Saturday, July 30, 2016

Vintage Fire Trucks & Trolleys

Today is the vintage fire truck show at the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor/Warehouse Point, CT. Kelly has been volunteering at the museum since she was 21-years old. Her main focus has been working in the restoration barns, restoring, renovating, and repairing the museum's collection of vintage trolley cars.

Kelly also has a passion for brass era automobiles, antique and vintage cars through the 1930's and vintage trucks and fire trucks. Today is right up her alley. She was up early and out of the house by eight o'clock to head to the museum where she's volunteering as a trolley motorman, having earned her certifications to operate 7 of their trolleys so far.

I've been running errands and catching up on housework today, but following the Vintage Fire Truck Day on facebook through periodic photo updates posted by the museum. It looks like there's quite a crowd there. One truck had to leave to go to a call but soon returned as it was a false alarm.

I can't wait to see her pictures when she comes home this evening.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Poltergeist Plague

I was fifteen years old when my family pulled up roots and moved us from Easthampton, a small town, to Westfield, MA, a small city. My sister had one year of high school left. I had just finished ninth grade. My brother would be starting high school as he was a year younger than me.

We moved into a brand new house that was still under construction- interior decorating was still ongoing, the kitchen cabinets were still being installed. We lived with the builder and his crew for about two weeks as they finished up work on the house. The house sat on the side of a mountain and at that time the road was still dirt and our house was the last one on the street. There was an empty house to our left and one across the street that was under construction. There were rough dirt roads defining what would eventually be paved streets and additional houses. Power ran as far as our house. We had to hike down to the nearest accepted street to get our mail from a box we had to install there. For a week or so we had to drive down the road to the telephone booth (yeah, they still had them in June 1973) at the variety store to make phone calls until the underground telephone lines were brought up the mountain to our street.

The point is that this was a brand new never lived in home on virgin ground and nothing bad or anything had ever happened there.

Until I moved in. Everything was fine for the first year. We made the house a home. We stayed in contact with friends from Easthampton by mail, phone and occasional visits. There wasn't any great distance between our prior home and the new house- maybe 8-9 miles total. Once school started though and everyone in that school was a complete stranger the distance felt like hundreds of miles.

In January of 1974 I developed anorexia. I suddenly had a phobia about choking on food. I have no idea where that came from but I subsisted on mini oyster crackers, soft foods, and liquids. I lost a lot of weight-probably dropping from 135 to 107 lbs overall. My mother invited a number of my Easthampton friends over to celebrate my 16th birthday in April and pictures from that day show me looking decidedly thin compared to my healthy friends.

Around that time I taught myself to do sand paintings- a popular hobby in the mid-70's. I was fairly decent at it. I did the paintings in Libby glass jars in various shapes-mushroom, ginger jar, bell- whatever I could find. I put them on shelves my Dad had put up on my two exterior walls between the front window and the side window at 90 degree angles. I had some paperback books and other knickknacks on the shelves.

One night I was woken from a dead sleep by a loud crash. The bottom shelf beside the side window had tilted and all the sand paintings in jars had crashed to the floor in a colorful heap of sand and broken glass. What a mess! My mother blamed it on jet planes from the airport shaking the walls, but they didn't fly in the dead of night. Then she thought we might have had an earthquake. There was nothing else damaged or out of place in the house. So she finally blamed it on too much weight on the shelf. I could live with that.

I cleaned up the mess and more or less gave up that hobby.

The next thing I remember that was strange was that I was in my room listening to my radio, which was a small square box on the shelf near the front window. Also on that shelf was a nightlight shaped like a hand holding an ice cream cone that I had found in the basement of an old department store in Northampton in the household appliances area. I just fell in love with it and had to have it. The radio was plugged in and playing softly. The ice cream cone light was not plugged in.

I left my room to go talk to my mother up the hall in the living room. My sister was in her room with the door shut across the hall from my room, and my brother was in his room with his door shut beside my room. I walked past both their closed doors and stood at the top of the hall and would have both heard and seen them if either one had opened their door and gone into my room. No one emerged from either room.

A few minutes later I returned to my room and immediate I noticed that the radio was no longer on but the ice cream light was glowing! I walked further into the room feeling confused, puzzled. How could that be possible? What really made the whole thing surreal to me was when I looked at the outlet beneath the shelf near the floor and saw that the cords were both plugged in, however the radio that had been plugged into the top outlet since it was used all the time was now plugged into the bottom outlet, and the ice cream cone light was plugged into the top outlet! I kind of yelped and left my room fairly quickly.

My mother, sister and brother could not explain that weird happening. They said, well, maybe we have a ghost. We'd all had ghostly things happen to us, but I couldn't figure out how we could have a ghost in a brand new house. Where had it come from?

Then came the night where I was woken from a sound sleep by the sound of something hitting the wood floor near my bedroom door. At this time my bed was against the wall between the door and the double closet doors and I was using my chess table as a bedside table, placing my wind-up alarm clock (white with a green face and green bell on top) on the table before going to bed. Now, the door opened inward toward the front of the house. My head was against the north wall, my feet facing south. The front of the house faced east, the rear west. So, the door opened eastward and was half shut when I went to bed. The chess table with clock was on my left in front of the closet doors. When the sound of something hitting the floor near the door woke me I had to sit up and lean forward and to the right to reach the light switch beside the still half closed door. I actually then had to get out of bed to see what had fallen on the other side of the door- the hallway side.

