Friday, March 31, 2017

Black King Takes White Queen April 1st

Tomorrow the five finalists and grand prize winner of the OZMA book Award will be announced at CAC17. Black King Takes White Queen made it to the short list, so I'm anxiously waiting to see if it advanced. It's one of my favorite books that I've written because there is a lot of family dynamics involved, plus friendships and family secrets being revealed, all happening around a young woman who has lived a quiet, carefree life until the night her older sister's boyfriend wakens her to come and rescue him after he's been attacked by the demon that has just killed his father, sent to the house by his evil witch, power hungry sister This sets Ivy on a path of self discovery. It seems certain people have known who and what she is right along, but have never spoken of it to her. And now she finds she is a Queen- but being Queen changes her life in ways she never imagined, bringing her both joy and heartache as she follows the path she is destined to blaze into the future at the side of the King who will change their world with her help.

My fingers are crossed.

Black Knight, White Rook continues Ivy's journey as she fights to save her beloved King, herself, their family and friends, but most importantly, their young son from a truly evil wizard, who happens to have married Ivy's older sister.

A third book in the series is in the planning stage.

The Vanishing Titles

The past month has been a blur of activity here at my kitchen table as I've made interior revisions to all my novels to make them look as professional as possible, now that I have more experience as a self-publishing author under my belt. While at it, I've also jazzed up the covers- adding more color, different fonts.

I've also got two new books in the works that I have proof copies of, so have been trying to read those and find where I need to fix them.

So, last night I grabbed Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, Volume I and started paging through it looking for a story called The Little Gray Ghost that my co-worker wants to read very badly as it's set in a cemetery. There are 16 ghost stories in this volume. I didn't find it right away so turned to the table of contents to get the page number...and noticed that there were only 13 stories listed. Three titles had mysteriously vanishing like phantoms into the whiteness of the page! The Little Gray Ghost, Cold Spots, and Prophetic Justice were gone! Not the stories, just the titles!

I paged through the entire book, found the stories and put the titles back into the table of contents, where, hopefully, they will not go missing again! I thought it was kind of a strange thing to have happen in a book full of ghost stories!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Kelly Buffum-Author!

The proof copies of my 25-year old daughter's first self published novella and her self published novel were placed in my hands this evening. I can't begin to describe how utterly proud I am of her, how happy I am that she is an author, too.

When she was born I made a conscious choice to read to her every day. I would hold her and feed her in the middle of the night and show her picture books. We progressed to more intricate picture books, easy readers, and storybooks. I red to her throughout elementary school. I never denied her books. I wrote stories for her and she would take the binders from the cupboard and read them herself when she was older.

I did not park her in front of the television. We did creative things together- art and sometimes just cutting paper into shapes, tying colorful ribbons together. We finger painted, colored, drew, played games. I let her watch Winnie the Pooh videos and Disney movies as treats. I encouraged her to learn to spell.

We made journeys to local bookstores and discovered new stories, new authors. Timeouts were she was sent to her room. When she was awfully quiet I would peek in and find her sitting on the floor in front of her bookcase looking at books. She learned to entertain herself- telling herself the stories she'd heard me read time and again. She learned to read the words and she has never stopped reading.

She developed a love of exploring her world and learning. She had an astonishing vocabulary at three years of age, correctly using words like procession and catastrophe. We still try to choose unusual and different words when speaking to one another- it's a game to see who can come up with the best word of the day- plethora, cacophony, never know. We have to think fast because we're conversing. Sometimes we crack one another up, sometimes we just shake our heads at one another.

I raised a young woman who can think for herself, who does not passively expect others to feed her information that she can regurgitate while thinking she sounds smart. She really is smart. She practices what she's learned and has a sense of accomplishment that's missing in many of her peers. (There is an emptiness in people her age that leads to anxiety. I see so many people her age on antianxiety and antidepressant medications- it's heartbreaking! They don't know what to do with themselves because people have always done everything for them and not allowed them to develop the skills they need to be productive on their own.) Her life does not revolve around make-up, clothes, her phone, reality TV- it revolves around producing something from her own imagination that is entertaining and interesting. She was not raised to be a self-centered little princess. She is her own unique, intelligent, talented self, not a cookie-cutter girl trying to fit into a mold.

