Monday, October 31, 2016

As November 1st Approaches

I will be "away" for the month of November. It's time to write my NaNo novel. As of midnight tonight I have 30 days to write a 50,000 word minimum novel. My project this year takes place at a grand resort hotel on the rocky coast of Maine. It has an extensive cast of characters and a lot going on with different character's relationships forming and falling I'll be busy writing in every spare moment I have.

I also have to have a broken tooth extracted November 7th. That will not be fun. It's a molar. Ugh! And Ouch!

I'll try to write here as time allows. We'll see what happens. Last year's novel went over 300,000 words!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Bittersweet Moment

Kelly and I usually go out for breakfast on Sunday morning as it's basically the only morning of an otherwise busy week that we have more than a few minutes to see one another.

This morning she initiated a conversation about buying a house for herself. She'll be 26 next June. She currently is crammed into a smallest bedroom in our 3 bedroom ranch, and her floor space is so cramped two people can't walk through the room. Our basement is full of her college stuff plus furniture she bought when she thought she'd be living in central MA, before her current job came through and she moved home to save money.

I'm excited for her, that she's ready to move out on her own. I remember when I moved out pf my parent's home- it was exhilarating to have an apartment of my own and be solely responsible for myself (and my cat that I took with me). I liked having all that room for my stuff, and not having to share a bathroom with anyone else! I liked having an address that was all my own. What took some getting used to was dong my own grocery shopping, coming home from work and having to cook my own meals, but I put together a recipe book of easy things to cook and quick menu ideas and that worked out really well. I went home for Sunday dinner to my parents with the family and often brought home a plate of leftovers for dinner the next day, which might now seem like much, but it helped. Plus Mom usually had cookies or brownies and sometimes whoopee pies that she baked in quantity so we could all take some home to our own places. I'll probably do that with Kelly once she's on her own.

I'm thinking that Revere, her cat, will be 6 years old. He became my cat when she was away at college and he sort of still thinks he's mine, so it might be better if she adopts a kitten or young cat that will be exclusively hers and leave Revere here with his brother Riley Beans- the boys would miss one another if we separated them, and would not adapt well to a new sibling. So I think when she gets a home of her own she should adopt a cat of her own and form that bond she doesn't have with Revere like she did when he was a kitten before she went off to college.

As terrible as it sounds I am gleefully anticipating her move so that I can get her double closet. My current closet is the smallest in the house, the same size as our overstuffed coat closet in the foyer. I will also be thrilled to have my hobby room back. It was wonderful when John first built it for me, but then it gradually became the home to Kelly's N-scale model railroad table, extra furniture, boxes of her books and college things, cartons of trains, plus John's air compressor and power washer. I can't even walk through that room never mind sit at my cluttered work bench!

When she was away at college we had a preview of our empty next years. Now that the time is actually drawing nearer it's a very bittersweet moment indeed to think about her going out on her own...little free bird, I know your wings are strong and will carry you far, but I'll miss you!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Power Outage

Nothing stops the world faster than a power outage.

When I got home from work yesterday we had no power in our area due to 3-4 inches of wet snow. The trees with leaves were drooping near car rooftop level along the roads reminiscent of the big 2011 blizzard in October that took down trees and knocked power out here for 8 days, longer in more remote places.

I realized I have some PTSD due to that 2011 storm- stuck in a house with no heat, no electricity, no phone, no gas in the outdoor grill, unable to leave the neighborhood due to roads not being plowed because of downed trees and power lines everywhere. Cold cheese sandwiches and cold cereal for meals, the contents of the refrigerator and freezer in ice chests under the back deck packed with snow, because we had plenty of that! I remember the joy of going to a dark grocery store in Southampton that had opened to allow people to buy what they had for food left on the shelves. I remember the euphoria of being able to get to Denny's in Holyoke on the fifth or sixth night for a hot meal because that area got their power back on. The jobs were jammed with people out buying supplies and looking for hot food.

John had put a leftover casserole in the oven at 4:30PM yesterday afternoon. The power went out at 5:03PM. When I got home it was 5:23PM due to poor road conditions and the need to drive slow, and some difficulty making it up the mountain. Dinner was hot at 5:30PM so before it cooled down we all sat down to eat by LED lantern light.

When our power goes out we lose heat, and phone service. We have Comcast and cordless phones. By 5:30PM my cellphone was at 42% power because I'd taken some pictures of the snow at work. Normally I don't use my phone all day so have about 82% charge left by the time I get home. I don't carry a charger around with me. So my phone was nearly dead. John's phone was off because he has a phone interview today and wanted to conserve his battery. Kelly's phone was about 60% charged.

No phones, no TV, no computers, one LED lantern with a modest residual charge, 4 D cell batteries and a couple of Maglites...doesn't make for a very exciting evening. Kelly read by flashlight or lantern light. The cats ran around the house like maniacs, and Revere spent much of his time sitting on a box staring out the dining room window (he was only 6 moths old during the 2011 blizzard). John and Kelly talked about jobs at UTC. I thought about my NaNo novel and was frustrated that I couldn't see well enough in the near darkness to jot some notes down. And the house cooled from 67 to 61 (at 10:32PM when the power finally came back on).

I went to bed at 8:35PM and was soon joined by Revere who had cold toes. Riley came to bed next. Kelly crashed at 9:40PM...John had just come to bed after my telling him to do so. About five minutes later the power came back on and then he had to get up and reset every clock in the house, start the dishwasher (a fail because this morning it hadn't run so I had to restart it).

