William Blackwell

Dark Fiction Author

Category: Posts Page 2 of 9

The Hat Man: Guardian Angel or Devil?

Who is the Hat Man? A guardian angel or the devil in disguise?

According to numerous reports, he’s a mysterious spirit entity who often visits people in their bedrooms at night while they’re sleeping. Sometimes he terrifies them. Other times he leaves them with a sense of peace and calm.

What does he look like? He’s a black, shadowy apparition, darkly cloaked, wearing a wide-rimmed black hat resembling a fedora.

What does the Hat Man want? To some he’s the devil in disguise, a grim reaper of sorts, and a harvester of souls.

Some believe he preys on fear, striking you when your defenses are low and you’re down and out.

Many people report seeing him in their waking lives. Some even claim he’s trashed their houses and tried to strangle them to death in the middle of the night.

According to Heidi Hollis, author of The Hat Man, The True Story of Evil Encounters, he’s not only real, but he is the devil. She writes, “Victims worldwide have reported seeing this man peering into their homes, their bedrooms, their baby cribs, their cars and even—their souls.”

Some have been able to defeat him by calling out the name of Jesus, or having their homes blessed, while others, according to reports, just beat the crap out of him. Some simply order him out of their homes.

But others claim the Hat Man is a guardian angel, whose purpose is to protect them from harm.

The Hat Man is often seen with his band of followers, the Shadow People.

Where did the Hat Man come from? Where did the Shadow People come from?

According to Wikipedia, shadowy entities are “the perception of a patch of shadow as a living, humanoid figure, particularly as interpreted by believers in the paranormal or supernatural as the presence of a spirit of other entity.”

Researchers say shadowy entities date as far back as 300 AD. Wikipedia says, “A number of religions, legends, and belief systems describe shadowy spiritual beings or supernatural entities such as shades of the underworld, and various shadowy creatures have long been a staple of folklore and ghost stories.”

There are other theories about the origins of the Hat Man and the Shadow People.

A neurological theory: Shadow People and Hat Man images occur during sleep paralysis, a mysterious sleeping disorder occurring in that transitional stage between waking and falling asleep during which a person becomes completely immobilized and often sees frightening images. According to the neurological theory, these shadowy entities are merely the manifestation of a sleeping disorder and by extension nothing more than a product of the subconscious mind.

A religious theory: Shadow People and the Hat Man are the evil minions of the devil, sent to snatch our souls and drag us down into the bowels of hell.

Another religious theory: Shadow People are guardian angels, sent from heaven to protect our souls and shield us from evil.

The scientific theory: Some physicists believe that unexplained forces are causing other dimensions to merge with ours. This merging of different dimensions would explain why we can only see the Shadow People and the Hat Man as shadowy figures who have the ability to transcend our laws of gravity, float through walls, fly, and change shapes at random.

According to this theory, the Hat Man and the Shadow People are the extra-dimensional inhabitants of another universe or another dimension. That’s why they can disappear and reappear in the drop of a hat. Or maybe in the drop of the Hat Man.

Regardless of what theory you subscribe to, one thing is certain. The Hat Man and the Shadow people drive terror and fear into the hearts of some, and peace and calm into the hearts of others.

Doing research recently on my soon-to-be-released supernatural thriller, The Dark Menace, I posted a blog asking people to tell me their experiences with the Hat Man and the Shadow People.

Needless to say, I received a lot of responses—some terrifying, others heartwarming. Here are some excerpts:

  • Rather frightening:

When I was around four, I think at the time my parents were going through a divorce. I was sleeping on my mom’s bed one night and had to go to the bathroom, so I got up and went to use the bathroom and she was still sleeping. I came back and fell back to sleep. I woke up to a pitch black shadow of a man staring at me at the edge of the bed. It felt like an eternity, he was staring. My whole body was frozen with fear. He started growing in height, almost reaching the ceiling. At this point I turned my body and fell back to sleep. The next night I woke up and felt the urge to walk to the living room. I walked to the living room to see a shadow man at my front door. My dad was sleeping on the couch. I tried waking him up. I tried pushing at him, and to no avail. He wasn’t waking up. I walked back to my mom’s room to sleep, hoping it would go away. I looked back to see the shadow person staring at my dad.

  • On a more positive note:

The Hat Man visits me nearly every week in lucid dreaming. And I have only good experiences with him. We just talk normally and I often ask him questions. For example, I ask how he comes to my dreams, who he is, and so on. Once he showed me his tarot cards. That was funny. I always try to look in his face, and he looks like an Arabian type of man. But I want to mention, that he’s not the only Hat Man. He has a brother, too. They are very different.

  • Somewhere in that mysterious twilight zone between black and white:

Hey, I have seen the Hat Man. He was on the left side of my bed but when I awoke and saw him. I did feel an intense sense of fear. I began to think that fear was created by myself over time. I was sleeping next to my partner and we were going through a troubling time, when I saw the Hat Man I saw it wasn’t me he had interest in but my partner. It’s very strange because I couldn’t see his eyes but I knew he was looking at him. He was there until I managed to panic and turned on the light. I have never seen him again but on occasion I think about him and wonder if he will reappear and why he did. I was scared at first but now I feel he is of some good. I am unsure. This was in maybe 2011. I was sexually attacked by a man that year. I put him behind bars for seven years but I felt strong, like I knew I could do it, but then suffered a year with anxiety and depression. Did he cause this? Or was it a warning? I am unsure. I am mentioning this due to other related aftermaths.

