Friday, October 24, 2014

47 and Holding Becoming In Touch

We all have a little gypsy inside us 
     Do you remember a country song called “29 and Holding.” Aside from making me smile it always brought home for me our desire to hold on to where we were verses where we are going. I’m forty-seven soon to be forty-eight. I have no desire to go backwards. I’m curvy, pleasingly plump, and bodaciously spectacular in all the right places, or in other words; I've developed that mid-life chubbiness.  I won’t lie there are times when it did bother me, when I would look in the mirror and see that my body was changing after maintaining for over ten years at a comfortable slimmer size.
     My husband loves my curves, and I know it’s the truth. As abrasive as he can be, I would be the first person to know it if he thought otherwise. I like who I am, how I look, in some ways my curvaceous figure reminds me a little of my late grandma whom I loved to death. She was, in fact, my idol growing up. I wanted to be like her, good, kind, warm, and loving. Her hugs were the best; she was soft and always smelled good.
     A very brilliant young woman got me thinking about how much time we spend watching our weight. Checking the scale to make sure we haven’t gained an ounce. Her point is how we need to accept ourselves as we are. Not as how NY or Paris runways claim we should look. I remember growing up in the eighties and hearing about models overdosing on drugs because it was more important to be skinny then healthy. These young girls were pushed to keep themselves looking like skeletons. It’s sad that the self-image society has sold so many young women could be so harmful. Like gullible ninny’s we buy into it.
     I like me. I’ve been heavy, skinny, curvy and some place in-between.  Where I am now, makes me laugh. I make silly faces at my kids without worrying if someone will see. When I Skype with my daughter, we get downright silly at times. There is a double chin face which is when you bring your chin all the way down to your chest, so it looks like you have a double chin. True, we honestly do, do this. I want my kids to be ok with who they are whether they are fat, skinny, curvy, tall, short or whatever the case may be.
     As a parent how can we tell our kids to be healthy if we sell them a bag of goods about what healthy is? Aside from smoking, I am healthy. My blood pressure is normal; my sugar and cholesterol is also normal. Healthy is in the eyes of the beholder. We each are unique and special, and come in all different shapes and sizes.  Women are getting stronger; the advent of the internet has given us all a platform to explore who we are. It’s helped us to realize that others out in the world we live in are not much different from us.
     There have been photo diary blogs. Podcasts, blogs, books articles all geared towards learning how to accept who we are.  We all watched Oprah struggle with her weight on national television. It seems that she finally did come to accept who she is as well.
     So here’s the deal, every blog post I am going to add one photo of myself. As I am, warts, and all. I know there will be good hair days and bad ones. Moments I would rather not share, but these blog posts are as much about honesty and acceptance as they are about sharing a good story.
 I’ve spent most of my life avoiding being in front of the camera as my friends and family can attest to. So share a year in my life, good bad or indifferent come along for the ride with me and the girls, (my dogs). See first-hand how silly life can be. You may be asking why I would do this, simple we all have fears.My image in  photos is one that has always bothered me. It doesn't matter if I look like a million bucks or look like a hag.

Ok Need some more coffee
     On a side note, I have been contemplating searching for an agent. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I am looking into it. One drawback is it would take my next book longer to get to print. Also, I’m not sure I want to give away my copyrights to the highest bidder. It is a dilemma and if you have been through a similar situation, please feel free to chime in and let me know about your experience and where you weigh in on the issue. After all input is never a bad thing.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Come out and Meet Local Paranormal Author and Blogger Robin A Dilks

Book Signing Scheduled for December 6, 2014 
Come out and join me Saturday December 6, 2014 from 6:00 pm -10:00 pm, at Days of Olde Antique Center. It's time for their annual Christmas by Candlelight 
Store event. Which is always a great success and fun night for all.  
I will be on hand to sign copies of Racheal Awakened. With each book purchased and signed you be automatically entered to win a lovely 
Daughters of Lilith Rose Necklace that will be raffled off later that night. 
There will be food, fun and wonderful collectible items for sale. 

I hope you'll join me at this wonderful night of fun. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Albertville Black Bear Part III By Guest Blogger Todd Serad

     I hope you have enjoyed our guest blogger, Todd Serad and his wonderful, scary tale, “The Albertville Black Bear”. Please take a moment and wish him a Happy Birthday. Say thanks for letting us enter his world for a few nights of thrills.
     Legends started as tales told around the fire, whispered and spoken in quiet voices. Every culture has its myths or stories about things that can't be explained. The chupacabra, big foot, the thunderbird, or boogie man. They’re the tales that as kids kept us up late at night, afraid in our beds.  So as adults we can tell ourselves there is nothing to fear. Its only a story right?….. Or is it?

