If you grew up in a small town, you know how boring it can get. You also know that everyone knows everyone else’s business … or do they? Barnesville is one such town, but the secrets there are centuries old – secrets that generations of witches have guarded well. The Barnesville Chronicles walks you down Main Street amongst the shadow figures that haunt, stalk, possess, manipulate and murder anyone who dares get too close to its dark and bloody past.
Your first stop should be the public library where librarian and town historian, Nell Miller, will be happy to help you. She’d love for you to visit the museum upstairs, too. Just, mind the old scarecrow guarding the top of the stairs. He’s part of a rare collection of memorabilia that pertains to the town’s first settlers and the Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon.
After that you might find it of interest to head a few miles south into North Valley where they are dealing with the death of their beloved funeral director, Dan Walden. Everyone loved Dan and his wife Carol – okay, maybe not everyone loved Dan so much because someone gave him a mighty whack to the head and stuffed him in a display coffin to die. Angela Jennings, the daughter of one of Nell Miller’s best friends, is part of the police team trying to figure out just who the someone was. It seems like your normal murder case until an ethereal shadow figures starts cropping up all over town and visiting some of the fine folks in Barnesville, too. Who, or what is this dark and shifting form? Find out in That’s What Shadows Are Made Of.
Every small town has its local stories and legends. Barnesville is no exception. Back in the 1850s an old woman believed to have been a witch, cast a curse upon anyone and everyone who dared pay the site of her death a visit at night, a narrow section of road and its ravine that, over the years, became known as The Witch’s Backbone. If you see her and meet her gaze, you’re a goner. Back in 1980 a bored group of kids from the nearby farming community of Meyer’s Knob thought it would be a great idea to investigate this urban legend a bit closer. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all.
As the years pass, the reports continue to trickle in, expanding on what has become known as The Barnesville Chronicles. As of this posting there are at least two more diabolical secrets that the locals would really prefer you turn a blind eye and deaf ear to. They don’t need that kind of publicity. They like things quiet and they prefer the dark side of the history books remain shut.
I promise you, I’m doing my investigative best to dig up these stories and bring them into the light of day. Maybe I should head on over there myself and poke around that little library of theirs. I hear that Nell Miller woman is some sort of witch.
By some freakish twist of fate, my workplace declared a snow day on Friday. ((Only the second time a closing has taken place there ahead of a storm in the past forty years as verified \ remembered by my father)) This allowed me some unexpected extra time to work on writing.
Over the past couple weeks, the next book in The Barnesville Chronicles has been giving me some fits. I thought I was done with the first draft. Turns out, I was only half done. While working on the mess I created, it occurred to me maybe there was some clarification that needed to take place about these Chronicles.
What are the Barnesville Chronicles? Simply put, they are stories (mostly novels – there’s one short story that meets the requirements) that share the common setting of a small town in central New York State called Barnesville. In the broader sense, any location set in fictional Oneekah County is and will be a part of the Chronicles. Owen, the capital of Oneekah County in which Barnesville is located, boasts a population of less than 20,000. That should tell you a lot about the other towns and villages it presides over.
These are small town tales surrounded by acres upon acres of farmlands and forests. It’s rural and quiet. Families are tight. Nothing much is going on and life can get pretty monotonous. Everyone knows their neighbors, or do they? You think you know the man who owns the local feed store? Think again. You can trust the funeral director who’s tended to your families death needs for decades, right? Maybe not so much. What about the town librarian? Certainly she’s a good egg with nothing to hide. Not so fast.
Despite having a population of less than 2000, the influences of Barnesville and its secret witches’ coven stretch far and wide from as far back as the late 1700s to present day. The current members pride themselves on their good intentions, but this has not always been the case. Over the centuries, some have gone astray and used their powers and knowledge for more selfish and evil purposes. Therein lies the start of the layering of secrets from one town to the next.
There are ideas percolating, very few of which have been written down. Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon, a murder-mystery, begins the series in so far as filling in readers on the founding of Barnesville and its coven back in 1790. However, it also takes place in present day. The Witch’s Backbone Part 1: The Curse is set in 1980. Another tale will take place in the mid-1990s. Some weird happenings went down around 1900. The Prohibition Era may well show up for another storyline.
Currently the Barnesville Chronicles include three titles, Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon, That’s What Shadows Are Made Of, and the two-part series, The Witch’s Backbone. Ultimately, I hope to expand on that with each new title set in a different town within the county, bringing the grand total to twelve. Whether that actually happens or not is anyone’s guess, but I’m going to give it a shot.
