Friday, August 18, 2017

Next goodreads Giveaway Scheduled

Beginning August 22nd a goodreads Giveaway will begin for 7 signed first edition copies of my two-years in the writing/fine tuning of my contemporary vampire romance Out. I wrote the book and then realized that there were a lot of characters in it that needed some background and more definition, so I went back and wrote excerpts as if from various media sources about each vampire and inserted them in a sort of chronological order which also touches upon what was or is happening at the time in society as vampires are being outed, the publics reaction to "the monsters" in their midst (their perception of these vampires as monsters when in fact they have been living among the normal human populace for centuries), and a splash of horror that leads to change.


It's difficult to classify this novel because it is not your usual horror-laced or campy vampire tale. To understand what I mean, I guess you need to read it.


Out is currently available on Amazon.com and as a Kindle book in the Kindle store. I will be delivering a few copies to Blue Umbrella Books in Westfield, MA this Saturday sometime.


Look for the black book with the deep purple roses on the cover!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Keeping Busy

Most days I wake up feeling as if I haven't accomplished anything in my life. I go off to work five days a week wishing I had more time to write and promote my work and attend author events, but work and dealing with/coping with health issues often consume much of my time. I try to write a little bit every night, but sometimes household tasks and errands chew up a couple hours of evening time. Therefore, I often go to bed thinking about all the writing I want to do and feeling disappointed that there is not enough time in a day to accomplish it.


It's almost mid-August, so this morning I've been thinking about what I have accomplished so far this year. In February I published 13, a little volume of supernatural and psychologically disturbing stories I had planned on publishing the previous October, but it got set aside. I polished it up and got it out there and was happy with it. Simultaneously, I also finished the sequel to Black King Takes White Queen, Black Knight, White Rook and published that novel.


I did some beta reading for author friends as spring approached. Then I put together a collection of just ghost stories and published Niss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, Volume I in June, and also a group of contemporary stories called butterscotch-a collection of stories, also released in June.


Then in July I tackled a pair of ghost hunting novels that had been sitting in binders in a milk crate, woefully neglected since 2011 and 2013. They both underwent revisions and editing because I had written the second book two years before the first book in the series, so had to fix continuity issues so the books would flow together more seamlessly. The Fairlawn Investigation and The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation were released at the end of July and beginning of August.


And then I dug out Bending Birches, a novella I'd written in 2014 or 2015. It has a local setting, fictionalized (partially as there are some real western MA locations mentioned as well). There was a partial sequel set seven years later that took me some searching to locate because I couldn;t remember what its title was. Seventh Year Itch was finished and the two novellas were put into a volume called Bending Birches and published.


And then I'd been thinking about putting together stories in which cats, dogs, kittens and puppies played a role in romances. I gleaned a number of stories from previous published story collections and added one previously unpublished story with a ghost cat, and Life, Death, Love, Cats & Dogs was released last week with a picture of Kelly's and my cats on the cover, no less!


Finally, I had a vampire novel written two years ago and was talking to a publishing companies self-publishing subsidiary when John lost his job. With 5/6 of our income gone I couldn't afford to pay their fee and just set the book aside, although I did write new sections and insert them into each chapter, and then did revisions to fix continuity issues. I left it alone for over a year, then began fixing it up some more, ordering a proof copy after each revision. Red, Green, Yellow print on black covers. Then I chose deep purple roses for the new and final cover...and ordered a fourth proof, while considering submitting it to a publisher in Pepperell MA that only publishes quality vampire fiction...until I read the disclaimer that authors are responsible for promoting their own work. Well, I already do that, so I decided to just release it on my own. I did the last major overhaul and Out was released this week.


Nine books in eight months. Viewed that way, I see that I have accomplished something- maybe too much something, but I guess my main issue is that this was all (except for Black Knight, White Rook, previously written material, of which I have a mountain of! I really haven't written much new material-although I've started a lycanthrope novel, two contemporary novels, and a few stories.


And I've been beta reading for three author friends- two beta reads completed, one BIG one to go!


So, I don't know why I feel I haven't done anything...I think it's just I set the bar too high for myself, and right now I am tired with summer dragging on with hot humid days and cool rainy weather alternating, which wreaks havoc on arthritis and mood in general. It's been draining energy wise.


At least I can read this and remind myself that I have been keeping busy- even when I don't feel that I've done much at all!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Out is out

Well...after doing additional thinking about things, I came to the conclusion that I still prefer to remain in control of my own work- therefore, I approved Out this evening and it will be available shortly on Amazon. It will be released as a Kindle book shortly.


Out is a different sort of vampire book. It is part romance, part social commentary on tolerance of different people, and a smidge of horror, which is a genre I do not ordinarily write. Basically, it's the story of a young woman with a prosthetic lower limb who has had a crush on a wealthy businessman since she was a girl. He has also been attracted to her. Their very different worlds collide, and it's up to the two of them to bring about change in the world. (If you've read Black King Takes White Queen the theme is similar, but given a vampire spin and another twist so that the story alternates between excerpts from the media in all its myriad forms, to the past and present as related from Irina's point of view, Irina being the very human young woman who lost part of her left leg in the opening salvo between rival vampires.


That's all I'm saying about the novel.


I will do a goodreads giveaway in the near future. A few copies will be placed at Blue Umbrella Books once I have them in hand. Otherwise- you'll have to get it on Amazon or on your Kindle.


This is book #30 for me.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Four Books in Two Months and Now to Get Serious

On May 31st I was finished with The Fairlawn Investigation, closely followed in June by The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation. Those two novels were written in 2013 and 2011 respectively, then joined the ranks of unpublished material in binders sitting around in milk crates and file boxes for 4 and 6 years. Not feeling well enough to tackle a new writing project, I've spent the past two months polishing up stuff already written and getting it out there. Bending Birches was written in 2015. It's sequel was partially written then abandoned when my friend Pauline (Mrs. Thayer in the novella) passed away in September of that year. I cleaned up Bending Birches, tracked down the sequel (having to open and start reading a number of files because I couldn't remember the name I'd given it). It was almost finished, so I did finish it, and then backtracked to make sure both novellas meshed. That's how Bending Birches came to be. Finally, thinking about all my cat and dog loving friends and fellow authors, I plucked 9 stories in which kittens, cats, puppies and dogs play a role in the romance going on between two people. Life, Death, Love, Cats & Dogs was an easy put together since I pulled the stories from previously published books. Only Franklin, a ghost cat story, had not yet been published. I gave it a read through, fixed up punctuation and grammar here and there, and then plugged it into the new book. To perk up the book, I plucked cat and dog quotes by famous writers, authors and others and added them at the beginning of the book, then added a quote of my own. To make it more enjoyable for family and friends, and facebook acquaintances who have seen the boys on my facebook page, I added one of my favorite photos of Riley Beans and Revere as the cover image. It took me about eight hours on a Saturday to pull the stories and put them into a new interior book file, fix up Franklin, then upload the file and create the book. Technical glitches with the internet and CreateSpace created a few delays, but by Monday evening the book was approved and now it's in the hands of family and friends already.


So, for me, it's not a matter of OMG- you wrote four books in two months! No. I have been writing for decades and NOT publishing anything. I have tons of written material lying around my house. I have been writing new books (novels are still fairly new for me) and ghost stories in between and publishing them also, so that's what gives the illusion that I'm some sort of writing whiz. I write daily (well, I do occasionally take a day or two off to read). I am a disciplined hobbyist writer. I also write to relieve stress. I write because I enjoy writing. I love words- putting them together so they tell an entertaining story.


But- now, I have one novel that I have been working on for two years. I just finished the 4th printed proof read through- making final tweaks, revisions, and corrections. I think I finally have this novel ready to submit to a real publisher. As you probably know, I do not like loosening my control over my work...so offering this manuscript to a publisher is a humongous step for me. I'm only doing it because I have had good experiences with novels I've submitted to contests with The Subtlety of Light and Shadow earning a 10 of 10 from a judge in The Golden Heart Contest in 2015, and an overall 7.49 rating (I don't write straight out romance- this was my one and only attempt at that. Then My Magical Life and The Archetypes-First Generation garnered positive comments in the Writer's Digest Self Published Novel contest last year with the judges really liking the story, but marking me down on the covers and such things as starting the chapters too high on the page (technical stuff), and the stunning surprise of Black King Takes White Queen being shortlisted for the OZMA AWARD 2016 earlier this year. Black King Takes White Queen is my 2017 Writer's Digest Self Published Novel entry this year.


So, Out is going through its revisions this weekend and if I get it done by Sunday I'll begin drafting a query letter according to the publisher's specifications (include an author bio and first three chapters for esubmissions). We'll see what happens. If it gets rejected, I'll look into one more local publisher...and if that fails, I will release the book with its current deep purple roses cover.


So, yes, during the course of my life so far, I have been a prolific writer. I have not written all of these stories in the past two years. I have written the majority of the 13 published novels over the past 6 years. I have one more I really want to finish that would probably fall into the romance category. If you've read The Winter Solstice Ball in Always Christmas in My Heart then you've read a novella based on the novel.


I will not be putting out another book for a while because I have beta reading to do for other authors and a writer's group to get started. I will be writing a NaNoWriMo novel in November, more ghost stories, and my annual holiday story/-ies, but will probably not have a second Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories out this year. I have two longer holiday stories written last year. Not quite enough for a new book yet. However, I still have the three already self published Christmas books to do some revisions in that I did not get to when I redid all the previous books covers and spiffed up the interior copy. Still a lot of projects to tackle, but making some sow and steady progress!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Life, Death, Love, Cats & Dogs Released

I put together a collection of 9 stories for cat and dog lovers over the weekend, gleaned from previous story collections such as Love Me Knots, Auspicious Beginnings, Cupid's Darts (from the Sweet Hearts Collections), Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume I and Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, Volume I (because who hasn't been haunted by a ghost cat or dog in their lifetime?) Each story has some romance in it, of course. There is one previously unpublished story in this volume, Franklin, which is a ghost cat story!


