Monday, April 14, 2014

Technique: Type vs. Handwrite

My latest book, Conspiracy of Ravens, was the first book I have written longhand. I got the idea from reading a Tweet by Joe Hill. If you don't know Joe, you owe it to yourself to read his books. My favorite is called Horns; rumor has it that Horns will be a movie soon. But I digress...

So Joe Tweeted about these new leather bound journals and awesome pens he had gotten to write in. Then he said he always writes his books longhand. I thought I'd give it a try and WOW! I loved it. 

A friend had given me this journal and I decided to use it because it has a lot of pages. Even though the story is about a serial killer witch and not butterflies...

The long hand writing process was very rewarding because I was able to take the book with me everywhere and not have to lug my computer out every time I had an idea. Also I loved being able to do large chunks of editing when I typed my long hand pages later.

 I decided to do it again with my next book, a zombie apocalypse survival tale. I chose this journal to write it in:

I decided to use the phrase on the journal for the title of the book. It will make sense when you read it, I promise! 

Anyone read any good books lately?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Summer Solstice

Quick news: my book "Dead in the Water" will soon be available from Summer Solstice press. Stay tuned for more details!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"A Conspiracy of Ravens" is officially finished!

I finished it! Yay! There's always that Christmas morning feeling about finishing a book. I'm elated but also a little let down. I know there is still a lot of work to do, because of the nature of the beast. Endless nightmare! But the story is on paper and completed and that feels good. I always worry my books are too short, and I guess they might be, but surprisingly I'm just not as wordy as I suspected. I'm sure there will be room for more, the book is just shy of 50,000 words but I feel like the story makes up for the lack of volume. That's just me.

What will I do now? Well, I might take a little break, a week or so, before I obsess on the next thing. I don't think the voices in my head will let me but that's ok too. I've been missing my circus lately so I think that's Hailey trying to tell me to get it back in gear, that she's ready to keep going. I'm about halfway done with the sequel to Sideshow (called Straw Houses) and plan to have it finished by mid-summer for a publication date in the fall, October. Maybe a Halloween release date, wouldn't that be cool!?

I have several other things going too. Molly Goldfinch wants to find out what really happened to her father. Beethoven is insisting that he was not a monster to his nephew (sure Ludwig, whatever you say). And my dear friends over at the Hearts Compendium are dying to get on with it already. The suspense is killing them. So, you know, lots of writing in my future. Full steam ahead!

How is everyone else spending their Spring Break?

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Conspiracy of Ravens-Excerpt

This new book is going well. Here's an excerpt:

0-The Fool
IT WAS a brightly sunlit day when Catherine Meara, the "Raven Witch Killer," passed through the front doors of the Pennsylvania State Penitentiary. For a few moments, she was able to tilt her head towards its warmth and revel in its light upon her prison-paled skin. I watched her bask in its glory, her stride slow, her arms swinging at her sides. He hair gleamed like living fire, no longer dulled to the color of old blood under the harsh fluorescent lights of captivity.
            The ravens waited for her, seventeen in all, perched atop the old fashioned gates that separated the land of freedom from the realm of the depraved. They watched her approach, obsidian eyes flat in spite of the brightness of the day.
            She saw them, a guard said later. She saw them there, waiting, and smiled.
            One of them cawed, a harsh sound unsuited to sunlight, more closely attuned with shadows and gloom. As if it were a signal--and perhaps it was--the others raised up on clawed feet, beating their wings against the air. The terrible sound of all their feathers straining against the air caused both gate guards to clasp their hands to their ears. I could see them from my post just inside the entrance, though the thick glass protected me from their funeral noise.
            We lost eleven minutes of our lives that day. Time we cannot reclaim, though in light of what we were witness to, in light of what was lost, eleven minutes seems a paltry sum.
            Officially, prisoner number 0116152 died of natural causes, on the day of her release. A tragic but perhaps justified turn of events, one might say.
            I was there from the beginning to the end, from the moment Catherine entered our sphere of knowledge until the time her physical body left us behind. There was nothing natural about the Raven Witch Killer's death, or her life for that matter. We never told anyone the whole story, those of us who bore witness to her tale, those who remain, until now that is.
            They're back, you see. The ravens.
            I can be silent no longer.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oh, Entrelac

Remember my sis-in-law's entrelac scarf in the rainbow colors? I told myself that if I mastered entrelac with that project I would make a Lady Eleanor stole for myself. I bought the book: 

Studied the pattern:

Chose my yarn:

And got started:

Here's where I am now...

