The Devil, A Worm, & A Crow

As I begin to write this, the rising sun is shining directly in my eyes, but I refuse to cross the room and move the drapes slightly to the left. Why? Because I live in the Northeast United States and haven’t seen much sunshine since November. It seems a sacrilege to close the drapes and block out what I miss so much. It’s March now and I can hear birds chirping this morning instead of cold winds whipping around the corner of the house making the evergreen shrub thrash against the old clapboard siding. The Weather People say it’s supposed to get up to 60F later this week. That should wipe out all but the most stubborn of snow piles, at least until next November rolls around anyway.

The end of February found me going under the knife again – hopefully for the last time ever – to have the hardware taken out of my left clavicle that was put in there back in November of 2019. I’m nine days post-op and ready to get these damned stitches out on March 10th. Despite the discomfort, I can honestly say, it hurts a whole lot less now than it did on the 26th when I went in! And no, the motorcycle still isn’t fixed or fit to drive. Poor thing.

I made some good progress on the next Barnesville Chronicle last month. Death at the Devil’s Elbow is set in Owen and will see the return of everyone’s favorite witchy librarian, Nell Miller and her favorite niece, Angela Jennings Bishop. This time around Nell and Angie are helping investigate the local haunted hot-spot, the Devil’s Elbow, where a grisly and ritualistic murder has taken place. The isolated hilltop location has been home to a variety of failed businesses, the last of which was a stripper club called Naked Truths. Being as the settings for the Barnesville books are all taken directly from the small town and villages around where I grew up, a mere thirty-five miles from where I now sit, this may be the last Barnesville Chronicle written so close to the real-life scene of the crime. The times they are a’changin’ soon – but we’ll talk about that in a later post.

I managed to read two books by female authors in February for Women in Horror Fiction Month, Horror, She Wrote and The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek. You can check out my reviews over on Goodreads. I also wiggled my way into an interview at Rebbie Reviews for those keen on possibly learning more about me than you already do.

Celebrating Women In Horror – Interview with Pamela Morris

My March reading has kicked off with House of Skin by Jonathan Janz. So far, so good. This will be followed by Hunter Shea’s Slash.

March also means spring, though some of our worse snowstorms have been known to strike in March, I’m going to say it’s not going to happen this year and hope for the best. My dad, my grandmother (you know – the one who selected and bought me a Ouija board for my 13th birthday in addition to the vampire books I had initially picked out), and my daughter were all born in March. It’s a good month. Adding to the good things March has going for it, my second Children’s Book, Bill The Worm Meets Carl Crow, was released last week on March 1st.

Bill The Worm Meets Carl Crow : Trailer

I’ve already finished the illustrations for the next Bill the Worm book that comes out in late September of this year. Of course, me being me, I just had to have Bill love Halloween! Bill the Worm has an important decision to make about all that! I’ve also started writing the story for the fourth Bill the Worm book. Once the weather is warmer, I’ll be more in the mood for writing and creating.

Bill the Worm and The Devil are both nudging me in the Writing Wribs equally as hard these days. Should be an interesting battle over the summer! LOL.

A brief blog post to be sure, but it’s better than nothing!

In the meantime, I hope you all are doing well out there, staying safe, staying healthy, and hopefully looking forward to a much more normal year ahead.

And A Little Worm Shall Lead Them

It’s taken forty-five years, but it’s finally here, the big news I’ve been waiting to share, the secret that’s taken decades to accomplish and reveal.

In May 1975, at the tender age of nine, either before or after a visit to the orthodontist, I crawled under a countertop in a library at Cornell University with some pieces of folded paper, a few colored pens, and a story to tell. As my mother worked at her job as a keypunch operator, I began to write and draw. When the workday was over and it was time to head home, I had finished my masterpiece. It was a simple tale with simple illustrations, but it meant the world to me and would, as the years went by, become an inspiration.  

As I grew up, other stories came along. They were longer and more intricate. My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Dodd, once gave us a weekend assignment to write a story, any story about anything, at least three pages long. I was thrilled. Oh, how I wish I still had that story. I’ve no idea what it was even about but when I handed in ten pages instead of three, the teacher looked quite surprised. “I just couldn’t stop,” I remember telling her apologetically. “The characters just took over.” I felt bad it was so long, afraid I’d done too much and not kept to the three-page rule. Mrs. Dodd assured me it was fine. The assignment needed to be AT LEAST 3-pages long so ten was perfectly alright.

