Saturday, May 28, 2011

Busy weekend!

Besides promoting and finalizing the print version of For Nothing (now available in all your E formats for only $.99) I have familial duties and Memorial Day weekend ahead. Should be a fun and distracting three days.

Once the print version of For Nothing comes out I will be tremendously relieved. It has been quite the hassle. It seems the Print on Demand industry is slightly overpriced but that is what you get for not printing in bulk.

Also, author Allie Burke is releasing the second novel in her series. Emerald Destiny releases Monday. Keep an eye out for that.

Okay, gotta run. The mall awaits and I need new shoes.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Do you believe in Ghosts - The Things That Follow Part VII

The Things That Follow: Part VII

After we opened a gate inadvertently, or pissed off some ornery spirits in a forgotten cemetery, they followed us home.

Say what you want, but kids and animals see things we adults can not or will not. Ever see a baby staring past you? Or a cat staring at the wall for long minutes, and then looking back at you like you're an idiot? Or a dog barking at what you dismiss as the wind?

Deep down you know your cat isn't nuts. You know your child isn't vacant. You know it's not the wind. But the truth, what ever it might be, is less preferable to the bliss of our ignorance. So we make excuses, we forget, we move on, we live.

But not the children.

My cousin Lacy wasn't with us when we discovered the cemetery. She didn't know of our suspicion of 'The Things That Follow', in fact those suspicions were just coming into being when she decided to spend the night.

Still under four feet tall and a bright-eyed eight year old, spending the night at her aunt Dini's house was a big event. No mom, just her cousins, bad movies, too much candy and staying up far too late; it was a right of passage.

We went to bed that night, my brother Rob in my room with me and Lacy in his room, alone. The lights went out, and the steady hum of the ceiling fan rhythmically lulled me to sleep.

I awake.

 I'm not sure why, but the fan is off and Rob is breathing deep in the embrace of sleep. I hear a slight noise from down the hall. I lay there for a moment, knowing what I know about the house. The noises, the lights, the things. I lay there for a long moment. The moment gets longer. I can't tell if I merely cannot move or if I will not.

I hear her quiet sobs.

I want to get out of bed but I can't move. My eyes won't open all the way. My heart rapidly beats in my chest. I try to will myself up. I can hear my heart in my ears now. My limbs are lead. Nothing is responding.

Still the sobs continue.

I think I hear the floor board creak.

The fan is off.

Rob is breathing.

I can't move.

The sobbing continues.

The floorboards creak again. Faster now. I can hear them coming down the hall towards my bedroom. Rob won't wake up and when I try to call to him, my voice comes out in an inaudible moan. Too quiet to hear, to nonsensical to matter.

Something is coming.

The door swings open. I can't see past the dark abyss beyond. The door knocks gently against the wall. I can't see anything but I hear it. Scraping along the wall.

The fan turns on.

I can't breath past the heartbeat filling my lungs.

The light comes on.

Standing in the door way is my brother Chris.

I still can't move.

He shakes me awake and it's like snapping a spell.

I shake my limbs. I look at Rob who is finally rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

"Lacy's going home." Chris said it and his face said he didn't approve.

I look at the clock, it's 1am.
"It's one in the morning."

"I know, Aunt Debbie is picking her up. She says the house scares her." Chris looks at me and we share a moment. All that comes out though is, "Wuss."

Lacy went home that night. Her big moment was ruined by who knows what. I'll never forget her apologetic look as her mother picked her up in the middle of the night. She said from under her mother's arm, "I'm sorry. I just, something, there was something."

But she was the lucky one. I walked up the rickety stairs with Rob in tow. He didn't go back to his room that night. I lay down, wondering if I would ever be able to sleep, and if I did, would I ever be able to wake?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Do You Believe in Ghosts- The Things That Follow: Part VI

Before we get into the story several fast updates.  

I would like to thank all of my new blog followers.  I think something like 25 joined this week and I really appreciate it.  Also, For Nothing is available in all your e-reader formats.  A website for my book will be coming up soon.  But for now you can go to these links to buy it for your Nook, Kindle, or whatever.

Smashwords -if you don't have an e-reader, or if you do and want to buy from the site that gives me the most royalties...

Also, my fan page is up and going, you can click "Like" on the right side of this page in the Facebook window.  

Okay, enough with that crap.

On to ghost stories:

The Things That Follow: Part VI

My brothers and I brought something home with us after an ill-advised trip to a hidden cemetery in the middle of nowhere on a cliff that over looked a rumbling creek.  The tombstones were worn and broken, and apparently, something did not like our excursions there.

My mom had the house blessed after it was apparent things were awry on the home front.  A carpet layered with a thousand yellow jackets and the sounds of a man pacing in your child's bedroom will do that to you if you know you had just vacuumed said carpet and you were staring at the room and could not see anyone making the walking noises. 

She thought she vanquished the spirit, but maybe she just sent him to the loft above the garage, because that was where my brothers and I found a trunk full of satanic poetry.  When we decided to burn the notebooks containing the poetry, it was as if the priest never came.

At first, it was just odd occurrences.  Things that you really could just chalk up to something else.  We began to find dead animals around the house.  Not around the house, at the doorways.  A dead field mouse was at the back door.  A dead bird by the front door.  

"She's a good hunter, Junior is."  My mom said it with the authority that only a mom can muster up.  

"But she only has three legs," I said.

"That makes it even more amazing.   We'll put a bell on her so that way she can't sneak up on anymore birds and mice."

My mother has infinite amounts of wisdom.  Despite the cat's meows of protest, the bell went on her collar.  

But the killings continued.  

