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.

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Haunting The Yard – 19 Days Until Halloween

Last year, a little girl in a princess costume walked down my driveway on Halloween with her mom trailing behind her.  The little girl was transfixed by the orange lights and spooky decorations.  Her mom was looking around nervously.

“Nothing here will jump out at her,” I told the mom from the candy table.

“Really?”  My skull face was friendly, but the mom was making sure.

“Absolutely.  There’s a lots of creepy things around, but nothing too gruesome, and she can walk up and look at anything she wants.”

The little girl turned to me then, so I spoke to her, too.

“You can touch anything you want.  It’s Halloween, and spooky stuff is supposed to be fun.”

The little girl smiled and looked around, eager to explore. But she turned back to ask, “Can I see your dress, too?”

I stepped out from around the table to show her my whole outfit of black gown and corset of skulls and roses.  She smiled again and walked off to explore the decorations. The mom brought over her trick-or-treat bag for candy, but the little girl was much more interested in seeing the skulls and plastic rats up close.

yard gravesI love creating a spooky yard.  Classically  creepy decor is my favorite.  Give me bats and crows and skeletons.  I have my favorite horror icons, but the only movie star you’ll see in my yard is Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

The graveyard is on a small hill in the front of the yard and includes markers for Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.  There are skeletons here and elsewhere.  Many of the lady skeletons have wigs and dresses befitting their elegant style.

yard pumpkinsBats and other flying creatures hang from the pergola by the door.  Rats and birds perch on either side of the walkway.  Closer to Halloween, real jack-o-lanterns will join the pumpkin vine trailing along the walk.

Halloween is a time to delight in spooky things and the delicious feeling that something supernatural may appear before you.  It’s a time to revel in the macabre and the dark aesthetic I love.  And it’s a time to share this with neighbors and trick-or-treaters lured to the house by odd creatures and haunting music.  Hopefully they’ll leave loving the mystery and celebration of Halloween even more.

Bob

Halloween In Florida – 29 Days Until Halloween

I saw a surf shop mannequin in a wet suit and witch hat this weekend.  Someone had drawn eyes on paper and taped them in place.  They weren’t particularly witchy eyes, but they transformed her blank visage to a face.  She was a winsome, sporty witch.

It was a short-sleeved, short-legged wetsuit.  Because it’s still bathing suit weather here.  That’s Halloween time in Florida.

I’m a native Floridian, and I’ve missed the heavy, humid summers when I’ve lived other places.  I get antsy this time of year, though.  Sometime in October, we’ll get nights in the 60’s F, and then nights in the 50’s F.  The air will start to dry out, and the sky will become blue again.

My backyard jungle is growing so fast that vines are crawling across the yard and porch.  It feels like you can see them grow as you watch them.  Then, it feels like they may wrap around your ankles if you stop watching them.

IMG_9515We’ll be hanging Halloween decorations from green-leafed trees.  If you go into the woods, though, you’ll see the subtle signs of fall.  The red and yellow leaves look especially bright against the black forest floor.

Horse – A Poem Poised To Run

Horse
by Victoria Nations

Smooth planes of muscle and bone
grown over with layers of
detritus, lichen and grime
caught
in the corners
spreading
until they touch one another
crusting the surface
beneath
which lies
smooth planes of muscle and bone
and skin
shiny with sweat
wetting the living things who
drink
and cover the
smooth planes of muscle and bone
rolling beneath
hard but for
a rolling eye
wild in its socket
caught
tangled in the
detritus, lichen and grime
smothering the
smooth planes of muscle and bone

My Hunger Will Consume All That Is Here And Will Free You – A Poem of Celebration

My Hunger Will Consume All That Is Here And Will Free You
by Victoria Nations

I will climb and tear
and rip it all apart with my teeth,
until the way is cleared before me.
I will lay waste to the kingdom I’ve invaded.
I will eat until I am gorged,
until I am satisfied.
The fabric that binds this world will hang in tatters.
And the sun will reach the ground once more
after I have passed through.

air potato vineAir potato (Dioscorea bulbifera L.) is an invasive vine that was introduced to Florida from Asia over 100 years ago.  It can grow to 20 meters or more, climbing over and smothering native plants.  After years of research, a leaf feeding beetle, Lilioceris cheni, was recently introduced into Florida from China for biological control of air potato.  This is the second year we’ve had this feisty red beetle in our yard and their ability to destroy the leaves and vines of air potato is truly impressive.  Way to go, little guys!

For more information, check out the UF/IFAS Extension fact sheet.

Spring

SPRING
by Victoria Nations

She stood on her hands and spun
so her dress
swirled
in a wide circle.

The sky above her filled with
green skirts and
grey crinolines,
the lace sweeping her legs as
they spread
and bent
to keep steady.

Her hands
gripped the ground for balance.

Her feet
wiggled with joy.

Story Editing on a Sunday Afternoon

We have a small farmer’s market in our area, and a large one in the next town over.  The large one is amazing, with a huge variety of fresh produce, boutique cheeses and breads, kettle corn, plants, and this place that makes these bagel sandwiches that are delicious.  I love the large farmer’s market, but I visit our neighborhood market most every week.  The selection is smaller, but the vendors are local and have time to tell you stories about what they’ve brought to sell.

Today, the produce seller told me how good the strawberries were, and he knows because he used to sneak onto the farm at night as a kid and steal the fruit.  “That’s a Peter Rabbit story,” I said.  He agreed – he was the rabbit.

Peter Rabbit almost got caught by the farmer when he snagged his coat on the garden fence.  The story makes you love the naughty rabbit, but satisfied he got what was coming to him after disobeying his mom and stealing.

I wrote a story not too long ago about retribution and fresh produce.  Today’s visit to the farmer’s market inspired me to work on it to tighten up the editing.  Here’s a snippet:

“Gel-stiff hair fallen on their foreheads, the girls wear tiny graphic T-shirts pulled on over shorts and pajama pants that ride their slim hips. They have stained Toms instead of slippers on their feet, but the effect is the same. They’ve rolled out of bed less than an hour ago, still recovering from the last night’s adventure. Their shirts define them:

“Whirled Peas” in a paintbrush font, with a smiling pea pod.

“Biker Chick” shaped like a cruiser with woodland creatures in the basket. 

“I Don’t Eat Innocent Animals” in bold red. 

They forage along the sun-washed windows, new as the morning themselves.”

from Tomatoes, by Victoria Nations

Leaves and cobwebs in my hair…come crawl through the garden with me

One of the things I love is to stumble upon a creepy setting unexpectedly. A cleaned bone poking out through a drift of soggy leaves…a leaning house, its stately facade transformed into drooping eyes and a haggard mouth. And this lovely little cherub I saw while visiting St. Augustine, Florida.

Spooky stuff always gets the story gremlins excited:

The stone cherub’s head had been placed in the garden as an afterthought, a half-hearted attempt to salvage its beauty after something unfortunate had happened to its body. But its time in the ground had changed it.

Its open mouth was full of leaves and rainwater, so it gasped, choking. A piece of its cheek had broken, and the fresh stone was striated and pink, as if flesh had been stripped away instead, exposing bone and teeth. The dirt collected in its eyes highlighted them, made one lid deformed and the eye underneath rolled up. Its chin tilted up, as if it were straining to escape.

What had befallen the cherub to make it earthbound, truly bound to the earth? And what had it done?cherub2-crop