When it came to designing the cover the ONLY choice I could make was to grace the cover with one of my favorite photos of my boys- Revere and Riley Beans. Actually, Revere,the domestic shorthair tuxedo cat, is Kelly's boy while the fluffy gray and white long-haired cat is my Riley Beans. They were both adopted in 2011, Revere in June after we lost Isador, and Beans in November after the sudden death of Diego (our former tuxedo cat). They were both adopted from the Homeless Cat Project here in Westfield, not too far from where we live. They are the sweetest boys, and though they are a few months apart in age and not related at all, they are the loving brothers and get along very well.


Now I just need to keep their being coverboys from going to their heads!!


Life, Death, Love, Cats & Kittens is available on Amazon.com and will be a Kindle ebook in a day or two.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Bending Birches

I haven't fall off the face of the planet.


I've been plagued by health issues since the beginning of the year including rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatic, diabetic neuropathy, right hip bursitis, and sacroiliitis-all very painful when a person is also allergic to the medications nonallergic people can take like ibuprofen, Aleve, and other analgesics in the NSAID class, and the biologics that are available for RA like Enbrel and Humira. Oh yeah, did I mention I was allergic to prednisone and cortisone shots?


It's discouraging and sometimes I get a little depressed about it so that just getting up every day and going to work can be a monumental challenge. I'm not ready to retire. I want to stay as active as I can because if I just sit around it would all get much worse. Therefore, most nights lately I haven't felt like writing or doing much of anything, but then I get angry with myself for not accomplishing something and push myself harder...which can also not be a good thing because a big part of RA is the chronic fatigue that can make a person feel like they're pinned down in place, too tired to move.


However- I'm not a whiner or complainer (really!). I just carry on, maybe not at full speed anymore, but I move forward, and do what I can.


While unable to sleep one night recently, I thought of a novella that I'd written a couple of years ago- Bending Birches. It's set at a fictionalized Mount Holyoke College (called Bircham College in the story), but in the very real towns of Hadley, Amherst, and Stockbridge, MA with mention of Lenox, MA, Hancock Shaker Village, The Red Lion Inn, The Mount, and Friendly's just off the Mass Pike in Westfield, I used the area I've lived in all my life-beautiful, scenic western MA (AKA "The Sticks"  or "The Boonies" by friends from eastern MA. My best friend from Peabody thought we were taking her "into the wilderness" when we brought her to Westfield for the first time from Fitchburg along the Daniel Shay Highway! She was really very nervous as my mother flew around those unlit corners with what must have seemed like rash bravado to Carol! Recently, Kelly and I took her friend Bethany from Bridgewater to exotic, uncivilized towns like Granville, Southampton, Deerfield, and Wyben- a rural part of Westfield at the edge of" "the Hilltowns.") What western MA kid hasn't learned to drive at night with confidence on streets without streetlights and wanted to slap on a pair of sunglasses when reaching an area with those lights on sticks? It's a rite of passage, and also perfectly routine and normal, something we grew up with when we went for night drives with our parents on sultry summer nights with all the car windows rolled down and mosquitoes whining in our ears, the wind whipping our hair into wild tangles.


Bending Birches explores a developing relationship between an English professor and a soon-to-be-graduating senior who has been working  on the college arts & literary magazine since her freshman year, when she was a student in Professor Lockwood's Dickens class. Just as he begins to make his more personal feelings toward her known, a sex scandal erupts in the English department. It's Jordan James' elderly landlady who quietly plays matchmaker for the professor and the graduating senior, and Professor Lockwood who takes Jordan to Stockbridge to try to land a job as a photojournalist/staff writer for Berkshire Life magazine. Lockwood has to act before Jordan graduates and decides to return to sunny southern CA where she is originally from.


I partially wrote the sequel novella set nearly seven years later. Reid is still a professor at Bircham College, living in his restored Victorian house in Amherst. Jordan is living at the couple's Victorian Stockbridge cottage and working on the magazine full time while raising the couple's now three-year old son, Charlie (named after Dickens). Reid spends the summer with them in the Berkshires because he teaches a summer course at Wisteria Academy and either produces or directs a play at the Stockbridge Playhouse. Jordan reaches a cracking point as a stressed out, basically working mom. On the night that Reid hosts the department staff meeting at the Amherst house, Jordan has had enough that same night, loads Charlie in the car and heads home on the Mass Pike. Meanwhile, a former classmate of Jordan's, now a professor at Bircham, has stayed late to "help clean up" after the meeting and she sets about seducing Reid. He receives the call from the state police before things go too far, but they've gone much farther than they should have. The remainder of the second novella, Seventh Year Itch, has Reid and Jordan grappling with their issues and working out the problem of their living in two places because neither wants to lose the other-so compromises must be made if they are to survive as a couple and a family.


My late button collector friend Pauline Johnson is fictionalized in Bending Birches as Jordan's landlady, Mrs. Thayer. I promised her before she passed that when I was missing her I would write her into a story- and through her character, I would hear her voice once again and not miss her so much. It's my way of letting her know I love her and always will- immortalizing her in my writing.


I remember that I had a crush on one of my high school English teachers (all the girls adored him) at Westfield High in the mid-70's. I also had a totally cool Advanced Placement English teacher there. Then, I  had some pretty awesome college English professors including a charismatic English professor my freshman year of college (who sort of reminded me of Stephen King, oddly enough) at Fitchburg State. He was from South Hadley. I also had some pretty amazing English professors at Westfield State, but I only worked on the arts & literary magazine at Fitchburg my freshman year. This is not a biographical book by any means. Strictly fiction!


So, if I am behind in beta reading, I apologize. I do what I can when I can after work and on weekends, but I've been moving like molasses lately due to the increased joint stiffness and pain, and a flareup of tendinitis in multiple places which was a reaction to an antibiotic for an infection...can we say train wreck? Recovering, slowly moving forward, but at least feel like I've accomplished something the past two weeks!


The Fairlawn Investigation and The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation, the first two novels in the Amberton Paanormal Investigation Society series were also released as print books and as ebooks on Kindle in the past two weeks. They're my ghost hunting novels. Book 3 is partially written.


I changed the cover of butterscotch, when I made corrections to the story Poppy inside. I got the copy I ordered in the mail today and realized that I forgot to change the font color, so the title virtually disappears into the candies on the cover. Changed it back tonight to the original cover when I was on CreateSpace approving Bending Birches. Why tamper with There's Nothing Wrong With It when there really was nothing wrong with the original- except I added the author photo to the back cover because when you submit a self-published book to a contest they kind of want to see the author on the cover or inside on the bio page- horror of horrors! I do not like being photographed but am using a selfie I shot in a dark room that I'm okay with (as long as you don't blow it up and notice the tiny smear of chocolate ice cream under my lower lip-haha!)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Project List

I've ticked several items off my Project List this week. Both The Fairlawn Investigation and The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation are now available on Amazon.com and as Kindle books. butterscotch-a collection of stories is also finally available as a Kindle book. It kind of got lost in the shuffle a couple of months ago.


Out is here at the house in its fourth print proof copy version. I did some Gordon Ramsey-type ranting after finding a minor continuity error in the very first chapter, but have calmed down and am methodically prowling through the book in search of any other issues that might still exist. It will be on its way to a real publisher once this final raking over the editing coals is completed. I am giving it a shot, despite my maybe not so well-known OCDism of wanting absolute control over my own work. Maybe I'm ready to let a project go out into the mainstream world. I don't know. If I change my mind, as I am often prone to do, Out will be self-published. I don't ever really know what I will do until I do it.


I have two new novels started, The Lakeside Manor Investigation (3rd in the Amberton Paranormal Investigation Society series) and Cherry (tentative title), and have just finished proofreading and editing a novella, Bending Birches which I might combined with several novelettes or short stories into another book, although I could complete the sequel to this novella and publish them both in one book...that's another option. I just don't remember what I called the sequel, but I did see a typed copy of the story someplace when searching for Lakeside Manor recently.


A few health issues have slowed me down this summer. I'm trying to cope with them and keep moving forward. I've also been doing a little more preliminary work in preparation for WhipCity Wordsmiths, the authors/writers group Kelly and I are launching in September. And I've been doing some beta reading for author friends, and catching up on other reading, too.


Crazy busy as usual despite everything going on! I don't feel as if I am quite on track where I want to be, but I'm not lagging too far behind at this point in time!





Sunday, July 9, 2017

What's New From My Kitchen Table

I'm awaiting the new printed proof copies of two paranormal investigation novels- The Fairlawn Investigation and The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation. Meanwhile, since last weekend I've pounded out a little less than half of the third novel in the series, The Lakeside Manor Investigation. The novels are set in the Burlington, Vermont/Lake Champlain area, but a lot of The Victoria Wayfarer is set at a seacoast inn haunted by numerous spirits/apparitions. Book three is back in Vermont, and will have characters that visited in book one returning for this investigation. Several of these characters are interesting because they are fictionalizations of my office manager and a co-worker. I just asked my office manager if I could reprise her fictional character in book three and received the nod to do so. My other co-worker was on vacation this week, so  I'll have to get her permission on Monday if she's back. Also, in book three I'm working in three characters from daughter Kelly' first novel, Parapsychology. She mentioned the founder of my novels' paranormal investigation group, plus referenced the group in her novel. I just had to look across the kitchen table to ask her permission to include her characters Holly St. Stephens, Milo French, and Jacob 'Jake' Euler, plus a mention of the head of their organization, Dr. Aubrey Winters. My book is set about a year before her book occurs.


Thus is the life of mother/daughter authors!