It gave me goosebumps to find my wind-up alarm clock lying on the floor on the other side of the door. For me to have thrown it there in my sleep I would have had to grab it with my left hand, sit up, lean far forward and throw it across my body and bed, and at a curve to get it around the door that far. I'm right-handed. If I had used my right hand it would have been even more awkward because I would have had to sit up, reach across my own body and bend over to grab the clock, then scoot down in bed and toss it underhand around the door and then quickly lay back down which is how I woke up when I heard the noise- flat on my back. No one else heard the clock hit the wood floor.

I lay there in the dark after replacing the clock on the chess table, trying to puzzle out how that had even happened. We had a cat but the clock was too heavy for a cat to carry in its mouth. We didn't have a dog.

I was beginning to suspect that we had a nasty little poltergeist who was plaguing me because I was not a happy teenager. I missed my friends, my health was not the best at that point, I was depressed. I also had some family issues I was coping with, and an on-again off-again cheating boyfriend who was taking me for an emotional roller coaster ride. I was a toxic stew of volatile emotions. I was the perfect draw for a poltergeist, even though I was 16-18 years old at the time,  on the old side to be bothered by these mischievous spirits.

I kind of got used to stuff in my room being moved around, drawers pulled open, shades snapping up for no reason, weird feelings, odd noises, and dark shapes like ravens fluttering around in the periphery of my vision. I kept a diary and later journals so have these things documented in those pages. What I'm writing here are the events that are still the most vivid in my memory to this day.

Things eventually settled down, but I never felt comfortable alone in the house. I'd hear the garage door go up, hear voices as if my parents had come home- and then nothing. I'd go down to the door to the garage and open it, fully expecting to see the car there and- nothing! About ten minutes later I'd hear the same thing and my parents would actually be home.

The last straw came when I was 24-years old and had moved out of the house, and was living in a truly haunted house in West Springfield. My sister was living downtown, my brother was living int he second floor apartment (which was the haunted apartment) above me. My parents were on vacation so I was running to the house to water the plants, bring in the mail and newspapers and just check on things.

It was like eleven o'clock in the morning. My parents were due to come home the next day, so I brought in the mail and newspaper. Then, in the kitchen, I leaned against the counter to write a note for my Mom to let her know when I'd last watered her plants. As I was writing the note something unseen poked me so hard in the butt the material of my jeans was tucked between my butt cheeks! I jumped and the pen skittered across the paper! I whipped around and there was absolutely nothing there, but I was totally creeped out. Being older, I was also braver, so I said, "That wasn't funny, so knock it off!"

I quickly finished writing the note (unmolested) and left the house as quickly as I could.

I still have that note in my jewelry box with the squiggle across the page. It's a reminder that this stuff actually did happen to me.

I wasn't entirely heartbroken when my parents sold that house. John and I had bought a house on the next street back from my parents so we could be close as they got older and I could help them out. Then we had Kelly so I would walk over with her to visit as Mom retired just after Kelly was born. Dad retired just before they moved. But then Mom couldn't get up the inside steps in the raised ranch from the garage to the main floor due to arthritis and neuropathy. They had to move to a single level home, and went to live on the first floor at my sister's two family house.

I guess as my life stabilized I outgrew the poltergeist, wasn't radiating that negative energy it fed off of, but it couldn't resist that last poke!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Experimenting with Kindle Books

I have made four of my books available in the USA in the Kindle Store as e-reader books.

The titles that are available for Kindle are:
Black King Takes White Queen- my newly released urban fantasy about black arts and white arts practitioners uniting to battle an evil dark arts witch.
Also, Talon: An Intimate Familiarity which is a paranormal/supernatural novel about an icy cold medical examiner who is also a grim reaper, and his red hot passion for his chosen portal. This is the first in a series of what will be 5 novels. Four are currently available in print. The fifth book is in the planning stage.
Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume I is also available as a Kindle book now. This is a collection of six supernatural/suspense stories (that show some of the influence Shirley Jackson has had on my writing). Blackstone's Menagerie was a 2nd place winner in the annual Halloween story contest and published on their site under my pseudonym Victoria Bell.
The last book currently available on Kindle is My Magical Life, another urban fantasy novel featuring a witch and a vampire who doesn't like to acknowledge what he really is, and the coolest, freshest, snarkiest feline familiar ever to appear in print.

If there's interest in these books I will convert others to Kindle books in the future. We'll see how these four do for right now.

Unfortunately I don't know what my rights are in foreign countries, but I do hold all my rights here in my own country, so the books are only available in the Kindle store in the USA for now.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Yesterday Something Dark, Today Something Light

As I stepped outside this evening to shoot the eerie yellow sunset I was surprised to find not one, but two rainbows arcing over my backyard. I quickly ducked back in to get an assortment of cameras then went back out and shot a couple dozen pictures of the bright rainbow and it's fainter shadow arcing above it. It was awesome!

I've seen a lot of single rainbows and a few doubles but never a double right in my own backyard! I posted a couple shots on facebook.

As I was outside my sister was calling me on the house phone to tell me to get outside to look at the rainbow...even across town we find ourselves doing the same thing at the same time- and we're not even twins. She's nearly five years older than I am!