  • Now that’s downright chilling:

He’s from the Void/VALE of DARKNESS. I saw the hooded man/grim reaper. I saw two of them when I was 6 years old and I was shaking and heard whispers and voices and I had a severe high fever. I was hallucinating with nightmares and night terrors. This happened back in 2004 and after that the next day I was blacking out in the morning. I had to go to the doctor. I almost died in that experience.

  • And on the flip side:

I’ve seen the Hat Man four times in my life. The first time I was about 6 years old, and the sighting snapped me awake from a dead sleep. The next two visits followed that night closely (maybe within 4-7 days apart from the first visit). Seeing him the first time, the tall, dark shadow figure, wearing a fancy top hat, absolutely petrified me. The next two times he woke me from a dead sleep, dressed the same (trench coat, top hat, beard, kind features) and wasn’t in shadow form. I wasn’t afraid of him at all, and actually rather drawn to him. I felt like he was an old friend in this form. I won’t go into much detail but these two accounts are drilled into my memory as something spiritual and friendly. Now, the fourth time I saw him was a few days ago (some 30 years later), back in shadow form, just watching me sleep. I wasn’t afraid and felt oddly comforted. My research the past few days has been really surprising because I’m not finding any other stories of people with good experiences with the Hat Man. Surely, I can’t be the only one?

No, you’re not. Researching the strange Hat Man phenomenon for The Dark Menace, two things became abundantly clear. Some view him as evil, others as good.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but have you ever thought about this: Maybe it depends on your perspective. Are you glass half full? Or glass half empty?

In The Dark Menace, I take a deep dive into these questions and many more. The culmination of over six months of research, this supernatural thriller endeavors to find answers to a strange and mysterious real-life phenomenon that has haunted and terrorized thousands of people around the world for centuries.

The Dark Menace short synopsis:

Mysterious and terrifying attacks by the Shadow People and the Hat Man lead a nightmare-plagued man to suspect an enigmatic doctor has accidentally opened a portal to Hell.

THE END IS NIGH COVER REVEAL

If you’ve been following my latest blog posts, you’ll already be aware that I’ve unpublished post-apocalyptic thriller THE END IS NIGH and will be republishing it within the next month with brand-new edits and rewrites, and a fresh and stunning new book cover.

If you’ve ever worked with a cover designer before, you’ll know that really it’s an artist collaboration. Typically—in the form of images and words—I send talented cover designer Johnny Breeze my vision. Through a back-and-forth dialogue that often results in a phone conversation or two, Johnny tries to interpret my vision. The result typically is something spectacular. Check out some of my backlist of book covers if you don’t believe me. They’re awesome. And so is Johnny.

But, I digress. On the latest cover design for THE END IS NIGH I decided to do something different. Instead of dreaming up a cover concept—I like to call it a cover vision—I decided on a departure. I thought I’d let Johnny do it for a change. I thought I’d let him create the vision and see what happened. All I did was send him the short and long synopsis.

Short synopsis:

As a blazing inferno decimates the world, seven social outcasts form an unlikely alliance, fleeing to an underground shelter, where they’re thrust into a life-and-death battle with vicious evil forces threatening to seize control of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Long synopsis:

Cray Lenning’s life as a garbage collector in a small town is reclusive and boring. Burdened with strong feelings of distrust and resentment, he’s content to wallow in lonely self-pity. But when he witnesses a defrocked preacher proclaim “The end is nigh” seconds before getting struck by a car, Cray’s world spirals out of control.

Initially, Cray dismisses the wayward preacher as a wacko, but ominous signs begin to convince him otherwise. Enter Sandra Colling, a heartbroken but resolute nurse. Together, they build an underground shelter to try and survive a deadly inferno blazing across the country, and embark on a frantic mission to save others. Trapped inside the shelter, they learn the terrifying reality of their choices: a traumatized police detective; a manipulative and self-righteous psychologist; a sadomasochistic sex-addict; a rambling, alcoholic preacher; and a mentally ill redneck with an explosive temper.

Their dire predicament worsens when water runs out and they’re forced to emerge from the shelter. To survive in this God-forsaken wasteland, they must form an unlikely alliance and battle a far more deadly presence topside—a gang of ruthless escaped convicts, hell-bent on starting an evil polygamist cult that rules by fear, intimidation, and brutal murder.

 As is normally the case, Johnny and I had to discuss details a few times before we reached the finished product. Adding more flames, eliminating the cocaine line from below the preacher’s nose (I told him he’s an alcoholic but as far as I know, not a coke head, LOL), adding a few wrinkles, making his hair Einstein-like. Stuff like that. All the rest, I left to his creative imagination. I think you’ll agree when you reach the bottom of this page—the result is nothing short of spectacular.

The second edition promises to be everything the first edition was and much more. Tighter prose. More detailed, hair-raising suspense, and scares. Complete elimination of a few grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Best of all, the prices will be much cheaper. With the first edition I had no control over pricing and the ebook was priced at $5.99 and the paperback sold for as much as $35. Are you kidding me? Thirty-five bucks for a paperback?

