I re-write it as a screenplay, which I rejected because, frankly, I didn’t have a clue then, nor do I have one now, how to do that nor did I have any interest doing that. It was tucked away and lost in the fast-moving madness of technology for many years until this past summer.

When the erotica titles came into being they too were given my version of a cover. I kept them pretty tame. The publisher had other ideas that I wasn’t always pleased with, but, who was I to quibble? I was grateful to have any say at all in how the cover looked given what I have since learned about how the publishing business works. The covers finally decided on didn’t matter so much as the ones I used to visualize and project my dreams on.

You need to see the end product as clearly as you can. Hold it in your hands. Flip the pages and read the front matter as if it’s not just your personal prototype, but a real published work. These facsimiles made it real in my head and eventually they would become real to everyone else.

I’ve done the same with every horror novel I’ve written, too. I have the vision of a cover in my head, create it in the most basic form, and attached it to the 2nd draft prototype I give to my Beta Reader(s). It’s my mental way of saying the work is done, even though it’s really not. I’ll be reading through that thing at least 2-3 more times. Even though I self-publish, the prototype cover seldom is the same as what we finally decide on putting out there.

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Inadvertently my graphics guy (aka The Husband) usually creates an image I like just as much, if not more, and we work on it until we come up with something we’re both happy with – most of the time. The exception is No Rest For The Wicked. The vision I had for that cover was just too strong for me to let go of or allow him to fiddle with too much. Though not identical to the prototype cover. They both feature the same picture of the same house.

Earlier this week I worked up a cover for Dark Hollow Road.


As I was returning from the printer with it attached to its 140,000+ word tome, I felt a great sense of closure. Once that cover is in place, a switch flips in my head that says it’s okay to stop thinking about this one for a while. It’s a bit like hitting the snooze alarm at 5:30 in the morning, a very long snooze alarm. For the next 3-6 months, the details of Dark Hollow Road will slowly fade from my mind. As they fade, other characters and their stories will start to come into focus.

In the meantime, I feel like I’m in some sort of Twilight Zone Limbo. Though the next book is in my brain somewhere, it’s being very elusive and what a weird feeling it is to not be actively working on a new manuscript.

C’mon, Nell! Get your act together and help me make sense of The Witch’s Backbone. (hint-hint)

Snippets In A Life Gone Surreal

The past few weeks have been surreal.

At the age of five or six, I was a little kid with a big dream. I never doubted the dream. Never. It was at about that age I came to realize that there was something very unique about me amongst my kindergarten peers. Unlike them, I was born in the far off land of New Mexico. I don’t think I really understood where it was or how far away, but it made me feel different, special in a very proud and interesting way. When we were asked to write mini-autobiographies in grade school, my unconventional birth place was always mentioned. It became part of the foundation of who I was. The dream was born. It grew deep, deep roots not only in who I was, but who I would be and what I’d do and where I’d go. “Someday,” I can hear my six-year-old-self saying, “I’m going to go back to New Mexico!” My parents would always say they hoped I would. It was a good goal to have.

I poured over the family photo albums, memorizing the images of places I had no memories of. I’d listen with rapt attention whenever stories were told of this mysterious place far, far away. I was only six months old when we moved away from White Sands, yet in those six months something about the place must have been ingrained into my infant brain, this infantile sense of “this is home”. It sounds weird even to me. This Southwestern-ness sifted through my blood. My love of Mexican food arose from it. I don’t understand how that all can be, but it is and I’m not going to even attempt to explain it.

About five years ago I had reached a point in my life where I felt I’d come full circle. I’d been married and subsequently divorced. My kids were young adults. I was single. I was also feeling very lost. I had no personal goals and felt adrift on the ocean without a compass. I wasn’t sad, but I wasn’t really happy either. I existed, I didn’t live. My soul ached for a direction. Then The Dream winked at me and whispered, “It’s time.”

“Before I’m fifty,” I promised myself. “I’ll go there before I’m fifty come hell or high water.”

Fate is a funny thing. Within three months of this personal mission statement, I found myself in a new relationship. During our second conversation it was revealed we’d both lived at White Sands. The big difference was, he’d been there during his high school days. He had real memories. Fate smirked.

