Monday, October 27, 2014

Harvest Birthdays, Human Connections and Author Photo Shoots

I was in Shoprite the other day ordering lunchmeat and cheese from the deli when all of the sudden I had an epiphany which ultimately led to a minor break down.  It was like my stomach churned into a battlefield of emotions; future fighting the past as the past cried, “FREEEEEDOM,” from its bellowing bliss of eternal memories which never fade away.
This all happened within the blink of a second.  As I went to reach for my pocket and pull out my cell phone, a heavy cloud of burden formed on top of my shoulders.  I felt defeated, like social media had won the battle.  I knew the reasons why I was pulling out my cell phone while standing at the deli in Shoprite but the past was crying, “Please, no more.”

Usually, when I am ordering lunchmeat and cheese, it takes about five to ten minutes, depending on what digit you pull out of the lucky number disposer.  During this time, I fumble to get as many tweets and Facebook shares out, read emails at three separate accounts, or catch up with a few blog buddies. 

This time, however, was extremely different.   My heart was as a tug of war with my mind saying, “Not this time, girlie.  Now go and talk to the deli people, strike up a conversation, and smile at the people behind the counter.  Get off of your cell phone.  You are always tweeting and emailing.  Go and have a…. wait for it… wait for it…"

And that it exactly what this gal did.  I put my cellphone away and it felt great!  I was smiling at the people behind the counter and guess what?  A couple of them actually smiled back at me.  I continued to keep the phone buried away in my pocket.  When I made it to the cashier line, instead of pulling it out, I continued to strike up conversations which ultimately led me to gain some awesome advice about an upcoming trip the dear and I are taking to Costa Rica. 

We also had my "Harvest Birthday Bash" over the weekend.  I'm officially 34 years old and don't feel a day over 24.  I was desperate to make some amazing new memories and human connections with my loved ones so I made everyone put away their cell phones.  The only time someone was aloud to take out their phone was to take a picture.  Other than that, we ate tons of sushi, steak, shrimp, pasta and cheese, shared lots of laughs, and created long lasting memories together.  Here are some pictures from the big day! 

The dear is behind me, my sister and niece are on my right, and we are surrounded by friends I've had for years

The dear is lighting the candles on my birthday cake and we are laughing about something

This is my youngest and very talented sister, Cheri.  She took the photos for my photo shoot which I will be sharing and also illustrated my children's book.

My niece, me and the dear

The cheese spread:  Brie, Bleu cheese, and Manchego cheese

The sushi, shrimp and steak platters with tasty Halloween treats

Pesto Pasta, YUM

We decorated our bookshelf.  I collect witches and this one is my favorites.

My gorgeous niece and sister

A couple of my other witches

The beautiful flowers and balloons the dear bought for me

And now my author photo shoot!  I'm sharing the "Do's and Do Not's" when being professionally photographed.


The morning after my birthday, my sister Cheri, who is also a photographer, helped me with an author photo shoot.  It was very windy so she literally took about 300 pictures of me.  She also created my new banner which you see at the top of my blog.  Yes, that is me in the photo=)  Here are some other examples of banners she created for me. 

Although I really liked this banner, I wanted to have my entire body in the picture, not just my boots

I really loved this photo, especially because of the colors.  It was a hard decision (my sister sent me six banners) but I went with the one currently at the header of my blog.  Do you think I made the right decision?

It took us about an hour and half to do the entire photo shoot.  All of the pictures you see are in the backyard of my complex.  We live in the mountains where lush colors of green, red, orange and yellow reflect off of the decadence of the woods and spirit of the land.  Here are some photos of me sitting on top of the rocks nestled against the enchanted woods of our complex.



As you can see from the photos above, there are many different positions and poses you can engage with in your photos.  At times, I felt like I was forcing my poses.  This is why it is very important for your photographer to take tons of pictures.  When I had my children's book author photo shoot, the photographer at the time shot around 200 pictures.  Again, my sister took around 300 because not only was she taking my author photo, but she was creating my banner for my website and blog.