When THE END IS NIGH is re-released, the ebook will retail for $3.99, paperback $11.99. But the savings don’t stop there. For a limited time, I’ll be offering the second edition ebook for a mere ninety-nine pennies. Stay tuned. I’ll advise you when the SALE starts.

Modesty aside, I think you’ll really enjoy THE END IS NIGH. But don’t take my word for it. Read what reviewers say:

This book kept me up all hours, until I had finished it! I could NOT put it down!! With complex characters, a fast-paced plot, escaped convicted felons and an apocalyptic theme, this book has everything you could want and more. What happens when the world as you know it, is on fire? If you had to choose who you could save, could you? What would you do in order to ensure your survival? Could you trust strangers? Who do you warn of the coming dangers? When 7 people are forced to live together underground in order to survive, personalities, manipulations and secrets will push them all to breaking point. When they are forced to return top side, they are faced with a new reality, one that will have them questioning everything they thought they knew.
I hope there is more of this!

-C.P.

Another page-turner from Blackwell, as most of the others novels I had my hands on from this outstanding horror-fiction writer. I’m pleased to say that this novel met all my expectations, and then some. They main characters create a terrifying and fascinating storyline that quickly turns into an addiction which you won’t let out of your hands before you finished reading it. This dark fiction novel will strike you to the core and creates a tension which I have hardly ever felt with a book in my hands.

-Amazon Kunde

This is a suspense-filled, action-packed thriller. Unlikely bonds are forged between seven complex and disparate characters as they fight evil forces that are both external and internal in an attempt to save themselves as their world burns. They are confronted with the reality of the burning inferno (and subsequent disasters sent to destroy the world and all life forms), the uncertain pasts and intentions of each other, and the real threat of marauding murderers who want to rule the post-apocalyptic world. Underlying the strong plot line is vivid character development and intense examination of relationships and individual motivations.

-N.B.

Watch for the BIG BOOK BLOW-OUT SALE.

As always, thanks for stopping by and have an awesome day.

New Looks and New Books in the New Year

New looks and new books in the New Year. That’s right dear readers, I’m making a number of changes in 2019. First to the new looks.

I’ve unpublished Black Dawn and The End Is Nigh. I did it because my former publisher controlled all the pricing. Paperbacks were priced as high as $30 each, ebooks around $4.99. In my opinion, $30 for a paperback is just too high. Both novels will be re-edited and given a fresh new look with dramatic new covers. Telemachus Press, my tried-and-true publisher, will be helping with the process and talented cover artist Johnny Breeze has been tasked with cover design.

When the new versions reappear, probably in about two months, horror novel Black Dawn will be priced at $3.99 for an ebook and $9.99 for a paperback. Post-apocalyptic novel The End Is Nigh ebook will retail for $3.99, paperback $11.99. Far more affordable for you, the reader.

Here’s a short summary of Black Dawn: A down-on-his luck alcoholic realizes his terrifying nightmares are actually teleportation trips to gruesome murder scenes. Struggling with external and internal demons, he’s thrust into an epic battle to try and save the life of his estranged girlfriend and other close friends. Black Dawn offers a rare and raw glimpse into the dark underbelly of the Dominican Republic.

The End Is Nigh short summary: As a blazing inferno decimates the world, seven social outcasts form an unlikely alliance, fleeing to an underground shelter where they’re thrust into a life-and-death battle with vicious evil forces threatening to seize control of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Both novels have received excellent unbiased and honest reviews. When they’re released, I’m considering offering a limited time, re-release promotion price. Don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know.

What else is new?

In 2018, I wrote two novels—The Witch’s Tombstone and The Dark Menace, both supernatural thrillers that I’m really pumped about. The Witch’s Tombstone is still going through the editing stages and The Dark Menace is ready to be released.

It involved a ton of research on alternate realities, other dimensions, sleep disorders, and the strange and mysterious otherworldly entities (that have haunted and terrorized people for centuries) known as The Hat Man and The Shadow People. It’s about a nightmare-plagued man who suspects an enigmatic doctor may have unleashed a torrent of horrifying attacks by the Shadow People and the Hat Man.

When will it be released? There’s the rub. I don’t really know. This year I’m approaching my craft a little differently. I have a new strategy. In search of contractual representation, a book deal, I’ve pitched The Dark Menace to a number of Canadian book agents as well as a few big-name publishers. I’m waiting to hear back. By the way, if you have connections to—or work with—book agents or publishers, I’d like to hear from you.

My new strategy also applies to The Witch’s Tombstone. When the editing and rewrites have been completed, I plan on submitting it to publishers and book agents. It involved extensive research on legends of witches who reportedly lived on Prince Edward Island during the 17th century. One such which was falsely accused of witchcraft, convicted, and burned at the stake.

Short summary: A troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers believes she’s the descendant of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her crimes.

Of course, I’d love to see book deals for both novels. And I know how this game goes. You have to be patient. As Telemachus Press publisher Steve Himes says, “Writing novels is a marathon not a sprint.”