Yesterday I ran a couple of copies of Kelly's new novel, Teleport, downtown to Blue Umbrella Books where author Russell Atwood was behind the counter. He happily accepted the books to sell on the local author shelf at the store. And then he had a surprise for me. He'd recently learned that I collect vintage decks of playing cards. He'd found a deck of Louis L'Amour western theme (gunslinger) playing cards while antiquing. The cards are a poker deck, mint in the plastic inside the box with great cowboy with drawn gun graphic on the box. I was thrilled (and maybe somewhat inspired to include a western in my writing experience in the future?) I was also happy to hear he has some writing projects going now that his schedule has stabilized. I really enjoyed his PI novels East of A and Losers Live Longer (which has an ending I never saw coming!)


This morning I finally got around to setting a radio appearance date with Bob Plasse. I suggested that he have Kelly and me on his program for several reasons- we'll have 30 novels and story collections self published by the time October 24th, the date we agreed upon, rolls around, we're probably the most prolific mother/daughter authors in Westfield, and she and I just established a group for authors & writers in Westfield called WhipCity Wordsmiths which has already had a soft launch with a core group of local authors and writers, but will have its official launch in September after things settle down from vacations, kids out of school, traveling and summer activities and events.


I did find a second version of The Victoria Wayfarer and beyond that I'd been working on years ago...read two thirds of it Friday night and yesterday before concluding that while it has a ton of good stuff in it, it wasn't really going anywhere definitive so that must be why I'd abandoned it in the first place. I still won't delete the file, but I will most likely consign the printed manuscript pages to recycle in the near future to downsize the clutter in the dining room.


Otherwise, today we looked at four potential first homes for Kelly- but each one had various issues from the first one needing an entire gut job to the fourth one having a mysterious small puddle on the cellar floor with nothing dripping above it and no crack where seepage could come up through the floor beneath it. Just kind of weird in an empty basement. The second house was cute, but had an open staircase to the basement in the kitchen, and multiple small rooms in the basement that gave it a totally claustrophobic feel, plus tall Dad whacked his head on an oddly place low header which put him in a bad mood. House three was all knotty pine and 70's Aztec gold and would need a ton of reno work to make it suitable for Kelly and her myriad collections- plus it was dark and dingy and smelled weird- like old and musty and damp. Sigh...still looking...


Finally-the fog of RA is lifting so I'm feeling more productive after 5 or 6 weeks of barely being able to haul myself to work and get the editing and revision work on the two paranormal novels done. Feeling more productive!


Had to break out my Dell netbook to post on the blogs today- my HPStream has Alzheimers (memory issues)...not enough memory. I can write on it, but when I try to get into my blogs to post it just sits and spins looking for memory it doesn't have. I'm rapidly reaching the conclusion I need a real laptop with a ton of memory and disc space! I'll put it on my wish list!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Search for Amberton Paranormal Society Investigation #3

I am nearly finished with editing, proofreading, and preparing the first two novels in the Amberton Paranormal Investigation series for self-publication. I knew I had started a third in the series and a fourth, but I searched through the computer files and found The Rose Hall Investigation and then the Persian Garden Theater Investigation...but when I opened them, I discovered that they were the same story with different titles. Rose Hall is supposed to be the third novel. Both Kelly and I remembered reading what I'd written so far, and could recall that it followed the events of The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation. We knew how it started and what was happening so far- but we couldn't find the file and were finding too many Rose Hall Investigation and Persian Garden Investigation binders int he dining room-all with the same story beginning in them that was not the right story.

So, I very carefully opened every file associated with this series of novels and read the beginnings. There were, curiously, two Rose Hall investigations saved  and when I opened them they were both The Persian Garden beginning! I was getting extremely frustrated with myself.

So, the other night I very carefully scrolled down the list of titles in my computer files...and found a file titled The Lakeside Manor Investigation- and guess what I found? Yup, this is the story we remembered as being book three, and it even says it is the third in the series under the title...so I guess Persian Garden comes fourth and Rose Hall will be fifth in the series.

I need to get a little better organized around here and not keep putting the same story in binders with the same name and different names!

By the way, Kell and I couldn't find a Lakeside Manor binder...anyway, mystery solved and moving on!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Jury Duty & Proofreading

Well, jury duty is a pretty darn good place to accomplish some much needed proofreading and editing! I took the vampire novel with me and got through several chapters. This is version #3 in print...and still I am finding stuff that needs changing and correcting. There are missing letters and commas. Sigh...sometimes I think there is a gremlin at CreateSpace that deletes random letters when it's transforming the file from word to PDF or whatever it does.

I was going along great guns, but there were only 2 cases scheduled in Chicopee District Court today and both settled without going to trial. I was there all of two and a half hours...well, 3 hours total because I got there just after 8AM without running into expected traffic and road construction delays.

Then I was distracted by my favorite thing- storm clouds, and one of my least favorite things, laundry. Took an awesome shot of a shadowy male head and shoulders emerging vertically from a fluffy white cloud. Behind him is the snarling face of a male lion or a Foo Dog- whichever one you prefer to see. I think it's one of the coolest cloud pictures I've taken since the Old English Sheep Dog puppy cloud and the black faced sheep cloud!

I should have jury duty more often...I can accomplish a lot sitting around doing nothing else constructive while waiting for lawyers to work the art of plea bargains and deals. In 35 years since the state of Massachusetts switched to the one day one jury system I've been summoned for jury duty numerous times...and NEVER have I  made it into a courtroom to even be considered as a juror. I am so bitterly disappointed in the system! However, I did find out today that if you're 69 you can write on your form that you no longer want to be summoned for jury duty once you're 70 years old! Woohoo! I don't think I'll be wanting to sit in a stuffy little jury room at that age anyway. So, the way it's been going, I doubt very much I'll ever sit in the juror's box and listen to a court case. Thank God for Perry Mason reruns that satisfy the desire for a little courtroom drama in me!

Back to editing The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation. Vampire novel is back in the holding pattern.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Slow Going

I've been sidelined by an especially bad RA flare. I am NSAID intolerant and refuse to take opioids because I don't like how they make me feel and I can't focus or think on them so have always refused- even after surgery! Not for me. Therefore, ice and heat as needed, rest, and not overdoing it because it affects my joints and tendons making me feel like a disjointed marionette with lose strings attached-wobbly and unbalanced.

I did make it downtown for an hour yesterday during Busker's Day to listen to some of the musicians playing on the sidewalks, to sit and chat with friends under the Artworks tent and to visit authors Melissa Volker and Tom Deady at the tent they shared on the green for the library's Summer Reading event. Then I stopped into Blue Umbrella Books to chat with Jessica and Joyce about the WhipCity Wordsmiths. I need the local indie bookstore onboard as we'll be looking to utilize their open floor space beginning in September. It was a beautiful sunny, hot but breezy day. I grabbed a soda at Runtz mini hot dogs stand where Marion Dunk and Chip were playing their guitars.

Came home and reclined in my chair with Revere purring on my chest. Did some more editing in The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation. I'm done with The Fairlawn Investigation but haven't corrected the digital version yet. Slow progress due to fatigue and low energy.

Kelly, meanwhile, was motivated by my editing Teleport to do her own read through and edits. Happy to say she has released her second novel and it's available on Amazon, but not yet in the local book store.

I plan on going to the Agawam Public Library's ReadLocal event tomorrow evening. It's Kelly's birthday, I have to work, so I'm hoping I'll have enough energy left at the end of the day to drop by and visit with the authors and see what's new with them, and maybe add to my pile of books to read!
Hoping to see some familiar faces there and meet some authors I haven't hd a chance to meet yet.

Kelly's a motorman at the Connecticut Trolley Museum. We took separate vehicles to Dunkin Donuts this morning as she had to leave from there to get to the museum and I had errands to run. She was dressed in her navy blue pants, black shoes, black vest, white shirt and motorman's hat, with her pocket watch and fob clipped to her vest and tucked into the vest pocket. She received a sort of startled look from the girl behind the counter and then a smile. Then all the patrons were looking at her and smiling. She looked like a living anachronism- because seriously, who dresses like that these days? It's fun to watch people react to her out of the context of the trolley museum, and I think she gets a kick out of being a walking advertisement for the museum.

Hope to write something today...it's been awhile because RA also causes mental fog apparently- can't stay focused which is a huge disappointment and frustration. It's also worrisome because if this is progressive, then how many more years do I have to write if I'm not going to be able to think and get into the zone I need to be in? That, to me, is scary stuff because writing is my passion and I don't want to lose it!


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Just Doing It- A Writer's Group Emerges

Well, Kelly and I have been kicking this around, and at first I was all No, no and NO, I will not even attempt this...but people kept asking and expecting, and I am not the kind of person who likes to disappoint, so I reconsidered and we kicked the idea around some more. Next, I reached out to a few local author friends and acquaintances and received enthusiastic responses.

Next came the formulating of the group because there are a million writers groups out there where writers of various skill levels sit around a table and write to prompts and then critique one another's work and maybe discuss a subject and then go home and do their own thing until the next meeting with possibly no contact between members in the interim.

I once belonged to a group like that. It rapidly grew tired and monotonous.

Therefore, on the membership applications I asked what each applying member wanted from the group and a lot of them said they wanted to learn something, improve their writing, and enjoy socializing with other authors/writers and developing a camaraderie among local writers.

I took all this input and created a group that will be member driven with a moderator for each meeting- a member volunteer or one assigned or selected at the preceding meeting who would basically act as the referee/ringmaster and make sure the topics remain on writing and writing related matters and not gardening and an exchange of recipes. Members will be given an opportunity to discuss their current or past projects, their triumphs and dismal disappointments. Everyone will bring something to the table, And occasionally we'll have fun flash fiction prompts and write and do the traditional critiquing, back patting and ego stroking if so inclined, and grow comfortable with one another.

I want authors/writers to step up and mentor new and young writers, and beta read for members who are seeking feedback on their projects. Kelly and I have accepted the application of a book reviewer who might have time to write one day in the future. Picking the brain of a book reviewer- what author doesn't want to know exactly what makes them tick?