Now it was two mice, a chipmunk, a raccoon by the garbage, and another bird in the front lawn.  There is no way my three-legged bell saddled cat was killing raccoons. 

I know what you're thinking.

So what it could be anything.

By itself, I would agree with you.  But along with everything that happened before and after, I find it curious.

Then there is this strange gem, and I have no clue if I mark it down as one part The Things That Follow or one part Something the Fuck Else. In either case it’s worth noting.

One evening five us, seven if you count the two dogs, were watching television.  My three brothers, Dennis, and my mom.  Two dogs.  Equals seven.

I think we watching Up All  Night with Rhonda on USA.  This was a really bad channel that showed such classics as "Attack of the Meat Eating Slugs".  

She was on television doing her normal shtick, "Thanks for watching UP all night with RHONDA, here on USA" or something of that nature. 

That's when it happened.

I thought it was just a light out of the corner of my eye.  You know how sometimes you think you see a light flash, you turn your head and its nothing?  Well this time it wasn't nothing.  At the same moment all five humans turned their head to the left.  

Dennis, who worked in a Chevy factory and is a man's man exclaims, "What the hell is that?"

The dogs both stand up and look in the hallway.

"That's just the orb dear."  My mom says this as if nothing strange was going on.  "They visit sometimes.  I am surprised you haven't seen them before."

We all see this one.  This one right now.   Translucent, two feet in circumference, hovering.   It floats down the hallway and goes out the back door.  I look over and Dennis is holding a tennis racquet.  Five mouths are hanging on the floor.  Two tails are curiously low and it takes the dogs several moments to even work up the courage to issue a low growl.  

Thanks, man's best friend.

It is with this in mind that I eventually go to my bedroom.  My bedroom is down the hall, nearly twenty paces from my little brother's bedroom where the ghost was pacing and sat down on his bed.  My bedroom has two windows, one is at the head of the bed and another is to my left when I lay down.  I work myself up as I lay there and my ears tell me lies about the man shuffling his feet in the bedroom down the hall.  

I doze.

I awake.

Oddly, I feel very light.  I get up off of the bed, but I am light.  So light.  Weightless.  I turn and look at the bed.

I must have pushed up to hard when I got up.  

I am now floating above the bed.  

But wait, I can't be awake.  I see myself sleeping in the bed.  It is definitely me, but it looks, different, somehow.  Less alive.  It doesn't bother me.  I don't know fear.

I look away from my sleeping body and glance out the window to my hovering right, my sleeping left.  I see these wisps.  White, gentle, rolling wisps, streak across the sky and curve around the house.  I follow them with my eyes, or whatever my vision is made of, and can see them streak past the window at my sleeping head.

Hundreds of them swiftly and silently slide past.

I will myself forward, towards the window.  It opens.

I float next to the window, over my sleeping head, and look out.

They look so beautiful.  I want to join them.  And why not, I can fly too.  I can hover for sure, and I bet it's not much different.

I prepare to leap.  I prepare to join these traveling waifs of white vapor.

Just as I am about to will myself forward, into the dark starless night, one of the wisps streaks past the window, but much closer than the others. 

It slows.

I can make out, at the very front, human-like features.  A face.  But just as I start to place the face, it morphs and like smoke, it is something different, then human-like once again. The wisp looks at me.

Now is not your time.  Go back to sleep.  It doesn't move a mouth, but its message enters my brain.  Telepathic?  I suppose.

But I want to fly with you, I protest.

One day, but not today.

I feel the weight of the truth in the statement.  Cowed, I slink back to myself and lay down on top of my body.  I float downward, downward, downward.

My eyes open.  The sun is in my room and it's hot.

What a dream!

I can't wait to tell my brothers and my mom.  I smell bacon drifting up the stairs as I run down them three at a time.

"I had the craziest dream," I yell.

My mom comes over and gives me a piece of bacon and I crunch it in my teeth feeling the grease wet my tongue a moment before I taste it.  As I chew it, my mom brushes my hair away from my eyes.

"My baby.  Good morning.  I had a crazy dream too."

I grab another piece of bacon.  I love it.  I can't help it.  Mouth full, my mom continues.

Her eyes meet mine and all I can see are the deep pools of green set there and my chewing reflection bouncing off the knowing orbs.

"I had a dream that you were about to jump from your window, and I told you, to go back to sleep.  Now's not your time baby.  Now's not your time."

[The Things That Follow Part VII: Thursday]

Friday, May 20, 2011

America's #1 Crime Novel? Nicholas Denmon ?

It has been a whirl wind of a week.  Midnight editing, blogging, twittering, facebooking, formatting, and (when time allowed) writing has kept me from much of a social life.  Social life not internet related.

My novel, For Nothing hit the e-market this weekend.  The Kindle, the Nook, and all other e-readers should be carrying For Nothing.  The e-reader version is priced very cheap at just $0.99 and I figure that is fair for people taking a chance on an unknown product. I have sold close to thirty copies so whoever is buying my novel, thank you. 

I hope it's not my Dad buying one every day. My mom doesn't know how to use a computer so I am safe there until the print version comes out.

 As the readership increases, I will experiment with raising the price to $2.99.  So the point is, jump on the bandwagon now and save a couple bucks.  After all it is the best crime novel in the world.  The best mafia crime novel in the world ever Nicholas Denmon.

As a side note, I have "America's #1 crime novel" in my twitter heading, fan page, etc; and one gentleman (who also writes crime novels) took issue with it.  Here is his quote:

CENCORED May 20 at 12:59pm Report
I think touting your book as "America’s #1 crime novel” is way over the top. Saying it doesn't make it so.