Here, you can see there is an abundance of light, a bit too much light.  Photos like this are nice but the lighting makes them look awkward.  You want to choose a photo which has perfect lighting against your face.

I chose this photo to be my new author profile photo because I think it looks very natural and I'm smiling.  Always try to look as natural and comfortable as possible.  You don't want to scare off your readers and fellow authors.  You want your profile picture to be warm and welcoming.

I thought this one was pretty because of the background.  Behind me, there are more hills and mountainous land which eventually lead into the skyline of New York City.  I didn't choose this photo, though, because the lighting was a bit shaded over my face.

Here, I am looking back toward my sister.  Instead of walking toward her, she asked me to walk ahead and turn back several times.  I might use some of these pictures for a different project.

I've always loved side shots.  My sister took about 10 of these but here, I'm sharing one so you get the idea of all of the different views you can have in your photos.  I'm also squinting in this picture.  Try not to squint in your photos because squinting is unbecoming and doesn't do justice for the art of the picture.

Next, I'm going to share the pictures of me walking up hills and through parts of the woods.  My sister took tons of shots of me walking so she could create the perfect border for me.  Here are some other examples she could have used but decided to go with the one above.

It really depends on what you want to portray as the soul of your blog and zest of your art.  I love walking and hiking around my area so I wanted to incorporate the beauty of my complex within the heart of my blog.  I wake up every morning around 5am and have the most amazing views which inspire a lot of my stories.
Lastly, I'm sharing one fun photo.  Although I am not going to be using this in any of my author profiles, I love laughing and goofing off.  

Do you ever break down over social media or the growing need for technology?  Have you had an author photo shoot before?  Do you have any advice for other writers and authors when taking professional photos of themselves?


Monday, October 20, 2014

Calling All Creepy Clowns

I hate clowns.  No, wait.  I detest them.

My mother always loved surprising me on my birthday.  Whether I came home from school to a homemade boxed birthday cake (Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Party Chip Flavor is my favorite), letting me skip school to take me clothes shopping at Kmart or Merry Go Round at the mall (we were always excited to sport a new pair of Chic brand sneakers or a plaid skirt with white knee socks), or deciding to redecorate my bedroom without telling me. 

By the way, who had a Merry Go Round in their mall back in the 90s?  It was my favorite before Express became popular!


In most cases, her surprises were a hit.  But the one time it was a total disaster (I’m talking gut-wrenching, tears bursting, screaming like a wild banshee) was when I was two years old.  You would have thought I was possessed as my head twisted away from the surprise to retrieve out of my house and run as far away as I could from the motley themed circus which blew up inside my bedroom.

While my mother's vision looked somewhat like this...

I couldn't help but to envision this...

Yes, people... my mom thought it was a good idea to completely sabotage my warm and delightful place of sleep with everything having to do with clowns.  Picture this... you walk into a room after your mother tells you to keep you eyes shut.  Once you have planted yourself, front and center, and she tells you to open you eyes, Voila!  A freak show of clowns and all things having to do with the circus.  I could have swore she hired someone from Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey's circus to help her design this catastrophe. 

My mother managed to find clown lamps, a bed with a clown theme and big red shoes at the end of the frame, clown picture books resting on my bright red bookshelf, stuffed circus animals and clowns, and a circus banner wrapped all around my room suffocating my imagination and childlike wonder.  My bedroom was stripped the following day and a new sanctuary of bliss was created because I refused to sleep in the clown bed.
I still remember a toy clown she had bought for both of my sisters and me.  It would laugh when you pulled the little white string out of its back.  There was this one time it had laughed without any of us pulling its string.  I thought the toy was cursed so I tossed it in the endless black hole of circus décor, never to be played with again. 

How many of my readers have had one of these vintage, laughing clown dolls?  Still scares the heck out of me!
As the years went by, my fear of clowns became a real pain in the ass as nightmares blossomed into my burden.  And movies like It and Killer Clowns From Outer Space didn't help mend my animosity for clowns.  Stephen King's character, Pennywise, from It scarred my dreams for weeks after I watched that movie.  Balloons?  Never again.

