Their Stories Carved In Stone

Going on a vacation as an adult is a lot different than going on one as a kid. My family went on a lot of them. Florida, mostly, but also Niagara Falls. My first time on an airplane was to visit my grandfather in Illinois and the infamous lakeside guest house that became surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of frogs each and every night. One of my most memorable summer vacations, however, had nothing to do with staying in hotels or enjoying amusement parks, but it did involve going to one of my favorite places – the local cemetery. Their Stories Carved In Stone first appeared in the Tioga County Courier, Owego, NY – Oct. 6, 2010.

Their Stories Carved In Stone

“What did you do over summer vacation?”

Other kids in my middle school class likely answered that question with such things as going on a family vacation to Florida, maybe 4-H Camp, or just hanging out with friends around a swimming pool. I spent most of one particular summer in the Berkshire Evergreen Cemetery, voluntarily documenting and mapping the headstones.

I’ve always been fascinated by cemeteries and never found them creepy to walk in, day or night. To me they are places to get away from it all, to relax, to think, to reflect on all my dreams for life. Being surrounded by death like that makes you appreciate living.  Thanks to the Internet I’ve discovered I’m not so alone in these feelings, but as a kid very few of my friends could understand my fascination and fewer still would join me in my various cemetery adventures.

One youthful journey that I made with my father reigns over them all. We were visiting family graves in Speedsville, NY at the time. I must have been eleven or twelve years old. While Dad tended to watering flowers and plants that had been brought earlier that year, I wandered around and read the tombstones. One stone quickly got my overly active imagination going. It was one of the earlier stones in the graveyard and at the top was carved a hand with a finger pointing downward. From the finger dangled three chain links, one of them broken. I was instantly convinced that finger pointing down could only mean one thing, this poor sinner was bound for Hell. When I showed Dad the stone, he didn’t know what it could possibly mean, either. The mystery would remain with me for almost thirty more years.

I started taking pictures in cemeteries in my early twenties. Whole weekends would be devoted to cemetery hunting and grave walking.  I occasionally found others to join me, but most of the time this was a solitary practice, just me and my camera. My images eventually started to focus on the intricate carvings on the headstones: the different types of flowers, trees, animals, birds, and a variety of archaic symbols, including many, many headstones with hands in various poses on them. I remembered the stone I’d seen with my father all those years ago and knew there had to be a reason and meaning behind all these things.

My serious research soon began.

In North America the earliest markers erected were generally unrefined and simple. The inscriptions, if indeed they bore an inscription at all originally, have in many instances eroded away or crumbled off. These stones are generally from what is called the Federalist Period, 1789-1850, and sometimes offer us little information. But even the crudest markers can tell us a great deal about the history of the region during this time. One of the most popular symbols displayed prior to 1850 is the funerary urn. These appear with great regularity on 19th century gravestones in all settled areas of the United States and Canada. The urn was a well-understood symbol of death and the mortality of the body. Quite often the urn was accompanied by the Tree of Life (not to be confused with the Weeping Willow symbol that will be explained later). This provided a sacred message for the living; although the individual had perished, their remains would provide the seed for new life. When this same tree appears to be growing out of the urn it expresses the Western religious understanding of the hope of everlasting life.

The urn and Tree of Life made perfect sense to me, but when I saw my first tree-stump-shaped grave marker, I was baffled. Why would anyone have a headstone shaped like a tree stump?

I discovered there was a fraternal organization called Woodmen of the World and to have the graves easily identifiable by their brothers, the headstone would be carved into the shape of a tree stump. One tree symbol led to another. The Weeping Willow mentioned earlier was a common symbol found in Great Britain during the neoclassical period (1660-1740) and was intended solely to represent perpetual mourning and grief. You will find countless depictions of the willow on grave markers from the nineteenth century in the American Northeast area as well. Oak leaves and acorns on tombs stood for power and longevity. Laurel branches often mark the graves of those who have served their countries with great distinction.