The weirdest thing was trying to talk to one another because usually we don't have much to say to one another once we get home from work. We all have different interests and things we do. Conversation? What's that? Technology has disconnected us while we're fooled into thinking it keeps us connected! Not really.

Back to normal today. Snow will melt and be gone. Power's on- the cogs are turning....time to go to work.....

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Hour of Phantoms

While assembling the stories to be included in 13 I came across a piece I wrote a few years ago titled The Hour of Phantoms. I'd forgotten about it but rediscovered it while picking and choosing from what I had in my files and what was recently written that would go well together in the new collection.

I will be reading The Hour of Phantoms on Saturday night during Ghost Stories LIVE at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA. The event runs from 7PM-9PM.

I was originally going to do a reading from McCleary's Haunt from Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume III. It's a ghost story set in an Irish pub.

Then I was asked to read The Fly In The Ointment that I included in a folder of materials I handed out at my author event. It's what I classify as a little piece of psychological unease prose. It's the little voice in one's head talking and it's not a very nice voice. It's a little flip, a little creepy, a lot disturbing, and rather belittling.

Then I came cross The Hour of Phantoms which is a classic-type ghost story. I emailed it to Russell Atwood who is hosting the event and put together the companion anthology that will be available that night. The anthology will include McCleary's Haunt. However, I heard back today that I have the green light to read The Hour of Phantoms instead of The Fly In The Ointment.

All I can say is that it's creepy- about a woman rising from her bed to go to a cemetery where she is possessed by multiple spirits who dance with her during the hour of phantoms and nearly steal all her energy before returning to their graves.

I'm glad I didn't have to choose among the real ghost stories I could tell- I'll leave that to my brother if attendees are allowed to tell their own ghost stories. He lived in a haunted apartment and a ghost materialized and actually passed right through him! He can tell his own story!!

Ordered proof copies of 13 for the final read through because I've learned from past experience not to trust the digital proofreader- it's better to have a print copy to mark up with blue pen. I know Kelly can't wait to attack the interior copy- she loves to circle all her mother's comma errors!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Total Makeover for 13 Last Night

So, I finished the big proofread and uploaded the revised file on CreateSpace for 13. Then I looked at the cover and literally gagged. It was awful. So, at 11:10PM when I should have been thinking about going to bed because I had to get up at 6AM for work, I instead redesigned the entire cover, front and back, adding the back cover copy I'd more or less skipped the first time around, choosing a new picture (a luna moth-they are like miniature supernatural beings when you see them in nature). I ditched the votive candles. Then I changed the cover colors from orange and yellow(too candy corn) to black and luna moth-green. It made a huge difference.

Off to review the whole project now. Making huge progress for having just sat down this past Saturday afternoon needing a distraction from a novel that was derailing.

Monday, October 24, 2016

One Last Story to Edit and 13 will be done

13 is coming closer to being published. I spent the whole weekend working on it, tinkering with it here and there. A couple of the stories/pieces in this book are outside my comfort zone but every writer needs to take risks now and then. I have 2/3s of a longer story to finish proofreading, and then back to Create Space to upload the revised file and write the back cover copy and it'll be done!

Spent my lunch break today copying notes for Spindrift into the ocean blue moleskin journal to travel with when writing in November at various locations. Will probably do the same tomorrow until all the info is transferred over into the journal from the larger book with notes taken afer various stories were written- the pink book of reminders.

Definitely feels more like autumn out there today. I can tell when the colder weather has arrived when my husband and my daughter don't want to go out to get the newspaper from the box at the end of the driveway- too much effort for them to put on a coat and a pair of shoes. Forget the lazy days of summer, around here it's the laziness of fall & winter!

Back to 13....(13, incidentally is the age I was when I wrote two books of poetry. They are the oldest "books" I still have of my early writing!)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Coming Soon...13

Well...I have totally gone off plan and put together a volume of thirteen tales of ghostly hauntings, the supernatural, and psychological unease. Some of these stories were going to debut in Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume IV, but I've decided to start a new series. Therefore 13 will be the first book in this new series. I've created the cover and put together the interior. I'm doing the final edit and proofread now. I just threw it together yesterday on the spur of the moment because I was frustrated with the direction Black Knight. White Rook had taken, and that usually means I'm on the verge of scrapping the entire book and starting over. I'm 77,000 words into that is a discouraging thought.
    I should have 13 ready by the end of the week in time for Halloween/All Soul's Night.
    And then it will be time to start my NaNoWriMo novel.
   Just have all this energy flowing through me at the moment as I gear up toward NaNo...had to do something. 13 is that something.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

I'm Being Beans!