And so it came to pass that just over two weeks ago, four months before my 50th birthday, I found myself on a road trip with this fellow WSMR Kid, who was by now the love of my life, heading to New Mexico. The dream was more than just alive and well, it was thriving! Here I was closer and closer every minute. Mile after mile. Day after day. Until finally, after forty-five years of waiting, there it was, “Welcome To New Mexico”, signs pointing to “Las Cruces”, signs welcoming me to White Sands National Monument, signs that said, “You are now entering White Sands Missile Range”. Me, sniffling my nose and wiping away the tears of joy, of completion, of coming ‘home’. It still chokes me up.


For five days I probably took way too many pictures of sand and buildings and mountains and cactus. I probably spent way more time than your average tourist ingraining every element my senses could possible absorb in the short time we had there into my brain. I took actual handwritten notes and have dubbed it research for a future novel. I’d waited almost my entire life for this and I didn’t know, still don’t know, if or when I’ll ever go back again. I hope I do!

On top of all that, I’m with a man I love tremendously who is suddenly showing a very healthy interest in jewelry cases and rings. As if his enthusiasm over picking out a Native American Wedding Vase wasn’t enough, now this. THIS! There’s a longer story to the choosing of a ring than I’ll get into here, but suffice to say, after a mini-meltdown on my part, one was finally selected. It would be another week before I’d be able to wear it. Again, another story for another time. In the meantime, here’s a picture of The Bling.


Now we’ve been back in New York for five days. The dream has been lived and expanded upon. A beautiful blue topaz engagement ring has been placed on this middle-aged woman’s finger and I’m feeling that strange sense of the surreal. It crept up on me while I was telling my 22 year old daughter the story of the buying of the ring and subsequent kitchen proposal. Along with this weird near-disbelief that this is indeed my life and who I am and looking forward to who I am still becoming even at this age, I feel that questioning, eager tug of “What next?” Where will our next adventure take us? It reminds me of setting aside the first book in a series and not being able to start the second book for a few days. It’s there on your coffee table. It’s waiting. It’s ready to go.

Eventually, you are able to sit down with a cup of coffee on the front porch on a cool fall morning with that book. That’s where I am now, settling into Part Two, eager to know and live more of the story.

You’ve Got Fan Mail

I got some fan mail the other day in the form of a handwritten note that was sent to my mom, who, in turn, forwarded it to me. It’s from a woman who works as a library assistant at the public library in the small town where I grew up. She was also one of my babysitter’s some 40+ years ago.

11 June 2015

Dear J—— & B—,

I just finished reading Pamela’s book, “Blood of the Scarecrow”. It was great and a lot of other library patrons agree. Since we put it on the shelf, it has gone out a lot and got rave reviews. Please tell her how very proud of her I am. And tell her to keep up the good work.


Lena S.

Yeah, it chokes me up a little bit. It’s the third piece of “fan mail” I’ve gotten. The first was from my godfather after I’d had a few article published for our local county paper, saying how much he enjoyed the articles and how well written they were. The second was from a distant cousin in regards to the same articles.

These are humbling.

First and foremost, I write because I have to, because I can’t not do it. Second, I write in the deepest hopes that others will read my words and be happily entertained, creepily frightened, and maybe even inspired a little bit. Sharing what I write has not come easy to me. For years I was too self-conscious and deprecating to let others see my stories or poems. If someone found a mistake or typo I took it as deeply personal, instead of them simply pointing out a way to make what I’d done better. Thank God I’ve since gotten over THAT! bit of editing nonsense. Last, I guess I write for the notion of “fame and fortune”. The odds are deeply against me, but I keep playing Submission Lottery and hoping that one of these days another publisher will find me worthy to bear their stamp of approval. Even then, it’s more to make the stories available to all the people who have asked me when the next book is coming out or who have wondered about my current project than the money.

