The Shadows Are Revealed

In 2013 my first paranormal mystery, “Blood of the Scarecrow”, was released. Due to circumstances beyond my control, it went out of print a mere six months later. Since then, I have been working on not just finding a new publisher for “…Scarecrow”, but writing and completing two other novels.

Although it’s a stand alone novel, the first of those, “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” also continues a subplot, introduces new characters, keeps a lot of the old ones, and of course, brings us face to face with more dark, murderous, and paranormal nastiness. I like to call it “…Scarecrow”‘s companion book for want of better terminology.

With that, I am pleased to announce that “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” is now AVAILABLE! through Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon Europe, as well as the Create Space eStore. Due to some formatting snags, it’s not yet available on Kindle, but hopefully those are soon remedied. MAY even be remedied as I type this.

BUY “THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF” HERE!

Additionally, that which WAS “Blood Of The Scarecrow” is undergoing edits, rewrites, new content, cover changes, and will be re-released within the next six months under the new title of “Secrets Of The Scarecrow Moon”

Thank you all for your patience and continued support in my efforts to write and share my stories with you.

 

Hope In A Bowl Of Chicken Alfredo

We had company last night, my boyfriend’s Uncle Lloyd and his uncle’s wife, Betty. It was a very casual affair with a simple, homemade meal. Up for discussion were mainly travel adventures and life in the gated senior community they now call home in South Carolina. They were both dismayed that neither of them were able to make the senior citizen’s baseball team. Their attempts to do so were quite comical though.

Of course, considering the crowd, the topic of writing came up. Jim mentioned he’d just finished reading one of my books. I’m very modest about my writing efforts because I guess I just don’t feel my ‘successes’ are worth mentioning. They don’t live up to my expectations of where I’d hoped to be at this point in my life. I’m published, but pfft, I don’t even bring in $200 a year on what I have out there.

The banter turned to things like, “Some people who write never get ANYTHING published,” and “Sometimes luck plays just as big a role as talent.” Betty commented that sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the RIGHT reader, the person who loves your work and knows who’s who and what’s what in the business. I haven’t found that person. Sometimes I wonder if I ever will. When Jim and I last saw his cousin nearly a year ago, he said he wasn’t the best writer in the writing classes he took. To paraphrase part of the conversation, “There were a lot of people in those classes who were far better writers than I am. I, however, was the most persistent [in getting published].”

Persistence, as the saying goes, paid off for Jim’s cousin. I am doing my best to be persistent. I try to have queries out there at all times, always hoping that eventually one will come back with something other than the generic, “We’re sorry, but this isn’t what we’re looking for right now,” rejection form letter. If Queries are the Job Applications of the writing world then I am not finding any gainful employment here. If you’ve ever been desperately looking for a job and either never hear back or go to one interview after another only to be told, “Sorry, you’re not quite what we’re looking for,” you know the feeling well. It sucks, doesn’t it?

You can’t give up though, can you? No, not if you really care about getting a job. You’re driven to keep on filling out the forms, submitting the letters, and tweaking this or that to adjust the resume to fit the job you are applying for. What does it take to land that job? The right person to see it and realize, “Hey, this person’s got some potential. Let’s give him a shot and see.” That’s really all I’m asking for, a chance beyond the erotica.

To add insult to injury, over the past few years I’ve read a number of novels by quite famous female writers and I just shake my head wondering. They were alright, but as modest as I am, I write just as well, if not better, than they do. The plot to one was over the top predictable. Another told me the story instead of showing me. That was even more annoying. A third contained some of the most two-dimensional characters I’ve ever encountered. Yet, there they are, out there, known, loved, embraced, accepted and appreciated for their skills.

A few weeks back I finished writing my ninth novel. I have at least three more in me patiently waiting for their stories to be told. Where will these go? I’m not sure I want to know. If I knew they’d never be shared with anyone but a handful of family and friends, would I make the effort to write them? If I knew they’d bring me millions, would I put more effort into getting them done? Will that elusive Right Reader that Betty mentioned EVER enter my life? Is it any wonder so many writers are slightly insane? How do I up the odds of making it? What about my queries is not getting through to the right person?

The doubts creep in and tear me apart all too often. All the encouraging words sometimes don’t do much to lift the spirits of the jobless man standing in the soup line. He needs the job. He wants the job. He KNOWS he can do that job. His wife, family and friends are encouraging and supportive. They tell him to keep trying. In his mind, he remains an unrecognized and unwanted failure.

That’s the place I am standing now, bowl in hand. I’ve not given up. I’ll persist a while longer. I’ll write. I’ll edit, rewrite and submit again and again. I’ll try and look at Lloyd and Betty’s visit as another nudge in the right direction – that little glimmer of hope offered to me over a honking big serving bowl of Chicken Alfredo with broccoli and sweet red peppers on a hot and humid Tuesday night in July.