I also want the group to host several local author fairs over the course of each year, host read-ins at bookshops and other locations as allowed, and we would have one all-day writer's retreat with a potluck picnic just to have fun and talk among like minded people about writing, and maybe other things because it will be a very relaxing day. A possible segment of the day might be Sparks- where we sit around an bounce story ideas off one another trying to spark someone to write something outside their wheelhouse or comfort zone.

I want this group to have full membership participation- members don't have to stand up and lecture on the pro and cons of traditional versus self-publishing or whatever, but everyone should have a voice that's heard.

So, from No to Go...WhipCity Wordsmiths is now a reality. The public is welcome to read the blog, but only approved members will be given author access to post n the blog, and anything we deem inappropriate will be removed. Let's try to stick to topics on writing and related matters.This blog can be viewed by typing whipcitywordsmiths.blogspot.com into your browser. It's BLUE- you can't miss it!! (If you are a member and an author on the blog then you might get a different view of the blog as such since you can post n it)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mike's Trolley Stories

I just finished reading stories 4 & 5 set at the Connecticut Trolley Museum and written by Kelly's friend (and mine) Mike Brenner. I thoroughly enjoyed his stories. Kelly and I will be helping him ready his work for making the five linked stories into a book. This is Mike's first attempt at writing a book- and I was impressed by the quality of his writing, and the amount of research he put into making all the details in the stories as accurate as possible.

It also touched me because I am a New England girl since birth and every year since childhood there have been a couple trips to the trolley museum to ride the cars. And every year since I was a little girl the motorman has given a speech about how the museum owns the right of way all the way to where the trolley park once stood and how they hope one day to lay down the track and make a little park at the end of the line. I'm in my late 50's now. They did make the current line longer- a mile and a half in length. It was shorter when I was a kid in the 60's. But, I doubt I'll live long enough to see the Connecticut Trolley Museum's dream come true.

Anyway, I really loved the stories- I laughed and cried and felt warm fuzzies and cold chills. I disliked the bureaucrat and loved Trolley Three and many of the other characters. They all seemed familiar to me.

Good job, Mike Brenner! Even if this may be your one and only attempt at writing a book you pulled out all the stops and brought the trolley back to the barn after giving this reader one heck of a ride on the rails to the dark side and back!!

Bravo!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

What's On My Plate?

I have three novels to proofread and edit- slowly making my way through The Fairlawn Investigation at present, with The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation to follow, and then the vampire novel that poor neglected book!

I just put Mike Brenner's stories 4 & 5 into a binder and will start reading them for him today as his beta reader. I'm looking forward to this because the first three he's sent me have been very good! I expect no less from these two!

Weekends are much too short. I would prefer to work two days a week and write/edit/proofread/beta read/etc five days a week- then maybe I could catch up with things!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Three Projects to Finish

I just finished proofreading daughter Kelly's second novel, Teleport. She made all the corrections that I'd found needed to be done last evening while I was getting a haircut. I think she wants to go through it again herself to see if she wants to tweak it a little more before letting it go out there into the marketplace.

Meanwhile, I have my vampire novel patiently awaiting another proofreading and continuity check because I changed things since proof number 2. I also have both Amberton Paranormal Investigation Society novels to proofread. I've been slowly going through Fairlawn since finishing Teleport. Therefore, the three novels are in their almost ready for publication stage.

Tomorrow is the first Local Author Fair at the Southwick Public Library. I need to finish getting ready for this event tonight so I can grab and go tomorrow morning. I'm really looking forward to seeing author friends and meeting authors I haven't had the opportunity to meet yet. I understand there is a child author that will be there, too. And, hopefully, my neighbor, Sonia Ellis will have gotten her application in in time so she'll also be there.

I'll have Black King Takes White Queen with me for this event as I believe we are being limited to one book...that wasn't quite clear.

Next Tuesday morning author friend Melissa Volker and I are supposed to be on an early morning radio program here in town with Bob Plasse formerly of Westfield on Weekends...will have to jolt myself awake with a cup of joe that morning! I owe Melissa a copy of butterscotch-a collection of stories. It's already in my car so I'll have it with me. I just need to remember to take it in with me to give it to her!

Off to prepare for tomorrow! Watching artist friend James Johnson-Corwin paint tonight- he's doing a Stephen King themed painting (maybe Pennywise?) around 10PM. He's painted a wave rolling into shore and a droid so far this week. He's amazing! It's been a great way to unwind after a long day- watching him paint live on facebook!


Monday, June 12, 2017

Felt Good To Write Last Night

I have been so busy this year that I haven't done much in the way of new writing except for ghost stories. I had an idea for a new novel over a month ago, started writing it twice but it stalled both times. Started this novel for the third time at 8:30PM last night and wrote until 11:30PM. I am 5,588 words, 11 pages into it and this is just chapter one where the main characters first begin to interact...and then he takes off for Europe to continue mastering his craft, which is mechanical clock making. He's already adept at it, but he wants to learn everything there is and continue improving n his amazing clock towers. And he has a terrible secret that will follow him wherever he goes.

I didn't want to stop and go to bed, but I had to work today, so made myself hit the hay and sleep instead of staying up writing all night like I really want to.

The work day seems so long when you really want to be home working on your new novel, but someone's got to earn a living in the house, and I guess that's me.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Judith Sessler, Local Author

I have four books by western MA author Judith Sessler- Saints and Sinners or short stories from the bizarre to the sublime,  Fifty Shades of Green Coffeehouse Confessions of the Uncommon Joe,  Fifty-One Shades of Green The Emerald Inn Behind Closed Doors,  and The Legacy of Aidan McManus. I have read and enjoyed them all, and am looking forward to her next story collection.

I first met her last December during a pop-up shop event at the local indie book shop in town. We chatted a little bit, but I knew another author there, Melissa Volker, better so spent the majority of my time chatting with her and her mother who designs t-shirts with book themes.

I have wanted to meet Judith (Sandy) though. We've been friends on facebook since December, and she's sent me stories to beta read and provide feedback on, which I've thoroughly enjoyed doing for her. We laugh at one another's posts and chat message occasionally.

Yesterday I had the chance to really meet her at her book event for The Legacy of Aidan McManus. This book is resonating with me on many levels as it is a story of immigrants coming to America in the late 1800's thru 1900's, settling, struggling, establishing themselves, raising their families, hoping and praying for a better future for themselves and their children. The majority of her characters are of Irish descent, but there are some Italians in the mix because America is the great melting pot of blended cultures, after all.

I am a product of that blending of cultures. My father's family immigrated from Poland in the late 1800's, settling first in Suffield, CT where relatives had already established themselves as farmers. They moved to Hatfield, MA known for its onion, potato and tobacco crops. This is where my father, a first generation Polish American was born in 1928. He couldn't speak English when he started school and was sent home to learn English, which he did. His older brother played the accordion and had his own band on the radio that also played local weddings in the Greenfield/Northampton area.

The paternal side of my mother's family immigrated from southern Italy- Naples and Palermo areas. My grandfather was a first generation Italian American born in Greenfield, MA in 1905, in the middle of a pack of thirteen children. It's from this grandfather, a great oral storyteller, that I've inherited my ability to tell a story.

My maternal side grandmother was from French Canadian stock that immigrated to Canada from France, then migrated south into Maine where some of them remained while others traveled further south into western Massachusetts to work in the mills in Colrain (Kendall Mills) MA. My Mom was born in the little village of Griswoldville, MA in 1930, a second generation Italian/French Canadian American.

I am second generation Polish American on my Dad's side, third generation Italian/French Canadian on my Mom's side. I grew up listening to my grandparents talk about their families. My Italian relatives first settled on Mulberry Street in New York City where they all were barbers. My great-uncle Alfred and his son Donald, and my great-uncle Nino were barbers in Orange, MA and Pittsfield, MA. My uncle Nino had a purple Cadillac that my brother, swears he drove down the sidewalk when he took him and my Dad to get haircuts when we were visiting my great-uncle George who worked for GE in Pittsfield in the 60's. (My brother later drove his AMC Javelin down the sidewalk in Greenfield, MA when he went to college there- wonder where he learned that bad behavior from?)

Getting back to the point, The Legacy of Aidan McManus, was like reading history that had a personal meaning as well because her characters experienced things, lived in tenements, struggled, shared triumphs and tragedies just like my real life ancestors did. The only native Americans are Native Americans, the rest of us all immigrated from somewhere. Although the characters in the book are Irish and Italian, they could be Lithuanian, Czechoslovakian, English, Dutch, German, Ukrainian, Australian, Chinese, etc.

Judith has a way of breathing life into her characters, making them feel like people you might know from your own life. Her stories move along quickly and flow smoothly.

I really enjoyed meeting her again yesterday and having a chance to talk to her more about writing, our shared "hobby" of writing and being authors, our families, and projects we're working on. I firmly believe in supporting local authors and writers and try to make it to as many local events as I can. I've discovered many amazing books. Large publishing houses pick and choose and tend to go with established big name authors. I follow one author, who is up to book 11, about to release book 12 in the same series with the same characters basically rehashing the same thing. I would love to see something fresh and new from her, not the same thing only changed up a tiny bit from book to book. The horse is getting tired and this rider is about to fall out of the saddle and look for a fresher ride.

Judith offers a lot of variety in her writing. She even has some young readers in The Travel Kids series. She's versatile and entertaining. I highly recommend her.

Her books are available on Amazon and at Blue Umbrella Books here in Westfield and can be ordered from either location. Blue Umbrella's phone number for orders is 413-579-5383.

I am now happy to say that Judith (Sandy) and I have a bond as authors and friends. I'm looking forward to seeing her again at the Southwick Public Library's first Local Author event on June 17th from 10:30AM-12:30PM in Southwick, MA on Route 57.