And who can forget about the blood sucking clowns from outer space?  With their monstrous, crusty large lips and grotesque yellow eyes.  Sometimes I wonder about the people behind these movies!

Edgar Allen Poe wrote a story called Hop-Frog about a vicious court jester setting a royal court on fire in 1849.  Poe tells writes about Hop-Frog's revenge on the king for always taunting him and his dwarf girlfriend, Trippetta.  Here are a couple of my favorite lines from the story.  
"It was broken by just such a low, harsh, grating sound, as had before attracted the attention of the king and his councillors when the former threw the wine in the face of Trippetta. But, on the present occasion, there could be no question as to whence the sound issued. It came from the fang- like teeth of the dwarf, who ground them and gnashed them as he foamed at the mouth, and glared, with an expression of maniacal rage, into the upturned countenances of the king and his seven companions."

the story continues on and the final paragraph reads:

"The eight corpses swung in their chains, a fetid, blackened, hideous, and indistinguishable mass. The cripple hurled his torch at them, clambered leisurely to the ceiling, and disappeared through the sky-light.It is supposed that Trippetta, stationed on the roof of the saloon, had been the accomplice of her friend in his fiery revenge, and that, together, they effected their escape to their own country: for neither was seen again."
Currently, we have American Horror Story's Freak Show to thank for introducing us to one of the most grotesque and terrifying clowns of all time; Twisty.  If this character were to meet Stephen King's Pennywise, I think he would kick his ass.  This new character murders with no remorse and seems to bask in his ability to scare the hell out of his prisoners by performing some of the creepiest shows I have seen a clown put on.  He murders by stabbing his victims to death and then enslaves children and young woman in his dungeon he calls home; a broken down school bus.

Do you like clowns or do they creep you out?  What is your favorite scary clown story?
I'm sharing this picture of Luna because I thought it was super cool!  I didn't touch this photo up.  The green glow screaming from her eyes is unreal.  I've never seen anything like this before, have you?  Have a creatively spooky week my friends!  


Monday, October 13, 2014

The New Mrs. Collins Blog Tour and Book Release

Today is a very exciting day for friend and fellow author, Quanie Miller.  Her second novel, The New Mrs. Collins, is being released today on Amazon!  I've read Quanie's first book, It Ain't Easy Being Jazzy and absolutely loved it.  I couldn't stop laughing throughout its entirety. 

This is the perfect time of year to be sharing the release of The New Mrs. Collins.  The genre is quite different than Quanie's first book because it is paranormal.  I honestly can't wait to find the time to light some of my favorite autumn candles, curl up with my new black kitty, Luna, and read this book.

Update on Luna 

She is slowly getting used to her new surroundings and spending a lot of time snuggled up next to me, especially when I am writing.  I took the following picture of her in the wee hours of the morning as the sun was returning from its adventures on the other side of the world.  I moved some of my Harvest mantle so Luna would have an ideal spot in the window.  I must say, she really goes well with the Halloween décor!

Here she is sleeping on my bed next to me while I type at my desk.  And I promise, no more cat pictures for a while!

One of the main reasons I am excited to read Quanie's book is because of the mysteriousness which lies behind the new Mrs. Collins.  She seems like she is the type of woman who has a past and covers it up by using her beauty, style and powers.  I haven't read this book yet, but when I saw the blurb, it reminded me of my ex-stepmother; the one who murdered my father.

This evil, monstrous woman remarried six months after my dad passed away.  And before she married Daddy C, her two previous husbands also mysteriously died.  This is all true and maybe one day, I will find the time to write my father's story. 

We miss Daddy C dearly and I hope he is haunting the hell out of the black widow. 


Book Blurb

In the small town of Carolville, Louisiana, no one knows that Adira Collins inherited mystic powers from her great grandmother. All they know is that she’s beautiful, poised, graceful, and ruthless—especially when it comes to love. And no one knows that more than Leena Williams, who was all set to marry the man of her dreams until Adira swooped into town and stole the man’s heart.