I continued to write my own short stories, usually about vampires or witches or ghosts. Seldom were any of them shared unless it was for a school assignment. I took a correspondence course in Children’s Literature as well as a college class in Illustration, thinking one day I’d write Children’s books. That was the ORIGINAL plan anyway. I got a little sidetracked, obviously.

I’d go on to write those novels I’d dreamed of writing, and some I’d never imagined! And yet, there remained that one story, the one that had remained forever in my heart and soul, the one I’d written for and given to my dad that day in May 1975. At some point over the years, I found out that my dad had saved that little handwritten and hand drawn booklet all this time. He returned it to me along with several notebooks filled with those simple stories I’d written back in my school days. They made me laugh and cry all at the same time. They were so wonderfully terrible! In 2015 I decided to revise that 1975 story, fill it in a little more and to rework the illustrations, but remain as true as possible to the original. Working full time along with adult life in general provided plenty of distractions and delays. A fortieth anniversary version would be gifted to my dad! Great plans… that time and again got put aside, slightly forgotten, deemed not as important as the next Horror novel. I’d get to it eventually.

Then 2020 and Covid-19 happened. I started working from home full time. With no morning or evening commute, I had a couple more hours a day to work on my own things. It was a glorious summer to work outside on my back deck. I began in earnest to try and finish what I’d started to do in 2015. I rewrote and drew inspiration from the original illustrations done by a nine-year-old me tucked under a counter in her mother’s workplace, but I needed to be able to get these images digitized and had no scanner at home to do so. Maybe a drug store or office supply store would have what I needed. Would the new drawings even look good after they were scanned?

In September, after six months of working from home, I was able to return to campus 3-days a week, what has become the new normal — and a high-quality scanner at my office fingertips. I sent the scanned imaged to myself from work. Once home, they were reformatted and tweaked as quickly as I could. This project needed to be done in time for Christmas, a gift for my dad, a gift he and I had talked about on and off over the years since the day I’d first given it to him. “Someday, maybe, it can be a real book that everyone can read.”

It turned out the hardest part of the whole thing has been keeping it a secret from my parents! No mention could be made on my Facebook pages. No mention of it on my website or in my blog. No talking or telling anyone who might see my parents and accidentally slip on and spill the beans. No sending it to that same local library I spent so many hours in in my youth, no putting any copies in the local bookstore that carries my novels – lest someone who knows me should stumble upon it before I had a chance to give it to my dad. No Christmas sales to be made. A lost opportunity – but it would be worth it!

Christmas Day. Forty-five years of waiting was only moments away! Dad opened present after present and chatted in ignorant bliss. Finally, he picked up flat and slender gift. Mom shouted, “YES! I knew there was a reason I put off buying this one,” as I’d gifted her a copy of my latest novel, “The Inheritance”. Dad paused, looked at the book she’d received, then looked back at the gift he had in hand. I’d put no To – From tag on it. “This mine?”

“Yes… that’s…” I said, forcing myself to not get all weepy, “that’s the big secret you may have heard about…” “Oh,” Dad opened it, saw the back of the book first and said, “Oh, Bill the Worm, yeah… I remember him…” (Or words to that effect.) Mom saw what it was, eyebrows arching as she added, “Oh, wow! When did that get published?” As Dad re-read the story, I explained how I’d only sold about ten copies as I’d been keeping it pretty-hush hush until Dad could get his copy.

Bill The Man meets Bill The Worm all over again!

So, there you have it. The secret it out… the story of Bill, The Worm Who Ran Away is now an honest to goodness published children’s book available to one and all. I’m super excited about this new writing adventure! I’m not going to stop writing Horror, but I did need to take a break from it amidst the madness of 2020. Bill the Worm kept me writing (and drawing) and created a bright spot in a sometimes dark and frustrating world.

I hope you all will find a place for Bill The Worm into your lives and bid him welcome. He’s a hearty little dude and he’s got some fun adventures ahead of him. Stay tuned for more Bill The Worm announcements and updates in 2021.

You can purchase BILL, The Worm Who Ran Away here!

I’m Not Who I Think I Am, Or Am I?

I won’t lie, I’ve had plenty of time to write a blog post over the past few months. I simply haven’t felt like it especially in the year that saw zero book signing events and abysmal sales in general. I prefer to write happy, positive, up-beat posts. Nobody, self included, wants to hear a disgruntled writer blathering about how pointless it all is and questioning why I even bother trying to make a name for myself in the endless sea of other Horror writers. The pool is deep and wide. There are far better writers out there than I.

And there’s a name for it, Imposter Syndrome.