You’ve Got Fan Mail

I got some fan mail the other day in the form of a handwritten note that was sent to my mom, who, in turn, forwarded it to me. It’s from a woman who works as a library assistant at the public library in the small town where I grew up. She was also one of my babysitter’s some 40+ years ago.

11 June 2015

Dear J—— & B—,

I just finished reading Pamela’s book, “Blood of the Scarecrow”. It was great and a lot of other library patrons agree. Since we put it on the shelf, it has gone out a lot and got rave reviews. Please tell her how very proud of her I am. And tell her to keep up the good work.

Peace,

Lena S.

Yeah, it chokes me up a little bit. It’s the third piece of “fan mail” I’ve gotten. The first was from my godfather after I’d had a few article published for our local county paper, saying how much he enjoyed the articles and how well written they were. The second was from a distant cousin in regards to the same articles.

These are humbling.

First and foremost, I write because I have to, because I can’t not do it. Second, I write in the deepest hopes that others will read my words and be happily entertained, creepily frightened, and maybe even inspired a little bit. Sharing what I write has not come easy to me. For years I was too self-conscious and deprecating to let others see my stories or poems. If someone found a mistake or typo I took it as deeply personal, instead of them simply pointing out a way to make what I’d done better. Thank God I’ve since gotten over THAT! bit of editing nonsense. Last, I guess I write for the notion of “fame and fortune”. The odds are deeply against me, but I keep playing Submission Lottery and hoping that one of these days another publisher will find me worthy to bear their stamp of approval. Even then, it’s more to make the stories available to all the people who have asked me when the next book is coming out or who have wondered about my current project than the money.

Many people have paid me compliments in the form of Amazon reviews, Facebook posts, emails, or on a more personal level, spoken to me in person to say how much they enjoyed “Blood of the Scarecrow”. I let the compliments pump me up for the next big thing. I need that little charge to realize that what I am doing does matter to others besides myself. It inspires me to plug on with the dream. It makes me realize that I really am blessed as a writer, even if just a tiny bit. Some are never able to finish their novels. Some never get published at all.

I’m always working on it. Even if it looks like I’m staring off into space, chances are my brain is somewhere in the next novel plotting the next scene. Thank you to everyone who has ever complimented or encouraged me with my writing. Thanks to those who have pointed out mistakes to help me improve on my craft. Thank you for being more patient while I try and knock sense into one publisher after another to get that next book out to you. Thank you for being ‘my fans’. You all really mean more to me than words can ever say.

Secret Agent Man.

As some of you may know, I’ve been actively seeking the services of a reputable literary agent since November mainly because of the advice of one Scott Westerfeld of YA fame. Before that, I was sending solely out query letters to publishers. I wasn’t having any luck with the publisher route so, hey, what harm could it do by listening to someone who actually has a clue!? Nada.

Almost immediately, the rejections started coming back. What a big ole ego boost that was, but those recent rejection letters got me to thinking, well, one of them in particular. In the reply was this remark, “It’s just not something I am comfortable representing.” Hm? An odd thing to say when the person in question clearly states they are interested in the horror/thriller genre on their website. It then dawned on me, maybe he was referring to the mention I made of having had some erotica published. It never occurred to me until that moment, but I’m glad it was mentioned.

Erotica, especially the sort I’ve done, is certainly not for everyone. That’s fine. Sci-Fi isn’t for everyone. Horror isn’t for everyone. Fantasy isn’t for everyone. Westerns aren’t for everyone. That’s why there are so many different writing genres to begin with. I don’t go around bragging about the erotica, but it’s part of my history as a writer. It’s where I started to see my dream become reality. Truth be told, it was never my first choice nor something I gave ANY thought to creating until it actually happened. But, I’m not going to hide it from an agent or publisher I think would be suitable for the paranormal thrillers I am far, far more interested in writing and seeing published.

I don’t want to work with an agent who isn’t okay with my past writing history. I’m not asking them to promote it in any way. It’s there. It is what it is. We move on and expand our horizons. Anne Rice did it for God’s sake and what’s good enough for Anne is certainly good enough for me.

So, I thank you, secret agent man (whose privacy I will respect) for the rejection and your comment. Even if you weren’t even talking about the erotica, it did open my eyes about it being included in my query letters. I will continue to include it because I refuse to hide it. I’m not ashamed of it and I certainly don’t want to work with anyone who would want me to keep it hidden.

I sent out another agent query letter yesterday.

Yes, I included a very brief mention of the erotica.

I Blame Holly Hobby

It began with a little blue and white checkered book with a picture of Holly Hobby on the front. It was January 1977 and I had just turned eleven years old the previous December. I have no idea who bought me that diary, I suspect my Nana Jean, but, regardless, whoever it was, they started me down the long road to journaling, and maybe even lit the spark of my dreams of being a writer.