I made a conscious choice to give my daughter the freedom to be who she is and the tools to accomplish that goal. Tonight, I have at my elbow her first novella, and her first novel in book form, and they are both amazing books from a talented young lady with a vivid imagination not formed by TV and social media. I allowed her the freedom to think outside those confining little boxes.

Teleport and Parapsychology are the products of that off the beaten path choice I made over a quarter of a century ago to raise a child free of the influences of television and social media.

I'm stepping down off my soapbox now- and am going to go give my author daughter, Kelly, another hug (she's busy sitting across from me working on something new at the moment!)

(I should give a nod to my own Mom here- she gave us the freedom to develop and grow, and never discouraged my sister, my brother, or me from being creative. I give her a nod tonight and a thank you for allowing me to be me so I could allow my own daughter to be her own self when the time came for me to be a Mom. I know she's smiling down at her granddaughter tonight.)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Interior Revisions and Cover Updates

Today I spent most of the day doing interior revisions for The Subtlety of Light and Shadow, Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales Volume II and Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume III. Started doing The Archetypes-First Generation this evening, Kelly whipped through The Archetypes-Shockwaves for me after dinner tonight.

By interior revisions I mean I am cleaning up spacing issues, margin issues, justifying the text, removing excessive hyphenated words (the ones formerly at the end of sentences that popped up after justifying the text, removing hyperlinks, and finally making the chapter headers larger, making them bold, and lowering them a minimum of 1/3 down the page so chapters are easier to find. In the case of the books with collections of stories the individual stories are easier to find.

I am taking the advice of a Writer's Digest Self Published Book judge from last year, and a reader of Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume I on goodreads who won a free copy who mentioned the same thing about the stories being a little difficult to find, although she enjoyed them! (Yea!)

The Subtlety of Light and Shadow was just revised and had a face lift a few weeks ago, but I did not justify the text. Kelly taught me how to do that when she was preparing her two novels for self publication. So I pulled that and My Magical Life which also had had a recent revision of text and facelift. They now both have better covers. My Magical Life's second cover looked more like a self-help book than it did a fantasy novel. Now it's looking more like what it is! The Subtlety of Light and Shadow had gotten a bright pink background on the cover to match the paint being blended on the paintbrush on the palette on the cover. Today I changed the font color on the cover to yellow to match the blotch of paint in the lower left corner of the cover on the palette. It looks more like the romance novel that it is now.

Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume I will retain it's red background cover and black font colors. Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume II had the most boring cover of the three volumes. I notched it up by changing the pumpkin orange to fuchsia purple and the font color to orange, giving it a more Halloween-y appearance. The gate on the cover is not the fanciest or most eye catching but the new color makes the book stand out more. Then I tackled Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume III just before dinner. Got all the interior work done and then played with color combinations to rid it of it's too orange and black look, which really wasn't that exciting in the whole scheme of things. It now has a new midnight blue cover with orange text.

Quite a bit of work has been accomplished in the past week and a half with the interior changes to make the chapters stand out more and the new cover colors. Black King Takes White Queen is finished. Black Knight, White Rook will be approved tonight it all looks good. I went back to the Kelly green for Black Knight. White Rook, retaining the ivory font to distinguish it from Black King Takes White Queen which has a moss green cover and black font.

After the two Archetypes novels are done Kelly and I will work on the four Talon novels. I need to go back and justify the text in Life Skills which also had a recent interior revision and a change of font color on the cover. Might as well get them all polished up and as professional looking as I can possibly make them- they are a reflection of my work and who I am as an author, after all. I don't like sloppy!

