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’s Your Back-up Plan?

Before the creation of thumb drives and ‘clouds’, we had 5.25” and 3.5” floppy discs. The 5.25” were actually quite thin and, well, floppy. Hence the name, I suppose. The 3.5” had a much more rigid outer casing which made them much less likely to become damaged. I mainly used the 3.5” for storing and saving my writing works. I could save a lot of data on one of those bad boys. I still have a few kicking around my writing space.

Back in the day, I used to carry a large plastic folder that held the printed version of whatever I was working on at the time. I’d write, do a quick proofread, then print it out and add it to the folder as I progressed. I’d also save it on the carefully labeled floppy disc. There were times I’d fall behind on having an up-to-date printed version as I didn’t have my own printer at home. I’d bring the disc in to work and have it printed in the library’s printing center for about 2 cents a page. The 3.5” floppy traveled safely in a pocket on the inside of the plastic folder. This was my back-up plan and it worked great.

Until one fateful night …

As I got on the bus that night to head home from work and settled into my seat, panic and dread suddenly washed over me. My folder was not in my book bag. SHIT! I looked out the bus window just in time to see my beloved work in progress, printed version and the saved floppy disc version, dwindling away, left behind in the bus shelter on the bench. There was no stopping the bus.

Back then I took a regular commuter bus that only made two trips per day. Once in the morning to drop riders off at work and once in the evening to pick us all back up and take us home. (Oh, the joys of rural American living where public transit is almost non-existent.)  Needless to say, I was nearly in hysterics! My book! My precious book!! There was nothing I could do but pray to every infinite power of the universe to somehow keep all that hard work safe until I could return the next day. Sleep wasn’t easy that night.

In the morning, the plastic folder and all it contained was gone from the bus stop bench. Someone had found it. Buy who? And what did they do with it? How would I ever find them if they had it? My name wasn’t anywhere on the folder or the floppy disc. I could only think of one thing to do – send out a message via the library’s list-serve and hope … hope against all hope, that someone out there had seen it and taken it somewhere safe.

This all made me give serious thought to my methods of backing up my work. The idea of writing almost an entire book all over again from scratch was mind-numbing. I could never get it all back. Since then, I’ve added more layers to saving my work. I still print as I go and I still save it on a jump drive, in fact I double save it – meaning there are two copies of the work on the same jump drive in case one of the versions becomes corrupted. (Yup – I’ve almost lost a ton of work for that reason, too).  I also email the most current version of the file to myself at least once a week. I keep another final draft in a file on my home computer. The printed version and the jump drive are almost never kept in the same place and of course, and both are marked with my name and contact information just in case.  The emailed version is stored somewhere within that mysterious mega-file cabinet in the sky. 

This new method has worked very well over the years. I’ve never experienced that same level of utter panic and horror as I did that night on the commuter bus. Back-up, back-up, back-up! By the time all is said and done, I have five copies of the piece to go to should things go awry.

As to the fate of that plastic folder and 3.5” floppy disc left at the bus stop – both were recovered. They were found by a student who happened to work in one of the nearby libraries who took it to the main desk. Another person who worked at that desk was the daughter of a woman who worked in the same library I do. My cry for help to the campus-wide library list-serve was heard. I had my precious novel back in my arms on my way home the very next day.

What’s your back-up plan?

The End Is Nigh.

The end is nigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The end if nigh.

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

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

 

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!

The Wonderful Week of Writing

It’s been a rather satisfying week for this little Scribe.

It started with the cover reveal of Dark Hollow Road. I’m so excited about finally getting this book out there. It’s taken over two years, but now the wait is nearly over. The release date for both paperbacks and eBooks has been set for March 23. eBook pre-orders will be announced soon, too.

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Next came this amazing review by Isobel Blackthorne for my HellBound Books novel, “No Rest For The Wicked”.  I’m pretty speechless about this one. Thrilled is putting it mildly.

 

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Then this review appeared over on Goodreads for my most recent Barnesville Chronicle title, “The Witch’s Backbone Part 1: The Curse” by none other than fellow Horror writer, Hunter Shea.

 It’s moments like these that keep me writing on. They give me a level of hope that pulls me up from the dregs of self-doubt and pointlessness.