Five stars for local author Judith Sessler from me, an avid reader and fan and it's not just because I'm an author and her friend. I've been a prolific reader forever so know a good book when I read one!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Proof Proves A Powerful Plus

The print proof copy of The Fairlawn Investigation arrived today. Just paging through it quickly I immediately spotted a humongous screw-up in chapter headings that leap from the pages, slapping me in the face. There are TWO Chapter 2s. There are inconsistencies in font size, and the use of digits versus spelled out numerals. How this ever got by me when I was putting the book together mystifies me as it's never happened before! I must have been editing on another planet- planet GoofUp.

I guess, when you scroll through a computer layout of ones novel, view it in digital proof layout when you're putting it all together and you don't take the time to look at an enlargement of every single page because you find it TEDIOUS...then you'd better order a print proof copy in order to catch what would be tremendously embarrassing errors BEFORE you okay the proof and your book is suddenly out there with your name on it and you find yourself wanting to crawl under a rock in shame!

This is why I like self publishing- because, if I was a lazy person and just approved this book and it went out for sale on Amazon and THEN I found the OMG MISTAKES, I can always pull the book and fix it, whereas big name authors don't have the luxury of yanking their books with boo-boos off the market- and believe me, I've seen some big publishers let books with errors that, as an author, would make me cringe and grind my teeth to dust, go out to the reading public. I've thrown such books aside in disgust- both with the author for not catching this stuff and the publisher for going forth and publishing unacceptable editions that will never grace my personal library shelves.  Don't they employ proofreaders anymore? What exactly do editors do? Don't they read the books, or even look at them? Are they lazy? Ignorant? Or just out to make money off a hard working writer- who should also be ashamed of themselves for submitting a work with so many mistakes.

Anyway- as a self publisher using the CreateSpace platform, I can quickly pull a book that I discover doesn't meet my standards, correct it in a day or less and have it back on the market within 36 hours of pulling it- and readers probably won't even know it was a hot mess when it made it's debut.

Anyway-advice to all self publishers is proofread your work, make it the best it can be...and then order a print proof and read it again because there are gremlins in your computer who enjoy messing with your hard work! You're bound to spot it once it's in print! Your work represents you as an author- if you're work is sloppy you won't make a good impression of persnickety readers, you won't earn the respect you want to receive. And you'll have that gut clenching experience of finding your wonderful book selling for a quarter in a bargain book bin at a library book sale or tag sale.

My books are a reflection of me and who I am as an author/writer- I want them to look their best when they leave home- like it's school picture day. I certainly don't want them looking neglected, as if I don't care what other people (ie. readers) think; like I just wanted them out of the house.

Respect yourself, respect your work, respect the intelligence of the reader- order a print proof copy and actually read it, examine it with a fine tooth comb, pull out a blue pen and don't be afraid to write all over the pages. If you're going to put a book out there, then make the effort to make it the best book it can be.

A proof copy is a powerful plus in the author's tool box.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Celebrating 25 books in 24 months

June 2017 marks two years since I began self publishing the accumulation of novels and stories in my house. It all began with a free two copies of my 2014 NaNo novel Medea that I finally got off my butt and self published through the winner's goody offered by CreaeSpace that year. The offer was extended and I decided to just go ahead and get my two free copies and be done with it.

I was disappointed with how the two books looked- not with CreateSpace, but with myself, because I really didn't know anything about self publishing at that point. Kelly, my computer and techno savvy then 23 year old daughter began instructing me on how to put together a better book- and I went on less than a month later to re-do the book, giving it a more professional appearance.

Afterthat...well...it occurred to me that a print book was smaller and easier to shelve than a binder, which my dining room and a tall cabinet in the den were crammed full of, not to mention three log drawers in file cabinets in the den...stories were literally taking over the house!

I began putting together story collections (Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, The Sweet Hearts Collections, and Christmas stories), and then focusing on the novels that I was suddenly churning out, having discovered that I could write full length novels in 2011.

I basically have self published a book a month, plus one. And there are currently 3 more novels about to come out, two already in the final proof stage, the third in the revision, almost ready for first proof copy stage.

Some days it's overwhelming to look at all the stories and the in=process novels still littering the dining room, but I can see gaps in the rows of binders in stacked milk crates, and have condensed the number of binders in file boxes stacked behind the dining room table. I think I'm making progress...but some days it's discouraging to see how much there is left to sort through, organize and do something with.

I have. more or less, been writing my entire life, but the majority of material that I have to sift through has accumulated since the 1990's. Earlier stories will probably just sit in the file cabinets quietly suffering abandonment until someone at some future time rediscovers them.

I feel that I have begun to accomplish some goals in my life- that once all this has already written material has been tackled and dealt with that I will be able to move on and publish one or two novels a year. It doesn't help that I am still writing. I write a NaNo Novel every year (since 2012), and occasionally a couple other novels during the year that make it into print, plus annual Christmas stories, Halloween stories, and now a dozen or so ghost stories for a recurring event at the local indie book shop I am involved in. I'm still writing while still trying to catch up and deal with everything I've already written.

At the two year mark in my journey of self publishing- I look at all the novels and collections I've created on my own in that time. I reflect back on all the work I've put into designing the books, and recently redesigning the majority of them to make them look and read even better. I do everything myself (well, okay, Kelly shares the proofreading and assist with adding headers and footers and the page numbers because I haven't mastered that yet, have maybe done it on my own one time out of 25) from write the books to designing them inside and out, publishing them and sort of marketing them and promoting them. I work full time so this is my other full time job. I haven't made much money with this one, but writing has always been my hobby, not something I ever expected to make any money on. I write to entertain myself, my family and friends. That I can entertain other readers is kind of a scary thing because you're basically throwing your heart and soul out there in front of total strangers- some chew you up and spit you out but I've learned to let that go because everyone is different and not everyone has something nice to say. I have been fortunate in receiving mostly good reviews of my work. I have also been incredibly astounded to have had a novel shortlisted in a major award contest recently. (And that was before the novel had undergone its final revision and all corrections had been made!)

In two years I have gone from obscure hobby writer to recognizable author (in my home town and surrounding towns). I occasionally get a fan letter or email. They usually make me cry. I'm just like that when someone takes the time to contact me and let me know they enjoyed what I've written.

I'm doing things I never thought I'd be doing. I'm a fairly private person...rather reclusive when not at my day job, staying in my house and writing. But now I attend local author events, participate in a recurring reading event, and have even begun laying down the groundwork of a different kind of author/writer group.

In 2011 I wrote my first novel. In 2012 I wrote my first NaNoWriMo novel. In 2013 I wrote the novel Kelly had been waiting for since 2003 as my NaNo novel. In 2014 I wrote Medea as my NaNo novel, expanding a short story I'd written for Kelly when she was in elementary school, and growing it up to young adult/new adult level for her. This was the first novel I self published under the pen name Victoria Bell, which I do not use anymore. But Medea was the novel that got me into self publishing all because of the free goody awarded to winners that year donated by CreateSpace- 2 free copies of my NaNo novel.

I've advanced as a writer/author and developed some self confidence in my own ability to tell a story. I have always been riddled with self doubt holes like Swiss cheese.

Two years- 25 self published books (plus one young reader book)- I'm pretty satisfied with what I've accomplished so far- and proud of myself from taking that first step forward out of total obscurity.

Other than all this, I really don't have much else to say about myself except I give 100% in my every day job as a medical secretary(where my work is helping patients obtain medications, durable medical equipment and home services, etc.)  and do the same when I come home in the evening and sit down to write after dinner nearly every night.

I'm not sure what lies ahead as I begin year three as a self published author...we'll just have to wait and see!

Monday, June 5, 2017

WhipCity Wordsmiths

Kelly was kind enough to redo the brand new blog for the WhipCity Wordsmiths for me so now I can start posting some basic info on it as I work toward getting this group up and running. Bear with me...my life is all about time constraints.  In the meantime, she's written and posted hilarious bios about me and herself on the members page for your enjoyment!

You can find the blog at whipcitywordsmiths.blogspot.com


Southwick Public Library Local Authors Event

I will be attending the Southwick Public Library's first Local Author Event on Saturday, June 17th, 2017 in Southwick, MA. I will have my recently OZMA AWARD shortlisted novel Black King Takes White Queen with me at this event. I wrote this fantasy/magical realism/coming of age novel about witches and warlocks for my daughter for her 25th birthday. She's been a Harry Potter fan since elementary school and has written Harry Potter fan fiction with her former college roomie and best friend, Bethany. So, I wanted to give her the next level up from Harry Potter, with a strong female lead character who grows into her role as Queen through the first few books in the series. The novel also is strong on relationships- family and friends- and working through problems that arise. There is also an aspect of social issues such as tolerance, working together for the common good, standing up to evil even when you think you'll fail. It's a modern day new adult/adult novel that is fairly hefty, but there is a lot of groundwork laid in this first novel for future volumes in the series. Black Knight, White Rook, the sequel, is already available in the marketplace, continuing Ivy and Romney's story, and Ivy's growing further into her role as Queen, and Buck's emergence as the black knight who protects and champions her while her husband, the King, struggles to be the leader he is destined to be while raising their toddler son, Ezra, the Black Prince.

I'm thrilled that fellow local authors Judith Sessler and Rhonda Boulette will also be at this event. Rhonda and I met at Articulture2017 this past April and became fast friends. I've been Judith Sessler's beta reader for a few projects that she's developing. She won the sribbled in proof copy of my new story collection butterscotch with her fast response to a spur of the moment facebook giveaway. Happily, she gave me positive feedback ont he book!

Just had an email from Sonia Ellis, another local author who happens to be a neighbor of mine. She's going to apply for a table at the event- hope she gets a spot!

Looking forward to this event which runs from 10:30AM-12:30PM.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Establishing the WhipCity Wordsmiths

It started out as a sleep deprived post on facebook when I jokingly posted that I was considering starting a writer's group of my own and asked who wanted to be a litwit..