Basically- I had no clue what I was doing when I first started self-publishing. I've learned a lot in less than 22 months. Time to put my best foot forward in the world of self publishing!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Busy Prepping Books for Contest Entry

The deadline for the Writer's Digest Self Published Book Contest is approaching. I am now in panic mode as I have some work to do on the interiors of the two books I want to submit this year. I did good last year- had nice remarks about the novels storylines and the writing, but some critique about the interior text set-up and the stock cover photos. I haven't had time to tinker with uploading my own pictures, but have been working on making the interior layout more professional looking.

This year I will send them The Subtlety of Light and Shadow, and Black King Takes White Queen.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories Coming Soon!

I was feeling rather unproductive this past weekend- felt like I hadn't been accomplishing anything.

Poking around on the kitchen table I found a list of 16 ghost stories I've written. Several of them appear in various Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales books, but a number of them were written exclusively for Ghost Story LIVE! events at Blue Umbrella Books, and one was a Christmas story with a ghost from two years ago that hasn't yet been published anywhere (it will go in a future Christmas stories volume when I have enough new holiday stories written.)

So last night about 7:30PM I plugged in the USB and pulled out the various stories. Then using a copy of 13 which had a couple of the stories in it already, I revamped the file removing non-ghost stories and pugging in new ghost stories and the other ghost stories scavenged from Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales (which really don't have many ghost stories in them).

By 11:30PM last night I had put the finishing touches on this brand spanking new Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, Volume I and tonight it's ready for me to order a proof copy. Not bad for four hours of arduous labor at the kitchen table. By arduous I mean I had spacing issues because some of the stories were older when I really didn't have a clue what I was doing in Word. I designed a suitably eerie cover with black as the background and purple font, and a picture that looks like the inside of a haunted room.

By the time I crawled into bed last night I felt more satisfied with myself- I had a new book in the works!

Since it's exclusively ghost stories it's official launch date won't be until this coming fall, closer to Halloween- but whoever reads this blog will be able to sneak onto Amazon and buy it well in advance! I'll just post something along the lines of "It's available!" once the final proofreading and edits are done and the book gets my final approval.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Word Casino

I went to an author event yesterday for Jacqueline Lynch's new book Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain:70 Years of Summer Theater on Mt. Tom. The theater at Mt. Tom was originally simply called Casino. Later the name was changed to the Mt. Tom Playhouse.

During the course of the book discussion the question was asked why was the theater called Casino when there was no gambling done there, only plays put on. We didn't have an answer, so when I got home I asked Google and discovered this- The word Casino is Italian and dates back a long time to when cottages and small villas were called casinos. Over time the word casino evolved to mean a place of entertainment- such as billiards, bowling, musical events, dancing, and theatrical productions. In the mid-1800's during the Victorian Era the word Casino was used as a rather exotic sounding name for theaters. In the late 1800's many theaters were called Casino- hence when the then open air theater at Mt. Tom was opened in July 1895 and then later enclosed it was called Casino.

Nowadays, we only think of casinos as places lined with slot machines and filled with games of chance.

You learn something new every day-even if you need to put a little research effort into it!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Amazon, Are You Serious???

Tonight when I got home from work I went to the den to look to see if I had an author friend's story attached to one of his emails he'd sent me late last year- only to remember that I had actually purchased the book at the bookstore, therefore he never sent me the book as an attachment file.

While poking in my email I discovered one sent today from I had been looking at ghost stories in the recent past, among many other things on Amazon, so they had a book recommendation for me. I laughed out loud when I saw that they were recommending one of my own books to me- 13 (a volume of ghost and supernatural stories I just self published this past January!)