I hope my new neighbor and his family saw this beautiful rainbow and it's pallid sister rainbow. This is their first day in their new home and you couldn't have asked for a bigger blessing from Mother Nature than a double rainbow over your new home on your very first day there!

By the way, the clouds were beautiful too, despite the spit of rain coming from them. The setting sun was illuminating them from beneath with golden light! Overall- a truly beautiful ending for another hot, dry day.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Demon that Followed me Home

A lot of people scoff at the idea that there are demons or evil spirits in this world, but I know otherwise. One followed me home once from a Paranormal lecture at a time when I was emotionally and psychologically vulnerable- and it was the most terrifying 48 hours of my life.

It occurred before 1995 when Kelly was between 3-4 years old. My sister and brother-in-law wanted to go see paranormal experts Ed and Lorraine Warren speak at what was still Westfield State College at that time. I agreed to drive them to the lecture because my family had always been sensitive to ghosts and had some psychic ability from the French Canadian side of the family. We'd had some ghostly experiences. Between 1973 and 1983 I was plagued by a poltergeist. The events occurred starting when I was fifteen years old and ending when I was in my early-to-mid 20's. I think it was because I was really not a happy girl when my family moved us from Easthampton to Westfield. I had only recently begun making friends after years of hit & miss schooling with my peers due to a lot of health issues with my mother and sister that sent my brother and I to my grandparent's home during the school year. But the poltergeist is a different story I may write about at another time. This is about the damn demon.

The lecture took place in Scanlon Hall Auditorium. We sat about mid-way down the center aisle. The lecture was very interesting. It included a slide show and some audio captures of truly chilling deep, growly voices.

I dropped my sister and brother-in-law off at their home downtown then headed home. It was during that drive across town that I began to sense a dark presence in the truck with me that made me uneasy and anxious to be home. I thought it was just because we'd heard a lot of terrifying things and I was just over reacting to having to drive home alone in the dark after a program like that.

However, that night I woke up from a dead sleep hearing growls or snarls from up the hall, and smelling a horrendous odor like something rotten was in the house. I was nervous and got up to check Kelly who was asleep in her room. The odor was particularly strong outside her closed door and that unnerved me quite a lot. I said, "No, you leave my little girl alone! I don't want you here. You don't belong here. You need to go." I could not go back to sleep so I more or less spent the rest of the night pacing the hallway outside Kelly's door feeling more and more anxious and uneasy.

The next day was Thursday. I had recently begun attending my neighbor's Born Again Christian church in Belchertown. Church was at 7:00PM. It was a very long, troubling day because I could not shake that sense that something dark had followed me home, had attached itself to me. I was going through a difficult time emotionally and was once more vulnerable to these spirits who evidently thrive on tormenting people struggling with issues.

During the lecture the Warrens had talked about Ouija boards and how they could be dangerous because they appear to open a portal between the worlds allowing spirits entry. I had rescued a Ouija board my Mom had bought us to play with when we teens in the early 70's. It had been in the basement of my parent's house when they'd moved downtown in 1993 or 94. I'd brought it home thinking that I could use it to help teach Kelly the alphabet.

That Thursday afternoon I went downstairs to my familiar basement. The air felt heavy and oppressive. I was jittery with anxiety in a place I had not been afraid of before. I took the board into the garage and smashed it to pieces against a cinderblock. It was not an easy task to accomplish but I finally had it shattered into six pieces that I threw into the trash can. Trash collection was on Friday. The trash can would be at the end of the driveway all Thursday night, not in the house.

The rest of that day I couldn't concentrate, couldn't sit still. John and Kelly must have thought I was losing my mind, but I was just very anxious to go to church that evening.

Finally, the time came to leave for church. My neighbor noticed I seemed tense and quiet and asked me what was wrong. I confessed to her that I had taken my sister and brother-in-law to that lecture and she gave me a look, then said we'd talk to Pastor Dale when we got to church and he'd help me.

Well, I talked to Pastor Dale and he listened, nodding his head. He then had me sit in my regular seat beside my neighbor and he began the normal service. When the beginning part was over he paused and then said there was a member there that night who needed prayer to banish a dark spirit that had  attached itself to her. He didn't name me, just asked the entire congregation to hold hands and just pray that demon out of the building and back to where it had come from. He had us close our eyes and just pray silently. He said some prayers at the front of the church. I was about five or six rows back with no one to my left, my neighbor to my right, no one directly in front of me for two rows, and two people behind my neighbor, but not me.

As we prayed I saw through my closed eyelids a dark shadow pass before me from left to right as if floating. I sensed it moving past my neighbor into the aisle, and then moving toward the back of the church to the open doors. And then a moment later this beautiful white light seemed to shine against my eyes and I felt what could only be described as pure love and peace. I knew in a heartbeat that the dark spirit had been banished and I had been forgiven for being so stupid for exposing myself to such a thing.

I shook my hand free from my neighbor's, stepped out into the aisle and went to where the pastor was standing and told him quietly what had happened. He hugged me, blessed me and sent me back to my seat without rebuke or remonstration- just love.

Then he concluded the prayers and said the demon had been banished. We sang hymns and the service went on as usual.

