Monday, December 1, 2014

THE DEVIL'S GRAVEYARD by TL Parker


Just finished THE DEVIL'S GRAVEYARD by Indie Author TL Parker, it's one of those amazing tales that seamlessly crosses genre lines, keeping readers enthralled until the very end. I really like what another reader, P.S. Winn, wrote in her Goodreads review, "This epic novel feels like it was 400 years in the making." 

What a perfect summation! For those who love history, science fiction, and romance, this truly is the book for you. TL Parker's writing is superb, her characters engaging, and from beginning to end you have no idea what's going to happen next. 


For more info, check out this book trailer I found on her website, THE DEVIL'S GRAVEYARD .

A glowing 5 out of 5 stars 

...and, as always, thanks for reading!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You Don't Like Me Cause I'm White? Really?

I had planned for my next post about my life in the Air Force to be about my first "job," which was during basic training, but it occurred to me this morning that I needed to address one other vital ingredient to this saga, beforehand...

Yup, that's me just before entering the USAF
When I left home on July 14th, 1981, to enter the military, I left a very small rural area called Embreeville, Pennsylvania. I had been bused to the same school district miles away my entire young life. I believe in our high school graduating class we had two black kids that I can recall, one of which I had been friends with since preschool (which was a brief introductory class that students back then attended before first grade.) 

I had been raised in a Christian home and until my father married my stepmother when I was twelve, racial hatred had been an unknown. Until then it had never occurred to me to think of people as white or black or brown or olive or anything else, kids were kids and grownups were grownups and that was as far as it went in my young mind. So, as I arrived in Philadelphia that fateful, humid July day, I walked wham-bam into the biggest eye opener of my entire young life.

The first people around my age that I met were two girls from Philly. The first one, I don't remember her name, after all that was thirty-three years ago, and the other I will never forget as long as I live, funny how that works. I'll refer to her as Airman C., I don't remember her first name, but from the moment we met she took an install dislike to me and I had no idea why, not until two days later...

Shortly after first introductions and a quick walk to breakfast at McDonald's, which for me was a major treat (I did say I was from a very small town, right?), when we got back to the Military Enlistment Processing Station (or MEPS for short) we were joined by two more women, both black, and I was immediately excluded, shunned. 

Now, being excluded wasn't new for me, I had always been the wall flower at school. The quiet loner who stood on the outside looking in, but dammit this was a new start for me and I knew I hadn't done anything to deserve this ostracism, so I really didn't get it... So the next day, which really felt more like a lifetime, as we all sat around our new "home" for the next six weeks in our brand-spanking new, olive-drab uniforms and with our new "mother" so to speak, we received our dorm assignments, a.k.a. "jobs." 

No, I didn't get a cool one like "House Mouse," my bunk mate and new best friend, Meggie Byers,
These aren't actually "my" stairs but as close a pic as I could find.
got that one. No, my job, the one I shared with another girl, was Stairwell Monitor. Oh, just a hint, the military likes to give cool-sounding names to their otherwise mundane, menial assignments, my job was to keep the stairwell that led up to our dorm clean. Definitely not an easy job when you share a dorm with twenty-some other "women," who apparently like to use the stairs A LOT.

Oh, and guess who my partner in that illustrious task was, one of those four girls from Philly, Airman S., and as we started our new "job," together, I found out why the four of them didn't like me. You know that was the first time I was ever called, "whitey," and my new "partner" also made it very clear that cleaning the stairwell was not only beneath her, but that I was on my own. Which was actually fine with me, I'd been cleaning the cement stairs at home for years. 

So as the days progressed I quickly earned a reputation for having "spotless stairs." As for my absentee partner, at first Airman C. blamed me for her friend's unhappiness at having to work with me. But days later when it became clear that I was the only one cleaning the stairs and Airman S. soon found herself on the way home, Airman C. actually stopped sending venomous looks my way. No, we never became friends, but I believe I had earned her respect and that was good enough for me.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

NETHERWORLD by K.N. Lee

Recently finished K.N. Lee's NETHERWORLD, the first book in her Chronicles of Koa series.

The story is about a Korean half-vampire named Koa who works for an angel named Halston. Together, their job is to keep the human population safe from Netherworld vampires. 

The only catch is two-fold, Koa's mother is trapped inside a cat's body and the only one who can release her is an imprisoned Netherworld vampire prince. A prince Halston and Koa must go to Netherworld to rescue and bring back to the human world. 

The opening for the book is an instant hook, the characters entertaining and engaging. Though the writing isn't as smooth as I'd prefer, from start to finish I couldn't stop reading.

NETHERWORLD by K.N. Lee, the first book in her Chronicles of Koa series, a glowing 4 out of 5 stars! 







Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My First Official Day in Organized Chaos

...otherwise known as Air Force BMT (Basic Military Training.) We woke up early, 5 am,  to  the sounds of Reveille, which is surprisingly loud that early in the morning, and then were immediately yelled at. Between that damn, persistent bugle and the even more persistent TIs (Training Instructors) I think I went into shock.

Now, bear in mind, that I had spent most of my teenage years being yelled at. My father and stepmother had the whole yelling-and-making-me-feel-like-dirt-thing down pat. But to have uniformed strangers do it was an entirely different feeling of low, especially at 5 o'clock in the morning.

As I'm writing this, I'm doing my best to remember that first day, which is clear in bits and pieces, but the sequence of events is a lot more fuzzy. As the echo of that bugle continued to radiate inside my ears, my first thoughts were a mixture of, "Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?" and "Get up! Get up! Get up!"

We were immediately ordered to get dressed and come to attention beside our beds. That first day, we were allowed our only leniency in regards to getting out of bed and falling into formation. Instead of what was to be the usual waking up just before Reveille, quickly going to the bathroom and then at the first sound of the bugle, getting dressed and hurrying down the stairs so we could fall into formation before Reveille ended, that first morning we were actually allowed the luxury of going to the bathroom and then straggling downstairs. Mind you, even that day, us newbies to military life were only given mere minutes to use the bathroom and fall in.

Everything about those days was rush, rush, rush. "Hurry up and wait," quickly became a favorite description of life in the military. That was the extend of our lives from day one, we had to hurry into formation, which consisted of us standing in four or five organized rows (dependent upon the size of the flight) and then wait for our next command.