 

Over the weekend, I started work on my first run through of the first draft of Part 2 of The Witch’s Backbone, “The Murder”. It’s sat ignored for a month so I go in with somewhat fresh eyes, having forgotten certain scenes, inserting scenes I realize needed to take place later in the book, and discovering scenes that are completely missing from the printed version. Let’s hope that’s just some sort of printing snafu and that they are actually still intact when I get back into the electronic version to implement all these corrections, subtractions, and additions. The hope is to have this one released by September, but don’t quote me on that.

TerlinguaTX

Terlingua, Texas

 

We have a grand trip planned for Southwest Texas and a little ghost town called Terlingua in late October – early November. I’ve been thinking of doing a story based on this area of the country for several years now and am looking forward to doing some much-needed first hand research as well as enjoying what promises to be a once in a lifetime experience of celebrating Dia de los Muertos with the locals and visiting my husband’s cousin all wrapped up into one wonderful adventure. Can hardly wait to breathe in that delightful desert air again!

Grand things are in the works, dear readers and I’m really looking forward to sharing them all with you as they unfold.

Top Ten Reads of 2017

Thanks to GoodReads, I now have a quick and easy way to keep track of my reading accomplishments. For 2017, I set my goal at 24 books. I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I lean more in the direction of thicker tomes, 300-400 pages and I did manage to get a few of those in. However, I must thank those authors who write on the shorter end of the stick for helping me make that 24 book goal.

Of those 24, I’ve selected ten that have left the best impressions. The only order here is the order in which I read them, earliest to most recent. Maybe one or more will strike your fancy and make it to your To-Read list for 2018.

TheWillowsThe Willows by Algernon Blackwood. Published in1907, The Willows was one of H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite reads. It’s a truly creepy tale of two friends who take an intentionally wrong turn while on a boat trip down the Danube, despite the warnings of the locals. Something bizarre and malevolent dwells within the willows along the shoreline, enticing one member of the party to a near-suicide. This being, or collection of beings, it’s never quite clear what’s out there, continually stalk and threaten the travelers. It seems the willows harbor another life form, of this world, the next, or perhaps from the stars. Whatever it is, or wherever it comes from, you’d be much wiser to follow the right path than in the steps of this stories two main characters.

 

 

SinisterEntity_SheaSinister Entity by Hunter Shea : Even at the tender age of eighteen, paranormal investigator Jessica Backman has seen and experienced more than her fair share of things that go bump in the night. She’s always worked alone, until a series of emails arrives from Eddie Homes, a total stranger. Who is this clown and how has he learned so much about her? Jessica has always been very careful about keeping her privacy, but Eddie knows things he absolutely should not know. When Eddie tells Jessica that her dad sent him, she takes notice. Jessica’s father died horrifically when she was only six, and boy does Dad have a job for her and Eddie to do! Sinister Entity is the prequel to the first Hunter Shea book I ever read, Island of the Forbidden. After reading this I’m just itching to get the first book of the series, Forest of Shadows.

 

DATTOML digital coverDreaming at the Top of My Lungs by Israel Finn : There’s always a touch of envy in me for people who can pull off a successful short story. In a mere 112 pages, Israel Finn managed to keep me engaged and amused for the past couple weeks. As with any collection or anthology by even the most famous of writers, there are some stories that are better than others. There were a few in here that I didn’t quite get or felt that were lacking, but the vast majority I thoroughly enjoyed and enough so that I’d easily consider picking up more work from this up and coming author.

 

 

 

Boggy_BlackburnBeyond Boggy Creek by Lyle Blackburn : A must read for anyone interested in Bigfoot, specifically those associated with the southern United States. Blackburn gives us numerous examples from Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. (I may have missed some). Be that as it may, I was amazed there were so many sightings in all of these states. I had no idea! And not just from a hundred years ago, but within the past five years.

 

 

 

 

ShadowFabricThe Shadow Fabric by Mark Cassell : On the second day of his new job, Leo is witness to a murder. His boss, Victor, stabs his own brother, Stanley, with a mysterious dagger known as the Witchblade. But Stanley suffers from no normal stab wound. Instead he is drawn into what appears to be a black piece of fabric and is consumed. The Shadow Fabric is an action-packed and fast-paced run through the underbelly of a realm of darkness, insanity, and a secret mythos that all but the very few are aware of. Leo took my hand, gripped it tight, and yanked me along through it all right along with him. His fears became my fears. His desire to find the answers, were mine. The feelings of betrayal and hopelessness that he felt made me cling to each page, urging him to continue to fight and find the truth.