I think it’s an affliction most creative people experience from time to time. I’ve seen writer after writer, even super famous ones you’ve probably heard of, remarking how unworthy they feel about their work and questioning if anyone will even like what they’ve spent so much time working on. For those famous folks, at least they have a hefty bank account created by royalty checks that speaks up and tells them they are good enough.

The vast majority of writers out there don’t have that affirmation. We get excited about a single sale! We latch on to any new review that crops up and read every single one. When someone shares or retweets something we’ve posted, it’s a tiny zap of hope. If Stephen King is Amazon, I’m a weekend yard sale and I’m an imposter.

Imposter Syndrome Hard At Work

Wikipedia defines Imposter Syndrome as, “…a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

In the past, I’ve compared Imposter Syndrome to the feeling one might get after spending all week preparing for a big party. You go out and do all the work. You gather the decorations. You select what you feel is the finest dinnerware. The menu is perfected, each recipe and ingredient scrutinized and analyzed. It just has to be perfect. This party is important! It could make or break you. That night, after you’ve spent the day cooking and cleaning, grooming yourself and your home impeccably, the guests arrive. They appear to enjoy the food, the company, the atmosphere. You’ve pulled it off. But, when the party is over and the guests leave, not a single one says, “Thank you.” Nobody shakes your hand. There are no compliments on the food, the table settings, the hours you spent toiling over a filthy toilet so it would be spotless for your guests. Nobody says, “Goodbye” let alone, “Good job.”

You haven’t succeeded at all. You’re an imposter. You’re fake. You have nothing to show for this event you’ve poured so much fervor and dedication into other than a big mess to clean up.

Imposter Syndrome asks why did you even bother? What was the point? Might as well give up. All the hard work isn’t worth the reward. What a fricken loser you are! Stop wasting your time. Stop creating. Stop being a fraud. Imposter Syndrome is serious. Its claws are sharp and painful and for some so debilitating that they never pick up the creative pen again. But, I’m stubborn (or completely delusional – or both). Yeah, sales suck and new reviews barely exist but I have stories to tell, damn it! Something needed to change – even if just a little bit.

After the release of my last most recent novel, “The Inheritance”, back in September, I decided to take a step away from the Horror for a while. There are more Horror books to come, don’t worry. But with 2020 being what is has been and what Covid-19 will continue to be in the unforeseeable future, the need to work on something more light-hearted and fun rose to the surface. A very old project, one near and dear to my heart and soul, needed to be done. Its creation has brought with it a breath of much needed fresh air. 2021 will bring something drastically different than what you’ve come to expect from me, even as I continue to work on murders and mysteries, ghosts and witches, maybe even an alien or two in the background.

In my next post, before the end of this month – promise, I’ll reveal the new genre I’ve been tackling the past six months and will continue to work with for as long as it continues to bring me joy. And, maybe by this time next year, I won’t feel like such an imposter do much of the time.

The Proof Is In The Guest Room Closet

We’re into week what now? 16? 17? I have it written down somewhere. Time is both crawling and flying in the same moment. I may be returning to work in the office this month, or I may not. My boss hasn’t gone back yet. I imagine she’ll go in for a week to assess the situation before calling me in. I think it will be another couple of weeks at the very least. I’ll get a week’s notice at any rate.

I’m still doing that Audiovisual Transcript Remediation as reported back in April. I think I’m on my twentieth video now. Something like that. What a wide range of topics I’ve been doing. The creation of 4-H, Child Development, Home Economics, a Haiku poetry reading, philosophers discussing Kant, Heidegger, and Aristotle, film makers talking about their films, authors reading one of their short stories, retirement migration in the US, the creation of Land Grant universities, the vision that one of the creators of Cornell had, and many more. Like the number of weeks that have passed, it’s all written down.

I like to keep track of things, I guess. I’ve kept a journal in the normal sense of the word since 1977. I’ve kept and abandoned numerous dream journals over the decades, too. Somewhere there’s a record of a whole bunch of Ouija board sessions documented that go back as far as the mid-1980s. Haven’t touched one of those bad boys in at least ten years. Not out of fear or anything like that, just have kind of lost interest in it, I guess.

When I’m not learning about some obscure topic through a Cornell video or working my way through the online class I’m taking via EdX and Georgetown University (Sign Language Science: Emergence & Evolution of Sign Language – Part 1), or trying to do my own writing, or trying to come up with catchy song lyrics for The Hubby’s tunes, I’ve been sorting out things in the guest bedroom. God, but I have a lot of crap!