Then, in the still early morning hours, we went to breakfast or "chow." Later that day we would all receive our assignments, one of which was "Chow Runner." To avoid all flights arriving at the "mess hall," (dining hall) at one time, each flight sent their Chow Runner down to be given an assigned time and to stay on schedule, you were only allowed a few minutes to eat. It was all very organized, organized chaos.

When it came our turn, we marched row by row, person by person through the door into the mess hall. If you've ever been to a cafeteria, it's pretty much the same idea, only there's a wall behind you and you immediately pick up a tray, take the plate of food that is given to you, no choices, grab two glasses of water (mandatory) and anything else you want to drink (optional) and then you find a seat with your flight. The mess hall tables are pretty much like any public school cafeteria tables.

The first thing we had to do, before coffee or orange juice, or our first bite of food, was drink the two glasses of water. That was mandatory and that was with every meal. Later, the rumors would fly that there was saltpeter in the water to keep us from getting "horny," but there were A LOT of rumors in "Basic."

After a rushed breakfast that I didn't finish, no wonder I lost six pounds during Basic Training, we were ordered back into formation and then began the busy day of getting our uniforms and supplies, health examinations (blood work), and for the guys, there was the infamous shaving of the heads.

Yes, we did see our "guys" from time to time, sometimes in passing, other times while in group formations. You know you'd think you'd recognize a guy, even without his hair. But, honestly, shave his head, put an olive-drab uniform on him, and stand him in a sea of other guys dressed in olive-drab and he becomes hard to recognize.

But what occurred to me in all this, was that I wasn't the only girl in our group with overactive hormones. And girls do talk, especially in later weeks when we became more like "friends" than strangers, and memories of those first days were easier to laugh at.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Same old, same old...Plot

Here's another blog entry that I relocated from my previous blog:

This morning while reading Jeanne Cavelos' essay, "Innovation in Horror," in the HWA Handbook, ON WRITING HORROR, I was once more moved to record my thoughts in this blog.

I recently read in ON WRITING by Stephen King, that he prefers not to plot. Thanks to his wise words I gave up the tedious and stifling task of attempting to plot my current work and just started doing what I love, writing through the unencumbered guidance of my characters.

While reading Jeanne Cavelos essay, I felt inclined to share another insight, "be innovative as opposed to imitative."

So here I am writing a novel that is my own without being imitative, this is true, yet I feel compelled to take this inspiration up a notch. Why should this story follow the same old humdrum plot lines of evil escapes, guilt-consumed man enters picture, evil runs amok, man encounters and overcomes evil, evil vanquished with potential return?

As I returned to my writing, I felt a sudden freedom to think outside the box. No, I will not alter the beginning of my current work-in-progress, it's not necessary. Yet, I am sure Ms. Cavelos's words will influence my reaction to my characters as they continue to lead me down their story's path.

Isn't that the beauty of creating? ...to feel inspiration's wind in your hair as you explore unknown territory, nothing to hold you back? For me, it's great to know that I am free to follow my own will and do my own thing irregardless of whether it's new or an innovative take on something old.

As always, thanks for reading! I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Monday, October 13, 2014

When Writing.... A Good Rule of Thumb

When writing a story, you are your own best immediate gauge of how good it is. Does it excite you, hold your interest and keep you on edge? Are you emotionally vested, even to the point of potential embarrassment?

If not, you need to either make significant changes or start over. If you don't feel emotionally tied to your own story, your readers won't either.

Here is one of my favorite quotes, one I keep on the wall of my office...and what I try to live by when writing my stories...



Friday, October 10, 2014

Off my Shelf - Brian Keene's CASTAWAYS

Some books immediately grab you and won't let go until you've read the last page. Brian Keene's CASTAWAYS is one such book.

I started reading it yesterday morning while waiting for my husband during his dentist appointment and, I kid you not, I finished the book in one day. (Not a norm for me.) According to Brian Keene's own words, he is a fan of the reality-TV show Survivor and it shows in the writing of this book.

On a personal note, I can't tell you how many times I've wondered while watching Survivor, "What if the location is actually haunted or worse?" Apparently, Mr. Keene had the same thought.

Brian Keene is an amazing writer, his descriptions taunt, his characters real and the pacing of his story so perfect there's no time for breaks. This book literally went with me everywhere yesterday and apparently I raved about it so much that my husband (not a horror enthusiast) started reading it last night.

CASTAWAYS by Brian Keene, definitely a must read for dark-fiction lovers.

A definite 5 stars!!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Getting to Know Your Characters

Another tidbit from a couple years ago that has changed my writing life forever....

In between the required reading in ON WRITING HORROR, I've been studying the various essays by the gifted writers enclosed within its pages. The latest nugget of wisdom came from Tina Jens titled "Such Horrible People." Ms. Jens describes characterization in such a creative and entertaining way that not only have I soaked up her insightful words, but I do believe they have changed the way I write forever.

Within her essay, Tina Jens describes getting to know your characters as well as you would your high school buddies. Their ins, their outs, their quirks, fears, flaws and successes. What makes them tick? Getting to know your characters so well they are sitting there beside you writing your story for you. Your job as a writer is merely a stenographer, they are in control. After all it's their story, right?

Yes, I've read lots of articles on developing characters but never in such a clear, open manner where it is not only practical, but brings the knowledge down from my gray matter to application.Thank you, Tina Jens, for such an intelligent and entertaining essay.

So to put into practice this new-to-me character-creation process, I've interviewed one of my main characters for my current work-in-progress. As it turns out she is nothing like the puppet I created. I got her name, hair color, age and even personality totally wrong. The character that arose from this interview is stronger, more dynamic and a complete improvement over what the puppet-master me had created.

Rather than feeling the pressure of creating this novel purely out of my own tedious, task-oriented agenda, I am excited to see what she and the other main characters will show me as their story unfolds. I have more interviews today. One I am particularly nervous about, my villain. He's a dark, angry creature whose fiery home was recently disturbed. Wish me luck....I'll keep you posted.