It kind of floored me when five or six people fairly quickly posted that they wanted to join.

In researching the term litwit, I found that it's a registered trademark so that name cannot be used by a group of authors and writers, or anyone else.

So, I'll be creating a blog for WhipCity Wordsmiths that you'll be welcome to visit in the near future. You can read the sketchy basics below...things are still evolving...slowly...very slowly...

Why am I doing this after saying that I would not?

There are a couple of reasons. The primary reason is that I've been asked a dozen times to do this and have been reluctant to agree. However, the fact that I keep getting asked by different people has made me realize that there is still a need for some sort of a writing group in my home town.

The secondary reason is that I have a passion for writing and the written word. I also know that authors/writers are a different breed of people. I've discovered that non-writers have a very difficult time trying to comprehend how someone can pull a story out of their head (much like a stage magician pulls a rabbit out of his hat). Like the rabbit hidden in the hat, the story is already there in the gray matter inside a writer's head. A magician uses misdirection, deception, distraction, and sleight of hat to perform his magic tricks. A writer basically transfers words from their brain to their computer, notebook, journal, or any available scrap of paper that can take ink and creates a story, a poem, a research article, a teleplay, a memoir, a novel...whatever. The magic happens inside the skull where it is entirely INVISIBLE to everyone, except the author who may have visual images or something akin to a movie running through their mind. Making it visible in print- now that is a real trick! It's a trick that amazes me again and again every time I sit down at my laptop and start tapping the keys! (It pretty much astounds my family and friends, too, because whenever I drop a new book in their laps they look at me like I just sawed the cats in half and put them back together, half tuxedo cat, half tabby cat-how did you do that?.) Writing is just a part of me, a part of who I am- it's definitely not a trick or an illusion. It's a talent, a gift, a blessing, a curse, a passion...a natural part of me. It is so not a trick, although when I suffer writer's block I really wish that it was!

Anyway...

I have a busy life. I work full time. I write full time as a hobby. I'm actively involved in another hobby (vintage/antique button collecting). I'm a wife, a mother and I manage my home which is essentially a third full time job. I have a health issue that involves random flare-ups when I'm absolutely miserable and don't feel like doing anything but lying in bed or sitting in a chair impatiently waiting for a remission to kick in. I'm not exactly sure I have the time and energy necessary to devote to this venture, so I'm loosely creating a group that will have to be self-directing, self-supporting (with an overseer or two who'll step up to the plate if I go missing) that will connect people via a blog, a social media page, and a single monthly meeting that will not be attendance mandatory because people have busy lives like I do. What happens at meetings will go up on the blog (I hope) so no one is left out.

This will be a group for authors and writers at all skill levels where they can discuss writing, anything to do with writing, and their projects- and anything else they want to talk about as long as it has to do with writing and it's not offensive to others. It's for all ages, so bear that in mind. I've always encouraged young writers. Writing is important. Reading is important. I believe in mentoring young writers. I believe that practice does make you a better writer. I believe there are born writers because I didn't make a conscious choice to do this, to write. It has always been a part of who I am, however, I can honestly admit that I was not a very good writer when I first started applying pencil to elementary school lined paper. I have grown and evolved as a better writer because I never put my pencil or pen down. I kept writing. I kept reading. I used a dictionary and a thesaurus and learned a lot of words so that my writing would grow and get better- not grow tired and stale.

I believe that a bad day of writing is better than a day of no writing whatsoever.

I support local authors because I am one of those. I read big name authors because I enjoy their writing and the stories they have to tell. I've read good  books and bad books- awesome books and truly terrible books. (Well, I've tried reading truly terrible books...I've never actually made it through one.) Maybe I've even written some truly terrible books- I don't know.

Anyway- I'm working on step one- creating a blog for authors and writers who have a passion for the written word in all its myriad forms- haiku, poetry, prose, essays, themes, flash fiction, blogging, short stories, novelettes, novellas, novels, epics, speeches, plays, teleplays, movie scripts, magazine articles, research articles, textbooks, journal articles, how-to books, marketing materials...whatever you write.

As time allows, I will move on to step two....a social media page. And then step three...an actual group. Like with my writing, sometimes I don't start at the natural beginning, but jump in at the place that I want to start at first, and then I go back and fill in all around that central point.

We'll see what develops.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Paranormal Investigator Novels Coming

Way back in 2003 I began writing a novel about a group of paranormal investigators based at a college in Burlington VT. I never got very far with that, much to Kelly's disappointment as she had been looking forward to reading it. At the time, I had never written a novel and didn't think I had it in me to write a book. I lost confidence in myself and set it all aside in a binder...which she often pulled out to look through wistfully.

In 2011 I wrote a novel using the same characters and titled it The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation. I actually finished that novel. It ticked my daughter off that I 'stole' the characters from The Fairlawn Investigation and wrote a whole novel that wasn't Fairlawn! It took me until 2013 to wrote the first novel, The Fairlawn Investigation. And it has subsequently taken me four additional years to get around to tackling revisions, continuity issues, and general editing and proofreading of Fairlawn to get it ready for publication.

Tonight, I'm going into CreateSpace to order two print proof copies so Kell and I can read through the just revised novel and see what we can catch that may still need to be tweaked. It's crazy how the world has changed in 14 years...and my characters would be 14 years older than they were when I started the novels- so I had to edit out all the dates I wrote into the text so there are no real reference points and they can age gracefully throughout the series of novels.

There are two additional novels started in the series besides the two finished novels. The Persian Garden Theater Investigation links to the first two. The Rose Hall Investigation will also connect up through a reference to the location in the third novel.

Since creating these characters 14 years ago I feel as if I've come to know them very well- they're like old friends.

I'll reveal a secret here- in The Fairlawn Investigation I actually fictionalized two real people I know- my office manager and a coworker. I made them both guest investigators from a ghost hunting  investigation society based in the Berkshires which are just next door to where we all live.It was the first time I transformed real people into fictional characters. I subsequently fictionalized my sweet, elderly button collecting friend Pauline in several stories. She was always thrilled to find herself in a new story!

Another aside here- Kelly liked the idea so much that she borrowed it for her novel Parapsychology which she recently self published. She even borrowed Dr. Beeler from my novels and mentioned him in hers! I might have to give her a nod and borrow her characters in the third novel!

I'm going to go order the proofs and then it's back to proofreading The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation so I can get these two novels out of the milk crate and into reader's hands as they were meant to be!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Next Author Appearance Booked

I will next be at the Southwick Public Library for their Local Author event on June 17, 2017, Saturday, from 10:30AM-12:30PM. I'll have first edition copies of my 2016 OZMA Awards shortlisted fantasy/magical realism novel, Black King Takes White Queen with me. The book retails for $17.99 but I'll be selling them for only $10 apiece during the two hours of this event that day.

I am so happy to add that local author and friend Judith Sessler will also be at this event! She's written some amazing books! (Can you tell I'm a fan of hers?)

If you live in the area stop by to say hello!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Paranormal Investigators Novels

Ages ago, way back when Kelly was probably still in middle school, I began writing a book about a group of paranormal investigators. It never really went anywhere.

Then, when she was in college, maybe junior year (2011/12), she participated in NANOWRIMO in November- National Novel Writing Month. I hadn't ever written a whole novel before and didn't think I had it in me. She and her roommate and best friend, Bethany, participated in 2011 and Kelly told me all about it during Christmas break. She wanted me to try it in November 2012.

So, in March of 2012, I decided to practice writing a novel, just to see if I could do it, before agreeing to participate in the 2012 NANOWRIMO. So, I took the characters from the abandoned paranormal investigators novel and resurrected them and wrote a sequel to the first novel, the one that didn't even exist yet except in a few random chapters that I wasn't going to ever continue writing, and a list of characters, and a location- a haunted house.

I set the second novel at another haunted house that had been turned into a seaside inn on the coast of Maine. I wrote the novel in about 22 days (I work full time, so this was weekday evening and weekend writing). I was pretty happy with the novel. Kelly was furious that I had written a sequel when she had been patiently waiting for the FIRST novel in what was now a series.

I didn't write it that November. I wrote Talon:An Intimate Familiarity in 2012. Again my daughter blasted me for not writing the first novel in the paranormal series. Sigh.

I wrote that novel 2013. In November 2013, I rewrote it as my NANOWRIMO novel- finally delivering the long awaited novel into her hands. She has subsequently picked it apart...so it's been sitting in a milk crate in a binder for three and a half years. I actually hired a graphics artist in 2015 who did the cover for me using one of my favorite houses locally. It's a great cover, but it's sitting in the binder because we never could make contact with the homeowner for permission to use the photo. The house has been broken up into college apartments but isn't owned by the college.

Well- to make a long story short- I have a werewolf novel that I've promised her now...but today's project turned out to be getting the FIRST paranormal investigators novel into some sort of professional looking format with a little clean-up done prior to creating a proof copy because it needs a major read through, some overhauling and a little TLC- but the whole story is there. I haven't looked at it in years- but the bits and pieces I read while working with it this afternoon and evening weren't bad.  It's definitely an earlier work when I still didn't think writing novels was my thing. (I've since been convinced otherwise and have 15 novels written to date (11 self published so far). Considering that I had ZERO novels written at the beginning of 2012 I've made some unexpected progress.

So, werewolf novel is on the side burner while I get this novel finished. It's long overdue. And so is its sequel, which I actually like better than the first one, but that's just my personal preference. There is a third one in the series started, and possibly a fourth one is lurking in the dining room somewhere- I believe I saw it when cleaning the other day.

So-what I might do is create the first two in the series this year and move on to werewolf as promised to Kelly and that will remove two more novels from the holding pattern on the dining room table. One other, the vampire novel, is close to being done. The resort hotel romance novel is about 3/4 done.

