pikesmarket-DreadFest

DreadFest 2017 – Call for Writers

I’m very excited to be involved with an upcoming event that celebrates horror and dark fiction in all its delicious forms.

W.T. Bland Public Library in Mount Dora, Florida is looking for authors to participate in its first annual “DreadFest,” an event to celebrate the darker side of fiction.  The event will focus on horror and other genres that give a creeping sense of dread.  Authors must have books available for purchase.  The event will be limited to 20 authors.

The event is being planned for January 14 or 28, 2017, at the library.  The library has large rooms for presentations.  Authors who participate will have their own 6’ table to sell and sign books and other things.  The library will promote the event and feed the authors lunch.  They will solicit vendors to provide door prizes to attendees, and may even be able to provide some musical entertainment.  There is an outdoor pavilion that could be used if an activity is better suited for it.

WT Bland Library

W.T. Bland Public Library

Since this is a new event, participating authors have the opportunity to help direct the format.  The library would love to have participating authors:

·         Do presentations on writing or elements of dark fiction (horror, dark fantasy, thriller, paranormal romance, etc.)
·         Participate in a horror/dark fiction author panel
·         Help judge a micro- or nanofiction writing contest
·         Sell and sign their books
·         Donate a book to be included in door prizes

W.T. Bland Public Library has held a popular Romance Expo (celebrating Florida romance authors and books) for several years.  At last year’s August event, they had 20 participating authors and over 100 attendees.

Bonus: The weather in Central Florida is usually beautiful in January, and Mount Dora is  a popular spot for winter “snowbirds” and tourists, so it’s a perfect time to visit and share your scary stories.

If you are interested, email me at LeavesandCobwebs@earthlink.net or send me a message on Twitter at @Leaves_Cobwebs.  Hope to see you there!

SWT-Before I die-crop

Dreams and Summer Camp (NaNoWriMo)

In a place where the oak canopy opens and there is full sunshine, the Seminole-Wekiva Trail asks what you want before you die.

A little apart from the murals of Paint the Trail, a section is painted with chalkboard paint.  There’s chalk to write your dreams.  What do you want to do before you die?

I stopped when I first saw it, struck by the question.  It’s so big and yet so basic. It implies that you aren’t, yet, doing the thing you want to do.

Maybe the remoteness makes it easier to declare what you want.  The wall is covered in layers of writing.  People wrote who they want to marry, or just that they want to fall in love.  They wrote they want to become the best at something.  They wrote they want to move away from their home city, dreaming of the wider world.

Some came back to write that they did the thing they had written before.  These are written in large, victorious letters.

I wrote a dream earlier this year, and I think of my chalkboard heart often as I work towards it.  This year has been about editing my stories better, paying attention to how they are crafted, and submitting them.  With more submissions, I’ve received more feedback, and that is making me a better writer.

Happy first day of Camp NaNoWriMo to my fellow campers out there!  By participating, you’re making your declaration of what you want to do.  You’re carving out time to write, riding the thrill of a story coming together in your head, and pushing through the muck when it slows.  I’ll see you along the way at #5amWritersClub and near midnight, trying to get my daily word count.  Come say hi at Leaves and Cobwebs, and we’ll sprint together down the trail.

SWT-Before I die-heart

 

 

SK shelf

Stephen King, Coincidences, and Dementia

I started reading Stephen King stories in elementary school, starting with the newly published paperback edition of “The Shining” after my mother was through reading it. I’d heard it was scary, and I liked scary. I saw the movie in the theater when I was ten.  I was enrapt.

SK - shelf 2

Stephen King books, stacked two deep on the living room bookshelf

And since that time, as Stephen King books came out, little bits of the stories have mirrored aspects of my life. One reason I love Stephen King’s writing is how he writes characters and dialogue; even his minor characters are complex and familiar. But the similarities I notice are always story elements that seemed to coincide with something in my life at the time.