Thank you, Tina Jens and the Horror Writers Association...and to you, thanks for reading!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

THE UNINVITED by Sophie Jordan


Imagine your goals, your dreams are just within your grasp and then a scientist you've never met discovers a gene that is common among the most depraved murderers in our nation's prisons and that anyone with this gene has a tendency toward extreme violence. Then, to ensure the safety of all citizens, the government requires everyone to test for this gene...and guess what, you have that gene.


Then the government decides that you and everyone else with that gene must be monitored and controlled. So you are placed on a government watch list and because you're distraught you tell someone, a friend, a coworker, a classmate, someone, about what has happened and soon everyone else knows because the fear of that gene and what the carriers of that gene could do is so great that your friend believes everyone needs to know that you are one of them.

Soon your classmates, your coworkers, even your friends and family are looking at you differently, distancing themselves from you. Your boss tells you not to come back to work, "It's for everyone's safety."

If you own a business, your clients stop coming around and if your raise your voice or lose your temper the government is going to put a mark on you, a tattoo, so that everyone knows your tendency for violence, even if you've never gotten so much as a parking ticket. After all, it's all genetics, right?

The saddest part of this young adult novel by Sophie Jordan is that it could happen. All you have to do is watch the news and watch society. Fear of what could happen or might happen is the ultimate control.

In the novel, THE UNINVITED, no one considers Davy Hamilton's past. How she's been a music prodigy since age three, an honor student and just about one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. All that matters is that suddenly she's been diagnosed as having the "killer" gene and her life is completely changed.

THE UNINVITED is an amazing book, no vampires, no paranormal, none of the usual young-adult fare. This book is just a good old fashioned captivating and compelling read that grabs your interest on page one and holds it until the last page. It reminded me of a cross between Suzanne Collins' THE HUNGER GAMES and George Orwell's 1984.

This book should definitely be on the reading list of every high school. Oh yeah, it's definitely up there with William Golding's LORD OF THE FLIES. It's all about being labeled, how society reacts to that label and how you have a choice between succumbing to their expectations or believing in yourself.

OUTCAST by Cheryl Matthynssens

I recently finished OUTCAST by Cheryl Matthynssens. The heartwarming tale of a half-breed boy, Alador, who is caught between two very different kingdoms. One kingdom reveres dragons and seeks to protect them while the other will do anything to acquire the magical properties of their blood.

From the author's webpage, dragonsgeas.com :

The First of the Series, Outcast introduces the Great Isle set in the world of Vesta.  Two kingdoms interdependent upon one another with vastly different philosophies about dragons and magic vie for survival.  

A young half-breed finds a set of dragon bones and a enormous bloodstone that will change his life forever.  Meet young Alador, the village outcast and follow him to discover what happens when one receives a geas from a dragon.  Nothing will ever be the same!


4 out of 5 stars, but only because of its slow start. Otherwise this is definitely a 5-star book!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Neil Gaiman's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK

Some books make you cry, some books make you laugh and some may even scare you... But if you're lucky, you'll find a book that does all three. Neil Gaiman's dark, children's book THE GRAVEYARD BOOK does all three. 

I started reading it a while back and decided it wasn't my "cup of tea." Tried again and so very glad I did. This is definitely one I will read again and again.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Caffeine-Induced Epiphanies



As caffeine-induced epiphanies 
Spew forth from this fuzzied core,
I am grateful for that one-less-drink 
I did not partake the night before.


Monday, September 22, 2014

The Fear Factor

A revisit to an old blog post from years passed...

As written in last week's post, my fictional viewpoint has changed to more of a focus on horror and dark fantasy. Bless you, Stephen King, for enlightening me with DUMA KEY.


I must confess, there have been other factors that have guided me this way. I have always been afraid. Afraid of things that go bump in the night, shadows on walls and even car grilles from the 1950s and 60s. The ones that come at you in the night with their glowing eyes and evil grins. 


Of course there was numerous other things that scared me, especially after watching a scary movie. There's the one particular movie I remember for my childhood which involved a violent transformation of society by a Satan-like creature. 

I don't remember the name, but do remember one particular scene where people with "disabilities" (eye glasses, wheelchair bound, etc) were being attacked by other more "perfect" people and fire (brimstone?) was everywhere. In the end, or at least at the point where I was scooted off to bed, a red figure with horns rose from the brimstone. I still remember that movie to this day...

Maybe maturity and education have changed my attitude toward  the fear factor. Or maybe it's just that in recent years I'm not so inclined toward a belief in the Bogeyman nor in the age old concept of a man in red tights. And so armed with an open mind and new ideals, I have descended into the nether realm, horror fiction.

After DUMA KEY came King's BAG OF BONES, my first horrific love story, and Anne Rice's INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE. Nicely done, Anne.

I admit a certain fear and anxiety before my next two cutting-my-teeth novels, S.K.'s  'SALEMS LOT and PET SEMETARY. The movies totally freaked me out, couldn't finish them, but the books were another matter altogether. Maybe it's because books can be put down if they too overwhelming? 


No, I don't think that's it. Actually, for me, there's nothing like great writing. I love a good story where the author takes the time to entertain your mind and captivate your senses all at the the same time. 


Movies just can't give you what a book can.

The imagination is by far the most thrilling and provocative instrument the reader and writer possess. I was there in Jerusalem's Lot walking the streets with Ben Mears. I felt the confusion of each witless victim before they succumbed to the vampire, Kurt Barlow.

I have also found that there is a certain literary requirement to writing horror. The writer must not only tell a good scary story, but he or she must also follow the age-old traditions of writing well. Let's face it, if the Stephen Kings, Anne Rices and Dean Koontzs of the world couldn't write worth a crap, no one would read them...or would we? Would you?

The Muse, the Knife and the Football

I love to write
When the words glide smoothly
Like butter off a hot knife,

I love to write
When ideas burst from my psyche
Like a river during a spring thaw,

I love to write
When my muse dictates so
Clearly my fingers can’t keep up,

I love to write
During the quiet hours when I alone am awake
With no one to interrupt my thoughts

But not today...

