On Being An Organic Writer

Since August of last year I’ve been working my way through Stephen King’s DARK TOWER series. I started the final book last week and will post a general review of the series once I’m finished. That aside, in book #6 we meet Stephen King himself. Yes, he’s made himself a character in his own book. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but what I did enjoy was getting another glimpse into his mind as a writer and how he works.

Since reading his other book “On Writing…” many years ago, I’ve felt a certain distant kinship to King. We’d always been taught in school that you need to outline your whole story before you begin, that you should know ahead of time what the climax and resolution is going to be. How can you get to the end if you don’t even know what the ending is going to be? It seemed to makes sense at the time, but I always struggled with outlining in school. My characters sometimes didn’t want to fit into the plot I’d constructed nor did they like when I reigned them in. I was cramping their style.

King, I learned decades later, doesn’t generally outline. He has a premise and an inspiration and off he goes. His characters tell their stories and as I felt towards my characters over my many years of writing as well, King’s characters take over. We are but the scribes who write at a feverish pace, doing our best to put down what they are telling and showing us. I liken it to watching a movie you’ve never seen before and trying to write it all down as it plays. I’ve discovered other writers who work in the same way and from one of them I learned the term “Organic Writer”.

All of my erotica titles were written in this way. The opening scene was usually crystal clear. I sometimes had an ending in mind, but everything in between was driven by the characters as they rambled on  in my ear and showed me everything they wanted me to see. People look at you weird when you tell them that’s how you write. The whole voices-in-your-head thing seems a bit crazy, right? It probably would be if I didn’t listen and didn’t write it all down. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen all that far in advance and if I do, it’s only because THEY have whispered it to me.

I ran into trouble when I decided to quit writing the erotica and switched to my true love of the supernatural, horror, and murder-mysteries. I wrote my first mystery, THE SECRET WELL, when I was ten. Writing SECRETS OF THE SCARECROW MOON was a whole lot harder. I’ve read a lot of murder-mysteries, but writing one in my traditional Organic Writer way wasn’t ideal.  Every suspect needed a secret. Every suspect needed an opportunity. Every suspect needed a motive. Every suspect, save for the killer, needed an alibi. I had to know all that in advance which wasn’t easy when the guilty party didn’t want to give up any of that information! I was finally able to wrestle it out of them about half way through the book which meant I had to go back and fix a few things once I knew what was really going on.

I learned a lot from “…Scarecrow Moon” and  THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF proved easier. I knew who did it right from the start. I lined up my suspects and gave them each a secret right off the bat. All I had to do was remain within the confines of that information and then I let them lose. There was still a lot I did NOT know, but it was enough of a mystery to me to also be surprised sometimes at what happened next. In fact, one suspect showed up that I hadn’t planned on which made it even more fun.

NO REST FOR THE WICKED isn’t a murder-mystery, though there certainly is (was) a fair amount of killing going on, nor is DARK HOLLOW ROAD. In fact, at the moment I don’t have another murder-mystery in the works, but in doing those that I have, it’s truly been a great learning process and I’ve grown to appreciate the premise of an outline to help you along. I’d still rather have my characters running amok and telling me what’s next on their own. It’s amazing to sit back after pounding out a few thousands words and saying to yourself, “Huh, I never saw that one coming!” If I didn’t see it coming then surely the readers won’t and that’s a good thing. I like the surprises and the weird twists and turns things take.

The folks down on DARK HOLLOW ROAD have been pretty quiet lately, but I sense them starting to whisper again. That’s a good thing. It’s been too long since I’ve escaped into the strange, paranormal, and taboo-infested world they live in. I’m eager to get back there to see what happens next, just as eager as I am to get back into Stephen King’s world of The Dark Tower.

 

 

*Paperback Release* Secrets Of The Scarecrow Moon

It’s almost spring in Barnesville, New York. That could only mean one thing. It’s time for people to go to their secret places in the dead of night and get to work. In basements, in barns, in the old shed out back, curtains are drawn and lights glow into the wee hours. Ssshhhh. Listen. Listen hard. Maybe it’s just the wind rustling something outside on the dark, empty street. That’s probably all it is, a breeze that makes something shuffle up your porch steps and flutter against the screen door. Care to go peek? Care to open the door and step outside as the Scarecrow Moon rises full and bright over a sleepy, little town that has kept a very dark and bloody secret for over two hundred years?