I went home feeling lighthearted and relieved. That night my house felt different- the oppressive atmosphere was gone, the horrible stench was gone. I felt no anxiety, no fear. I slept like a baby.

I have been cautious ever since about protecting myself with prayer whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed, sad, troubled, angry, or have any other strong emotion. I NEVER want something like that attaching itself to me again (or threatening my family)!

My home is my sanctuary. I no longer attend that church but I have been baptized in the Catholic church as an infant, and in that church also as an adult (a full immersion baptism). I'm not particularly religious but I have faith and understanding that there is a higher authority, a higher being. I don't fool around with spirits and they leave me alone these days.

Status quo.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cloud Lightning

We're having a drought here in western MA. There have been a umber of rolling thunderstorms and pop-up storms, including a few microbursts and strong wind storms, but here where I live it's been a hot, dry couple of weeks with another one predicted for the coming week.

Last night, apparently, there was a lot of cloud lightning. When I turned my phone on this morning and logged into facebook there were five video clips in a row that immediately came up depicting awesome lightning flashing in clouds from way up in northern VT to right here in town.

Unfortunately I missed nature's strobe light show which leaves me very disappointed.

I'm the kind of girl who loves wild weather. And yes, I have a healthy respect for Mother Nature so I do use common sense and caution! Basically- I capture clouds. I would have loved to get some ideo of the cloud lightning last night- that would have been right up my alley!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Doctor Tuxedo!

One of the doctors I work for had to leave work today and go to his little girl's recital. The Dad escorts the daughter on stage so after seeing his next to last patient he changed into his classic black tuxedo complete with cummerbund and bow tie and saw his final patient dressed to the, twelves!

His last patient was a biker dude with tattoos all up his arms (I toned down the medical terminology and didn't say bilateral upper extremities, although, as you can see, I was sorely tempted! Haha!) I can just imagine what that man thought when his brand new doctor popped open the door and waltzed in wearing a tuxedo! He certainly couldn't complain of white coat syndrome!!

You never know what's going to happen at work!

I bet that little girl was so proud of her Daddy tonight, as was that Daddy proud of his little girl!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Murder of Crows

My home sits halfway up on the side of a mountain. Behind us we have woods and shale cliffs. The rear of our property drops off into a sort of gully through which a brook rambles.

This part of the state has been in a state of severe drought the past few months. The bed of the brook is bone dry. This has happened before and I've been able to walk up the brook in the past. If it ever cools off I have a mission- I once walked along the brook when it was fairly dry and just took a series of pictures. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that in one of those pictures of the dry brook bed there is a perfect heart-shaped rock! This was about six or seven years ago because I remember hanging a picture of the "heart of stone" at my desk at work ad people commenting on it. My husband now wants that stone/rock. It's probably bigger than my fist but it's hard to judge size in a photograph.
He and I plan on hiking up the brook behind one or two houses of neighbors and tracking that stone down.

We also have a murder of crows living in the woods behind us. Every evening they float down from the oak trees like paragliders to strut around on the toasted lawn looking for anything that might be available to them to eat. There are four or five primary cows that come foraging but you can hear others in the woods calling to them.

Tonight I broke up three slices of bread and hurled it out the bathroom window. They took off at the throwing motion, but soon returned and found the bread. A small gray squirrel also noticed the food being thrown from the window and zipped in to grab his quarter of a slice of bread! Well, the crows didn't like that he was 'mooching' their bread and one tried to chase him off while another stacked pieces of bread and grabbed them up in his beak (the pig!). Well, the squirrel raced halfway up the deck stairs then dove onto the top of the holly bush outside the kitchen window where it settled down to have his supper.

The crows took everything else and went back to their rookery along the brook.

Later on we'll hear the raspy bark of the red fox who hunts along the brook. He was out there again this morning while I was eating breakfast. The animals are getting a little desperate with low food supplies and no water. It's been a bad summer for them, but there are some acorns on the oaks, although not as many as in the past. I guess this is nature's version of survival of the fittest.

Right now it's the crafty crows who are winning.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My Heart Was In My Throat!

I work in a medical office where one of the MDs killed himself years ago. Wherever tragedies occur there can be residual energy remaining decades later and more.

I happen to be sensitive to spirits (from the French Canadian side of my family) and have had some eerie things happen to me in the 8 years I've been there. Mostly, I hear disembodied voices, although I've also felt unexplainable cold spots from time to time. The voice I hear is like a breathy whisper close to my ear, left or right, it doesn't seem to have a preference. Once it called my name- "Susan!" Once it simply said, "Hi!" Another time it distinctly said "Hey!" as if trying to get my attention. I whipped around in my chair and there was absolutely no one else in the office where I worked at the time. It happened during the latter end of lunch break and I was all alone. Less than twenty minutes later I received a call from my daughter who never complains when she's sick, never wants to see a doctor and doesn't like to take medicine. For her to call me at work and complain of being very sick and wanting me to come home so soon after a spirit voice tried to catch my attention did catch my attention. I jumped up and left the office, yelling to the office manager who was returning to work as I walked by her moving car toward my own that I needed to go home, my daughter was sick! I ended up taking her to the ER, something else completely out of the ordinary with Kelly, her agreeing to go to a hospital! I was glad of the voice putting me on the alert that something wasn't right in my home while I was at work.