Sorry for the awful photos. I have poor lighting in the evenings.

More updates on this project to come.

Several new story ideas swirling around my brain. Work done on the Sideshow sequel and the romance book. See ya later!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Words Are Flowing Today!

I've been working on the asylum book today. Perhaps it's not an original idea; there are several books and movies, after all, with an insane asylum or mental institution theme. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" comes instantly to mind when I think of insane asylums. However, this is different because the stories are based on the experiences of a friend who worked in one of these facilities. We do our mentally ill citizens a great disservice by shutting down facilities that provided them with care. Now, they are incarcerated in prisons where they are less able to get the mental health care and services they need. Granted, these stories I'm telling are from a time when mental health was in its infancy and lobotomies were a common cure for a minor ailment. However, the stories are funny and heartwarming. Well, most of them. All the scary ones are of my own creation out of the dark places in my mind. Hey, if I'm writing it, it's got to be scary. And since it's only based on true events, all of the names, places, and incidents are fictionalized. If you're interested, here is the first chapter:

The Thirty Jesuses (and Other Bedlam Stories)

Chapter One

Every year around Christmas time, the Jesuses would begin to arrive. On Ward E-what we called the Asshole to Hell-at New Mexico State Mental Institution, we'd have about thirty Jesuses by Christmas Eve. I worked there at NMSMI for 27 years as a registered nurse and let me tell you I saw and heard some crazy shit. That's not a word I use lightly.

I was the batty nurse, the patients would call me Crazy Colleen. I always told my staff that the only thing separating them from the patients were their key rings. I was the only nurse who lasted any length of time on E Ward; most of them were afraid of the patients they were charged to care for. I found a sort of beauty in their madnesses, the way they lived in their own worlds and made it work or not work, according to their own designs. Don't get me wrong. They suffered, oh how they suffered. Every one of them was locked away in prisons of the own minds, their rebellions as pathetic as they were lovely in their grand illusions, tragic and flawed. I did what I could to make their lives easier.

The District is what we called the higher ups in hospital administration. At that time, for example, young women could be lobotomized for sneaking out at night, if their parents wished it so, and the District would authorize the surgery. They'd have the poor unfortunate wretch transferred, scared and shaking, to one of the other wards. A doctor would show up with his ice picks and mallets, and a few moments later, Ward E would have a new patient. We were not huge fans of the district on Ward E, let me tell you. The District would hand down notice, often merely hours in advance, that they would be touring the facility with some bleeding heart types. These were the cash cows, the ones whose rich donations salved their consciences for several months before guilt crept back in. They would tour the facility, clucking their tongues, thinking how fortunate they were that such craziness had not touched their lives, yet quick to come up with stories of a mad aunt or uncle way back in the genealogy. To make the patients feel that they had something in common, you see.

I was often in trouble with the swells, because I treated the patients as if they were humans rather than animals, people who needed help rather than inmates. The District didn't dare get rid of me though; E Ward was where they sent the worst of the worst and I was the only one who could handle them and the staff. Plus, I was stubborn, you see. I liked to stick it out.

Disruptions, like the bleeding heart tours, often upset some of the patients and they'd have to be buckled down to beds in the restraint rooms. The District people and their lackeys would despair the poor things, lashed down and foaming with their madnesses, and beseech me to let them free. My response that their presence was to inform them that they were the reason these people were locked down in the first place was met with stony silences and the cold shoulder. I didn't care. I didn't want these people here upsetting my patients and I made no bones about it.

So, back to the Jesuses. As soon as December began, and the snow flakes would swirl on the wind to be swept away by the cold winter desert, I would begin to prepare for the arrival of numerous messiahs.  They would emerge from sandstorms with the lower half of their faces covered, long wild hair and beards matted with debris. They would come stamping and rubbing their arms, cluttering up my receiving area and tracking mud and god knows what else in with them. Without fail, they would each claim, in some form or another that they were Jesus, son of God, and they required asylum from the Philistines who persecuted them. Some of them were very good, quoting Bible verses that supposedly hadn't been written in Jesus' time yet but well versed in the good book anyway.

The day after Christmas, I would gather these Jesuses together in the common room and line them up along the back wall. Then I would drag a couple of my more damaged patients into the room, and demand a healing. The reactions to my prayer were invariably humorous.

