Summer Camp, Summer Screams

Summer camp is bonfires, camp songs, and summer friendships…

Summer camp is spooky woods, monster legends, and the scary things that lurk just beyond the trail…

Or on the trail, like “Blink Fly.”

#SummerofScreams

Jolene Haley is hosting #SummerofScreams, writer and artist showcase celebrating the darker side of summer camp.  “Blink Fly” follows a camper hiking in Palo Duro Canyon, where the Texas ground cracks open.  The canyon is rust red and deep.

You’ve probably met a robber fly before, maybe even jumped when it buzzed past you.  They’re common and spectacular, and always hunting.  Hello, gorgeous.

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Credit: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab from Beltsville, USA [Public domain or CC BY 2.0]

Jolene Haley is an exceptional writer and curator of horror and other anthologies.  I highly recommend “Harrowed (Woodsview Murders, #1),” her YA slasher with Brian LeTendre.

Follow the #SummerofScreams showcase for more scary summer camp stories.

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The Rooms the Guests Never See – 13 Days until Halloween

Jolene Haley is hosting a horror writer and illustrator showcase on her website to celebrate the spookiest of months.  My story, “Food and Drink Man” is featured today.

The Thornewood Hotel has seven stories and 666 rooms.  Sometimes it has grand elevators and a ballroom.  The staff mostly keep out of site, but they are watching.  The guests come and go…well, oftentimes, they come and stay.

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The character Darryl is based on a “food and drink man” who worked with my father, who refurbished hotels.  I saw many hotels stripped to the bones while growing up, as my father and his workers replaced floor and wall coverings, plumbing, and electrical fixtures.  I saw through hotel walls, into the space between rooms.  I saw chandeliers laying splayed on the ground.  Hotels are a beautiful facade for their guests.  The workers know what lies in the rooms the guests never see.

Jolene Haley is an exceptional writer and curator of horror and other anthologies.  I highly recommend “Harrowed (Woodsview Murders, #1),” her YA slasher with Brian LeTendre.

Comment and let me know what you think of “Food and Drink Man” and follow the #HauntedHotel showcase for more spooky stories through the month.

 

Spooky Empire Refugees – 20 Days until Halloween

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen my posts about #SpookyEmpireRefugees.  It was heart-breaking, then heart-warming, and overall an incredible event for Central Florida’s horror community.

I had spooky plans for the first weekend in October.  Somehow, The Addams Family musical, Halloween Horror Nights, and Spooky Empire all came together at the same time.  I was especially excited about the horror writing panels at Spooky Empire.  Then Hurricane Matthew happened.

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Neighbors stocked up on ice, and we bought a clown.

If you’ve been through a hurricane or other huge storm that you can plan for, you know how the days beforehand are a mix of excitement and impending doom.  You prepare for the weather and losing power.  You follow work and school closures.  You check on the folks in the path of the storm.  You wait, and you hope it isn’t as bad as it could be.

By Thursday, it became clear that things could become pretty bad for Orlando and all of Florida’s east coast.  The theme parks wisely shut down.  And Spooky Empire had to cancel.

This article describes how the horror community rallied in the wake of the storm, pulling together to support the people who organized Spooky Empire, the numerous vendors who were missing the event, and the horror fans who desperately wanted their spooky weekend.

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Horror writers, artists, and vendors packed Gods & Monsters comic store.  The Bloody Jug Band wailed.  There were amazing cosplayers.

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The Spooky Empire Refugees event happened because of the amazing folks at Coffee Shop of Horrors.  They make horror-themed coffees (and teas, candies, and soaps), roasted locally and to order.  Everything there is delicious, and the small bags make excellent Halloween gifts.

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You need something to keep your warm in the autumn chill.  May I also suggest Tribal Screams Roasted Chestnut and Bubba Spiced Bourbon?

 

 

 

 

#HurricaneHorrorNights – 21 Days until Halloween

We’ve weathered Hurricane Matthew, and the past weekend was more and less spooky than planned before the storms rolled through Florida.  I have stories and photos to share.

If you want to help out, there are many, many people within the United States and the Caribbean who were devastated by Hurricane Matthew.  The American Red Cross is always one of the first agencies on the scene, helping folks out.

Halloween at Work – 25 Days until Halloween

A taxidermied Bufo marinus that’s been made into a change purse is a permanent resident of my office at my day job.  Animals skulls and insects preserved in jars keep it company.  My coworkers have different bones and dead things at their desks. So it is with field biologists: we love critters so much, we bring them back with us to put on display.

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My office Halloween decorations tend to include bones and bugs, too. This field biologist didn’t stay as hydrated as she should have. And the bug repellant wasn’t enough to keep a big tick from sucking her dry. Maybe her toad friend will eat it for her.

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A non-biologist coworker felt Skelly’s leg and laughed to herself. “I don’t know why I thought it would be real!” Indeed.

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I keep the Halloween goodie bowl filled all month, with candy and healthier stuff. I don’t give out raisins, though. I love them, but they just don’t pass the Halloween treat criteria.

Do you decorate your office or workplace?  Tweet photos to me at @Leaves_Cobwebs.

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Addams Family Night Out – 27 Days until Halloween

October is my birthday month, and my family celebrates it with me by filling the month with spooky goodies.  We started the month off by going to The Addams Family musical.

I’ve loved The Addams Family since watching re-runs of the television show as a kid and discovering the cartoons by Charles Addams as a teen.  The movies came later and were a delight.

Not only do they live in my dream house, ghoulishly decorated and stuffed with oddities, but they were my #relationshipgoals decades before hashtags became a thing.  Gomez and Morticia are passionately in love, play together whether it be fencing or dancing, and support each other’s artistic interests.  They love their family and teach their kids to be themselves, no matter how the world may judge them weird.  Strong, important stuff.

The Addams Family musical is hilarious and heartwarming.  All the main characters make an appearance, along with Addams ancestors and Thing.  The characters occasionally broke performance to address the audience, commiserating on celebrity gossip or sharing their favorite joke.  I won’t spoil it, but my favorite was Morticia’s.  Just like The Addams Family stories before this one, the theme is love and acceptance, and delighting in the mysterious and spooky.

If you’re in central Florida, you can catch The Addams Family at The Athens Theater in DeLand until October 23.

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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!

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

 

 

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.

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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.