Many people have paid me compliments in the form of Amazon reviews, Facebook posts, emails, or on a more personal level, spoken to me in person to say how much they enjoyed “Blood of the Scarecrow”. I let the compliments pump me up for the next big thing. I need that little charge to realize that what I am doing does matter to others besides myself. It inspires me to plug on with the dream. It makes me realize that I really am blessed as a writer, even if just a tiny bit. Some are never able to finish their novels. Some never get published at all.

I’m always working on it. Even if it looks like I’m staring off into space, chances are my brain is somewhere in the next novel plotting the next scene. Thank you to everyone who has ever complimented or encouraged me with my writing. Thanks to those who have pointed out mistakes to help me improve on my craft. Thank you for being more patient while I try and knock sense into one publisher after another to get that next book out to you. Thank you for being ‘my fans’. You all really mean more to me than words can ever say.

I Have My Reservations

Under most circumstances when you hear someone say that, it doesn’t bode well for whatever is going on. I’m happy to report that is entirely not the case here.

I’ve been dreaming of these reservations for as long as I’ve been able to dream. As a small child I remember thumbing through two small photo albums showing images of missiles and sand dunes, of my brother squinting against the blinding sun, of my dad in uniform working on trucks and tanks as well as sitting on horseback – a temporary member of the U.S. Cavalry, so to speak when missiles went astray; of my mom so young and thin, holding little baby me on her lap. I heard stories of my brother, who would have been about three at the time, and his dreaded fear of the monsters known as tumbleweeds. There was a trip to Carlsbad Caverns and another into the mountains where Mom had a terrible time cooking at a much higher elevation than she was used to. The neighbors on Hawk Street were the Caverlys. Mrs. Caverly and my mom were both due around the same time. I was destined to be Penelope, but fate smiled upon me and Baby Caverly came along first and took the name out from under me. Darn! LOL.

The day I came along, Mom walked to the base hospital for her weekly appointment and was told she was in labor. Dad was notified and came in from the range. A few hours later, I came into the world.

And I don’t remember any of it.

All I have are the pictures to look at and the stories I’ve been told, and this deep, personal longing to ‘go home’ again. I’ve totally lost count of how many times I’ve said I’m going back. My parents can probably confirm that they have lost count too at how many times they’ve heard me say, “I want to go back to White Sands.”

It almost happened when I was around twelve or thirteen. Friends of my parents sold their house and moved to Las Cruces one summer. I don’t know what their motivation was, but the idea so appealed to my parents they put our house in Upstate NY up for sale with the intentions that if it sold, they too were going to head west. The house did not sell and as a result I grew up right in the same place and now live less than 40 miles from there.

2011 was a critical year. Life felt on hold. I didn’t feel like I had any goals and not much to look forward to. I was just getting out of a horrible 7-year relationship. My eldest child was out of college and working. My youngest was done with high school, also working, and living with her dad. I was free as a bird. It was Me Time! It was time to ask some questions of myself. When I was last this single, what was I doing that made me happy? How could I now, 20+ years later, recapture some of that joy? I needed a goal.

I came up with two answers. 1) All through high school I scrimped and saved nearly every dollar I could for a trip to England. At the time, I was totally obsessed with the place. I managed to save enough and the fall after I graduated, made the trip that lasted for 6 weeks of bliss on the British Isles. 2) A couple years later, I decided I wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Two of my uncles had bikes and I’d never pass up the chance to go riding with them. It was time I stopped being the passenger and became the driver. And so, more money saving took place and I bought a 1985 Honda Rebel with cash without a clue how to drive the thing. Good times!

In 1988 I met the man who would become my husband and the father of our two previously mentioned kids. I’m not saying those days were bad. Not at all. I loved being a mom and raising a family and doing all that stuff, but at the same time, I slowly lost part of myself in the process. Everything was about the kids and the family and as much as I loved it and would not take a second of it back, there wasn’t much Me Time for the next 20 years.

I never lost sight of the trip out west though. I never forgot the little photo albums and the stories. The longing to ‘go home’ never left me. That was the answer to my question in 2011. I needed to plan that trip and I meant to take it before my 50th birthday come hell or high water. I still had a few years to save. This was going to be the most awesome trip of my life!