Some are subtle at best: “The Library Policemen” haunting me as I navigated the stacks in college, or feeling a sense of déjà vu for the wild areas in “The Tommyknockers” and “It.” Others feel like uncanny Easter eggs.

Reading “The Talisman” as a teen when I was on a road trip with my relatives.

Having a terrible stomach flu while reading “Dreamcatcher.”

Meeting my future sister-in-law (who has the same name, phonetically) while reading “Lisey’s Story,”

Reading “Duma Key” as my future mother-in-law (and her caregivers) dealt with the devastating changes of Alzheimer’s Disease.SK-Duma Key.jpg

“Duma Key” is one of my favorite Stephen King novels. It’s rarely mentioned when his name is invoked. Perhaps people overlook it because it’s set briefly in Minnesota and mostly in Florida, and not in the weirder parts of Maine (though there are connections, oh yes – all things serve the beam in the Stephen King Universe, nearly).

I’ve lived in both states, and I know the west coast of Florida where Edgar Freemantle buys a giant pink house, suspended over the waves, with shells clack-clack-clacking beneath it.  The place is unnerving and compelling. It’s a place I want  to visit desperately when I read about it. I want to spend my time creating in that windowed loft looking over the changing Gulf of Mexico. And I’ve seen paintings like what Edgar Freemantle creates, with such precise details and light that you feel like you could fall through the canvas.

And Elizabeth Eastlake resonates with me, with her moods shifting like the Gulf waters, and her fear and anger as her mind slips. I read the story while seeing my future mother-in-law struggle through the same storms. Some of these moments of recognition in Stephen King’s stories are uncomfortable or sad. But the way he writes about his characters’ struggles, their desperation and redemption, is why I connect so deeply to his stories.

That, and the haunting settings that lie just past the characters, driving them mad or lulling them until they are vulnerable. The clacking is silent when the tide is out, but crunches under Edgar’s feet when he ventures out, like bones hitting each other. Which they are, you know: little exoskeletons of dead things underfoot.

I start each Stephen King book wondering what will show up in it.  I’ve wondered if I’ll see some semblance of the Dark Tower in my life someday, some real life element that mirrors Stephen King’s epic tale, rather than the other way around. If so, I hope there are roses.

grove

THERE ARE GHOSTS IN THE GROVES (II)

THERE ARE GHOSTS IN THE GROVES (II)
by Victoria Nations

There are ghosts in the groves picking
oranges that fall through the net sacks and
bounce onto the ground.
The oranges are too bright to be
anything but real. They look alive.

The ghosts flit about, preoccupied by the work.
They don’t notice the oranges
laying about, rotten on the ground,
now lost to the living
who could taste them.

The ghosts in the groves let vines crawl up
and wrap around tree branches,
and cover the leaves.
The orange trees struggle for light, but
The ghosts
never cut them down even though
the trees are strangled.

 

It’s past due when the orange groves should have been picked here in Florida.  The abandoned groves drop their heavy fruit.  Or maybe the ghosts don’t notice their sacks won’t hold them anymore.

The abandoned groves are haunting and full of memories.  You can read “There Are Ghosts in the Groves (I)” here.

Check out #SpookyAllYear for links to creepy stories and blog posts.  And click on the graphic for spooky goodness by The Midnight Society.

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NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner

The Glories of NaNoWriMo 2015

National Novel Writing Month 2015 ended yesterday and I hit my 50,000 word mark in the early evening. The story isn’t done, but the construct is there and I’ve had a blast writing it so far.

This was my second NaNoWriM0. I knew I could do it, having done it before, but it was still an exhausting thrill ride. The story went places I didn’t expect and the (apparent) ending was a surprise. And I’ve learned a lot this year. Below are some insights, fresh from my 50K.

Life may be crazy busy, but there’s still time to write. There are people who do NaNoWriMo and double their goal, shooting for 100,000 words. There are people who have lots of free time to write each day. I am not that person. Most of the folks doing NaNoWriMo aren’t.