 

 

TheSelectionThe Selection by Jason J. Nugent : A coming-of-age story taken to its most basic level, survive! Every eighteen-year-old boy has to go through it. Most will not make it. Not long ago Eron’s brother Timo entered The Selection. The last thing Eron remembers is the sound of his older brother’s screams. Now, Eron must face whatever awaits him and he’s understandably terrified. It was a little slow at the beginning, but once the greater action began, I really got involved with the characters and was cheering for Eron every step of the way. Jason has done a great job creating another world, environment, and belief system that is part of, yet so far apart from Earth, that it’s unrecognizable.

 

 

 

77ShadowStreetKoontz77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz : The first of several books that feature the Pendleton Hotel, 77 Shadow Street was my first voyage into the writings of Dean Koontz. I know! Don’t judge! There’s something very wrong going on at the hotel and for those that call the place home, it’s a matter of life and death. An entity that calls itself The One is dedicated to destroying those it deems unworthy and saving those that share its apparent lack of respect for the foolish, overly-sensitive and emotional human race. Your average Joe is a waste of this things time. All must be destroyed or assimilated. This process has been going on for generations and each cycle results in a series of gruesome deaths. What is The One? An alien intelligence? A powerful demon? An over-zealous, future computer that believes itself to be God? All of the above? Whatever it is, Koontz captured it perfectly. I can’t recommend this book enough.

 

watchingWe Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea : After being hit by very hard times, fourteen-year-old West Ridley and his parents are forced to move in with his ornery grandfather, Abraham. As if living with the grumpy and less-than-hygienic old man isn’t bad enough, the old family farmhouse is falling to rot and ruin and Grandpa couldn’t care less. In fact, he seems to intentionally want to drive them out with insults and rage. But, the family has no other place to go and no money to get there if they did. Buttermilk Creek, Pennsylvania is the bottom of the barrel, isolated, creepy, and filled with more terror than even the Horror-loving West can take. We Are Always Watching is loosely based on real events that Shea has taken and run with, twisting them into his own horrible version of a nightmare, as he does with all his work. Family secrets begin to leech to the surface and the more West finds out, the more he comes to realize he and his family need to get the hell out of Grampa Abraham’s house! Like, NOW!

 

Shattering-the-LeyShattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier : I was first introduced to Joshua Palmatier’s work about ten years ago through the Throne of Amenkor series and I really loved them. He has a marvelous way of combining Fantasy and Science Fiction, two genre’s I’m usually not all that into, but Josh may make a convert out of me yet. Shattering the Ley is no exception to the amazing work Palmatier does. He creates a myriad of characters that you quickly grow to either love or hate and his visual descriptions easily draw you into the world of his creations. A wonderful, engaging read and I am super eager to get into the next book in the series!

 

 

 

GehennaGehenna & Tartarus by Jason Brant : Alright, technically two books, but you just can’t have one without the other! This Zombie Western series is gory, thrilling, and laugh out loud funny all at the same time. Who could ask for more? Gehenna was my introduction to Jason Brant’s work and I couldn’t be happier. I love a good zombie movie, but in all honestly, these West of Hell books are the first zombie BOOKS I’ve read and am thoroughly enjoying. Tartarus picks up right where Gehenna ends. Both are super fast-paced and well-written. I only bought the first two and am now chomping at the bit to get my hands on the third.

The Horrors That Grew Me – Witchcraft

It’s no secret. I’m fascinated by witchy things and things associated with witchcraft. This does not mean I am one. I have a huge interest in vampires, too. Their lore and mythology, the novels, the movies, the whole nine yards, (Except for Twilight. I hate Twilight. Sorry. Deal with it.) all enthrall me. This does not mean I am one or believe I am one.