Life around here is not written in concrete and stone. It's more flexible and fluid. I didn't expect to be working on this project today, but around 2:30 this afternoon that's what came into my head to accomplish before Kelly's 26th birthday next month. I OWE her this novel from the early 2000's (she was class of 2009 in high school, so I'm thinking I started this in 2003-04?  She's been waiting over a decade...time for Mom to deliver on a promise.

The Ebb & Flow of Creativity

For the past two weeks I've been writing new ghost stories for Ghost Stories LIVE! I ended up writing five short stories for the event, and then digging out three older stories from the file cabinet for a total of 8 potential stories for the event last night, from which I would pick one. I narrowed it down to five that I took with me. I selected one, and then while Russell was reading Mortmain, a classic ghost story, I agonized over my choice because it was an older one, set in an Irish cemetery in October. I debated all the while Russell was reading. Then he announced that I would be reading a new ghost story and introduced me.

On the way from the front window where I'd been sitting during his reading to the rear of the story by the tree in the children's area where I'd left a pile of stories, and where Kelly was sitting on a toadstool awaiting her cue to read her story, I changed my mind and decided to go with the first of the five stories I'd written for the event- the one that had caused me all the anxiety due to the main character being trapped in a mine (I have terrible claustrophobia)- and just suck it up.

So I read The Mother Lode- and it was well-received. I made it through reading it aloud without having an anxiety attack (yeah!).

Kelly read her story, then Kathy Palmer told a true story.

Next Ghost Stories LIVE! will be Ghost Stories 'round the Camp Fire in July.  I'm already thinking about possible stories to write for this event, and I'm sure there are some classic campfire ghost stories to resurrect for this event!

I've also been thinking about the clock maker story- I want to start with the ending first and then go back to the beginning with this one, but that might not work as well as I'm hoping it would. All the while I've been writing the ghost stories, I've also been thinking about this new novel and how I want it to read...when normally, I just jump into a novel and just write off the top of my head. I don't know where this idea that I need to plot and plan has come from. I've never written that way. Maybe it's from listening to other writers and their struggles to plot and layout a novel. I don't really know.

I'm actually at a place where I am not feeling very creative. This occasionally happens. It's sort of like a circadian rhythm this ebb and flow of creativity. I just went through a burst of writing five stories, one a mere three hours before the event started...and today I feel no spark- like the battery is dead. I know it's not...random thoughts are floating around in my brain, but nothing is coalescing, coming together.

From here it looks like a long climb back up the ladder to the thought bubbles high overhead, but in reality all it takes is buoyancy of mind, no actual effort to climb. I'll bounce back. I always have. It could just be exhaustion after doing so much since the beginning of the year- a dormant period. A time of rest and renewal.

I think most writers go through these cycles of productivity and then a sense of standing at the edge of a desert- almost overwhelmed by having to take that first step into the hot sand and cross that barren expanse to the next oasis of creativity- not really sure where it lies...the desert full of mirages like false promises.

I'm not quite ready to take the first step on a new journey, but I feel fairly confident that I'm mentally collecting the supplies I need to venture forth...today, I'm just kicking back and relaxing.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, Vlume 1 Giveaway ENDS at Midnight

Tomorrow is the next edition of Ghost Stories LIVE! during which I'll be reading a brand new ghost story written exclusively for the vent and never read before to anyone. I have 6-7 stories prepared, but will grab the one I'll be reading just before I dash out the door tomorrow evening.

Meanwhile, the Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, Volume I giveaway ends on goodreads at midnight tonight! I am going to try to get the signed first edition copies into the mail on Saturday morning. My best friend who just moved to Florida was just reading her advance reader copy on the beach in St. Pete's the other day. A copy of butterscotch-a collection of stories when zipping off to her on Wednesday morning.

Tomorrow, copies of Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, Volume I and 13 will be available at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA 01085. If unable to attend, a copy can be ordered by calling the story at 413-579-5383. Jessica will also have a few copies of the new story collection, butterscotch. I've been hearing back on various stories from advance readers, and so far so good. Several stories may leave the reader with a difference of opinion, but that's what good writing is all about-the stories are fairly open ended so anything could happen in the future- anything at all.

Third Proof of OUT has Arrived

My lengthiest book project ever has just reached a new milestone. The third revision proof copy arrived today. It's not that the book is any great length- it's average in that respect, but I want to story be flow right, and this book is set up differently in that there are past and present sequences and each chapter has a unique beginning piece. There are also many characters with bit parts, but each one if vital and necessary to the story to move it forward. I have to make sure of continuity and that the right characters are being advanced, or are following their ARCs.s properly. This is something I've never paid too much attention to in the past because the story flowed from chapter to chapter.

This book is different.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cast Iron Casket at Collinsville Axe Factory

A friend just visited the Collinsville Axe Factory, which is now a museum, I believe she said, with historic artifacts and such. The Collinsville Axe Factory is in Canton, CT (the Collinsville Antiques Center, another awesome destination is in New Hartford, CT).

The reason she mentioned it to me was that I'd sent her an email with a link to Edith Howard Cook, a toddler from the mid-1800's who was discovered well-preserved in her small cast iron casket with glassine windows under the floor of a garage during a home renovation in San Francisco California last year. She was recently identified. Another friend (Gayle) had just sent me the link and told me there was a ghost story to be written based on this discovery.

Well, I wrote the ghost story using the discovery of a small cast iron casket with a preserved toddler visible inside a few days later and titled it Betsy. In the story the casket is discovered by three children, buried under the dirt floor in the cellar of their Victorian era home. I wrote about this ghost story to Betty...and she wrote back about having seen an adult-sized cast iron casket at the museum, complete with window in it! I predict a road trip in the near future!

There are always odd little coincidences occurring in my life.


Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories Giveaway Ends at Midnight May 19th

There are still a couple of days to enter the goodreads giveaway for a signed first edition of the new release, Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, Volume I.

I've been working on a ghost story for Ghost Stories LIVE! which is going to be on May 20th at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA. Daughter and author Kelly Buffum will be making her first appearance as a recurring cast member. She's written a 427 word flash fiction ghost story for the event. Meanwhile, I've written four ghost stories but still don't feel that I've written the one I want to read aloud at the event. Two are way to long, one is sad, and the other gives me an anxiety attack so I probably should NOT read that one aloud (if I ever personally read it at all ever again!)

Anyway- don't miss out on the opportunity to win a signed first edition of Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, Volume I on goodreads!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mom Gets A Werewolf For Mother's Day

I was recently inspired to write a new novel when I was driving through downtown and saw the mechanical clock tower open for the first time in the several years it's stood there. It only opens at specific hours for a brief time. It happened to be high noon, so there it was.

I had an idea for a new novel in my head by the time I got home less than 15 mintes later. I started writing it that night, got four pages into it but stopped because typing was giving me motion sickness. I was having a problem with vertigo at the time.

My vertigo has cleared up. The other night I trashed the original four pages, and began anew, finishing the first two chapters in one evening. Meanwhile, I like to have something visual nearby to keep me inspired. I had gone on Amazon.com and seen a plush werewolf toy, but he was large and on the expensive side, so I just printed a picture of him and resigned him to my wish list.

This morning I came into the kitchen to find a lumpy white mailer bag with a greeting card attached waiting for me on the kitchen counter. A Mother's Day card and gift from Kelly. The card would have been enough- it brought tears to my eyes. However, when I opened the mailer bag- there inside a clear plastic bag, curled up in a fetal position for shipping (kind of symbolic for it being Mother's Day) was the werewolf! He's huge (almost two feet long)! He has felt fangs and leatherette claws. He's made by Scared Stuffless (I guess they call him Wolfgang Puck, but he certainly doesn't look like a chef to me!) I have christened him Julian Roth Beresford, but he prefers to be called J. Roth, or just J or Roth, your choice. Only one person can call him Julian.

I didn't expect to get a werewolf for Mother's Day, but he is a totally appropriate gift for this Mom from her writer daughter!

Happy Mother's Day to all Moms!!!!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Ghost Story The Mother Lode


The Mother Lode bu Susan Buffum



I woke with a start, having the feeling that someone had just passed close to where my sleeping bag was laid out near some low lying brush. The echo of the sharp crack of a branch breaking still rang in my subconscious mind as I turned my head, looking for the source of the disturbance that had awakened me. About five feet away was the dark elongated shape of my cousin James, and just beyond him, barely visible, the same sort of loosely lumpy shape of his wife Jennifer. Both of them seemed to still be sound asleep.

I could see very little beyond them, the campfire having died down long ago to a rosy glow of embers amid the ash. We were in the shadow of the cliff under which gold miners had dug a shaft around 1853. This had been someone’s claim back then, and it had most likely been worked by other prospectors and gold seekers into the early nineteen hundreds before being abandoned, the thrill of the hunt for gold nuggets having dissipated by then.

James and Jennifer had discovered this site while hiking in the rugged Nevada hills last summer. They had persuaded me to join them for a little treasure seeking, something I hadn’t been much interested in, but I was interested in the old mine shaft, my having a deep passion for abandoned places, ghost towns, derelict houses and barns, tumbling down, dilapidated structures. I was putting together a book about such places, so thought an old mining shaft would be a great addition to the book.

My cousin had had me down in the shaft with a small pick axe yesterday, chipping away at stubborn solid rock. He’d purchased headlamps from some spelunker’s catalog online, the LED lamp blindingly bright in the confined space. I’d retired just after sundown with a screaming headache and an uncomfortable tightness between my shoulder blades, not to mention the scraped knuckles from a close encounter with the flesh resistant rock when my hands had slipped on the shaft of the pick axe, my having removed my work gloves because they were sopping wet with sweat and chaffing painfully.

I let my head drop back down onto the tiny travel pillow that protected the back of my head from the ground. I was not the sort of girl who liked to be without the creature comforts for long. This was the third night we’d been here and I was fairly chomping at the bit for Friday to arrive so we could begin the trudge back to the road off of which he’d parked the SUV. I was more than ready to go home. I’d had enough of this already. But James seemed obsessed with finding at least a tiny nugget of gold. I wasn’t feeling any too hopeful about that. What was not blocked up by rock fall of the shaft seemed pretty unforthcoming with its glittery secrets, if it even held any. It all looked just like boring old rock to me with an occasional glint of mica or quartz.

