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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Throwback Thursday from 1963 – 2 Days Until Halloween

halloween 1963 newspaper-1There were heavy trunks full of old records in the work shop, the oldest from the 1930’s.  They were stored in newspapers that tracked with their
eras, or the eras that my parents collected the albums.  Amongst them, I found an old Halloween ad for the Harvest House Cafeteria.

Details on Harvest House Cafeteria are limited, but reports from that time say the food was good.  And they had clowns that did magic.

#Arachtober – 5 Days Until Halloween

Florida huntsman spiders hide behind curtains and boxes pushed against the wall.  They’re velvety brown and large, nearly the size of your hand.  Their legs tickle if you let them crawl over your fingers.

You’ll see them when you pull back the shower curtain or move something from under your bed.  But they’ll skitter away, shy around humans.  For every one you see, many more are still hidden.

Quiet Horror – 12 Days Until Halloween

I grew up reading Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, and I still adore them. Some day their language is overblown, but I love how their lavish descriptions overwhelm me. Their stories are more horrifying for how they make me feel crushed beneath moldering walls and surrounded by alien angles.  Something monstrous is usually threatening to overtake their narrators, and I hold my breath waiting for it to come.

When I see old buildings, their windows covered, my mind runs with the possibilities of what could be lurking behind them.  The buildings may be abandoned, but somehow they don’t seem empty.  I want to see the curtain twitch.  I want to see a shadow move behind them.

One of the presentations by Sidney Williams at the Florida Writers Conference was on quiet horror, those stories with a feeling of creeping terror.  It’s the form of horror fiction that I love to write (and read).  I want a reader to sense something is off, something wrong is happening. They’ll sense something is waiting for them to come closer, but they won’t be able to identify it in time. The unknown, the inability to escape, will make it even scarier.

Throwback Thursday – 16 Days Until Halloween

When I was a teenager, my family lived in a farmhouse built before the Civil War.  Rooms had been added on as the family grew and the kitchen was moved inside.  It was a large and simple – the opposite of an antebellum manse – with a few oddly offset rooms.    It was a perfect house to host Halloween sleepovers.

The evenings started with a formal dinner downstairs.  Then the girls and I headed upstairs, where my parents had helped me dye the bedding gray and make cardboard tombstones to put at the head of each of their mattresses.  We watched horror movies on VHS tapes and scared each other.  Sometimes there were other things hidden around upstairs to startle if they left the room.

1984 Halloween 1These photos are from 1984, when the theme was “eyeballs.”  My parents bought balls of all different sizes and we painted them for weeks.  Cecilia, a papier mache corpse from the year before, came back as a witch for this party.  She had started as “Cecil the Severed Leg,” but it just wasn’t enough.

The house is gone now.  It burned down several years after my family moved away.  It’s too bad to think I can’t go back to visit it.  There were people that swore there were “haints” in that house, but they differed on whether they felt benevolent ghosts or darker entities.

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

Creatures In The House – 21 Days Until Halloween

We have cats.  We also have animals skulls, mink skins, a preserved alligator head and piranha, and vials of insects.  I have a coin purse made out of a Bufo marinus, complete with head,  front legs and googly eyes, but she’s at work.

percey and skullsNow that it’s Halloween time, there are all sorts of additional creatures lying around.  The cats consider them new places to sleep and fantastic toys.  I found a skeleton leg today that a cat had pulled from its owner to bat around the living room.

If I’m writing, this is the cat trying to crawl into my lap, pawing at my computer, or suddenly deciding to climb the laundry room shelves so I have to get up and investigate the crash when it happens.  I’d like to say he inspires me to write creatures that move stealthily through the night, creeping up behind you, with golden eyes that glow as a light slides past them.  Alas, he is the least monstrous creature in the house.

I am drawn to creatures of all types, whether they are furry or warty or scaly.  Even the ones with shiny exoskeletons and pincers are beautiful to me.  And I am intrigued by how they can figure into a horror story.  The idea of something adorable filling someone with dread is compelling.  Imagine the recognition a character would have, the moment they realized their beloved pet or the beautiful creature was something monstrous and unpredictable.  It gives me shivers.

Throwback Thursday – 23 Days Until Halloween

I listened to Sounds To Make You Shiver over and over as a kid.  Blowing wind and hooting owls made me imagine empty places.  Frankenstein’s monster breaking loose was the very sound of havoc.

But, goodness, look at that album cover!  So. Many. Monsters.  They are tumbling out of that castle!  Frankenstein’s monster is stomping towards you.  The witch is busy with her cauldron, but the werewolf and Dracula have totally seen you.  And what is that hairy, gape-mouthed thing…a banshee?

I wanted to live in that castle and learn all its “Bloodcurdling! Terror! Horror!” secrets.

Want to listen to enjoy the spooky sounds, too?  Click here, but be warned, it opens with a scream.