As with so many other horrors that grew me, I wasn’t entirely clear on when this interest first blossomed until recently. It has simply always been. But, the more I’ve thought about it for the writing of this post, the more I’ve come to understand about its origins. There’s a bit of interest in Spiritualism that I can easily trace to a particular relative on one side of the family who would later not only purchase my first Ouija board for me as a birthday gift (my 13th birthday, btw) but would also teach me how to use it – much to the rolling of her husband’s eyes. Another close relation on the other side of the family was really into the meaning of dreams and astrology.

As I was exposed to dream interpretation from my earliest days, let’s start with Ballantyne and Coeli’s Your Dreams And Your Horoscope : 25,000 Interpretations of the Messages Received in Sleep and the Predictions of the Stars, Planets, and other Heavenly Bodies, a copy of which was given to my great grandfather for Christmas in 1943. This same book now holds an honored place in my private research library. From Abacus to Zoo, we are presented with dream interpretations of all kinds in the first 564 pages of this yellow-paged tome. This is followed by finding numbers associated with dreams based on numerology. On page 574 we start our lessons in astrology, which continue for another 300+ pages. Hm. It all seems rather witchy to me.

 

Zolar

The Mysterious, Zolar?

This book would lead me to buy a dream book of my own, Zolar’s Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Dreams along with his Compendium of Occult Theories and Practices. This Zolar fellow has thirty books listed on Goodreads, but there’s an overwhelming lack of any actual information on who Zolar really was (or is). Other than a picture I found of a bearded man wearing a tweed suit with matching hat and smoking a Sherlock Holmes-style pipe, I haven’t found a thing. I strongly suspect that he’s the Simon and Schuster equivalent of General Mills’ Betty Crocker.

 

Once the research fuse on this particular study was ignited, things really got interesting. I quickly found myself diving into the non-fiction book Witchcraft At Salem by Chadwick Hansen and The Complete Book Of Magic and Witchcraft by Kathryn Paulsen. Much like the vampire library, the library of books on witches and witchcraft grew.

For my high school senior paper I wrote about the causes of the Salem witch trials and as part of my research was granted access to Cornell University’s massive Witchcraft Collection at the age of seventeen. I was taken to a small study room that contained nothing but four large tables with two chairs each, and several surveillance cameras. I was permitted to take in a pencil and a notebook. That’s it. Having looked at the card catalogue prior to my admission, I had a list of documents and books I was interested in seeing. These were brought to me and for the next few hours I gathered as much information as I could that pertained to my topic. I was in Heaven – and some would say probably working my soul’s way to Hell. Little did I know at the time, but I was also gazing at documents that pertained to my own family lineage.

For a good twenty-five to thirty years or so, I was very involved in all manner of occult dabbling. I taught myself to read the Tarot and other methods of scrying. The use of the Ouija board was common practice. I gathered stones and crystals. I burnt cedar and sage. I met and hung out with a lot of pagans whose practices ranged from Druid to Wicca and participated in numerous drum circles. It was fun and I learned a lot spiritually about myself.  It’s been a solid ten years since I’ve done any of that and a good five since I’ve spoken to anyone from those days.  My interest is still there, but it’s really just an interest now, not a practice. As I said, it was educational and it helped me find a pretty content zone when it comes to all this spiritual, in the religious sense of the word.

A few years prior to my maternal grandmother’s passing, she gave me a book she highly prized. It was THE family genealogy book, researched and written by her cousin. When she gave it to me she said, “You’re the only one who really seems to care about this so I wanted to make sure you got this.”  It would not be until 2009 that I would find a passage in this book that thrilled me beyond words, despite the sad injustice of it all.

In the Preston line of family is this entry:  Thomas Preston, born abt 1642, per his deposition 30 Jan 1690, stating he was then 48 years old. He m’d in Salem Village, Mass in 15 April 1669, Rebecca Nurse, d/o Frances & Rebecca (Towne) Nurse.  Rebecca (Towne) Nurse was born 16 Feb 1621 & was executed as a witch 19 July 1692.

Thomas Preston’s brother Roger was my 7x great grandfather, making Rebecca (Towne) Nurse my 8x great aunt. It’s a thin, frail line of descent, I grant you, but I’ll take it. Of course, the 71-year-old Rebecca Nurse accused and hung as a witch was no such thing. In a similar vein, my Godfather is descended from Judge William Stoughton – also of Salem fame – and his wife, my Godmother, is also descended from an accused Salem innocent.