Finally, each story in the Chronicles will be written as independent, stand-alone tales. You don’t have to read any title in order to understand the events of another. It might be more interesting, but it will be completely unnecessary with the exception of a title that bares more than one part (ie. The Witch’s Backbone). I’ve no intention of writing them in chronological order so there’s not reason for them to be read that way beyond a reader wanting to do so. Of course, knowing that order will only be fully disclosed when the final book is released years and years from now.
Now you know about The Barnesville Chronicles and I really should get back to that bone I have to pick with a certain witch in Part 2 of The Witch’s Backbone – The Murder.
Back in November of 2015, I blogged about The Horror of Women . It dealt with the difficulties women have getting published in the Horror Genre. Though I still struggle with the reality of that whole situation, I’d much rather write horror than what I was initially published in, erotica.
For centuries women have been viewed by the publishing world as inferior writers. For that reason they have used more masculine or gender neutral nom-de-plumes . What many people may not know is that some of their favorite female authors have also written in multiple genres.
Judy Bloom, known best for her “Fudge” series took a walk on the trampy side with her novel, “Wifey”. Anne Rice took a side trip from her witches and vampires to explore kink with the “Sleeping Beauty” trilogy. Joyce Carol Oats wrote gothic horror, murder and crime fiction, romances, historic fiction, fantasy, realism and surrealistic novels. All these woman are successful writers who dared step outside of their comfort zones and explore beyond the old adage of “write what you know”. I’m more inclined to write what I enjoy writing and I’ve had several different loves.
As a young adult I dreamed of writing Children’s fiction and even took college level classes in Children’s Literature and Illustration to pursue that goal. Somewhere along the lines for reasons that are unclear to me, my first novel turned out to be in the Fantasy genre. Beyond what was require of me in high school and the reading of The Hobbit, fantasy’s not my thing. On an awkward dare from a friend, I began writing erotica. I never saw that one coming (pun intended). Five published novels later, I’d had enough.
Having always loved murder-mysteries, horror, and anything to do with the paranormal, that was my next genre pick. This, I feel, is where I truly belong. Witches, ghosts, and bogeymen, oh my! In 2013 I saw my first paranormal murder-mystery published and was on cloud nine until, about six months later, my publisher announced they were going out of business. Now what? I already had another novel done and in the editing process for these people. Heartbroken, but knowing this was where I wanted my writing to go, I carried on and finished the second book and began the whole query, query, query, submit, submit, submit, rejected, rejected, rejected process all over again.
Had I messed up? Should I go back into the closet and return to the erotica where I was still seeing decent sales and a monthly royalty deposit in my account? Don’t get me wrong, the erotica was fun to write and I learned a great deal about some aspects of the publishing business, but my heart and writer’s soul wasn’t into it. No. I just couldn’t do it. I’ve never felt so creative and productive and pleased with my writing since making the genre hop. With fans of the first murder-mystery contacting me at least once a month over when I’d have another book out, I realized it was time to change tactics … again. The traditional publishing Gods were not with me. I was letting everyone down. I had to do something drastic and decided to self-publish.
Because of that, I had the pleasure of being invited to five author events in 2016. I’m hoping to do at least that many for 2017. It’s rather difficult to peddle your erotic-wares in public knowing your mother’s pastor is likely to walk by and say hello or you’re going to see old friends and teachers and try to explain how you know about “those sorts of things”. It’s called research, people. As I’ve said before, I like vampire and murder-mysteries, too, but that doesn’t mean I believe I’m a vampire or that I’m going to go out and murder someone. Sex may sell, but not in a small town family-friendly community center or a privately owned bookstore. It’s a lot easier when it’s a murder-mystery or something about haunted houses or Shadow People or urban legends.
With three paranormal novels now out and another on the way later in 2017, I may not be raking in the dough as much as I one day hope to, but I’m having a lot more fun and I’m getting much needed exposure. I’m mingling, setting up displays, doing book talks and signing and, though I write under my maiden name, I’m not really hiding behind a pen-name anymore. I’m being myself and sharing my love of the macabre.
I’d still love to put out a Children’s book, too. Maybe I will one of these days.
If you’re considering writing something different than what you’d normally do, do it! Don’t limit your imagination to a single genre. You have a slew of successful female (and male) writers who have already dared to be different. Georgette Heyer, who is better known for her romance novels, has also dabbled in detective fiction. Children’s book author Sonya Hartnett wrote a rather sexually graphic novel that created a bit of a stir. You’re in good company no matter where you decide to let your writing take you, just don’t be afraid to explore.