Today the stories dance around my head,
Mentally, I can see the characters, sense
Their narratives and even hear their dialogue,

But somehow, from point A to point B
Something is lost, 

No, writing today, is like using
A dull knife to cut a football.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Writer's Life - Vulnerability

Our secrets, the ones we hold deep within us, afraid to reveal, those are our biggest stumbling blocks. There is a part of us that so deeply wants to be free of that intense mass of pain and regret. If only a safe, merciful avenue of empathetic exposure were found, our vulnerability would be allowed. To lie naked and exposed before others, friends and strangers, that is the hardest act of bravery one could ever do.

I applaud those who are that brave. Not afraid to allow their writing to reveal their deepest, most earth-shattering revelations. But what about the rest of us? We need that release just as much. We need the knots to become unwound. We need the wound to be open to fresh air. In doing so, we too, can heal.

To these poor souls, I say one word, fiction. If our secrets are too profound. If our memories are too hurtful to ourselves or others, why not write in such a manner that allows us to reveal the pain but not expose our reality?

That is the path other writers have followed and for them it has been most healing. For it allows the pain to be handled in smaller doses and displays our memories at a safe distance rather than up close and personal.

To those who have and will endeavor on both the nonfiction and fictional routes, a warm smile, a big hug and a compassionate as well as empathetic “go in Peace” to you my friends, my fellow writers. I am on that path with you. It can be a dark, scary place. But with the love and comfort of friends, we can get through it and be all the better for it, on the other side.

All the best, always,

Ingrid

Fleeting Bliss

The rain upon the desert falls
Drenching it's sweet moisture
Upon the cacti, tall arms lifted up
Embracing the not-so-gentle drops
As in the distance lightning stabs the
Dark sky while thunder, like a rude
House guest, disrupts this fleeting bliss.

Off My Shelf - THE TURQUOISE MASK by Phyllis Whitney

Like most writers, I am an avid collector of books and like most bibliophiles, I collect faster than I can actually read. Going to a library or book store, especially a second hand one, is like going to a candy store for me. Oh look at that great cover! I must read it! Or, oh look, one of my favorite authors, I MUST buy that!

And this is how I managed to acquire Phyllis A. Whitney's THE TURQUOISE MASK. Ms. Whitney's books were favorites of mine back in my teens. So seeing her books in one of my local hunts proved irresistible and as I unleash my new determination to actually read all of the books on my towering bookshelves, I started with hers.

THE TURQUOISE MASK takes place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a location that proved particularly fascinating to me. I currently live in the neighboring state of Arizona and have long wanted to visit artsy Santa Fe. So, with Ms. Whitney's helps, it was fun and fascinating to learn of its cobbled streets, adobe architecture and Spanish history and within the pages of THE TURQUOISE MASK, I truly felt like I was there.

I love a good mystery, especially one where I can't figure out the ending and the TURQUOISE MASK is one such book. It's only flaw was the romance between the main character, Amanda Austin, and her love interest, Gavin, it seemed a bit forced in the end. But even with this one flaw, it's still a great read.

Giving it four stars and a highly recommend!

Monday, September 8, 2014

They Marched Through My Dream

They marched in a line, through the
Darkness of my dream, their bodies
Engorged as I remembered them, eyes
Wide, frightened, reflecting our betrayal,

To this day I remember her, her loss
I felt so strongly as a child, hearing her
Loud, horrified cries as that man
With his three stubbed fingers,
Forced her onto the bed of his truck,

"No," I had yelled, cried out, she was
My world, my Molly...and she was there
At the head of the line, Molly so big,
So beautiful,

They were all there, Molly, her daughter
Beauty, and Baby, my Becky's mother and some
I hardly remember, ones we hadn't named,
In a long line,
Waiting,

My father, he was gone, but his words,
His history, his indifference remained,
A farm is no place for the soft of heart,
Our food begats our food, the first mistake
Is naming them, the second is loving them,
And the third is sending them to slaughter,

I left the farm right after high school and
Never looked back, the memories, the
Reminders, they still haunt my dreams,
My own private nightmares,
Of a place I can never return to,
And a barn that was both my only haven

And the place of my first, worst nightmare. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

It's all about attitude - ROLL ON!

"I will not succumb," she said,
"I will not give up, nor be defeated,
I am still young and whole and
I have no choice, it is do or die
For me," and with that she unlocked
The wheels of her wheelchair

And rolled on.

Photo thanks to Women's Weekly


I woke up this morning, pretty much in a panic about money, bills, survival...and where my writing life isn't as yet... And then I pushed myself out of bed, "I can do this," I said to myself. "I can do this." ROLL ON!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Poetry - An Ode to a Legend, A Life Well Lived

Another legend has gone away
Too soon, too fast for us to notice
His pain before that moment
When he chose his life to end
Leaving us to mourn with endless
Sorrow his radiance, 
His brilliance,

And now he is gone, but not
Forgotten, for his gifts to us
Remain and his talent will
Forever more be remembered,

For that is all we could ever wish,
The creative among us, 
That our words, our thoughts, 
Our minds consumed with
Music or verse or endless chatter,
We compose and recite and write or
Act, with the hope of leaving 
A lasting impression, 

But to die before our natural time
Causes those left behind to wonder
With sadness and confusion
What might have been done 
To help a man so loved, 
So esteemed, 
So extraordinary, 
From leaving us far too soon,

And so I sit here with my shadows
and thoughts remembering a man
Who once brought me laughter 
And sunshine and smiles and made 
This often too-dark world a happier place
And I think, Yes, that is his lasting 
Impression, his legacy,  

For though he left us too soon, 
His truly was a life well lived, and 
So to you, Mr. Williams, I say, thank you,
For teaching us expressions like, "Carpe Diem,"
"O Captain, My Captain."

Monday, July 21, 2014

That Infamous Hook

Another oldie but goodie revisited...

As a writer, I am forever reading and not just for pleasure. Lately, thanks to my critique partner who happens to be an editor, I've been reminded of the infamous hook and the need for a novel to have one during the first 100 words. So I spent most of yesterday reworking the first page of my current work-in-progress, all in an attempt to add a really good "hook."

Then this morning during one of my breaks - yes, writing magazines make great "break" reading - I was again learning all about hooks and how in the current market, a good hook is even more essential.