Barnesville is an odd, little town smack dab in the middle of nowhere and according to my calculations, we have about a month until the rising of the Scarecrow Moon. Of course, that doesn’t mean much of anything to anyone who lives outside of Barnesville, but you might want to bone up on your knowledge if you plan on passing through that way the first weekend of May and decide to check out the Scarecrow Festival they’ll have going on.

A Scarecrow Festival in May? Aren’t those something that’s usually done in the Fall? Yes, but Barnesville isn’t like other small towns in the Southern Tier of New York State and it has its reasons for doing what it does. Most people don’t know exactly what those reasons are, but you can find out by investigating the death of Peter Wakeley along with amateur sleuth Angela Jennings in my latest paperback release, SECRETS OF THE SCARECROW MOON.

Buy, my children, buy!

Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon – Coming Soon!

Things are chugging along nicely with the upcoming release of Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon, a rewrite to my first paranormal murder-mystery formerly known as Blood of the Scarecrow. Even if you’ve read the original, you’ll still enjoy the rewrite! I’ve added several new scenes, new information about some of the characters including a link to the novel I’m currently still writing, Dark Hollow Road, and you’ll find out what happens to the scarecrow that wins the competition. Fun stuff!

For those not familiar with Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon, here’s the blurb!

For nearly two-hundred years the sleepy, little town of Barnesville has kept a secret, several in fact. Had it not been for the gruesome death of Peter Wakely, those secrets may have remained hidden another two centuries. Authorities deem it an accident when an 85-year-old man is crushed to death under a headstone during a particularly heavy March snow storm. Detective Sergeant Simon Michaels and his assistant, Angela Jennings, are two of the first on the scene. Angie grew up in Barnesville and almost immediately suspects that not all is at it appears to be. Without the help of police to back her suspicions, she quickly takes it upon herself to investigate.

The more she digs into the victim’s life and the role his family played in the founding of the town, the more bizarre things become. Even the town historian and librarian, a good friend of Angie’s mother and a self-proclaimed witch, is reluctant to discuss matters until after the passing of the Scarecrow Moon. It seems the past has come back to haunt and torment the current residents of Barnesville or at least those involved in the witchery on which it was founded.

Even Angie is not immune as vivid and gruesome dreams and uncanny hunches begin to plague her. Eventually she must face one of her deepest fears to unravel the mystery, break the spell, and reveal the dark secrets of the Scarecrow Moon; secrets and laced with blood, witchcraft, and at least one scarecrow that refuses to stay where it should.

We’re hoping for a late March release date! Stay Tuned!

Photo Credit: http://elvisegp.deviantart.com/art/The-scarecrow-304692467

 

Movie Review – The Woman In Black (2012)

Rated PG-13. Directed by James Watkins. Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Misha Handley, Jessica Raine, and Alisa Khazanova.

London-based lawyer and widower, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is sent to a small, isolated village in the English countryside to orchestrate the sale of Eel Marsh House and go through the papers of its deceased owner Alice Drablow. Arthurs’ job is on the line. If he fails to complete this job, he will be sacked. Kipps leaves behind his four-year-old son, Joseph, (Misha Handley) with the nanny (Jessica Raine) and they plan to meet at Eel Marsh House three days later. Kipps’ arrival is anything but welcoming. Numerous people beg, warn, and even threaten him about going to the property, but the lawyer is determined. He’s barely in town a day when the deaths begin. The locals blame The Woman In Black, believed to be the now dead Alice Drablow, who somehow enthralls the children into self-destructive behavior. The people of the village take great lengths to protect their children, but their efforts are repeatedly thwarted.

While going through the papers, Arthur begins to unravel the story behind The Woman In Black and the revenge she’s sworn to extract for all time and why. Arthur comes to believe he has found the answer to stopping the hauntings and the horrific deaths. With his son on the way, Kipps frantically employs the help of wealthy land owner, Samuel Daily (Ciaran Hinds), and together they put Arthur’s theory into practice. Will it work or will Alice’s hatred and the curse remain intact forever?