Therefore, I always expect eerie encounters when I'm walking around the building in the morning before many of my co-workers have even arrived yet. My desk is at the opposite end of the building now. So, on Monday morning I walked along the long back hallway from the employee entrance to put my things at my desk at the opposite end of the building, then came back along that same hallway, veering right into a side hallway with two examination rooms and a bathroom on my way to check the coffee bar station in the waiting room to be sure it was adequately supplied to start the day before going to the kitchen to finish making the coffee for the office and the waiting room. As I passed the second of the two waiting rooms something in that room caught the corner of my eye. The hall light was not on yet. The light was coming from the long back hallway so wasn't that bright. It vaguely looked like someone lying on the examining table! I backtracked and peeked into the room and nearly jumped out of my skin! It was a skeleton! Heart thumping, I flipped on the light to get a better look and then realized it was only the 2-D, full-length skeleton that has been hanging on the wall in the scale niche since I started working there. He'd been taken down because the walls had been painted over the weekend. The office manager had laid the skeleton out on the table- as a joke! Ha! Ha!

I can laugh about it now, but it sure did give me a jump start to my day!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Riley- Bug Hunter

My five year old long-haired smoke gray and white cat, Riley Beans, is rather enigmatic. He was adopted from a rescue shelter and had a serious dental condition- juvenile gingivital hyperplasia- when we adopted him. His breath was atrocious! His gums were red and inflamed, growing down over his teeth and dissolving them. I cried when his vet told us the only thing we could do was to send him to a veterinary dentist and have all his teeth pulled. He was only five months old! I said we needed a week to think about that- I mean, how could you take a cat that wasn't much bigger than a kitten and yank out all his teeth!

Our vet called us a week later and asked if we'd be agreeable to is performing laser dental work on Riley's gums. He had been reading up on Riley's condition and thought he'd give this a try since we were so reluctant to have all his teeth pulled. It would be a learning experience for him and his co-workers but they felt bad for Riley and were willing to try this first before going to such an extreme. It might work, because the disease could resolve on its own as he grew. John and I discussed it- but there really was nothing to discuss. Riley was miserable, in pain and having difficulty eating, even soft food because his gums were so inflamed and it was affecting his throat.

We took him in, entrusting him to the care of Dr. Faircloth who had been our family vet for twenty-something years. He assured us Riley would be closely monitored and if he became distressed they would stop. John and I went home to wait. We received periodic updates throughout the day by the reception staff. Then the Doctor called to say Riley had done well. He'd lasered the inflamed gums back off his teeth and cleaned up the gum line. He'd extracted three partially eroded teeth, cleaned and polished all the remaining teeth. Riley was coming out of anesthesia well and staff was watching him closely. He had to stay overnight but we could pick him up the following day.

We brought Riley home and the change in him was amazing! He had fresh breath. Within 24-hours he was eating both wet and dry food. He had always been sweet and affectionate, even when miserable, but now we could tell he was much happier and healthier because he wanted to spend more time with us and less time alone and sleeping.

He's done well ever since the vet took that chance and did something he had not done so extensively before. Before and after photos taken of Riley's mouth are still used as a teaching tool at that veterinary practice and his success story is talked about to this day.

As his health improved we discovered that our little guy was not a mouser by nature, but a bug hunter. He's like a feline pointer When he spots a flying or crawling insect he stares intently at it, his whole body grows still. He tracks it with his eyes, and if it flits off or crawls off he follows it until it's stopped or landed someplace else, and then he sits and stares again. He's pointed out to us spiders, ladybugs, beetles, flies, bees, mosquitoes, ants and most recently the firefly that got into our kitchen.

He does not move until someone comes and kills the bug or captures it and puts it back outdoors (ladybugs and the firefly primarily). Once the insect has been taken care of he happily goes off to do whatever it is he does when he's out of our sight. No one really knows what that is, because although he's now a happy, healthy cat he remains rather enigmatic- except for his penchant for bug tracking/hunting. Fortunately he has not brought me any bugs in bed! (I've had cats all my life and have been gifted with dead birds, wounded mice, and live frogs in bed!)

Riley Beans- Bug Hunter! You've just gotta love that little boy!

Post Novel Depression

It is true.

Writing a novel is like giving birth. The author creates lives, builds a story around these characters, uses words to construct a world in which these characters live and interact. The author can spend a month to several years writing a novel, living with these people who become quite real over time, manipulating them, directing them, leading them to the conclusion of the novel. And then you reread the pages, edit, rewrite, add or subtract material, fine tune the characters and the story. Then off it goes to be published- and the feeling of loss and separation sets in. It's similar to empty nest syndrome, or post partum depression. The author has created an entity out of their own self, their own imagination, heart, and soul. And then the cord is cut and the book goes off into the world and the author worries whether or not the book will be successful or will flounder. It's wrenching yet exhilarating. We wish for our "babies" to be successful and we are disheartened when they fail.

As I anticipate the final proof version of Black King Takes White Queen I feel aimless at no longer having those characters in my day to day life, anxious about whether or not it's good enough this time, and nervous about if it is good enough, how it will be met by the reading public.