Really! I'm still shaking my head about that one.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


As of last night I was the only local author signed up for this event here in Westfield.
     Last year was the very first Articulture event which brought together local musicians, singers, bands, local oil and acrylic artists, talented local photographers and local authors for one day long event to celebrate the arts and culture in this small city at the gateway to the Berkshires.
     This will be the second such event and is currently in the planning and organizational phaser, sailing along toward the April 22nd, 2017 event date. Plenty of musical talent has signed up, and many artists and photographers are returning. What's lacking is the local writing talent.
     I got home from the meeting last night and immediately reached out to a few authors in my circle of writer friends. I have a few more in mind, but no contact info, so will have to put a bug in the local indie bookstore owner's ear. She's always hosting local authors at the store for events, so she should know how to contact them!
     I'm excited about this year's event. Last year I kind of squeaked in with the authors. I had only been self-publishing for about nine months at the time, but had a bunch of books in print from a flurry of activity trying to put as much into print as I could to clear up space in my dining room. I'm better at self publishing now, and have a book that has been shortlisted for a book award. I've grown as an author, have adjusted to being a more public figure. I'm more comfortable with who and what I am so should be more relaxed this year!
    I also enjoyed being able to walk around and look at all the fabulous art and photography on display, and to meet all the artists and photographers. We could also hear the live music upstairs throughout the entire day! It was great to meet so many members of the community. I had worked downtown for 13-14 years and met a lot of people then so there were some familiar faces passing through. There will probably be many more this year!
     Just over a month to event date!!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Meeting Local Authors/Companion Animals

Yesterday I ran down to Blue Umbrella Books to meet local (Enfield, CT) author Shawn Flynn whose book The Kitty: Who Rescued Me After I Rescued Him was added to my local authors bookshelf a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed the book, his account of moving to a new home where a marmalade cat with big green eyes greeted him and soon became his companion through thick and thin.

It's long been known in the medical and psychology fields that companion animals are quite powerful in their ability to help heal and manage emotional, psychological, and even physical injuries and wounds. Nursing homes have been bringing in cats and dogs as therapy animals for some time now. How does it work? An animal is far less complicated than a human being. Animals do not carry with them all the emotional baggage we human beings do. They love unconditionally. They are affectionate and outgoing, quiet, soothing, undemanding. They listen without judgment or overlaying their own experiences and opinions on top of what you may be suffering. They keep their mouths shut and just offer a very simple type of love that reaches deep into the human heart and psyche and asks for nothing in return. We all need that kind of good medicine in our hectic, crazy, self-centered lives where our brains have been trained to argue and disagree with our fellow human beings because we are always right and everyone else is wrong. We're too quick to give harsh or snappy responses. We have lost the ability to keep out mouths shut and think things through, to look at something from another person's point of view. We inflict psychological and emotional wounds upon one another with careless abandon.

Dogs, cats, birds, snakes, hamsters, fish, horses- whatever our companion animal, reptile, amphibian, avian companion may be- there is no backtalk, no coarse or reckless remarks, no verbal barbs or assaults. There is quiet listening only.

I enjoyed The Kitty because I work as a medical secretary and often write the letters requesting permission for patients to keep a companion animal in their apartment when pets are not normally allowed. I have researched the topic and have a saved copy of a letter in regards to companion/therapy/emotional support animals in my computer that just needs to have a patient's name and type of companion animal added to it.

I do, quite passionately, believe in the ability of companion animals having the ability to make life better. Any pet owner would also agree. A pet brings great comfort in times of emotional upheaval, personal tragedy, times of anxiety and during illness and injury. I recently injured my shoulder and Revere was a great comfort to me. I was not comfortable lying down, sitting in a chair...basically in a lot of pain with no respite from it as I am limited due to multiple allergies as for pain relievers I can take and anti-inflammatories I can use. Revere laid down beside me and purred when I was in bed trying hard to find a comfortable position for my left arm that I could not even move, which also caused me a tremendous amount of anxiety since nothing like that had ever happened to me before- the near total loss of function of a limb. When I was sitting in the recliner he sat on my lap and tried several times to lie across my injured shoulder but I couldn't tolerate his weight on that joint where the injury was located.

During yesterday's presentation Shawn Flynn read from a list of things a cat's purr can heal- and one of them is physical injury. The purr is both soothing, plus the vibrations produced when a cat purrs can cause the physical body to jumpstart the healing process. It promotes  healing- therefore, my cat was trying to heal my injury, not just lying across my chest trying to soothe me.