I dove into the closet last weekend with much fear and trepidation because, ya know… spiders, that and boxes, boxes, boxes of things I’ve not looked at in more years than I can remember. I’ve not even touched the boxes on the upper shelves, but I did dare to drag out one that was on the floor Sunday afternoon. I had no idea what was in it, but dang, it was heavy. I found a clear spot on the bed and pulled off the lid and was greeted by a series of mismatched notebook spines; old spiral bindings, comb-bindings, spines that were nothing more than the edges of the pages in between thin, cardboard covers. I knew immediately it was all mine but what, exactly, was it?

I pulled out one of them. The cover was labeled, “Misc.”. Boy, that narrowed it down! First, a hand-written essays from high school; Nazi Germany, then Concentration Camps, then a biography on comedian Steve Martin, a report on witchcraft in Salem followed, and a speech outline on the general topic of witchcraft, an outline for a paper on ‘The Vampire’, a random dream, and a plot summary for a short story I must have wanted to write at some point, then… pay dirt, my friends! PAY DIRT!

I started to grin, rather foolishly I’m sure. “Ah-ha!” my brain chuckled. “Told you so and here’s the proof!” Last time I blogged, I mentioned my mom’s old Smith-Corona typewriter and the meticulous hours I spent at it doing then for fun what I’m doing now for pay, the aforementioned A/V transcription.

Before me, in all its Smith-Corona glory was my first A/V transcription; “The Cemetery” From: “The Night Gallery” 1969. The entire thing, character names and descriptions, Serling’s introduction, and then seven pages of the entire dialogue and short scene descriptors. I was downright giddy! Next was “The Legend of Hell House” 1973, (18 pages), Dracula 1972 (29 pages), and 16 pages worth of the parts in “The Exorcist” when the demon is talking. Is it just me or does someone else detect a theme here? And this was all in just ONE of the nearly dozen notebooks I’d just unearthed.

My earliest A/V transcription. “The Cemetery”
from Rod Serling’s series “The Night Gallery”

The others held story after story after story. Most of these seem to have been written (rather poorly) when I was around sixteen. Dreams and more dreams could be found in another notebook, and there was even a hard copy of the first novel I ever wrote, a fantasy tale called “The Pride”. Yeah, I guess I like to write things to keep track of them, don’t I? I’m not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse.

All these notebooks will be added to my file cabinet that’s already got a ton of family genealogy documents in it, various research articles, the handful of children’s stories I’ve written, poetry, and the like. Maybe some day I’ll have the time to give these all a more complete read and knowing me, typing up everything that’s still handwritten.

Though, God knows why, I’d still not be able to part with the originals!

My, my, my, my mom’s Smith-Corona!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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?

Seeking The Symbolic

Years ago a friend of mine who spent some college time as a film student, told a story about a final short film project he done as part of a class. At the end of the viewing, discussion, critiques and questions took place. A certain blue chair was used repeatedly in various scenes. This chair became the focus of the use of symbolism and how its color clearly represented the mood of whichever character happened to use it in various ways and scenes throughout. The class was impressed by my friend’s genius! This all helped his grade on the project.

My friend then laughed, as he was telling this story, because, the chair had no symbolic meaning whatsoever in the film. It was just a blue chair that they happened to have on hand. They used it a lot because they were short on chairs. That was it. He did nothing to correct the impressions that his fellow film students discussed. Why would he? It was working to improve his grade. He would merely smile and nod as if in agreement with them.

I first observed this same phenomenon in high school English classes. The symbolic intentions of the authors were shoved down our throats by various teachers over the years. What did Hawthorne really mean when he described the enclosed garden behind the House of the Seven Gables? What items were symbolic in The Great Gatsby? Ad nauseam. Even then, I was puzzled about this kind of analysis of literature. As a blossoming writer myself, I questioned the conclusions draw by my instructors. What if the garden was just a suitable setting for the characters to interact in? What if Dr. Eckleburg’s spectacle sign was just the most genius way for an optometrist to promote his shop that the author could think if?

There’s a review for my book “Dark Hollow Road” out there written by someone who had recently completed his PhD degree in Sociology. He put a lot of thought behind the events of the book and by a lot I mean, way too many. The book isn’t a study of human sociology, seriously, it’s not. He wanted more symbolism while at the same time seemed to put down the symbolism he imagined to be there. There wasn’t any. I know – I wrote the thing. I don’t do symbolism.