How long will I wait? I think it makes sense to grind it out for about a year. If the marathon begins to look more like a treadmill by the end of 2019, I’ll self-publish both titles through William Blackwell Publishing and Telemachus Press.

At that time, I’ll have to retool my marketing machine in an effort to give those titles, along with my extensive backlist of novels, the exposure reviewers and readers alike say they deserve.

Happy New Year! I sincerely hope all your dreams come true in 2019.

‘Tis the season to better ourselves

Can you believe it? It’s that time of year already. Another year almost under our belts. Another year older. Counting down the days until Christmas. Counting down the days until New Year’s Day.

For better or worse, 2019 here we come.

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas, although I do like the spirit of giving and humanitarianism that it evokes in people. But, sometimes I ask myself, “Why are some people on their best behavior for one, maybe two days of the year? Why can’t they be nice all the time?”

I was surfing through Twitter one morning and I came across a profile that caught my eye. I can’t remember the name now, but I do remember the philosophy the woman had posted on her profile. It went something like this: We have enough smart people. We have enough rich people. We have enough beautiful people. But they’re not going to change the world. Kindness will change the world.

I started thinking about it in the context of the holidays, my lackadaisical attitude about Christmas, and my feeling about New Year’s.

First, Christmas. Why don’t I like it? It’s not so much that I don’t enjoy the giving spirit of Christmas, the fellowship, the time it provides for us to be with our loved ones. I do enjoy that. I also get that Christmas is for kids.

But, literally, figuratively and metaphorically, I don’t buy into the rampant commercialism associated with Christmas. Malls go crazy with shoppers. People are out buying gifts for people they hardly even know, hardly ever see. That uncle you can barely tolerate gets a pair of socks. Maybe a nice pair of mittens for that verbally abusive cousin. You know, the really good ones with the attached strings so he won’t lose them.

And whether people can afford it or not, many make Christmas lists, check them twice, and then go on a shopping spree—often putting themselves in massive debt for the next year or more.

Crazy, you ask me.

Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of buying loads of unnecessary gifts for financially stable people, we gave that money to people in need? Wouldn’t the money be better served there?

Just a thought.

In any event, New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays. As 2019 approaches, I take time to reflect on 2018 and ask myself if I accomplished all of my goals. I review my hand-written goal list and take stock of how I did. I separate my goals into two categories. One, career/financial. Two, personal.

Since the career-financial is less important than the personal, I’ll skip it. You know the saying. When we’re dead and gone, we won’t be remembered by how many toys we’ve managed to accumulate, or in my case how many books I’ve written and sold.

Oh, no.

We’ll be remembered by how many people we’ve loved and by how many people we’ve helped. We’ll be remembered by the depth of that love and the depth of that humanitarianism. It’s that simple.

That’s why New Year’s gives me the opportunity to reflect on my deficiencies, take responsibility for my actions, and not seek refuge in the victim card. It gives me an opportunity to change. To make a fresh start. An opportunity to make new goals and New Year’s Resolutions.

My life, like anybody’s I suppose, is a constant journey in search of positive growth and change. A quest to try and better myself and learn more about my inadequacies, come to terms with them, and find some semblance of happiness and inner peace.

And I’m starting to realize the road to happiness is paved with humanitarianism. Much greater minds than my own have said that one of the greatest joys in life is helping other people. Over the years, I have gotten involved in a number of volunteer jobs, all in an effort to make someone’s life a little better, a little easier, and a little happier.

And the joy and satisfaction I felt through giving unconditionally and selflessly is difficult to put into words. It’s heartwarming, to say the least.

With that in mind, New Year’s resolution number one is to try and practice a more selfless agenda as opposed to a self-serving agenda. A humanitarian agenda.

New Year’s resolution number two. As much as I’m not a materialist, on some level I do tie some of my happiness to financial success—namely book sales. Next year I hope to better understand that the notion that money buys happiness is an illusion. It’s a dead-end street.

At the same time, I take some comfort in the knowledge that I’ve recognized and accepted my faults, and am trying to fix them. Who knows, maybe I’m halfway there. At least recognition, acceptance, and a willingness to change is better than denial.

We live, we learn, and we try not to repeat the same old patterns over and over and over again.

Let’s hope the New Year ushers in a kinder, gentler, and more tolerant humanity.

Happy Holidays!

How to stay focused while writing

With all the distractions in this crazy, mixed up world, mastering how to stay focused while writing can be very difficult. In this complex day and age, it’s often difficult to stay focused on anything for a long period of time, let alone writing.

But, we’re talking about writing here.

I’ve written hundreds of news articles, dozens of university papers, several contracts, and numerous website articles. In addition, I’m currently doing edits and rewrites on my nineteenth novel. A supernatural thriller, The Witch’s Tombstone is about a troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers who believes she’s the descendant of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her crimes.

An aspiring writer friend recently said, “I don’t know how you do it. I haven’t figured out how to stay focused while writing.”

Whether you’re writing an email to a friend, a university or high-school paper, or your own novel, you’ll have to figure out a recipe that works for you. Here are some proven tips to help you master how to stay focused while writing.

Find your flow. When you get into the zone, you can write fluently, holding multiple pieces of a story in your head simultaneously, often without referring to notes. Wikipedia defines flow as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.”