Based on the 1983 Susan Hill novel of the same name, The Woman In Black was produced, in part, by Hammer Films, the same company that brought you Christopher Lee as Dracula back in the last 1960s and early 1970s. If you’re familiar with Hammer Films, as I am, you’ll definitely see the similarities in colors, filming angles, and textures. It’s very atmospheric, but not quite as dark as I’d hoped. There are plenty of creepy moments, sudden startles, along with a slow build-up of tension as Kipps gets closer and closer to the truth and the pure, insatiable evil that is The Woman In Black. The ending was amazing and I didn’t see that coming at all. Well done! What a twist.

Although I really enjoyed the film and do recommend it, for me it wasn’t quite as creepy and mysterious as I would have liked it to be. Perhaps more scenes done at night, or having Kipps wander the house and grounds a bit more, seeking out the woman would have helped. The suspense and psychological tension could have been more deeply done were the film rated for an older audience. The PG-13 rating toned down what could have an even more awesome adaption of the novel.

All in all, though, well done and an excellent film for budding horror film neophytes. Had I seen this as a teenager, I probably would have ranted and raved a whole lot more about it. Well worth the watch if you’re of a certain age.

Jaded old woman that I may be, I still give The Woman In Black 4 out of 5 stars.

Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon

The goal is to have “Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon” available some time in March! SotSM is the predecessor to “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” and was first published in 2013. Unfortunately, its shelf-life was very brief and it was quickly out of print. It takes place two years before the events of TWSAMO. Those who have read the earlier version will still be able to enjoy the re-write. New scenes have been added that give more information about the role of the Natives involved and you’ll learn what happens to the winner of the Scarecrow Festival!

Here’s your teaser…

For nearly two-hundred years the sleepy, little town of Barnesville has kept a secret, several in fact. Had it not been for the gruesome death of Peter Wakely, those secrets may have remained hidden another two centuries. Authorities deem it an accident when an 85 year-old-man is crushed to death under a headstone during a particularly heavy March snow storm.

Detective Sergeant Simon Michaels and his assistant, Angela Jennings, are two of the first on the scene. Angie grew up in Barnesville and almost immediately suspects that not all is at it appears to be. Without the help of police to back her suspicions, she quickly takes it upon herself to investigate.

The more she digs into the victim’s life and the role his family played in the founding of the town, the more bizarre things become. Even the town historian and librarian, a good friend of Angie’s mother and a self-proclaimed witch, is reluctant to discuss matters until after the passing of the Scarecrow Moon. It seems the past has come back to haunt and torment the current residents of Barnesville or at least those involved in the witchery on which it was founded.

Even Angie is not immune as vivid and gruesome dreams and uncanny hunches begin to plague her. Eventually she must face one of her deepest fears to unravel the mystery, break the spell, and reveal the dark secrets of the Scarecrow Moon; secrets laced with blood, witchcraft, and at least one scarecrow that refuses to stay where it should.

Movie Review – The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight (2016) directed by Quentin Tarintino . Rated R.

Shortly after the end of the U.S Civil War two bounty hunters, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John Ruth (Kurt Russell) chance to meet along an isolated and snow-covered stage coach line on their way to Red Rock, Wyoming to turn in their bounties. Warren’s are dead. Ruth likes to take his alive. They pick up a third person who claims to be the newly appointed sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Coggins), though there is reason to doubt this man is telling the truth.

As a blizzard quickly approaches, the three men, their driver O.B. Jackson (James Parks) and Ruth’s captive, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) find refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach lodge. Inside, three others; Oswaldo Mobray, Joe Gage, and General Sanford “Sandy” Smithers have also found respite from the storm. However, the owners of the haberdashery, Minnie and her husband Sweet Dave, are nowhere to be seen and they’ve left a Mexican man, who goes by the name of Bob, in charge until they return from visiting Minnie’s mother.

The close quarters and hot tempers of those who fought on opposing sides during the War soon starts to wedge itself between parties along with things not quite seeming to fit into place when it comes to the whereabouts of Minnie and Dave and quickly escalates into an every man (and woman) for himself situation.