Then came the flowers: roses, poppies, lilies, and sunflowers just to name a few. Not only did each flower have a meaning, but the flowers arrangement and stage of life could tell the informed observer about the person whose remains lay beneath. This is most visible in the rose. A rose bud will most likely mark the grave of a child or young, unmarried woman, while roses in full bloom are carved on the stones of those who have led long, productive lives. A wreath of roses, or wreaths of any kind, speaks of eternity. Anything round, such as wreaths and orbs, have long been symbolic of things that are meant to last forever, just as the familiar circle, or band of gold many of us wear for a wedding band does.

In hot pursuit came the animals one finds carved on graves. The two most popular are the lamb and the dove. A lamb will mark almost exclusively the grave of an infant or a very young child. Doves can be found in various postures from sitting upright, to flying upward or downward to lying flat on their back, feet curled up in the typical image of a dead bird. As with flowers, each of the dove’s positions has a different meaning. Sitting upright means the soul of the deceased is believed to be at rest. The bird flying upward represents the soul’s transcendence into Heaven, downward it symbolizes the spirit of Christ coming down to take the soul. If the bird is flat on its back, chances are the life of the deceased was suddenly cut short.

The Freemasons, along with countless other fraternal and sorority organizations, use a variety of symbols to identify the final resting places of their members. Masons view the beehive as a symbol of industry. A beehive may also mark the grave of a Mormon. If you find a stone carved with an eagle and the number thirty-two, this marks the grave of a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason. The most common of all Masonic symbols are the compass with the square along with the obelisk-shaped headstone itself. The Ancient Order of Odd Fellows often uses a three-linked chain where one of the links is snapped open, symbolizing the severance of the dead from the living.

Wait. What? A three-linked chain with one link broken? Where had I seen that before? The Speedsville cemetery with my dad, of course!  Did that mean the deceased really wasn’t bound for Hell as I’d first imagined? I searched further and found a reference to hands, and more importantly, hands with fingers pointing in various directions. I was about to have my answer.

You’ll find a lot of hands on graves. Some hands are clearly folded in prayer. Other times, the hand of one person may be seen holding the hand of another. In the case of two different hands being held together, look very carefully. A hand that reaches down and may appear a bit larger than the one below symbolizes the Hand of God fetching up the soul of the deceased. Sometimes the cuff of a man’s shirt or a lady’s blouse has been added and this could represent the hands of a husband and wife held together for all eternity. Hands with the fingers pointing upward are meant to guide the soul in the direction of heaven. Finally, the hand with a finger pointing downward means that those on Earth have been called to witness the mortality of humanity, that the deceased has been chosen by God. My dearly departed friend in Speedsville wasn’t Hell bound after all. He was merely a member of the Ancient Order of Odd Fellows whose family had left behind a symbolic reminder of the mortality of us all. That wasn’t even close to the sinister imaginings I’d harbored all those years.

As you can see, a vast number of iconographic symbols and themes grace the headstones of cemeteries. Only a very few have been mentioned here. Gravestones are, in many aspects, works of art. Some are masterpieces, while others are representative of the crude and harsh pioneer environment our own ancestors endured.

Every grave marker has a symbolic message all its own to share, a voice waiting to be heard. These stones have stories to tell, but it takes a willing and observant person to sit down and read that message and understand the story left so lovingly behind by the family who placed it there.

What did you do over your summer?

I walked through and took pictures of what I believe to be some of the most beautiful and fascinating stone sculpture gardens ever created by man and read the stories carved in the stones of our local cemeteries.

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Vacations, those all too brief outings and breaks we take to escape the hum drum, work-a-day life. I’m taking a spring vacation this year. It started Friday. With the weather still being cold and wet, it’s unlikely to include any cemetery visits, but you never know. We do plan on getting away from the house for a couple of days which will be nice. Maybe I’ll even finish a writing project this week.