Saying it doesn't make it so, unless it is a matter of opinion.  I gave my Dad a mug for Father's Day once (or was it my brother? Never mind that now) that said, "#1 Dad".  That was #1 in the whole world too, not just America.  I didn't get a letter from some Dad across the way disputing my claim.  Sure there might be a better Dad out there, unlikely but possible.  But it doesn't really matter does it?  I think he is, and I am well within my right to call him, #1.  So it goes with my novel.  I believe it is America's #1 crime novel ever Nicholas Denmon.

I explained to the gentleman that I didn't claim that it was America's #1 bestseller.  I also explained that it was clearly a way to market it and have some fun.  He backed off and now we are Facebook friends.  So it's official.

Suck it.

Moving on....

The print edition is available this weekend.  When I have the link I will post it here, on Facebook, and Twitter, and ...well you get the point.   Starting Saturday or Sunday, I will be getting back to work on my trilogy and outlining the sequel to For Nothing, America's #1 Crime Nicholas Denmon.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Do You Believe in Ghosts- The Things That Follow: Part V

My mother had enough of ghosts about the same time she heard someone walking around my little brother's bedroom. The spirit kept her up all night with its pacing and when she went to clean the room, he rewarded her with thousands of bees on the carpet floor.   Though Dennis, her husband, has tried to explain the Yellow Jackets away by any other means available, my mother was convinced that something weird was going on.

I know now that all of these happenings began after my brothers and me went to a cemetery on the edge of a cliff, in the middle of the woods.  She merely understood that whatever happened was not something she wanted in her house out in the middle of Corn-ville, USA. 

She did what any good Catholic would do (she is a much better Catholic than I am).  She called a priest.

When you call a priest you know what you are going to get.  You are going to get someone over the age of sixty.  You are going to get a house full of incense, some palm crucifixes, and a "blessing" in the house.  If all goes well, you kick out the spirits too.

This guy didn't fit the bill at all.   Father John was a man in his mid thirties.  He had some holy water, and he was armed with a head full of doubt.  Ghosts don't exist, I suppose.  Angels, demons, saints, all good.  Ghosts though, "Eh."  But Father John was dutiful, and he sprinkled some water, went room to room, and said a blessing.  My mom made him do my little brother's room twice.

Then Father John gathered up his robes and left.

And IT was pissed.

We didn't know it was pissed.  So we went to my mom's house like we did every summer.

 Outside of my mother's hundreds-of-years-old house is a detached garage.  It is dilapidated and made of wood and cinder block.  The bottom part is all cinder block, but the top part is a loft that looks almost like the top half of a barn.  In fact a small barn door at the top is accessible by ladder, and this part is made of all wood.  Wood that became a pile of rot after decades of harsh winters.  We were forbidden to go up and into it.

Naturally, my older brother Chris, fearless leader that he is (along with my instigator cousin Joey) convinces us that on this particular day, this is the adventure of a lifetime.

Snake-oil salesman.

So the four of us make our way into this hot, rotted, loft above the garage.  Cobwebs stick to our sweaty faces.  Our breathing comes out in rasps as the sense of adventure creeps into our bones.  I am the third one up and in.  We always seem to do things like this in the order of our births.  Chris climbs in, Joey, then me.  As I poke my head through the door and Rob climbs up the ladder at my feet, I see that part of the floor has rot away, and I can see into the garage.  Chris grabs my hand and pulls me up and says, "Watch out for the hole."


The place hasn't been touched in years.  Dust lines the wooden floor, old leaves have blown through a broken window at the base of the roof.  But next to the window is an old desk.  Next to that desk is a box piled with papers and what from this distance looks like magazines. Someone has lived in this loft.

Forgetting about the bugs and cobweb and dust, we continue forward in single file.  Joey and Chris lead us along a beam, just in case any more floor boards are rotting through.  "I don't need to get in trouble because you guys hurt yourselves," he whispers.

I don't know why people whisper in these types of moments.  We weren't sneaking up on anyone.

Joey pretends to push me through the hole in the floor as we turn to go.  I slam my foot on the ground to brace and he gives a tiny laugh.  "I wouldn't push you."

I punch him in the arm and we continue onward until we reach the desk.  Somehow, at this moment, we turn into experienced pilferers.  The desk drawers slide out, several hands go into the box where we find hand written journals and the first porno magazine I have ever seen.  I pick it up, curious.  "Give me that," Chris says.  "You're too young."

"I've seen those before," I lie.

"No you haven't," Rob whispers.


But very fast, we lose interest in the magazine.   Joey starts to read from the hand written journals out loud. 

The words come out and sear into my brain, "My horned father, give me strength to vanquish those who oppose me.  Bless me with your eternal heat so that the coolness of death can not touch me." 

We stumble on the journals, the rantings and ravings of a Satanic worshiper.  At that age I don't know much about religion other than what Catholic school taught me.  But I know, that this is creepy.

"Let's go,"  I say.  I look at the faces of those gathered around me.  Wrinkling brows and darting eyes greet me. 

For once, Chris doesn't oppose my idea.  "Yeah we better go.  Let's bring this to the fire pit and burn it."

We all agree and Joey and Chris slide the box towards the entrance while Rob and I climb down.

In a mad dash we assemble gasoline, lighters, and the notes from the loft.  We pile them in the fire pit, with at least one glance at the magazine, and douse it all in gas.  The flames jump high and the scent of burning gas meets my nose with a certain satisfaction.

Just as the flames leap into the sky, we hear a crash and yell from inside the house.  We all look at each other, our faces streaked with dirt, soot, and sweat.  But cutting through it all is the unmistakable look of fear.  We run inside. 
There on the floor is Dennis' grandfather clock.  Shattered to bits.  My mom is starring at it.  Her lip trembles.