"So what is a hook?" Besides being the quintessential villain in the movie of the same name, apparently a good hook is everything in making your story a success. In today's market, with it's over abundance of books all vying for the public's attention, a hook is that very sentence or catch phrase that makes your reader ask, "What happens next?"

Perhaps it's best explained this way. As a reader, it's that phrase that first sparks a flame inside you. It's those words that make you think, I really want to read this story, and without those words, that phrase, you close the book or discard the ebook sample simply because it didn't capture your attention.

Finding that perfect hook is very frustrating for an author. This is the eighth time I've rewritten my first page in hopes of pleasing the reader inside me. If I'm not impressed, my potential readers won't be either.

...and so my own search for that magical, infamous hook continues.

Good luck to us both as we continue our search through seemingly endless revisions in search of that elusive hook. Or as Robin Williams' version of Peter Pan would say, "It's Hook or me this time."

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

PARROTS PROVE DEADLY by Clea Simon

Another great mystery from Clea Simon. This third book in Clea's Pru Marlowe Pet Noir series is her best one yet! 


When I first started reading this novel, I already had a pile of books on my nightstand to read. So I thought I'd take a quick peak at page one and get an idea of what I had to look forward to. 

Big mistake! From page one I was hooked. Pru Marlowe is one of those girls you feel like you've known since high school, a beer-drinking, bad girl with a smart mouth and a lot of chutzpah. But in this story she's met her match in Randolph the equally smart-mouth parrot.

Check out Clea's description of PARROTS PROVE DEADLY on her website, Cleasimon.com :

"Parrots will repeat anything – they don’t talk sense. Or do they? When Pru Marlowe is called in to retrain a foul-mouthed African gray after its owner’s death, the bad-girl animal psychic can’t help hearing the bird’s words as a replay of a murder scene. But the doctor on call scoffs at the idea, and the heirs just want their late mother’s pet to quit cursing. 

"With the only other possible witnesses being an evasive aide, the blind neighbor, and a single-minded service dog, Pru is stuck with what may be a feather-brained theory. Even her crotchety tabby Wallis doesn’t buy it, although she’s more than willing to “interrogate” the big bird, as Pru deals with drugs, jealousy, and a potential rabies outbreak in Parrots Prove Deadly, the third Pru Marlowe pet noir."




Sunday, July 13, 2014

THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty

A book review I wrote a couple years ago.... 




If you are a fan of horror fiction or just a lover of good books from the dark side (aren't they the same thing? :-)) I strongly recommend reading THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty. In my opinion, like all good books, this one far exceeds the movie.

In the book, you get to know Chris MacNeil, the adoring single mother/actress. My heart went out to Chris as she helplessly watched her loving, intelligent daughter become a sullen, angry monster spending all her time in the confines of the basement lashing out verbally when provoked. (Sounds like your typical teenager?)

Chris knew there was something seriously wrong with her daughter, but the medical community provided more questions than answers.

You also meet Regan (Rags), Chris' pre-pubescent twelve year old, full of love and innocence whose curiosity gets the better of her. Then, there is Father Damien Karras. A troubled Catholic Priest crippled by self-doubt and overwhelmed with guilt upon the death of his mother. There are other characters like the Columboesque Police Detective Kinderman, Chris MacNeil's free-spirited assistant, Sharon, and the staunch Swiss house staff of Willie and Karl Engstrom.

At first memories of the movie overshadowed my enjoyment of the book. Quite frankly the scratching over Regan's ceiling made me hesitate and question how badly I wanted to complete this ON WRITING HORROR assignment. Then, as I discovered characters not fully revealed in the movie, my fearful soul calmed down and I began to understand the whys and hows of the story behind THE EXORCIST. A story of self-doubt and unexplained circumstances that most of us can relate to, if we allow ourselves.

Coming to Terms With My Own Fear

I wrote this entry a couple years ago and I'm very happy to say that so far I've survived the more scary aspects of my own writing....

I started reading THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty yesterday. I'm only about ten pages in and already facing that mortal fear that sometimes binds me. What is it about this book that impacts me, the reader, so paralytically?

So far I've enjoyed my research into the world of horror. I've read some of the most frightening novels I never imagined, 'SALEM'S LOT and PET SEMETARY by Stephen King to name two. Yes, they frightened me at the time and my day-mares and nightmares were duly impacted, but never have I had such an overwhelming sense of dread as I do with this novel. Maybe it's the whole persona of THE EXORCIST, the novel made into a movie that scared millions. Is it the hype that  freaks me out?

After reading about the knocking on Regan's ceiling yesterday, I went for a walk. I had to clear my head and gather my thoughts. Bottom line, I had to come to terms with my own fears. How else was I to continue delving into this outer realm of monsters, ghosts and things that frighten the most stoic of us? How was I going to be a horror writer if my own stories keep my heart on edge?

In turning to ON WRITING HORROR this morning, I found a chapter on addressing fear, especially fear of one's own writing. The fear that sneaks up from behind as the imagination creates an exquisitely terrifying scene. Inside we know our readers will love it...if we can survive the writing.

In his chapter, The Fear of Going There by Michael Marano, he discusses the fear we all have to some degree as our imaginations take over and our terrifying  antagonists hijack our story. As Mr. Marano states, "Freaking yourself out is an occupational hazard for a horror writer."

After reading this insightful chapter, the main underlying message I received was this, use my fear. Facing and embracing my fear is my opportunity to grow not just as a writer but also as a person. ....Hopefully I can remember this as I work on my own two horror stories this afternoon with dashes of THE EXORCIST here and there. I'll let you know. :-)

Poetry - Comfort Food



She crept along the corridor
Taking care to keep footsteps quiet
Her breathing soft
Her ears keen, listening for voices,
They said they were going out for the afternoon
But not to her
She was invisible to them
A nonexistent entity
Her sole purpose to do their bidding
And disappear,
No one was home, except for her
All was silent but the kitchen clock
She was alone, finally,
She loved these times
By herself, no one watching
She could sneak into the empty rooms
Restricted to her,
Cupboards open, she was hungry
For love and affection but a stolen cookie or two
Would have to do,
To ease the pain and fill the hole
A car door slams, bare feet scurry
Up the stairs to her room, hoping
Her presence in the forbidden canister 

Would go unnoticed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

THE LINE by J.D. Horn

Have you ever read a story so real that you fall in-love with the city where the story takes place? Only three writers have been able to do that to me, Howard Fast with his San Francisco-based Immigrant series, Anne Rice with New Orleans and now J.D. Horn with Savannah.