Last but not least, all this love of genealogy research led me to work on a lineage for a friend – just for fun. Through that I discovered the Connecticut Witch Trials that ran from 1647 to 1697, before, during, and after Salem. No fewer than thirty-four men and women were formally charged with witchcraft. Eleven were hanged. And from these people grew my idea of the Barnesville witches that you’ll find in my Barnesville Chronicle series.

RTNurse_woodcuthomestead

So, there you have it – my love and fascination with witches, the good ones, the bad ones, the factual ones, the fictitious one, and the ones that weren’t really witches at all, but innocent victims of their culture and circumstance. The apex of this horror that grew me will be the day I walk into the homestead of Rebecca Towne Nurse that still stands today in Danvers, Massachusetts (the original Salem Village) as a museum and feel some strange, magical, and witchy sense of coming home.

The Music of the Muse

Back when I was a kid, all the really cool movies had accompanying soundtracks. I was in love with these things. There was a section of my record collection devoted to Jesus Christ Superstar, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Dunwich Horror, The Hunger, and The Shining, just to name a few. With the black light on and the incense smoke swirling in the room, I listened to these just as much as I did all that screaming 80s hair band music and loved them just as much, if not more, because of the moods they would create. I can’t help but wonder if my parents thought maybe I was conjuring up old Beelzebub when some of these albums were playing … talk about your Devil Music!

While I was writing my first novel, an epic fantasy adventure called “The Pride”, I listened to a lot of Enya. She was big back in the 1990s. I even made a soundtrack for the novel, basing each selection on a certain scene and putting them in chronological order on the cassette tape. Good times.

I didn’t write much of anything but short stories and poetry in the ten years following “The Pride”. Since then, I’ve seen a lot of other author’s being asked if music plays a role in their writing. Most seemed to choose music of a similar genre to whatever they were writing in, to set a certain mood, I guess. The horror writers leaned towards dark, gothic stuff and metal. Romance writers seemed to linger in the Classical section. You get the idea.

For a long time, I needed near total silence in order to focus on my writing. Anything with words in it was completely distracting. I’d sing along instead of working. For a while, I’d use Mozart or Chopin for that simple reason, no singing! And then, for no recallable reason whatsoever, I had my headphones on listening to the Blues as I wrote. And I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. My fingers danced over the keyboard. One scene after another rolled out of me in thousands upon thousands of words. I was thrilled! What had I just discovered? Was this a fluke or had I stumbled upon my Muse’s music? The Blues seems a very odd choice to write Horror to.

In the years since this revelation, the effect has remained the same. BB King, Etta James, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and Stevie Ray Vaughn along with so many others would rock and croon their way into my writer’s brain, waking up that little Muse and sending her into action. It’s almost a fool proof way of smashing writer’s block. And if I can’t get any writing done even then, I know it’s time to save, close, and go do something else for a while, cuz if it isn’t happened then, it ain’t gonna happen.

How about you? Is there certain music that helps you progress with your chosen craft, be it writing, painting, scrap booking, or even housework? What kind of music inspires you and your Muse into motion?

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.

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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.

Dusting Off The Cobwebs

I admit, I’ve been a lazy blogger as of late. It’s not that I don’t have anything to blog about. I have a regular weekly schedule that I try to keep on top of, but sometimes I just can’t get into it. My brain gets covered in cobwebs and there I sit, coated in them. I’ve got book and movie reviews I should be writing up and getting out. Maybe it’s because I’ve been trapped in editing mode for so long. I have been working on projects, trying to get several things wrapped up all at once for a new release. I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs entirely.

All that aside, I do have something to share! Last week I was asked by author Jason J. Nugent if I’d be interested in participating in his “Author Spotlight” blog feature. Of course, I said yes. There’s even a except from the soon-to-be released third book in the Barnesville Chronicles here!

FOLLOW THIS LINK over to Jason’s page and enjoy!

I’ll be writing up more reviews this week – at least that’s the plan – along with another installment of “The Horrors That Grew Me” and silently pecking away at the keyboard as I journey back to Barnesville and Meyer’s Knob in the year 1980!