Part III
The Albertville Black Bear
     “Crap,” said Zach in a  clear and direct manner.  Ben and Seth looked over at him.  Ben then glanced over at Jasper.  He was still in his corner, still shaking violently.  He had not fired a shot.  Ben considered that too, probably be a good thing.  Seth slowly walked toward the bullet ridden wall.  He lined his eye up with a rather pronounced hole and suddenly lurched back in fear.  He fell backwards and landed on his bottom side.  He scrambled back to his feet and shuffled to the opposite wall never taking his eyes off the holes in which he just peered through.
     “What, what was it?  What did you see,” asked Ben.
     “Eyes,” said Seth, “eyes, but not animal.”
     “A man?” said Ben.
     “No.  Nothing I have ever seen.  Old eyes, eyes of knowing.  These eyes knew things,” said Seth as he limply slid down toward the floor.  “We are going to die here tonight,” he added.
     “The hell we are,” said Ben, “get up, reload, we’re going out there.”  Zach looked over at Seth, who was weakly shaking his head no, but got up begrudgingly to reload.
     Shortly the three brothers were outside again.  There was still no wind, no sound, just heavy snowfall.  The three stood examining the savagely attacked wall.  Huge claw marks had been driven inches deep into the slats.
     “This is no black bear,” said Seth.  There was no acknowledgement from the other two.  Ben took a knee as his fingers sifted through the top layer of snow.
     “Blood,” Ben said, “we hit it, this thing can be killed.”  Ben stood, turned and looked into the woods with his eyes searching for any movement at all.  For a moment, he found himself in awe of the pristine beauty of the woods but was simultaneously terrified of the horror they held within.  He then noticed some branches that were missing snow.  A pathway of an array of branches with missing snow.
     “It came, or left, from that direction,” said Ben pointing out into the dark snowy forest.
     “And what, you would like to go in and chase after it,” said Seth, “no thank you. I think we should just leave here now.”  Ben turned to evaluate his brother’s well being.
     “Feel this air?  It is cold, nothing moves,” said Seth.  The snow began to come down even heavier.  Large flakes that made them blink when coming in contact with their eyes.
     “We should go back inside,” said Ben.  Seth nervously looked out over the woods as both Ben and Zach turned to head back.  As the two of them rounded the corner to the front door, they heard Seth shout followed by a loud gunshot blast.  Ben spun around just in time to avoid being shot as Jasper had blasted a hole through the front door.  As he yelled for Seth, he could hear a quick thrashing followed by immediate cracking sounds on the other side of the shack where he was standing by the woods.  Ben and Zach dashed to where Seth was standing within seconds.  There was no sign of him.  The snow was tossed about.       Ben saw drops of blood.  Zach pointed to a tree stump with something on it about twenty feet in the woods. Ben rushed in and as he neared the stump he could see that Seth was stretched over the top of it.  His head hung over the one side of the stump with his eyes wide open, frozen in terror from his final seconds of life.  His chest was facing upward.  Ben had never seen anything like it before, but his chest was pulled apart by its ribs.  As if some magnificent pair of wicked and evil hands dove straight into the middle of his chest and yanked his ribs ferociously outward and away.  The snapped front ribs hung down a few inches along each side of his torso by nothing more than layers of skin and muscle.      
     Zach pulled Ben away.  Ben noticed Seth’s gun by a tree.  The steel barrel had been twisted around it.
     At the moment they reached the cabin Zach noticed the tall, thin shadowy, twisted horned figure standing by the edge of the front corner of the cabin.  It was on the way to the front door.  The heavy snow made Ben blink.  He tried to get a good look at this thing, but could only make out its size, and with unnatural speed it advanced.  Both Zach and Ben turned to run.
     They scrambled around the opposite corner of the cabin, and then Ben rounded the next corner to head back toward the front.
     He stopped immediately when he saw a shadowy leg step out at the front of the shack.  It had back tracked Ben thought and within a second he spun around to retreat toward the back of the cabin.  He half expecting to collide with Zach, but he did not.  Hearing the heavy crunching steps approaching from the wooded side, and he changed direction and bolted toward another nearby shack and leaned against the outside wall as flat as he could.
     He heard a distant scream.  Silence.  Quiet.  His heart raced.  Then he heard it, a guttural sound from around the corner of the shack where he was standing.  His grip tightened on his rifle.  He wanted to jump out in front of it, to get a good look at what demon this creature was that tormented them.  Fear kept him adhered to the side of the wall.  He looked ahead to the woods in front of him.    
     All he saw was the still heavy falling snow.  The crunching sound grew closer.  He saw a dizzying number of limbs, branches, and brush all of which covered in heaps of white powdery snow.  Crunch, closer.  He wondered in which direction Zach ran.  Crunch, still closer.  Who let out that scream that he just heard moments ago?  Crunch, just around the corner, breathing.  Loud nostril breathing packed with snotty mucus.  A snort was followed by a scratching sound and then with an alarming degree of delicacy there was a slight touch on his upper arm.  A slender dagger of a claw gently slid down his arm in a caress like motion.
     Immediate fear welled up within Ben, and he ran with adrenaline fueled speed into the woods.  The snow was deep, but it seemed to Ben that his feet were not even touching the white substance.  He ran with such speed, slamming and knocking away limbs and branches.  He dodged trees, legs never slowing down, nothing on his mind except to run as hard and fast as possible.  Ahead there was a thicket.  It was not even a second thought, Ben plowed directly through it.  He felt several hundred miniature teeth bite into and cling to various parts of his flesh.  As he continued through the thicket, those same teeth began to rip away at this skin.  He felt fire across his left cheek.  A vine reached up and ensnared his boot causing him to sail through the air several feet before landing with a soft puff in the snow.  He picked his head up immediately listening for the sound of his pursuer.  Nothing.  He rolled onto his back and sat up while feeling his cheek.       He smeared the hot, viscous fluid.  Blood Ben thought.  He realized he had just plummeted through a sticker bush.  He began to feel other areas of burn.   The top of one hand ached, both pant legs were shredded, and his shins were sliced.  He soon realized that he had lost his rifle in the snow during the fall.  He pulled out his pistol and thought to himself that it does bleed and that it can be hurt.  Ben stood and began to walk slowly not knowing where he was heading.