If you have a bookstore in your city and town that hosts author events I strongly urge you to take an hour or so of your time and go to listen to the author's presentation. An author of fiction writes out of their own imagination most times, but many topics are drawn from real life and the author often has some insight into things that may be enlightening. An author who writes about real life experiences that have changed their lives may have something to say that would be of interest to you. Shawn Flynn has a life changing experience to share, but he's also done the research on companion animals and shares that knowledge with the audience and readers. Those of us in attendance yesterday were able to validate our own experiences with the companion animals in our own lives, where they were past or present.

The other asset to meeting local authors is that you are supporting their work, and supporting your local bookstores/businesses, something that helps your community instead of further lining the pockets of the big box stores and online merchants where you are just a credit card number. You gain a personal experience by connecting to a real person. As an author, I know from experience that meeting people in the community often opens new doors and windows in my imagination and in the whole scheme of life in general. Writer's are like therapists, they enjoy listening to your stories because it gives them the ability to make their fictional characters speak more realistically.

Therefore, please excuse me now, I am going to go give Riley Beans and Revere a cuddle before we go house hunting with Kelly this afternoon. Did the household shopping this morning so my shoulder is a little aggravated...maybe I'll encourage my lighter weight Beans to lie across that shoulder for some healing time!

In the meantime, check out Shawn Flynn's book, The Kitty: Who Rescued Me After I Rescued Him. It's available to order from Blue Umbrella Books in Westfield, MA (413-579-5383) and on I'm sure it's also available at bookclub bookstore and more in Broadbrook CT as well, unfortunately I do not have their new address or their telephone number, but that can be found easily enough with an internet search. Shawn also sells his books at events that help raise money for local animal shelters, donating a part of the proceeds to whatever shelter/ homeless pet project that is hosting the event. Please help support these shelters and homeless pet projects who are often overwhelmed with unwanted kittens, cats, dogs, or animals whose owners have passed away or can no longer care for them. Adopt a companion and live a happier, healthier life for it!

Revised Thinking

Since finishing getting Out ready for self publishing I have bought and looked through the Writer's Digest Short Stories & Novel Writer's 2017 Market book-and I've found a publisher that ONLY deals with vampire novels that do not exploit the genre but treat it intelligently and accordingly. Well...I may hold off on self publishing Out and give them a whack at it. I've been told often enough I'm a terrific main issues are I do not trust agents and I am not very good at self promotion as I have always lived my life quietly (probably not a lifestyle conducive to making a name for myself by any means, but I've also had to earn my own living because I have an expensive hobby my husband had no interest in supporting).

So, I will hold off on putting Out out there in the marketplace until I submit it to this publisher and see what happens with it.

Meanwhile, I've moved on to project number 2 from the dining room table- Rookdale, another witch novel, this one set on the coast of Maine in a small seacoast village dealing with an old feud, righting ancient wrongs. Have been reading what's written of it so far. Some revisions needed but overall it's good and shouldn't take me forever to polish it up and finish writing it.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Out will be out soon

My twelfth novel, Out, was created last night in the laboratory of my kitchen via the magic that is CreateSpace, my go-to platform for self publishing.

I wrote this novel more than a year ago, probably toward the end of 2015 but it got set aside in the chaotic months after my husband's job was eliminated in one of MassMutual ridiculous reorganizations. It's been kicking around in the dining room since March 2016 and was one of five projects awaiting my attention at the beginning of this year.

I injured my shoulder at work on February 28th and pretty much developed a frozen left shoulder. I couldn't move my left arm and had way too much pain to write, or pretty much do anything but sit in my chair, and even that was uncomfortable. So, to distract myself, I chose the blue binder and read the novel within it, and made all the fine tuning marks to the text and a few word choice changes while unable to do anything else.

 This was Sunday evening through Tuesday evening. I started Physical Therapy on Wednesday. On Wednesday evening and Thursday morning I completed all the punctuation corrections and word changes to the text. By 8PM last night I had created my new novel using CreateSpace. This is my 12th novel, but my 24th book using this platform. I'm overcalled pleased with it.