It started this morning.
     Perhaps it has to do with the abrupt change in the weather. We've gone from 70's and humid to rainy and cool.
     All day long Riley Beans has been stalking me--wanting his ears rubbed, wanting to play, following me from room to room, sitting beside me at the kitchen table, rolling around trying to get my attention, following me into the bathroom, even!
     Really! Is this what a rock star feels like being stalked by an adoring fan?
    Okay, he's my cat. I chose him from the Homeless Cat Project shelter where he was in a cage by himself in a room by himself. He was homely little shorthaired gray cat with big green eyes and the most atrocious breath imaginable. He had issues. He was labeled a chronic. On November 19th, 2011 we took him home anyway. He soon ruled the house, lording it over his slightly older tuxedo cat brother Revere who'd been with us since June 25, 2011.
    Beans was rather aloof and wanted to be alone, but that Thanksgiving he ate turkey guts until his belly looked like it was about to pop, and lounged on the king-sized bed flat on is back all afternoon. At his first vet exam we learned the source of his severe halitosis- he had juvenile gingivital hyperplasia. His gums were swollen, inflamed and growing over his teeth, dissolving his teeth- a very painful dental condition. 've written about this before. His vet lasered Beans' gums back, cleaned his teeth, pulled a couple that were bad and he's been good since with yearly dental cleanings.
    Kelly tacked the name Riley ahead of the name Beans thus making him Riley Beans. She wasn't very fond of him at first, thought he was ugly. But while she was away at WPI in Worcester, Beans transformed into a soft, fluffy handsome boy! His baby picture hangs on her bedroom wall and he truly was not much to look at but for those big green eyes. If he didn't have the same markings you'd swear he was a totally different cat.
    He's skittish, not a lap cat, but he will jump on the couch and lay between John's legs while he lounging ont he couch watching TV. At 10PM sharp he sits up and stares daggers at him until John gets up and goes to bed. Then Riley Beans takes the whole couch for himself. He will also cuddle up in the crook of my arm on chilly nights- but that's usually as far as signs of affection go from him.
    Today (except for when I was running the vacuum cleaner and he bolted down into the basement) he's been sticking to me like glue. If I sit in the living room he stands there staring at me. He doesn't want to sit on my lap. He wants me to get down on the floor and pay attention to (or maybe that should be pay homage to) him. When I was putting together a book of stories this afternoon he was standing on my lap and lounging on the chair beside me, rolling around, vying for my attention. In the bathroom I had to stuff him into the linen closet on a stack of towels so I could have a minute to myself!
     It's got to be the change in the weather. At least I hope that's it.
     Or maybe I just have a feline fan?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Killed Off Another Character

I was on the fence about this, but he had to go. I killed a character this morning.

The pressure is mounting as Romney and Ivy struggle to hold their marriage together, keep all that they have worked so hard for from crumbling around them, and try to get their three-year old son back from her nasty sister and her truly evil husband before they can be killed themselves.

Ivy's suffered a lot of trauma in this much darker story. Will the gentle white witch/druidess crumble under the stress, strain and suffering she's been made to endure, or will she find a new strength within herself that will allow her to rise above the torment her sister is putting her through and prevail?

Romney is having his own problems as he struggles with abuse from his past, difficulty controlling his fury at having his son kidnapped and his wife assaulted. He has his own PTSD from what he's recently gone through with his sister Rayna killing their father and attempting to kill him.

There are new players on the field of their life who bring their own strengths and weaknesses into play, including a cousin of Romney's, his cousin's girlfriend whom she's abandoned along with their adopted little girl, a spirited black sorceress from the south who's come north to cook and has her own agenda as well.

Caught in the toxic vortex created by Wheaton Trowbridge are old friends of Romney's and Ivy's and new friends...

...back to writing because I don't know how this is all going to end!

(This is a little preview of what's to come in Black Knight, White Rook, the sequel to the self published, well-received novel Black King Takes White Queen this past summer.)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dancing Witches

I've seen the Westfield Witches dancing on the "green" in the center of town once recently but didn't think much about it. They were featured in the newspaper a short time later. Still, well, Halloween seems to be a big deal here No big deal. We have the rag shag parade and the dancing witches and now ghost stories at the bookstore and the usual Halloween stuff New England is known for.

Well, I went to get a haircut tonight- same hair stylist I've had since Kelly was about three years old, so that's like 22 years. I was talking to her about the upcoming event at the bookstore, and then she mentioned she was a dancing witch and she thought they were dancing there that night. I vaguely remembered something about dancing witches that night. I never knew she was a dancing witch! But then again she never knew I was an author/writer until last year Her teenaged daughter McKenzie is a writer and has read some of my books.

Funny how you can know someone for a couple of decades and still learn something new about them!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ghost Stories LIVE!

I met author Russell Atwood at Blue Umbrella Books here in town. He used to live in NYC and wrote detective mysteries. He worked as an editor for Ellery Queen magazine.

He's hosting an event at the bookstore on October 29th called Ghost Stories LIVE and that is also the name of the anthology he's putting together. He asked me for one of my ghost stories, so I sent him McCleary's Haunt from Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume III, with the original plan being that I would read that night from that story.

He attended my author event for Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume I and recorded the whole thing. I saw him next at another author event last weekend where he asked if I would mind reading my psychological terror little bit of prose that I had tucked into everyone's folder at my event called The Fly In The Ointment instead. I told him I had no problem with that- it was short and saved me from picking out one section from the other story above any other section.Then I heard him mention he was expecting a shipment of books for the event this week. This would be the anthology he put together.

Curious, tonight I went online to to books and typed in Russell Atwood. And there was Ghost Stories LIVE! You can flip to the backside of the book to read the back cover copy on Amazon, a feature I like. There are several classic ghost stories included int he anthology and then new stories by...and here he includes a list of authors...and there I am!

I'm excited about this because I haven't been included in an anthology in something like 22 years when a story I wrote for Kelly was included in a Children's teaching and healing anthology. The story Monsters No More used humor, creativity and imagination to deal with the monsters under the bed and the monsters in the closet. She loved that story!

I can't wait to see the book in person! It's going to be a fun event- a mix of ghost stories fictional and real life! I have some of both, but will most likely just be reading my little twisted, spooky piece of prose.

Book Buying Excursion

Kelly was eager to get to Barnes & Noble in Holyoke this evening after dinner to see if they had the just released fifth Johannes Cabal, Necromancer novel by UK author Jonathan L. Howard.