That isn’t to say I haven’t tried! In the late 90’s I wrote my first novel. It’s a fantasy piece with trolls and fairies and shape shifters and the like. No symbolism. However, I did try to write a sequel to that first novel and decided I was going to give this symbolic things a shot. Very quickly the story became bogged down with my efforts to keep things straight. What’s that supposed to mean again? How can I make the color of the flowers in the pot on the window sill in the kitchen represent Lady Greyson’s lost childhood? It was ridiculous and resulted in my giving up on the project entirely.

I’m not saying the use of symbols doesn’t happen in literature. It most certainly does. What I am saying is that not all authors use it, including me. What you see is what you get. I can’t be bothered coming up with all that. It’s hard enough to write a book without them; why make it more difficult for myself?I guess I’ve always felt symbolism should be more obvious than people trying to guess what the author meant. Unless a writer specifically explains later on these hidden meanings, as far as I’m concerned, there aren’t any. And how many times have we heard the phrase, “Never assume. It makes an Ass of U and Me.”

When it comes to authors (or anyone of a creative mind) and symbolism, remember a garden can be just a garden, glasses may just be an ingenious sales gimmick, and a blue chair could have been handiest chair available at the time.

My Worst Kept Secret … ssshhhhhh….

It’s a secret I don’t talk about all that much – though I’ve posted about it on Twitter and a wee bit on Facebook. There’s mention of it over at LinkedIn. And, it’s on my resume. There’s even a link from my official website. My parents know. My close friends know. Even my kids know, though the thought of them actually KNOWING is a bit uncomfortable. They’re adults so I guess it’s okay, plus, as their parent it’s still part of my job to embarrass them now and then, too, even if they are Growed-Ups. 🙂

I won’t deny it. I’ve written and had published some rather racy erotica. We jokingly call it The Porn around here. We’re not just talking about one book, or a couple of short stories, either. This is five full-length novels. When most people ask me how many books I’ve written, I usually only confess to the four mainstream titles.

So, how does one find themselves writing about the literary sexual adult playrooms and bdsm dungeons of the world? It started out as a dare. A friend challenged me to write out one of my fantasies. So, I did. Then I wrote another. And another and another and found out I was pretty darn good at it.

A couple years later, I found myself getting involved in the US Civil War reenactment scene. I knew the Victorians weren’t all quite so proper and prudish as they appeared on the surface and so were born Lucy, Beau, & Vivianne – the stars of what would become The Greenbrier Trilogy. My knowledge about the time period in general and further research into the Civil War, allowed me to make it as historically accurate as I could. And for those who know me, I really do love doing research.

Starting in 2006, and under a pen-name, they each found a home with Pink Flamingo Media and are still there to this day. In 2012, the company underwent a re-org and asked if I’d like to re-issue the books as an official trilogy. It gave me the opportunity to do a bit more editing, make any minor changes, and update the covers if desired. I said, SURE!

But, Pam, you say, a trilogy is three books. You said there were five. What gives? During the re-org I was also given the opportunity to pull any of my titles and take back all rights. I pulled one that I am hoping to one day work differently, to make it less ‘porny’ and more ‘horror-y’. The fifth title is still there, but you’ll have to go to the publisher’s website to see what it is.

Curious? HERE’S THE LINK. Your secret is safe with me.

 

Writing From An Alternate Reality

Every writer gets asked, “Where do your ideas come from?” at least a thousand times. The short answer for me is, “I don’t really know.” Another answer could be, “Everywhere.” In my upcoming Psychological Horror novel, Dark Hollow Road, a partial answer is from a simple road sign we passed while traveling through Eastern Pennsylvania several years ago. It was the catalyst, but from there even I am forced to ask myself, “Where did this come from?”

However, the answer that intrigues me most would be, “An alternate reality.”

It’s said that belief can be a powerful thing. In Mathew 17:20 of the Bible, Jesus says: ‘He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale contains the same kinds of messages. “Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.” One of his most popular quotes is, “Change your thoughts and you change the world.” Today, Notes From The Universe are sent out daily from Mike Dooley author of Infinite Possibilities. “If you know what you want, if you’ve made up your mind, if you can see it, feel it and move towards it in some way every single day… it has to happen.” His most popular quote seems to be, “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.”

All this leads me to the next question. “Which way is the creation process actually flowing?” My characters and the worlds they live in become very real in my mind during the process of storytelling. I can see them and their surroundings. I can hear their voices. I’ve often said they are the ones who pester me into writing. They won’t be quiet until I write down what they are telling or showing me. Are they already in existence waiting to get their stories out or am I creating their stories and in some metaphysical way, bringing them into a type of reality by the act of believing in them and their worlds?