When I find my flow, hours seem to pass by in the blink of an eye. I get so immersed and engrossed in the story, I forget to eat, forget to shower, and forget all about the phone and social media. My story catapults me into a fantastical and amazing world that almost becomes more real than the world in which we live.

Turn off your phone. Turn off all social media. Close your email.

Often people who think they can multitask are only fooling themselves. Researchers have demonstrated that when we multitask, oftentimes many tasks are completed poorly. There is still something to be said for concentrating on one task, completing it, and then moving on to the next.

Turn the TV off. Turn the radio off.

I guess some writers listen to music or have the TV blaring in the background while they write. However, I’d hazard a guess that this doesn’t work for most of us. It hearkens back to the research on multitasking; that often your brain is incapable of handling several tasks efficiently.

Come to grips with distractions. Even if you turn your communications off, you will get distracted. Accept it. Sometimes your brain will be slow to kick into gear and you’ll feel your thoughts wandering. Don’t panic. Just remind yourself that you have to concentrate and stay focused. Gently steer your mind to the writing task at hand.

When I start my writing day, often at six or seven in the morning, my mind is generally slow to find the thread of the story. The words often feel clunky, the dialogue wooden. I see plot-holes everywhere. But, as long as you’re comfortable with your revision process, knowing you can polish the sentences later, convince yourself to plow forward and write the story. Often it takes me an hour or more before I find my flow, after which the words seem to come effortlessly and smoothly.

Got ants in your pants? I often find myself getting up from my desk to get something or do something and I have to constantly tell myself to return to the office and get back to work. If you want to learn how to stay focused while writing, you’ll have to learn to sit still. When you find yourself wandering aimlessly around the house, remind yourself to get back to work, even if you have to shout it out to snap yourself back to the task at hand.

Set a schedule. Figure out the time of day when you’re at your best and write then if you can. As I said, I’m at my best in the morning. I put aside three to five hours every morning (of every working day) for nothing but writing. If you have to, determine how many hours your project will take and then allocate a set amount of hours to it weekly so you’ll finish it on time.

Sometimes setting a daily word count goal helps. It works for me. During novel writing, I generally set a daily quota of 2,000 words. When, and only when, I reach that goal, do I begin doing all my other writing-related tasks and domestic chores.

Do the things that inspire you. If your inspiration comes from visiting your friends, schedule a visit before you start writing. I find inspiration from a number of sources: horror movies, news, reading, conversations, people-watching, and Mother Nature. I tap into all of them regularly to keep my creative juices flowing. It’s also important to take time away from your writing so you don’t burn out.

This might contradict what I said earlier, but if you find you can’t get your muse flowing, try changing up your schedule. Maybe you find you have too many things to do in the morning. Too many things on your mind. Maybe your mind will be calmer and more focused at night. It doesn’t hurt to experiment.

Whatever your writing goals are, start now. Don’t procrastinate. If you put aside just a little time every day for writing, you might find that as the days pass, you become more excited about your work and more inclined to dedicate larger blocks of time to it.

Lastly, don’t be daunted if you don’t get it right the first time. Be prepared for disappointment, pain and suffering.

After all, if writing was easy, we’d all be doing it.

Remember what President Theodore Roosevelt said: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

 

The Witch’s Tombstone Resurrected

After months of research, I’ve finally started to draft the outline of The Witch’s Tombstone. I’ve also scribbled a few words here and there.

The writing process never ceases to amaze me. You’d think that after nineteen novels, it would become easier.

It certainly doesn’t feel that way with this supernatural thriller. Some days the prose seemed wooden, the dialogue contrived and even a little stilted. Other days I became so immersed in the story and characters, I forgot about all about the writing process. Lost in a dramatic and mysterious world of my imagination, I forgot to eat, forgot to shower, and even forgot to turn the phone on or check social media.

But it certainly wasn’t like that in the early stages. Every writer is different, I suppose. Without doubt, some start a work in progress confidently high on their past accolades, positive reviews and books sales.

But not this scribbling scribe.

To be sure, my books have at times garnered decent sales. And about eighty-five per cent of the reviews are five out of five stars. Perhaps most importantly, when I finish one I won’t release it to the viewing public unless I’m really pleased with it. Unless, regardless of what some naysayers might say, I know it’s a good book.

But that doesn’t seem to stop the self-doubt when I start a new novel. I sometimes ask myself, “Can I still do this? Maybe I’ve used up all my creative juices. Maybe there’s nothing left in the tank. Is this story even going anywhere?”

But, I usually find a groove and the process becomes a little easier and a lot more satisfying. I loosen up and the creativity starts to flow.

Sometimes the satisfaction is difficult to put into words. Indescribable. It’s a kind of magic really when you can take one little idea and spin it into a complicated story with three-dimensional characters, unexpected plot twists, and a heaping helping of macabre, gritty and horrific elements.

To discover that your art contains sub-texts, themes, unexpected layers, and operates on levels that you hadn’t even intentionally constructed, is a small miracle.

I think in many ways The Witch’s Tombstone will be about art mirroring life and life mirroring art. I started to recognize symbolism that I hadn’t consciously intended.

I asked myself, “Did my subconscious intend this? Was it a gift to my conscious?” Whatever it was, it was an incredible moment of elation and gratification, knowing that there were parts of my brain working on the novel while I was doing something else.