I stared up at the stars, my nerves still tingling from having been startled awake like that. It had probably been an animal, hopefully not a wolf or a coyote or whatever prowled the hills and cliffs in this Godforsaken place. The only thing I’d found truly amazing about this whole misadventure was the simple fact that the stars actually did appear to twinkle in the heavens. I was a city girl, the closest I’d ever been to the country being the suburbs of New Jersey when visiting James’ parents, my Aunt Patty and Uncle Jim. I hadn’t camped out in their postage stamp-sized backyard. I’d slept on the foldout couch down in the basement rec room, trying to find a position where the metal bars supporting the thin mattress didn’t make me feel as if I was about to be severed into three pieces by a human sized bread slicer.

The stars were amazing!

I was reaching for my camera case, thinking that I’d shoot a dozen or so photos of the various constellations spread out across the midnight blue-deep violet canvas of the night sky, when a disturbance in the pattern made me pause and blink. Some of the stars had vanished as if a huge ink blot had spread to obliterate them. “What the….” I began to say aloud when a rough hand was laid across my mouth, stifling my words. I reacted badly, trying to grab my camera case and swing it, my city born and bred body already coiling in the defensive fight or flight reflexes inbred in those who face the human predators prowling the urban jungle on a daily basis. I’d been mugged one too many times in my relatively brief life.

“You come to steal my gold, young fella?” growled a voice that sounded dry and raspy as the ground I was lying on. “Who sent ya? Who ya workin’ for?” I shook my head. He had it all wrong. I wasn’t working for anyone. I wasn’t after any gold! “Tell me, or I’ll slit yer throat faster than you can blink an eye!”

“I’m a photographer,” I replied, my voice muffled, my words garbled by his hand still across my mouth.

“What’s that?”

The pressure eased up but he didn’t remove his hand. “I’m a photographer. I’m here taking pictures of the mine.”

“Who sent ya? You work for the newspaper?”

“No. I’m freelance.”

“Yer what?”

“I work independently. I don’t work for a newspaper.”

His hand moved away. “Yer a female!” he cried, sounding almost horrified.

“Yes. I am.” I watched as he rose to his feet and backed away. I thought he’d trip over my cousin and his wife but he kept backing up as I scrambled to free myself from my sleeping bag, feeling too vulnerable trapped in that sack like thing. I got myself up, shoving my feet into my hiking boots even though I didn’t have socks on. “Who are you? Do you own this property now? Are you going to throw us off for trespassing? Can’t you just let us stay and we’ll leave as soon as the sun goes up? When we can see the trail and make it safely back down to where the…”

“Who’s this we?” he demanded warily.

“My cousin James and his wife are right th…” I began to raise my arm to point toward where James and Jennifer were cocooned in their sleeping bags but my arm froze. There was nothing there, only the shadowy shape of the man. “Oh, my God, how can this be?” I wondered, my mind buzzing with confusion and wriggling in my skull as the worms of fear began rising to the surface of my consciousness.

“Ain’t nobody here but me and you,” he said. Goose bumps rose like a rash all over my body, up the back of my neck and around my scalp making my skin feel like it had shrunk and become too tight. “Ya want to take some pictures, girl? I’ll show ya my mine, but ya have to promise me you’ll never tell a soul how to find this place. I’ll show ya the biggest mother lode of gold you’ve ever laid eyes on, I will.” He nodded toward the dark lump of my camera bag lying near my feet. “That yer camera? Looks small.”

“It is small.”

“Had my picture taken once. Nearly blinded me it did with that big bright flash!”

“It’ll be bright but there’ll be no noise. It’s a new camera.”

“New? Well, I ain’t seen one since. Where do ya put the plates in that itty bitty little thing?” he asked as I lifted my digital camera from the bag. “What the devil is that?”

“It’s a camera. Trust me.”

He shrugged and turned away, shambling toward the entrance to the shaft. I clomped behind him in my unlaced boots, feeling kind of foolish in pink cotton shorts and a lime green tank top. “Ya don’t want to put nothin’ else on over them skivvies?” he asked. “I got some beans I can heat up. Ya look more ‘n half starved,” he muttered. “No meat on yer bones. Scrawny l’il filly.” He shook his head and then spat on the ground.

I looked down at the glistening glob and shook my head. I could smell the tobacco on him. Tobacco, sweat, and the fact that he hadn’t seen soap and water in happy union in a tub of water in quite a while.

He paused to light a crude torch, a rag of some sort knotted around the end of a gnarly bit of wood about fifteen inches in length. I heard the scratch of a match against rock, got a whiff of sulfur and wrinkled my nose because it was sharp enough to sting. The rag bloomed into a fiery flower atop the branch it was tied to. And I got my first look at the old miner as he turned his head, his face still half in shadow as he sort of leered at me over his shoulder. His face was a creased and shriveled as beef jerky, his bulging eye catching the torchlight. I caught a glimpse of a dark patch over his far eye. His lower face was lost in a snarl of salt and pepper whiskers sorely in need of a barber’s attention. His lips were thick and moist with tobacco spittle. “You afraid of the dark, l’il girl?” he asked, and I realized he was missing quite a few teeth. That was what was giving him the lisp and lack of elocution evident in his speech.

“No,” I lied. I was terrified of the dark, if truth be told. My co-op in the city was never truly dark due to all the ambient light from the street below and all the apartments where night owls roosted.

“C’mon. Yer gonna love this.” He turned and disappeared through the entrance to the mine. I hesitated, caught off guard by the fact that the timbers framing the entry were intact, not sere and brittle, slanted in defeat like the shoulders of a weary athlete leaving the field after a long and discouraging game.

Shaking my head, I flicked the switch to turn on my camera and shot a quick picture. From further in the mine where I could see the flickering torchlight against the rock I heard him muttering about heat lightning. I wondered what he’d say about the brightness of the flash in the confines of the mine shaft, if there was really anything for me to take a picture of, that is.

I carefully made my way through what I thought would be a minefield of fallen rock, but the shaft entrance was almost pristine. I frowned. Had he been working at clearing this up while the three of us had been sleeping soundly? I paused to glance back over my shoulder, but it was too dark to see anything behind me. I wasn’t sure how I’d become so disoriented that I hadn’t been able to see James or Jennifer, but reassured myself that I was only a scream away if this weird old timer did anything alarming. I was willing to play along with him. His brain was probably half baked from the desert sun. He seemed harmless enough, just delusional somewhat, if he thought there was gold in this disappointing rock cut.

I caught up to him and followed him, a little more apprehensive as he led me further into the shaft. I kept looking back over my shoulder, certain that James and I hadn’t come this far in before meeting a wall of tumbled rock that had blocked our path. I was trying to find the divots I had pecked into the rock with the pickaxe but had missed them, evidently.

“Lookee here, sister,” he said. I had nearly run into him because he had abruptly stopped and I had been looking over my shoulder. “You see it? A streak o’ gold as wide as your forearm!” He was tapping an area with his dirty forefinger while holding the torch closer to the rock with his other hand. He turned his head and looked at me, me now being on the eye patch side of him. “Go on,” he urged. “Take your picture. Ain’t nobody gonna believe you seen this if you don’t get a picture of it. But, I warned you, and I’ll warn you again, you can’t tell a livin’ soul where you seen this mother lode.”

“I won’t tell a soul,” I promised. I really couldn’t see anything. There was a shiny place but the torch was flickering wildly in some sort of draft I couldn’t feel. I raised the camera, aiming at the place he was pointing to and shot several pictures in rapid succession, earning a cussing out from the old timer. He’d dropped the torch to cover both his eyes, even though the left one was already covered by the patch. The torch went out, the rag having been nearly consumed already. This left us in pitch blackness, although I was seeing purple spots dancing in front of my eyes, even though one eye had been to the viewfinder of my 35mm digital camera and the other had been squeezed shut against the bright flashes. The light had still penetrated my eyelid enough to cause this purple spot phenomenon.

“You got an implement of the devil’s own design!” he cried as he shoved me against the rough rock wall of the shaft and pushed past me, his boots thudding as he retreated.

“It’s a digital camera!” I called after him. “It’s technology!”

“Stay away from me!” he cried, his voice sounding more distant.

I hit the review button and squinted at the brightness of the photographs I’d shot in the utter darkness of the mine shaft. But then my eyes widened as I made out the vein of glinting gold he had pointed out. “No way!” I muttered. “That’s not there!”

I spun around, disoriented in the dark before thinking to shoot the camera to create flashes of light to help me see. I held the camera out at arm’s length and slowly turned in a circle. I did it twice more, my heart beginning to hammer as beads of sweat popped out all over my body. I seemed to be surrounded by rock walls. The crude path ended at tumbled rock walls on either side of me. There were somewhat blurry photos with glints of gold in them. I had been in motion, turning in a circle as I’d shot the pictures. “No, no, no!” I cried. “This can’t be!” I rushed to the tumbled stone wall and began trying to move the rocks away but they were heavy and I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t hear anything but the hammering of my own racing heart in my ears. “Help!” I shouted. “Help! Come back! Get me out of here! Help!” My voice sounded flat and too loud in the confined space. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” I cried, trying to waken myself from the nightmare that I had literally become trapped in. But, I wasn’t really asleep, and I knew it. “Get me out of here!” I screamed again and again until my voice was nothing but a harsh rasp and I dropped to the rock and dirt path, suffocating in the grip of claustrophobia and blind terror, my camera battery almost drained of power.

And I knew. I knew right then and there, that no one would ever see these pictures of the mother lode that the old miner had shown me.


Copyright by Susan Buffum, May 6, 2017