The A-B-C’s of Sweet Dreams, Horror Style!

Sometimes it’s hard to fall asleep at night. You lie there with your mind running a mile a minute with, what a friend of mine calls, Hamster Brain. I could never get into the whole counting sheep thing. Sometimes I’ll turn the TV on to our local ads channel and turn the volume down just low enough so I can hear the soft elevator music they play. That works pretty well. My fiancé counts backwards from 100. I’ve tried that, but usually start at 200-300. Sometimes that works, too. For some reason I lose track of the numbers around 287 or 187 or 87, get confused and restart at 290, 190, or 90. Now my little hamster brain is trying to do math which is not always conducive to the goal of falling asleep.

In the past couple months I’ve devised my own method to induce sleep using the alphabet. I’m a person of letters and words, not numbers. First, I select a theme; a types of food, wild animals, movie stars, friends, songs, band names, professions, and the like, whatever floats your boat. Last night it was Horror Movies. Don’t give it a lot of thought, just use the first thing that pops to mind and move on to the next letter. The point is to keep your mind focused on one somewhat meaningless and monotonous task. I fell asleep around the letter O or maybe it was N. In either case, it works like a charm for me. I seldom make it through the whole alphabet before I’m out. Here’s what I came up with last night, at least as well as I can remember.

A – Amityville Horror

B – Beetlejuice (Technically not a horror movie, but that’s what came to mind first.)

C – Carrie

D – Dracula

E – Evil Dead

F – Frankenstein

G – Godzilla

H – (The) Haunting (original version, of course..)

I – I Spit On Your Grave

J – (had to pass on this one, nothing came to mind)

K – Killer Klowns from Outer Space

L – Let’s Scare Jessica To Death

This is where things start to get fuzzy. I’m sure I had a movie for M but I can’t really remember what it was.

M – ??

N – Night of the Living Dead

O – (The) Omen

And that was it. I was snoring by the time young Damien was shoving his mom over the upstairs railing. Sweet dreams are made of this.

I’m curious. What would your Horror Movie Dream List look like? What methods of sleep induction have you tried? I’d like to hear if one of you actually tries this and if it works as well for you as it does for me.

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.

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.

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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

 

Catching Up With The King

One of the greatest requirements of being a writer is also to be a reader. I’ve always been a huge reader. My earliest hard-core reading memories involved Nancy Drew Mysteries. I was ravenous for books by Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Wilkie Collins, Dickens, Peter Straub, Ellery Queen, Ray Bradbury, and then there was the King; The King of Horror, Stephen King.

In middle and high school I devoured one Stephen King book after another. Every year for Christmas or my birthday I’d be gifted the latest King novel. My god, how that man took me away into his worlds of bizarre and divine darkness. Very few understood my passion for King. “Don’t those things give you nightmares?” was a common opening line when someone found me curled up somewhere with my nose buried in the likes of “Pet Semetery” or “The Stand”. Never, ever, did reading King give me nightmares. His words were fuel to my writer’s soul. I wanted to be the next Stephen King. Hell, if I could write even half as good as him, I’d be one happy camper.

Then something odd happened. Once I was out of high school and trying to make my way in the world, I read less and less, King included. Maybe it was because I was now a working stiff. Maybe I was too busy being a wife and mother. Dr. Seuss and Winnie The Pooh took over and before I knew it a good twenty years had passed. The new and wonderful worlds of Stephen King became lost to me. Where had I left off?

Late in 2013 and into 2015 I started to play catch-up with King. I met Gerald and witnessed his horrific game. “Delores Claiborne” stepped in to say hello. I entered “Black House” and learned “Lisey’s Story”.

Reading became a passion again. I needed to read as much as I had always needed to write. Every book, King or not, became inspiration. Between bouts of visiting the King-dom there was Tanith Lee, Hunter Shea, and Scott Westerfeld to fill the gaps, but King was always the goal.

In August 2015 I started King’s Dark Tower Series. I remember knowing when the first book came out back in the 1970s. I’m not sure why I never picked a single one of them up! Now, I’ve worked my way through the first four books of the seven part series, having only just started the 5th last week, “Wolves of the Calla” and even picked up a copy of “The Wind Through The Keyhole” yesterday. It seems to be some sort of side book to the original seven books. It’s a good start, I’ll grant you, but even with having read four Dark Towers and “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” in 2015 alone, I’m still not even half way through King’s bibliography that I lost in the world of my own life.

Time to read, time to write, time to live my everyday life; Time to raise my children and enjoy the company of friends, time to be with family as often as I can.

I may never catch up with the King. It’s taken me fifty years to get as far as I have. I doubt I have another fifty in me to complete the task, but I’m going to try my damnedest.

Of Ravens, Poe, & Dickens

I found out something very cool this morning, but we’ll get back to that in a minute.

I don’t have much interest in any other birds, but my fascination with crows and ravens goes back decades. I don’t know when it started or why. It’s just one of those things that has always been a part of me. I can sit and watch them for hours. I love the sounds they make. I hesitate to call those sounds songs, but when they get to talking amongst themselves it’s a very cool listen. I’ve learned the difference between the two and it always annoys me to no end when they are featured in scary books and movies as nocturnal creatures. They aren’t. In fact, Corvids are one of the first birds to head to their roosts at night. Don’t even get me started on the ignorant idiots who go on crow hunts believing these birds are attacking and killing their farm animals. What a crock of bird shit! Crows and ravens ARE NOT raptors, people! They aren’t birds of prey. They don’t attack lambs, or chickens, or new born calves for Pete’s sake. Do some research!!! But, I digress.

As part of my final for a public speaking class I took in high school, I read Poe’s The Raven, as you would expect. I’ve featured the crow and raven in my first published paranormal murder-mystery, Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon (formerly known as Blood of the Scarecrow) and though the birds DO appear at night, it’s for very abnormal reasons. I’m told one of my uncles had a pet crow, of a sort. It wasn’t caged or anything, but apparently he’d rescued it at a young age and for quite some time it hung out with the family and would allow them to hand feed it. I really need to get a raven tattoo!

As a fan of horror, I am also a fan of Edgar Allen Poe. When I did the whole U.S. Civil War reenacting thing I had several small books I would sit and read appropriate to the time period. A selection of Poe’s short stories was the most popular one for me to pick up. I’ve yet to get to Baltimore to check things out, but it’s on my Bucket List.

I’ve read a fair amount of Dickens, too. Although, truth be told, Wilkie Collins is by far my favorite Victorian-era novelist. If you haven’t read anything by Collins, I strongly suggest you do. Not only were Collins and Dickens each others contemporaries, they were also friends and worked on several theatrical pieces together. We can’t forget about good old Bram Stoker either, can we? And the first novel of that period I ever read, Dracula, at a mere ten-eleven years of age. I’ve read that bad boy a good ten times and am way overdue for another go through. They wrote differently back then. It’s a style I greatly admire.

So, what does all this have to do with what I found out this morning? It seems that Charles Dickens acquired a pet raven in the name of research (yeah, we authors go to interesting length in the name of research). This bird in turn inspired Edgar Allen Poe to write The Raven. I thought it was cool anyway and worthy of sharing. Check out History Buff’s article HERE to learn the whole story!

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go get more caw-fee.

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!

Book Promo

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

Barnesville Chronicles / Book Promo

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.