Over the past month, a lot of time has been spent on book covers. All the Barnesville books have been rebranded. No progress to speak of has been made on what will be the fifth Barnesville Mystery. It’s not abandoned by any means, and I hope some of you are looking forward to “Death at the Devil’s Elbow”, another Murder-mystery featuring Nell, Beth, Angie, and crows whenever it is I get my writing butt in gear and finish it. I did make some nifty new trailers for “Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon” and “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of“, though, so, that’s something new to see.

We’ve finished updating the covers for “No Rest For The Wicked” and “Dark Hollow Road”, too. Next will be “The Inheritance” which I am currently doing another quick edit on. With any luck at all, the week of vacation that lies ahead won’t be all about home improvement projects, but will also see this writing project nearing completion, too. While I’m on the subject of “No Rest For The Wicked”, check out this slick new Book Trailer.

Once that’s done, I’ll put more effort into the collection of fairy tales I’ve been working on since 2005. No, that’s not a typo! I wrote my first twisted fairy tale in 2005 and I finally have enough to put into a book. “Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales” is close to becoming a thing at long last.

Bill The Worm’s latest “Bill The Worm Counts To Ten“, is selling reasonably well. I’ve been considering putting together a coloring and activity book. But haven’t taken any steps at this time to actually do so. He’s recently found homes in a couple of local libraries, too. I’ve also been puttering away on a non-Bill the Worm Children’s book. Top secret for right now, because I’m so darn slow and don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up too high until it’s something more concrete.

NEWS ON OTHERS:

My friend Jay Bower has a new trilogy out, Dead Blood. I haven’t gotten to read it yet, but have book one on the TBR pile. Vampires and zombies, y’all! My one regret is that I didn’t come up with this amazing idea first!

Another local author and friend, C.W. Briar recently released a collection of short stories titled, “Sticks and Stones: Tales of Childhood Horror”.  I’m eager to take a little trip back into childhood with that one – or am I?

Not long ago, I began a journey down the long and dusty trail of the Splatter Western genre by reading “The Magpie Coffin” by Wile E. Young. Splatter Western is pretty much self-explanatory. Lots of blood and guts and weirdness combined with those old Westerns your grandpa used to read. I bought the first three in the series put out by Death’s Head Press and now that “The Magpie Coffin” is behind me – hopefully way, way behind me, I’m eager to get into “Hunger on the Chisholm Trail” by E. Emmembach.

PODCASTS I’M LISTENING TO:

Bleeding Page Podcast featuring Chad Lutzke and Jason Brant, released three more Horror author interviews over the past month, Kealan Patrick Burke, Michealbrent Collings, and Zach Bohannon.

Monster Men with Jack Campisi and Hunter Shea did a great show on Janine Pipe’s recent book release, “Sausages : The Making of Dog Soldiers”.

Mr. Ballen started creeping me out this past week with his story telling podcast based on real life experiences and events.

 

 

Playing The Numbers; Or Are They Playing Me?

No, I haven’t taken up gambling or blowing all my hard-earned money on lottery tickets. But I have been seeing a lot of number sequences. 222, 333, 555. I keep seeing these kinds of numbers, mostly on digital clocks, and not just now and then. Over the past three or four months, since around October 2021, this has been happening on a daily basis, several times a day. Being the kind of person I am, I wondered, “What does it mean?”

I don’t believe in coincidence, so when odd things like this happen and I actually notice, I tend to look for some kind of reason for it, especially when it happens so frequently. And being as I’m interested in numerology – despite sucking at math – my first thoughts went in that direction. In all the years I’ve read about and studied these sorts of things, I’d never come across this particular topic. Was it even a thing? Of course, the Interwebz has plenty of ideas on the concept, both magically and scientifically.

Let’s start with the much more fun magical-spiritual aspects of the phenomenon. I couldn’t find any one term used for the it but the concept of ‘spiritual synchronicity’ came up a lot as did “angel numbers” and “master numbers”. I’m going to call it ‘Numeric Synchronicity’ just for ease of reference.