Then, Fate stepped in again and said, “Whoa! Not so fast there, Almost Penelope! You can’t do this alone! You need to meet someone first.” Lord knows, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. This was ME TIME! Last thing I wanted was some guy to cramp my style and stifle my dreams. Fate, that Crafty Wench, must have been bent over in hysterics for those first few days, knowing what was to come.

So, yeah, Mr. Biker from Texas who just happened to have lived in Las Cruces at WSMR on base not even a mile from where my family once lived, during his high school years turned out to be a pretty awesome guy, despite my early reservations. He’s done anything but cramp my style or stifle my dreams.

So, we have our room reservations booked now. I know I’m going to cry. I know Jim will probably laugh at me for crying, but I don’t care. Some men will just never understand the concept of “Happy Tears”. I think I need to recreate some of those images from the old family album, me sitting on a blanket on a wind-swept white sand dune, screaming my head off, for instance. I think I’ll pass on wearing the baby bonnet and little frilly dress though.

And yes, I’m still going to make it before my 50th birthday!

Nanu, Mr. Williams. Nanu.

Johnathon Winters is quoted as saying, “You’ve got to be an observer. And you’ve got to take time to listen to people, talk, to watch what they do.” As a kid, I really liked Mr. Winters. My parents had this old vinyl album called “The Very Best of Johnathon Winters” that I listened to countless times. In fact, that record is still in my collection. I loved his stories and the way he did all the voices for his characters. In retrospect, I wonder if that is why I always did that for my kids whenever I read to them. It seems the most natural thing to do, doesn’t it? I think so anyway. Winters made me laugh, a lot.

Though I certainly played with Barbie’s and baby dolls, my most favorite playthings were puppets. My best friend Sherry and I had a vast collection of puppets. Pink rabbits, purple frogs, a hippy, a white cat and an old hound dog that, ironically, our black lab, Amos, dragged home one day, just to name a few. No, we didn’t put on too many puppet shows. We were more sophisticated than that. My Barbie Townhouse became an apartment building along with a small bookshelf tucked behind my dad’s recliner. Sherry created 312 Seymour Drive in the corner of her dad’s home office. Our puppets met, fell in love, married, had children and we even had a funeral for one of them. Every puppet had its own voice. Those are some of my favorite memories of childhood.

In 1978 a new television show came on the air called “Mork and Mindy”. By then I was nearly thirteen years old and have left the puppets behind me, but by no means the myriad of character voices. I could recite the “Wizard of Oz” nearly by heart, voices, songs and all. I was a goofy kid or so I was labeled by my Aunt Brenda. You’ll get no argument from me. A goofy kid is a happy kid and there are only a scant few unhappy moments I can recall from my childhood. I was, am, truly blessed. With the arrival of “Mork and Mindy” in my life, it made it alright for me to be goofy. My outburst of randomness and over dramatized voices were so much like Robin Williams’s character of Mork, it helped me to settle more into my own skin and be who I really was. You can but imagine how enraptured I was when Johnathon Winters appeared on “Mork and Mindy”! Two of my favorites! Winters and Williams were made for each other and I sucked it up like the sponge I was. All the voices that lived in their heads were tossed out there for all the world to see and hear.

Partially through them and because of my love of storytelling, I began to observe people and their characters. I started looking at people and wondering how I could recreate them into a workable persona for a story. I am perfectly content to sit and people watch. For all the enjoyment I got, and still get, out of bursting into random voices, I am in general a very quiet person. I’ve been known to sit and take notes on people I watch. Bits and pieces of conversations I’ve eavesdropped on have been incorporated into story dialog.

There are very few celebrities out there that I care enough about to take note of their deaths. I may think, “Oh, gee, that’s too bad,” one minute and be going on with my life without a second thought of it the next. I can name the ones I’ve cried over on one hand; John Denver, Roddy McDowall, Johnathon Winters and now, most recently, Robin Williams. Roddy McDowall was probably the hardest. You might say John Denver taught me to sing as I have a very clear memory of singing “Country Roads” to a group of my grandmother’s church lady friends when I was about seven years old. I thought Roddy McDowall was the cutest guy in the world and would watch anything and everything he was in. He’s also the only celebrity I ever wrote to asking for an autograph. He graciously obliged and that signed picture is one of my prized possessions to this day. Winters and Williams showed me it was alright to be goofy.