In his debut novel, THE LINE, the city of Savannah becomes just as much a character as any other. Savannah is soft and warm like a mother and just as clingy in her desire to never "give up her dead."

This novel, this story, is also about the Taylors, Savannah's dominant family of witches. It's about their conflicts, loyalties and manipulations, and then it's about THE LINE, the powerful ley line that runs through Savannah. The Taylors have been maintaining that line for as long as anyone can remember.

When the Taylor Matriarch is murdered, another powerful witch must take her place. THE LINE wants Mercy Taylor, but she's not a witch. Born with none of her family's witch magic, all Mercy has going for her is gut instinct and the determination to survive and thrive in a family that too often see her as a liability. No, Mercy's not a witch, so why would THE LINE choose her?

I first heard about J.D. Horn when I caught his interview on BlogTalkRadio. The interaction between the host and the author piqued my curiosity, leaving me with an urgent desire to read this book. 

In many respects, J.D. Horn's writing reads like a cross between Anne Rice and Charlaine Harris. It has all the southern charm and quick wit of a Sookie Stackhouse with the imagination and intensity that attracts me to Anne Rice. It's a great blend and if Mr. Horn's other novels are this good, he's got a fan for life.

For more on Witching Savannah and J.D. Horn, please go to witchingsavannah.com. 




Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mad House by Clea Simon

This is an old review, but as I go through this transition of moving from my blog to another, I am also moving my reviews to this site.

My review of Mad House by Clea Simon:

Being a bibliophile from an early age, I read incessantly!  Well, I finished a book last night that I just have to share, Mad House by Clea Simon. This book is the author's personal account of living with two older, mentally-ill siblings suffering from schizophrenia.

Clea's writing is insightful and intimately personal as she tells of her experiences  and impressions as a child, a teenager and finally as an adult coming to terms with their impact on her life. Clea also shares the practical advice she has learned over the years, giving hope to others trying to make sense of their own realities.

If you have mentally ill family members or just want to have a more personal account of living with the mentally ill, I recommend this book. On a personal note, Clea's words helped me find the peace and understanding that I have been needing in my own life.

On a side note, Clea is also the author of several amazing mysteries. My personal favorites are Dogs Don't Lie and Cats Can't Shoot in the Pru Marlowe series.

Thanks for reading!
Ingrid

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Vulnerability - Revisited

As I slowly incorporate my old blog with my new, below is a post I wrote in 2009, but my thoughts are still fresh as I stay the course I started in 2007...

Our secrets, the ones we hold deep within us, afraid to reveal, those are our biggest stumbling blocks. There is a part of us that so deeply wants to be free of that intense mass of pain and regret. If only a safe, merciful avenue of empathetic exposure were found, our vulnerability would be allowed. To lie naked and exposed before others, friends and strangers, that is the hardest act of bravery one could ever do.

I applaud those who are that brave. Not afraid to allow their writing to reveal their deepest, most life-shattering revelations. But what about the rest of us? We need that release just as much. We need the knots to become unwound. We need the wound to be open to fresh air. In doing so, we, too, can heal.

To these poor souls, I say one word, fiction. If our secrets are too profound. If our memories are too hurtful to ourselves or others, why not write in such a manner that allows us to reveal the pain but not expose our reality?

That is the path other writers have followed and for them it has been most healing. For it allows the pain to be handled in smaller doses and displays our memories at a safe distance rather than up close and personal.

To those who have and will endeavor on both the nonfiction and fictional routes, a warm smile, a big hug and a compassionate as well as empathetic, “Go in peace,” to you my friends, my fellow travelers. I am on that path with you. It can be a dark, scary place. But with the love and comfort of friends, we can get through it and be the better for it, on the other side.

All the best, always,

Ingrid

Saturday, May 31, 2014

In Memory of a Fallen Hero

I originally published this a while back, but some things are worth repeating....

I was twenty-one and stationed at a small Air Force hospital in the city of Bitburg, then part of West Germany. As a medical administrative specialist, part of my job description was to provide on-call, after-hour support to the Emergency Room.

It was late one night, about 11:30, when my beeper went off. It was cold and wet as I left my warm, comfortable apartment to walk the quarter mile to the rambling, one-story hospital with its endless black and white tiled floor.

Even in my half-sleep state, I was aware that the emergency room was not in it's usual chaos. There were two reasons my department was called in at night, the emergency transfer of a patient or if a patient dies. It occurred to me at that moment, no one was being transferred. The sergeant behind the desk smiled at me as I walked into the room, he probably saw death all the time. I didn't, especially not after being asleep for an hour.

In silence, he led me down the corridor with its flickering incandescent lights. As we entered the large room, the sergeant pulled back a curtain and the other med tech nodded to me.

The sleep in my eyes quickly disappeared. Before me lay a man, really a boy younger than myself, his army uniform in tact, his eyes open, a look of surprise on his gray face.

"Do you want me to tag him?" The sergeant interrupted my stupor.

My eyes not leaving the boy's face, I nodded, "Thanks." Until that time, I had never seen a dead body except at funerals.

"Okay,  but you have to witness." The sergeant nodded to the other tech as they began to search pockets for personal effects.

Thinking I needed to do something besides just stand there, I moved closer to the body. He had sandy hair, his eyes were green and by then, glassy. I couldn't resign myself to his being dead, that is, until I saw it, there in his chest, where his heart would be. It was an open chest wound, about the circumference of a softball, already congealed with blood.

"He didn't feel a thing," the sergeant reassured me. "No," said the other technician. "The missile hit his heart and he died instantly."

"What happened?" My eyes still transfixed on the gaping wound.

"It was an accident. The guy was operating a crane, moving hawk missiles when one of the brackets broke causing the load to fall. The nose of the missile slid into his chest."

"Oh my God," was all I could say.

"That's nothing, you should have seen him..." but he paused, no more words came as he pulled a folded piece of paper out of the boy's pocket.

"What is it?" the sergeant asked.