In a word, magic.

I guess that’s why I do it. I was born with a gift. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to turn a blind eye to our God-given talents? I write because I was born to write. I write because, even with all the agony, despair, and self-doubt, I love it.

I’ve always encouraged my friends and family to pursue their dreams and develop their talents. If we have no passion in our lives, we don’t have much.

So, yes, I’m thrilled about my latest work in progress.

Here’s a short synopsis to whet your appetite.

A troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers believes she’s the descendant of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her heinous crimes.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my rant.

What happened to our right to privacy?

In the age of big information technology companies, the notion of privacy has become a joke. To name a few (and there are hundreds, if not millions of companies, doing this), Microsoft, Facebook and Google all track your movements, develop a profile on you, and use that information to make money. What happened to our right to privacy?

And here’s the kicker. There’s little, if anything, that you can do about it.

I’m constantly being bombarded by online ads based, not only on my internet search history, but also on the content of my emails.

I’ve already established, as have greater minds than my own, that internet privacy is a fallacy, a joke, an illusion of monumental proportions.

And if you believe Facebook is some kind of a social media saint, guess again. Facebook has tons of data on you, including every message or file you’ve ever sent or ever received; every audio message you’ve sent or received.

Based on what you’ve liked and what your friends discuss, Facebook determines, tracks and stores what they think you might be interested in. When you log into Facebook, they track and store log-in location, time, and from which device you logged in.

According to data consultants and analysts, Facebook also tracks, when technologically possible, where you are. At random, they can access your laptop or desktop webcam or microphone, your computer contacts, emails, calendar, call history, files you download, photos, internet search history and more.

Much, much more.

If you have Facebook on your phone, they have access to all of your contacts and photos, in some cases even your text messages.

It doesn’t take an Albert Einstein to figure out all the potential nefarious uses of this information. As a writer, I’m dependent on the internet for my livelihood. If I wasn’t, I’d be awfully tempted to buy a landline to keep in touch with friends and family, and toss my smartphone and laptop into the trash can. Maybe then, I’d reclaim my privacy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not denying there are good things associated with the internet and social media. But, if you think for a second that these behemoth tech companies view our privacy as a priority, think again.

It seems abundantly clear that they’re doing the exact opposite—going to great lengths to invade and exploit our privacy for commercial gain.

What happened to our right to privacy? We forfeited it when we decided to watch cute little cat videos on Facebook and surf the internet.

Be careful what you search for. Big Brother is watching.

International Make a Friend Week—August 9th to 16th

It’s been said if you can count them on one hand, you’re doing very well. Friends, that is. I’m not trying to brag or anything, but I must be extremely fortunate. Without specifying numbers, I can count my friends on more than two hands. I’m not talking acquaintances here. People you say hi to once in a while, maybe even invite to dinner occasionally, and perhaps have a five-minute—often mundane and meaningless—conversation with when you bump into them in the grocery store.

I’m talking inner circle people. Those who know you well, know your character flaws, and love you anyway. Those who—as long as you don’t cross a moral red line in the sand—are willing to forgive and forget your indiscretions. I’m talking people who would give you the shirt of their back, loan you money (if they had it), drop everything and come running to your aid if you were suffering a major crisis. I’m talking about people with whom you connect with on an emotional and intellectual level. People you can tell your innermost secrets to with the sure knowledge that they will not betray your trust. People you don’t need an appointment with to talk to or visit.  People you can call anytime. People who praise, not criticize your success, support you through good and bad times, have confidence in you, and encourage you to reach for the stars. You can spend hours with them and time flies by as if it were mere minutes, even seconds. Instead of sapping you of energy, they rejuvenate and fill you with happiness.

Of course, these are just a few of the criteria for close friends. The list goes on and on. I understand I generalize to a degree. What works for me might not work for someone else. Some people might be more or less forgiving; others might be able to tolerate more bullshit and still consider someone a close friend.

Whatever, your criteria, you know what works for you.

How many close, inner circle friends do you have? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself how many close friends your friends have? Have you ever asked them? The answer might surprise you. To some of my close friends, I’ve asked, “This isn’t a competition or anything but how many really close friends do you have?” I’ve received answers such as, “One… and it’s you.” This from a close friend whom I considered to have a vast social circle.

Another response, “I’m lucky I can count them on one hand.”

Once I was bold enough to ask an acquaintance this question. The answer, sad but true, “I don’t have any friends unless you count family. And I don’t.”

I told you that to tell you this. Maybe it’s time we stepped out of the shell of imperfection and misconception and ventured out in the world to try and make a new friend or two. Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, we all need social contact, love and companionship.

I once mistakenly thought I could survive on the cherished friendship of Robbie the Rabbit and Alvin the Chipmunk. Don’t get me wrong, their social skills are impeccable and they would never let me down. But after some time, we solved all the world’s problems and I realized it was time to broaden my horizons and make friends with a few human beings on Prince Edward Island. I’m managing okay, but I still have some work to do.  After all, we can never have too many friends, at least not of the inner circle variety.