Some people have heroes. I don’t know as I’d call any of those guys heroes, but I did admire them all on deeply personal levels at some point in my life. Part of them became part of me over the years even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I admit I have cried over the death of Robin Williams mostly because of my memories and how I could so easily relate to Mork; an alien, someone from the outside looking in, someone trying to be like everyone else, to fit in and at the same time, helpless against their inner nature that every now and then BURSTS out into the open.

Mork was an observer. Mork was sent to listen to people, talk to them, watch what they did and report it back to Orson at the end of each show. We will likely never know the thoughts that were running through Robin’s head in those final minutes, as we did when he spoke to Orson. I don’t really want to. It’s bad enough I now have this all too graphic image in my head of his death. I hope he found peace. I hope he’s found a place where his laughter no longer masks the pain. And I hope we, his fans, can remember the way he lived and the laughter he brought to billions, instead of the tragic ending he brought to his own brilliant, loving and tender mind.

I think Mork himself said it best at the end of one episode of “Mork and Mindy.”

Orson: What did you do this week, Mork?

Mork: Well, sir, this week a made a friend.

Orson: If you made a friend, why are you so sad?

Mork: Well, you see, sir, I lost him.

Orson: Can’t you make another?

Mork: No, sir. Well, I could but I haven’t got the heart for it.

Orson: What do you mean?

Mork: Well, sir, you know when you create someone and you nurture them, they grow. Well, there comes a time when they have to live their own life, or die their own death.

Orson: And now your friend is gone forever?

Mork: Oh, no, sir, no. I’ll always keep him right here. *touches his heart* Until next week, sir. Nanu.


Nanu, Mr. Williams. Nanu.

Let’s Play Pretend

I may be pushing the Big 5-0 but as it never really sank in that I was an actual, real-life “growed up” until I turned 40 that make me more like 8. Right?

A Facebook (and RL friend) posted a series of wonderful watercolors last week that depicted images of children playing Pretend. Nerdy Childhood I was taken back to my own childhood when we ran around the forbidden lumber yard that was our playground, leaping immortally from one twenty foot stack of swaying lumber to another, with sticks making ‘Pew-pew-pew’ sounds as if shooting ray guns.  We adopted such names as Annie12 or Robert36, adapting to the popular television series of the time, “Logan’s Run” of which I was a HUGE! fan.  We also played our home grown version of “Planet of the Apes” and the more common, Cowboys and Indians.  As I was often the sole girl involved in these games of pretend, I found myself tied to a lot of trees or locked in jail so I could be rescued by one or another of the ‘big strong boys’.

We never got too fancy like today’s modern LARPers, (Live Action Role Players) who seem to think they’d stumbled upon some sort of new amusement by dressing up and carrying fake weapons and thumping each other with them. Sorry, I was doing that back in the 1970’s, guys. Best weapon ever; a thin, green branch – not too thin but just enough to be nice and springy. Willow worked really well, just saying. When properly loaded with a small, half-rotten apple these bad boys left bruises and you arrived home with enough rancid apple sauce on you to require a change of clothes and a shower. Headshots were common and though the most gratifying for the shooter, they were the least pleasant for the kid on the receiving end.

There are those that would argue that as we get older and grow-up, these games of Pretend are tossed to the wayside and left behind like so many Barbie dolls and stacks of Legos. As adults we are supposed to focus on work, making ourselves a home, driving cars, paying bills and all in all, being responsible without the annoyance of fantasy and imagination clouding up our more mature minds. To those people I place my thumbs to my temples with my fingers wagging in the air, stick out my tongue and give the Raspberry Salute! Neener-neener.

As Foghorn Leghorn might say, “Who, I say, who in their right mind would give up a part of their lives that brought them so much joy?” NOT IT!