Once I learned it indeed IS a thing, I selected the three numbers I was seeing the most, 222, 333, and 555 before I went any deeper. I didn’t want to be influenced by what I might find when picking the number that might have the most significance to anything going on in my life. I’m still wary of all of it, mind you. These interpretations, like horoscopes, are often written in such a way as to apply to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Everyone can relate. It all has meaning to something in your life if you read in the right way. I was seeing 555 most frequently followed by 333 and 222 the least. And as any numerologist worth their salt will be quick to point out, 333 + 222 = 555. So, off I went, in quest of the meaning, or at the very least, to have a bit of fun on this little numeric adventure.

555 could not have struck home any harder. From the Law of Attraction website: “If you are seeing 555 everywhere, then there is momentum to move in a new direction. Make sure you are looking for new opportunities at this time and are ready to seize them when they come your way. Do not be afraid of change. Do not try to fight it. It is YOUR time. It is time to move forward with new experiences.” Okay, well, that’s pretty spot on, but what do OTHER ‘authorities’ on the matter say. I tried a different website for a meaning. I went to Times of India next. “You’re looking forward to the next phase or chapter of your life. It simply means that change is inevitable and that embracing it will only make things easier and more adventurous. Do not hold yourself back and welcome every new opportunity that passes your way.” And being as I was taught to cross reference at least three different sources, I found myself over at a place called AstroStyle and was told this. The headline for 5:55 reads, “Change is afoot,” followed by, “Change is in the air when you see 5:55. Like a fast moving current or a gentle breeze, there is momentum to move in a new direction. There was more, but you get the theme here.

Alrighty then! Embrace that change that’s on the brink of occurring. I get it. I’m working on it. It’s not easy. It won’t be easy but I’m looking forward to it despite my fears and worries and doubts. But these aren’t exactly the most scientific of articles. Granted, Numerology itself isn’t considered scientific by a lot of people. So, if you’re more of the scientific mind and find all this Numeric Synchronicity just a bunch of foolish hokum, the phenomenon could also be The Reticular Activating System or RAS.

From the Science Direct website, we get this definition, “The reticular activating system (RAS) is a network of neurons located in the brain stem that project anteriorly to the hypothalamus to mediate behavior, as well as both posteriorly to the thalamus and directly to the cortex for activation of awake, desynchronized cortical EEG patterns.” Well, that’s a headscratcher, isn’t it? What? Moving on I looked for something a bit less scientifically worded. Study dot com had this to say, “The RAS has a very important role: it’s the gatekeeper of information that is let into the conscious mind. This little bit of brain matter is responsible for filtering the massive amounts of information your sensory organs are constantly throwing at it and selecting the ones that are most important for your conscious mind to pay attention to.” Hm. Interesting, interesting. That makes a bit more sense. So, is my brain’s RAS trying to draw my attention to 555 or away from it? I still wasn’t sure. I moved on to randomly selected website number three, The Movement Paradigm in hopes of more data. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for but it certainly proved interesting. The article on RAS there started out with, “Do you want to unlock the power of extreme focus and be able to use your mental energy to do whatever you want? Well, let’s start by waking up the reticular activating system of your brain.” It then gave this example that I think most of us can relate to in some way. “Have you ever decided to buy a car, or if you’ve bought a car and you’ve picked a certain color and now you see that everywhere? When I decided that I wanted a Jeep, I began to see Jeeps everywhere. My Reticular Activating System has brought to my attention, to my consciousness, that all these Jeeps were around all along, but now, I am noticing them. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a bundle of neurons located inside of the Reticular Formation, which is in the brain stem. This is the most primitive part of our brain. The Reticular Formation is responsible for cardiovascular function, pain perception, sleep cycle, consciousness, and habituation, which is directly linked to the Reticular Activating System.”