We got to the store and went upstairs to look first in mysteries. Sometimes his books are there, sometimes they're located in fiction. His book wasn't there but she found the new Alan Bradley Falvia de Luce novel for me. I also found a Kylie Logan cozy Irish Stewed. I've read all of Logan's button collector mysteries so have started reading this series. Kelly found a Moriarty & Holmes collection. She is a huge Sherlock fan and actually saw quite a few books by various authors with Holmes as a character. She passed up a few but plans on purchasing them during an upcoming trip to New Hampshire where they don't have sales tax.

She wandered off to Sci-Fi/Fantasy and I meandered over to new releases in fiction. I was looking at a book when she came over to show me another book she had found. I asked her if she had found the new Howard Cabal book yet and she reaches past my nose to grab the book right next to the empty place where I had taken the book I was holding from. Duh! That was easy!

I brought home four books plus the moleskin journal I'd tagged along with her to purchase to jot some notes in for my upcoming NaNo novel. I don't usually write any notes first but do skim through my novels and write notes after because some of my books have sequels and basically, I can remember main characters and what they look like, but places, events, minor characters, it's out of my head. So if I need to refer back to something I use the little journal full of notes that are organized by subject matter- much easier than paging through the novels trying to find a tidbit of info that could be easily missed.

Anyway, this year the novel has a huge cast of characters. The grand resort hotel is sprawling with multiple restaurants and shops on the main floor. There are outside locations and a lot of things that will be going on so I need to get organized prior to writing this time around...totally out of the norm for me, but since the novel is what the spinoff The Winter Solstice Ball, a Christmas story in Always Christmas in My Heart is based on (okay, confession time, I once started to write this novel but trashed it. However, I used the location and characters to write the holiday novella...therefore, the characters exist in that story, the location exists and some of the things that will be in the novel are mentioned as having occurred but will be occurring int he course of the novel. It's sort of like backwards. No, it is backwards. Usually a novel is written and then the holiday story evolves afterwards. There was a partial novel but it wasn't going the way I wanted it to so it was discarded. I am starting fresh November 1st. The Winter Solstice Ball was written after the original version of the novel was scraped and can stand alone, but if some sharp-eyed reader says, oh, I know these characters! I want the two to be connected.

What I'm doing is clear in my mind but may still be murky in yours. It's okay- the novel will be typical of me- romance, humor, drama, action, scandal, twists and triumphs.

At least I hope so!

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Treasure Chest Arrived

I work full time as a medical secretary and write during my free time, but I have a few other hobbies and interests that sometimes capture my attention. I've been collecting antique and vintage clothing buttons since 2003. That was the year I first heard the word charmstring, and also the first year I began collecting them. In the past 13 years I've rescued a number of old strings of buttons from oblivion. Many charmstring end up cut apart and the buttons individually sold. I make it my goal to find these old strings of buttons and preserve them for future generations (the ones who currently don't collect or appreciate anything because they've grown up in a throwaway/disposable nothing lasts for very long because there is no concern for quality anymore culture, but one day that will change and people will be back to saving everything because our resources are not infinite.) I've also collected lots of antique buttons and strung some button strings myself. One of them has 999 buttons on it, measures 13' 4" in length and weighs over 4 pounds. Kelly and I strung that one just to see what a charmstring awaiting its 1000th button would look like. It is impressive when laid out in the hallway, but I only had a spool of old carpet string back then to string the buttons on. The weigh of all those buttons puts a strain on the thread, so it doesn't come out of the box very often. A couple strings were gifts from women who were button collectors who have passed on now. They knew that I was saving these charmstrings, also called memory strings, and carefully preserving them, so passed what they had along to me to keep safe.
     Today an old string of buttons arrived from a Texas estate. It's grungy and grimy and will require a lot of careful cleaning, but when I've worked my magic on it it won't be perfect, but the glass will shine and the grunge will be off the metal buttons so the designs can be seen again.
      This string makes 94 in the collection. I set a goal of 100 charmstrings and have nearly reached that goal. I've already told Kelly she can do what she wants with them when I'm gone, but I have also suggested she donate them to the Keep Homestead Museum in Monson, MA. This is a farmhouse museum and the woman who lived there had an exquisite button collection including a mind boggling number of micro-mosaic buttons from the 1800's from the time when people took Grand Tours and brought home souvenirs of their journeys. There are magnifying glasses available at each display so the viewer can marvel at this miniature works of arts. These buttons depict ancient structures, ancient scenes, people, animals, birds, fruits and vegetables and designs.
     So tonight, instead of being a writer I was a pirate poking through a treasure chest and admiring my booty.
     No matter what your hobby may be, as long as it brings you pleasure and joy then it's a good thing!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Tough Chapters to Write

I'm working along on the sequel to Black King Takes White Queen and have come up to an expected twist in the story that will test Romney and Ivy's relationship. These will be difficult chapters to write because Romney's rage will be off the charts and Ivy's despair will be below sea level. They will literally be torn apart when there are so many other things going on in the story that require them to be firmly united and working together.

These are precarious times for the black King and white Queen on the chessboard of their life. The black Knight and white rook have been joined by the black rook halfway through the novel which further complicates the moves they can make. The two rooks will bring some rays of light into Ivy's life as she struggles to find her way back to a husband who is consumed by fury and on the verge of throwing away everything they've worked hard to achieve in his single-minded drive for revenge against the man who may have succeeded in destroying his Queen so that he's lost her forever, which is his greatest fear.