Computers were just coming into fashion when I graduated from high school, a-way back in 1984. Along with Pong and Tank, Space Invaders and Pac Man there were the earliest versions of what we now call, First Person Shooters. The graphics on these babies left something to the imagination, but that was okay, we’d imagined ourselves to many places before then. If I could imagine a twig to be a space age ray gun, it wasn’t much of a stretch to see myself as that little blip of a man made up of 16 pixels.  My favorite game of this sort of “Questron”.  Hours upon hours were spent hunkered down in my mom’s home office in the semi-darkness playing black jack, getting into fights, robbing stores and, of course, battling beasties with my 3 pixel sword!

The next level of Pretend for me was when I was in my early twenties and I was introduced to the world of LambdaMOO. Holy Hook-Up, Batman! You mean I can do Text-based RPG with OTHER PEOPLE via this new technology called ‘The Web’? How crazy is that?  I can type on my computer at home, someone in the UK can read what I type only moments later and reply almost instantly?!  Sweet, baby Jesus, make it so!  My first character in this new and wonderful world was Lady Vivianne, a pale and powerful vampire mistress. Of course, everything you created in these MOO worlds was text-based so they attracted a lot of creative writer types. It gave you a chance to spread your wings and put yourself smack dab in the middle of one of your own stories as the main character! Better still, you could connect your little corner of the MOO to the corners of others! It was a seemingly endless series of homes, caves, oceans, cemeteries, clubs, pubs, forests and unfathomable dimensions of time and space.  “Hello, my name is Pam and I’m a MOO-Addict.” Yes, for a time it was that bad. For the few years I was mainlining these sorts of places I always thought, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had graphics as well as text for something like this?”

When AOL came out with their chat rooms, the population and popularity of the MOOs took a definable nose dive. Instead of having to wait in the queue to get logged in because traffic was so heavy, you would be instantly connected only to find maybe a hundred or so others logged in. And half of those had been idle for over a week. Another quarter might be active but secreted away in their little worlds and if you were really lucky, you could find maybe a dozen or so willing to interact with you.

By now, I was married with children and doing the Growed-Up things that were expected of me. I went to work. I did housework. I took care of the kids, paid my bills, bought cars and a house.  For many years the world of Pretend was enacted with my children. Match Box cars and Barbie dolls, digging in the dirt with Tonka trucks and spreading crayons and coloring books all over the dining room table filled the void of creativity I so much need in my life.  Together we played what are the more recognizable First Person Shooters on Ye Olde Playstation II and, of course, The Sims. As an aside, I was quite horrible at a James Bond Based FPS – but I digress.

Kids don’t  stay kids forever, sadly.  All too soon they were teenagers and playing Pretend with Mom just wasn’t the thing to do anymore. But lo, fear not! What’s this? Second Life, you say? Tell me more! Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to that world I once dreamed of LambdaMOO With Graphics! NICE graphics! No more 16 pixel people for me, no, sir. It’s no joke when I tell you that I have heard A LOT of people who play Second Life referring to their Avatars as “my Barbie doll” or “my Ken doll”. But, Barbie and Ken never had it so good. There are limitless possibilities in Second Life. There are things in Second Life I never could have imagined and things I wish I’d never seen or known existed. This is the imagination’s playground.  If you want to know how to survive in Second Life, you really need to watch this video, too! Man Vs. Second Life LOL. Oddly enough… my first Second Life character was also a rather powerful female vampire. Go figure!

And here is where my narrative takes a slightly sad turn. There are apparently people out there that believe that just because they don’t *get* a certain something that it must be bad and harmful to the person who does get it and not only that, enjoys getting it. Trying to truly explain to someone what Second Life is goes beyond difficult. I feel a little sorry for those folks. Maybe they’ve lost touch with their Inner Child. Maybe they had really bad childhoods and playing Pretend reminds them of that. Maybe they see those of us who are still able to play with such childlike abandon as inferior, as sad and pathetic. We must be miserable in our lives to want to escape for a few hours into this fantasy world that has no basis in reality.  As if going to the movies, going to a stage play, watching a sit-com or a ‘reality’ television show doesn’t do almost the same thing.  For me, they are the sad ones. They are the ones that can’t take their own imaginations on a journey into an endless world of possibilities. They prefer to sit at a distance, to be spectators instead of participants in their own entertainment. Their minds are too muddled up with grown-up gunk to let themselves play Pretend anymore and let someone else do the work for them.  They would rather sit in front of the Magic Blue Box known as television with no chance of interacting with what’s happening on the screen.