Being left at the altar is bad enough, but Leena and her ex share custody of their son, so she has to see the new Mrs. Collins on a regular basis.

And it burns every time she does.

But soon, Leena starts to suspect that there is more to Adira Collins than meets the eye. And it’s not because she owns some kinky lingerie shop or allegedly insulted the pastor’s wife—it’s the strange way she can make a door close without touching it, or take one look at something and make it drop dead at her feet.

Leena starts digging for answers and soon discovers that, unlike her public persona, Adira’s true nature is somewhere on the other side of grace. She also learns, a little too late, that some secrets are better left buried. 


A woman who could not remember her name walked towards McCullens Bridge with no knowledge of why she was going there. Her nose was running, her throat was on fire, and there were a multitude of images swirling around her head. Someone had lifted the top of her head, poured the images in, and mixed them together until they became pictures in motion. She knew the pictures were true because when she thought of the poor seamstress who had given birth to a daughter who was touched, she was overtaken by a tremendous wave of sadness and wept. The sorrow went to the bone, and she threw her face to the sky and cried out to God when it hit her: wasn’t she the woman named Auggie with the mother named Pious? She knew no other name that could be hers, so that had to be it. But why had such a thing happened to her? What had she done but love her daughter? Wasn’t it enough that the world was against her? Hadn’t she fought for her child? Even when others thought she should have given her away, or worse, aborted her?

But they were right. She thought of the knives flying in the kitchen, and the one that grazed her shoulder. She looked at her right shoulder and wondered what happened to the scar. That bitch. Hiding her abilities like that. The sorrow quickly turned to rage and she said, “Mama was right.” She got on her knees and apologized to Pious right on…wait. Where was she? She looked around and saw a dirt path lined by trees. It looked like it should have been familiar but she could not recall its name. What was she doing there? Hadn’t she just been shot? And arrested for trying to protect her life? She grabbed her aching throat and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. She was freezing. Why hadn’t someone given her something to put on her arms?

McCullens Bridge.

The voice, as sweet as cotton candy dipped in maple syrup, sliced through her thoughts. That’s right. She was going to the bridge because her face was on fire. How could she have forgotten? She was not very far away, and it would not be long before she made it to the bridge and found peace, peace like a river, in the depths of the water below it.


The New Mrs. Collins is available for purchase here:



 Author Bio

Quanie Miller grew up in New Iberia, Louisiana. She fell in love with reading at an early age and spent most of her time at the Iberia Parish Library discovering authors like R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike (she was often found walking back home from the library with a stack of books that went up to her chin). She holds degrees from Louisiana State University and San Jose State University. She has been the recipient of the James Phelan Literary Award, the Louis King Thore Scholarship, the BEA Student Scriptwriting Award, and the Vicki Hudson Emerging Writing Prize. She is the author of The New Mrs. Collins, a southern paranormal novel, and It Ain't Easy Being Jazzy, a romantic comedy. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and is currently, as always, working on another novel. To find out more about Quanie and her works in progress visit


Social Media Links

Twitter: @quaniemiller

I'm off to Amazon to buy The New Mrs. Collins! Don't forget to get your copy.  I'm sure you won't regret it!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Waiting for Inspiration & Greystone Park Insane Asylum

Someone once told me she was waiting for inspiration to come knocking on her door before she submerged herself into her novel.  She was, and still is, a very good writer and storyteller; has been for years.  She also has hands-on experience to write her book but as I already mentioned, she is waiting for a revelation to beam down from the Heavens, run through her veins, and write the story for her.
I simply told her this… "If you choose to wait, you might be waiting for a very long time.  Your story isn’t going to write itself, nor is inspiration going to stalk you until you do.  You have to find the time, dedication and dig deep within your mind and heart to let your novel unfold.  The mind and heart will battle each other constantly.  It’s going to be gut wrenching and frustrating at times and you are going to want to CRY or PULL YOUR HAIR OUT.  You are going to fight with your plot until you get it right.  Your characters are going to set up their camp inside your head until the story is completely written, edited and sent off to the publisher or agent.  Literally, they will talk to you even when you aren’t writing. “