"What happened," Rob asks.

"Something threw it down."  My mother throws the words out flat and succinct. 

"Could it just fall?"   Chris asks.  We all know better.

That clock stood in that room for more than five years.  Nothing short of an earthquake should have knocked it down.

As the fire burns outside, the four of us help my mom clean up the mess.  We exchange nervous glances the whole time.

I went to bed that night. I was scared because that was the first time I encountered something I believed to be pure evil.  Sure the swinging light was freaky.    But this, this was evil.  I felt it in my bones.

Time would bear witness to the nature of the events as well.

That night, I would have the most curious of dreams.  That summer, was when the dead animals began to appear.

[The Things That Follow Part VI: Monday]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Do You Believe in Ghosts- The Things That Follow: Part IV

Old houses can be lonely.  Imagine a house built hundreds of years ago in a place best known for its corn fields.  Eden, New York was a place that boasted a neighborhood of homes built in the seventeen hundreds.  Many of the homes were purchased by the Historical Preservation Society, and across the street from my mother's home is a legitimate one-room school house painted fire engine red.  It rests on a cliff of evergreens and oaks that wrap around the creek bed and under a one lane bridge.  The creek winds its way along the cliff face and under a small waterfall not more than a hundred yards from a cemetery rediscovered by my brothers and me when were young.

Ever since that day, things have been happening.

Imagine a house, full of laughter in the summers and every other Christmas.  During these times, the house is filled with love and joy, and the things that follow seem to be a distant memory.  But what happens when the kids leave, and it's just you in the house?  Every floor board that settles, every light that begins to flicker, every scream in the night, is amplified while your husband works the 4am factory shift at Chevy. 

So it was for my mother.

She lay in bed that night.  Listening.  Dennis, her husband, left at 2 am as he always did, to make it to work on time at the Chevy plant.  She heard the floorboards moan.  The first time, she thought, she hoped, it was the house settling.  But there is a difference, she noticed, between a settling house and the familiar sounds of a man pacing in her youngest child's bedroom.

Clunk clunk.  

Her thoughts try to reason with her.  Maybe something hit the house. 

Clunk Clunk.

Maybe it's my three-legged cat.

Clunk Clunk Clunk Clunk.

Someone is in the house!

Palms sweaty, she rises from the waterbed.  The swishing betrays her, and anyone inside would have ran for it, realizing the house was occupied.  The cat is sitting on the foot of the bed, ears alert.  She sees something in the bedroom that used to be her master's walk in closet.  My mother looks.  But she can't see anything.  It's dark.  Underneath a crucifix hanging in the room, is a night-light that casts an eerie shadow across the floor.  She is almost afraid to even look, but the waiting is worse.  Her foot trembles as she walks and her knees threaten to give out on her.  She takes an uncertain step.


Her traitor house lends a floorboard to give her away further.  It is warm tonight, but suddenly she can see her breath in the room.  A thermostat hangs on the wall next to the crucifix as well.  It is still eighty degrees in the home with no central heating.  She gathers her courage and in two quick steps she is across the threshold to the bedroom and flicks the light on. The light goes on. She half expected it to flicker, but it didn't.   The noises stopped.

For a moment.

She glances to the bed.  The bed where her youngest child slept.  She washed the covers each summer when the children went away.  Careful, she made the beds to await their return.  Summer after summer, the same ritual. 

Her breath came out in a slow gasp. 

The covers lay strewn across the floor.  The imprint of a body remains on the bed.


She turns back to the doorway, just in time to see the three-legged feline sprint past the door in a hurry. 

Clunk clunk.

The noise is in the far side of the room.

Clunk Clunk.

Closer now.  Fast.

Clunk Clunk.

Fright jumping from her very skin, she turns the light off and runs from the room, down the stairs and into the kitchen.  She turns on the lights downstairs, the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom.  At a little past 2am the house is a beacon of light in the wilderness.   She pours herself a glass of wine.

Clunk Clunk.

She hears it pacing up there.  It paces until dawn, or until she falls asleep from exhaustion.  Which came first, she doesn't know.  What she does know is that Dennis came home to find her sleeping.  She makes him wait.  All six feet of him waits for her while she carries the vacuum up the stairs.

"Whatever it was, I can't have it messing up the room."

She makes the bed.  Dennis watches.

She sprays the dresser with Lysol. 

Dennis watches.  He doesn't believe, but he loves his wife.

She vacuums the floor.

He watches.  He watches as she takes the cord and wraps it around the vacuum.  She wheels it out, turns off the light.

Satisfied, they prepare to leave and watch television downstairs.

"Honey, I forgot the Lysol rag.  Can you get it?"

"Of course," he says.  She watches him leave, but she still feels her skin crawling.  She hurries after him.

She catches up just as he flicks the light in the bedroom.

"Jesus Christ!"  He yells and falls backward out of the room.  She runs up to him and grabs his arm.  She can feel his pulse through his bicep.  Or is it hers through her fingers?

She peers around him and into the room.  Yellow jackets. 

Bees are everywhere.  Thousands upon thousands.  The carpet seems alive with their dying bodies.  One big yellow and black wave of stingers and wings.
Dramatic rendering of bees on my brother's bedroom floor

Evil has many forms.  Sometimes it shows up as a blue-eyed blonde haired boyscout leader.  Sometimes it shows up as a homeless guy with an axe to grind.  Sometimes it shows up as a swinging flickering light.  Sometimes it sits on your bed.  Sometimes, it shows up as a swarm of dying yellow jackets on your carpet floor at five in the afternoon.