     He came to a long narrow clearing and quickly realized it was a creek.  The area had a significant snowfall in the last two days, but the weather had not been that cold prior.  He heard a branch snap behind him about fifty yards.  He stood still and listened.  There was another snap and a few crunches.  Ben moved without hesitation over the creek.  Nearly across his foot broke through the ice, and he tumbled into the creek up to his knee.  He leapt out with astonishing strength and speed and scurried to the bank on the other side where he sat against a tree while carefully screening the woods on the other side of the creek.
     He saw movement.   He raised his pistol and took aim, but did not fire.  He was going to make his shots count.  The creature slid from behind one tree to the next with supernatural ease.  It was tall; it was thinner than he thought it would be.  Ben thought the creature had a creepy unnaturally long and angular body structure.  Only seeing a silhouette, he could see the sinewy muscularity of it.    
The four twisted horns shooting off its head were the most unnerving.  Several feet long, they twisted and curled in a number of different directions.  All coming to what looked like a tapered and wickedly sharp point.  He wondered how it did not impale itself.
     The creature stopped and stooped down behind a large old pine tree.  It watched Ben, and Ben watched it.  Neither moved.  Ben thought to himself that his foot was very cold.  He leaned his head against a tree to rest it for a moment while quietly wishing for daylight; it could not be long now.  As he looked up at the treetops, and realized that the snow had stopped falling, when had that happened he thought.  It also occurred to him that there was still no sound anywhere.  Quiet.  Peaceful and tranquil.  He realized that the sky, although gray, was beginning to lighten a little.  Daylight.  A loud snap followed by a crunch was heard to his left.  Ben looked over in the direction of the noise and saw nothing.  He then looked to where he saw the creature last; it was not there.    
      Lurching upright, Ben began to move away in the opposite direction of the sound.  The beast began pursuit.  Fear quickly ignited Ben’s adrenaline and the surge filled his body instantaneously once again.  He sprinted.
After running some distance, he heard the creature alongside him.  Some hundred yards away he could see its silhouette moving in an effortless loping fashion.  Amazed and terrified he saw another clearing just ahead, and at the same time the world around him was becoming clearer with the grayish sunrise.       Ben continued running, he began to see that it was more than just a clearing, he could see houses.  Ben ran with a renewed spirit.  He tapped into all remaining energy.  He could hear the beast behind him, gaining on him.  He could hear its immensity crashing through the woods easily.  Ben dared not turn to look for fear of falling and becoming prey at the brink of salvation.  With one last burst, he sprinted out of the woods and into the clearing.  Before him were several homes.  He could not see them, but he heard children playing, dogs barking.
     He stopped and spun around to face the woods.  Breathing heavily he searched with his eyes for the creature.  He saw nothing.  He took a few steps backward toward the village while still watching the woods.  After several steps, he turned and jogged away, looking back over his shoulder two more times.  Nothing.
     “And that’s the God’s honest truth, I swear it,” said Ben.  He had made his way to a town named “Conner’s Way” just south of Albertville.  That very same evening Ben sat at a long and narrow pine table with two other men at the local tavern.  Each had a stein of beer in front of him.  All of them already consumed a fair share of beer when Ben had just finished his story.
     “That’s quite a tale I must say,” said a bald, stocky man with alcohol glazed eyes.  The other man with a short and slender build nodded in agreement.  He too was equally inebriated.
     “I need to go back to find my brother.  I need to go back to kill this thing,” said Ben, “it bleeds like everything else.”
     “I do have one question,” said the bald man, “if what you say is true, this thing being as swift and powerful as you say, how is it that you alone survived?  How is that you live to talk about it when it could have easily killed you at any time?”
     “I have considered that,” Ben said, “I believe it wants me, expects me to do exactly what I am doing, bringing more people for slaughter, I don’t know.”
     “Tell you what mister, I don’t think you actually met the Pine Barren’s demon. More than likely an enormous and very hungry black bear, that’s what I think.” Said the bald man, “Gunther, and I will help you go find your brother first thing in the morning.”
Ben leaned back in relief.
     “Thank you,” said Ben, “I’ll see the two of you tomorrow morning at the edge of town, the far end of the meadow at 8am.”
    “We’ll be there,” said the bald man, “we’re always up for a good hunt, we’ll get that bear.”
     The following morning after waiting since dawn, the recruits from the evening prior had not shown, and he did not blame them.  After the haze of beer wore off they probably came to their senses, he thought.  Ben took one last look at the friendly confines of the town and then turned toward the woods.  The sun was out today and created a brilliant glare off the icy covered snow.  Ben noticed the gentle breeze, and the sounds of some birds.  Animal sounds, he missed those sounds.  He tapped various parts of his body checking for ammo, guns, and knives.  A mental checklist.  He took a deep breath, thought about Seth, Zach, Jasper, Abe, and his family.  He began walking forward and slowly vanished into the woods.