That’s why I’m declaring the week of August 9th to August 16tth (that’s tomorrow, folks) International Make a Friend Week. So step out of the box of solitude, reservation and self-doubt. Step out of your comfort zone. Call up an acquaintance, someone you’ve always wanted to get to know better and start building a friendship. Revive an old friendship, one that perhaps has become extinct with the ravages of time. Or, put yourself in social situations where you can meet more people, make new friends. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.

You might be wondering who died and made me God, granting me the power and authority to suddenly declare it International Make a Friend Week. No one did. Hey, I’m just trying to help you guys out; maybe even trying to help myself out.

Whatever you might think about all your worldly possessions—your beautiful car, your beautiful house and all your beautiful toys, they do not measure up to the value of true friendship. As Thomas Aquinas once said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

So go on, give it a try. Pay it forward. Maybe it’ll catch on.

When self-discipline flies away

Everyone says I’m so good at it. Self-discipline and focus so finely tuned I sometimes get tunnel vision, losing track of what day it is, or that I actually need to eat. In the winter, spring and fall I have my routine; get up at six, get a coffee (or ten) in me and hit the keyboards. Two thousand words later, I would leave the office, eat, take care of domestic chores and complete life-sustaining chores. My afternoons were reserved for reading and research. In my six-day work week, I would also put a few hours aside for book marketing and blog posts. If I felt like I deserved it, I would perhaps treat myself to a walk in the forest late afternoon and maybe a movie in the evening. And, like clockwork, take one day off a week.

But when summer arrived this year, my self-discipline and focus flew out the window. Who knows, maybe it went to the beach? You want to hear my excuses? I thought you might.

On June 11th, while cutting wood for winter heat, I tore a ligament in my lower back. The pain was so intense, I could barely get off the couch for two weeks and was swallowing pain-killers like they were candy. During that stretch, the pain got so severe, I actually started to wonder if this new development would be a life-time injury.

It made me think. If I couldn’t play in the (often so inspirational and enjoyable) forest, and I couldn’t sit down at my desk for longer than five minutes to string a sentence together, than what was the point of living? You might think this is a bit harsh, but think about it. Two of the things I love most in this world are writing and enjoying the outdoors. And all of a sudden I couldn’t do any of them. Life is one thing, but quality of life matters more, at least to me. I couldn’t imagine going through life in constant pain, having to depend on others, and debilitated to the point where I couldn’t do some of the things that give me the most satisfaction.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Only two days ago, the pain decreased to the point where I’m off the pain killers. I can still feel a dull roar in my back, and I’m sure it’ll be another month before I can pick up a chainsaw. But at least I can sit at my desk for an hour or two at a time and write. I can take a walk in the forest. I can go to the beach and do light exercise, maybe even go for a swim if that’s what picks my fancy.

But just when the back pain began to fade, another pain took hold. I started suffering from severe headaches. While chewing. While talking. Even when I wasn’t flapping my jaws. Before I started down the dark path of self-pity and morbid introspection on quality of life, I got it diagnosed.

I have allergies that often create nasal congestion as allergens build up in my system. The nasal congestion occasionally causes the Eustachian tube in my left ear to get clogged. When that happens, I can’t pop my ears. Pressure builds up and causes severe headaches. The cure is a daily dose of antihistamines and a nasal decongestant. I’ve been on both for the last three days. And, wonder of wonders, today I am almost sure my ear actually popped. It was first thing this morning when I crawled out of bed at 8:00 am and yawned. I felt and heard some air escape and now fortunately I feel much better. Similar to the back pain, I still feel a dull roar in my left ear, but nothing like before.

So, back to work? Well, kind of, sort of. The weather is way too nice right now to return to my usual tunnel-vision routine. And something happened to me a few days ago that really gave my life some perspective. I was driving my utility tractor (affectionately named Freddy Krueger) up a winding road from my beachfront one night when all of a sudden the steering jammed in a left-turn position and sent me crashing into a tree. The tree was about fifteen feet off the road and I had ample time to slam on the brakes, barely scratching the tree, barely scratching myself.  That particular road, part of a moonshine operation during Prohibition, is affectionately named Cemetery Lane. Don’t forget, as a horror writer, I get a kick out of these macabre names.

Long story short, my trustworthy mechanic arrived a few days later with a truck and a winch, pulled Freddy from Cemetery Lane and rushed him into intensive care. The diagnosis—a broken front axle.

As he was examining Freddy, and doing a forensic analysis of the crash scene, his jaw dropped.

“What’s wrong,” I asked, watching the color drain from his face.

“You’re lucky,” he said, pointing to a large tree stump about three feet from the road that I had narrowly missed. “If the axle would’ve busted about three feet sooner, you probably would have hit that stump. It would have catapulted you off the tractor. It definitely would have totaled the tractor and who knows what might’ve happened to you.”

Thinking about it now, all the whining I’ve been doing about a lower-back torn ligament and allergy-induced headaches seems trivial in comparison to the Cemetery Lane tree crash. I could have died. Worse still, I could’ve ended up a paraplegic.

And here’s the perspective. Do the things you love to do while you can. See the people who matter in your life while you can. Life is short. Life is precious. It can be snatched away in the blink of an eye. So, no I won’t be resuming my normal routine until September. I think I can take a little bit of downtime without beating myself up with that powerful and useless emotion called guilt.