That's when you call the priest.

That's when all Hell breaks loose.

[The Things that Follow Part V – Wednesday]

Friday, May 13, 2011

The world's best crime thriller novel

This will be the best crime thriller novel in the Nicholas Denmon.  That is because it's my first crime thriller novel.  But I really like it, and why shouldn't I?  It has everything a crime thriller needs.  Ahem, everything I think a crime thriller needs.  I wrote a story that I thought would be fun and included all the elements I always wished a novel of this type would contain.  I have one review so far, and it got me 5 stars.

Action?  Check!!

Revenge? Check!!

Betrayal? Check!!

Plot Twists? Check!!

The novel will be available starting Saturday, and I am very excited.  That is all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do You Believe in Ghosts- The Things That Follow: Part III

Do You Believe in Ghosts- The Things That Follow: Part III
A brief rehash: We found a cemetery in the summer.  I encountered a swinging light bulb in my basement, that decided to turn itself on and off, in the winter.  Then, there was the next summer…

The next summer a few things happened

Every year, my family liked to come together and visit my mother’s house when my brothers and I were in town.  One of the things we like to do is have a bonfire in the backyard.  In those days, there was an old sour apple tree that hung over the back of the house.  It extended its branches up towards the heavens, reaching skyward and draped over the second story of the vinyl paneled home.  Apples would fall into the grass below and either rot away, or become missiles with which my brothers and I could torment each other.

The fire pit was of our own making.  It was a hole in the yard with some slate rocks my brothers and I had carted up the hillside from the creek down the road.  In preparation we would go out to the surrounding wood and search the forest floor for dry twigs and branches.  We would also raid my mother’s cabinet for the old edition of the phone book.  Then, when no one was looking, we would go to the detached garage and grab the gasoline can, and pretend we were expert fire builders.

Isn’t everyone when they have a can of gasoline?

The festivities began; family members came from all around.  It was a good time.  

Dusk descended, bringing the country stars to a shine above us in the black night sky.  I remember the moon had an ethereal glow to it, not quite a white gold, but not a bright orange you sometimes see in an enlarged moon.   Usually, on nights like this, the clouds make an appearance and cover the moon in wisps of grey shadow that are jealous of her glory. 

Not on this night. 

She was bare for the world to see.  The clouds had left her alone as if she had dropped them to the floor like so many encumbering robes.  Most of our family admired her beauty with a passing glance, for the fire at our feet stole their attention.

As children are wont to do, we began to tell stories around the campfire.  My cousin Joey had a habit of scaring us in such a setting.  He would poke at the fire with a stick or with his foot and regal us with stories of poisoned ivy in the wood around the home.  Poisoned berries were a staple of his as well.  Wearing his black T-Shirts and a grin that instigated us to acts of mischievous nature, he would poke at us the same way he poked the fire.

In an attempt to get him back I said, “Well we found a cemetery.”

And before I knew what was happening, we were walking out into the woods with a set of flashlights. 

Everyone knows that in horror stories the one thing you don’t do is visit cemeteries at night with a pair of inconsistent flashlights, but this wasn’t a movie, it was real life.  Besides we had a pair of adults with us in Aunt Cathy and Uncle Clem.

When we made our way through the dark and along the dirt path that led to the cemetery, we split up and walked along the rows of stone that marked the passageway between the living and the dead.  A cottontail deer bound away as we shone the light on the final resting place of those souls encamped six feet under. 

We were there only a few moments when my Aunt Cathy turned a shade of white paler than the whitest moon. A very levelheaded woman she said,  “We need to leave.  I don’t feel well.”

Uncle Clem led us from the cemetery, and being a stupid young man, I asked over and over, “What is wrong? Are you sick? What is wrong? What is wrong?”

I was shooed away by Uncle Clem a few times.  Until finally, my Aunt Cathy said, “No, I feel nauseous.  I feel as if someone was very angry we were there.  We are not wanted there.”

I stopped asking questions.  My younger brother walked next to me, unsure whether he heard correctly.  My older brother and my cousin just made spooky ghost noises from us as we made the walk home.

After the gathering, we said our good nights and went to bed. 

I woke up the next morning, feeling great.

My younger brother did not.

He woke up with bright red eyes because, well, he hadn’t slept at all.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked.

“I couldn’t sleep.  That’s all” He said.

“Why not?”  I really didn’t care, I just liked finding out what bothered my little brother.  If I could find out, then maybe I could pick on him later.


It wasn’t until sometime later that I found out the truth.  He had been lying there, that night, trying to fall asleep.  The only problem was the pacing going on in his little five-foot by five-foot bedroom that used to be a closet.  He could hear somebody or something walking around his bed.  He thought he made it all up, but he covered his head with a blanket hoping that it would go away.  He hoped he had imagined it, you see.  That is why he was so shocked when he felt it sit down on the foot of his bed.  He felt the bed compress and lower to the ground, while he lay there.  Then he felt it decompress, and the pacing continued.  A few moments later (or was it hours? He couldn’t tell) it happened again.  This went on through the night until just before dawn.

 Dramatic rendering of my brother's bed and room

To this day, he barely talks about it.

Sometimes, when you go to cemeteries, things follow.

Fortunately, after that week, we went back to Florida.  My mom wasn’t so lucky.  These things that were minor occurrences during our summers she lived with year round.

That was when the bees began to show up.