If you’ve talked to any number of authors, they will likely all tell you at one time or another the characters took over. They did things and said things that the author never dreamed of. Stephen King tells the story of a very minor character, a waitress, who, over the course of the novel, became a major player. It was completely unplanned. Apparently she had a lot more to say than he’d initially thought. Who is actually telling the story here?

Last week I found an article at Myths of the Mirror called Why Books Are Living Things. It raises some intriguing ideas and I strongly encourage you to read it. In it the author states, “I believe, on an energetic level, that books are more than paper and ink or digital symbols. On some level, our creations are new entities with the ability to enter into relationship with others on a personal and emotional level, just as we do.” She also raises the questions, “What if, when we create worlds and characters, we create something that exists? How do we know that the myths we fashion in our heads don’t coalesce into something real and measurable? Simply because we lack the brain capacity and technology to perceive and quantify, doesn’t mean something can’t be.”

To this I add and ask, “How do we know we aren’t tapping into an already existing plane of reality, an alternate universe full of people with stories to tell? And for whatever reasons, they have chosen us to tell their tales.” I honestly don’t feel like I am the creator. I feel like a parapsychologist roaming the halls of some great haunted mansion, listening for the voices of those who came before me, asking them, “Who are you? What is your name? Why are you here?” And the answers come in the form of my stories. Is it their belief in me as a storyteller or my belief in them as actual entities that gets the job done?

Maybe it’s a combination of both. Maybe it’s not any of it. Maybe I’m completely nuts. Perhaps Edgar Allen Poe had it right when he asked, “Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?” Chances are no one will ever know what the real answers are. Either way, it’s certainly an interesting path to explore.

 

Resolving Into The New Year

The sun is slowly starting to brighten the sky on this cold, January morning. It’s a character-building 10F here in the my part of the Finger Lakes. I’ve downed half of my first cup of coffee, checked and replied to some emails, and tossed a load of laundry into the dryer.

It’s been a pretty busy week for writing. Not everything I did had to do with making progress on The Witch’s Backbone, but there’s some of that, too. My one and only New Year’s Resolution was to make more of an effort to reach out and get to know more authors. I don’t know many in-person so I decided to start with the long list of them I am connected to on Twitter. It started out by simply paying more attention to their Tweets instead of trying to be clever with my own. I started to ‘love’ more, to ‘comment’ more, and to ‘retweet’ more. I follow a good number of writers who blog, too. Again, time for me read more of their posts and learn about who they are and what they are about. And, of course, to comment if I enjoyed their posts. Both efforts have proven to be quite a nice experience and something worth continuing to do.

It wasn’t enough to just read and like and love and retweet and comment though. It was decided to do some interviews. Again, I turned to Twitter for ideas and names. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with this endeavor and figured one interview per month would be good. That, combined with any book and movie reviews I will get out, along with my random ramblings about events and working on my own writing should keep this blog pretty active for the year. I selected the authors (most of them of the Horror variety)  who most often interact with me on Twitter and sent them private messages. The response was swift and entirely positive. The calendar filled up in less than 24 hours! Not only that, I’ve already got back filled out interview questions for those who will be featured this and next month. If you’re a published or soon-to-be published author and I didn’t approach you, don’t feel bad. The list I had was long and I just couldn’t get everyone in. I didn’t expect everyone I asked to give me such a quick and positive response, but then, we’re writers and we do love to talk about our work, don’t we?

On top of this, I’m going to be a featured blogger next month for another writer and I’m waiting on a list of ’20 Questions’ to appear in my inbox for me to answer from a second author.

As if all this weren’t enough, the website is getting a complete makeover. As much as I liked the old version, I felt it was time to make a change. I sent my ideas to my web guy (aka The Husband) and off we went. He’s been working diligently all week on it and it’s shaping up very, very nicely. It still needs a bit more, but it shouldn’t be long until it’s all said and done and he can get back to being a Computer Gamer instead of a Graphics & Web Designer. I’ve no doubt he’ll be a happy man when I can stop saying, “Honey… can you change something else on there for me?”

This first week of the New Year has been pretty darn busy now that I look back, but it hasn’t for a moment felt like work. I like that.

And now, with a second cup of coffee fresh and hot by my side and the crows fed, I think it’s time to look at what I wrote yesterday on TWB, do some quick fixes as needed, and see what today holds for my five youngsters stuck in the woods at night with something not quite human.

Write on!