Oh, for sure I’ll do a little writing this month. I’m always working on a new book. I’ll even do a little research. But, I’m gonna take a little time to smell the wild roses in the back-forty and invite a few friends over to celebrate the thing so many of us take for granted. Life. And, now that I’m feeling way better, good health.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

A magical healing stone and a witch

The Micmac are a First Nations people indigenous to Canada’s Atlantic Provinces. They were nomads who wandered all over the northeast coast of New Brunswick, the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec, and all through Prince Edward Island. According to Joyce Barkhouse, THE WITCH OF PORT LAJOYE, the Micmac told many strange tales around remote wilderness campfires, “stories of the creation of the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars; of plants and animals; of stones; of stones and islands; of winds and floods; stories of the supernatural and the peculiar behavior of certain human beings.”

Passed on from generation to generation, one such legend (sourced from Joyce Barkhouse’s novel, THE WITCH OF PORT LAJOYE) is the stone of Mineota. As the story goes, a Micmac chief called Kiotsaton, grieving the loss of his wife, wandered away from the rest of his tribe along with his son Kitpou and daughter Mineota. Deep in the forest, surrounded by towering pines and looming spruce trees, they made camp near a shimmering spring-fed lake.

On the third night, Kiotsaton was confronted by the great god Glooscap, who warned him that an angry spirit inhabits the spring and if he dares to venture on the lake called Minnewauken, great harm and evil will visit him. And, although Glooscap told him to leave, Kiotsaton insisted on staying, saying his grieving heart found enormous comfort and healing at the spring-fed lake.

So Kiotsaton and his children grew up beside Lake Minnewauken, never forgot Glooscap’s warning, and never set foot in the lake. But one day, when her father and brother were off hunting, the beautiful Mineota went picking berries along the shore. Gazing at her reflection in the still water a short time later, her long hair accidentally touched the water. A ferocious gurgling sound followed and a whirlpool suddenly formed, widened, and tried to suck her down.

She was able to narrowly escape the danger, but not before glimpsing a green, slimy, ferocious monster rising out of the middle of the lake.

Although she told her brother Kitpou, he did not heed her warning. A short time later, he launched a canoe into the lake and the evil monster reared its ugly head, sucking Kitpou and his canoe deep into the bowels of the lake.

Angry and heartbroken, father Kiotsaton threw rocks into the lake, calling out the evil one. And when the monster appeared, he shot it with an arrow. Snarling and hissing, the head disappeared back into the lake, although it’s unclear if the arrow actually found its mark.

But what happened next was an apocalypse of sorts. The waters of the spring rose and towered in the sky and then a gigantic wave descended on the land, causing a roaring flood and massive death and devastation.

The great god Glooscap again confronted Kiotsaton, declaring that the only way to appease the angry spirit of Minnewauken and prevent more bloodshed and devastation would be to offer his daughter Mineota as a sacrifice. But Kiotsaton adamantly refused.

Overhearing her father’s words, Mineota silently slipped into the troubled waters and disappeared, appeasing the offended spirit, driving back the waters, and restoring calm.

Kiotsaton grieved for many moons until finally Glooscap appeared before him again.

“Your daughter’s sacrifice shall not go unrewarded,” the great god said. “The spirit of fair Minetoa shall return and live on within a stone which you will find where your wigwam stood. This stone shall have healing powers for the people of your tribe alone. It is for you, Kiotsaton, to use all the days of your life, but when you die it must be dropped into the deep bubbling spring of Minnewauken.”

“And after my death, may the medicine stone never be used again?” Kiotsaton asked.

The great god responded with a warning: “If the one who enters the waters of Minnewauken to seek it thinks only of the one to be healed, and has not thought of self, then the stone can be brought out and used again to heal those of Micmac blood.”

Kiotsaton found the magic stone, became a notable medicine man, and used its magic powers and the spirit of his daughter to cure many. Shortly before his death, he returned it to the deepest part of the spring, where it sank to the bottom and lay hidden for hundreds of years.

Until Micmac chief Kaktoogwassees, distraught over the failing health of his Caucasian wife La Belle Marie, plunged into the depths of the chilly water, retrieved the copper-colored stone, and used it to cure his ailing wife.

And that’s when things turned disastrous.

La Belle Marie’s husband was murdered.

Accused of being the witch of Port LaJoye, she was burned at the stake.

So you see, out of one old and sacred Micmac legend comes another tale of the bitter fate of La Belle Marie. Where one story ends, another begins.

According to Barkhouse, “To this day, the story of Marie is told by the Micmac of Prince Edward Island. The bubbling source is thought to be in the western part of the Island, a place now called Scales’ Pond. Some think it is near Fort Amherst or Rocky Point. Still others think the spring is, indeed, near St. Peter’s.”

The story of the magic stone of Mineota, the witch of Port LaJoye, and the witch’s tombstone, all form part of my research for my latest work in progress.

Tentatively titled The Witch’s Tombstone, here’s a short synopsis: A troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers believes she’s the descendent of an evil witch who was reportedly burned at the stake in the 1700s for her crimes.

Combining myths, facts, legends and creativity, expect to see my latest supernatural thriller on bookshelves soon.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your day.

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