I have two weeks to work on this novel before setting it aside to write my 2016 NaNo novel. Don't know how far I'll get...we'll see..

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Pleasant Surprise

Today I went off to an author event downtown for a man who writes mystery/romance. Kelly had looked into his books and was interested. I bought his book for her last weekend prior to my author event because she was volunteering at the trolley museum. Today my goal was to get the book signed for her while she was once again at the trolley museum.

I will confess something right here and now- the very idea of philosophy gives me brain freeze. It repels me like nothing else on earth but the dead chicken truck we got stuck behind on route 495 one summer. I managed to finish high school and four years of college without once setting foot in a philosophy class. The author today taught philosophy for quite a few years at my husband's alma mater in Springfield. I had worked there as a campus police office and then the night shift campus police supervisor from 1982-1988. I like that college (now university)...but had to make myself drive to the bookstore and go inside to attend this event.

Imagine my surprise when I met a very pleasant and personable man who discussed his books in an interesting and engrossing manner. I'm sure, from his presentation, that he was a much admired professor. My attention level during the event can only be described by a single word- rapt. By the end of the presentation he knew us all by name. I asked him to sign the book for Kelly, and then I bought three of his books for myself and he gracious personalized and signed all three. And like a true gentleman he asked me about my books. It was my honor, today, to take the photograph of the author and store owner that is traditionally posted on the bookstore page after the event. It came put very nicely!

I was silly to be afraid that something about philosophy would come up- it didn't, or if it did it was so slickly incorporated into the program that it was painless transferred to my brain without my being aware.

It was a pleasant surprise- and I can honestly say, I truly enjoyed this author's event! Bravo Glen Ebisch.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Autumn & Frost

Well, this past week I've had to scrape a light frost from the car windows two times prior to being able to leaving home for an early appointment and work. I love the cool crisp weather but do not love frost (or ice when winter arrives). I have rheumatoid arthritis that does not like cold weather either, but I deal with it. The hardest part is trying to scrape my windows. I'm not the tallest person on earth by any means...just average, and I drive an SUV because I am not comfortable in lower riding vehicles. It's easier for me to slide in and out of my RAV4, and even then if John's driving I have a little trouble because of arthritis in my left hip climbing into the passenger seat.

But I love New England and am not ready to leave yet. The trees are still in the process of changing colors here, although yesterday I noticed a lot of leaves falling. There is a maple tree at the bottom of Irene Drive as I'm leaving my neighborhood that has gorgeous red-orange leaves. It's like a pillar of flame before me as I descend the mountain and just gives me a visceral thrill. Nothing is as majestic as a maple tree with fiery leaves illuminated by the first rays of morning light coming over the top of the mountain.

Kelly is excited because it's Pumpkin Patch time at the CT Trolley Museum. On Sunday she'll be a motorman delivering trolley cars full of children to the pumpkin patch where they can climb out, run into the field and choose a pumpkin they then can take back to the visitor center to decorate if they want to and then take home. She's always been great with kids and they love her because she's one of those people who, at 25-years old, looks like she's thirteen. She loves it when the kids run up to her in her uniform and give her spontaneous hugs and big grins and thank her for the trolley ride. But last night she put the finishing touches on a report complete with photo documentation of the restoration work done on car 169, the oldest trolley in the museum's collection. This project is her baby. She's been working on the car since 2012 and is proud of the work they've done so far replacing support structures and rotted wood panels, and building new platforms at either end. She'll turn her report in tomorrow where it'll be placed in the binder for that trolley car as a record of the restoration work to date. It's a ten-year project, so six more years to go before 169 will be ready to be displayed.

It's a lovely time of year for a trolley ride! (It's also Rails to the Dark Side time!)

Meanwhile, I've been working on the sequel to Black King Takes White Queen. It's about half written. Last night I submitted a Halloween story, You Can't Go Home Again, to's annual Halloween story contest. This year's entry is a more traditional Halloween story. I'm also thinking about my NaNoWriMo novel. It's nearly mid-way through October already! During the entire month of November I'll be writing a contemporary novel based on a Christmas novella I wrote, The Winter Solstice Ball. The setting is an old grand resort hotel on the coast of Maine. There'll be some romance in the story and may include the holiday ball from the novella. We'll see what happens when I start writing because I never know until things get rolling where the story's going to go.

Happy Autumn!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Curious Question From Kelly

Kelly has been working on one of her novels for the past two weeks. On Monday evening she and I were sitting at the kitchen table and she had her head down on her arms. I asked her if she was tired because she's been working all week, then volunteering at the trolley museum on Saturday and Sunday- a hectic draining schedule even for a 25-year old. She raised her head and looked at me and asked, "Have you ever seen your books playing out in your head like a movie?"

The answer to that question is, Yes. I have.

Often I start a story with really nothing in mind. I just sit down and begin writing. The story creates itself. But once it begins there are many directions it can go, many forks in the road and curves that can take it in various directions. Sometimes when I'm just sitting in my chair in the living room with the cat on my lap it may look like I'm just relaxing, doing nothing, but there is always something going on in my head. Sometimes multiple somethings. One of those things is a visual movie-like playing out of the current work in progress. In my mind I can see my characters. I know what they look like, what they wear, where they live, what their house looks like, how it's furnished, the flow of one room into another, and even the roads they travel, what they pass by on their way from point A to point B. I see everything in my imagination. I can run various scenarios through my mind like video clips. If it doesn't look or feel right, I rerun it with a different route, different dialogue, maybe different characters the main character interacts with.