The article goes on to give tips on what is basically a much more belief-based practice than anything to do with scientific reasoning and one I am well familiar with; visualize and make manifest the things you want in life through meditation and be aware of and focus your consciousness on those things. If you want Car X, then focus, visualize, and manifest Car X in your brain, make it real in your RAS and it will become real in the physical world. Or as I know it as, “Thoughts become things.”

Through all this research, the question still remains, what, if anything, does it mean? Whether it’s merely neurons located in my brain stem projecting anteriorly to the hypothalamus or the pseudoscientific belief in a mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events, I don’t think it really matters. What matters is that both these concepts give me some level of comfort and confidence in the future and those major life changes I have ahead of me. Each time I see a 222 or a 333 or a 555, the feeling that I’m doing the right thing and on the right path fills me with a sense of calm, that little boost of confidence I need.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences on this phenomenon in the comments.

Speaking of changes, I haven’t put out a substantial Horror release since September 2020 when my last novel, The Inheritance: A Texas Gothic Horror, came out. This is about to change. Sales and reviews for The Inheritance have been slow, but I hope as we have now gotten settled into 2022, you’ll see fit to check it out and read about the adventures of twins Choice and Liberty Hill as they set out into the West Texas desert to try and inherit the family estate and $33 million. Of course, nothing is that easy. They’ve got several rather unpleasant obstacles to deal with, least of which involves a band of outlaw Texas bikers known as The Widow Makers.

2021 wasn’t completely devoid of Horror output from me. I was blessed to be included in an anthology put out by Crimson Pinnacle Press titled Twisted Legends: An Urban Legend Anthology. The anthology contains other notable authors such as Jason Myers, RJ Roles, Ruthann Jagge, and Thomas R. Clark.

In 2005 I wrote my first twisted fairytale, a little something called Good Spider, Bad Spider. In early January 2022, I finished my seventh and am planning on releasing the short story collection, Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales at some point this year. Horror has returned, but I’ve also added a bit of sci-fi, a dribble of fantasy, and a dab of futuristic dystopia to the menu. Fun stuff. You can read one of the included stories, Cinnamon & Cyanide, right here on my website for FREE!

The return of writing Horror does not by any means mean that The Many Adventures of Bill The Worm will be going to the wayside. Bill The Worm is here to stay. He’s a busy, busy worm and a new release, Bill The Worm Counts To Ten, will be happening this Spring! Bill is already trying to decide which of his many adventures he’s going to share with me next. Additionally, he has a brand-new website to pass the word on to his friends about when these stories are ready to be shared! Be sure and visit Bill The Worm’s website to stay up-to-date along with liking and following his Facebook page, Friends of Bill The Worm.

Last but not least, if you’re old like me or love that classic rock, I put up Part 2 of My Kiss Kollection video series over on YouTube yesterday. Check it out.

This wraps things up this month! I hope you all are having a good year so far and staying safe and healthy in a world that sometimes feels like Hell in a hand basket! We’ll get through this wiser and hopefully with a lot more gratitude for all that we have.

Vacation, Worms, Fairy Tales & Just A Little KISS

When last we met (back in July – six months ago), I was babbling about My UFO Encounter that happened over thirty years ago! Why, oh, why can’t I hunker down and get out a monthly blog post? Maybe because I’ve never been a good one at ‘on-demand’ writing.

August saw Jim and I finally making that long-awaited trip to Boston, Massachusetts and surrounding locations as part of our 5th Wedding Anniversary vacation. This excursion was supposed to happen in 2019. Alas, one motorcycle wreck, surgeries, and that lovely pandemic we’ve all grown to know and hate, put the brakes on that for a while. Then along came Hurricane Henri who was barreling in on the east coast on the same day we’d planned to start the 6-hour drive. We postponed an additional day but were determined to make this trip happen. We’d waited long enough and now, fully-vaxxed, we hit the road! Through wind and rain and ungodly heat & humidity, we arrived and made the best of it. Jim was able to see the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor and Battleship Cove in Fall River. I was thrilled to visit Danvers & the homestead of Rebecca Towne Nurse, my 7x great aunt who was one of the 19 executed under charges of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials followed by the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River a couple days later. There were bonus side trips to Concord and Walden Pond, a nice dinner out with my sister, and even a down day where we went to the movies and did as little travel as possible.