Taking that step could very well lead you exactly where you want to go. Start walking!
Shifting darkness, murder, and magic. That’s what shadows are made of.
An updated version of the trailer for That’s What Shadows Are Made Of, my second paranormal murder-mystery.
Are you ready to face the shadows?
Witches, Shadow People, and Ghosts, oh my! Just in time for Halloween!
On Friday, October 7th, I’ll be at Riverow Books for the final 2016 First Friday Artwalk event in Owego, NY from 6-8pm. I’ll have hot of the press copies of my latest horror release, No Rest For The Wicked along with copies of my murder-mystery titles, Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon and That’s What Shadows Are Made Of.
We’ll be signing, selling, and chatting it up for two hours and we may or may not have cookies.
Hope to see you there!
I will be lurking in the lower level of the Berkshire Community Hall with copies of “Secrets Of The Scarecrow Moon” and “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” along with other local authors sharing their books. Stop in and say hi, get a book you already own signed, buy a book, visit the library and museum that inspired the fictional versions in the books! Eat Blueberries!
Main events held at the Berkshire NY Community Hall, Fire Station & Library.(Corner of Rt. 38 & Jewett hill Rd.) 9am-4pm FOOD! Blueberry Pancakes 7-10am at the Berkshire Fire Hall. Berry Cake Sales, Chicken BBQ, Burgers & more! Bake-Off Competition. ENTERTAINMENT! Live Music ALL Day (including: Sister Moon, Valley Harmony w/ Tina Salasny, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and Steve Holcomb Band), raffles, local authors meet & greet, Miss Blueberry visit, Art Show, Vendors, classic car show, Berkshire History Musuem tours, antique appraisals with Bob Connelly, and activities for the kids!
I just checked my Amazon Author Rank. While certainly not even close to the #1 spot, the trend is inching upward. The highest ranking I’ve seen since the release of THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF was #109,426. I’m currently at #271,558. Lower, yes, at the moment, but as you can see by the chart, the trend is climbing. So… what can I say? BUY A BOOK, PEOPLE! If you already have, thank you and be sure to POST A REVIEW. At the very least, give what you’ve read a star rating. Every little bit helps that chart spike up a little higher each time and keeps it from falling too far down.
Some would say all this doesn’t mean a lot and the rankings are less than accurate, but it’s all I have to go on and it gives me hope. I’ve been writing since I was ten years old and by God, anything that tells me I’m not at the bottom of the Author Barrel is a good thing.
I set up my 3rd author appearance for 2016 and am very happy and excited about all of them! 1st draft progress on DARK HOLLOW ROAD is coming along nicely despite the utter HORROR I felt when I realized a couple weeks back that I’d lost nearly two whole chapters to a corrupt file. We’ve worked past and through that and things are chugging along well once more. Well, nice for some characters, not so nice for others. No wait. Everyone is pretty much either terrified, crying hysterically, heart broken or all of the above this moment. Good times, people! Awesome, horrific good times are being had.
Cover art for NO REST FOR THE WICKED is still in progress. The plan is to have fresh off the presses copies for the October First Friday Artwalk at Riverow Bookshop in Owego, NY, a book release party, of sorts! The bookstore manager is already getting terribly excited about the decorations! What better way to kick off October but with a ghost story set in an old, Virginian plantation house?
That about wraps it up for today! Thanks for stopping by.
Since August of last year I’ve been working my way through Stephen King’s DARK TOWER series. I started the final book last week and will post a general review of the series once I’m finished. That aside, in book #6 we meet Stephen King himself. Yes, he’s made himself a character in his own book. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but what I did enjoy was getting another glimpse into his mind as a writer and how he works.
Since reading his other book “On Writing…” many years ago, I’ve felt a certain distant kinship to King. We’d always been taught in school that you need to outline your whole story before you begin, that you should know ahead of time what the climax and resolution is going to be. How can you get to the end if you don’t even know what the ending is going to be? It seemed to makes sense at the time, but I always struggled with outlining in school. My characters sometimes didn’t want to fit into the plot I’d constructed nor did they like when I reigned them in. I was cramping their style.