This concludes our guest blog,story. I hope you enjoyed it and got a Halloween thrill. A special thank you to Todd Serad for sharing his tale. I know I loved it and so did many of you. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Grammar Police Need Not Apply…

     For almost thirty years I have been an avid reader, reading thousands of books. From fiction, biographies, historical texts, to general nonfiction. Since I began writing, I find myself doing extensive research. Research on subjects for books or blog posts, or even texts for school. It always amazes me when I see an article bashing an author for grammar. If that is the worst issue, you can find in the story perhaps their time would be better spent writing a textbook on proper grammar.
     It would be one thing if there were extensive grammatical errors in some of these works but the truth is there often aren't. Another point to mention is what one person may feel should be said one way may be grammatically correct as it is. To say typo’s, misprints and grammatical errors don't occur in books produced by large publishing houses is frankly bunk. I've had teachers tell us as students to disregard a misprint in the text. Famous authors often can have typos in their  stories. You’re reading a book for the story. As a reader, I would rather get my hands on a good story that takes me to another world then read something that is absolutely boring, but grammatically correct.
     The human eye will overlook errors; it is a truth in writing. When we write and reread, it isn't hard to miss something small. With that being said, I cannot refute the fact that a good editor for a book is essential. There are plenty of reputable ones out there for hire that do this tedious task day in and day out. Winging it and not going through the process is just plain lazy. There are programs such as grammarly, white smoke, etc. that are out there to help writers, and students pull together a well-written document. So to not use them is foolish.
     What truly burns my cookies is the dogged focus some reviewers seem to have taken on Indie writers for not taking the corporate publishing route. In this changing world, I for one am glad to be able to read books that I would never have had the opportunity to read otherwise. Let face it, the big publishing house can reject, ignore, or stick your manuscript on the shelf because they don’t feel the time is right. It may sit and mold for years out of sight.
      The growing trend of “reputable” authors who are turning to self-publishing is a strong indicator that the industry is changing for the better. Now if only the academics, libraries, and other holdouts could get off their pedestals it might actually create a level playing field.
     With that being said, if you’re reviewing a book, paper, or document you are supposed to be reading the story. If your focus is solely on the editing then, you aren't bringing life to the article you’re writing or being fair to the writer. Editing is clinical, technical and to the point. Writing, on the other hand, is about emotion. I haven’t had a reviewer shred my writing for the editing, but it does happen. More frequently than is often fair, these negative responses have long lasting effects. Not to mention the negative focus that is placed on editing clouds the actual story which may be great.
     So a word to the wise, if you’re reviewing a book, just remember it isn't a far stretch to have the reviewer become the reviewed.  It is very easy to sit in a tree with the other monkeys and throw poop, but what happens when the poop is thrown back?

I hope you will check back tomorrow night for the conclusion of The Albertville Black Bear by Todd Serad. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Albertville Bear Part II By Guest Blogger Todd Serad

       Tonight we continue our Halloween tale, by our special guest blogger Todd Serad. If you missed last week’s first section you can pull it up with no problem. Some stories need to be told so I hope you will continue to follow. Comment so we know you liked it. After all what’s not to like when things go bump in the night. Thank you for the positive responses to this wonderful story. I hope you will continue so Todd will know how much you enjoyed his tale.

     The Jersey Devil has been a part of our history and culture here at the shore. What better place for tales to grow from an area so barren and unexplored. So if you’re following along, lock your windows and doors, keep your lights out, and listen for that telltale noise. Don’t speak, or move or he just might hear.

Part II
The Albertville Bear

“He says that everything is fine outside,” said Seth.  Ben lowered his elbow to the table and rested his forehead on his right hand.  He began to rub his wrinkled brow and temple.
“Abe wrote that his son met a friend in the woods and that he eventually became more and more hostile to everyone in town.  He had acquired this meanness about him is what he wrote.  Then one day he disappeared, and Abe began searching for him every day and eventually wrote to us for help,” said Ben.  Jasper’s eyes grew wide.
“Jasper, who was he looking for in the woods?” asked Ben.
“I told you, there is no who, it’s a what,” said Jasper.
“What in heaven’s name are you talking about?” said Ben.
“I’m certainly curious,” said Seth.  Jasper folded his hands in front of him on the table.  He sat up a little more erect.
“Just listen.  Don’t say a word until I finish, okay? Okay?” said Jasper.  Ben nodded.
“Abe, his wife, that kid, the entire town, all good people, really.  Like your brother wrote, the dogs were the first to go missing.  Just missing, no sign of them ever again.  Heck the whole town even searched for a day for the Stevenson dog.  Nothing.  A few broken branches in the nearby woods where they tied him with that leather strap to the front house, but that was it, nothing else.  Every few days you would go out to do your business, and you would begin to notice that so-and-so was missing, or that it was quiet in a couple homes.  Harland was always drunk.  You heard him every night yelling at his wife and dog, but more so at his wife.  Then one evening it’s quiet at his place.  His wife is walking around asking if anyone had seen him.  Then she too is gone.  My wife is even gone.  My beautiful Agnes went to pick some berries several days ago and haven’t seen her since.  Everyone is gone, but me.  After a bit I just refused to go outside.  I haven’t left for days.  Why I don’t even know how long I’ve been sitting in here alone,” said Jasper.
“You didn't go looking for your wife?” asked Ben.
“I did, for hours and hours, days, but then I noticed something, the tavern was quiet,” said Jasper.
“Perhaps a sickness?” said Seth.
“No, it’s a what,” said Jasper, “I’ve heard it.”  Ben looked up sharply.  
“Heard what?” said Ben.
“Not sure.  I’ve heard it at night.  It comes creeping around the cabin.  It looks in through the window.  It even banged on the door once,” said Jasper.  Seth moved in closer.
“What exactly are you talking about?” Seth asked.
“Can’t say.  Couldn’t tell you.  I see the shadow as it passes the window.  If it stops, I squeeze as tightly as I can into this corner with my gun, and I close my eyes.  I don’t want that nightmare in my dreams,” said Jasper.  Seth looked across the table to Ben who leaned back on the rickety old chair.
“So you have not seen this lurking thing that steals people and animals when no one is looking?” said Ben.  Jasper nodded.
“What do you think it is, really?” asked Ben.
“They say it is folklore, but I believe it to be true,” said Jasper.
“Are you talking about legend?” asked Ben.
“Legend, folklore, however you wish to refer to it, but I believe it exists.  Born in Leeds Point well over 120 years ago in 1720.  It was the awfully deformed thirteenth child, and it ate livestock and children in order to survive and to grow,” said Jasper.
“You speak of the Pine Barren’s devil, the New Jersey Devil,” said Ben.
“Yes I do.  The legend is true, it exists, it is alive, and it’s here, its back,” said Jasper.  There was a long silence as the three brothers stared incredulously at Jasper.  Ben began to softly chuckle which prompted both Seth and Zach to do the same.  Jasper did not know what to do at first, the joke was on him.  Zach was doubled over and Seth had tears in his eyes.  Jasper stood up and slammed his antiquated chair into the equally old table.
“Get out,” Jasper shouted, “get out and meet your death, it awaits you just outside that door.”  Ben stood immediately with hands in a reassuring position.
“Jasper, no, we don’t mean to laugh,” said Ben, “look, we’re just going to stay the night, take a look around the woods tomorrow to see what we can find, and then all four of us will return to Ong’s Hat, how does that sound?”  Jasper pulled out his chair and sat back down.  Seth walked over to Ben to converse quietly.
“Look Ben, why don’t we just leave now?” said Seth.  Ben examined the seriousness in Seth’s features.
“All we have here is a town of missing people, they could have all just up and left, we don’t know,” said Seth, “and now we have some old guy with this far-fetched story about some lurking creature, it doesn’t make any sense, and regardless, Abe is not here.”  Ben looked out one of the windows and watched the snow fall, which was getting heavier.
“Let’s just go now,” said Seth.
“We stay for the night,” said Ben, “it’s snowing, it's two hours by horseback to Ong’s Hat, and the road here is not well marked.  With the bogs and low visibility, we risk injury to ourselves and the horses, and not to mention simply getting lost.”  Seth went back to his chair.