Although I have written 9 story collections and 11 novels, a young adult novel and a young reader book and have been through this post novel depression numerous times I still experience the separation that comes with a project completed and about to launch.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Sneak Peek At the New Novel

Here is a sneak peak of the redesigned and corrected cover of Black King Takes White Queen. considering making this my first Kindle available novel...we'll see. Should be available around the end of this month from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace Direct and other book sources.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

When You're Not As Smart As You Think You Are

For the past week I've been doing a final big edit of my new novel. Last night I went into Create Space to work on uploading the corrected file, and designing a new cover because Kelly didn't like the "too subtle" cover I originally designed.

I usually have a brain in my head- so imagine how shocked and stunned I was to discover, as I worked on the new cover design, that I had put the title on the original upload and design as Black Knight Takes White Queen when in fact the book's title is actually Black King Takes White Queen (which is what all the interior pages read!) Fortunately, since I was still in the proof stage of the self-publishing process, nothing was written in stone. I was able to go into all the areas where CreateSpace had put in the incorrect title I'd typed and fix it.

This was perhaps the most frustrating cover design I've done- I had the image I wanted but it wasn't available for all the various cover designs. It took four hours to find the cover I wanted and get the image added, the fonts and colors the way I wanted them, the back cover text rewritten, and everything uploaded again for this second shot at this book. I think I have it right this time- fingers crossed!

Hopefully, I won't find any glaring errors when I have the new proof copy in hand (and yeah, it took me two weeks to realize the cover said Knight not King! Duh!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Riley Beans and the Firefly

I was sitting in the kitchen editing a new novel the other night. Kelly was sitting opposite me writing in her journal before bed. She raised her head and asked, "What's Riley got?" I turned my head and saw him sitting on the rug just inside the back door. He was staring intently at something I couldn't see that was up against the side of the kitchen cabinet. I moved my chair back, leaned over and caught a flash of light on the floor- chartreuse in color and knew instantly what had entranced my little cat so thoroughly- a firefly! He was absolutely mesmerized by the blinking bug!

I told Kelly he was watching a firefly and she jumped up saying, "I just read an article saying fireflies are endangered! Don't let him kill it!"

She went to rescue the firefly, I grabbed Riley. The next thing I know she had the firefly cupped in her two hands and she was peering into her closed hands through a small gap- totally entranced by the blinking bug now held in her protective hands. Like cat, like human. I said, "Better take it outside," but she was completely mesmerized as she gazed in wonder at the bug. "Kelly, take it outside and set it free!"

She went out onto the back deck and opened her hands-and it was gone! It fly off into the dark night with nary a flash or a blink. I had to check her over to make sure it hadn't just landed on her someplace and was going to be carried back inside- it was not on her anywhere.

Every summer she and I go out on the deck to watch the first fireflies of the season- something we've done since she was a little girl who could not pronounce the letter F. She was Kelly Bussum and these flashy insects were sireslies. We seldom get a firefly in the house but have seen them on the outside of the window screens.

It was nice to see the cat and my daughter so appreciative and enthralled by the little beetle-like bug's light show. Nature is beautiful!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Playing with Fire

My 25-year old daughter juggles with flower sticks and a devil stick. She's self-taught and has been juggling with these props since high school. She took them to Worcester Polytechnic Institute as a means of stress relief during the high pressure abbreviated quarters. College was very intense so juggling was her pressure valve.

She asked for a tristick for her recent birthday which has three spokes radiating from a central hub. You juggle this with two sticks you hold in your hands. She's nearly got it mastered already/ I look at it and think-hmm, I'd bean myself in the head, poke myself in the eye and drop the damn thing on my foot if I tried that. That's more or less all the things that happened when trying her flower sticks. I did not even dare touch the devil stick! I might have concussed myself with that thing!

The thing she sighs and mopes about the house over is my refusal to allow her to invest in fire sticks. First of all, this house belongs to me and her father, not her. We pay the mortgage and the homeowner's insurance, and we are not covered for accidental fire due to flipping a fire stick onto the roof or whatever. We do not have a large enough driveway for her to juggle fire in. I can't have her burning down the house or the neighbor's hedges. If we had a huge concrete patio I would consider it, but only if I could have a Valium beforehand to tamp down the anxiety about her setting herself on fire.

Therefore, I have to say a big NO to playing with fire.

When she has her own home, pays her own homeowner's insurance and has adequate medical insurance coverage then she can do whatever she pleases. For now, although I love her and want her to be happy, she's just going to have to cool her jets in regards to playing with fire.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Meeting Author Emily Arsenault

We have a new independent little book shop in town called Bookclub bookstore & more!. It opened less than a month ago. They sell a combination of used and new books and will order new releases for you. They host book launch parties, like for the new Harry Potter book. They also are very active in supporting local authors by hosting author events nearly every weekend!

Today I was very fortunate to meet Shelburne Falls, MA author Emily Arsenault who was there to discuss her new novel The Evening Spider, a thriller with a true crime story from the 1800's woven into it. The novel is set in Connecticut.

As an author, I also enjoy meeting other authors and hearing about how they go about writing their novels. I'm also a voracious reader. Anything set in the mid-to-late 1800's is going to catch my eye. It also caught my attention that sections of the novel are set at the Northampton Lunatic Asylum. In the early 1950's my mother went to the Cooley Dickinson School of Nursing in Northampton, MA. Part of her training was conducted at the Northampton State Hospital (the insane asylum). When we were old enough she told us chilling stories from her training days, so the place (now demolished) has been a big part of the landscape of my life.