September brought the release of my third Children’s book, Bill, The Worm Who Loved Halloween and my mom’s 78th birthday!

As in previous recent years when October rolled around, my heart wasn’t much into Halloween as it always used to be. It’s just not the same without all the family & friends I used to have to set up an entire yard and porch display for my favorite holiday. Although 2020, oddly enough, gave me renewed hope, with more trick-or-treaters than I’d seen here in years – it wasn’t until the last minute that I put up a few decorations this year, donned a costume, and skulked around on the front porch for what may be the final time at this house. We were out of candy in an hour! I was stunned and totally unprepared for so many visitors.

Along with our Boston vacation, the replacing of our garage doors had also been delayed for two years but at long last – the new doors arrived in November and what a huge difference they make in the curb appeal of the house! Thanksgiving was celebrated here at our place with the usual guests – my parents, kids, and Jim and I. Mind you, nearly two weeks prior both my parents tested positive for Covid and were barely out of quarantine when feasting day arrived. My brother had the sense to avoid the gathering. The County Health Department gave them the ALL CLEAR without retesting to make sure they were actually negative. We’ll never know for sure if it was from them or another source but a week later my daughter tested positive and was sicker than a dog for almost a week. Her dad, whom she’d seen the Sunday after Thanksgiving, ended up in the hospital for a week shortly after with Covid. Jim, myself, and my son all remained healthy with negative test results. Both my daughter and her dad have since recovered from the worst of it and are on the mend. And, believe it or not, Children’s book #4, Bill The Worm Gets A Pet, hit the Amazon store in time for Christmas orders.

Mixed in with all this, I’ve been working on a collection of short stories based off those stories we all grew up with, fairy tales. I’d written my first twisted fairy tale in 2005 called Good Spider, Bad Spider – and was really happy with how it turned out. I’d wanted to write one ever since discovering the works of Tanith Lee and her book Red As Blood while I was still in high school. With the successful writing of Good Spider, Bad Spider, I slowly began adding more fairy tale-inspired short stories all while working on novels! You can read one of them for free over on my website – Cinnamon & Cyanide. Shortly before Christmas I got the idea for the last one and have put a pretty good dent in it with high hopes of completing the first draft within the next week or two. I fully expect to release the six-story collection, Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales, in 2022 along with, yep, another Bill The Worm book! You can find the entire collection at Bill The Worm’s Brand New Website!

Christmas Eve was special. For the first time in many, many years both kids were here with Jim and I to spend a few hours together gobbling down nachos and watching The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. I may have teared up a little bit during a private moment because it felt so nice to have them here again like that. Gift giving was minimal this year and everyone seemed just fine with that. I know I sure was. I honestly don’t want stuff. I don’t need stuff – well, other than books, of course, which I got two of for my birthday along with a nice Mexican dinner out! We ended 2021 with a trip to the movie theater to see Nightmare Alley. Can’t say it was anything that either of us expected and it wasn’t a terrible movie at all, but yeah. I was expecting Horror or even a Thriller. I’m not sure what it’s classified as but we had fun getting out of the house for a few hours and coming home to a coffee table full of a variety of cheese, meats, crackers, and pickled veggies. We didn’t make it until midnight.

Tomorrow it’s back to the day job after ten days off. Not looking forward to that at all. When am I going to have time to work on Part 2 of My KISS Kollection video series? Oh, yeah – here’s a link to Part 1. Fun stuff if you’re into KISS.

With that, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year full of accomplishments and dreams come true. Be well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!