[The Things that Follow Part IV – Monday]

Monday, May 9, 2011

Do You Believe in Ghosts- The Things That Follow: Part II

The Things That Follow: Part II
Every summer and every other winter, my brothers and I would visit our mother’s home in a place called Eden, NY.  It was outside of Buffalo and surrounded by a deep old wood that sloped up and down hills crawling with evergreens.  The brown and faded green corn fields hugged the hills and obscured the hundred year old homes from the one-lane highway that split the landscape.
Hidden in the hills, and along twisting dirt paths, were untold adventures for three boys with a will to explore.  Sometimes, though, when you go looking for adventure you find it.
That summer, the cemetery sent us scurrying home just as dusk fell on the sleepy town.
When we returned the next winter, something was waiting.
Out there, so far from city lights, the eight thousand residents of Eden, New York had become accustomed to their midnight black evenings.   The gray cloud covered sky brought evening in a hurry, and kept the stars at bay.  The trees would whisper at the approach of gloom and shook their branches for extra warmth.  Their leaves rested on the frozen floor beneath feet of pure white snow.
Inside, my mother kept a pelt furnace burning to keep the cold from creeping and crawling through the cracks of the old house.  When the lake wind from the Great Lakes blew through Buffalo, we played inside. 
My older brother had decided it was time to create a playroom in the basement. 
This wasn’t a complete basement with carpet and lighting that was reliable.  No.  It was a dank, dark, musty place.  There was one light bulb that hung in the center of the basement that could only be turned on by pulling a string underneath it.

 Dramatic rendering of my childhood basement
That meant a half dozen paces in pitch black dark.   It meant swinging your hand around, hoping to touch the string, but fearful of…touching something else.  Fearful of turning it on, to see…something else.
When we went down in the basement together, it was bearable.  That was how we found the almost secret compartment that lead to an enclosed room at the back of the basement.  It was really just a plywood and wood-panel enclosure that ran from the ceiling to the floor in the shape of a box.  There was another light inside, when you could find it.
Together, we painted the walls, we cleaned the room out.  We dusted cobwebs, and we put toys in there we loved.  I, for instance, put a Ninja Turtle set down there.  Quite possibly the biggest mistake of my life.
After a full day of playing downstairs, my mother called us up to eat a meal of home cooked lasagna and scalloped potatoes.  We ran up the stairs.  I was the last one up, and I felt my heart racing.  I couldn’t explain why.  Just something didn’t feel right.  I left the light on as I bolted up the stairs, not daring to be the one left behind in the dark.
Dinner came and went.  We speculated about the room downstairs.  Who had built it and why?  Maybe it was to hide from Indians, we thought.  Whatever the reason, we watched some television as a family and after a while, my mom told us it was time for bed.
“Not with out my Ninja Turtles,” I said.  Then remembering where they were, I asked, “Mom, will you wait by the top of the stairs for me?”
She smiled knowingly.  “Of course, I’ll wait while I let the dog out.”
I smiled back.  Mother’s have no fear.
The darkness beckoned to me as I stood the top of the stairs and my mom let the dog outside.  The back door stood next to he basement door.  I could smell the basement usually, but this was the first time I felt it.  Hadn’t I left the light on? I wondered.
Maybe my brother had gone back down and turned it off.  I inched down the first step, my leg trembling.  One foot in front of the other, I made my way into the belly of the beast.  I reached the middle of the room, and waved my hand back and forth.  The string had to be somewhere around here.  But what if it had tangled on top of the light.  That had happened before.  I reached up and felt a fist full of cobwebs.  The sticky strands made my hand recoil, but as I did, I felt the string. 
I closed my eyes and pulled.    
With a click, the light came on, casting an eerie pale orange glow that swung back and forth with the momentum of the string.  Smiling in victory, I shouted up to my mom.
I heard nothing, in reply.
“Mom?” I said again.  I could feel the tremble in my voice.  The stairs waited behind me, but my toys waited in the dark enclosed room ahead.  I hadn’t come this far to be turned away now.  Besides, I was sure my mom waited for me at the top. 
I sprinted forward.  I opened the panel door, and in the dim light provided by the swinging bulb beyond, I found the next light.   I pulled the cord.
 It flickered to life.
I saw my small red case that held my Ninja Turtles and picked it up.  Victory was mine.
And just like that, it was taken away.
The light above began to dim and then surge with light again.  It did this in quick succession, each pulse of light quickened the pulse in my chest.  I ran out from the door as it flickered off completely, the lone light bulb beyond swinging as a beacon to light my way.  I took several hurried steps forward, my toy case clutched to my chest.
Then that light too pulsed with an electrical surge.  I stopped in my tracks.  I wanted to run to the stairs, but not at the cost of crossing the swinging light.  Who knew what was causing the light to glow like that? Shouldn’t the light bulb have stopped its swinging by now?  It swung more fiercely than it had when I first yanked the cord.   I swallowed. My spit felt like a sideways brick, but there was only one way out. 
I ran past the light. 
It grew brighter in protest as I brushed past it, then it went out all together as I fell on the first stair in the dark.  I could hear the light bulb swinging like a tether ball in blackness behind me.  On my knees, I crawled up the stairs one at time and got to the top.
The door was closed.   
The smell of the moldy basement enveloped me and the swinging light called to me below, I reached up and grabbed the door handle.  I shoved the door outward so hard it bounced off of the wall behind it with a resounding CRACK.  A breath of my mother’s smoke filled house hit me like a burst of fresh air.
I slammed the door behind me and gulped the air.  My mother walked back into the house holding our dog, a speckled mutt that had three-inch long legs under the body of a barrel. I shot my mother an accusing stare.
“Sorry baby, he ran off.”  She gave me a wry smile.  She knew her betrayal.
“I hate basements.”  I threw the words at her, hoping they would smack her in the face, but she smiled and I couldn’t be mad.
“Me too, they smell awful.”
And, for a time, I was content to forget what had happened to me in the basement.  Although I never went back down alone, I still accompanied my brothers into that abyss.  It was nearly two weeks later when I heard about what happened to my younger brother.
He was cryptic at first.  But what happened to him, what continued to happen to him, makes my event look like child’s play.  Whatever it was, it was just the beginning.