When I realized this film clocks in at 167 minutes long, I was a bit wary, but those minutes flew by. The slow, but not lethargic, build-up of the tensions between the characters was not in the least bit cumbersome. It gave one time to consider all that was going on, take it all in, remember what was said by whom and you’re going to need that if you have any hopes of figuring out what’s what and who’s who in this semi-murder mystery Western.

There are plenty of backstories and alibis to consider and plenty of gun shooting, blood squirting, brain matter spraying, and yes, in all that some great one-liners and humor, to keep a person amused for the duration. We walked away feeling quite satisfied in what we’d just seen and heard. The language was authentic without being overly profane. I really have no use for the F-bomb being dropped by every character in every other sentence and Tarintino kept that all down to a very reasonable and believable level even amongst a group of eight people who clearly hate each other.

I’d give it 5 stars except I think Tarintino could have cut back slightly on some of the scene lengths without undermining anything in the plot depth or action scenes.

4 out of 5 stars.

Theatre of the Mind

Remember when the radio was actually a source of genuine entertainment instead of something we just turned on for background noise; occasionally singing along while driving, doing housework, or puttering around in the garage? No? Maybe you’re too young, but back when I was a kid, and even more so in the days of my parents, radio was king. The air was full of radio waves that made us laugh along with Amos & Andy or Benny Goodman; or thrilled us with dramas like Charlie Chan or The Avenger. The air waves mystified, thrilled, and chilled us with such programs as Cloak & Dagger, Ellery Queen, and Radio Mystery Theatre. Cowboys like Hopalong Cassidy and The Lone Ranger carried young boys and girls off into the Wild West while Buck Rogers sent them into the future.

the-whistler-radio

If you have never listened to radio theatre, you are really missing out. There’s a reason it’s called the Theatre of the Mind. Like reading, radio theatre requires you to use your imagination. Two people sitting side by side listening to the same program are going to experience the story differently and that’s part of the fun. You’re going to see the characters in your own way, the setting will be slightly different to your mind’s eye than your listening partner’s, and you may even interpret the story at a different angle. Personal experiences will color everyone’s interpretation differently. This, I think, is why very often you hear people saying that the book was so much better than the movie. When reading, you let your mind wander and create, just like with radio and few things, imho, can beat that.

Radio theatre, also known as audio dramas or radio dramas, began in the 1920s and became wildly popular into the 1950s. In 1922 The WGY Players out of Schenectady, NY introduced a method of radio theatre that would forever change the art of the craft. They began using music, sound effects, and a regular troupe of actors instead of just simply reading the listeners a story. Other stations quickly caught wind of this and followed suit. This expanded beyond the normal practice of putting on existing well-known plays to employing full-time writers to create original story lines. One of the best known radio programs, broadcast in 1938 by The Mercury Theatre on the Air, was an interpretation of an H.G. Wells classic, War of The Worlds. It’s still wildly popular nearly 80 years later.

Unfortunately, just like “video killed the radio star”, television killed off many radio stars and programs in the early 1960s. Despite that, some programs still remained and new ones were born. The creator of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling, created a radio program called Zero Hour for the Mutual Broadcasting System, National Public Radio aired Earplay, and Himan Brown brought us CBS Radio Mystery Theatre and General Mills Radio Adventure Theatre.

Though it has suffered a huge decline since its hay days in the 1920s-1950s, new radio theatre continues to be made. Doctor Who, Dad’s Army, and The Tomorrow People have all been revived into radio programs. In the early 2000’s new episodes of The Twilight Zone aired with moderate success. Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was released in 2013 by BBC Radio 4 and featured a cast of well-known film and television actors.

Today, we have Podcasting whose programs are often serialized stories or discussions employing the use of music, sound effects, and a set cast of actors and/or hosts. The big advantage to Podcasts is that you can listen and download what you want to hear any time that’s convenient for you without missing anything. You don’t have to be sitting next to the radio at all! You can listen directly using any device that can store and play audio files. I will confess, I have nearly zero experience and know very little about Podcasting. I’m kind of old fashioned that way.