Novel is going through their review process at this time. Tonight or tomorrow morning I should be able to view an online digital proof copy. I will most likely order a print copy proof and reread it before approving it for sale in the retail market.

I'm shooting for the book to be available before the end of this month.. It is a vampire novel with a unique twist- part romance, part social commentary, and a little bit horror which is a genre I do not normally write.

One project down, four more remain on the dining room table to tackle at future dates!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Rediscovering my Vampire Novel

Back before my husband's job was ruthlessly eliminated at MassMutual just over a year ago I had been talking to Archway about self publishing with one of their programs. All that fell to the wayside when our major source of income vanished and we had to live on my salary alone as a medical secretary, which is about 1/5 of what he was earning, if not less.

I was thinking about this book and finally located it on the dining room table, one of the five novels awaiting attention. Have been reading it today. It's been maybe a year and a quarter since it was written so I am amazed at how much I am liking it. It's more of a romance novel than a horror novel although some horrific things occur. It also has a somewhat unique concept for a vampire novel, one I don't think has been written before.

Now I'm on the fence whether or not to go ahead and self publish this one like I have all the others...although it still doesn't have a final title.

Sigh...I need a project and this one leap out of the pile at me.

We'll see what happens.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Replacement Arms

So, last night we were kicking around ideas for replacement arms for my injured left upper extremity. Kelly suggested a peg arm so I could go around snarling, "Arrgh!" like a pirate. Her father said no, that would be like giving me a billy club and free reign to bash heads. It was then suggested I get one with a blade so I could still cut my meat at dinner, although it would be backwards from what I am used to. Kelly suggested a hook. I fear I would be snagging things on a hook, so suggested pincers with a ridged rubberized grip (no butterpincers for me!) John next suggested a multi-tool attachment with a pot scrubber brush, plunger attachment, feather duster attachment, and an assortment of screwdrivers and Allen wrenches, plus the usual things you'd find on a high end Swiss Army knife. I then said, why don't I just go full out Edward Scissorhands?

Dead silence fell upon the kitchen.

Then there were two very quiet, "No," responses.

Chickens. I bet I could keep the cats and shrubbery groomed, open parcels in a jiff, and cut up old towels for rags while watching TV to keep myself busy.

Still they shook their heads.

Instead, I will call up and make an appointment to begin physical therapy so as to get the full use of my left arm back- ho hum! My family is so boring!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sidelined by Injury

Unfortunately, I hurt my left shoulder at work on Tuesday, February 28th. I have seen the doctor twice since then, went for x-rays this morning, and meet with the doctor again this afternoon. Due to my inability to take NSAIDS or tolerate steroids or opioids, I am basically out of commission. No writing because I cannot sit kills my shoulder to do pretty much everything.

I will be having Physical Therapy, probably beginning Monday.

I'm not a happy girl...but the cats are keeping me company, although I don't think they understand why I'm home.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My Idol- Shirley Jackson

I just received my copy of Ruth Franklin's new biography of my favorite author, the woman who is my idol- Shirley Jackson A Haunted Life.

I knew nothing about Shirley Jackson until high school when we read The Lottery in an English class. Next is was a segment of Life Among the Savages titled Charles. These two selections from the myriad novels and short stories written by Jackson highlighted the dual nature of this amazing author. She could take the ordinary, the mundane and turn it into something truly terrifying, unsettling and spooky. Her fictionalized domestic life was always filled with humor and insights about being a parent raising four boisterous children.

After high school I didn't read anymore Jackson until I met a young woman who lives in New Mexico. She and I became ardent pen pals when I was selling off a huge chunk of my teddy bear collection that numbered over 400 teddies after the birth of our daughter, Kelly, in 1991. I just didn't have enough room in the house for a baby, a cat, and all those teddy bears.