Coldness permeated the shack at the midnight hour while Seth and Zach stretched across the floor asleep.  Ben and Jasper leaned against the wall opposite his only two windows quietly speaking about their wives and kids.
“So what do you do if you find Abe, or any of his family?” asked Jasper.
“I bring them back to Ong’s Hat,” said Ben.
“Thought you said earlier that you weren’t close?’
“We’re not, he left years ago to be on his own.  Turned his back on our family.”
“You take offense to that?”
“No.  I just took the reins.  I look after the family.”
“Say he returns, then what?”
“Then nothing.  He relinquished that right years ago, but he is still my brother, still family.”
“Quite noble.”
“Well, his son is missing, I can’t imagine such a thing, and that’s really why we came.”  Jasper held his hand up to Ben. 
“It’s here,” whispered Jasper anxiously as he quickly blew out the single candle.  The illumination from the snow outside provided a bluish tint to the room.
“How do you know?” asked Ben.
“Look at the snow falling,” said Jasper, “it is coming straight down, no wind, no sound, nature is even afraid of this thing.”  Ben dropped his shoulders in slight exasperation.  
“Jasper, please,” said Ben.  Within a heartbeat, there was a sound of crunching snow along the wall just outside from where they were sitting.  Both men heard it.  Both men froze.  The sound was heard again, but this time moving away from them, but still along the wall of the shack.  
“It could be anything,” said Ben.
“Sure,” said Jasper.  His lower lip began to tremble.  There was a slight bump against a wood slat, then another crunch of snow.  Jasper began to quietly slide to his protective corner.  Ben tried not to breath.  His hearing was strained.  He did not even twitch a muscle.  He was not even sure what he was about to see.  Ben looked over at Jasper and saw that he somehow already had his gun in a defensive firing position.  Zach and Seth still slept.  Ben glanced back up at the window after hearing another crunching snow sound near it. 
The thing was walking around the shack. 
A shadow went by the window with surprising ease.  It was tall, the head, with what looked like three or four twisted horns or antlers protruding from it, was half concealed by the top of the window.  Ben thought that it had to be a man with an unusual hat.  The dark shadow past the second window, again with similar ease, as if almost in a gliding fashion.  The steps began to move away from the building.  Fading away, and then he heard a few faint sounds from the hitched horses.  Then quiet.  
Ben slid over on his belly to wake up his brothers with an urgent shake.
“It’s here,” said Ben.  Both brothers bolted upright knowing immediately what he meant by that, but then logic and rationale took hold.
“What’s here?” said Seth.
“I don’t know, something, something big, it just walked around the cabin and over toward the horses.  Zach scrambled to the front door on all fours.  Once at the door he stood slowly and cracked the door open just enough to peek out at the snowy environment while Ben pleaded for him to be careful.
“See anything,” asked Seth.  Zach mumbled, and then frantically waved the other two brothers two the door.  Once there Zach pointed to direct their attention to the tracks in the fresh snow.  It was snowing heavy, but there was no mistaking the recent footprints.  
“Definitely two-legged, but damn that is no normal step for a man, know what I mean,” said Seth.  Zach mumbled.
“About forty, forty-five inches in stride, but those are more like deer tracks,” said Ben.
“Narrow enough, but they’d be side-by-side, not one perfectly in front of the other,” said Seth.  Not understanding why, but the chill of the quiet outside cold suddenly penetrated Ben like sharp ice daggers freezing his core.  No wind, just heavy snowfall.  Zach mumbled, and then dashed toward the hitching post where the horses were tied.  Ben heard someone yell to Zach to stop, and then realized it was he that had just shouted.  Once he neared the post, Zach began to slow until the last few steps were a slow walk of disbelief.  He saw that the horses, all three, were gone.  He lifted and examined with both hands two of the three leather straps, both snapped clean.  The third dangling along the side of the post looked to be in the same fashion.  Unaware to Zach the other two brothers were standing by his side in the same incredulous and stunned manner.  Seth spotted a depression in the snow some twenty feet away and slowly made his way to it as if something were to suddenly jump out of it.  
“Guys…,” said Seth as he held up in front of him for the other two to see, the lower portion, from the knee down, of a horse’s leg.
“I don’t think I want to be here anymore.  Besides the fact that I’m holding a leg, don’t the two of you feel the stillness of the air?  It’s heavy, like something closing in on us, suffocating,” said Seth.  
“Let's get back inside,” said Ben.  Seth dropped the leg where he found it and the three men, all watching in different directions, made their way back to the Jasper residence.  Upon returning to Jasper’s front door, Ben cautiously requested for the rather uneasy Jasper not to shoot.  He didn’t.
No one uttered a word as all of them remained in the bluish dark.  The three brothers sat at the table while Jasper resumed his usual position in this usual corner.  Seth tapped his foot at a high rate of speed.  Zach peered over to him with an annoyed glance.  Seth stopped.  Tension was high.  There was a scrapping sound, a branch against a wood slat perhaps, but the heads all twisted immediately in that direction.  Eyes all narrow and focused.  Quiet resumed, which was followed by moments of more peaceful nothing.  Heart rates began to lessen again and normal breathing returned.  
A crunching sound was heard.  It sounded to Ben as if it were just inside the nearby woods.  The men quickly raised their guns.
“Don’t move, don’t make a sound,” said Ben who began to wish it were already morning.
Closer now, the crunching sounded along the side of the cabin.  The walking stopped as if whatever was outside was also surveying the situation.  Ben wondered if it knew they were in there.  Could it smell us?  Sense us?  He then wondered why he kept thinking of this thing as an “it?”  Surely it was some man or a group of men with an elaborate ploy to plunder the village while scaring everyone away, it just had to be.  Ben thought that these men had to have seen them arrive, that they had been watching them all day.  
Crunch, crunch, crunch, sounded behind them now along the side wall opposite the windows.  The men quickly stood and turned around to face the barren wall.  Jasper remained in his dark and protective corner where Ben noticed that his gun was once again shaking violently and that an element of craziness had returned to his eyes. 
Quiet again.  Seth took a step toward the wall with his right ear turned toward it as if to listen intently for any sign of movement, talking, or even breathing.  Nothing. 
He leaned near the wall even closer.  Still nothing.  Zach mumbled something that was nearly inaudible. 
Seth leaned into the wall even closer.  Still no sound. 
He stood there with his ear against the wall for about two minutes and then finally turned toward the others and shrugged his shoulders.  He took a step and accidentally kicked a leg on the chair that produced the most deafening sound in the cold silence.  They all looked at each other for a second.  Nothing. 
Seth smiled and took another step, and then jumped with an insane startle as an ear piercing shrill filled the cabin as the wall began to be pounded on from the outside with such force that it shook inward a few feet with each dramatic blow. 
With each blow slats cracked and splintered.  The wall shifted and was about to fall and crush them.  Without another second to think, the three brothers fired their rifles into the center area of the side wall.  The report of the blasts echoed with thundered.  Pistols were drawn after initial rifle blasts.  A fusillade of shots riddled the wall.  A multitude of holes emerged, some small, some larger as ripped portions of wood were blown away from the foundation holding them in place.  The shaking and pounding of the wall stopped as abruptly as it began.  The shooting stopped.  Ben and Seth stood in disbelief looking through the holes for any sign of movement outside.  They saw falling snow.  No sound.  Zach sat down on a chair.