CBSRMT_CoverV1Exp

But on the bright side, I’m not so old and set in my ways that I don’t know how to manipulate my way around the Internet where I’ve found a plethora of sites offering me the old time radio programs my parents and I grew up listening to. For the past year I’ve been working my way through CBS Radio Mystery Theater which was a huge favorite during my early double-digit years. I’ve only gotten as far as 1975 so far. I’m thinking I’ll move on to Ellery Queen or The Whistler next. In either case, I don’t think I’ll suffer with a lack of things to listen to thanks to the amazing powers of the internet and the foresight people took to preserve these entertainment masterpieces.

So, pull up an easy chair, put on the headphones, check out the aforementioned links as well as those below, and take a trip into your personal Theatre of the Mind.

Radio Lovers

Old Time Radio Downloads

 

The Shadows Are Revealed

In 2013 my first paranormal mystery, “Blood of the Scarecrow”, was released. Due to circumstances beyond my control, it went out of print a mere six months later. Since then, I have been working on not just finding a new publisher for “…Scarecrow”, but writing and completing two other novels.

Although it’s a stand alone novel, the first of those, “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” also continues a subplot, introduces new characters, keeps a lot of the old ones, and of course, brings us face to face with more dark, murderous, and paranormal nastiness. I like to call it “…Scarecrow”‘s companion book for want of better terminology.

With that, I am pleased to announce that “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” is now AVAILABLE! through Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon Europe, as well as the Create Space eStore. Due to some formatting snags, it’s not yet available on Kindle, but hopefully those are soon remedied. MAY even be remedied as I type this.

BUY “THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF” HERE!

Additionally, that which WAS “Blood Of The Scarecrow” is undergoing edits, rewrites, new content, cover changes, and will be re-released within the next six months under the new title of “Secrets Of The Scarecrow Moon”

Thank you all for your patience and continued support in my efforts to write and share my stories with you.

 

Messin’ Wiff Yer Heads Tuesday!

I’ve started a word game over on my FB Author Page. It’s called ‘Messin’ Wiff Yer Heads Tuesday”. I’ll be posting a line or two from chapters of either my latest release “Blood of the Scarecrow” or from my current work in progress, “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of”. It’s up to you to figure out from which book these lines originate. So, hop over to my FB Author Page, LIKE! it and start playing. 🙂

Don’t have “Blood of the Scarecrow” yet, you say? Well, then you need to go to Pamela Morris Books and get one!

Over the weekend I finished up the first draft of Chapter 19 of “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” featuring a drunken undertaker who gleefully shouts, “The Butler did it!”  and a dish-to-pass gathering of witches!

With the promise of warmer weather and sunshine blooming on the horizon, my thoughts stray to that laptop that wants to be mine. It’s gonna be a fine, fine day indeed when I can sit outside at my picnic table under a big-ass umbrella and write. At my current rate, “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” should be done by August then my arduous journey of publisher searching begins.. or maybe I need to hunker down and do some serious agent searching instead. Or both. Either way, I can’t let the business end of this get me bogged down. In the meantime, I hope you’ll grant me the small pleasure of Messin’ Wiff Yer Heads a bit.

That’s What Shadows Are Made Of

Though I am still working on the first draft, I’ve reached a point where it’s time to give you all a sneak peak of what’s heading down the literary transom. Submitted for your approval, I give you… the unofficial blurb for “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” the newest mystery-thriller now in the works by yours truly.

Funeral director Dan Walden finds himself in a very tight place; bludgeoned and suffocated in one of his own display caskets.  But who would want such an upstanding member of the village of North Valley dead?  His son stands to gain control of a thriving family business. The owner of the new funeral home on the other side of town could benefit without the competition.  Maybe his invalid wife really did cast a spell that created a supernatural accomplice powerful enough to kill.

None of this should have anything to do with the coven in nearby Barnesville until Nell Miller, the High Priestess, starts seeing things and when family and friends all begin reporting they are experiencing unusual dreams and visions as well.  To darken matters, a pendant from beyond the grave appears at Nell’s place and her new kitten Familiar won’t go near it.

As the skeins of truth begin to unwind, the Coven members become convinced they must act to find and stop whatever devilry has been unleashed and in the process aid the authorities with their case. No one doubts there is a killer on the loose, but whether it be one of shadow or substance remains to be seen.  Even on the brightest of days, shadows, like some secrets, always seem to remain.  In this case, however, they have also turned deadly.