Second Life and places like it have made it possible for this Introvert to come out of her shell. I’ve made wonderful friends through these mediums. One of which I’ve had since 1995! We played together in LambdaMOO and by gum… we still get together once in a while on Second Life! We’ve met in person all of ONCE!  but we’ve shared so much of our lives in these past almost 20 years, our friendship is just as strong and real as if we saw each other face-to-face every day. (At least I think so. I hope he feels the same.)  Through the ups and downs of our lives, we’ve pulled each other through. Isn’t that what being friends is really about?

Yeah, there are a fair amount of idiots out there, too. You hear people say how dangerous it is to meet people online. It’s dangerous to meet strangers in bars, too. It’s dangerous to race cars and jump out of airplanes and climb cliff sides and go white water rafting. It was really dangerous for that group of kids I grew up with who loved to race across the tops of piles of logs and swaying twenty-foot cut timber piles. It was dangerous (and painful) getting hit with a half-rotten apple flung from the end of a stick, too! It’s called living, folks and sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith and pretend you know the outcome.

And sometimes… well, sometimes that Leap Of Faith makes you buy a one-way plane ticket to a place you’ve never been to meet up with a guy you’ve only met once before and it all turns out pretty darn good! So good that we no longer HAVE to play Pretend on Second Life anymore in order to be together, but um…. sometimes we still do, simply because we can. (Not to mention finding pirate ships to sail and shoot cannons from is pretty hard to come by these days.)

He’s Not A French Model But…

I did meet him on the Internet.

Yup, it’s true. I’m head over heels, madly, truly, deeply in love with a man that, less than a year ago, I’d never met in person. Today, we live together. Maybe that doesn’t seem so dramatic in this day and age, but it’s the back story that’s cool.

We met in a little place called Second Life where anything and everything you can possibly imagine and quite a few things you can’t – or maybe didn’t want to – have been brought to the surface. It can be a very scary place. Everyone looks good in Second Life. We’re all young and slim and rich. We can be pirates in the 1700s one day, Native Americans in the 1800s the next then hop over and be modern day kick-ass bikers once we’re tired of being shot at by outlaws. Not to mention all the vampires and fae that seem to crop up everywhere. It’s crazy and I love it.

A Facebook friend introduced me to SL in the fall of 2010. For that first year I was a vampire on an estate called Legacies 1891. Sadly, Legos, as it is so affectionately known, closed down a while ago. I moved around a lot after that and eventually gave up the whole vampire thing in favor of the American Wild West in a place called Amiville. Had a lot of fun playing the boarding house owner but eventually that didn’t much hold my attention. I moved on to join the Native American population and that, dear friends, is where our Love Story begins.

I was a wandering Indian maiden without a tribe. He was a Cherokee. As I was about to log off for the night, I got a notice that they were having a story hour in the Cherokee village. I almost didn’t go but the Fates had other ideas. By the end of the night, my little Indian girl was madly in love with the handsome brave who had sat across from her at the fire circle. In less than a month, on Feb. 17, 2012 they were married in a traditional Cherokee wedding ceremony.

Four months later, he would drive over 1600 miles from Central TX to Upstate NY to spend a week with me. Like that virtual first night, the sparks flew as we held each other for the first time. Swear to God, I thought he was going to snap me in half. Seven months after that, I would make my first trip to the Southwest since my family had moved away in the Summer of 1966. You see – one of the odd things that we have in common is, we were both White Sands Missile Range Kids. I was born there. He was there during his high school years. Had we lived there at the same time, we would have lived less than a mile apart.

I bought a one-way plane ticket to Austin, TX. Yes, one way. You see, at the end of my ten day visit, we packed up everything we could into the smallest U-Haul that we could and drove back, half way across the country, so we could be together. In less than a week, we’ll be celebrating the one year anniversary of our first face-to-face meeting!