Often while waiting for sleep I play a little movie in my head. A what if sort of thing- maybe using the current characters I'm working with but putting them in another place or a difficult situation to see how they would react and behave and eventually get themselves out of that spot. Maybe that's how authors entertain themselves- I don't know.

But, even as I am reading anything that I've written a simultaneous video is playing in my head so it's like I am actually in the story shadowing the characters. When Bryce shatters the coffee carafe in one of the Talon novels I see each piece glinting in the kitchen alcove. I see the ever so slight tremor in Dr. Talon's hand as he extracts the piece of glass from her neck as she's lying on one of the morgue tables and then sutures her wound. As cold and frosty as he is, he cares deeply for her and regrets pushing her so hard that she reacted as she has and broken the carafe in anger. But he also knows who and what she really is while she does not yet understand her place in the world.

Kelly looked immensely relieved when I replied, "Yes," to her question. Stories are always running through my head both as a story and also as an accompanying movie, if you can call it that. It's just a part of the creative process, the visionary aspect that helps an author make a story leap from the page into the reader's imagination and come alive for them.

I'm truly blessed to have this gift, and doubly blessed because my daughter has inherited it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Amazon Author Page is Up

Tonight I got ambitious and tackled one more item on my extensive To Do list. I created my Amazon Author page! I also created my Amazon Author page for my pen name that I write Young Adult and Young Reader books under-Victoria Bell. I have 19 books linked to my Susan Buffum Author page and two books linked to my Victoria Bell page.

I feel like I accomplished one thing today.


Monday, October 10, 2016


This past Friday afternoon it was warm and sunny. There are four side by side windows in the office where I work that overlook the parking lot. Mid-afternoon I went to get some water from the cooler near the windows and jumped back- there were hundreds of beetles crawling on the windows- a couple on the inside, but the majority of them on the outside. My co-worker ushered the indoor beetles to the next world and then we got busy and forgot about them. This is the time of year we start getting ladybugs in the house and the cats become pointers, freezing and staring at any red or orange round bugs with black polka dots that they see.

Today the majority of those beetles were on the INSIDE of the windows! The first one I saw landed on my desk, freaking me out because I really do not like bugs in my immediate vicinity. I absolutely freak out over spiders (the result of PTSD from a childhood incident when the three of us kids were riding in the back seat of Mom & Dad's car. We'd been to Atkins Fruit Bowl, a farm stand/orchard in Hadley and were coming home through Northampton. As we were traveling down route 5 Dad suddenly starting trying to read the back of his neck and yelled at my sister to stop fooling around. I was sitting behind Mom, Jeff was I  the middle and Lynnmarie was behind Dad. The next thing I knew my brother and sister were literally on my lap and my sister was screaming rather incoherently, pointing at Dad's neck. I looked and saw a fuzzy banana yellow spider, round, about the size of a nickel or maybe even a quarter- it was the biggest, strangest spider I had ever seen!- dancing on the back of Dad's neck. Mom looked, told Dad to just keep driving and not kill us, there was a spider and she'd get it. She took some tissues from her purse, used them to pluck the BEAST off Dad's neck, then unrolled her window and dropped spider and tissues onto the street. None of us uttered a peep about her littering in Northampton. None of us rode very easily in that car the rest of the way home either, on the lookout for any additional furry yellow spiders that might have been in the fruit Mom had bought.)

So-all day long Carmen removed beetles from the windows while I stayed as far away from them as I could get. Ironically there are signs all around town right now for an event called Beatlemania. THOSE Beatles I could cope with. The winged kind with six legs- forget about it!

Yesterday Revere and Riley Beans cornered a lone ladybug in the kitchen doorway. I used a tissue to grab it and threw it out, but turns out I'm no killer. The thing crept out of the tissue. I screamed. John came and removed the ladybug to the outdoors, and the cats went back to napping. The rest of the day I kept scanning the walls, light fixtures and ceilings for ladybugs. There were no more.

All I can think right now is- please, PLEASE, PLEASE don't let there be any of those BIG stink bugs in the house this fall!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Red Lips-oh NO!

So, on the way to my author event/book signing today I stopped at the little convenience store along the route to buy a large bottle of water. I grabbed a roll of wild cherry Lifesavers to help keep my mouth moist as I take medication that dehydrates me.

I arrived at the book store and got everything hauled in. At the conclusion of the event I'd planned a Miss Peculiar's Curious Curios scavenger hunt with about 24 spooky Halloween and autumn themed items, with a card attached by an orange ribbon)  hidden all around the store. I got all of those items  tucked away in various places and then drank some water, and ate two Lifesavers. Then my book event started. I think I licked my lips to moisten them a few times, and didn't pause to drink any more water.

After the event I talked to people face to face, signed books, and hung around chatting with a family about ghosts. I then packed up the stuff I was taking home, bid Jessica goodbye and jumped in my car. I pulled down the visor then slid the mirror open to see how messed up my hair was...and nearly screamed! My mouth looked as if I had bitten someone and blood had clotted at the corners! My lips were stained cherry red! Holy moly! It was the Lifesavers! I was, quite frankly, horrified!

It bothered me all the way home. When I told my husband he just laughed and said, "Well, you are Miss Peculiar who writes haunting tales. Maybe they'll think you used fake blood to make yourself look spooky. You're a ghoulie girl!"

I can only hope!

Note to self- no wild cherry Lifesavers to suck on before any other future public appearances!!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

We're Gonna Have Some Fun Now!