"MaryMotherFullofGrace,Hallowedbythyname,thyKingdomcomethywillbedoneAMEN!" one particularly scruffy specimen intoned in a voice that was surprisingly deep and resonant. Other Jesuses followed suit, invoking the Holy Spirit and the Father and the Son-forgetting for the moment that they were supposed to be the Son.

Several Jesuses just grinned sheepishly at me, and slunk away to gather their things. We called these the modern day hoboes. These guys would travel the country, bouncing from institution to institution with a well-worn patter of crazy to see them through. In the winter months, they headed for warm climates like Texas and the South. In summer months, they sought balmy weather like Wyoming and Montana, where the food was good and the people were sparse. But for some reason, rain, sun, snow, or shine, a large population of hobo Jesuses would come to me, knowing I wouldn't kick them out in the cold. They could count on three hots and a cot, and company during lonely holidays. And always, there would be entertainment.

On this day, when the false Jesuses were weeded out and the hobo Jesuses had departed, I turned to my regular patients and thanked them for their help in getting rid of the imposters. See, the truly mentally ill don't like people who play games at being mentally ill. It's like an insult or something. I divided the group into two sections, and placed half of them on the left of the common room, and half on the right. With the help of Vincent, a very large black man with schizophrenia and a penchant for crushing skulls, and Marge, the supposed mobster's moll with the severe OCD and the voice of an angel, we took all the chairs and turned them over so that their legs stuck up in the air and formed a long double line down the center of the room. Positioning my troops on either side of these makeshift barracks, I handed out several bags of marshmallows down the ranks and ordered my soldiers to arm themselves.

Grinning like fools, even the most disturbed and dangerous patients grabbed handfuls of the fluffy white treats. Several troops ate their ammunition but that was ok. Fun was what I was after, to lighten the mood after the false messiahs had turned the day sour.

"ON MY COUNT!" I screamed at the top of my lungs, a little unhinged myself. "ONE...TWO...THREE! FIRE!!!!!!"

They let loose with a volley of marshmallows back and forth across the upturned chairs. Drifts of sugary confections gathered in the legs and crannies of the chairs, and several patients got down on their bellies, crawling commando-style across the floor, to retrieve these fallen treats only to pop back up with several in their mouths and several more to fling at the "enemy" on the other side. Curtis Eldridge, a young man who was there for killing his parents after they'd kept him tied to his bed until the day they forgot, was singing jingles to commercials at the top of his lungs in a surprisingly wonderful alto voice. Vinnie and Marge were feeding each other marshmallows and then spitting them back at each other, using their hands to clap distended cheeks and force the sugary projectiles out at top speed.

I watched with a sense of satisfaction. These damaged people, who came to me broken and unable in many cases to communicate with any "normal" people always seemed to do best when under my care. I loved them all, the crazy bastards, and many years after they came, stayed or went, and even died under my watch, I can still hear them laughing and singing and waltzing around the room, slipping on marshmallows and crawling on the floor like children, without a care in the world or a Jesus in sight.

Monday, January 27, 2014


I read a blog the other day where the author talked about the many changes and events which happened to her the previous year, and any upcoming events she knew were ahead that she was looking forward to. I thought that it was a brilliant idea and a positive way of looking back on what was accomplished rather than what was not. Here are some big things, and small things, that happened last year:

1. Emily turned eighteen and graduated from high school.
2. We moved into my childhood home. It isn't much but it's ours.
3. I finished writing my first book, and then it was published. I wrote a second one and published it too, all in one year.
4. Madyson chopped off all her hair, and I lived through it.
5. Caleb completed his tenth year at his job, a milestone which not many can say they've reached these days.

I dislike making resolutions for a new year because inevitably I have set myself up to fail. I will never be thin, but I can be healthy. I will never be organized, but I can try new ways of keeping one step ahead. And I may never reach some of the goals I've set for myself, but at least it was fun to dream about. In the year ahead, I'm looking forward to:

1. Austin (my stepson) will graduate and turn eighteen, too.
2. I will graduate from college with my BA in English in June this year. Wow.
3. Caleb will be (hopefully) selected for a leadership position within his career.
4. We might be able to leave the house to Emily and Axel and move to the ocean. At least visiting the ocean a few times this summer would be lovely. Madyson loves the ocean and so do I!
5. Speaking of summer, I will have the summer off this year and can focus on my writing. The second circus book is due out in September/October this year.

What are you looking forward to in the year to come?