My non-writing November was busy, and sometimes my mental and emotional energy were drained.  Sometimes I wasn’t sure I could fit in creating a story, too.  But writing is time and space you give yourself to create a story. My writing time was just for me, to step away for a bit, regroup, and look inward.

If the words aren’t flowing, try a writing sprint. I wrote about writing sprints in a recent post, when you set a timer for 15-30 minutes and push yourself to write as many words as you can. It sounds ridiculously simple, but I relied on sprints the year. I think the reason they work for me is that I’ve learned I can crank out 500+ words in a 20 minute sprint. That means three sprints = 1 hour = most of my daily word count. I sprinted by myself most of the days I wrote.  If you want company, @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter has an enthusiastic following.

Attend NaNoWriMo write-ins when you can. Writing is a solitary activity, and I relish my alone time to make up stories.  This year, though, I attended several write-ins that made my writing stronger.  During the write-ins at Writer’s Atelier and BookmarkIt, we sat around a room, someone kept time, and we sprinted together. There was lots of gabbing about tools (journals vs. computers, Scrivener vs. MS Word, favorite snacks), but I cranked out the words, too. I hit my daily word goal in a couple hours each time. A core group of writers showed up at multiple events, and we had a lot of fun celebrating (and lamenting) the writing process. I learned from them, how they crafted their stories and what they focused on with their characters.  A final bonus last night: cheering for each other as we each hit the 50K mark, and toasting each other when we were all done.

 

IMG_0300My plan is to finish mapping out my story, and then put it away for a month. I have a fun story idea in a totally different genre that I want to play with, and I need some distance from this one. Then I want to come back and edit.  It’s going to need lots added (to flesh out the scenes) and lots cut (because the supernatural creature talks so much).

A final thought: I’m very lucky to have a family who tells me to “go write,” because they know I need a break from real life things and to get back to the story.  They’re right – writing is work, but it’s wondrous work.

Lake Weird-grasses

#SpookyAllYear

The Midnight Society – a wonderful collection of horror and paranormal writers and literary folk –  is hosting #SpookyAllYear, a blog hop to add a little horror and spooky fun through the year.  And today is the first day!  Folks posting creepy stuff on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month will be linking to their site.  They like their books a little bloody.

I’m by the lake again today, the lake that I keep returning to.  It’s sunlit and lovely, but the rays only go so far into the water, because it is also deep.

Crows are flying over the lake today and calling to each other.  You don’t expect to see crows along a lakeshore.  This one should be the backdrop for majestic wading birds, frozen as they watch the water for fish.  If you’ve watched a blue heron hunt, you know they spear their prey with their sharp beaks, and then gulp them down whole.  If you watch closely enough, you’ll see the creature moving in the bird’s neck as it slowly makes its way down.  What must the bird feel with something alive wriggling in its throat?  What must the prey feel, bleeding to death, as they are swallowed?

The flock of crows means something is dead in the water, just past where I can see.  It’s drifted in, and the crows are cawing to warn me away from their meal.  If I walk a little further down the shore, I will be able to see it.

I imagine seeing a form, long hair trailing around it, turned so I can’t see its face.  Only the head is visible, and an arm, reaching in front of it, the hand floating limply in the water.  The form looks vaguely human, but it’s not.  There’s something wrong with the shape of the head, and the long fingers extending from too small a hand.  Once I see it, I won’t be able to ignore it.

Once I see it, I could walk out into the water to investigate what’s floating there.  The water is shallow, and still warm enough to wade in.  I would be able to see my feet most of the way, until I got close to the floating thing.  But that far from shore, I wouldn’t be able to pull away if something curled around my ankles and pulled me in deeper.  Then there would be two things with long, trailing hair floating in the water.

The crows are warning me away, and I understand that it will only be a mystery until they reach it.  Once they’ve eaten, once all the creatures that eat the dead have eaten, the thing will be gone.

So there is my choice.  Do I walk further down the shore?  Or, do I listen to the crows?