I saw my brother (who is a year younger than me and way more uninhibited and vocal than I am) today. I asked him if he was coming to my author event on Saturday and he replied, "Hell, yeah!" Oh my...that may mean my sister (four years older than me) will be there also. You put the three of us in a room and things can very easily go out of control rather quickly! We are merciless with one another and can crack one another up with just a sideways glance. With my brother it can easily become the "Tiger" show (not using his real name here- not necessarily to protect the innocent, unless you want to consider yourself the innocent in this instance whom I am protecting!)

Well, I can look at this another way and say they're seat fillers. I won't be talking to empty rows of seats at least!

If you can't hear the irony in my voice I apologize. They are my brother and sister and I love them- flaws, foibles, and faults aside. I have my own share of all of those things. I'm just better at focusing them in a creative manner.

I suppose I could get them started on their ghost stories. But if I do I probably won't be able to squeeze another word in edgewise! Perhaps they'd better save their real life ghost stories for October 29th during Ghost Stories LIVE!

Well, it'll be interesting, and it will be fun when all is said and done!

True to the pirate in me, a treasure hunt has been arranged.

We're gonna have some fun now!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Message From My Mom

Sixteen years ago tonight my mother passed away.

I had know from the time I was a child that my mother would die in the year 2000. It was just something I knew, like a memory of having been told at one time. I accepted it. It meant nothing to me when I was a little girl because it was the 1960's and I really wasn't old enough to understand the passing of years. Years were just numbers on the Christmas seals Mom stuck to the back of the Christmas cards she sent, and big numbers on the cake we celebrated the new year with.

Decades passed and the "memory" remained in my head. Even in 1991 when Kelly was born the year 2000 seemed an eon away. And then all the millennial dire predictions began and I grew uneasy. I had my own millennial prediction long ago and now that year with the zeros was on the horizon.

Mom was able to celebrate Christmas as usual in 1999, but in January of 2000 her health began to decline with alarming rapidity. She spent much of the year in and out of the hospital. My father and sister remained hopeful. My brother was in denial. I was the only one who knew what was coming and was prepared for it to happen.

I wrote a story called Tank while sitting in my mother's hospital room. She was on morphine and having a lot of paranoia, imagining secret agents were spying on her, the nurses were plotting against her. Sprinklers were cameras through which they spied on her. She refused her trays because the food was poisoned. I brought her thermoses of coffee because she still trusted me, but she thought my father was a traitor and was upset that he came to sit with her every day. We couldn't persuade Dad to not go and stay all day, that his presence was only upsetting her further. The nurses tried to talk to him, we tried to talk to him but he felt it was his duty to stay at his wife's side and wouldn't budge. It was a frustrating situation.

On October 3rd I ran over to visit Mom who was going to be released to home at some point during that day. She seemed anxious to go home. Her doctor came into the room to tell her he was going to sign her release papers. He thanked her for being a good patient and she thanked him for being a good doctor and they said goodbye to one another. He looked at me and didn't have to say anything- I knew he was sending her home to die. It was her wish and he was granting it. I just nodded. Then three nurses came to give her a bed bath so I walked down the hallway and sat on the window sill at the end to wait. I could hear her shouting my name because she thought I'd left. The sound of her calling for me still echoes in my ears to this day. "Susan!"

The nurses let me go back into the room and I sat with her for a little while. She was worried that the hospital bed wouldn't be there when she was brought home. She didn't trust Dad to have made it up properly for her. She wanted it in the huge family room facing the glass doors so she could see outdoors. Autumn was her favorite time of year. Her things were packed so I took a couple bags and said I would drop them off at the house and make sure everything was ready for when she got home. I leaned over and kissed her and said, "I'll see you later, then. I love you." She said she loved me, too and I left. That was the last time I saw her alive, the last words we spoke to one another.

The ambulance brought her home. I was going to go visit her by my sister called and said Mom was tired and wanted a day to rest before anyone came over. My sister and her husband lived upstairs in the two family house. I was a little upset but I know people don't get much sleep in hospitals, so I stayed home.

I called my sister on the fourth and asked how Mom was doing and was told the visiting nurses had come to check her and she was resting. I said I'd let her rest and come see her the next day for a little bit.

I didn't hear anything more. Kelly came home from school. She was nine-years old. John came home from work. We ate dinner. I played with Kelly, she did her homework, I read to her and she went to bed about nine o'clock. She had school the next day. I sat in the living room reading. John was watching TV. It was a quiet night. I was feeling a little anxious, a little restless but dealing with it.

And then the phone rang. It was my sister telling me Mom was dying, to get over to the hospital here in town, a few blocks west of their home, as quickly as possible. I was upset but put my shoes on, grabbed my barn coat and purse, got a hug from John at the door and drove downtown to the ER parking lot. I didn't see an ambulance and wondered if they'd just grabbed her, dropped her off and took off, but that's not how it's usually done. I was just getting out of my car when my sister and her husband showed up and said Mom was at home and she was gone, to go there.

The EMTs were packing up their stuff, a police officer was in the house and the funeral home had been called by the time I got there. The police officer said he was sorry and stayed in the dining room. I went into the family room to say goodbye to Mom, but only had a few minutes with her before the funeral home arrived to remove her body (the funeral home was just a block or so east of the house). We all had to go into the dining room. They closed the French doors that had curtains and removed her through the atrium doors.

It was surreal. But it was not a surprise. The day in 2000 had arrived that she was summoned home.