Holly Hobby saw me through a lot that year. Oh, sure, a lot of the pages are blank, but that little 4 X 5 inch book brought me a lot of joy and helped me share with my future by holding on to the past in my sometimes less than legible handwriting. My grandfather died that year. With a newly sharpened pencil in hand, I cried on those pages that night as I would later cry at Papa Milo’s funeral. His very sudden death was the first beloved human one that I knew. I remember hating every minute of that day, sitting at the back of the room with my cousins and brother, looking at the open casket and thinking how the man inside it had only weeks ago been mowing hayfields, smoking from his cherry tobacco-filled pipe, or trying to teach me how to count in Italian. I remember my parents trying to get me to go to the front of that dreaded, horrible room and say ‘Good bye’ and the way I threw a fit, refusing to do so. My long, hot, summer days on Nana and Papa’s farm were over, gone, done, forever.

Good things happened in 1977, too. I’d made a new best friend the previous fall when I started the fourth grade at Nathan T. Hall School in Newark Valley, NY. In fact, I made a couple new friends that year, friends that would not only see me through 1977, but would remain friends through middle school and senior high, all the way to graduation and to this day! And, in the fall of 1977, when we all started Fifth Grade, I was able to get back together with the boyfriend I’d had in Third Grade. All this, and more, as sketchy and poorly written as it may be, is all documented and kept safe by little Holly Hobby to this day.

Holly has a lot of Diary Friends in that big cardboard box, mind you. I’ve saved them all. I’ve kept them intact, neatly together, waiting for someday when my kids will pull the boxes from their hiding place and find out more about their mother than they will probably ever want to really know.

1978, 1979, 1980… one by one documented in long hand. Each year my journal-keeping habit grew more, well, habitual, more detailed, more part of my identity. My parents caught on pretty quick that I was taking this diary thing pretty seriously. For years they would order a journal for me, matching dark brown covers with the year stamped in gold on the spine and front, all in a row. My life was becoming a library all its own. Every night, almost without fail, I’d take up my pen and write down the thoughts and events of the day.

Through those high school years, through my first trip abroad, the first time I made love at a bed and breakfast in Southampton, England in 1985, through falling in love with the man who I would marry in September 1989, the diaries would continue. They would see me through. They would see my laughter and my tears. The details of the births of my son and daughter and the day we all moved to the big house in Spencer in 1995. My handwriting would record it all, the good, the bad, the ugly. The heart soaring and the heart breaking. As I struggled to make my marriage work through any means necessary, to accepting that fateful moment when the divorce papers were signed, sealed and delivered on July 26th 2011.

It’s all there, unedited and directly from the heart, tear stains and all. Not a single lie or imagining, just the truth, my dreams, my disappointments, my fears, my pain, my joy, my love, and my hopes even now for the future. Nothing is hidden for even as much as I can be myself, I think everyone has parts they want to be kept quiet, not so much secret but personal, there are still parts, thoughts, feelings, I like to keep special, almost to a sacred degree.

At some point I realized I was no longer able to write on a nightly basis. I could check, of course, but I’m going to have to guess it was when I entered my early 20s. Life got busy. Working full time, getting married, having kids, and keeping house left me too tired to write every night. I began writing weekly, Sunday nights, to be exact. It was my hour or so of quiet time. This is the time I still write in my journal. I do forget now and then and end up writing a few days later or at most, the following week, but I always do it. I always get my readers caught up on this grand autobiography eventually.

And now, I blog, well, I try to anyway. I don’t think I’m very successful at it. Honestly, I don’t think my day-to-day shenanigans are all that interesting to much of anyone but me or the very few people I may be having said shenanigans with. I read the blogs of others and always wonder, how are they making this seem so interesting and fun, and sometimes downright funny? I consider it a good day when I can manage to be clever on my Facebook update, let alone a Blogsworth of writing. I like that word. Blogsworth. A quick Google reveals I did not just invent it. Oh well.

So, don’t look here for any great revelations about my personal life. It isn’t going to happen. I’ll continue to not only post randomly, but on random topics that likely will have nothing to do with each other beyond the fact I wrote them. Little me, who will always feel that our inner thoughts and feelings, our little chats with the Divine within us, should not be seen or read by the public eye, but instead should be kept like that little Holly Hobby book, quietly, secretly tucked under the mattress of an eleven-year-old girl such as I was, who, even then, dreamed of being a writer.

At least now my handwriting is more legible, most of the time.

Cursive, Hieroglyphics of the Future

Recently there has been a lot of debate over the teaching of cursive handwriting in American schools. Maybe it has something to do with my love, not just of writing, but of history that makes me Pro-Cursive.