“BUT, this is the raw and unfiltered beauty of your story.  Inspiration will start to show its face when you least expect it because you have the fire lit inside your soul.  And this fire is going to burn so bright, by the end of your first finished manuscript, you are going to be a different person, a better writer… someone who didn’t wait for a lightning strike carrying a river of visions behind its tail.” 
Sometimes, we have to pull the ladder out and climb up it ourselves in order to reach for our dreams.  Inspiration comes and goes, but perseverance will always be there to get us through the dog days of our writing as well as the untamed highs of our story. 

AND NOW, A HAUNTING IN MY BACKYARD! GREYSTONE PARK, located in Morris Plains, New Jersey.

We literally live a few minutes away from one of the most haunted places in northern New Jersey, Greystone Park.  This haunted asylum was famous for electric shock, insulin therapy and lobotomies.  It sits on the lavish green hills of Morris Plains, nestled amongst 1000 acres of land.  Greystone hospital opened its doors in 1877, housing 342 mentally ill patients.

Geystone Park is known for having one of the largest continuous foundations in the Kirkbride building which was built in the Second Empire Victorian style.  The Kirkbride building has been used in numerous shows and films, including House and Marvin’s Room.  The only other building surpassing Kirkbride is the Pentagon built in 1943.
The Kirkbride Building
The main building had 40 wards which were split into two wings; one to house men and the other for women.  There were also dormitories built to accommodate the growing number of patients.  Two people occupied each patient room. 


Greystone became so massive that its grounds included staff housing, a chapel, a post office, fire and police stations, a working farm, recreational facilities, ponds, green houses, morgue stables, and its own quarry as well as gas and water utilities.  A trolley line connected Greystone to the New Jersey transit.
Train depot at Greystone
While mental abuse was accredited to demonic possessions, some doctors believed these patients could be cured by kindness and the comfort and care of their surroundings.  Sadly, tales of abuse and neglect of patients grew in the later years.  And the population peeked in the 1950s with the return of soldiers from WWII suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

It’s even speculated and stated in an article in the magazine, Weird New Jersey, Jack the Ripper may have died here.  Rumor has it a Norwegian sailor named Folgema (thought to have been Jack the Ripper) was committed to the Morris Plains lunatic asylum for fits of rage and insanity, describing scenes and incidents clearly connecting him to the gruesome murders in London.  But no one knows if there is any truth behind this story.

Once Greystone was abandoned in 2003, tales of ghastly hauntings grew among the teenagers who trespassed (including my dear) and those were worked there.  A lot of these hauntings occurred in the frightening underground tunnels which connected various buildings and was used to transport patients.  People who have worked on the grounds have claimed, “feeling watched,” or “not able to get out of there quick enough.”

Ghost Adventures visited the asylum after hearing about the hauntings during their first season of filming back in 2008.  I believe it was episode six if you are interested in looking it up!

Greystone Park tunnel

When my dear was in high school, he and a group of friends visited the grounds.  They claimed to have seen a disturbing image in a window of one of the buildings.  They were so horrified they ran as fast as they could to get back to their cars. 
I drive past Greystone all of the time but because it resides far back from the main road, I can hardly make out any of the property.  Maybe one of these days, I will get a group of people together to scope it out but until then, I will share with you a clip from the movie Oliver Stone’s son, Sean Stone, filmed on the grounds in 2009. 

Apparently, he and his crew got a lot more than they bargained for!  Here is a trailer from the movie based on their experience in the asylum, Greystone Park.

That’s it for me!  Have you heard about Greystone Park before?  Will you be checking out this movie?  Do you prefer paranormal or gory?  I have an interview tomorrow with an award winning author on her radio show!  More about this next week=)  Happy Wednesday!