"It's a letter," was all the technician said as he unfolded it.

As the sergeant and I waited, he read over the letter, a sudden sadness shadowing his face. "Oh no."

"What?" A sudden, solemn respect seemed to fall over the room.

"Serg, check this out," he said as he began reading the letter.

"Hi Gina, I've missed you, too. Hey, don't worry about the baby. We'll figure it out when I get home. Just don't let Bobby give you shit about it. We'll have a long talk, him and I. Can't believe the way he's acting. But listen, it's only a few more weeks and then I'll be home. Just don't do anything stupid, okay? Hey, gotta go. Tell Mom and Dad I said 'Hi.' Love you, Michael." That was it, the end of the note.

As I wiped my eyes, I noticed the technician quickly turn away. The sergeant's eyes were misty as he handed me the paperwork.

"Here you go, Ingrid. Is that all you need?" I nodded and went to my office to type up the death certificate, five copies interlaced with carbon paper. Tears falling respectfully down my face, it took everything I had to complete that document.

As I laid in bed, my job done, sleep was a long time in coming. My thoughts kept returning to Michael and Gina and I wondered what she would do now without her brother's help. But most of all, I thought how terribly sad it was that such a nice guy should die so young.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My New Adventure Begins...

Better known as, what the heck was I thinking??


As I lay there on my bed, that first night, in an open room full of other women, I'm not exactly sure what I was thinking. But one thing's for certain, I was more concerned about survival than deep, introspective thought. 

As the sound of sniffles reached my ears and I realized someone a few beds over was crying, my first thought was that she was going to be eaten alive. I don't know how I knew, but somehow I did, that crying was not an option, not here, not in this foreign place. 

Every instinct inside me was set on one thing and one thing alone, making it through the next six weeks. I knew that if I could do that, I could face anything the Air Force had to throw at me. I just had to get through basic training and believe me, that was harder than you think.

From the moment we arrived, the Military Training Instructors (MTIs) or TIs as we called them, were using that loud, authoritative voice. You know the one, it's the one your parents use on you when you've done something really bad. But this yelling was continuous and repetitive and the very last thing you wanted was for that person, male or female it didn't matter, to focus in on you. 

Aside from the uniforms, this could have been the room I lived in for 6 weeks, and, yes, I promise you, my bed really did look that good.
A typical dorm room and yes, my bed really did look that good.

We had two TIs, one male and one female. She was tall with platinum hair and her heels clicked when she walked. I still cringed at the sound those heels make within my head.

But I also remember her fondly, because about midway through, when she could have booted me out, she pulled me aside and our little chat, not more than a few words, made all the difference. As for the other TI, he was a total and absolute egotistic jerk, but I'm getting ahead of myself. We're still on that first night.

Aside from the urgency of getting ready for bed as quickly as we possibly could, what I think left the biggest impression on me that night was what would become a nightly occurrence, "Taps," being played over the loud speaker. That was the signal that it was time for lights out and we better be in our beds or there was hell to pay. Maslow had nothing over the Air Force, the first notes of "Taps," both instilled fear as well as commanded us to sleep, no salivating necessary.

The other immediate and lasting impression came the next morning at 5 AM, "Reveille." Imagine that insistent bugle playing full blast over the speaker above your bed. To this day, that damn tune brings back the urgency to get moving and the humid smell of early mornings at Lackland. Bottom line, by the time that song was done, you had to have gotten dressed and downstairs into formation. If you were lucky, you might even have a few seconds to relieve yourself first, but being late for formation was bad, really bad.

And that brings to mind the dreaded AETC Form 341, we had to carry three of them at all times with our name, squadron number and flight number already printed out. Getting one pulled by anyone in authority either caused immediate, unrelenting fear or absolute elation. "Three-forty-ones," as we called them were the forms used for either positive or negative recognition.  And the worst part, as soon as you got back to dorm, you had to tell your TI what happened. It was sort of like telling Mom and Dad what you did wrong and making sure you told them before the mean lady next door paid them a visit.

I'd gotten at least one three-forty-one pulled for an infraction, but for the longest time I kept a copy of the only one I ever had pulled for praise of performance. Silly, huh?

This is the type of building I stayed in during basic training. It's a squadron building. Each squadron is made up of flights and each flight had their own dorm. My squadron was the 3700th, but I forget our flight number.

Each flight, or group of trainees, consisted of four squads. The level of authority within the flight consisted of a Flight Leader and then each squad had their own Squad Leader. If we had twenty-eight girls in our flight, each squad consisted of seven girls. Confused yet?

This will be important later, especially when it comes to marching in formation. Marching is something that I repeatedly had trouble with the first three weeks, but not for the reason you think. :)

Okay, enough for today. I hope you're enjoying my visit down memory lane, I know I am.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review - Autumn in the Abyss by John Claude Smith


John Claude Smith never ceases to amaze, delight and shock me as he pushes the limits of both his ingenuity and his ability to see the world through unique eyes. Autumn in the Abyss, John Claude Smith's newest collection of dark stories, is a perfect example. I found each of the five stories compelling and entertaining though in ways truly as unique as the stories themselves. 

The first story, Autumn in the Abyss, about a recluse obsessed with a reportedly dead poet by the name of Henry Coronado, aroused my love of mystery while, at the same time, I wasn't sure whether to be revolted or feel sorry for the character's seemingly forced lifestyle. I think if anything I was intrigued by each new passage, wondering where the story was going and, as usual, I was not disappointment by the outcome. 

The second story, Broken Teacup, as despicably immoral as the main character and his amoral buddy were, I was compelled to keep reading simply because I wanted to see what happened next. Again, though I felt the need to shower my mind afterward, there was a sense of justice in the end. So, on some level, I did actually find that story strangely entertaining. 

The third story, La Mia Immortalita, about an artist obsessed with his own immortality reminded me of something you might see on the Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. Truly an interesting and enjoyable piece. 

By far, my favorite story with the fourth, Becoming Human. The main character, Detective Roberto "Bobby" Vera, was easy to relate to simply because he was so real, which is ironic given the title of the story. 

As for the fifth and final story, Where the Light Won't Find You, is a fitting way to conclude the collection. The main character, angry twenty-something Derek Jenner, reminds us of how our self-inflated egos can push us to make decisions with sometimes deadly consequences.