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nano-2015

Disciplined Porch Writing – Day 6 of NaNoWriMo

This week, I’m spending a few days writing in a mostly empty house on a bluff above a lake. People have passed in this house. I walk the halls with my laptop, listening for them. But all I hear are the waves lapping on the shore.

Sounds magical, like the perfect writing spot, doesn’t it?

Actually, I’m spending time at my parents’ house while a work crew helps clear out the last of the housewares, furniture and trash. There are people working hard around me, and they make bangs and thuds, and sometimes they need to talk with me. I’m doing some work remotely for the day job on my phone, and I’m running errands to take care of house things. And amidst that, I’m writing on a giant porch overlooking a lake.

It’s magical. It’s wonderful to have stretches of time when I can write.

weirsdaleporchnanowrimoAnd it’s hard. It takes discipline to make time to write. It seems especially challenging since I’m not used to having this much time available to write. My usual writing schedule is day to day, dependent on family time, work schedules, and whether the weather is too good to miss out on a bike ride to get my body moving along with my mind.

NaNoWriMo puts out a constant stream of support and ideas during November, including prompts for writing sprints. That’s how I’ve been getting myself to focus on writing, rather than the myriad other things happening around me.  In between I can make notes of where to go next, write down any additional characters that have popped up that I want to keep track of.  And then, it’s on to the next push.

For a writing sprint, you set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes, and then write. No looking at the clock. You let the scene unfold as you go, or work on the scene you’ve planned to write next. You make it something exciting, where something important HAPPENS. It’s amazing how much you can crank out in small bit of time like that. Yesterday, I managed 800 words during a 20 minute sprint, and I had a great time writing about my main character and her bloody shovel.

Best of luck on your journey to your 50K. You can totally do this, you know, whether you’re holed up in a corner at home or looking over the water and straining to hear ghosts.  I’d love to hear how your writing is going, so leave me a comment and tell me what tricks you’re using to keep the words coming.

mudwalk-swamp monster

Running Through The Swamp – Halloween At Last

Happy, happy Halloween!  It’s the finale of my celebration of October and the spooky things that emerge at this time of year.  My Halloween morning was perfect: I spent it running through the woods from zombies and a swamp monster.

mudwalk-swamp witchThe MudWalk is a tradition for elementary school kids in our area.  They visit the Environmental Studies Center and then hike through a mucky swamp.  Someone always loses a shoe, and they have to pull each other across (or out) of the muck.  The Support the MudWalk Spooky 5K started several years ago as a fundraiser.  The route is paved and on a trail, and the trail run is through a haunted forest.

The trail was lined with gravestones and cautionary signs. Ghosts and bats flew overhead.  Creatures emerged from the bushes and zombies swiped at passersby.

mudwalk-spiderwebThe jump scares were pretty mild, and the monsters seemed to like that I was running by them and beaming, just wildly happy that there were so many spooky things on the trail with us.

Tonight will be clear here in Florida.  The ghouls and princesses will be in short-sleeves as they trick or treat.  I’ll be dressed as a bat to fly around the gravestones in the front yard and give out candy.  I hope you have an amazing celebration of your own.  Thank you for spending the Countdown to Halloween with me.

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow!  Come join in and find me on the NaNoWriMo site at Leaves and Cobwebs.mudwalk-tombstone

christmas creep

Christmas Is Creeping Up Behind You – 1 Day Until Halloween

The Halloween shelves are shrinking with the last of the cackling skeleton brides and tombstones.  There are some turkeys overlapping them, but Christmas and winter holidays are coming on strong.  I see you, giant nutcrackers and elves, just on the other side of the shelf.

RIP carolersHalloween is almost here, our last revelry of this spooky season, but the creepy celebration isn’t over.  I’ll be writing about scary things through November for NaNoWriMo.  And I’ll be finding inspiration in my beloved swamps, like these carolers guarding a grave.  Are they singing songs of celebration or lamentations?  Or an endless, hellacious round of Jingle Bells to torment the poor soul?