The Things That Follow: Part III [Wednesday]

Friday, May 6, 2011

Do You Believe In Ghosts?

Recently, a friend of mine asked me if I believe in ghosts. 
Short answer? I don’t know. 
But what I do know is that things have happened.  Things that are not easily dismissed.  Every family has their stories.  Stories of…happenings.  I invite you to share your stories in my comments section.   This is one such event that happened to my brothers and me, enjoy:
It’s a house built in the 1800’s.  You know the type.  It’s made of old wood and mothballs.  The paint used to peel but a remodel of vinyl siding creeps up the two story structure.  The peeling paint can still be seen on the rotting wood frame of the crusted windows.  Either it’s nicotine build up or it’s the remnants of decades of harsh winters and too short summers.  It has a dark dank basement that wafts through the brittle frame of the house with the soft scent of mildew.  The thick gnarled trees that surround the home have been around even longer than the house, and they aren’t happy about their new neighbors.  They lean toward the home from their perch on the hillside, grasping at it in the slow patient way of trees that have nothing but time.
For me, it was home.    My brothers and I used to run around the faded, light-blue, iron, well-covering and marvel at how people used to get their water from hand pumps.  The old house didn’t have city water, but the snow-melt from the town’s long winters were consistant in providing the water neeeded to last through the summer droughts. 
We knew every inch of the wood around my mother’s home.  We used to splash In the creeks and slide down the slate waterfall, ripping our bathing suits and shorts as if it were routine.  We found little overgrown paths through tangles of underbrush and followed them to whatever end awaited.
That was how we found the cemetary.
The resting place was nestled off the main road.  If you were in a car you would never have seen the narrow dirt avenue.  On foot, you could only see it if you were facing just the right direction.  My older brother saw it first, and he took a tentative step towards the dirt path.  Deer were in these woods.  We had seen the tracks.
We followed the trail, the three of us.  My older and younger brothers loved exploring.  The three of us rarely feared to go anywhere, so long as it was together.
The path was much shorter than the twisting and knotted lanes we had charted a thousand times.  A dozen paces took the brown and beaten path through an army of elms that stood sentinel before a wire post fence.  The wood was worn and cracked with rot and time, it leaned forward as if trying to hug the ground in slow motion.
There was no gate, so we walked in.
The cemetary rested on the top of a cliff that overlooked a valley carved by the creek that sliced through the hillside. A hush fell over us as we realized our find. The plot was old, and the headstones were hand chiseled.  The silent stone slabs slunk with a sadness that cried tears of forgetfulness.  They cried for the life that went on beyond their unmoving charges six feet below.  Weather had softened the dates to the point of being illegible.
Occasionally, one survived the elements a bit better than its cousins, and a quiet voice would read out, “1771”.
 A few moments later, “1712”. Respect or awe or a morbid fascination would silence us for a time.
“This one was less than a year old when it died”. 
It died.  There wasn’t even a name.  Just a date. 
We walked the edge of the cliff and looked down into the maw of the ravine below.  Erosion had reached her hand upward and ripped  the side of the hill, pulling a chunk of the graveyard with it.  Tiny stone markers dotted the decline like a handful of speckled teeth that jutted outward in various angles.   We looked down upon the slide of dirt and stone rubble and wondered if the caskets had been exposed in the collapse that shuffled so many tons of dirt and rock.
We dared each other to go out to a lone stone marker that rested at a forty-five degree angle from the cliff face.  A gnarled and bulbous root craddled it with greed.  It warned boys like us to not meddle in the affairs of the dead.  A wind swirled around our bodies, a sudden omen.
No one went.
Dusk fell on us all at once.  The late night air sent a chill up my spine.  It was time to go, we all agreed.
We left that cemetery, back through the narrow trail.  We slipped quietly past the great trees standing guard at the rickety wire fence.  We left the dead behind, to go on living.
We left, but we didn’t know  that someone, something, had come with us.

[MONDAY:  The Things That Follow: Part Two]

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Writing: How do you know you're good enough?

Being a writer is a lot like playing Pin the Tail On the Donkey (PTTOTD).  In the game, you're blind, you spin in a circle, you walk towards where you think the target is and hope you stick the equine on the ass with the pin. 

In writing, you are creating a story (fiction writers), following guidelines as varied as the agents and publishing houses who decide the work's fate, sending out query letters and making pitches based on guidelines that may be outdated or ill suited for a particular agent or publisher.  And as you stamp that envelop or click that send button, you hope you have aimed right and true.

Sure, in PTTOTD you can look under the blindfold just before you're spun into a tornado of darkness.

In writing you can read a "How To" book written by one agent, who has nothing in common with the wants of other agents, and talk to an agent at a writing conference and get advice that is the exact opposite of the previous agent, thus spinning yourself into a dizzy oblivion. 

So the question is, how, with all this white-noise, and agents trying to make a buck off of their "expertise" do you filter out the static and find out whether or not you are good enough.  How do you find out if you have what it takes?  If this particular work has the power to stick?

Do you play by their rules? Even with the emerging E-market and the Nook and the Kindle and Smashwords...and...and...AND!

Their rules.