All my life I've loved magic. I grew up knowing the story about Harry Houdini and his mother. When she died he waited and waited for a sign from her from the great beyond- a sign that never came.

I remember joking with Mom and my sister and brother saying if I went first I'd give them a sign when I could from the other side. And they agreed to do likewise.

Oddly enough, Mom sent a sign in November 2000 on Thanksgiving Day when we had Dad over for dinner to our house so he wouldn't be alone on the first holiday after Mom's passing. We'd just sat down for dinner and started to pass the bowls around when a noise to my left made me turn my head and look. There on the floor between my chair on the long side of the table and Dad's at the foot of the table to my left was a small square Hallmark. I had put the box behind a tall stack of stacking decorative boxes on the end of the huntboard because I didn't know where I wanted to store it. I had hung the little three inch diameter porcelain plate "Making Cookies With Gramma" beside the light switch in Kelly's room just a  few days prior to Thanksgiving. For the box to have landed on the floor where it did it would have had to come up and over the top of the boxes or around from behind the boxes and then sideways along the front of the huntboard, more or less. Either way, there was nothing around it, no fan turning, no mechanism to move the box in play but what could only be ghost power. We all just looked at one another kind of in disbelief. Finally I said, "Happy Thanksgiving, Mom," picked up the box and set it on the huntboard behind me and we went on with dinner.

A year or so later, one a particularly rough night when I was missing Mom, I was sitting in the dining room when a triangular decorative bell that hangs from a plant hook behind the soffet over the kitchen sink clanged loudly one time. I turned my head and there was no one in the kitchen. Jumping up, I ran into the kitchen and looked at the bell. It was swaying slightly. The windows were closed. The ceiling fan was not on. There was no unusual air current in the house. It was just another sign that Mom knew I was having a bad day missing her, so she rang the bell to let me know she was nearby.

And since then there really hasn't been anything more in my home, although my brother and sister get signs fairly often. My brother lives in Mom and Dad's former downstairs apartment. My sister and her husband still live on the second floor. Often the house fills with the fragrance of cookies baking in the oven when there is nothing being baked or cooked in the entire house. Although I miss my mother still very much, it's my brother who had the most difficulty with losing her. And my sister did too, to a greater degree. I was the one who had been more psychologically prepared due to that long ago awareness that 2000 was the year that she would pass.

Anyway- tonight after dinner I jokingly mentioned that Harry Houdini waited for a sign from his mother that never came and I said, "Well, it's another year and she's failed to come thru for me again." John told me I shouldn't say things like that. He reminded me that I was joking about Betty, my maternal grandmother who's hand tinted portrait from when she was a child used to hang on the living room wall straight ahead of you as you came into the room from the hall. I don't remember what I was saying but suddenly there was a click on the floor where I was standing near the picture. When I looked down I found an old bent nail, and I knew immediately where that nail had come from. It had come from the reverse side of that picture! I had removed those nails to clean the glass when I'd rescued the old family photos from the basement shortly after Mom died as I am the curator of the historical family memorabilia. There is no way the nail could have popped out and sailed through space about four or five feet from behind the picture to where it landed by the side of my foot like it did. It would have popped out and fallen straight down under the picture. That was why he was warning me not to provoke my mother.

I was just kind of sad really...feeling sad all day on the 16th anniversary of her passing.

So, when I came out into the kitchen to work on my notes for my upcoming author event for Miss Peculiar's Haunting Stories, set up my laptop, sat down and then glanced at the clock to see  how many hours I had before bedtime to work I jumped and felt an odd feeling of unreality. The kitchen clock that I was pretty sure I had looked at when I got home from work, and we had all sat underneath during dinner and I was sure I had looked at again then to check the time, now read 10:02PM and was NOT running! The battery had died. The clock stood silent at basically the time my mother had left this world 16 years ago on the night of October 4, 2000!!! (This was at 7:20PM- so the hands of the clock had moved ahead to 10:02 at some point and then the battery had bad been drained to freeze them there.)

Okay then- I guess Mom didn't like my snarky comment after dinner and sent me a message! Or maybe she just sensed that I was feeling particularly sad this year and let me know that she's still with me in spirit when I need her.

...and another thought just occurred to me...I never had a sweet sixteen birthday party and always felt like I'd missed out on a rite of passage. To appease me, Mom threw me an Always 21 birthday party. She gave me a charm that reads "Always 21". It's on my charm bracelet still. Maybe because this is the sixteenth anniversary she was also giving me another sign that she remembered how she hadn't given me a sweet sixteen, this was a very sweet sixteenth for me with her remembering me in that way.

Message received and I feel better now.

Love you, Mom!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Getting my Haunt on

Well, I either sit around working myself into nervous knots about my upcoming author event, or I do what I do second best, and that's plan an event that will be fun and memorable.

Yes, I'll read excerpts from the six stories in Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume I and talk a little about me (very little) and a little about the inspiration for each story. I'll have a handout for everyone that will include an author bio with more detail about who I am and what I do in my life, a piece I wrote called My Muse that is as close to how I write in real life as anything else I could come up with. There will be an acknowledgement to Jessica for hosting the event, a nod to Artworks|Westfield for bringing the arts back to life in this city and welcoming me into their midst as an author, and a plug for Russell Atwoods upcoming event on October 29th at 7PM at the same location- Ghost Stories LIVE, and an unsettling little piece of writing titled The Fly in the Ointment.

And then there will be the after appearance fun event for attendees that just got the nod from Jessica. I'm working on that my lip is zipped for now!

Now I am psyched! Can't wait for Saturday!