King, I learned decades later, doesn’t generally outline. He has a premise and an inspiration and off he goes. His characters tell their stories and as I felt towards my characters over my many years of writing as well, King’s characters take over. We are but the scribes who write at a feverish pace, doing our best to put down what they are telling and showing us. I liken it to watching a movie you’ve never seen before and trying to write it all down as it plays. I’ve discovered other writers who work in the same way and from one of them I learned the term “Organic Writer”.
All of my erotica titles were written in this way. The opening scene was usually crystal clear. I sometimes had an ending in mind, but everything in between was driven by the characters as they rambled on in my ear and showed me everything they wanted me to see. People look at you weird when you tell them that’s how you write. The whole voices-in-your-head thing seems a bit crazy, right? It probably would be if I didn’t listen and didn’t write it all down. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen all that far in advance and if I do, it’s only because THEY have whispered it to me.
I ran into trouble when I decided to quit writing the erotica and switched to my true love of the supernatural, horror, and murder-mysteries. I wrote my first mystery, THE SECRET WELL, when I was ten. Writing SECRETS OF THE SCARECROW MOON was a whole lot harder. I’ve read a lot of murder-mysteries, but writing one in my traditional Organic Writer way wasn’t ideal. Every suspect needed a secret. Every suspect needed an opportunity. Every suspect needed a motive. Every suspect, save for the killer, needed an alibi. I had to know all that in advance which wasn’t easy when the guilty party didn’t want to give up any of that information! I was finally able to wrestle it out of them about half way through the book which meant I had to go back and fix a few things once I knew what was really going on.
I learned a lot from “…Scarecrow Moon” and THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF proved easier. I knew who did it right from the start. I lined up my suspects and gave them each a secret right off the bat. All I had to do was remain within the confines of that information and then I let them lose. There was still a lot I did NOT know, but it was enough of a mystery to me to also be surprised sometimes at what happened next. In fact, one suspect showed up that I hadn’t planned on which made it even more fun.
NO REST FOR THE WICKED isn’t a murder-mystery, though there certainly is (was) a fair amount of killing going on, nor is DARK HOLLOW ROAD. In fact, at the moment I don’t have another murder-mystery in the works, but in doing those that I have, it’s truly been a great learning process and I’ve grown to appreciate the premise of an outline to help you along. I’d still rather have my characters running amok and telling me what’s next on their own. It’s amazing to sit back after pounding out a few thousands words and saying to yourself, “Huh, I never saw that one coming!” If I didn’t see it coming then surely the readers won’t and that’s a good thing. I like the surprises and the weird twists and turns things take.
The folks down on DARK HOLLOW ROAD have been pretty quiet lately, but I sense them starting to whisper again. That’s a good thing. It’s been too long since I’ve escaped into the strange, paranormal, and taboo-infested world they live in. I’m eager to get back there to see what happens next, just as eager as I am to get back into Stephen King’s world of The Dark Tower.
Things are chugging along nicely with the upcoming release of Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon, a rewrite to my first paranormal murder-mystery formerly known as Blood of the Scarecrow. Even if you’ve read the original, you’ll still enjoy the rewrite! I’ve added several new scenes, new information about some of the characters including a link to the novel I’m currently still writing, Dark Hollow Road, and you’ll find out what happens to the scarecrow that wins the competition. Fun stuff!
For those not familiar with Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon, here’s the blurb!
For nearly two-hundred years the sleepy, little town of Barnesville has kept a secret, several in fact. Had it not been for the gruesome death of Peter Wakely, those secrets may have remained hidden another two centuries. Authorities deem it an accident when an 85-year-old man is crushed to death under a headstone during a particularly heavy March snow storm. Detective Sergeant Simon Michaels and his assistant, Angela Jennings, are two of the first on the scene. Angie grew up in Barnesville and almost immediately suspects that not all is at it appears to be. Without the help of police to back her suspicions, she quickly takes it upon herself to investigate.
The more she digs into the victim’s life and the role his family played in the founding of the town, the more bizarre things become. Even the town historian and librarian, a good friend of Angie’s mother and a self-proclaimed witch, is reluctant to discuss matters until after the passing of the Scarecrow Moon. It seems the past has come back to haunt and torment the current residents of Barnesville or at least those involved in the witchery on which it was founded.
Even Angie is not immune as vivid and gruesome dreams and uncanny hunches begin to plague her. Eventually she must face one of her deepest fears to unravel the mystery, break the spell, and reveal the dark secrets of the Scarecrow Moon; secrets and laced with blood, witchcraft, and at least one scarecrow that refuses to stay where it should.
We’re hoping for a late March release date! Stay Tuned!