 Come back next Friday for the conclusion to our tale, Part III  Of The Albertville Bear. Don't forget to comment, if you liked tonights segment and thank our special guest Todd for his very scary tale.   

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Writing, Book Signings, and Promotion A Tangled Path

Writing, Signings, and Promotion

     I am a new author, so right now I consider myself still on the proverbial learning curve. I know the thought process is, "don't admit that out loud. Don't tell."
      What does that mean you might be asking? Well, it means that since I am self-publishing I will make mistakes from time to time. I don’t have all the answers, and I do have some of the fears many new writers suffer from. My biggest perhaps is setting up the actual date for a book signing. This does terrify me for many reasons. Of course, there is always the favorite, “What if no one likes it? or What if no one shows up?” Writers in some ways are just as sensitive as musicians, and singers who step out onto the stage for that very first performance with a million butterflies in their stomach.
     We come to love our characters; they become in a way, family. Yes, that does include the evil ones we want you to hate. Books have always been a part of my life. I am sure, not unlike many who read voraciously it becomes a haven from the world outside. An escape, if even for only an hour or two that we can steal while riding the bus or subway.
     Had I not found the courage to go back to school and pursue my degree I don’t believe I would have ever worked up the courage to do this? The blog was born from an assignment, and I will be forever thankful to Professor Schaffer for making it homework. For almost three years now I’ve blogged. I shared my journey as I went to school. My ups and downs with my family, kids and pets.
     So here I sit now going back and forth. Racheal Awakened is available on Amazon. It will be available sometime in November for Nook as well. Morrigan Blade of Grace will be available in early 2015. Here's what I have learned during this up and down process.
Lesson one: Don’t do exclusive agreements you lock yourself into something you may not want.
Lesson two: It is worth the investment to work with a professional to design your book jacket. Not that my first cover wasn’t compelling and beautiful, but it wasn’t right.
Lesson three: Find a good editor to work with, I did, and the knowledge they bring to the table will help make the process much easier. Remember your hiring them to do the job, so if you’re not happy with their sample review keep searching.
Lesson four:  Ask questions if you don’t know the answer. Don’t give your rights away to your work or it may not be your work in the end. Sadly that does happen. Also, your book can wind up stuck on a publishing houses shelf until they want to release it.
Lesson five: Take the criticism and make it better. Each step is one closer to where you want to be.
Lesson six: Today more than ever social media is important. If you like my blog, like my book, then like my author page on Facebook. Like it on Amazon as well. Why because that is part of the process, when you’re self-marketing.
     I’m not a self-promoter or a slick salesman, so that part of it is tough for me. I’m not the girl who toots her own horn or smiles pretty for the camera. I’m a doer. That woman making sure things go smoothly, helping, listening, and always trying to pay it forward.
Life is busy; it always has been, and I like it that way.
     So lesson for today, push the fears deep down, take a deep breath and let it ride. If you don’t try, you can’t succeed. You can’t fail either, but then what would be the point if any of it were easy.  So here is my pitch if you like reading my blog, or have read my book please like my Author facebook page, and then follow the link to Amazon and like my author page. At the end of the day, it does make a difference in the world of both Amazon and Facebook. Thank you.   