Every now and then I sift through the few old letters I have managed to save written by my grandmother’s. I am struck each time with the notion that the person who wrote those words took time out of their busy day to stop, sit down and write to me because I was important in their lives. It made me feel special. Every now and then we read in the news how new, historic documents have surfaced after many long, forgotten years. Quite often these are letters from war veterans to their families and in most cases these snippets of history are written in cursive. As a lover of history, I am filled with dread that one day these documents and their importance will lose all meaning.  Only those that hold degrees in cursive writing will be able to translate the obscure swirls, loops and humps of this cryptic form of writing. So much will be lost then.

What of the documents we already have carefully preserved in museums and library archives? What will become of them? They may be saved for posterity but what of their physical link to our nation’s past? When the vaults are opened and the common man is permitted a glimpse of these relics, will he be able to connect to that document merely by reading it in the very handwriting of the person who so carefully crafted it? What leaves a more lasting impression, reading the Gettysburg Address on a computer screen or standing before the very item knowing its history and reading its words for yourself? Will there be any sense of awe, purpose and pride gained when we have put ourselves at such a distance from those things that matter to our liberties? Or will these documents hold onto our hearts as much as an image in a book of Egyptian hieroglyphics we cannot begin to understand? 

To those school children of the distant future deprived of an understanding of cursive writing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and original Bill of Rights may as well be in cuneiform and will feel just as distant to them as such. For the non-history buffs, imagine being given the opportunity to lay your eyes on the scientific formulas of Newton or Einstein not just in a book or on a cold monitor, but right there in front of you. What a thrill it would be to be permitted to hold the very quill of Archimedes or the ink pen which Beethoven used to write his 9th Symphony and not just look at these items but understand their meaning, to be able to read those special languages of scientific notation, mathematics and music.  Cursive holds that power over me, that love, that connection to those before me.

It is said that those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it. If the generations to come are intentionally allowed to forget a form of written communication, what affect will that have on the collective memory of our nation? How much will be forgotten simply because we were too busy to teach them the simple art of cursive and there is no one around anymore who can read it. Is this a risk we really want to take? I believe it’s not. Whenever that day may come that I am a grandmother, I will take it upon myself to teach my grandchildren and all their friends this craft. Too many people depend exclusively on the typed word, restricting their research and experience base to that leaves out so much of the world.

There are those that will argue cursive is out-dated, old-fashioned and simply too slow a method of communication. To which I reply, “What’s the rush?” We humans have rushed ourselves far too long. We seem to think we must constantly be ten steps ahead of the next guy and that somehow we are superior because our technology is more advanced than someone else’s. Sure, we can wipe out life on this planet in the blink of an eye if so inclined. That hardly makes us better, just more dangerous and maybe just a little bit more insane than the other living things we share this earth with. Faster is not always better.

I think we need to slow down, not speed up. We need to communicate better not faster. How about instead of stopping to smell the roses, we let ourselves stop and get a cup of tea or coffee, a pad of paper and a pen and write something down in the  slow, graceful, easy curves of cursive for the future generations to remember us by.

I’m gonna write on… write on.

I must confess I am at feeling overwhelmed. Maybe this is why my writing has suffered.

The passion to write has not gone away. If anything it has grown stronger and yet I find myself writing less and less despite my spoken and written statements that I will get more of it done. For the current novel I’d set my sights on having it done by the end of August. This doesn’t seem possible to me now. By the end of this month I’d hoped to have the submission papers ready for an agent. Although I’ve made headway on that, getting five of the six requirements done, my feet (fingers?) are dragging on the last one. I’m not sure why. This whole thing means the world to me. Writing is my world, my greatest passion and something I have longed to do but since I was nine.

I want to get ‘That’s What Shadows Are Made Of’ done.

I want to get the agent papers done.

I want to finish with the illustrations for “Bill, The Worm Who Ran Away”.

I want to work on the two ghost stories I have in mind.

I want to get “Speeding Chicken By Road” and “Cecil B. Snail” written down.

And with all this going on in my head, I can’t focus on the Top Two on the list. I gather my materials and I sit down at my desk then all the ‘oomph’ just kinda gets sucked out of me for some reason. It’s frustrating, at times to the point of tears. A perfect example is this very moment where I am blogging about not being able to work on the stuff I should be and blogging instead! Argh! Insanity!

I’m really liking how “…Shadows” is turning out so it’s not like I’ve lost interest in it. I wrote up some outline notes for future chapters. My constant thoughts of “Gotta get it done, gotta get it done…” have paralyzed me at the keyboard for anything beyond what I consider for myself to be fluff. Everyone else seems to have such interesting things to say in their Blogs. Mine feels more like a Blargh. Not sure what goes on in my life that anyone else would really be all that interested in knowing about.

And so.. I am overwhelmed. Everything feels like it’s on a deadline and if I don’t do it now, it won’t get done in time… in time for what? Mortality? Now, there’s a cheerful topic! NOT.