Darcy bought some bears and we began writing back and forth. In one of her letters she mentioned that she liked Emily Dickinson, a local poet who had lived in nearby Amherst. In another letter she mentioned that she'd always been a huge fan of Shirley Jackson's and wished she'd kept her Jackson library intact. I began scouring ebay and slowly found the novels and books she was missing and bought them for her for her birthday and Christmas. In rebuilding her library, I rediscovered Jackson and built my own Shirley Jackson (SJ) library. I tracked down old biographies and bought the new ones. I bought new story collections her family released.

One of my first short stories was titled Such Pretty Eyes and emulates Jackson's talent for taking something ordinary and making it deeply unsettling. In my story, as yet unpublished, a young housewife in the fifties lives a fairly quiet and ordinary life, doing routine things such as keeping house, taking the bus downtown to shop and occasionally have lunch. She's a pretty young lady with extraordinary eyes that people often comment upon. She is married to a man who more or less takes her for granted. He's rather self absorbed and a career man, bringing his work home with him from the office. He never compliments her, never notices when she wears a new hat. His impassive neglect of her emotional needs begins to eat away like an acid at her mental health- and one day she stabs him to death.

My mother read the story and hated it! She demanded to know why I'd written it. I told her it was my first attempt at writing like Shirley Jackson, her style. Mom, more or less, told me to stop it.

How could I stop what I cannot control- my muse is vociferous, verbose, and has the ability to tap into a deep well from which he (my muse is male) draws forth all these amazing stories.

Here's a true story- my Mom was dying in the year 2000. I had "known" since childhood that I would lose her in the year 2000. The awareness of this haunted me as I grew up. In late September she was in a hospital room by herself. It was a large room without much of a view-mainly rooflines of the hospital's older section and its power plant. She couldn't see the trees changing color. She couldn't see much of anything but gray skies as it was rainy, gloomy weather during this hospitalization. When I went to visit her she was asleep, so I sat down in a side chair facing the side of the bed and began writing in a notebook I'd brought with me. I was busily writing a story about a young woman whose mother had been brought into the ER downstairs, who knew her mother was dying, had made the identical trips multiple times (much like I had). In the waiting room is a huge aquarium full of colorful fish, but there is one flesh-colored fish, larger than the others, drifting about in the tank.(This fish actually existed in that Holyoke Medical Center ER fish tank at that time.) The young woman is waiting to be allowed into the ER to see her mother. The doctor is working on resuscitating her. As she waits, the fish drifts down to the end of the tank near where she is sitting, and begins a telepathic conversation with her. He is a philosophical and omnipotent fish. She is, of course, startled by the fish initiating a conversation with her, but ultimately accepting of the surrealism of it (perhaps it's a manifestation of her own inner thoughts in part). I was writing this story when Mom woke up and asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was writing a new story. "You're always writing," she said. This was the truth. I have always written. My Mom never told me anything I'd written that I'd shared with her was any good. It was, and still is, a wound that pulses within my heart- that she never saw me as the writer that I am. But that story, Tank, had many of the qualities of a Jackson short story. I still can't read it without crying because Mom passed away less than two weeks after I had written it. I'd spent the remainder of that visit with her describing the leaves changing color on the trees, how the wind between the hospital buildings caught the falling leaves and spun them upward toward the curls of gray smoke coming from the power plant's round chimney tower. I created visual images for her to see (she was also legally blind from diabetic retinopathy by then) in her mind. That day was the next to the last solo visit I had with my dying mother.

Since high school I have felt a sort of spiritual connection to Jackson. Her writing spoke to me like no one else's ever had. Sometimes I feel as if I am channeling her when I write. Keen observations, sly humor, strange twists into the unexpected and unnerving.

Not everything I write evokes the voice of my favorite author. I certainly do have my own voice. But sometimes when I read something that I've written I smile because it reminds me of her, of something she might have written had she lived in this day and age.

If you've lost touch with Shirley Jackson since the mandatory reading of The Lottery in school then you might want to search her novels and story collections out in used bookstores, or online and rediscover her voice. She is an American classic...she is my idol.