I hadn't read any of Emily's books but researched her online and discovered she writes books I would be interested in reading- mysteries mainly. I discovered that she'd also worked for awhile at Merriam-Webster in Springfield, MA where the dictionaries are made. She described a very strange work atmosphere there. When I worked for Western New England University one of their satellite dorms was on Federal Street across from Merriam-Webster and that building always fascinated me, as did the annual new words added to the dictionary list published in the Springfield newspaper. One of her books is set in a place based on Merriam-Webster.

The bookstore offers a cozy, intimate setting in which readers and authors can meet. Emily is a warm, friendly young woman who made herself comfortable and discussed her new book before doing several readings from it. Between readings she filled in details. After the readings a question and answer session was held and she graciously responded to our questions and participated in a tangential discussion. Then she signed copies of her book for us. It was a very positive experience and I was happy to have gotten out of the house to attend.

This afternoon I began reading The Evening Spider. During a brief break from reading I jumped online and looked for her other books, finding them still available on the Barnes&Noble website. I own a nook, so opted to purchase and download four more of her books to my device. I might not have time to read them right now, but they're there when I'm ready to read more!

I have a list of additional author events scheduled at the store that I plan on attending, and have directed two author friends to the store, and they've reported back to me that they have book signings  scheduled on the calendar. Although I own their books already I'll still go to visit with them and listen to them read and be supportive of their work.

In a world where we idolize actors and actresses who only portray characters screenwriters have devoted themselves to creating it's nice to have a place to go to meet the authors of the characters we will love or hate, root for or hiss at within the pages of their books. Without writers and their imaginations there would be no actors and actresses on the screen or stage and the world would be a much duller place to dwell in. So when you see an author event don't walk by- go in and meet the person who dedicates their life to entertaining you be it in print or depicted on the big screen. It all starts with a writer with a vision. Some authors are idolized but so many more quietly labor in near anonymity- so even if you don't recognize the name, go in and check out what that author/writer is doing- there're still many surprises in this world if you only open your eyes and look!

I recommend Emily Arsenault! Go read her!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

OMG! TV Sucked the Soul out of ME!

I did something I very seldom do- I sat down in the living room this evening to continue the read through and editing of the proof copy of Black King Takes With Queen and three hours later realized that I was sitting there stupidly watching inane TV programs and not getting anything constructive done!

I have never been much of a TV viewer. The few times we've had to fill out those Nielsen diaries in regards to what we watch on TV it's all been what John watches. Kelly and I are readers and writers. We have no patience with TV and myriad LOUD commercials for stuff we have no interest in and are never going to buy anyway.

It was shocking to me how much time had passed, and how much I could have accomplished in those three hours- I wasted creative, productive time sitting there watching Chopped! and Mystery at the Museum...until I stood up and gave myself a swift kick in the ass for being lazy.

Imagine if everyone parked in front of their televisions turned them off, got off their asses and did something creative, productive and meaningful? What a different world we'd be living in!

Growing up, my mother limited the amount of time we watched TV and I eventually grew bored with it. I usually feel restless sitting there hour after hour. I can't stand listening to the music in the background, the fake cheerfulness, the rudeness, the foul language, the dumbness of it all...but for some reason tonight it sucked me in and stole my soul for three whole hours!

I am so ashamed of myself for just sitting there- even if I did edit a couple pages, groom the cat, and exchange a few words with my husband who lays on the couch every night watching and listening to this crap- and then complaining how little time he has to do anything around the house! He used to use the excuse that it was his downtime after work where he had a lot of stress. Fine, But he's been unemployed for 4.5 months now and he stills just lies there and doesn't get anything that needs to be done accomplished. He's an addict.

Now I am back to sitting in the kitchen where I can concentrate and not be distracted and sucked into the pointless drivel that passes for entertainment these days. I feel like I lost three hours of my life, like I was abducted by aliens and mind-wiped. I don't like that feeling at all!

I absolutely dread the future when we're retired and the damn TV is on ALL day and night. He is so going to be locked into a soundproof room because I will go insane having to listen to that nonsense even more than I already have to! I wonder if insanity due to over exposure to television will be an admissible defense in the future murder trial when I bash him with the 60" flatscreen, or whatever trendy new TV is in the house 10 years from now?

Hello! Can I have my soul back please? I really need it for better things than that!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Big Cats in Massachusetts

I've lived in western Massachusetts my entire life- quite a while in human years, a number of lifetimes in dog years. To someone from eastern and central MA I live out in the sticks. Both my former college roommate (Peabody, MA) and Kelly's best friend and former college roommate (Raynham, MA) are both eastern MA girls. Both of them were not comfortable in "the wilderness" of western MA when visiting.

I've always heard about the bobcats in the area. Several times we've had humongous cat paw prints in the snow in our backyard around the deck and leading back into the woods during bad winters when the bobcats have come close looking for food.

Recently on facebook, out in Webster MA, a woman posted pictures she'd taken of a mountain lion near her home. It reminded me of the Catamount Cat statue in Bennington. VT. The catamount cat is basically, a puma or mountain lion. I've always loved that statue because I've always loved the big cats at the zoo and the circus the best- although I always felt sad for them.