Their rules are you have to first get through the first line of defense.  The first line being agents.  You write your query letter, send it off, and hope you hit that donkey on the ass.  If and when an agent decides you are good enough to enter the game on their terms,  your agent then has to shop you and your work around to publishers and hope that they too think you are good enough to play the game, on their terms. Line up, spin around, hope, and pin that fucker on the ass!

What other business is run this way?  With such little control?  The owner of the business letting the bank call the shots?  I don't think so.  Sure, in a capital driven endeavor, the bank has some say, and sure, so too does a publishing house.  After all, they foot the initial bill, absorb some risk.  But how much risk is associated with the E-market?  Admittedly, being ignorant of all the ins and outs of what a publishing house can do for an emerging author, I know that the cost to publish online is near to insignificant, and it is mostly profit.  That is how I, a 9-5 employee, can afford to put my book out there on my own.  I paid my own editor, commissioned my own cover art, and wrote the damned novel.

Full cost? Less than a grand.

What business owner in their right mind would rely so heavily on hope?  Writers, you are business owners.  You own your product, you are going to have to do most of the marketing for it anyway.  You take all the risk from inception until hopefully someone appreciates you and what you created.

Is this folly?

I am not sure.  But I can tell you that my father didn't raise a fool.  If I am going to take all of the risk, provide all of the effort, come up with the marketing plan, and come up with the idea, why should I let someone who has the same English degree as me, probably read the same amount of books, understands economics about the same, and who is probably a step late on finding the next emerging market, tell me whether or not I am good enough to play a game in which they make all the rules?

Fuck that donkey.  Fuck his tail.  I don't even think the donkey deserves a tail.  I'm gonna go play chess, where at least I get to create the strategy and have a say in the outcome.  If I wanted to just sit around and hope, I'd play something as ridiculous as "Guess what number I'm thinking of?"  I hate that game too, because the answer is unverifiable.

I hated English class as well.  Not because of the reading and writing, but because your work was subject to the whim and interpretation of the teacher.  Each teacher had a different format from year to year.  You know it's true.  You had to spin the wheel for the first paper nine times out of ten, and when the corrections came back, you adjusted your next paper accordingly.  I can't tell you how many times I got a B or a C on a paper, only to wait after class, and patiently explain to the teacher what I was thinking, and how the remarks were off in their interpretation.  I usually left with A's.

So, how do you know?  How do you know that you're good enough to play by their rules?  How do you know you're good enough to be a writer?

You write.  You say, "fuck your rules."  You pick up the pen, punch the keyboard until your finger tips are raw.  You keep going until your eyes water from the bright light of the computer screen baking them in your dark, little, cat-hair filled office.  You fight with your husband or your wife to find the time to write, and then you write some more.

You send out the query and hope...

But you don't give them all the power.  You keep one foot on the self-publishing pedal.  Get your tires squealing, and get ready to gun the engine.  Give yourself a deadline from which to hear from them and to get your WIP a little greased up for the big show.  You outline that next book as the deadline approaches, and if it comes and goes with out the coach tapping you on the shoulder and saying you get to play, you throw the bat down on the ground and go play your own game.

And know, that all along you were good enough.  You could have won the game if they didn't spin you around and blind fold you.  You could have hit a home-run if the coach just gave you a chance.  You go play your own game and self-publish.

Don't be scared either.  When you go and play your own game, you'll realize that there are a bunch of other bench-warmers who will come and play too.

Sure, the kids who got into the other game might laugh, they might say, "look at the un-cool kids, look at the nerds."  But I'm happy to be a nerd.   You know what else?  When they see all the kids in our game getting a chance to play, when they see us having fun doing it too, and making the rules up as we go, eventually they are gonna look over their shoulders and say, "I wish I had played that game".

And we'll let em.  Because that's what nerds do.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Everything prevented me from writing...even me

This weekend has been nearly a wash as far as writing.  To be sure, I have some more time tonight to hammer out "make up" work, but all things considered it was a tough weekend.  I knew there would be things that would get in the way, but life is full of unanticipated surprises.  Is that redundant?  Can surprises be anticipated?

I guess they could be, but that would defeat the purpose.

Just so you know what I am talking about, I set aside two hours to write last night.  At 9:30, I sat down, turned on my computer, loaded up my WIP, and my outline.  I cracked my knuckles, turned twitter off, went to iTunes, put on some Tom Petty, everything was ready to go....

and then....

My Mac decided to inform me I needed a Microsoft Word update.

Thinking that this shouldn't take long, I agreed to the update.  Only now the update paused at 75% and informed me that Safari, Microsoft Word, iTunes, and my outline program all had to be closed to complete installation.   Then it had to reboot.   Then it paused with 1 minute left for installation for 15 minutes. 

"ARG!"  I said. 

Still moderately determined, if not truly motivated anymore, I rebooted the computer.

I reloaded my programs, cracked my knuckles, and then...

Safari informed me it needed to update.

I could not believe it.  So I updated Safari, which took ten more minutes, and through all of this my 2 hours became one hour.  I wasn't feeling it.  I was mad at the computer...

Things like this happen all the time.  It ruins my flow, and I am convinced it drags my writing process out two to three times longer than it needs to be.

Oh and then my lovely kitties; they do things like this:

I can't even get mad at that though.  (Look at her.  Doesn't she look like she is actually reading?) But they do have an uncanny ability to know just when to complicate things even more. 

Anyone else get these minor inconveniences that just add up and add up to week long extensions of your deadlines?  It really is, well, unreal.

In other news, I took a breather today and caught a Rays game.  I promised a pic of the seats and here it is:

Now I am seriously off to write for a bit.  Game of Thrones, episode three, comes on tonight.  So I have to hit this WIP up before that comes to the front of Distractionville.