Friday, October 03, 2014

The Albertville Black Bear

     With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve decided to have a guest, post one of their stories for your enjoyment. Living here at the New Jersey shore area, there are many tales and legends related to the pine barrens and surrounding areas. This story has been provided by Todd Serad a local writer whose scary tales are worth your attention. Please enjoy, this wonderful tale.
     I will post it in three parts, starting with this Friday. The next two segments will be posted on the following two Fridays.  I hope you enjoy it and will share your comments.

  The Albertville Black Bear
Part I
By Todd Serad

     The three horsemen dismounted in the middle of the small town and quietly surveyed the surroundings.  The brothers Ben, Seth, and Zach provided quite a contrast to the white snowy environment.  They were covered in jet charcoal soot from their day of work at the furnace from their home town of Ong’s Hat.            
     Layered in clothing with thin coats, their attire for the most part was tattered with age and wear.  All three carried rifles, shoulder holstered pistols and leathered sheathed buck knives.  
     Albertville was a small town of Piney's that lived off the land.  Eight or nine homes equally spread out within an open acre of land, with a tavern situated in the middle.  One lonely off shoot of a road cut through a portion of the Pine Barrens and bogs that led to the town.  The town was founded roughly fifteen years ago in 1825.
      “Awfully quiet around here, don’t you think?” said Seth who was a touch portly and had a head of short curly red hair.
No one answered the question.  The three men just stood turning in slow tight circles with eyes in close examination of the surrounding town.
      “You two know what I’m thinking, right?” said Seth.
     “Fresh snow, pure fresh snow and not one set of footprints in the entire town,” said the stout black haired man known as Ben, which was short for Benjamin.  The hard wrinkles in his face determined him to the oldest of the three and around thirty.  
     The wind blew through the open town with a grimacing bite.  Seth, in his late twenties, felt his cheeks burn.  They displayed a bright red hue that nearly matched the color of his hair.  
     Zach was the third brother, and the youngest, began walking to the shack nearest to him.  With each step, he sank several inches into the powdery white substance.  He felt the coolness of the snow within his boots.  As he approached the front door he noticed a snapped five foot leather strap, and then over the door itself several planks haphazardly nailed to it in an attempt to keep it shut, for good.  He looked off to the side of the house and into the thick woods.  For a second, he admired the beauty the tree limbs possessed with fresh snow clinging to the branches and how they hung stretched out and bearing the weight of their fluffy companion.  He turned toward his two brothers and motioned for them to come over.
     “See anything?” asked Ben.
     Zach spewed off a long line of unintelligible information that prompted the usual look of confusion on Ben’s face.  
     “Seth, what the hell did he say?” asked Ben.  Seth grinned at his older brother as he was well aware that Ben could not understand Zach’s mumbling.  No one knew exactly why Zach mumbled, but it you paid attention, like Seth did, you could begin to decipher the code.  Zach for some reason created his own way to speak.
     “He wants us to come over and see something.”  Ben began immediately to stride over to his younger brother while Seth tied the horses to a hitching post in the middle of the town.  
     “He also said that there are no signs of any animals.  No dogs.”  
     Ben stopped for a second to digest that information.  He stood quietly starring off into the whitish gray skyline above the treetops.  It was late in the afternoon and the ground and sky had a similar hue.  If it were not for the trees both would blend together like the ocean and horizon at times.  
Ben and Seth made way to their younger brother.  Ben stood alongside Zach and placed his hand on his shoulder.
    “What is it?” Ben asked.  But his voice trailed off as both he and Seth immediately noticed the planks nailed across the front door.  
     “I’d say that is a little odd, don’t you think,” said Seth, “if you’re scared of someone, wouldn’t the boards have been on the inside?”
     “I guess unless you wanted to keep that same person trapped inside,” said Ben.  Seth inspected the leather strap that blew in the wind with no mission other than to constantly tap at the old dark rust and gray boards used in building the shack.  
     “Torn straight through,” said Seth, “either this was one big dog, or he was angry as hell.”
     “Perhaps scared,” said Ben, “come on, let’s go over to Abe’s place, it has been several years, but if I can recall he lives over in that far corner.”  The three men quietly made their way over to the Abe’s shack.  Once there Zach held up a foot long wood burned sign that hung from a nail by coarse twine.  It was rocking back in forth in the chilly wind.  It had several letters burned into it.  Zach mumbled while looking at the other two with a quizzical expression.  
     “What does it say?” asked Seth.  With no formal education, only Ben was able to read.  
     “Our last name, Hagemann,” said Ben.  The three stood silently for a few seconds.  Then Ben provided Zach with a nod.  Zach slowly opened the door and peered inside.  Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he walked in and was followed by the other two brothers.  They quietly walked about the small cabin.  Nothing seemed amiss.  Two beds were there, one unmade.  The table looked clean, with one chair party askew from the rest.
     “Two beds,” said Seth.
     “Abe had a son.  I imagine he would be around seven or eight years old now,” said Ben.  Zach mumbled again.
     “What did he say?” asked Ben.
   “No one has been here for several days, perhaps weeks,” said Seth as he examined a small iron stove with cold wood remnants and ash.  Ben walked back outside and the other two followed.  Ben took several steps turned in a circle and yelled out Abe’s name in a loud cry.  
     “Go away,” was heard screamed from a disembodied voice located in the shack directly across from Abe’s.  The stunned men wheeled about quickly.  Ben and Seth glanced at each other for a second and then the three of them ran across the snowy midsection toward the only sound of life.
Ben gently tapped on the front door and was greeted with another scream of “go away” from inside the shack.  
     “We only want to ask you some questions,” said Ben.
     “You step one foot in here and I will most certainly blast a hole through you,” said the man inside.  Ben looked over at Seth who only shrugged his shoulders.  
     “I’m coming in real slow,” said Ben.
     “I will shoot you, mister,” said the man.
    “We’re only here to ask what happened, and only to help,” said Ben.
   “Yes, help.”  Ben slowly opened the front door a few inches a first, just wide enough to peek inside.  He saw an elderly grizzled man sitting with his back against the far wall with a shot gun pointing directly at the door.  He was extremely agitated and nervous as the gun shook wildly with weary arms.  
    “Like I said, we’re only here to help, that’s all,” said Ben again as he cautiously entered the shack.  As he came in he held up a hand to his brothers to stay put outside the door.  The elderly man spied Ben with a nervous uncertainty.       His index finger was caressing the trigger, waiting to press down on it with any sudden movement from his unwanted house guest.  As Ben neared him he began to notice the smell.  He had soiled himself, repeatedly, for days it seemed.       His clothes were grimy, yellowed, and stiff-like.  His balding gray hair was clumped and disheveled and his eyes yielded a sense of hysteria.  He had a deathly pallor to him.  Ben kneeled down on one knee in front of him and with one slight move he gently pushed the gun barrel away from him and to the side.  
     “I’m Ben, what’s your name?”
     The old man choked for a second.  His eyes seemed to clear as he thought about the question.
     “Nice to meet you, Jasper,” said Ben, “I’m going to take this gun and bring in my brothers if you don’t mind.”  Jasper nodded with a weak resignation as Ben effortlessly pulled the gun out of his hands.  He then stood and walked over to the door.  
     “Come on in guys, but be prepared for the smell, and certainly do not make any quick movements,” said Ben.  The two followed their older brother.  Ben resumed his former spot and position next to Jasper.  
     “Do you know Abe Hagemann?” asked Ben.  Jasper looked up at him, and then at the two brothers standing in the middle of the room.  His eyes looked even clearer.
     “I do, or rather, I did,” said Jasper.
     “Tell you what Jasper, me and my brothers were planning on staying here for the evening.  How about we get you fixed up a bit, get you some water, some food, what do you say?” said Ben.
     “I’d like that,” said Jasper.
    “Zach, can you run out to the horses and get the bedding, water, and jerky,” said Ben.  Zach, nodded while mumbling, and went out on the errand.  
     “We’ll get you fixed up Jasper.  We’re here, and you’re safe,” said Ben.  