Having been a fan of John Claude Smith's writing for a while now, Autumn in the Abyss is a great collection to have on my shelf, but his other collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me is still my favorite.

Monday, May 26, 2014

And Into the Fire...

Braniff Airways (now defunct) flew us from Philadelphia to San Antonio, Texas. It was an interesting flight. I somehow managed to sit between two guys. Mind you, I had lived the majority of my life in the same house, a farm house, on an extended family farm surrounded by relatives. I had gone to the same school district my entire life, grew up with the same kids and been stuck in the same social hole, never able to quite figure out how this enigma called small-town society worked.

Then, all of a sudden, I was on a plane, surrounded by strangers and placed between two attractive guys who both wanted to talk to me. Quite frankly, it was weird. And so describes most of my military life, weird. To be honest, I don't think I ever quite understood any of it. I used to joke that when I passed my E-5 Staff Sergeant exam, any answer I didn't know, I picked the least logical answer. Yes, I passed the test, but it was just another example of how I never "fit."

But I digress, the plane ride. This picture gives you an idea of what the interior looked like, though when I sat in them, the seats were faded and the model was long gone. As for my flight, to my right, the window seat was taken by a mundane college-graduate, tall with dark hair and glasses. He was nice, but hid behind his shallow intellect.

I guess I found him boring, because after minutes of conversation, I turned toward the other guy, on my left, isle seat. He was cute, from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, made me laugh, and in the world I just came from, I don't think he'd have even given me a second glance. But in this world, this new world, I was the focus of his attention and quite frankly, I was scared too death.

I didn't know how to act. I'd never been popular in school. Had always been a wall flower, the only boyfriend I'd ever had was an older man, a summer love. So, not knowing what else to do, I followed my instincts and completely enjoyed the flight down to San Antonio. Later I would find out that my new friend was just as nervous as I was, surprise! But, yes, he was a good kisser.

So, we arrived in San Antonio and that wonderful plane ride was over. The next thing I knew we were all unloaded and somehow managed to claim our baggage. Don't ask me how, that part is a blur, but what I do remember was suddenly finding myself in this big room, low ceiling, and it was jammed full of strangers, not only the kids from my plane but a zillion others. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but it sure felt that way.

Oh, and there was a bus ride in there somewhere, I think between the airplane and baggage claim. I only remember the bus ride because I spoke to a girl about my age who had just enlisted into the Marines. She looked tough, but in those days few women entered the Marine Corp. I remember thinking, why on earth would she want to be a Marine? But I think my Marine Corp readers could respond to that better than I can.

Just a side note, on the test that everyone takes before they enlist, the ASVAB (Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery), my scores were high. I had chosen the Air Force because my older brother had enlisted years before and he seemed to enjoy it. The only other branch I had considered was the Navy, but decided against because I wasn't strong swimmer. Interesting, how we make our choices in life.

Anyway, back to the sardine-can-like dark room with its fluorescent glare. The nervous energy of all those people was palatable. It seemed to hang in the air like mist surrounding the lights or maybe that was the humidity. San Antonio in July is hot and humid, but I got news for all you Texans, it's got nothing on southeastern Pennsylvania where the humidity levels usually stay in the high 90 percentile.

As I stood there, just as nervous if not more than most of the people around me, I took comfort in the presence of my new friend, let's call him Cherry Hill, to protect his anonymity. He was nice and made me smile, but all too soon, that was yanked out from under me as people in uniform seemed to explode into the crowded room taking charge and reminding us in not so polite terms why we were there.

The next thing I knew names were called and we were all separated into buses, more buses, old, school buses painted blue. The sky was dark on the way to the base. It was like being dump into a new world, very foreign with it's wide open space, palms and sage bushes.

I found this link online, yep, pretty accurate, though we arrived at night... Arrival at Lackland Air Force Base.

Thanks for reading and more to come...


Saturday, May 24, 2014

From the Frying Pan - Philadelphia

As I emerge from the sleep of early morning, taking eager sips from my coffee cup, the one with an antiquated Mickey Mouse waving on the front, seriously, that mouse is far too happy in the mornings, my mind wonders back to the post of yesterday. Now, please keep in mind, my memories of my adventures in the US Air Force are not necessarily happy ones, so fair warning, these tales at times will be dark.

My first recollection was of the Military Entrance Processing Station in Philadelphia. Now I'd only been to Philly a few times in my life, all as a small child either going to Germantown to see relatives or on a school field trip. Never on my own and never as an "adult," and the other thing to consider is growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I had never experienced racial discrimination, at least not to my knowledge. Well, the first people my own age that I encountered in this massive, government building took an instant dislike to me and since I was friendly and had good hygiene, the only thing I could think of was they didn't like the color of my skin. You see, they were black and they made it very clear that I was not their "kind."

Talk about a rude awakening. These girls were mean, especially in the weeks to come, as you see during the next twenty-four hours, most of the girls in civilian clothes like me, that I came across, was going to the same place, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonia, Texas. And worse, these particular four girls, were to be living in the same open-bay dormitory with me for the next six weeks. Fortunately, their existence would mean less and less to me as the weeks went by, especially as my survival became more questionable during the first three weeks.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the last words out of my father's mouth when I left home, "If the Air Force doesn't want you, we don't either." Not a particularly kind send of, and those words truly set the stage for my start in the USAF. For me, a country bumpkin, and an insecure and socially-awkward one at that, succeeding in the Air Force, indeed meant survival. I had nowhere else to go. As far as I was concerned, it was either make it in the Air Force or end up on the streets. No pressure there.

And so, I did it, me and a handful of other high school graduates, stood inside a dark, faux-wood paneled square room, under the glare of florescent lights and before a flag of the United States, and swore to serve and defend the United States and it's Constitution. It was July 14th, 1981, and it truly was a day of firsts for me. First plane ride, first complex relationship (yes, sat next to him on the plane,) first negative racial encounter and first time I'd ever been yelled at by people paid to yell at me, but all that's for another day.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned. :)




To All of You Who Are Motherly!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are motherly! Mother's Day has always been an enigma to me and every year I am puzzled as to...