I live on a mountainside on the edge of the woods. There's a ravine behind us with a brook winding through it. Beyond the brook is more woodland and then shale cliffs to the top of the mountain. It's the kind of area where you might find a mountain lion. On the other side of the mountain are two reservoirs. On this side to the north is a series of ponds. There is game and water available.

We have black bears, coy dogs, coyotes, foxes, deer, a moose (that someone illegally killed a few years ago), fisher cats, woodchucks, skunks, eastern timber rattlesnakes, copperheads and assorted other snakes and the usual small rodents like chipmunks, squirrels (black and gray), moles, voles and field mice. I have never seen the bobcat. I have seen just about everything else, except the moose. Everything passes through our backyard because we do not have a fenced in yard. Our neighbors on either side have tall shrubs hedges as high as our houses. They run from the road to the woods, except in one place way out back. Animals come up the ravine and follow the path we have as access to the ravine and brook.

I wonder if one day I'll look out my kitchen window and see a mountain lion ambling through the back yard? I wouldn't be surprised as there was rumor of a lynx seen here in town about seven years ago. The big cats are out there but they're elusive.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Author Takes A Holiday

Today I pretty much did nothing but ordinary stuff around the house, and I ran a few errands.

I work full time as a medical secretary and we have six paid holidays per year. The Fourth of July is one of the six. Holidays usually pass in a blur and then I'm back at work.

That's why I didn't do much of anything today. Normally, even on holidays, I'm doing housework or writing. I never actually have a holiday where I enjoy myself and relax. I've never had a vacation where I can relax because we end up renting a condo, cooking meals in the condo which means I have to empty the dishwasher, and I do laundry in the condo as well. I still do housework, even when we're "on vacation." My husband doesn't get this as he lays on the couch and just watches TV from sun up to sundown. He's on vacation doing absolutely nothing. I'm doing housework, running to the grocery store, folding clothes...Hello! I can do the same things at home.

My husband's idea of a day trip is picking a destination and driving straight there, visiting that place and then driving straight back. He has tunnel vision while driving- nothing else catches his attention or entices him to stop or pullover. I have to complain that I'm hungry and order him to stop someplace so Kelly and I can get food. I'm a diabetic and my blood sugar goes low when I skip meals. He can skip meals, and must be part camel, too, because he's never thirsty either. And he never has to use the bathroom, evidently. I have to yell at him to stop for a bathroom break or he won't ever stop driving.

I know, I should drive, but he thinks he's the better driver and the only one who can competently deliver us directly to our destination. He gets lost a lot. He misses turns although I give him plenty of warning that a turn is up ahead. He'll blow right by it and then get mad...because he's looking straight ahead, because the car behind him is driving too close and will hit him if he applies the brakes and slows down, that I didn't tell him sooner enough...I must be chock full of screams I have choked back through the years. Yet, he won't let me drive- even though we use my SUV for trips.

I haven't had a vacation since I was a little girl. (I know, my mother probably never had a real vacation either...if you have kids there's no such thing as a real vacation because kids are a lot of work and require your time and attention...)

This year I don't think we'll take a vacation because he's been laid off for four-plus months now and doesn't want to waste any money we have in savings. He really hasn't had much in the way of interviews. According to him all job applications are initiated online. He sits at the computer all day and searches for jobs- but only jobs in his comfort zone. He doesn't want to move, even though there is no valid reason why we cannot move to where a job may be located. He's has issues about new things, new places. He has no sense of adventure, no desire to go anywhere but less than a days travel away from home. I did not marry a pioneer or a man who enjoys adventure and change, new sights, sounds and experiences. I married a man who lives in a cozy box of his own making that he isn't compelled to step outside of.

Therefore, today I took a mental holiday, not a physical holiday. Today I took a journey into my imagination- not the imagination where all my writing comes from, but my personal imagination where I can travel wherever I want to go and do whatever I want to do and relax when I get there.

Tomorrow is the actual holiday- tomorrow I'll be preparing for the week ahead. My holiday ends tomorrow morning when I roll out of bed.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tornado Warning

Here in western MA we're under a tornado warning. A tornado kicks up every few years. The last serious tornado was about 5 years ago and tore up a huge path down the Westfield River to the Connecticut River, jumping across from a devastated section of West Springfield to destroy sections of Springfield before moving into Wilbraham and Monson where it destroyed homes, forestland and a campground, uprooting large trees everywhere before skipping through Sturbridge and into Worcester and beyond. It left a massive amount of damage in its wake. Most of our tornados are smaller in scale but occasionally we get a mid-west size funnel.

We've had some wind and thunderstorms pass through. The watch is in effect until 10PM. I hate tornados that strike at night because you can't see them coming. Guess I'll just have to listen for it...hopefully it'll all disintegrate before it builds up.

Meanwhile, we haven't had a good hurricane here since I worked as a campus police officer in Springfield. I remember the golf-ball sized hail that dimpled the cruiser so it looked like a giant golf ball! We didn't have a garage to put the cruiser in and were told not to park it under any it got nailed as we stood inside the safety of a brick building watching the wild wind, rain and hail. No one got hurt but a lot of cars were damaged and some windows were broken or cracked.

The wildest shows are put on by Mother Nature!