     Darkness had fallen over Albertville.  The white snow reflected upward to the emotionless gray sky as well as illuminating the woods and surroundings.  It provided additional light inside the shack that accompanied the lone lit candle.        The wind every few minutes carried frosty bits of the powder fresh snow through the air.  Inside Jasper’s home, the three brothers did their best to make the old man comfortable and to put him at ease.  New clothing and old bread were found at a nearby abandoned residence.  A well-provided fresh water for cleaning, although Jasper refused to step foot outside.  He had an impromptu shower with a bucket of ice water in the far corner of his dwelling.  Jasper sat at his small wood dining table with Ben and Seth.  Zach stood near the front door with his arms leisurely folded in front of him.
     “Feeling better?” asked Ben.
     “Yes, yes, thank you,” said Jasper.
   “Good.  I need to ask you a few questions,” said Ben.  Jasper nodded accordingly.
    “We came here to check in on our older brother Abe, Abe Hagemann.  We rode over from Ong’s Hat after work this evening,” said Ben.
     “You work at the charcoal furnace?” asked Jasper.
    “Yes,” said Ben, “I’ve been looking after my brothers here since Abe left years ago.  We are not close, but he is family.  I received a letter from him a few days ago, but it must be at least two weeks old.”  Ben yanked out a yellowish parchment folded in quarters from his front trouser pocket.  
     “He writes this crazy story about how first the dogs went missing, then two of the town children, his son Abner as one,” said Ben.  Jasper bent his head down and looked upon the table.
     “He was a good kid, and Abe was a good man,” said Jasper.
    “You say that as if they are gone.  Have they left the area?  Why did everyone leave?” asked Ben.  Jasper looked at the three brothers while carefully plotting his next set of words.
    “I imagine they’re all dead,” said Jasper.
    “What?” said Seth.
   “Every last one of them.  Dogs too,” said Jasper.
   “Who did it, why,” asked Ben.
   “Oh no, not a who, certainly not a who.  More of a what,” said Jasper.  The wind howled a little outside.  The strong wind created a slight whistling sound inside as air was forced through the board slats that created his walls to the outside world.  Jasper began to lose a little composure as his bottom lip trembled ever so slightly as he gazed out of one of only two windows in his cabin.  Zach walked over to the door, opened it and viewed the town landscape.  It was beginning to snow again with large fluffy flakes.  He looked down at the snow directly in front of him.  Their early footprints were already nearly covered, erasing any evidence of their arrival.  He looked to the side and saw that the horses were still hitched.  Zach closed the door and turned toward his brothers and mumbled.

Its More then Just a Dream

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As a recently married 46 year old I am in the process of finishing my degree. Working to take care of my family and live my life.Blogging, working, writing, and chugging along like most of us.  Who am I ? I am you, I am me, I am your mother, friend, the best and worst that we each have inside of us. I am a different perspective and find myself fascinated by the interesting moments in life.

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