So far, so good. Since January 18th, 2013 we have not spent more than half a day apart. We’re still head over heels, madly, truly, deeply in love and grow more so as time goes by. He’s not a French model (nor a crazy ax murdered) but then, neither am I, but we did meet on the Internet and I’d not change that for the world.

When I Grow Up I Want To Be An Undertaker!

These probably aren’t the words most parents want to hear coming from their child, but mine heard them and I was… yes, dead serious.

Rewind to the late 1970s. Disco was hot. Hair bands were everywhere. Anne Rice and Stephen King were on the upswing and thanks to my grandmother, I’d gotten a Ouija board for my 13th birthday instead of the stack of horror books I’d picked out. No joke, kids. Gramma had told me to go pick out whatever I wanted in the store for my birthday present. I picked books. Gramma said, and I quote, “Oh, you don’t want those scary things. Let me show you what you should get.” and she marched me right back to the games aisle and picked up good old William Fuld’s Ouija Board. I really wanted the books more but who’s gonna argue with Gramma?  We got the board out that night, Grampa sat nearby shaking his head and rolling his eyes at the foolishness of it all.

I don’t remember what, if any, results we got but from that point on my interest in such things grew even more serious and intense. This was the same Gramma who told me my first remembered true ghost story from her personal experience and the same Gramma that ignored those No Tresspassing signs and found a place for me to sneak into an abandoned house (or two) and unlock the door from the inside so she could get in, too and the one who dragged me from one cemetery to the other. And my parents thought all Gramma and I ever did together was go to yard sales! BAH!  Is it any wonder I am the way I am?? Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you!

So, here I am 13 or so, heading into High School and of course, they want you to start thinking about your future. What do you want to do with your life? College? Work? Trade School? Hm? Make up your mind. No rush, you have four years before you graduate. You all know the drill. I was under pressure man and being as I had all this experience with spooky stuff, thanks to Gramma, I got the notion in my head to become a funeral director. How hard could it possibly be? Cemeteries didn’t bother me. Dead people weren’t any big deal, right?

We had a school assignment to investigate what we’d need to do to pursue a possible career path, this included interviewing people already in that occupation. This lead to the call to the funeral home. I dare say they’d never gotten a phone call like mine before then and probably not after. I could be wrong. The funeral director, let’s call him Dave – because – well, that’s his name – was happy to oblige. We set up an appointment and folks, I got the behind the scenes tour, embalming room and all. Yep… that was special, but even then I was not deterred. Nay! I would not be swayed by any of what he showed me… until…

“What sort of schooling do you have to have to do this?”

Science? What do you mean science? Human anatomy? Practically a doctorate! Gonna need some math in there too so you know how much fluid the body is going to need. Plus a two year apprenticeship. I don’t want to be a doctor, man. I just wanna take care of dead bodies. Can’t I just dress in black and hang around corpses and caskets and console people and that sorta stuff? Apparently not. Ah well, at least I got a good grade on the paper and I’ll betcha my teacher never got another one quite like it!

And so ended my career dreams as an undertaker. Knowing Funeral Director Dave would come in real handy a few years down the line when he kindly furnished the limo that was used when I was married for the first time in 1989 – free of charge!

I did manage to portray the wife of a 19th century – US Civil War – undertaker for several years while I was a reenactor. That was fun. Grossing people out as we described putting needles in people’s necks and inner thighs and draining off the blood to make room for the fluid (not formaldehyde – cuz that wasn’t invented until after the War). We met very few others of our kind on the battlefield. And this time I did get to dress in black and hang out around a coffin and pretend at least to write consoling letters to the bereaved.

Now, I find myself writing about undertakers a lot. My current book, ‘That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” features a murdered undertaker. And, I should add, I made another call to that same funeral director with some research question on it. The novel just released in February has a funeral home scene and the forth-coming ghost story features both! I don’t want to be an undertaker when I grow up anymore – I’ll just write weird stuff about them instead. It’s probably a lot more fun and I’ve never had to use algebra to do it!